Fall brings a harvest of good movies
As summer winds down and blockbuster film releases begin to slow to a trickle, the best time of the year for film begins to emerge. Movies with modest budgets and great performances begin to get the recognition they deserve, and the competition for weekend dollars slows down, meaning a quality film might last longer than a week at the Majestic 12 downtown. Chattanooga is luckier than some cities of its size—we are beginning to get screenings of films that can’t be seen anywhere else, thanks to Mise En Scenesters. If you are a film fan and you haven’t been to a MES event, you should re-evaluate your weekend priorities. During the next few months, they are bringing some choice indie fare (including the Frightening Ass Film Festival on Oct. 28—tickets are limited!) to our city, so make sure to drop by the Barking Legs Theater and check one out. But beyond MES, there are a couple of worthwhile flicks that will likely make it into the big screen here. Look out for the following:
Sept. 7 – Barking Legs Theater
Filmed in very low-fi black and white, “Computer Chess” examines the strange draw of narrow subcultures and the people that participate in them. Despite being a quasi-comedic work of fiction, “Computer Chess” is shot in a documentary style and focuses on a group of programmers striving to create realistic A.I. for computer chess games. Set in the early 1980s, before Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the film aims to create honest characters out of the conference attendees, back at a time when nerds were anti-social, awkward, and unhygienic rather than attractive, chic, and ironic.
As I Lay Dying
This James Franco vehicle has not been especially well received by advance critics, and a film adaptation of a stream-of-consciousness William Faulkner novel may have something of a limited audience, but this one will almost certainly be worth seeing if only for the performances. Anyone who has seen Franco’s portrayal of the rapper/criminal Alien in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” knows the lengths to which he’ll go to bring a character to life. While the film may come across as uneven or unfinished, fans of Faulkner and Franco will hopefully be pleased.
I Declare War
Sept. 28 – Barking Legs Theater
Inventive and thought-provoking, “I Declare War” takes a familiar game all boys play to one degree or another and explores the dark undertones of young male relationships. The film is one part “Lord of the Flies,” one part “The Hunger Games,” one part Calvinball. Competitive imaginations and strict adherence to esoteric rules are all part of a deadly serious game of “war” between neighborhood boys, where the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur, both for the boys and the viewers. The film is carried by very strong performances by the child actors and a provocative script that doesn’t shy away from complicated subject matter.
Ordinarily, a remake of such a classic film wouldn’t make the list, but given that 37 years have passed since the original film shocked audiences, a fresh look at the story is intriguing. For me, the desperation and cruelty of the opening scene in the original film far surpasses the bloody conclusion. I’m interested to see if the newest version of the film will even approach the fearless direction of the original. The casting of Julianne Moore as crazy Margaret White is encouraging; however, the film will need to match the breakneck pacing of Brian DePalma to come close to achieving the same measure of success. Regardless, to see the story presented for a modern audience may be worth the ticket price.
Dear Mr. Watterson
Nov. 17 – Barking Legs Theater
The status of “Calvin and Hobbes” as the best cartoon comic strip of all time is hard to argue. There aren’t any modern strips, in newspapers at least, that come close to the depth, humor, and beauty found in the panels drawn by the immensely talented Bill Watterson. Despite the success of the strip, Watterson refused to license his characters for any publications beyond his own collections, demanding that his art exist only in the medium for which they were created. This story, along with the more personal love of his fans, is told in what will likely be my favorite documentary of the year.