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3/27/2008

Film

FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL - WHAT TO SEE
We pick 10, for starters

 

Go to the Florida Film Festival website, click “Films” and try not to feel overwhelmed by the A-Z listings that number in the hundreds – all to be screened at the most prestigious film festival this area has to offer. With 10 days of screenings at two locations, the logistics of choosing the right film, at the right time, at the right theater and then securing a ticket can be overwhelming. That’s where we come in, with solid direction for establishing a strategy of attack.

NO. 1: NO FOOD Ignore the “Eat It Up” theme of the this year’s festival. There is a separate, elitist foodie fest, as there was last year, taking place over the opening weekend with dinners and parties and expensive special guest Anthony Bourdain, but it’s too rich for our blood and tickets sold out weeks ago. Besides, we’ve seen enough of Bourdain’s recognizable mug on Top Chef. But whatever’s cooking in the FFF kitchen as far as making this an annual film and food affair is not yet available to the average consumer – except for the usual menu at the Enzian.

NO. 2: CAN'T LOSE The Florida Film Festival is a contest, though not all of the films are in competition, which is why the categories can be confusing. Know this: The 20 feature-length competition films take top billing – a breakdown of 10 narratives and 10 documentaries. Those are the films that we watched and reviewed, giving a solid two thumbs up on half of them for a 50-50 chance of striking gold, and even better odds if you follow our recommendations.

NO. 3: OPTIONS Even if you attend screenings every day you may never come in contact with a competition film. There are so many other choices from categories that include animation, international, music, retro and Florida films, plus there are special insider events, parties, midnight screenings and celebrity encounters like the closing party with Jennifer Tilly. Some are free; some cost big bucks.

NO. 4: SURPRISES You never know when or where an unforgettable scene will pop up – like the large-as-life love scene between two passionate fatties in Disfigured or the constant begging for “Hot dogs with ‘melish’” by one of the fantasy figures in Lovely by Surprise. There’s a reason film freaks go nuts searching for the buried treasures.

NO. 5: TICKETS Think ahead when it comes to buying the actual tickets. The festival’s website has everything you need to know, and it’s well worth the time to understand how it works. Buying in advance is always the way to go, as you won’t likely talk your way into a sold-out screening. But if you do, tell us how you did it.

Lindy T. Shepherd

COMPETITION:
NARRATIVE FEATURES

AUGUST EVENING

Already awarded the 2008 John Cassavetes trophy (given to the best feature made for under a half-mil) at the Independent Spirit Awards in February, writer/director Chris Eska is aware that his understated film about life and relationships connects with audiences in a big way. Even when watched unheralded, the Spanish-language film stands out as its gentle tale unfolds. At the heart of the story are young Lupe (Veronica Loren) and old Jaime (Pedro Castaneda, nominated for best male actor at the Spirits), living in rural Gonzales, Texas – she fresh to the world and he hardened to it, or so we think. How they fit together is explained like the slow pull of a thread. And Eska tugs our strings as his characters experience the tough eventualities of love – between men and wives, parents and children. The cinematography is simply beautiful, and the tone is as bittersweet as Lupe’s realization that “even life’s happiest moments can be sad.” (Directed by Chris Eska; 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 1 p.m. Friday, April 4 at Enzian)

Lindy T. Shepherd

BLACKBIRD

If the likes of Panic in Needle Park and Candy were too uplifting for some tastes, then this slice of coked-up, heroin-shot life from the misanthropic Adam Rapp should be the cinematic Quaalude to plummet spirits to the depths of despair. Older junkie Bayliss (Paul Sparks) hooks up with 17-year-old stripper Froggy (Gillian Jacobs), resulting in a spiral of overdoses, diseases, pregnancies, incest, hallucinatory fits and whatever else Rapp can squeeze into the increasingly self-parodic litany of abuse he calls a plot. It could be an intense experience if shot through with verisimilitude, but Blackbird broadcasts its trite Sundance banality from the get-go: This is another one of those lonely-souls-adrift-and-intersecting-in-the-big-city movies that always find a home at festivals because the countless montages set to indie rock are too well-produced to ignore. As nice as it is to hear so many Smog songs on the soundtrack, they’re only employed to spell out the characters’ emotions as literally as possible, a clunky and condescending indication that Rapp should limit his bile to the stage. (Directed by Adam Rapp; 4:45 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Regal; 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at Regal)

