Fall Film Events

DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE

Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.; 612.375.7622 October 16-23

This staggering documentary is essential viewing on the survival of two ruthlessly fit species: the Nile perch, which quickly annihilated almost all other fish life in Tanzania's Lake Victoria after its artificial introduction in the '60s, and the omnivorous beast known as winner-take-all global capitalism. Cargo planes descend on the region with weaponry--apparently to restock nearby civil wars--and leave for Europe with loads of Nile perch while the AIDS-wracked local population hovers on the brink of starvation. Hubert Sauper's stoically despondent film leaves little doubt that globalization's losers are slaves by any other name. --Jessica Winter


DEAR WENDY

Oak Street Cinema, 309 Oak St., Mpls.; 612.331.3134 October 21--November 3

Former Dogme disciple Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration) dutifully delivers screenwriter Lars von Trier's latest "anti-American" message--a love letter from a good ol' boy to his gun. Wendy, as she's known, is a pistol shapely enough to seduce even the pacifist Dick (Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell), who forms a teenage gun club called the Dandies in his brutal mining town of Estherslope. Here the youth of America think justice comes from the barrel of a gun that never leaves its holster. Or so it seems until Dick and his Dandies decide to help a desperate fugitive--the violent African American maid Miss Clarabelle (Novella Nelson)--procure her all-important morning coffee. The apparent logic: Why should a black housekeeper--even one with an itchy trigger finger--be denied a good cup o' joe? Like von Trier's Dogville, Dear Wendy is an allegory of aptly absurdist proportions. Put it this way: If the Wild Bunch denouement doesn't pump your 12-gauge, I don't know Dick.--Rob Nelson


One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern

The Bell, U of M, University Avenue and 17th Street SE, Mpls.; 612.331.3134 October 21-November 3

George McGovern was a prairie populist who followed in the footsteps of Jack and Bobby Kennedy to emerge as the 1972 democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States. This new documentary from Stephen Vittoria begins with the premise of how different the United States would be today had McGovern actually defeated Richard Nixon; then it follows the career of the former South Dakota senator from his childhood during the Depression to his service in World War II and his leadership of the international Food for Peace program during the Kennedy administration. Vittoria weaves current footage of the reflective McGovern--who remains as committed to the good fight as ever--together with compelling comments from Dick Gregory, Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty, Gary Hart, Gore Vidal, members of McGovern's campaign staff, historian Howard Zinn, and many others who witnessed McGovern's campaign of hope during the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War and the corrupt Nixon administration. Narrated by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, the film is an elegant homage to a man who once urged America to "come home" to its core values, but it also illuminates much of the political landscape of the '60s and early '70s--as well as today. (History, indeed, repeats itself.) From a Minnesotan perspective, the doc explores Hubert Humphrey's less than honorable attempts to wrest the nomination away from his former protégé, and suggests the many ways in which Paul Wellstone must have been influenced by McGovern-style liberalism. McGovern himself will be present at the Bell to introduce both screenings on opening night of a two-week run. --Caroline Palmer


SMMASH FEST

Excelsior Dock Theater, 26 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.6725 October 21-27

Now in its fifth year, this weeklong festival continues to earn its acronym by screening Strictly Midwestern Movies and Short Hits. Visit reelcinema.net/smmash/ for more information.


THE CREMASTER CYCLE

Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.; 612.375.7622

The Walker re-screens all five installments of Matthew Barney's epic experimental-film series.

October 28Cremaster 1 (7:00 p.m.)

October 29Cremaster 2 (3:00 p.m.)

October 29Cremaster 3 (7:00 p.m.)

October 30Cremaster 4 (2:00 p.m.)

October 30Cremaster 5 (4:00 p.m.)


The Squid and the Whale

Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Mpls.; 612.825.6006 Opens October 28

Ten years after Kicking and Screaming evoked the terrible drag that often lies between college and the "real world," writer-director Noah Baumbach has made another semiautobiographical, French New Wave-style comedy-drama. This one reaches further back--to a mid-'80s adolescence in Park Slope, Brooklyn--but its insights are even sharper. The subject of the film is how it feels to come of age in a hyperintellectual family whose culture of intense competition has both nurtured its members and pulled them apart. (The director's parents are Georgia Brown--the most underrated of great American film critics--and novelist Jonathan Baumbach.) Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16 going on 40, strains to emulate his smug, misanthropic professor dad (Jeff Daniels): When a high school crush dares to tell Walt her favorite book, he casually berates it as "minor Fitzgerald." (A shrink would say young Walt "identifies with the aggressor" so as to avoid feeling that he's the victim.) Twelve-year-old Frank (Owen Kline) is keenly observant, like his mom (Laura Linney), and more fragile than his brother. Yet both siblings talk like critics, not kids--at one point even reviewing their parents' relative gifts as writers and as people. (For Baumbach, Mom is the squid of the title and Dad is the whale.) Guiding all four actors to deliver performances of rare detail and authenticity, Baumbach conveys the raw bewilderment of childhood amidst divorce with the psychological acuity of an adult's wounded retrospection. Virtually everything about The Squid and the Whale seems real--no doubt because it has been so vividly remembered. (Baumbach used his parents' own books to decorate the main set: an old brownstone apartment whose cluttered interior suggests an unattended library--as well as the family's emotional state.) At once wistful and bitter, funny and tragic, The Squid and the Whale dives deep into the mixed blessing of precocious intellect and the unavoidable condition of being our parents' children. It is surely one of the best American films of the year. --Rob Nelson


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