Film Review

Leap Year: S&M Mexico-Style

Kate Gompert, the Ophelia character in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, awakes in a psych ward after ingesting "a hundred-ten Parnate, about thirty Lithonate capsules, [and] some old Zoloft," and notes, "I took everything I had in the world.... I wasn't trying to hurt myself. I was trying to kill myself. There's a difference." Laura (Monica del Carmen), the focus of Michael Rowe's blistering Leap Year (Ano Bisiesto), seems to be heading along the same pathway. 

Submarine: Drowning in Love

Teen romance is often hilarious, especially for folks who are no longer teens. No wonder filmmakers keep returning to the topic. Why, to witness a hormonally whacked lad taking love so gravely . . . to contemplate an acne-prone youth actually believing another soul will complete his own . . . to see a young man as he slowly moves his lips in for that first smooch as if the earth's rotation depends on it, is to observe a spectacle either as spectacular as Moses' parting of the Red Sea or as delirious as brunch at Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Angel's Crest Earns Its Halo at Tribeca

There are a handful of similarities between Atom Egoyan's acclaimed The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and Gaby Della's applause-worthy Angels Crest. Both explore the aftermath of children's deaths in self-contained communities, the difference being in the number of tiny coffins: a busload vs. one. Both are also based on well-received novels: the former by the renowned Russell Banks, the latter by the far less known Leslie Schwartz. Additionally, both are extremely well directed and showcase a first-rate cast.

Beyond the Black Rainbow: Death by Celluloid

When you start viewing the selections of a film festival, the initial few will definitely color your expectations for the rest. What were the curators thinking? you might just ponder,

Happily, the first offering of this year's Tribeca Film Festival that I screened was Pierre Thoretton's superb documentary on the designer Yves Saint Laurent, L'Amour Fou, a true must-see if you adore fashion, interior design, the Sixties and Seventies, travel, and an exploration of depressed genius with guest appearances by Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger.

"He had a lot to say…"

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Some documentaries transform their subject into a sculpted statue; others bring them to life. American: The Bill Hicks Story is certainly the latter, digging through personal photos, family interviews, and previously unseen footage to resurrect one of America's most belatedly appreciated national treasures of stand-up comedy.

Cracks: Crazed Lesbian Teachers Get Their Due

Oh, my God! I was just about to rip apart Cracks when I started inquiring into the novel it's based upon. Suddenly, I went, "That author's name seems awfully familiar."

Yes, Sheila Kohler, when she was a brunette, was my creative writing teacher, and according to several reviews of her novels, she's done quite well for herself after she recovered from grading my short stories. Note the acclaim for Becoming Jane Eyre.

Heartbeats: Bang! Bang! My Baby Shot Me Down!

In recent decades there have been a handful of times we've seen a film and known immediately a master is at work here. Take the early works of Almodovar, Aronofsky, Francois Ozon, and Paul Thomas Anderson, for example.

On these occasions, on the screen, there's something that strikes us immediately. A style we've never witnessed before. A wit. An undeniable intelligence. We find ourselves laughing at a joke that's not a retread from a dozen mall comedies of the previous year. Or we smile or shiver upon recognizing a truth about the characters we see interacting before us, an honesty exposing our own little secrets that we've seldom shared aloud.

In a Better World or I Was a Preteen Sociopath

In A Better WorldThis surprise Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film spotlights what a delightful haven Denmark is for children with homicidal tendencies. A young boy can beat up another with a bicycle pump, blow up vans, and punch his father in the stomach, and the youth will be completely forgiven and allowed to stay in school. And in the end, he will transform into a loving lad, of course.

Moral: Coddle the potential cutthroat in your life and he'll become a pussycat, unlike in real life where bastards become bigger bastards.