Week of March 20, 2002

Mar 20, 2002 at 4:00 am
Academy Award Short Film Nominees. The St. Louis International Film Festival presents a screening of all 10 2002 Academy Award-nominated short-subject films. Both the live-action and animated-short nominees will be shown. The best of the animated shorts, "Give Up Yer Aul Sins," conjures up memories of John and Faith Hubley by way of the "Penny" shorts on Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and "Stubble Trouble," directed by former St. Louisan Joseph Merideth, mixes simple slapstick with a distinctive design to illustrate a caveman's failed efforts at romance. The live-action entries offer no less of a range. The Austrian film "Copyshop" cleverly uses copying machines as both a means of production and a metaphor for an existential crisis. "Speed for Thespians" pushes its single joke -- transplanting Chekhov's "The Bear" to a New York City bus -- a bit further than necessary. The Polish film "A Man Thing" is a powerful and sometimes painful story of child abuse, insightfully establishing parallels between a bulling father and a demanding coach. The lightest and most deceptively simple of the shorts is "Gregor's Greatest Invention," in which a young man uses far-fetched mechanical projects to aid his weakening grandmother. It's sentimental, charming, and, at 11 minutes, defines the short film at its best. (There will be a simultaneous broadcast of the award ceremony in the main auditorium, and the films will show in a continuous loop for the duration of the Oscars.) The evening is a benefit for the St. Louis International Film Festival; doors open at 6:30 p.m. March 24 at the Tivoli. (RH)

Films of Frederick Wiseman. Webster University presents a series of films by documentary director Frederick Wiseman. If Wiseman isn't the greatest living American filmmaker (as one recent magazine article boldly claimed), he certainly holds the undisputed title of the cinema's greatest social scientist. Wiseman's films, ranging in length from a lean 85 minutes to day-long marathons, are no-frills cinema verité at its purest, chronicling -- perhaps even dismantling -- the inner workings of social structures and institutions ranging from high schools, boot camps and welfare offices to racetracks and department stores. Though he avoids narrative or offscreen commentary, he's no simple voyeur; carefully editing weeks of footage with an analytical eye, Wiseman's cameras slip through the cracks of their subject matter and penetrate their public images to expose the subtle dynamics of power within. This week features Public Housing, Wiseman's exploration of the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago. Plays at 7 p.m. March 21 at Webster University. (RH)

Steinbeck Film Series. The St. Louis Public Library, in association with the Webster University Film Series, celebrates the 100th anniversary of American novelist John Steinbeck's birth with a series of adaptations of his work. This week features Elia Kazan's take on Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955). The film in which James Dean first showcases his disaffected cool is a wrenching story of two brothers competing for the love of their father. Plays at 7 p.m. March 25 at the Central branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 1415 Olive. NR