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Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010
In a true sign of the times, alarmist films about our precarious times screen at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Meaney checks out Casino Jack and the United States of Money and Erasing David.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money
Screened Friday 23 April


Casino Jack and the United States of Money, director Alex Gibney’s follow up to his superb Enron documentary, follows a similar trail of money, power, and corruption through a winding trail of political malfeasance and irresponsibility. The scope is larger—the Jack Abramoff scandal that coursed through the halls of Congress and washed up to the very lip of the Oval Office—but the focus isn’t as tight, and though always interesting, the film loses some of its punch in an overwhelming barrage of details and stories that obfuscate, rather than illuminate, the central wrong rotting away at the center.


Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist’s lobbyist, an influence peddler of the highest caliber, who seemed to possess a preternatural ability to grease the skids and turn the tiller of power in Congress.  The film posits him as the center around which a great wheel of money and corrupt influence revolved, through the ‘80s and ‘90s, before crashing down in the early 2000s in an Indian casino scandal that seemed, for a brief moment, like it would topple the Bush White House.


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Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010
Instead of plying song and dance like a traditional Bollywood film, Road, Movie beguiles a real life cinema audience with hair tonic. Yet when the movie is finally over, we're left with snake oil.

Road, Movie differs from the personal experience of director Dev Benegal, which served as the film’s kernel of inspiration. Unfortunately, it will neither linger long in your memory nor be as formative. Benegal’s film is born from his journey into the outback in hopes of seeing a film, yet punctuated by a daunting absence of anyone else. Before he gave up and headed home, Benegal noticed a figure on the horizon and before long thousands of people had gathered, all sharing the same desire. A magical evening in the embrace of a celluloid mirage ensued and, as he described, the “human oasis” vanished with no trace before the dawn.


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Monday, Apr 26, 2010
The Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll fails to take many risks.

The opening night of my Tribeca Film Festival experience began with the showing of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Being a biopic of the late, great Ian Dury, I decided to do a little research on the English rocker beforehand. Relatively ignorant to music of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was happy to find that Dury’s life was everything but ordinary, setting the foreground for an exhilarating film with limitless possibilities.


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Monday, Apr 26, 2010
The Tribeca Film Festival revisits "this intellectually challenging film on its 10th anniversary” with a panel that featured special guests from both "science and screen".

Over the past decade, director Christopher Nolan has left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Few movies will escape from the eclipse of 2008’s blockbuster The Dark Knight. But in 2000, five years before the Batman Begins reboot, Nolan delivered Memento, a mind-bending film that challenges the viewer to wrap his head around it.


For the 10-year anniversary of Memento, the Tribeca Film Festival put together a panel discussion entitled “The Science of Memory” for after the movie’s screening.  Christopher Nolan was unable to attend due to our new favorite Icelandic volcano, but other panelists included his brother and co-Memento writer, Jonathan Nolan, actors Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano, academics Dr. William Hirst (New School Professor of Psychology) and Dr. Suzanne Corkin (MIT Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience), and NPR’s NPR’s Robert Krulwich as moderator.


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Monday, Apr 26, 2010
The Independent Film Festival of Boston is running April 21-28 at various locations throughout the greater Boston area.

Now in its eighth year, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (or Biff, as I affectionately call it) has solidified its position as New England’s premier film event, only getting better as times goes on. Biff celebrates all that is alive and burgeoning in independent filmmaking by trotting out its typically diverse lineup of narrative films, documentaries and shorts, featuring work by established directors and fledgling first-time filmmakers, and boasting name stars and young up and comers, .


This is my fourth year covering the festival for PopMatters, and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to see some great diamonds in the rough. I’ve also seen some real dogs that never should have made it past the vetting process of the festival board—or even been allowed for consideration in the first place. Sadly, I’ve spent more time trying to sort out schedules and conflicts than seeing actual films, and whiffed on seeing films that broke out of the festival to have some popular success (e.g. 500 Days of Summer, from last year) in favor of films that I thought would do better (Beeswax, also from last year).


In fact, this has happened so often over the last three years that this year I’m consciously going against all my instincts.  (Hopefully this will prove as successful as it did for George Costanza).


So, on to the films – and there are a lot of them. They need previewing, watching, and reviewing. I’ll be doing a little of the first and a bit of the latter in these posts, but mostly I’ll be holed up over the weekend and well into next week, at the Somerville Theater in Somerville, or the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. (The great joke of the Boston Indie Film Festival is that very little, if any, of it is ever actually held in Boston).


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