Taking Down Goliath with a Camera: The Documentaries of Kirby Dick

June 13, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

 Thus far in his career, documentarian Kirby Dick has taken on the Motion Picture Association of America, closeted anti-gay politicians, and the Catholic Church.  And now he is focusing his attention, and lens, on another behemoth of a powerful institution: the United States military, in  a new documenatry showing at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.

The Invisible War, a heartbreaking and shocking film about the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military, tears into the disturbing lack of action by the Pentagon to bring the perpetrators to justice, support the victims, and institute effective prevention policies to keep sexual predators out the armed forces. In fact, often, the victims become the target of retaliation for reporting the rape. 

It’s these explorations of corruption, hypocrisy, and abuse in some of our country’s most powerful institutions that have made Dick an important figure in our culture, and it’s why he is receiving the 2012 Faith Hubley Career Achievement Award at this year’s festival.

“They’re so powerful they don’t have to change,” says Dick of the subjects of his documentaries. 

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Checking in with Price Check’s Parker Posey

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It is the smoldering intensity and the atomic effervescence that Parker Posey brings to each role that has made her a star. Respected for her insightful acting, smart choices, as well as her impressive body of work known for its artistry and quirkiness with films like Party Girl, Waiting for Guffman, and her film debut Dazed and Confused, the actress is one of a kind and has cemented a place in the cinematic arts by bringing a unique depth to each role. It’s why she’ll be receiving the Excellence in Acting Award this week at the 14th Provincetown International Film Festival.

Posey is the perfect selection for recognition at the film festival, which showcases and rewards the best in independent film as well as those who take risks and create movies “on the edge.”  In 1997, Time magazine dubbed her “The Queen of the Indies,” a title that has stuck, for better or worse. 

“I think having all these years pass and to have the title still in the culture might be a good thing, but I’ve seen it work against me in Hollywood,” says Posey. “I’ll be up for a Hollywood film and they’ll say ‘she’s too much of an indie queen.’ I’m just a working actor. In these days I think it’s good to be called something, I’m just not sure if it hurts more than it helps.”

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Talking Pictures with Roger Corman

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More than a century into its existence, the cinema still struggles to be seen as a true art form. And in an effort to legitimize film as an art on the level with sculpture and painting and music, well-meaning film theorists tend to privilege one type of film over another. In the face of movies that don’t quite fit their preconceived notions about what art is, the tendency is to take one of two paths: either over-interpret the “hidden meanings” of the films or completely ignore them hoping they will go away. 

Legendary director and producer Roger Corman has been subject to both approaches, and everything in between. His own analysis of the film/art relationship is characteristically both optimistic and practical.

“I looked at them from the beginning till today as a combination of art and business,” Corman says from his office at New Horizons Pictures. “A painter, all he needs is a couple of bucks for some paint. A person making films needs a crew, a camera and things – needs money. Yet at the same time, it is an art form and that’s what makes it unique; the quintessential modern art form, and that is an art and a business combined.”

Over the course of his 60-year career and over 400 films, Corman has created a body of work known for exploiting societal angst and upheaval in an entertaining manner, and for doing so on ridiculously small budgets (relative to Hollywood, anyway) and with record speed. One of his best known earlier films, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) was shot over the course of two days, reportedly because Corman wanted to break his record for shooting a feature (it had been five days for the film A Bucket of Blood). 

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Offseason: Provincetown’s Television Debut

June 6, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

 Provincetown has a lot to say. For such a tiny town we have a lot of media. A weekly newspaper, a radio station, one television station and two channels, several theaters and performance venues, and of course, Provincetown Magazine.  Films have been made about and in Provincetown, but there has never been a television series about P’town. 

“For this tiny town, it holds an amazing amount of talent,” says Nathan Butera, creator of Offseason the first television series to be set in Provincetown. “Plus, the town is so beautiful and that translates on camera. The show was just a slam dunk to me.”

Offseason is a nine episode series that follows the lives of Dianne Delroy, a member of the Provincetown Board of Selectmen; Joe Silva, a Portuguese-American fisherman; Tony Gouveia, local boy gone gay; Doris Demsey, a straight female hairdresser; Margarita Rosa Flores Maldonado, a Latina business owner; Olga Woods, the vegetable lady; Maya Wholly, the general contractor/yoga instructor; Ivan Zamir the questioning Wall Street trader; Captain Dory Pearl Souza, Ph.D., the female ship captain; and Chris Christopherson, the evangelical soul-saver. 

Provincetown is of course a generally eccentric town year-round, but it’s at it freakiest perhaps in the winter, which is the setting for the series. Butera and co-producer Frank Vasello say those that know Provincetown as the “beachy, funky, artist colony and gay Disneyland” are about to have their perceptions of the town turned “inside out.” However, the production team stresses this is a fictional series, and not a reality show or a based-on-a-true story comedy/drama. A team of writers assembled, with the actors, and a synergy was let loose to create a fictitious representation of winter in P’town, a la Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure. 

“It features twelve characters living here in the winter as their lives intertwine in ways that can only happen in P’town,” says Vasello.  “It’s fun and it’s weird. And we threw in some sex, drugs, and death. You know. All the good stuff.”

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REVIEW: Dark Shadows

May 23, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

Fans of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp will be enchanted by their latest collaboration, Dark Shadows, a film based on the late 1960s ABC television series of the same name. Rich, gothic set design, melodramatic plot points, and over-the-top performances by a cast that also includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eva Green, come together in an odd mixture that has left critics and audiences divided.