John Thomason

THE CAKE EATERS

Director Mary Stuart Masterson may have tripped through the trapdoor of John Hughes’ Brat Pack legacy in Some Kind of Wonderful way, but given the manner in which she handles the potentially dreadful subject matter of The Cake Eaters, her subtleties are far better served outside the notebook-angst niche. (Incidentally, writer/star Jayce Bartok was similarly teen-maligned; see 1996’s Suburbia.) A character drama in the most precious sense, The Cake Eaters sees its misattributed Antoinette allusion carried through the broken lives of two upstate New York families. At its core is the unlikely coupling of Georgia, a teenager with a nervous disorder played heroically by Into the Wild’s Kristen Stewart, and Beagle (Aaron Stanford), a go-nowhere foot-shuffler scarred by the passing of his mother. Cinematographic brushes soften the angular nature of the drama, leaving an afterglow of organic yearning and a palpable sense that everything broken is beautiful, naturally. (Directed by Mary Stuart Masterson; 2:15 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at Enzian)

Billy Manes

DISFIGURED

The thin-versus-fat subject matter of Disfigured typically would be delivered in a documentary, but it’s a fictional feature that may repulse some viewers as it generates newfound empathy for the obsessions in others. While far from an after-school special, the film lightly tackles the life-destroying weight issues that plague so many women, though it requires little more digestion time than the average chick flick. That Disfigured draws any empathy at all for the main characters is a feat, as the story involves an unlikely friendship between Darcy, a control freak and recovering anorexic, and Lydia, a semi-confident fat girl who’s not quite sold on fat-acceptance-as-activism. Each woman’s body image hang-ups alternate between being more and less tragic than the other’s, and the completely unexpected full-on sex scene makes an impression … in a big way. In our society, being thin may be a fashion statement, but being fat is a political one. As it is, the film is a troubling reality check and lesson in compassion, but it could use more, um, weight. (Directed by Glenn Gers; 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30 at Enzian; 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at Regal)

Avery Beckendorf

GOLIATH

Confidently paced, unsparing and frequently hilarious, Goliath plays like a darkly comedic modern riff on Come Back, Little Sheba. Bachelor life comes uneasily to Guy (director Zellner), who in the midst of finalizing his divorce discovers that his precious cat is missing. Blanketing the neighborhood with “wanted” posters (and the enticing sound of a whirring can opener) proves a better outlet for his festering resentments than do the single-fella activities Guy is concurrently struggling to enjoy – like crapping with the bathroom door open and surfing the ’net for grotesque Asian porn. In the course of his kitty-chasing quest, our protagonist ends up enduring indignities that might strike some animal lovers in the audience as cruel. But what keeps the movie on target as comedy is its unvarnished portrayal of Guy as a petty, homely little man with vast reserves of anger and an immense capacity for blame. Nobody likes losing a pet – but how many of us would attack a neighbor with a weedwhacker over it? (Directed by David Zellner; 9:45 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Enzian; 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 at Enzian)

Steve Schneider

IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS

In Search of a Midnight Kiss is written and directed by Alex Holdridge, a true independent filmmaker from Austin, one of the hipster capitals of lo-fi inspiration. But his black-and-white, cheaply shot third feature is imbued with crude amateurism rather than scrappy charm. Taking place on a New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, Holdridge’s yarn follows Wilson (Scott McNairy), a humorless fuddy-duddy still pining over an ex six years removed, and Vivian (Sara Simmonds), an artificially quirky caricature of a free spirit he meets on a shot-in-the-dark Craigslist personal. Though it’s the biggest party night of the year, the two unappealing leads prowl Hollywood streets that are as a deserted as a post-apocalyptic tableau, spouting insufferable prattle about sex and love that attempts to pass as raunchy wit. It appears that Holdridge’s cinematic education doesn’t extend beyond the “Gen-X” section formerly Velcroed to a wall at Stardust, but there’s some genuine poignancy in the final act, when Holdridge’s vérité cinematography finds a match in writing that cuts through the crap, but by then you’ll already want to gouge your eyes out. (Directed by Alex Holdridge; 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Regal; 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Regal)

