A se­lec­tion of this year’s of­fer­ings

a se­lec­tion of this year’s of­fer­ings

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THE AN­THRO­POL­O­GIST

This doc­u­men­tary is about two women: renowned cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist Mar­garet Mead (1901-1978), cu­ra­tor of eth­nol­ogy at the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral History in New York from 1946 to 1969, and Susan Crate, a con­tem­po­rary en­vi­ron­men­tal an­thro­pol­o­gist at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity who is study­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change. Their sto­ries un­fold through in­sights pro­vided by their re­spec­tive daugh­ters. The theme that unites the two is the im­pact of the mod­ern world on cul­ture and so­ci­ety. For Mead, it was the ef­fect of en­coun­ters be­tween Euro­peans and oth­ers on tra­di­tional peo­ples in the South Pa­cific and South­east Asia. For Crate, it’s the ef­fect of cli­mate change on com­mu­ni­ties world­wide, such as the threat of ris­ing sea lev­els on Kiri­bati, an is­land na­tion made up of the atolls and co­ral reefs Crate has been study­ing.

Co-di­rected by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy New­berger of Iron­bound Films, The

An­thro­pol­o­gist is the fol­low-up to their Em­mynom­i­nated doc­u­men­tary The Lin­guists (2008). Us­ing Mead’s daugh­ter Mary Cather­ine Bate­son, also a cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist, and Crate’s daugh­ter Kathryn Yegerov-Crate adds an in­ti­mate depth to the film, and the in­flu­ence of two strong, in­de­pen­dent women on Bate­son and Yegerov-Crate is ev­i­dent. The film is a com­pelling look into a mis­un­der­stood field, as seen through the medium of its two sub­jects, and re­veals an­thro­pol­ogy to be an ever-evolv­ing dis­ci­pline with a broad va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions. At its core, The

An­thro­pol­o­gist is about the adap­tive strate­gies so­ci­eties de­velop to cope with in­evitable change.

— Michael Abatemarco

Doc­u­men­tary, 81 min­utes, not rated, 6:30 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 4, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

ART BAS­TARD

Robert Cenedella has spent a life­time paint­ing pic­tures and skew­er­ing what­ever es­tab­lish­ment hap­pens to get caught in his sights. As a young man, Cenedella was a stu­dent and friend of the great Ge­orge Grosz’s, al­most stowed away on the ship when Grosz re­turned to Ger­many in 1959, and was dev­as­tated when shortly af­ter his ar­rival in Berlin, Grosz died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances. The Ger­man artist’s in­flu­ence is ap­par­ent in Cenedella’s art, which of­ten ex­u­ber­antly crowds char­ac­ters into ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments in com­po­si­tions that are re­veal­ing, devil­ishly satiric, and ir­re­sistibly en­ter­tain­ing.

Vic­tor Kanef­sky, a re­tired film ed­i­tor who of­ten worked in the hor­ror genre (one of his clas­sics is

Blood­suck­ing Freaks, 1976) steps be­hind the cam­era (and oc­ca­sion­ally in front of it) to helm this of­ten hi­lar­i­ous, some­times poignant study of one of the un­sung prac­ti­tion­ers and provo­ca­teurs of con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can art.

Part of Cenedella’s story in­volves his learn­ing at the age of six that the man he called daddy was not his real fa­ther, his dis­cov­ery of who that was, and his life­time of deal­ing with the di­chotomy of hav­ing two fa­thers who didn’t really amount to one. But the real thrust of this lively doc­u­men­tary is Cenedella’s re­la­tion­ship to the art es­tab­lish­ment, which has gen­er­ally been too caught up in the fren­zied pur­suit of the lat­est thing to ap­pre­ci­ate what he has to of­fer. When Pop Art was at its peak, Cenedella launched a counter-move­ment, Yes Art, lam­poon­ing Warhol with works like Souper­man (the Man of Steel paint­ing a Camp­bell’s Soup can) and giv­ing away S&H Green Stamps with ev­ery pur­chase. The art es­tab­lish­ment, never noted for a lively sense of hu­mor, has re­sponded by rel­e­gat­ing Cenedella to a drafty cor­ri­dor out­side its door.

