October 25, 2014

Culture Watch

Little Films, Big Summer

Like the southwest florida humidity, running through the summer blockbuster movie gamut can leave you a little light-headed and out of breath.

After being attacked by Pirates of the Caribbean, stupefied by Harry Potter and rescued by any number of superheroes donning tights this summer—Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men and Captain America—you still have to slog through the onslaught of star-laden rom-coms and the sudden rebirth of the R-rated comedy.

But if you managed to escape the blockbuster season unscathed, there are a few smaller films worth checking out in the coming months.

Beginners finds Christopher Plummer coming out of the closet at 75. Written and directed by Mike Mills, whose own father announced he was gay late in life, the film follows Plummer’s relationship with his son, played by Ewan McGregor. Melanie Laurent, who stole the show in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, plays McGregor’s love interest in this tense, but sweet film.

Nothing director Terrence Malick does can really be considered small. And that probably goes double for a movie that stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. But The Tree of Life isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster, even with its superstar marquee. For starters, no one really knows what it’s about. Malick and the cast are keeping the plot a secret, which has birthed a slew of rumors. My favorite: There’s going to be a scene with live dinosaurs.

A documentary that stood out at this year’s Sundance Festival, Project Nim recounts the life of Nim Chimpsky, the famous chimp who was taught sign language in the 1970s. Director Oscar-winner James Marsh, who also helmed the superb Man on Wire, sought out the people who raised Nim and ultimately had to deal with his difficult life. 

• Used to be the lecture circuit was populated by retired politicians, poets and former CEOs. And that’s still who pops up in the Naples Town Hall Speaker Series and for appearances at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. But a new breed of speaker has come forward—the reality TV star.

Thankfully, the reality stars coming to the Barbara B. Mann on June 22 are slightly more interesting characters. Capt. Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers have become minor celebrities thanks to Deadliest Catch, the six-year-old reality show on Discovery Channel. If the reality of crabbing the Bering Sea is anything as dramatic as the show, the guys should have some great fishing stories to tell.

• One of the underappreciated joys of summer in Naples is SummerJazz on the Gulf, the annual music series hosted by the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. Although the music isn’t jazz in the Coltrane or Monk sense of the word, that’s not really the point. It’s an always a pleasant soundtrack to lazy summer nights lounging with friends next to the beach. Pocket Change, which plays a mix of blues, Motown, reggae and classic rock covers, kicks things off on June 25. The show is free, but remember to bring your own seating.

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