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Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Future events such as these will affect us in the future"

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM

"You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!" The Cedar Lee Theater, (2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights) offers a rare screening of the reputed worst movie ever made (immortalized in Tim Burton's Ed Wood) on June 6, 9:30 p.m. and midnight.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Angry Monk has its local premiere tonight at CMA

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 11:01 AM

For the past month, the Cleveland Museum of Art has hosted a program called "Friday Night First Runs." It features local premieres of movies that have previously bypassed Cleveland during their theatrical runs. Tonight at 7, it's offering a screening of 2007's Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet, a film about a hard-drinking, deep-thinking monk who was ahead of his time. Here's our review of the film.

angry_monk_01.jpg Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet (Switzerland, 2005) Subject of Angry Monk is so compelling it transcends the unimaginative off-the-rack documentary style. Tibet's Gendun Cheophel (1903-1951) was a brilliant and intellectually curious youth, enrolled at a lamasery in Lhasa at a period when Tibetan history and society was stagnant and conservative, ignoring the outside world and its momentous mid-20th-century upheavals of war and revolution. After traveling extensively throughout Tibet to set down the land's history using long-neglected, ancient texts (soon to be destroyed in the Cultural Revolution), Cheophel sallied through Gandhi's India, a country he noted was in the midst of choosing its own destiny and looking toward modernization in a way that Tibet wasn't. Cheophel began writing for a Tibetan-Indian newspaper and also translated Indian literature into written Tibetan, most notoriously, the Kama Sutra. Monkwise, Cheophel was hardly the expected austere, ascetic type. He smoke, drank and whored with gusto. His widow interviewed says he more or less drank himself to an early grave, after having been arrested and imprisoned in Lhasa, charged as a Communist stooge. In fact, Cheophel was trying to warn his countrymen about the ascent of Mao, and he lived just long enough to see his Cassandra-like prophecies come true, as Chinese troops swarmed into Tibet in 1950, sending the Dalai Lama into exile. Ironically-inclined footage in modern Lhasa disclose a Blade Runner-y neon metropolis of tacky bars, video games and devout pilgrims and Chinese settlers taking for granted that this place is rightfully theirs. Tibetan-Buddhist monks continue to be in the forefront of resistance to Chinese occupation, the documentary declares, and the writings and memory of Gendun Choephel have become a rallying-point for their cause of liberation. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hastily Made Tourism Video winners announced

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Positively Cleveland’s Hastily Made Tourism Video Contest wrapped up this afternoon as the winners were announced at the Positively Cleveland offices. The five judges, including Plain Dealer columnist Mike McIntyre, Cleveland International Film Festival’s Marcie Goodman, Cleveland Film Commission’s Ivan Schwarz, Cleveland Plus Marketing Alliance’s Rick Batyko and Mike Polk, creator of the original, comedic hastily made video that inspired the contest, picked the winners from the five semi-finalists, which were selected based on the number of views and ratings they received after being posted on YouTube with the other entries. The winning videos were, “Oh Mommy!,” which paired a catchy song with shots of recognizable city spots as a mother and her kids traipsed around town in a fast-motion clip. The other winner was "Marissa and Kevin," which included footage from the West Side Market and the Cleveland Heights toy shop Big Fun. The creators of both videos were present to pick up their prize packages, handed out by Tamera Lash Brown, Positively Cleveland’s VP of Marketing. “This has been such a fun ride,” Brown said, noting that there were a total of 38 submissions, double what Positively Cleveland aniticipated receiving. “And just so you know, our entire budget is less than half of the 14 million Polk claims it cost to make his video.” Overall, the contest was a hit as some 20,000 people viewed the videos, which were posted on the Positively Cleveland Web site. The five semi-finalist videos are still posted at

Four new films opening at the Cedar Lee this weekend

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 12:15 PM

This weekend, Pixar's new film Up will undoubtedly clean up at the box office. It deserves every penny it gets as it's a love story/adventure film that's yet another fine offering from the animation company. The Cedar Lee, though, opens four new films, all of which are acclaimed. Capsules follow.