Cenedella stalks through Art Bas­tard in rum­pled clothes, with a twin­kle in his eye and a laugh sel­dom far from his lips. He now teaches at New York’s Art Stu­dents League, in the same class­room where more than half a cen­tury ago he stud­ied with Grosz. Cenedella con­tin­ues to launch spit­balls at the es­tab­lish­ment, paint ter­rific pic­tures, and at­tract de­voted ad­mir­ers. This film should win him a bunch more. Screens with Sideshow of the Ab­surd.

— Jonathan Richards

Doc­u­men­tary, 86 min­utes, not rated, 4 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 4, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 4 chiles AWAK­EN­ING IN TAOS: THE MA­BEL DODGE LUHAN STORY

Us­ing never-be­fore-seen pho­to­graphs, archival footage, and voice-overs based on Ma­bel Dodge Luhan’s (1879-1962) own cor­re­spon­dences, Awak­en­ing

in Taos tells the story of the art pa­tron’s early years as a so­cialite in Buf­falo through to her es­tab­lish­ment of a haven for mod­ernist artists and writ­ers in New Mex­ico in­clud­ing D.H. Lawrence, Frank Wa­ters, Mars­den Hart­ley, and Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe. The by-the-num­bers, Ken Burns-style doc, di­rected by Mark J. Gor­don, is nar­rated by Ali MacGraw with Les­lie Har­rell Dillen as Luhan, and chron­i­cles her sev­eral mar­riages, lead­ing up to her ar­rival in New Mex­ico. Her first mar­riage, to a man named Karl Evans in 1900, was ar­ranged in se­cret be­cause her fa­ther did not ap­prove. Then she mar­ried ar­chi­tect Ed­win Dodge in 1904, and the painter Mau­rice Sterne in 1916. She strug­gled to find a place to ex­press her in­de­pen­dent na­ture, al­ways un­der the thumb of her male coun­ter­parts.

Luhan came to Taos in 1919, and in New Mex­ico she flour­ished. She di­vorced Sterne and mar­ried Tony Luhan from Taos Pue­blo in 1923, and she ex­pe­ri­enced a deep spir­i­tual con­nec­tion with him. The film cov­ers her po­lit­i­cal sway, hav­ing con­trib­uted to the de­feat of the Bur­sum Bill in 1923, a bill that would have al­lowed the seizure of Pue­blo lands, and her sup­port of the re­turn of Blue Lake to Taos Pue­blo. The film presents her as a seeker who would fi­nally find

her­self in the South­west. She re­mained in Taos un­til her death in 1962. Awak­en­ing in Taos had its world pre­miere in Santa Fe in Novem­ber. Screens with the shorts Odessa and Princess. — Michael Abatemarco

Doc­u­men­tary, 65 min­utes, not rated, 4:30 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3 chiles DANC­ING AROUND THE WORLD: IN­TER­NA­TIONAL SHORTS PRO­GRAM

Dance forms around the world are tack­led in this se­lec­tion of in­ter­na­tional shorts. Pride, Pole, and

Prej­u­dice ex­plores the art of pole danc­ing, long as­so­ci­ated with strip­pers and red-light dis­tricts. Men and women take classes at the Lon­don Dance Acad­emy to learn to pole dance, a phys­i­cally de­mand­ing genre with a history that’s sel­dom treated se­ri­ously. Di­rec­tor Re­becca Gra­ham’s doc­u­men­tary treats pole danc­ing as an emerg­ing mod­ern-dance form aris­ing from cen­turies-old tra­di­tions.

Dutch film­maker Harm Weis­tra’s multi-award­win­ning short ro­mance In­trin­sic Moral Evil ap­pears at first to be about the tran­si­tion from in­no­cence to ex­pe­ri­ence, told through the medium of dance. The cam­era moves and glides, slows down and speeds up to match the dy­namic move­ments of the dancers. The ti­tle comes from Pope Bene­dict the XVI’s writ­ings on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. It’s a film of grace and beauty that toys with viewer per­cep­tions and sug­gests lay­ers of mean­ing con­cern­ing gen­der, iden­tity, mem­ory, and loss.

Stephen Whit­ten­burg’s The Last Dance, an emo­tional drama, fol­lows the tri­als of Rachel Sloan (Faith

Tucker), a teenager re­hears­ing a dif­fi­cult num­ber for a dance au­di­tion to get into Juil­liard. When she learns she has a bro­ken talus she is faced with the de­ci­sion to carry on re­gard­less, or move on. In Meng Guo’s blackand-white short Back to the Roar­ing Twen­ties, Tim Mo­ri­arty plays a writer who, upon open­ing the door of his bath­room is launched back into the 1920s where he en­coun­ters flap­pers, Model Ts, posh pic­nics, and danc­ing in the streets — all set to Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy.

