By Amy Nicholson
By Chris Packham
By David Kipen
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Caira LaVelle
By Zachary Wigon
By Scott Foundas
Facing the Storm
Directed by Doug Hawes-Davis
5:30 p.m. Sunday, November 14, at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
Besides being an enduring symbol of the Great Plains, the buffalo is also an emblem of survival. For nearly 10,000 years these animals were the driving force behind Native American culture and economy; then, in the nineteenth century, their numbers plummeted from the tens of millions to fewer than 1,000. Though they've been saved from extinction, recent history hasn't been so romantic for the buffalo, as their storied past has given way to an uncertain future tied up in the realities of land management, bureaucracy, court trials and town-hall meetings. Today, even as buffalo unite Indian tribes under a common cause, they divide hunters and conservationists, lawmakers and constituents, as America continues to argue what, exactly, home on the range means for the buffalo. Facing the Storm analyzes these ongoing challenges in a beautifully shot film that combines interviews with Native Americans, conservationists and ranchers with sweeping panoramas of the plains, simple yet effective animation and not-for-the-squeamish scenes from slaughterhouses. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, the film's look at North America's history and future serves as a poignant reminder that civilizations are at their best when the land and its people live in mindful accord.
— Kristie McClanahan
Directed by Marc Meyers
6 p.m. Sunday, November 21, at the Tivoli
Robert Loggia gives a charming performance in this feature written and directed by Marc Meyers as Siv Monopoli, patriarch of a squabbling Italian family somewhere in New England. It's unfortunate that Harvest concerns Siv's decline and death, so that scenes of the old man happily riding his bike through town and amazing everyone with his joie de vivre alternate with scenes of him lying in bed in mortal agony. (Kudos to the makeup crew for making Loggia's skin look like that of an actual dying person.) Sadly, there are more bed scenes as the movie goes on, as Siv is tended to by his two bickering sons, his martyr of a daughter and his mopey college-age grandson, who can't believe he has to spend summer vacation with the old folks instead of with his friends at the beach. Sure, life is tough, but we couldn't help but wish Siv had passed on some of his good cheer to his offspring.
— Aimee Levitt
Made in Hungária
Directed by Gergely Fonyó
6:45 p.m. Tuesday, November 16, and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 17, at Plaza Frontenac
With his perfect-coiffed DA, shades and Hawaiian shirts, Miki (Tamás Szabó Kimmel) looks like every other teenager in mid-'60s America. Too bad he's back in Hungary after four years in the USA, where he worshiped at the altar of Jerry Lee Lewis. Unable to blend in with the cold, gray realities of life behind the Iron Curtain, Miki causes trouble for his father (suspected of being a spy by the government) and his friends as he tries to impart some good ol' teenage rebellion to a society that demands conformity. Loosely based on the life of Eastern Bloc pop star Miklós Fenyö, Made in Hungária is part biopic, part musical, featuring a half-dozen or so delirious production numbers powered by Jerry Lee Lewis-esque rockers performed in a mix of English and Hungarian. Kimmel has a genial charm — he's half Eddie Haskell, half Wally Cleaver — and Iván Fenyö delivers a convincing performance as Röné, the local King of the Juvenile Delinquents whose social position (and band) are unwittingly usurped by Miki.
— Paul Friswold
Most Valuable Players
Directed by Matthew Kallis
7 p.m. Wednesday, November 17, at the Tivoli
In Most Valuable Players, Matthew Kallis' directorial debut, a handful of high school musical-theater superstars are given their moment in the indie documentary spotlight. Kallis' camera follows the cast members of three high school musicals in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley in the weeks leading up to the Freddy Awards, the so-called high school Tony Awards. In this era of obsession over TV's Glee and the High School Musical franchise, this film is sure to reach a wide audience. And it's even better than its fictional counterparts: These are real kids, with acne and anxiety. There's tension (two of the schools, just five miles down the road from one another, choose to perform Les Miserables on the very same weekend), drama (a beloved Freddy Awards producer is diagnosed with cancer) and divas galore (two of the high school actresses kvetch about their director, then turn to look at each other. "Are we bitches?" one asks. "You are," the other responds). There's even a conspiracy theory: Should one high school be allowed to compete in the "Best Costumes" category if they rented their costumes instead of creating them? The film jumps around and can be confusing at times, but ultimately, the charisma and heart of the performers will draw you in and leave you fascinated until curtain call.
— Kase Wickman
The Queen of Hearts
Directed by Valérie Donzelli
9:15 p.m. Tuesday, November 16, and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 17, at Plaza Frontenac
If the French film The Queen of Hearts gets remade in America, it will star Kate Hudson, and it will be unbearable. What else can you expect from a movie about a childlike woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend and left without a job, a home, friends or even a change of clothes — and now must figure out how to get a life? Fortunately, Valérie Donzelli, who wrote, directed and stars, rescues this story from cliché by treating her heroine Adele like a real person, capable of being surprised by developments in her own life, instead of just a silly ball of quirks. Jérémie Elkaïm plays all four men in Adele's life and makes them believable as individuals instead of four look-alikes in different costumes, and Béatrice De Staël is touching as Adele's eccentric cousin Rachel, who sets the plot in motion by encouraging Adele to get over the breakup by sleeping with a new man. (Who hasn't suffered from that bit of advice?) There is singing, but don't worry, it's charming. Maybe bad breakups — and movies about them — are more fun if they happen in Paris?
— Aimee Levitt
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