407a/1242922978-brothers-bloom-movie.jpg Brothers Bloom A couple of orphans, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) learn at an early age that they have a knack for conning people. It all starts when they trick their classmates into thinking there’s a monster in a cave, and they charge their fellow students admission to see said monster, really just one of the brothers. Of course, they get caught on a regular basis and move from foster home to foster home. Flash-forward a few years. Stephen and Bloom, now young adults, have figured out how to pull off heists without getting caught. They’ve partnered up with Bang-Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), an Asian woman who doesn’t speak, and have pulled off one lucrative job after another. They could retire on their earnings, but they decide to pull off one last con and find an heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), who could easily be bilked of her millions. The problem is that Bloom falls in love with her. Much like Wes Anderson, director Rian Johnson (Brick) relies on quirky characters and distinctively colorful cinematography to create an alternate, anachronistic universe. While the film predictably blurs the lines between what’s a con and what’s not, its intriguing narrative holds it together. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)

Lemon Tree After the Israeli defense minister (Doron Tavory) moves into a new house on the border between Israel and the West Bank, he begins fortifying the place. He implements security measures, installing video surveillance cameras and putting up barbed-wire fences. He also offers a Palestinian widow named Salma (Hiam Abbass) compensation for her lemon grove, which he plans to uproot. She wants to keep her lemon trees, however, and hires a lawyer to keep the defense minister from cutting them down. Though the Israeli court rules against her, she takes her case to an international court, determined to keep her grove. Complicating matters is the fact that the Defense Minister’s wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael) ends up on Salma’s side. Based on a true story involving olive trees, Eran Riklis’ film is thankfully less about politics and more about personal choices and relationships. *** (Niesel)

680a/1242923045-limitsofcontrol.jpg Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch-come-latelys who dug 2005’s (relatively conventional by Jarmusch standards) Broken Flowers will probably grit their teeth throughout The Limits of Control. But this longtime Jarmusch enthusiast thinks it’s the Akron native’s strongest work since 1995’s Dead Man. If Dead Man was Jarmusch’s cockeyed paean to, among other things, spaghetti westerns, Control has the feel of a Godardian riff on (Jean-Pierre) Melville. Or is that a Melvillian riff on Godard? Either way, it’s not likely to win him any new converts. The Jarmusch fan base, however, should start queuing up now, since films this unapologetically rarefied never last long in North American theaters — not even art houses like the Cedar-Lee. Isaach De Bankolé plays “Lone Man,” a typically taciturn, largely inscrutable Jarmusch protagonist who gives every appearance of being a somnambulist, despite the fact that his character never seems to sleep. A pointedly obfuscating series of encounters with equally confounding, baldly monickered types (Tilda Swinton is “Blonde,” Gael García Bernal is “Mexican”) passes for plot (never a big deal in Jarmusch land anyway). Like most Jarmusch films, The Limits of Control is basically a series of repetitions, and the transcendental beauty of cinematographer Chris Doyle’s gorgeously lit, rigorously composed images makes the experience damn near hypnotic. **** (Milan Paurich)

9320/1242923083-tyson-0.jpg Tyson James Toback’s new documentary is a fascinating look at the former heavyweight champ who’s had one of the most notoriously controversial careers of anyone who’s ever entered the ring. Essentially an extended interview with its subject, the movie pulls no punches in recounting his life, starting with a troubled youth going in and out of juvenile detention centers and ending with his evolution into the proud father who maintains he’s a new man now that he leads a quiet life in the suburbs just outside of Las Vegas. When he was not yet 20, Tyson found a much-needed mentor in trainer Cus D’Amato, who not only taught him how to win but also instilled a sense of discipline, fleeting as it was. From that point, Tyson became one of boxing’s most menacing fighters. The film touches upon all the controversy: the Robin Givens abuse charges, which Tyson still denies; the ugly, ear-biting fight with Evander Holyfield, which Tyson says he can’t recall because he blacked out; and the now-strained relationship with sleazy promoter Don King, about whom Tyson has nothing good to say. Almost apologetic, the soft-spoken (albeit with that distinctively high-pitched voice) Tyson certainly doesn’t gloss over any of this. And yet the film’s point of view is purely one-dimensional; we never hear from Givens, Holyfield or King. All we get is Tyson on Tyson. And that limitation keeps a good movie from becoming a great one. ** 1/2 (Niesel)

Capsule reviews of what's at the Cinematheque this weekend

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Highlights for this weekend's Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque schedule include Katyn, the latest film from Polish director Andrzej Wajda, and Two Lovers, James Gray's urban romance that stars Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Capsule reviews follow.