Sus­pendu is Elie Grappe’s com­pelling story about a young male dancer (Max Ri­cat) at an elite con­ser­va­tory who at­tempts to work through the pain while danc­ing on an in­jured foot, risk­ing not just his own exam grade, but his part­ner’s, as well. The film is in French with sub­ti­tles. Sean Robin­son’s Indigo Grey:

The Pas­sage is a sci-fi dance num­ber about a young boy (Ai­dan Lok) who dis­cov­ers a mys­te­ri­ous gas mask that lets him see into an alternate re­al­ity. The film in­cludes a fu­tur­is­tic dance num­ber by Ham­mer­step, the Ir­ish hip-hop dance group that has been fea­tured on Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent. The pro­gram also in­cludes Se­bas­tian Mly­narski’s

Wait for Your Love, a video for in­die folk band Bay Uno’s song of the same name from its new al­bum, Catalina; Kat­suyuki Miyabe’s Duet, a slow and melan­choly dance num­ber set in a min­i­mal­ist en­vi­ron­ment that slips away un­til only the dancers re­main; Ilya Rozhkov’s comic Sabre Dance, about a re­spected com­poser (Ar­men Baba­soloukian) who gets an op­por­tu­nity to meet his idol Salvador Dalí (Greg Louga­nis); and J.R. Matthews’ Fancy Dancer, a dra­matic story of tri­umph against the odds about a young Na­tive Amer­i­can (Si­mon Washee) raised by a white fam­ily who re­con­nects to his her­itage through tra­di­tional tribal dance. — Michael Abatemarco

In­ter­na­tional shorts, 90 min­utes, not rated, 1:30 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

DI­ABLO

What more can a Western film do with the age-old “pur­suit and re­venge” theme in or­der for the genre to grow and sur­vive? Maybe stand it on its head, kick its head out from un­der its feet, let it lie on the ground, pump a few rounds into it, pick it up, knock it over in the cor­ner, and ask the au­di­ence to go along for the ride, even if it doesn’t make much sense. That’s the ap­proach di­rec­tor Lawrence Roeck and screen­writer Car­los De Los Rios have taken with Di­ablo, which is gain­ing some at­ten­tion for be­ing the first Western to star Scott East­wood, son of Clint.

The pic­ture starts off with punch, smack dab in the mid­dle of a nighttime raid in which four Span­ish­s­peak­ing horse­men make off with a woman while our hero, Jackson, fu­ri­ously fires a ri­fle at them as they ride off. He tells his neigh­bors that the men are raiders and the woman is his wife, and that he’s go­ing af­ter them as they head into the wilds of New Mex­ico. Canada dou­bles for New Mex­ico, by the way, and the state looks al­most as pretty as it ac­tu­ally is, thanks to Dean Cundey’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy. About half of the film’s run­ning time holds at­ten­tion as it re­counts, in some­what fa­mil­iar fash­ion, the des­per­ate ef­forts of a good old-fash­ioned West­erner (and Civil War vet­eran to boot) to re­claim his wife from rap­scal­lions. How­ever, it strains cred­i­bil­ity to ride with Jackson as he meets up with some odd, quirky, and even cute char­ac­ters along the way, in­clud­ing a shot­gun­wield­ing Asian man, an In­dian boy who is in­ept with a bow and ar­row, and a mys­te­ri­ous, fright­en­ing killer who wan­tonly mur­ders any­one who crosses his path.

But then the film starts its en­er­getic, ac­ro­batic, and quite con­vo­luted con­tor­tion into some­thing quite else, try­ing in vain to touch on the prob­lems fac­ing war veter­ans, such as post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and bipo­lar per­son­al­ity con­flicts. Slowly we be­gin to re­al­ize there is some­thing amiss with this chase — that maybe the good guy isn’t a to­tal good guy — but the script cheats its au­di­ence by re­veals that re­veal noth­ing more than op­ti­cal il­lu­sions. Let it be said that if the Western were in full swing to­day, East­wood would be set to star in an­other — maybe a good one. As it is, Di­ablo just gets by be­fore inch­ing into hor­ror ter­ri­tory for a dis­ap­point­ing fi­nale. — Robert Nott

