The Congress @ The Ross

Robin Wright animated  in her psychedelic world.

Robin Wright animated in her psychedelic world.

My father always would offer these stern words of caution when I went to a social gathering. He would say, “you may go, but know when to leave the party.” My father’s caution is exactly what I would have offered to film director Ari Folman if I had the opportunity. Folman takes the audience on a psychedelic mind trip in his film The Congress, starring Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel.

I got it — this excursion into the world of primary colors and dreamscapes—this alternative universe into which Robin Wright travels to escape the reality of aging. But Folman stays so long in that sphere that it no longer matters what happens to anybody; it wears on the mind. I also got the messages that Folman doles out with a heavy hand. There is a critique of celebrity culture and how the operators of it salivate over young flesh with a hatred of its natural ability to age; how fans become so hungry for its stars that they will virtually eat and/or drink them alive; and, how film studios and their mogul administrators tire of handling the volatile personalities of actors.

Robin Wright in the Digital Laboratory "recording" all of her mannerisms

Robin Wright in the Digital Laboratory “recording” all of her mannerisms

Miramount, the fictional film studio has just the solution to assuage its woes: digitize the still youthful looking Robin Wright, upload all of her mannerisms and feelings into a database, and cast that digitized image in films for all eternity. There is a devil in the catch, and it is evil: Robin Wright must never act again – not in theater nor onscreen. Robin Wright signs the contract, and Folman rightly imagines then answers the question: what happens when an artist never can practice her art nor lend her talents to the world again. She turns to chemicals and trips out on a fantasy filled with a la-la land of personalities, to include Jesus, Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth, Elvis Pressley, and a Tom Cruise look-a-like.

The plot becomes convoluted with twists and turns that end up somewhere that is nowhere. Folman tarries so long in the animated realm that I found myself conjuring up a shuttle to take me out of there! My father taught me well, though. I pulled my emotions from the story and waited for its end. I knew when to leave that party!

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The Congress plays through October 2d at The Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Listen to The Congress @ 1:00:05 recorded for Friday Live at The Mill!

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The Grand Budapest Hotel @ The Ross

Grand Budapest1

Who knew that Wes Anderson had it in him? The ‘it’ being the ability to charm with an exotic, mysterious, strange, outlandish adventure encased in an embroidered, beaded silk cinematic purse named The Grand Budapest Hotel. The set is like a miniature city, and it’s as if Anderson shrunk the audience so we can experience the baubles and trinkets of grand old Europe, especially, the expanse of the countryside and all of its majesty. Frame-by-frame, Anderson delights the senses with visually

Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum)

Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum)

stunning settings. The film ricochets through time and place to tell the story of M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes, the exact, fun-loving, sensational proprietor of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Gustave is a man ahead of his time, whom the narrator informs us is “a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity.” That “glimmer” avails himself of rich and wealthy female patrons, who are smitten with his joie de vivre. An elderly Madame D, played by an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton (kudos to makeup designers) bequeaths to Gustave a valuable painting, and thus begins family squabbles, murder, mayhem, intrigue, and love. Andersen even treats us to a daring prison escape led by Ludwig, played by a bald Harvey Keitel.

Ludwig (Harvey Keitel)

Ludwig (Harvey Keitel)

Madam D (Tilda Swinton)

Madam D (Tilda Swinton)

The story begins in 1985 in Lutz, a fictional town in Eastern Europe. An aging author, played by Tom Wilkerson, writes of his journey to the hotel, and through flashbacks we bounce to 1968, and the author recalls his younger self, played by Jude Law, on a stay at the hotel. Over dinner, the author learns of M. Gustave by listening to the story of the hotel’s history and its proprietor from Mr. Mustafa, played by F. Murray Abraham. From that dinner table, Anderson ricochets to 1930, to a cold, dark, and damp Central Europe in between two world wars. Anderson portrays this time and space well as he captures via Gustave, a national tension and disquietude, a kind of controlled panic or a hunger to gorge on life because the joie de vivre could be decimated at a moment’s notice.

Let the story begin! M. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and Young Author (Jude Law)

Let the story begin! M. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and Young Author (Jude Law)

We expect … how shall I say this … we expect divine performances by Swinton, Fiennes, Keitel, Abraham, and Law — that’s a given, really. But Tony Revolori pushes through with a fine performance as Zero, the young M. Mustafa as the Lobby Boy. In the end, it is he who inherits the painting as well as the Grand Budapest Hotel and all of its grand history.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a must see; you will enjoy every fantastical moment!

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The Grand Budapest Hotel plays through April 24 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

Also at The Ross Elaine Stritch, Shoot Me, a documentary homage to the Broadway legend, who is still going at 80 years old, plays through April 3.

Listen to the review on NET Nebraska @ 20:55 min

Watch for film television & more. In the meantime,
catch a film!
share the popcorn!
feed your soul!

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