b685/1242921076-katyn.jpg Katyn (Poland, 2007) The 1940 Soviet massacre of 15,000 Polish soldiers in the Katyn forest is the jumping-off point for veteran director Andrzej Wajda’s (Ashes and Diamonds, Danton) provocative and compelling new historical drama. Told largely through the gut-wrenching stories of a group of slain Polish officers and their survivors, Wajda dispassionately exposes a Communist-engineered cover-up of the genocide for which Hitler was officially blamed. The 83-year-old Wajda remains Poland’s greatest, most poetic chronicler of that country’s 20th-century political upheavals and domestic traumas. A 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Katyn screened twice at the 2008 Cleveland International Film Festival. At 9:25 p.m. Friday, May 29, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, May 30. *** (Milan Paurich)

ef57/1242921105-two_lovers_joaquin_phoenix_gwyneth_paltrow.jpg Two Lovers (US, 2008) Director James Gray (Little Odessa, We Own the Night) takes a break from his usual genre fare with this unexpectedly touching, beautifully played urban romance set in present-day Brooklyn. Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard Kraditor, a bipolar young man who moves back in with his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov) after getting dumped by his fiancée. While he’s only too happy to play along with his folks’ attempt to fix him up with the comely daughter of a business associate (Vinessa Shaw), Leonard really has eyes for the blonde shiksa goddess (Gwyneth Paltrow) who just moved into their apartment building. The emotional tenor of the movie feels exactly right, and the performances are extraordinarily empathetic. This is Gray’s most satisfying and mature work to date. Maybe he should give crime dramas a rest and concentrate on telling heartfelt people stories like this from now on. At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30. *** 1/2 (Paurich)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sam Raimi returns to his roots with Drag Me to Hell

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 12:19 PM

7f57/1243441103-draghelllohman.jpg With the “torture porn” trend having taken onscreen brutality and unpleasantness about as far as it can go short of actual snuff, the time is right for a horror movie that’s more funhouse than charnel house. And who better to make that film than Sam Raimi, the director who cut his teeth on the Evil Dead series before moving on to mainstream success with A Simple Plan and Spider-Man? Effortlessly blending scares, laughs, and thrills, Drag Me To Hell , which opens areawide on Friday, should satisfy both the hardcore fans waiting for Evil Dead 4 and general audiences looking for a summer rollercoaster ride.

Christine Brown (Allison Lohman) is a farm girl in the big city trying to cover up her country roots so she can impress the upper class parents of her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). She also wants to get ahead at her job as a loan officer. To prove to her boss (David Paymer) that she can be just as heartless as her chief rival for an assistant manager position, Christine denies a loan extension to Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), a poor old gypsy woman about to be foreclosed on. Bad move. The gypsy places a curse on Christine, summoning a demonic creature called the Lamia that torments its victims for three days before carting their souls off to hell.

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Rare baseball films show tonight at CMA

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM

a53b/1243440545-andyseminick_phillies.jpg For the past six years, Dave Filipi, film and video curator at Columbus' Wexner Center for the Arts, has presented a program of archival baseball footage at the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350, This year's program, Dave Filipi Presents Rare Films From the Baseball Hall of Fame, comes to the museum tonight at 6:30. It includes a collection of short films that includes: motion studies of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson; a documentary about the late, great Roberto Clemente; and a silent clip of Jackie Robinson participating in his first training camp. "It was the first year Jackie Robinson was with the Brooklyn Dodgers in a minor-league capacity," says Filipi. "For the most part, it's a home movie. But then all of a sudden, you see Jackie Robinson walking up to the plate, and he gets a hit and rounds first. I don't know if that's literally his first at-bat with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' farm team, but it's pretty cool." There's also a clip from a half-hour film called Baseball: The Now Career, an attempt to recruit young kids into the sport that includes cameos by Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench. “It’s a half hour film intended to show to high school kids to convince them that baseball is a great career,” Filipi says. “One of the funniest segments is a montage of New York City that shows the lights and people as if to say ‘this is what’s waiting for you.’” Another highlight is a silent snippet of the Detroit Tigers playing the New York Yankees in 1955. Back then, the monuments in center field were in play and you can see a ball bounce one of them as an outfielder tries to track it down. Filipi can't attend tonight’s screening because of a scheduling conflict, but CMA's John Ewing will use Filipi's notes to introduce the clips. Tickets: $8.


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