Western, 90 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 4, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 2 chiles

GOOD­BYE THERE­SIEN­STADT

Thou­sands of Dan­ish Jews es­caped to Swe­den when the Nazis came to round them up for trans­port in 1943, but not ev­ery­one made it out. Four hun­dred and seventy Dan­ish Jews were sent to the There­sien­stadt con­cen­tra­tion camp in what is cur­rently the Czech Repub­lic. Good­bye There­sien­stadt tells the story of a hand­ful of for­mer pris­on­ers who visit the camp af­ter more than 50 years and re­call what it was like to live there as chil­dren and teens. The doc­u­men­tary ex­plores an im­por­tant chap­ter in World War II as well as Dan­ish history, but it doesn’t really rise above the dozens of Holo­caust doc­u­men­taries avail­able on Net­flix and the History Chan­nel, nor does it suf­fi­ciently ex­plain There­sien­stadt’s iden­tity as a “show camp” to fool the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity into be­liev­ing Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps were not com­mit­ting hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. The last­ing trauma of grow­ing up in a con­cen­tra­tion camp is ev­i­dent in the flow of tears from the sub­jects when they en­counter the im­pos­ing, threat­en­ing ed­i­fices of their child­hood. Many of them kept silent for decades about There­sien­stadt, never even telling their chil­dren that they were kept there. Ul­ti­mately, most of the Dan­ish Jews were res­cued and sent to Swe­den through a po­lit­i­cal ar­range­ment be­tween Den­mark and the Third Re­ich, be­cause the Dan­ish peo­ple were less ac­cept­ing of the rout­ing-out and ex­e­cu­tion of their coun­try­men than other Euro­peans. The el­derly sub­jects re­fer to their lib­er­a­tion as an es­cape, and the great­est day of their lives, but more spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about the agree­ments be­tween the Dan­ish and the Third Re­ich would have been ben­e­fi­cial to telling a whole story. Screens with Pro­jec­tions of Amer­ica.

— Jen­nifer Levin Doc­u­men­tary, 59 min­utes, not rated, in Dan­ish with sub­ti­tles, 4 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles

JIM

Why can’t ev­ery wit­ness to an alien in­truder be more like El­liott Tay­lor? The tum­ble­weed ham­let of Percy, New Mex­ico, might have avoided a whole lot of trou­ble if the kindly boy from E.T. had been the one to make first con­tact with the hand­some, ex­pres­sion­less man who drops from the sky in a card­board box in Jim. In­stead, it’s the hun­gover pro­pri­etor of the sleepy border town’s dive bar, whose less-than-mea­sured re­sponse to the some­what un­con­ven­tional FedEx de­liv­ery sets in mo­tion an event­ful 24 hours in a town gen­er­ally un­ac­cus­tomed to mo­tion and events. At its best, Jim, writ­ten and di­rected by Rod McCall, evokes the en­joy­ably tacky small-town minu­tiae of Fargo or Wait­ing for Guff­man: the earnest do-good­ery of chatty, fa­mil­iar lo­cals reck­on­ing with an out-ofthe-or­di­nary vari­able. McCall mines that earnest­ness early on — a soli­tary man ca­su­ally speed­ing his pickup truck along an empty thor­ough­fare in re­verse is a prime non-sequitur gag — but the film aban­dons that far­ci­cal track, in­stead mostly em­pha­siz­ing a wrong­side-of-mid­dle-age en­nui of grander lives not lived th­ese folks can scarcely veil.

Into this me­an­ders the alien pro­tag­o­nist (he ar­rives on Earth wear­ing a flo­ral but­ton-down and cargo shorts; he might have made a bet­ter ef­fort at a first im­pres­sion) who car­ries a brief­case where he stashes ma­son jars filled with sounds he ab­sorbs by open­ing his mouth. He is fun­da­men­tally non­plussed, stum­bling from one stilted in­ter­ac­tion to the next, deeper and deeper into the com­mu­nity’s mea­ger dirty laun­dry. The film me­an­ders, too, plot­lessly for the most part, and pleas­antly enough. Im­mi­gra­tion seems to be the the­matic rai­son d’etre — an ac­tual alien drops into a U.S. border town where the sec­u­lar sort are a point of con­tention, you see — but McCall’s script does lit­tle more than wink at it. The word­less sightseer breathes in an ice-cream truck jin­gle, he ex­hales life, and he seems to teach th­ese melan­choly souls a les­son. A harm­less in­va­sion. Screens with Happy Birth­day to Me. — Tripp Stel­nicki Drama, 78 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 4, El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe (555 Camino de la Fa­milia),

