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"The Sky Turns," Baftas, Betty Garrett, More

With the Berlinale gearing up in earnest now, we've got some catching up to do, but we'll have to be swifter about it than usual. Firehose-style linkage probably won't resume until next week.

"The farm village of Aldealseñor, Spain has seen it all," writes Michael Joshua Rowin for the L, "and contains it: fossilized traces of Mesozoic reptiles, ruins of Roman settlements from the conquest of Numantia, a Moorish palace pre-dating Christian reclamation (and the village itself), and a 500-year-old oak bearing witness to everything from long-forgotten burials to Fascist rule to a dramatic depopulation. The last child born in Aldealseñor, filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez, returned in 2003 to record the history living amidst 14 remaining elderly holdouts and the near-ancient rhythms that still perdure. The resultant The Sky Turns is a documentary marvel, excavating the strata of epochs and applying its findings to the grand scope and frustrating limitations of cultural heritage and personal memory, and the mysteries of mortality and time."

More from Mike Hale (New York Times), Eric Hynes (Time Out New York, 4/5), Andrew Schenker (Voice) and Robert Tumas (Slant, 3.5/4). At Anthology Film Archives through Friday. Also at Anthology, but this evening only, is a Jonas Mekas double feature. Ryan Wells talks with the filmmaker for Cinespect.

Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "An oblique, impressionist portrait of Arabs living in Jaffa, Kamal Aljafari's Port of Memory is only an hour long, but quietly and atmospherically touches on the Kiarostamian Uncertainty Principle, with Aljafari liberally corrupting his demi-documentary with scripted dialogue, rehearsals, and even digital effects." Starting tomorrow at the Maysles Cinema.

"Westerns, Thomas Pynchon proposes in Gravity's Rainbow, are 'dedicated to Property if anything is,'" writes Vadim Rizov in the L. "That's one definition, but a reasonable one, which places the movies in Lincoln Center's Wild East: The Best of Soviet Action Films in a bind. The acquisition of land is obviously a forbidden subject — there's no urges for Manifest Destiny, since everything's already been settled. Nonetheless, the former Soviet Union spanned 11 time zones, providing plenty of space for conflicts: 'Easterns,' a cute but apt name. The subject isn't taking land but pretending all is well in the satellite republics: the natives aren't restless, except for the inexplicable baddies, so valiant Red Army soldiers (aided by their resident Tonto) are going to dispense some justice. No biggie." More from Nathan Rogers-Hancock at Cinespect: "Unlike the so-called 'Red Westerns,' films (like Lemonade Joe) which used Eastern European landscape to mimic the American West, much like the Italian 'Spaghetti Westerns' or the German films based on the writings of Karl May, these films performed a more difficult synthesis: finding stylistic and thematic resonances  with the American genre and using them to illustrate period specific struggles in Soviet history, mostly (but not solely) the Red Army struggles against the Turkic Basmachi rebels in the late 1920s."

TV Party: A Panorama of Public Access Television in New York City is on at the Museum of the Moving Image through February 20. For Moving Image Source, Leah Churner presents an oral history; more from Tom McCormack (L) and Nick Pinkerton (Voice).

This evening, Los Angeles Filmforum presents New Urban Observations with Thom Andersen, Laura Kraning and Steven O'Day. And at LACMA, the photography exhibition Larry Fink: Hollywood, 2000-2009 opens today and will be on view through April 2. Nowness has a preview.






Amy Taubin for Artforum: "In Carancho (the title means bird of prey), Pablo Trapero crosses the social realism of his early and strongest movies — Crane World (1999) and El bonaerense (2002) — with the brutality and slightly steamy sex of film noir. Most directors settle for the stylistics of noir — venetian blind shadows and oblique camera angles. Trapero goes for the substance: institutional corruption that robs everyone it touches of their moral compass."

Manohla Dargis on Poetry: "The importance of seeing, seeing the world deeply, is at the heart of this quietly devastating, humanistic work from the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong." Also in the NYT, Franz Lidz profiles Yun Jung-hee.

Mark Holcomb on Lovers of Hate: "A 2010 Sundance favorite, this inventive (and inventively thrifty) character study from Austin indie stalwart Bryan Poyser never flinches from the intractable sibling resentment at its core. This makes Lovers of Hate as brave as it is squirmy, but there's a mitigating tenderness here as well." Stephen Saito talks with Poyser for IFC. The film's at Brooklyn's Rerun Gastropub Theater. Also in the Voice, Tim Grierson: "In past years, the theatrical release of the Oscar-nominated live-action and animated shorts has provided a fun peek into intriguing bite-size cinema from across the globe. But for the 2011 edition, the series is at last making room for the five nominated documentary shorts as well." At the IFC Center.

 

IN OTHER NEWS

 

Another fine evening for The King's Speech as it takes both Best Film and Outstanding British Film, among a slew of other awards, at the Baftas. The official site has the full list of all of this evening's winners as well as the nominees. A few notables: Chris Morris wins Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer (I wonder of they spell all that out on the statuette) for Four Lions. David Fincher wins Director for The Social Network. The Guardian's Xan Brooks live-blogged the ceremony.

"The most famous role played by the all-round entertainer Betty Garrett, who has died aged 91, was Brunhilde Esterhazy, the taxi driver in Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's musical On the Town (1949)," writes Ronald Bergan for the Guardian (and here's a clip). "However, she never had the show-business career she deserved. Primarily, Garrett was not a beauty along the lines of Esther Williams, Vera-Ellen or Janet Leigh, three of the stars she worked with in her meagre filmography, but she also suffered from the way she supported her husband, Larry Parks, whom she married in 1944, through difficult times. In the early 1950s, Parks, who impersonated Al Jolson in The Jolson Story (1946), one of Columbia's biggest hits, appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, declared his past membership of the Communist party and refused to name names. As a result, Columbia dropped Parks from their roster, and other studios shunned him. Garrett, who was also a member of the Communist party in the 1940s, had taken time off to bring up their two sons. She did not return to the screen until several years later — ironically, for Columbia — in My Sister Eileen (1955)." Update, 2/14: More from Edward Copeland and Dennis Cozzalio.

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