By Eric Henderson, WCCO

Norman Mailer: The American

Norman Mailer — a cultural icon in the ’60s and ’70s and, to my generation, the punchline of a particularly nasty joke on The Simpsons. In the animated sitcom’s episode-length Mary Poppins satire, “Shari Bobbins” tells Bart Simpson that if she finds an episode of “Playdude” magazine under his bed, she’ll force him to read every article, “Including Norman Mailer’s latest claptrap about his waning libido.”

No claptrap floating around in this, Joe Mantegna’s intimate look at the life, times and wreckage of Mailer’s career and domestic life. It’s something of a toss-up which one is more complicated and rocky.

Though the movie doesn’t exactly escape the trap of hagiography that afflicts almost every single mass media-era, personality-centered documentary, it’s not exactly like the movie’s most compelling clips (i.e. smackdowns with Rip Torn and Gore Vidal) paint too pretty a picture, either. (Theater 3, 7:15 p.m.)



13 Assassins

Takashi Miike has directed more movies in the last decade than R.W. Fassbinder did in his entire career, practically. The trade-off, of course, is that his filmography is also about as spotty as any name-brand director. For every Happiness of the Katakuris, there are another dozen City of Lost Souls.

Not a problem this time around.

13 Assassins is one of the Japanese cult titan’s most controlled, most successful, most expansive works ever, a pitch-perfect Kurosawa tribute involving a gang of 19th Century warriors who all combine forces to try and dispose of a despot. The 13 of them against about 200 bodyguards. It’s on!

While the movie’s inherent conventionality will likely turn off a few who have come to love Miike for his irrepressible punk spirit, its dark, violent majesty will keep most everyone else enthralled. (Theatre 2, 9:45 p.m.)



Other Highlights: Friday, April 22

2011 msp film festival logo Movie Blog MSPIFF Spotlights: Mailer, Assassins

(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Just Like Us, which details stand up comedy tours throughout the Middle East. Lets hope Albert Brooks is paying attention. (Theater 1, 9:15 p.m.)

The Myth of the American Sleepover, a nostalgia-tinged ensemble cast drama about teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. (Theater 3, 9:30 p.m.)

On the Ice, a crime thriller in which homicide stains the white snow of the northernmost city in the United States blood red. (Theater 5, 9:15 p.m.)


All shows are playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. For the complete festival schedule, click here. An alphabetical listing of all the movies being shown can be found here. Ticket information is here.


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