1.5 chiles

NEW MEX­ICO FILM­MAK­ERS SHOW­CASE

For years the New Mex­ico Film Of­fice has sup­ported and hosted the New Mex­ico Film­mak­ers’ Show­case, de­signed to show off the (mostly short) cin­e­matic works by the state’s film artists. Like any group­ing of shorts, you ex­pect to get some good, bad, and ugly in the mix, but this year’s of­fer­ings are all pretty en­gag­ing.

Anna Dar­rah’s The Mat­ter of Magic is a quaint and quirky lit­tle com­edy about a ma­gi­cian who doesn’t know he is a ma­gi­cian. One can see it be­ing ex­panded into a (tight) fea­ture film. Num­ber Two is a short and sweet an­i­mated pic­ture by Michelle Cata­lan­otto about two small furry tree crea­tures who quickly learn to love and honor each in the face of dan­ger. The Carv­ing is Ben­jamin Pierce’s brief and clever homage to slasher films as a couple of knife-happy youths per­form vi­o­lent surgery on a … well, let’s keep that a sur­prise, be­cause it works as just that.

Mar­cus Romero’s This Is Me is a paean to the sim­ple el­e­ments of life in­clud­ing her­itage, the en­vi­ron­ment, fam­ily, a house, and sto­ry­telling. Aimee Barry Brous­tra’s A Horse­back Ride to the Soul is a roughly 30-minute doc­u­men­tary about en­gag­ing equines in “col­lab­o­ra­tive horse­man­ship,” and on that level it works as a story of build­ing mu­tual trust be­tween horse and hu­man.

Andy Kastelic’s Bal­lad of the Boat­man may be the best of the bunch; a dark com­edy about a man (Kastelic, who is quite good) who agrees to serve as the fer­ry­man for the dead, un­til the dead start com­plain­ing and too many chil­dren show up, lead­ing him to make a fa­tal de­ci­sion about his ca­reer. John Broad­head’s Death in Time has the most in­trigu­ing premise as Time and Death (per­son­i­fied by a man and woman) de­bate the prac­ti­cal­ity and pain of loss and death. While it may make you re­think the con­cept of death and understand its need, at about 45 min­utes it runs a lit­tle bit too long in driv­ing its point home. Dusty Deen’s mu­sic video S.H.I.L.O: Good Times rounds out the pro­gram, and if you like the band, you’ll like this ki­netic, color­ful piece fea­tur­ing more than 2300 pieces of art. You can even find a fun “making of the video” video on­line. The en­tire pro­gram is never dull and of­ten pretty damn lively.

— Robert Nott Home­grown shorts pro­gram, about 130 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe, 3 chiles

OVA­TION

As writer/di­rec­tor Henry Ja­glom ( Just 45 Min­utes From Broad­way) grows older, he finds him­self ir­re­sistibly drawn to show­biz sto­ries for his sub­jects. His lat­est is a back­stage rom-com/mystery shot dur­ing the run of a real pro­duc­tion of The Rain­maker at a Santa Monica

theater. Mag­gie (Tanna Fred­er­ick, Ja­glom’s fre­quent star) is the lead­ing lady and main­stay of the show, which is in dire fi­nan­cial straits and tee­ter­ing on the brink of clos­ing de­spite strong re­views and pas­sion­ate au­di­ences. We see brief snip­pets of the show, but we have to take its bril­liance on faith. When Ste­wart (James Den­ton), a slick and hand­some star, comes to her dress­ing room af­ter a per­for­mance to rave and to of­fer her a role in his new TV se­ries, Mag­gie must de­cide whether to aban­don the com­pany and close the show, or stick to her theater ideals.

Back­stage, the com­pany is seething with ro­mances, jeal­ousies, and hid­den mo­tives. A tarot-card reader an­nounces that there’s an evil spirit loose in the theater. There’s cer­tainly a screw loose, and the plot thick­ens as Mag­gie and Ste­wart start to fall for each other, and an­other theater re­la­tion­ship turns vi­o­lent. The mystery el­e­ment, which lets the movie down in the end, is not so much a whod unit as a whad did he do?