Jason Ferguson

KABLUEY

Deftly riding the socioeconomic cascade that started with the dot-com bubble burst in the late ’90s and continued through U.S. troop deployment in Iraq, Scott Prendergast’s portrait of a middle America with the wind knocked out of it could have been a dreary exercise in political brow-beating. Instead, the juxtaposition of empty, flat spaces with unexpected bits of claustrophobia conjures the happy/sad emotional abandonment of Napoleon Dynamite, minus some of the crowd-pleasing hijinks. In Prendergast’s semi-autobiographical writing and directing debut, the loose ends have become nooses of their own. Salman (Prendergast) has pressed down his 20-somethings to the contents of a small suitcase full of nowhere to go. His sister-in-law, Leslie (played to the lithium hilt by Lisa Kudrow), is stranded in a ghost-town suburbia with two explosive rugrats while her military husband, Salman’s brother, glares down menacingly from his photographs on the wall. Salman moves in with Leslie to help her out, but the kids want him dead. He eventually finds redemption within a giant blue character suit – a mascot for Leslie’s dot-com company – and quietly saves the day. Though unappealing at first glance, Kabluey unfolds to reveal some surprise tenderness (and Teri Garr!), measuring its humor out in honest, effective doses. (Directed by Scott Prendergast; 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30 at Regal; 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at Regal)

Billy Manes

LOVELY BY SURPRISE

Writer/director Kirt Gunn goes out of his way to pepper this quirky comedy with surreal moments, and by and large he succeeds. It’s debatable, however, whether his success is all that meaningful. Carrie Preston plays Marian, an author who’s crafting a book in which one of her characters becomes aware that he’s a character in a book. Marian loves her characters; her editor suggests she kill them for the sake of the story. Yes, you’ve seen that movie before. Gunn certainly indulges the Stranger Than Fiction angle with some supremely odd mini-stories (which were more fully explored in the web series The Neverything which initially accompanied Lovely). But there’s also the dismal tale of hesitant car salesman Bob, a widower obsessed with unanswerable philosophical discussions that leave his boss unimpressed and his young daughter alienated. Worlds, predictably, collide. Gunn does an insufficient job of illuminating the “real” characters, making them unsympathetic and inscrutable, which is ironic considering how compassionate Marian is with her characters. (Directed by Kirt Gunn; 4:15 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at Regal)

Jason Ferguson

RAINBOW AROUND THE SUN

It seems unfair to ding a movie musical for having an overabundance of songs, but Rainbow Around the Sun makes Bollywood movies seem reserved in their use of tune-based exposition. More like a conceptually linked series of low-budget music videos than a feature, Rainbow Around the Sun does exude an infectious vibrance and witty self-awareness that makes its shortcomings worth overlooking. Dialogue is minimal to the point of being nonexistent, but given that protagonist Zachary (played by writer/director/songwriter Matthew Alvin Brown) can only communicate to the world via his music, that’s altogether appropriate. The numbers are middling indie pop, and like many indie musicians, Zachary is convinced that his problems (generally of the girl/band/drinking sort) are unique. Similarly, director Brown seems very taken with his post-something take on the musical, as nearly every scene feels like a knowing wink. With less winking and more character and plot development, Rainbow would be a lot more satisfying. (Directed by Kevin Ely & Beau J. Leland; 7:45 p.m. Sunday, March 30 at Regal; 4:15 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Enzian)

Jason Ferguson

WERE THE WORLD MINE

How did a film with such promise go so terribly awry? Were the World Mine has the best of intentions but the goofiest of executions, with its awkward cribbing of American Beauty and Magnolia motifs only the beginning of the problem. Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is a gay teenager at an all-boys school, dealing with the usual cabal of homophobic classmates and a put-upon single mother who still can’t understand what she did to make her son gay. Were the World Mine spends much of its first half teetering between after-school special and a touching, therapeutic story of coming of age as an oppressed minority. But the second half goes all Love Potion No. 9 on us as Timothy, cast as Puck in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, finds a magical prop that can turn anyone gay (and horny!). The rest is a didactic, ham-fisted fantasy-satire that makes the film’s already staid stereotypes – the eccentric literature professor and the misogynistic gym coach – look all the sillier. Even the famously optimistic Frank Capra would roll his eyes at the naive idealism the movie espouses as a result of Timothy’s tolerance dust. (Directed by Tom Gustafson; 8:45 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Regal; 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at Enzian)

