Count on these films to be short and sweet

10 intriguing works at Senator Theatre will open film fest

Film Column

April 26, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The Maryland Film Festival consolidates its reputation for lively, cutting-edge work with its opening-night attraction, 10 Under 20, a program of 10 short films, each accompanied by its maker. The show goes on May 2, at 7 p.m., at the Senator Theatre.

Hollywood long ago ceded short films to studio marketing departments, which produce "making of" featurettes for cable and home video. But youthful and/or maverick filmmakers still flock to the form, in hopes of lighting up the festival circuit with adventurous live action and animation.

This year, the Academy Awards honored The Accountant as best live-action short. It's a movie that made its local debut at the Maryland Film Festival last year. Of the 64 shorts the festival has scheduled for 2002, programmers have put together an opening-night sampler to show off the range and quality of the overall selection.

Time Out, by Maryland native Robbie Chafitz, and Dead Kitty, by D.C.-based Rachel Max, a frequent Baltimore visitor, are part of an intriguing list of titles, including Helder K. Sun's Lint People and Brooke Keesling's Boobie Girl.

The festival has also announced its closing-night attraction: Madison, starring Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo, High Crimes) in the real-life tale of a retired hydroplane racer who zestily returns to competition and inspires a whole community when his hometown of Madison, Ind., gets the chance to host the Gold Cup championship. Director William Bindley will present his movie at 7 p.m. May 5 at the Charles Theatre.

A journey to `Oz'

The Charles ends the second installment of its weekend revival series with the ideal Saturday matinee: the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. It remains the most animated of live-action movies; indeed, MGM's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's first Oz book ranks with Disney's Pinocchio as the best kids' fare Old Hollywood brought forth.

The filmmakers conjured a fantasy at once out of this world and down to earth. To make it work, the whole ensemble - to a man, woman and dwarf - mastered a vibrant masquerade style. The peak practitioners are Bert Lahr, whose Cowardly Lion knows only the roar of the greasepaint, and Ray Bolger, whose Scarecrow does a stumbling comic dance just flopping down the Yellow Brick Road. And Judy Garland doesn't just strike a deep yearning note when singing "Over the Rainbow": she goes on to modulate it with true girlish enthusiasm.

Geoff Ryman's 1992 novel Was describes a boy watching the 1956 TV-network premiere in black and white and falling into a dream that he is seeing it in color. The Technicolor glory of Oz when you see it on a movie screen lives up to a child's imaginative expectations. Cinematographer Harold Rosson is a key contributor to this classic, along with songwriters Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and writers (Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf), and Jack Haley (Tin Man), Frank Morgan (Wizard), Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch), and Toto.

The Wizard of Oz screens at noon tomorrow. Admission is $5.

Cinema Sundays

To get a head start on a sure thing for 2002 foreign-language film awards, catch Alfonso Cauron's Y tu mama tambien at Cinema Sundays at the Charles this weekend. This gloriously uninhibited and incisive road movie follows two spoiled Mexico City teen-agers and an unhappily married young woman as they head to a mythic beach. They test the strength and boundaries of their friendships - and their own identities - as they rattle through a gorgeous landscape pocked with turmoil and poverty. Showtime is 10:30 a.m., doors open at 9:45. Admission is $15, which includes coffee and bagels. Information: go to

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