The perfect cinematic plan

Sun critics scope out their top viewing picks to make the most of this weekend's movie offerings

Maryland Film Festival

May 03, 2007

Friday

Normally, I'd recommend kicking off the 2007 Maryland Film Festival with the 11:30 a.m. showing of Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett's 1977 underground classic of frustration and resilience.

But since the film will be getting a theatrical release later this month, I think I'll put off seeing it for a couple weeks and opt, instead, for the 10:30 a.m. showing of Ry Russo-Young's Orphans, the story of estranged sisters (James Katharine Flynn and the late Lily Wheelwright, who died in March at age 22) reuniting five years after the deaths of their parents. The film won a Special Jury Prize at this year's South by Southwest film festival, for its "personally crafted visual aesthetic." It's also part of the nascent "mumblecore" film movement, propelled by a group of filmmakers whose work eschews conventional narrative in favor of intense character studies and more realistic storytelling.

After lunch at the indispensable Sofi's Crepes, one door up from the Charles' front entrance, it's time to trek to one of this year's new film venues, the University of Baltimore's Student Center, for a 2 p.m. showing of Kurt Kolaja's Charlie Obert's Barn, detailing the filmmaker's determination to preserve a small part of this region's less-hurried (and harried) past. His mission: transport an aging barn built by his grandfather from Crawford County, Pa., an area where things seem to have changed little in the past century, to Kent County, where Kolaja now lives.

Following that, I plan to stay at UB for a 4:30 p.m. showing of Julie Bayer and Josh Saltzman's Time and Tide, a documentary on how modern civilization is encroaching on the Pacific island of Tuvalu - in ways both cultural (as outside financial interests find ways to profit off the island's isolation) and environmental (rising water levels attributed to global warming are threatening much of the coastline).

It's back to the Charles at 6:30 p.m. for one of the festival's annual highlights, the film chosen and introduced by Baltimore's resident incorrigible bad boy, John Waters. This year's pick is Bobcat Goldthwait's Sleeping Dogs, a rumination on just how much honesty a relationship can really handle. Goldthwait, a comedian known equally for his subversive directorial debut, Shakes the Clown, and for voicing the part of a dog puppet on the TV series Unhappily Ever After, will be on hand.

Cap off day one with the 8:30 p.m. showing of Sean Meredith's Dante's Inferno, an update of the 14th-century tale of a descent into hell, told via hand-drawn puppets cavorting on miniature sets. Sounds like just the film to leave one wanting more - which is exactly what Day Two will bring.

Chris Kaltenbach

SATURDAY

For decades, I was prejudiced against 3-D movies. As a four-eyes since third grade, I never relished the prospect of becoming a six-eyes. And even when I did place that extra set of specs atop my glasses, the desired effect never clicked -- I always experienced more blur than depth.

But the festival's annual Saturday morning 3-D spectacular has made a believer out of me. Maybe it's the festival's insistence on presenting movies shot in proper stereoscopy and projected in a classic two-projector system. Maybe it's the age-acquired camp of the loony B movies themselves.

This year's entry, Man in the Dark, a remake of the aptly titled Man Who Lived Twice, relates the tale of a criminal who undergoes brain surgery to straighten out his crooked nature. I suspect the main reason I've succumbed is that The Sun's resident 3-D maven, Chris Kaltenbach, advises audiences how to get the most visual bang out of gimmick lenses and the most fun out of cheesy movies. Be there at the Charles, at noon -- or be 2-dimensional.

From there, I intend to hie over to the Brown Center at MICA for the 1:30 p.m. screening of Companeras: The festival's music docs are always strong, and how can I resist the subject of a female mariachi band? I'll stay at MICA for the 4 p.m. showing of The List. I want to see if Wayne Brady, the gifted comic from TV's Whose Line is It Anyway, can be as funny in a feature like The List as he was in an inspired episode of The Chappelle Show.

Then it's back to the Charles for Broken English at 6 p.m. It's a perfect film for the midpoint of a festival filled with American independents: The writer-director is Zoe Cassavetes, whose father, John, helped put the American indie on the international map with Shadows in 1960. Zoe's equally celebrated mother, Gena Rowlands, has a supporting role in Broken English; the star is omni-talented indie mainstay Parker Posey, who plays a career woman navigating the amorous grid of Manhattan. Cassavetes and producer Andrew Fierberg will introduce the film. Cassavetes will be the guest of honor at a reception after the screening, hosted by Women in Film and Video Maryland at the festival's Filmmaker Tent Village across the street from the Charles.

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