John Thomason


COMPETITION:
DOCUMENTARY
FEATURES

FISH KILL FLEA

Indoor flea markets are frequently dingy, dispiriting places – cultural mausoleums where the victims of late capitalism haggle over hard goods in an environment that once served a loftier purpose. Such is the Dutchess Mall in Fishkill, N.Y., which appears to have been quite the socioeconomic mecca when it opened in 1974, but is now a haven for independent entrepreneurs who scramble to earn a decent markup on everything from Wurlitzer organs to drug paraphernalia to authentic Holocaust mementos. The photojournalistic documentary Fish Kill Flea is big on visual eccentricity, juxtaposing views of the building’s crumbling infrastructure with thumbnail sketches of the downscale vendors who have inherited it. Just don’t accuse the three-person filmmaking team of slumming: A plotline about the impending move of the flea market to an out-of-the-way location shows how important the operation is to its clientele, many of whom can’t afford to pay regular retail prices. Like the vanished first wave of American malls itself, those customers are collateral damage in a societywide campaign of planned obsolescence. (Directed by Brian Cassidy, Aaron Hills and Jennifer Loeber; 9 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Enzian; 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at Regal)

Steve Schneider

I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW

A movie about a couple of stalkers – stalkers of Tiffany, no less – should qualify as the sort of ironic train wreck at which postmodern hipsters love to gawk. And, for the first five minutes or so, I Think We’re Alone is just that. We meet Jeff “We Kissed Each Other … No Tongue” Turner, who’s exactly the sort of middle-aged, soft-around-the-middle dude you would expect to translate a couple of backstage meetings and a peck on the cheek into evidence that Tiffany does, indeed, intend to be his bride. We’re also introduced to Kelly “I Love Her Down to Her Bone Marrow” McCormick, who’s as delusional about her athleticism as she is about her future status as Tiffany’s lover. Turner has Asperger syndrome and has spent $20 grand on “radionic psychotronic” devices to allow him to telepathically communicate with Tiffany. McCormick’s hermaphroditic status and titanic struggles with depression are deeply disturbing. Writer/director Sean Donnelly’s take on the two is far from sympathetic, but it’s equally far from cute. (Directed by Sean Donnelly; 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Regal; 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at Enzian)

Jason Ferguson

INTIMIDAD

Coming from the same team responsible for Mardi Gras: Made in China, voted best doc at FFF 2005, Intimidad is another type of documentary altogether. The former film brazenly shoved a camera into a rarely viewed Chinese factory, exposing an industry built by the burned hands of pre-teen girls, whereas the newer release trains the lens intensively on two young newlyweds in Mexico as they work – together and apart – to save enough money to buy property and build a house. The couple’s sacrifices include a separation from their daughter and potential estrangement from each other, but their gain is a shack cobbled together from scraps that they can call their own. Watching the struggle is certainly a reminder of how good some of us still have it here in the U.S., but the footage is limited to updates with the couple at various points in the process and there’s no guiding narrative. Thus the time-span project has no direction and minimal impact. (Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin; 4:45 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at Enzian)

Lindy T. Shepherd

LAND OF CONFUSION

There have been so many documentaries made about the Iraq war that finding one that explores a new angle is as unlikely as finding, well, WMD in Iraq. But even if you’ve already seen Fahrenheit 9/11, Gunner Palace, The Ground Truth, Iraq in Fragments, you owe it to yourself to check out Jeremy Zerechak’s Land of Confusion. Part personal diary and part exposé, the film begins in 2004 when Zerechak is called to serve his National Guard duty in Iraq as a member of the WMD-searching Iraq Survey Group. He brings his camera along for the whole process: sitting through the antiquated ’80s instructional videos, training under miserable conditions at Fort Dix, being forced to spend hundreds of dollars of his own money on equipment and, once he and his unit finally reach Fallujah, finding himself ill-prepared for a political quagmire exacerbated by a callous media. His attention later turns on the monopolization of the region by Halliburton subsidiary KBR, causing Land of Confusion to resemble a Michael Moore muckraking job sans the smug smarm. (Directed by Jeremy Zerechak; noon Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at Enzian)

