This is one of those weeks at the movies that makes critics scratch their collective heads. Two major releases are not getting their full screening potential.
Mel Gibson doesn’t seem to want most of the country’s reviewers to see his new war movie, “Hacksaw Ridge,” about the battle for Okinawa in World War II, before it opens.
And although “Doctor Strange” has been reviewed in Australia, New Zealand, and other foreign points, as well in some national American magazines, it hasn’t been made available to scores of critics in the United States before their deadlines.
That written, the lack of press screenings is good for rocker Iggy Pop, a couple of new releases heading for Video On Demand, and the popular Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. They earn more well-deserved attention this week than they might have received.
“Gimme Danger” is a cinematic love letter to The Stooges, the rock and rollers from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and to their iconic lead singer the aforementioned Iggy Pop.
Indie director Jim Jarmusch has taken his adoration of The Stooges – he calls them “the greatest rock and roll band ever” – making a movie that honors the group, especially Iggy. There’s nothing analytical about this documentary. It is a full-bore celebration of The Stooges on-stage madness and their often manic songs.
Iggy, real name James Osterberg, may have been a former record store clerk with zero body fat who enjoyed drugs, debauchery, and self-adoring nudity, but he is also a serious musician with a devoted following.
Combining iconic 16mm concert footage and an extensive, always interesting interview with Iggy himself, Jarmusch has created a movie that, while it may lack a deeper discussion of the twisted soul that Iggy projected, is still very compelling.
Through its examination of The Stooges, “Gimme Danger offers solid insights into the 1960s, and what some consider the greatest era in which to be a dedicated fan of rock and roll.
“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale Of Billionaires And Ballot Bandits” is the perfect documentary for this wild ride of an election season. Believe me, it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green, I don’t think you want your democracy treated like what we’re experiencing.
The occasionally angry movie, written by investigative reporter Greg Palast, and co-directed by him and David Ambrose, begins where so much controversy about the American election process often starts: Florida during the Presidential election of 2000. The movie’s point-of-view is not pro-George W. Bush.
Palast and Ambrose then burrow into the underbelly of election fraud: voter suppression, vote rigging, vote buying, and double voting. Their film, which occasionally makes some of director Michael Moore’s films seem cool, calm, and collected, goes on a rampage against what they believe is a conspiracy by the wealthy to control the destiny of America voters. They draw you into their documentary by staging some of it as if it were a television detective show.
Look for performers such as Rosario Dawson, Shailene Woodley, Ed Asner, Ice-T, Richard Belzer, and, get this, Willie Nelson, to grab your interest.
“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” now on VOD and DVD, has energy and venom and a sometimes surreal examination of the way we elect politicians to office. It will surely engage you, and it may even enrage you, but you will not regret watching it.
“Autumn Lights” is a haunting drama from Iceland, written and directed by Angad Aulakh, which is part mystery and part romance. Movies like this either wrap moviegoers in a welcome cocoon of anticipation, or they falter due to cryptic inferences that don’t quite come together. Aulakh succeeds.
An American photographer, emotionally adrift, discovers the body of a woman. This eventually connects him with a European couple who have no qualms about advancing their relationship into a love triangle with the American. The mystery doesn’t deepen, but the romance does. There are secrets to discover. The film’s mystique goes hand-in-hand with the moody Icelandic landscape.
“Autumn Lights,” available on VOD and DVD, is about rich vistas and hidden thoughts. It’s beautiful to look at and extremely careful in how it uses its potent melancholy. I was reminded of the troubled hearts and vast Montana panoramas of the very good “Certain Women,” which is still playing in the area. Aulakh’s exceptional movie explores the emptiness that shadows so many lives. A fleeting image can take on a powerful meaning. What are people, really, than what they choose to reveal to others?
The “Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival” offers a reason for movie fans to celebrate. Hugely popular, with a solid and growing national and international reputation, Buffalo Dreams expands its horizons this year to ten days and two theaters. Founded by the forward-thinking Greg Lamberson and Chris Scioli, the festival, now in its fourth year, runs November 4 - 13, with showings of more than 100 features and short films at the Eastern Hills Cinema and The Screening Room. Most of the movies are concentrated in the horror, fantasy, and science-fiction fields (live-action and animated); however, other genres have been added to the schedule. Local filmmakers are well-represented. Q & As with visiting directors and cast members add to the festival’s excitement. Complete information can be found at buffalodreamsfantasticfilmfestival.com.
Michael Calleri reviews films for Night & Day. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.