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Movie Blog: This Week’s Best Bets

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Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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The hits just keep coming. Upstream Color is being brought back for an encore run at the St. Anthony Main Theater on Friday, along with another pair of specialty draws. The Heights continues its dazzling Hollywood extravaganza. The Walker’s got a couple of can’t-miss arty attractions. And I misplaced my summertime shorts. So I guess to the theater I go.

Here are my choices for the best Twin Cities screenings for cinephiles this week:

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Wednesday, May 15: Stories We Tell (Walker Art Center)

For one night only, the Walker presents Sarah Polley’s documentary inquisition into her own tangled family history. Polley talks with her father and four siblings to get the full story of what Polley’s mother was like. (She died when the actress was 11 years old.)

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Thursday, May 16: A Star Is Born (Heights Theater)

Her most famous role remains Dorothy Gale in the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz, but if you ask most Judy Garland fans for their pick as her movie peak, they’ll likely opt for her powerhouse performance from the 1954 version of A Star is Born. The movie was a remake of a Janet Gaynor-Frederic March vehicle from the ’30s. In the remake, Garland stars as Esther Blodgett, an up-and-coming singing sensation whose career takes off just as her superstar husband’s career nosedives into failure and alcoholism. Garland attacked the role of Blodgett with the force of the tornado that leveled the Gale farmstead. Whether the onslaught of acting came as a result of prescriptions or the fact that she was working simpatico with her then-husband Sid Luft (who was producing the film) and director George Cukor (who directed at least some portion of her performance in Oz), or because she was finally given material with some juicy dramatic gravitas, the fact remains that this performance represents Ground Zero for Garland’s legion of fans, one which retroactively resonates with faint allusions to Garland’s own life experience. The performance remains one of the most disappointing Oscar losses in history.

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Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19: Bigger Than Life (Trylon Microcinema)

James Mason’s bustin’ out all over. From A Star Is Born to this, Nicholas Ray’s excoriating examination of a family man giving himself over to prescription drugs. The script suggests the pills take control of Mason’s Ed Avery, but Ray’s direction and Mason’s typically austere performance indicate Bigger Than Life is tackling bigger demons than Big Pharma. Equal parts Father Knows Best and Requiem for a Dream, the blunt shock of the film boils down to three immortal words: “God was wrong.”

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Friday, May 17 & Saturday, May 18: Post Tenebras Lux (Walker Art Center)

Carlos Reygadas continues to stake out his place among the most discussed — and, in some cases, loathed — auteurs currently at the nexus of world cinema. His latest, 2012’s Post Tenebras Lux, was reportedly given the Cannes shoulder last spring. Of course, that puts it in extremely good company. More on this one a little later this week.

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Friday, May 17 through Thursday, May 23: Bert Stern: Original Madman & The Reluctant Fundamentalist (St. Anthony Main Theater)

A pair of extended plays for movies that have screened in the Twin Cities recently. OK, maybe not so recently in the case of Bert Stern, which ran at the 2012 MSPIFF. Here’s what I wrote back then: “Stern was one of the foremost image-makers of the jet-setting early 1960s, changed the direction of photography, and inched the two discrete worlds of art and commerce ever closer together. His campaign for Smirnoff turned Cold War America onto Russia’s dominant tippler of choice. His photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe — the star’s last, as it turned out, as she died mere weeks later — is the stuff of legend. His lollipop-sucking one-sheet for Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 masterpiece Lolita is as indelible an image as any Kubrick himself managed.” And Jonathon Sharp just reviewed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, saying “One theme that springs forth from the movie is that fundamentalism (of any religion or creed or business practice) leads to tragedy. Another, which goes hand-in-hand to the one just mentioned, is that people are more than what they seem. Every individual is a confluence of various forces and ideas, mashed-up, perhaps with parts in contradiction to others. Without understanding this, the movie shows, all sorts of inhuman stuff goes down in the name of businesses, nations and gods.”

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