John Thomason

LOST IN WOONSOCKET

This conclusion to/extended episode of the canceled A&E documentary series Random 1, Lost in Woonsocket follows the crew of the moving but little-watched series in what has to be its most fascinating story. The series was about humanitarianism and reaching out to those in need, aiming to change the lives of total strangers. In the episode chronicled in Lost in Woonsocket, hosts John Chester and Andre Miller find Mark, a homeless alcoholic living in a tent in the titular Rhode Island town. They then get him detoxed and sober – another success story. After the episode airs, the long-lost family of Mark’s worse-off tentmate Normand tracks down the Random 1 crew, who decide to find Normand and complete the story, even as the future of their show hinges on Nielsen’s fickle hand. There are scenes of recovery, redemption, reconciliation and relapse that are beautiful and worth your tears, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie is a promotional video for the bygone program. Like television, Lost in Woonsocket caters to low attention spans with condescending narration, a score of incidental bumper music and unnecessary summarizations of scenes we already watched. (Directed by John Chester; 7 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Regal; 1:45 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Regal)

John Thomason

OPERATION FILMMAKER

A liberal do-gooding project goes up in smoke in the opening minutes of Operation Filmmaker, which documents actor Liev Schreiber’s effort to add an Iraqi film student to the production crew of his 2005 directorial debut, Everything Is Illuminated. To everyone’s surprise, the kid turns out to be a lazy-ass party boy and swindler who not only professes to support the American invasion of his country but chafes at doing intern work – the movie industry’s equivalent of slave labor. When Schreiber and company aren’t pompously talking up the “opportunity” their charity case is supposedly squandering, they find time to allow that their Middle Eastern outreach plan may have been more altruistic than realistic. Sound familiar? Like a cold splash of water to the face, the movie works the obvious parallel to the war itself, showing how difficult it sometimes is to perceive the world as it is, rather than how it pleases us to imagine it. (Directed by Nina Davenport; 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Enzian; 4 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Regal)

Steve Schneider

PAGEANT

At last, an FFF doc for people who thought 2006’s Broadway love letter Show Business was too butch. Pageant follows a handful of hopeful female impersonators to the Miss Gay America contest in Memphis, explaining the importance of the venerable competition while showing how each of the contestants is in some way the underdog. The closer we get to the final coronation, the more elaborate the lip-synced production numbers become, although the filmmakers wring almost as much drama out of the interview events that can wipe out a competitor’s chances with one curveball question. (Fortunately, no one fares as badly as Miss Teen South Carolina.) The movie is expertly shot and edited, and even gives Orlando audiences a hometown hero to root for in one Robert Martin, a Disney cast member who performs an energetic ’40s dance number opposite his endlessly supportive straight buddy. Just like the event it chronicles, Pageant is slick but big of spirit. (Directed by Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Regal; 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Enzian)

Steve Schneider

SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY

If you’ve enjoyed any of the multidimensional films found in Orlando’s theme parks, you should tip your 4D glasses to the late, great William Castle. Without the master of B-movie ballyhoo, we might not have the in-theater effects that make attractions like PhilharMagic and Shrek 4D memorable. Castle’s low-budget horror flicks are mostly known to modern moviegoers by their recent remakes (House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts), but his penchant for publicity will live forever. Early advertising efforts – fabricating Nazi graffiti for controversy, issuing $1,000 Lloyds of London life-insurance policies to frightened filmgoers – gave way to ghostly gimmicks like Emergo (glow-in-the-dark skeletons on strings) and Percepto (chair-mounted butt-buzzers). Castle’s life story is like Horatio Alger via Ed Wood: a stagehand for Bela Lugosi’s Dracula; tutored under Harry Cohen, the most hated man in old Hollywood; robbed by Orson Welles. Castle never received the recognition he deserved as producer of Oscar-winner Rosemary’s Baby, and his final film Bug was eaten by Jaws at the box office. But admirers, including John Waters and Leonard Maltin, are still singing his schlocky praises. Producer/Director Jeffrey Schwarz’s AFI Award–winning documentary has a “DVD special feature” look and feel, but this is a warmly told tale of interactive film’s first pioneer. (Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz; 9 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Regal; 4 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Enzian)

