Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Week In Tickets: 12 March 2012 - 18 March 2012

Last week was just dead.

This Week In Tickets!

It turned out to be a bad week for getting out of work early enough to go to the movies, and going to a later show would have meant waiting around somewhere, and not much seemed worth that. The weekend wound up being built around fixed things - see the first screening of Life Without Principle so that I can get a review up in time for the second, Japanese class, the daily 35mm showing of Chico & Rita, Chlotrudis Awards - and wound up without a lot of wiggle room.

The Chlotrudis Awards were fine, as usual; I had less stake than usual as a voter because what I'd seen didn't align very well with what was nominated. There were a lot of categories where I had only seen one or two nominees so didn't vote; the Buried Treasure, where you're required to have seen all nominated films to cast a vote, is one I seldom vote on because I learned that I almost never enjoy movies seen as homework or out of obligation.

Besides, as I mentioned to someone at the post-ceremony party, the value of awards isn't in the winner, but in how the existence of the ceremony gives the nominees prominence for a month or two. Nominations for awards are valuable as a manageable list of things worth seeking out or discussing in various categories; the actual winner may receive 21% of the vote in a field of five and is, in the case of awards like these, often comes down to which movie was most-seen (if a lot of people are voting based on the three out of five they've seen, the movie that gets into the most threes has an advantage).

Yes, I recognize the apparent contradiction in those two paragraphs. I'm an outlier, if I haven't seen a nominee before the list is made, I've probably chosen not to for one reason or another. It does still give me a little extra push to see something when I get the chance, though; I might have passed on Beginners at the Brattle otherwise, for example.

Atom Egoyan was the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and was a nifty guest, as was his wife (and a previous award winner), Arsinée Khanjian. IFFBoston generally and Adam Rothman specifically were great choices for recipients of the "Cat's Meow" award, with their tenth annual festival coming up in just a month or so. I did bail on the after-party after about an hour or so, as it appears I get even less out of standing around with a bunch of people talking at once and drinking now, and having someone running around taking pictures just increases my agitation.

Chico & Rita

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 March 2012 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (second-run, 35mm)

For all the elements in Chico & Rita that seem like they should make it more exciting (animation! jazz! passion! globetrotting! jealousy! revolution!), it turns out to be a strangely inert movie. It's fairly unique - non-fantastical period romances are not the usual subject for an animated feature - and yet seldom gives the audience the feeling of something they've never seen before.

An old man shines shoes on a city street, returning home at the end of the day to listen to a program of decades-old music on the radio. The song takes him back to sixty years earlier, when Chico (voice of Eman Xor Oña) was a piano player from rural Cuba trying to break into the Havana jazz scene. He and best friend/manager Ramon (voice of Mario Guerra) start the evening with a couple of Yanqui tourist girls, but when Rita (voice of Limara Meneses) takes the stage, he knows he's found the perfect partner in more ways than one. Of course, being passionate musician types, the title characters have the tendency to be their own worst enemies, and as such eventually make it to New York separately, where their reunion proves just as tempestuous as their first go-around.

How somebody feels about this movie likely correlates well with how he or she feels about its central relationship, and I must admit to not feeling the love. Chico and Rita seem well-matched, but a romance that can drive a feature-length movie has to be more, and this movie never gives us a reason to think that this is one for the books. The characters are both too cool to start with, so their meeting never seems to throw one or the other off their game, and the passion they react with later never seems earned. As musicians, their work doesn't seem more brilliant together than apart (audience members with a greater appreciation of jazz than I have may dispute this, but it needs to be much more striking). It's the sort of shallow romance that seems like preparation for The Real Thing, but the movie instead expects the audience to accept it as that.

Full review at EFC.

Life Without PrincipleChico & RitaCholotrudis Awards

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