The cast, which in­cludes a couple of Ja­glom off­spring, is good. Ja­glom, a pro­tégé of Or­son Welles (his record­ings of con­ver­sa­tions with the mas­ter is avail­able in book form: My Lunches With Or­son: Con­ver­sa­tions Be­tween Henry Ja­glom and Or­son Welles) has had a check­ered ca­reer, but there’s a lot to like about this pup­py­ishly ami­able back­stage romp. Fred­er­ick and Den­ton have a nice chem­istry, and even though his Dick Clark smile threat­ens to scut­tle

The Rain­maker and put a lot of hard­work­ing ac­tors out on the street, you can’t help pulling for them to get to­gether. — Jonathan Richards

Rom-com/mystery, 102 min­utes, rated R, 7:30 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 2.5 chiles

PRINCESS

Princess is sen­ti­men­tal and sappy and its char­ac­ters, a fa­ther and daugh­ter, are too thinly drawn. It’s a trib­ute film to the women of the armed ser­vices but feels more like an Army ad­ver­tise­ment up un­til a fi­nal, sober­ing shot that pre­cedes a touch­ing ded­i­ca­tion. Libby is be­ing raised by her fa­ther who calls her “Princess.” The story fo­cuses on their re­la­tion­ship as it pro­gresses over the course of 18 years un­til Libby joins the Army and is sent over­seas. Screens with the short Odessa and the doc­u­men­tary fea­ture

Awak­en­ing in Taos. — Michael Abatemarco

Dra­matic short, 8 min­utes, not rated, 4:30 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 2.5 chiles

PRO­JEC­TIONS OF AMER­ICA

Dur­ing World War II, a se­cret group of film­mak­ers led by Acad­emy Award-win­ning screen­writer Robert Riskin cre­ated 26 doc­u­men­taries about the United States that were shown through­out Europe and other parts of the world, but never seen in the United States. They were soft pro­pa­ganda but well made, in­tended to dis­play Amer­ica’s heart­land tra­di­tions, in­dus­try, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, cre­ative fer­vor, and op­ti­mistic open-mind­ed­ness to peo­ple who would even­tu­ally re­set­tle here or en­counter Amer­i­can lib­er­a­tors in their home coun­tries. Though the films now ex­ist only in ar­chives, they rede­fined the coun­try for world pop­u­la­tions whose pri­mary im­pres­sions of us came from movies about war and gang­ster ac­tiv­ity. The idea of Amer­i­can op­ti­mism, whether or not it was in­ter­preted fa­vor­ably by au­di­ences, is a last­ing bit of that pro­pa­ganda. Pro­jec­tions of Amer­ica is es­pe­cially timely, as politi­cians and cit­i­zens ar­gue over im­mi­gra­tion and refugee is­sues in the wake of ter­ror­ist at­tacks and civil wars rag­ing out­side of our bor­ders, as well as the very na­ture of what it means to be an Amer­i­can. Are we a melt­ing pot that ac­cepts the tired, the poor, and the hud­dled masses yearn­ing to be free? As it turns out, times don’t change much: Con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers were un­happy that the

Pro­jec­tions of Amer­ica movies re­ceived gov­ern­ment fund­ing; ob­jec­tions also in­cluded an­tipa­thy to­ward refugee pop­u­la­tions and whether or not they were wanted here. Af­ter the war, the film­mak­ers en­coun­tered the Red Scare. The very peo­ple who strove to show Amer­ica as the land of the free and the brave ended up hav­ing to prove they were not sub­ver­sives out to de­stroy democ­racy as we know it. Screens with

Good­bye There­sien­stadt.