Seth Kubersky

WESLEY WILLIS'S JOYRIDES

This is the second documentary made about now-legendary outsider artist/musician Wesley Willis. As Willis was the creator of more than 50 albums of rock poetry, it was understandable that the first documentary – 2003’s The Daddy of Rock ’n’ Roll – focused more on his music. Joy Rides, though, provides a more holistic portrait of Willis via interviews with collaborators, friends, family members and Willis himself. It’s not well-known that Willis initially gained notoriety in Chicago from his sidewalk omnipresence selling pen-and-ink drawings of the city’s skyline. Directors Chris Bagley and Kim Shively go deep into this phase of Willis’ life, and among the illuminating facts they put forth is that Willis was serious about studying to be an architect. The music came later, and Bagley and Shively put it into its correct context, treating Willis’ story with a sense of dignity and gentle humor. (Directed by Chris Bagley and Kim Shively; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Regal; 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at Regal)

Jason Ferguson

WILL EISNER: PORTRAIT OF A SEQUENTIAL ARTIST

Will Eisner is the most influential artist you’ve probably never heard of. Think of him as the shadow Walt Disney: While one was revolutionizing animation and amusements, the other was inventing the modern comic-book industry. Eisner emerged from the Bronx ghetto to upend a comics industry once dominated by newspaper strips, inventing the comic book, the educational comic and the graphic novel along the way. This documentary covers every aspect of his art, from the prudishness of the 1954 Comic Code, to the Jewishness of most classic comic creators. Eisner and his signature creation, “The Spirit” – a humanistic hero sans cape or superpowers – are lauded by modern artists like Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Frank Miller (Sin City), who is prepping a 2009 Spirit feature. Director Andrew D. Cooke’s doc is dry in tone (relieved somewhat by a mod jazz soundtrack), but it’s valuable education for even casual comic connoisseurs. (Directed by Andrew D. Cooke; 9 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Regal; 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at Regal)

Seth Kubersky


MUSIC DOCUMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

ANITA O'DAY: THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER

A look at this gut-level documentary will probably have you, too, surmising that Anita O’Day was the model for the plucky and pitiless jazz singer in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. During her prime in the ’50s and ’60s, O’Day’s fearless improvisations on jazz standards had the cognoscenti putting her skills on a very short list with Fitzgerald and Holiday. Her own autumnal testimonies here are presented with little filter (imagine the Golden Girls with incarceration records), discarding harsh memories with a flippant hipster’s shrug and highlighting her musical and narcotics-laced codependent four-decade relationship with her drummer John Poole. The Life of a Jazz Singer also works for the O’Day fan in search of mondo-free appreciation: Cavolina and McCrudden have found copious footage of her shredding expectations during television performances, and give us a chance to reconsider one of the all-time iconic concert movie performances when O’Day takes “Sweet Georgia Brown” to the jazzbo astral plane. (Directed by Robbie Cavolina & Ian McCrudden; 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Regal; 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Regal)

Matt Gorney

GIRLS ROCK

“The best thing about Rock Camp is seeing all those lady rockers,” says nascent death-metal belter Laura. The outgoing and outspoken teenager may be stating the obvious about the Portland, Ore.–based Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls that’s documented in Girls Rock!, but the amazed enthusiasm that’s in her voice tells the real story. As one of the four clever, strong-willed girls featured in Girls Rock!, Laura is pleasantly surprised that there are so many other girls who want to rock like she does. But she’s also incredibly inspired by the comfortable, no-boys vibe of the camp, as well as the presence of luminaries such as Beth Ditto (the Gossip) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney). Girls Rock! does an exceptional job of emphasizing this comfort level; all of the girls – once they get over their initial environmental shock – quickly learn how to creatively thrive. Gender politics are laid on rather heavily, but the camp’s fun atmosphere makes the film far from didactic. (Directed by Shane King & Arne Johnson; 9 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Regal; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at Regal)

Jason Ferguson

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