FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead
• With his high-flying comedy, I’m So Excited (5th), Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar is back in the campy, over-the-top comedy territory of his early career. When a passenger flight, on its way from Spain to Mexico, experiences landing gear problems, the preening stewards (Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arevalo) move into action to stave off panic.
First, they sedate the economy class with drugs. Then they distract the business class by breaking out the booze and launching into a song-and-dance routine down the aisle, performed to the Pointer Sisters’ titular hit. As the booze flows, the cabin becomes a hotbed of sex and spilled secrets. With a cast that includes many Almodóvar alumni – Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Cámara, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth and Blanca Suárez – the frothy, feel-good film should appeal to fans of Almodóvar’s particular brand of sexually charged humour.
Sexual transgression takes on a much more serious and uncomfortable tone in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (19th), a drama based on a child psychologist’s files. Mads Mikkelson, playing against type – he was the icy villain in Casino Royale – is a kindergarten teacher in a close-knit, rural Danish community who finds himself demonized by virtually the whole community, including his deer hunting buddies, when one of his students falsely claims that Lucas exposed himself to her. As rough justice is meted out, Lucas’s difficulty in proving his innocence begs important questions about community and family values.
Injustice is also at the fore in Fruitvale Station (26th), a dramatic recreation of the tragic story of Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan), who was killed, allegedly by accident, by a police officer at the Fruitvale rapid transit station in Oakland, California in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Ryan Coogler’s debut film has been picking up awards on the festival circuit and praised for its strong performances and the director’s deft handling of race issues that play such an important part of the story.
On a lighter note, Sebastián Silva’s Crystal Fairy (due out on the 26th) is a satirical, coming-of-age comedy starring Michael Cera (of Arrested Development fame) as Jamie, an obnoxious, uptight American on a quest to experience the hallucinogenic properties of a San Pedro cactus. At a party on the eve of his expedition, a wasted Jamie invites far-out flower child Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) and then regrets it when he sobers up, but his three Chilean companions won’t let him dump her. As the group venture into the Chilean desert on their drug-infused adventure, the loosely improvised road trip revolves around the personality clash of impatient Jamie and free-spirited Crystal, with a message about assumed identities in the final act.
Fans of anime will welcome the return to the Cinematheque of a major retrospective of 16 epic anime films by the world renowned Studio Ghibli, entitled “Castles in the Sky.” The Cinematheque said the original retrospective in December was its most popular large-scale series in years so it’s back with the addition of a further two films – children’s favourite Ponyo and the recently released From Up on Poppy Hill. The fantastical animation series also features the studio’s debut feature Castle in the Sky and the mesmerizing hit Spirited Away.
Robert Alstead writes at www.2020Vancouver.com