— Jen­nifer Levin

Doc­u­men­tary, 52 min­utes, not rated, 4 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

RED CAR­PET BURN

Mark Steven Shep­herd wrote and di­rected this off­beat doc­u­men­tary about the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of celebrity and its man­i­fes­ta­tion in the tra­di­tion of — and pub­lic ob­ses­sion with — the red car­pet at awards shows and film fes­ti­vals. The first-per­son film is clever and cyn­i­cal in its de­pic­tion of fame wor­ship­pers who pay for sem­i­nars on how to get their faces in the pub­lic eye by crash­ing red car­pets with no cre­den­tials, just try­ing to get their pic­ture taken. Quentin Tarantino’s bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther teaches one such course; ac­cord­ing to Shep­herd, the guy has never ac­tu­ally met the award-win­ning film­maker but he advises us­ing your friends and rel­a­tives to get ahead. The pro­duc­tions val­ues of Red Car­pet Burn are pur­posely low-end, with awk­ward ti­tle-card fonts (Comic Sans makes an ap­pear­ance) and hi­lar­i­ously ter­ri­ble Pho­to­shop and iMovie ef­fects, as if to mock, or echo, the ques­tion­able psy­cho­log­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual sta­bil­ity of some of the sub­jects. Shep­herd’s ul­ti­mate goal is to use the

ad­vice he gath­ers to get comely un­known teenagers onto the red car­pet, first at the Acad­emy Awards and then at Cannes, and to get the press to pay at­ten­tion, us­ing the right com­bi­na­tion of youth­ful fem­i­nine ap­peal, a unique and fan­tas­tic evening gown, and ba­sic hubris. No one es­capes his droll ridicule — not even the red car­pets them­selves, which range from plush and blocks-long to crim­son bath­mats from dis­count stores. — Jen­nifer Levin

Doc­u­men­tary, 61 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Vi­o­let Crown; 4:45 p.m. Sun­day, Dec. 6, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

REPA­RA­TION

It’s per­haps the most well-worn trope of any heart­pounder: The calls are com­ing ... from in­side the house. Kyle Ham’s Repa­ra­tion, an ex­pertly con­structed thriller, em­ploys a fun vari­a­tion: The calls are com­ing … from in­side your daugh­ter.

Bob Stevens (Marc Men­chaca) can’t re­mem­ber any­thing from his years in the Air Force. A wry young boy in a green T-shirt serves as Bob’s con­fi­dant, cheerleader, and life coach, and is the only one who can see through to the in­scrutable vet­eran; Bob is the only one who can see the young boy. Af­ter a med­i­cal dis­charge, Bob is di­rected to out­pa­tient ser­vices in In­di­ana. The boy — a pint-sized Gan­dalf, really — pru­dently sug­gests Cal­i­for­nia in­stead.

They go, and Bob ca­reens back into civil­ian life, build­ing a nu­clear fam­ily more than chance than by plan, and ditch­ing Gan­dalf along the way (Bob’s dis­con­certed mis­sus kindly re­quests he wrap up his run­ning con­ver­sa­tion with thin air). But the miss­ing chunk of mem­ory is a bur­den. Bob is an un­com­fort­able man — and his trou­bled melan­choly is un­be­com­ing in his new role as the owner/op­er­a­tor of a lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­ket. His episodes of PTSD panic, how­ever am­bigu­ous, rend Men­chaca’s oth­er­wise sub­tle face. The sheen of do­mes­tic calm is fur­ther dark­ened when a slick friend (Jon Huer­tas, hav­ing a lot of fun) from Bob’s un­re­mem­bered past ar­rives, and his nine-year-old daugh­ter, Char­lotte (Dale Dye Thomas), wakes up from an un­com­fort­ably fa­mil­iar dream.

True to its legalese-in­spired ti­tle, Repa­ra­tion is guilty of over-ar­tic­u­la­tion in spots (Char­lotte’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble con­di­tion is hashed out by a di­dac­tic, straight-faced doc­tor, and one six-minute mono­logue in the midst of a tense se­quence is 15 min­utes too long). The su­per­nat­u­ral wrin­kle el­e­vates the film’s cen­tral mystery, but steps aside for level, self-con­tained thrills, which erupt in a taut and gut-wrench­ing fi­nal 15 min­utes. Wher­ever the calls are com­ing from, it’s best to pick up and get on with it. — Tripp Stel­nicki

Thriller, 105 min­utes, not rated, 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3.5 chiles

SHOW BUSI­NESS

Guy Franklin is a smart but some­what bum­bling screen­writer who wins a small award and is sud­denly whisked, along with his ac­tress-girl­friend, from Man­hat­tan to Los An­ge­les for a high-pay­ing gig adapt­ing a lengthy young-adult novel into a movie.

