Enter the pleasantly surreal world of animator Caleb Wood: by turns manic, contemplative and hypnotic, it’s a place where anything can happen and causality is permanently on vacation.
Wood is part of a generation of animators whose work thrives on the Internet. In this retrospective, Wood presents high-speed roadkill slideshows, abstract loop meditations, and nuanced, character-driven shorts.
Northern Exposure: The Animations of Caleb Wood screens Monday and Tuesday, March 30 and 31 at 7:00 and 8:45 at the Trylon. A brief Q&A follows the 7pm screenings. You can purchase advance tickets here.
Just the other day Trylon volunteer Dave Berglund pointed me toward an article by Alissa Wilkinson in The Atlantic about the small but growing phenomenon of indie faith-based filmmaking. It’s important to note that the article isn’t talking about movies aimed at the “faith-and-family” crowd — movies like Left Behind or God’s Not Dead or Heaven Is For Real. Those works essentially function as religious agitprop — designed only to make devout Christian audiences feel good about themselves and their faith.
More and more, indie filmmakers are telling stories centered on religious faith that deal with the pain and complexities of the real world. Wilkinson’s article talks glowingly of films like Calvary, starring Brendon Gleason, and the Oscar nominated films Ida and Selma. Several other films were mentioned in the article, including Paul Harrill’s Something, Anything, which screens Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon.
In Something, Anything, Peggy (Ashley Shelton) and her husband Mark (Bryce Johnson) are a young couple expecting their first child. When Peggy suffers a miscarriage, she begins to question everything about her life. She leaves her husband and moves into a small apartment. She quits her lucrative job in real estate, choosing instead to work at a public library. She rejects the advice of friends who tell her that, if she just goes back to her husband and tries again for a baby, everything will turn out right. Peggy suspects that the things she’s been brought up to believe are important — money and status and family — may not be for her.
Peggy’s spiritual crisis is baffling to her friends, as she finds herself yearning to devote herself to something more than career and family. Inexorably, she finds herself drawn to the possibility of a monastic life. Where will it lead? Ashley Shelton turns in a brilliant, understated performance as a woman who discovers that the material world might be blinding her to what’s truly important. — Michael Popham
Something, Anything screens Monday and Tuesday, March 23 and 24 at 7:00 and 9:00 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are 8:00, and can be purchased here.
Shion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is a wacky, blood-drenched homage to the movies, and to the people who love the movies. It’s as over-the-top and goofy as anything you’re likely to see on the big screen this year.
The movie starts with a Japanese toothpaste commercial, in which cute 8-year-old Mitsuko sings an infectious jingle that everyone in Japan knows by heart. Mitsuko is the heir to the Muto crime family, and when gangsters from the warring Ikegami clan come to Muto’s house to kill the family patriarch, they instead find his wife, who dispatches all four men with a carving knife. Because she chases down and brutally executes the last of the men out in the street, she is sent to prison for ten years.
Meanwhile, schoolboy Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) is the loquacious leader of the Fuck Bombs, a group of would-be filmmakers whose enthusiasm far outpaces their talent. They roam around town with 8mm cameras, staging scenes for a movie that they will never complete, and along the way recruit a street tough named Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) whom Hirata promises will be the next Bruce Lee. Their moral anchor is a kindly old theater projectionist, who tells the kids to follow their dreams no matter what.
A decade passes, and we find the Fuck Bombs haven’t gotten anywhere. They’re still running around with 8mm cameras, no closer to making a real movie than they were when they were in school. The theater they used to hang out at has closed, and the projectionist is long dead. Sasaki, realizing his dreams of being the next Bruce Lee will never materialize, bitterly quits the group.
We learn that Mitsuko’s mother is about to be released from prison. She had been assured that Mitsuko’s film career is going gangbusters, not knowing that the Muto family legal trouble has torpedoed the young woman’s acting career. Muto himself knows that if there isn’t a completed film for his wife to see, all the stories he told her over the years will expose him as a liar and break the poor woman’s heart. But suddenly he has an inspiration: the Muto clan will make a movie, starring a grown-up Mitsuko (Fumi Nukaido), set amidst the backdrop of a raid against the hated Ikegami gang.
The trouble is, none of the mobsters know anything about movies. If only they could find some aspiring filmmakers who could take charge!
You’ve probably guessed what comes next, but no verbal description can capture the hyperactive lunacy of Why Don’t You Play In Hell, a movie that’s wildly overdone even by the standards of Japanese cinema. It’s great fun. — Michael Popham
Why Don’t You Play In Hell? screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17, at 7:00 and 9:30. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
It’s week two in our Pedro Almodóvar series, and All About My Mother (1999) is one of the director’s best — filled with humor, tragedy, bold primary colors and improbable coincidences.
Esoteric and desultory, All About My Mother floats and lands on a grieving mother, Manuela (Cecilia Roth). She seeks the father of her dead son but finds an old friend instead. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. With Marisa Paredes, Antonia San Juan and Penelope Cruz.
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER screens Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, March 15 at 5:00 and 7:00. Advance tickets are 8:00, and you can purchase them here.
Pedro Almodóvar has an unquestionably keen eye – one filled with great affection – for women. His films are best known for their wild use of color and staunch female performances, but in the case of Hable con ella (Talk to Her), while the former is still certainly true (expressly so in the somber bullfights at the start: silk, golden threads, and buttons gleam against the skin of the woman taking on the creature amidst the dust of the solitary ring), the film is something of a twist for Almodovar: mostly, we watch the men. And the men watch the women, brood over them, care for them (or question how or if they should) as they lie comatose for the greater part of the picture.
And though, yes, the men have the most to say, in an intriguing upending of sorts of the Bechdel test: do the men ever speak to each other about anything but these women? These men, they are so feminine in their sensitivity. One is a travel writer, Marco, and the other, Benigno, a nurse. As the film begins, we see them in attendance of a dance performance in which two women, stumbling around stage with eyes closed, appear like tortured sleepwalkers. Marco is in tears the first time the camera allows us to see his face. The men don’t know it yet, but they will be brought together in a hospital, where they both spend most of their time at the bedsides of the unconscious women they seem to love. Marco, for his bullfighter girlfriend, Lydia, and Benigno, as caregiver to the patient and certain object of his longtime desire, the ballerina, Alicia.
Here, Almodóvar displays his true talent for expressing immense, unsayable shifts of emotion and action through performances within the greater movie – it begins and ends with two dance sequences that foreshadow feelings and acts that will come, and reflect on those that have already passed with more depth than words would have been able to do. And right in the middle of this framework lies a film within a film, this one wordless, to convey an act of great perversion with delicacy and possibly even love. Talk to Her can be called sublime for this tiny gem alone. It is worshipful of silent cinema.
At the core, the heart of the director is proclaimed quite plainly in a moment where Benigno is desperately trying to teach Marco how he should care for Lydia in the midst of her coma: “A woman’s brain is a mystery, and in this state even more so. You have to pay attention to women, talk to them, be thoughtful occasionally. Caress them.” Almodóvar has spent his film career paying attention to women and their mysteries, reminding us that it is pure pleasure to do so. What a perfect place to begin this series. — Elizabeth Doyle
TALK TO HER screens Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 at 7:00 and 9:15, and Sunday, March 8 at 5:00 and 7:15 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are $8.00 and can be purchased here.