The film is set a bit later than the series, in 1972, and it takes full advantage, visually, of that simultaneously awful and fabulous era. The script contains many nods to 1970s feminism, music (including theatrical performances by Alice Cooper), and of course, fashion. It centers on the return of Barnabas Collins (Depp), a vampire who has been buried alive for 200 years. Barnabas is the victim of Angelique (Green), a beautiful, but viciously vengeful witch with whom he had an affair in the 18th century.  After telling her he does not love her and taking up with the lovely fair maiden Josette (Bella Heathcote), Angelique responds by turning him into a vampire, thus condemning him to an endless life of suffering. Two centuries later, upon his return, he finds the reincarnation of Josette living as a governess with his distant relations who have let the family mansion wither as the former Collins fortune has been diminished in the face of competition from Angelique in her new incarnation (witches live forever, too, as I’m sure you know).

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REVIEW: Me & Orson Welles

May 2, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

Richard Linklater made his name as a unique filmmaker with his second feature Slacker (1991), a film that spoke to the generation for which it was named. Subsequent films like Dazed and Confused (1993), Before Sunrise (1995), and Waking Life (2001) furthered his reputation and broadened his appeal. But in the early 2000s, he  shifted focus with more mainstream films like the remake of The Bad News Bears (2005), the funny, but generic School of Rock (2005), and now another Jack Black starrer, Bernie (2012). As part of the filmART series, programmer Howard Karren has chosen a Linklater film that falls somewhere in between his quirky early work and current Hollywood fare – Me & Orson Welles (2009) starring Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Christian McKay.
The film takes place in 1937 and follows a young boy from New Jersey named Richard (Efron), who aspires to be an actor on the level of John Gielgud. While hanging out in Manhattan, he comes upon the famed Mercury Theater and manages to get himself a part as Lucius in Welles’ upcoming production of Julius Caesar. As the rehearsals go on, Richard learns about life, love, and the nature of creative genius. As an audience, we get a sense of what it may have been like to be in the theater in New York’s heyday and also to be around the brilliant Welles as he was just starting to make his name (this is several years before his cinematic masterpiece Citizen Kane and two years before his famously terrifying War of the World radio broadcast).

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Review: The Three Stooges

April 25, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

by Rebecca M. Alvin It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the Three Stooges. The slapstick trio who got their start in vaudeville managed to maintain and grow a fan base over several generations through the short films made for Columbia Pictures and their endless presence on Saturday morning [...]

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April 12, 2012 4:24 pm0 comments

The 1st Annual New England Transgender Film Festival comes to Provincetown by Rebecca M. Alvin Each year, some 5,000 film festivals around the world bring new films to the attention of audiences who might otherwise never get to see these works. While many festivals are industry events designed to facilitate [...]

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Little Town of Terror: Provincetown in Horror Movies

October 26, 2011 6:54 pm0 comments

altAs the nights grow longer and Halloween approaches, there is perhaps no better way to get in the mood than to light the candle in the jack o’lantern, invite some friends over, and watch a scary movie.  If it’s something wicked with a local tie that you are looking for then you’re in luck, as Provincetown has featured prominently in several classic horror films. While a horror movie has yet to be filmed or set in Provincetown, these frightening films will add chills and thrills with a little local color to any fright night

The Flesh Eaters

This low-budget 1964 film directed by Jack Curtis is often considered one of the first gore movies ever made. A wealthy, washed up, alcoholic actress named Laura Winters (Rita Morely) has a last chance at reviving her ailing career by taking a summer theater gig in Provincetown. Her perky and dutiful assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkins) tries to get a very inebriated Ms. Winters to P’town pronto by hiring gruff pilot Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) to fly his seaplane from the Hudson River in New York City to Provincetown. The only problem is there is a severe tropical storm that forces them to make an emergency landing near a small, uncharted island (you’ll have to suspend your disbelief that in the 1960’s there could be an unknown island between New York and Cape Cod). The trouble really begins when Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck), an escaped Nazi, appears. He’s been experimenting with a microbe that devours human flesh. Just how ravenous these tiny creatures are is apparent when they eat a hole through a hippie named Omar (Ray Tudor) whose raft washes him and his bongo drums onto the island. While the movie provides more laughs than screams, horror movie historians note its creativity and artistry considering the small budget, and credit it with influencing the genre, as certain scenes seem strikingly like snippets of future films like Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, and Aliens. But perhaps the most memorable moment of the film comes shortly after the plane splashes down and the doomed castaways come ashore. The drunken actress hiccups and looks around at the deserted island and exclaims, “This isn’t Provincetown!”

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Around the World in Seven Days

September 28, 2011 2:45 pm0 comments

 Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman once said, “ No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” The power of the cinema is not restricted to the feature-length films that dominate movie theater screens across the country. The often-neglected cousin of the feature film is the short, but this week, Outer Cape audiences have the opportunity to celebrate short form films of nearly every genre at a satellite screening of the New York-based Manhattan Short Film Festival.
“It’s everyone’s party around the world,” according to Festival director Nicholas Mason. Indeed, not only are the ten films to be shown representative of numerous countries (Canada, U.S., Scotland, Hungary, Egypt, Switzerland, Peru, Sweden, and Australia), but one of these films will be named the winner of the Manhattan Short Film Festival competition, based on the votes of audiences in over 200 cities spanning six continents, within the space of this week only.
Mason says it is particularly valuable to have “regular” people vote for the winning film because when filmmakers and others involved in the film world judge film festivals, “they tend to like the films they were involved with.”

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