Show Busi­ness was writ­ten and di­rected by Alexan­der To­var, who also plays Guy. It’s an arch, styl­ized skew­er­ing of Hol­ly­wood and any­one who as­pires to be a part of it. Guy hates the book he’s adapt­ing, and can’t get through to the end even as the smarmy au­thor in­sin­u­ates him­self into Guy’s home life. Guy’s girl­friend, Cas­san­dra (Amelia Mey­ers), stops eat­ing and starts do­ing yoga and so­cial­iz­ing with other as­pir­ing starlets. Guy stops get­ting en­joy­ment from writ­ing and can no longer tell if what he’s writ­ing is any good, which forces him to rely on the opin­ions of pro­duc­ers, va­pid ac­tors, and money men he doesn’t re­spect. So he en­ters ther­apy, where he is a nat­u­ral on the couch, talk­ing about him­self with tremen­dous di­gres­sion and doubt. To­var him­self is a cu­rios­ity, a mu­si­cal prodigy who wrote his first opera at ten years old, worked as Philip Glass’ as­sis­tant out of high school, and has com­posed mu­sic for film, tele­vi­sion, and orchestra. Show Busi­ness is fun to watch, de­spite the feel­ing that it’s all just not quite as sharp and smart as the par­tic­i­pants as­sumed it was. It plays its pre­dictabil­ity and ad­her­ence to for­mu­laic plot­ting for laughs, but it re­mains quite pre­dictable. Though it is To­var’s sec­ond movie, it has the feel­ing of a very ad­vanced stu­dent film. His first, Noth­ing in Los An­ge­les, cov­ers sim­i­lar the­matic ter­ri­tory. It would be in­ter­est­ing to see what he would do if he left the com­fort zone of un­com­fort­able suc­cess in show busi­ness. Screens with

An­i­ma­tion Hot­line and De­ten­tion. — Jen­nifer Levin

Com­edy, 85 min­utes, not rated, 3:30 p.m. Sun­day Dec. 6, The Screen, 3 chiles

TUM­BLE­DOWN

Hannah (Re­becca Hall) is the young widow of a beloved mu­si­cian named Hunter, who died be­fore putting out a sec­ond al­bum. She lives in the Maine woods, mourn­ing her loss and try­ing to write his bi­og­ra­phy. En­ter An­drew McDon­nell ( Ja­son Sudeikis), a hip univer­sity pro­fes­sor on the ten­ure track, who is writ­ing a book about artis­tic ge­niuses who died too soon. He wants to in­clude a chap­ter on Hunter, but Hannah won’t re­turn his phone calls, so he shows up in town to con­vince her to help him. She is brash and cold, while he is sleazy in his des­per­a­tion for aca­demic ac­claim. The most in­ter­est­ing theme in the movie is about whether or not we can truly know an artist based solely on his art, and how strongly we project our own dam­age onto art we love. What An­drew in­ter­prets as metaphors for de­pres­sion in the lyrics of a dead man might just be lit­eral im­agery for which he doesn’t have con­text. De­spite its se­ri­ous premise,

Tum­ble­down is ba­si­cally a rom-com for pseudo-in­tel­lec­tu­als. Ev­ery beat of the genre is present, from Hannah’s and An­drew’s ini­tial dis­like of each other to the way she runs af­ter him in the end to catch him be­fore he leaves town for­ever. Though per­for­mances are strong — es­pe­cially that of Richard Ma­sur as Hannah’s fa­ther — there is some­thing un­be­liev­able about most of the char­ac­ters. They are cut from genre stock, in­clud­ing An­drew’s shal­low city girl­friend and Hannah’s dumb brute of a home­town lay, ren­der­ing the over­all view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence un­nerv­ingly pre­dictable. How­ever, the mu­sic at­trib­uted to Hunter, which is per­formed by Seat­tle in­die folk-rocker Damien Ju­rado, is evoca­tive of Neil Young. Had Young died af­ter putting out just one al­bum, we would al­ways won­der what had hap­pened and what it all meant. There is real po­ten­tial for a great movie here, but

Tum­ble­down is too slick and too con­ven­tional to make it work. Screens with Dream­ing of Peggy Lee.

— Jen­nifer Levin

Ro­man­tic com­edy, 105 min­utes, rated R, 1:30 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 4, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2 chiles

Art Bas­tard

In­trin­sic Moral Evil

Awak­en­ing in Taos: The Ma­bel Dodge Luhan Story

Good­bye There­sien­stadt

Num­ber Two

Pro­jec­tions of Amer­ica

Princess

Tum­ble­down

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