by Jim Ridley
We urge you to catch the 12:30 p.m. repeat screening today of The Spectacular Now, James Ponsoldt's beautifully acted teen romance about an alcoholic cut-up who befriends and falls for a shy, reserved honor student. I wish the movie didn't assert its problem-drama agenda so heavily in the last third, but leads Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) give star-making performances, exuding the kind of fireball chemistry that powers classics like Say Anything and Splendor in the Grass. (That bodes well for the movie version of Divergent, in which they've both been cast.) And the supporting cast, including Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler and a woundingly decent Bob Odenkirk, couldn't be bettered.
Ponsoldt won't be there for today's screening, alas — he was excited about showing his movie tonight at Ebertfest — but he definitely raised the audience's anticipation for his next projects: the movie versions of Julianna Baggott's Pure and Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick's novel Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, and the screenplay for the musical Pippin.
Among the items of interest today are four consecutive entries from the festival's encouraging Celebration of Kurdish Film sidebar, including Trattoria, Kick-Off and Where Is the Land?, starting at 12:15 p.m.; the road movie The Most Fun I've Ever Had with My Pants On (5:15 p.m.), produced by Jess + Moss's Clay Jeter; and the horror yarn Jug Face (10 p.m.). Also today at 1 p.m. is the Beyond the Oscars panel of AMPAS heavyweights, featuring former AMPAS President Sid Ganis, director of exhibitions and special events Ellen Harrington, Rain Man producer Mark Johnson, and former Universal Pictures chairman Tom Pollock. Click here for the full schedule.
Below, a few promising bets for the day, followed by our critics' picks:
• YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET (8 p.m.) Quite possibly the last chance you'll get locally to see the latest from one of the last surviving masters of the Nouvelle Vague era, Alain Resnais (Hiroshima, mon amour), who's entered a deft, playful twilight career phase exploring the interplay of theater, film and life. Mathieu Amalric and Lambert Wilson lead an all-star multi-generational cast of French thespians.
• DEAD MAN'S BURDEN (8 p.m.) Clare Bowen (Scarlett on ABC's Nashville) has received good notices for Jared Moshe's indie Western about a frontier woman whose plans to sell the family homestead take a twist with her long-lost brother's return.
• A BAND CALLED DEATH (9:45 p.m.) Never heard of Detroit's Hackney brothers, three African-American teens making proto-punk music in the 1970s in the cradle of Motown? Directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino tell the story.
• EAST NASHVILLE TONIGHT (10 p.m.) From the NaFF website: "In February 2013 the Barnes Brothers were commissioned to make a documentary on Todd Snider. Its purpose was to present Todd to a wider audience. They failed. Instead, drugs took over." It's billed as a work in progress; a cast featuring local musicians from Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll to Paul Griffith and the Turbo Fruits' Jonas Stein makes this pretty much a must — whatever it is.
RHINO SEASON (12:15 p.m.; also 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25) Kurdish-Iranian poet Sahel (Behrouz Vossoughi) is released from an Iranian prison after serving nearly 30 years for writing poems considered "against the state." When he's released, he learns that his wife Mina (Monica Bellucci) thinks he's been dead for many years. The latest work from acclaimed director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time For Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly), Rhino Season is based on the true story of a Kurdish-Iranian poet known as Sadegh Kamangar, some of whose poems are used as narration, giving the film an impressionistic, dreamlike quality. It's an extremely dark and disturbing tale, but it's artfully told, and Turaj Aslani's cinematography is fabulous, with many of the scenes bathed in sepia hues that accentuate the characters' faded memories and broken hearts. Part of the Celebration of Kurdish Film. JACK SILVERMAN
THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (3 p.m.) What if your country was sinking into the ocean and nobody cared? That's the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, the center of the fascinating documentary The Island President. Nasheed — recently freed from confinement and torture at the hands of a dictator to lead his country into a new democratic era — tries every possible way to get the planet's major polluters to take global warming seriously before his nation disappears to rising sea levels. His diplomatic tactics — clever PR, inspiring idealism and political sausage-making in equal measure — are brilliant, and The Island President is both charming and urgent. (Since the film, Nasheed resigned from office — he says under duress — and he faces charges that may keep him out of this fall's election.) Presented by ITVS Community Cinema, the screening is free and open to the public. DANA KOPP FRANKLIN
PERSISTENCE OF VISION (3:15 p.m.; also 4 p.m. Monday, April 22) Connoisseurs of documentaries about failed film projects — like the Terry Gilliam doc Lost in La Mancha, or the Henri-Georges Clouzot Inferno — won't want to miss this agonizing account of brilliant Roger Rabbit/Pink Panther animator Richard Williams' nearly three-decade struggle to realize his groundbreaking feature The Thief and the Cobbler. We'll never know whether a masterpiece was buried in all that obsessively detailed cel animation — my sinking suspicion says no — but what's there is astounding enough to lament its sorry fate. JIM RIDLEY
SAFETY LAST! (3:30 p.m.) Thank Janus Films for the festival's safest bet: a 90th anniversary remastered version of the 1923 Harold Lloyd classic, featuring the silent comedian's iconic dangle from a clock face high above a city street. Watch it aware that Lloyd performed his stunts with only eight fingers — he'd lost two digits (including a thumb) earlier in his career to an explosives mishap. JIM RIDLEY
BREAKFAST WITH CURTIS (3:30 p.m.; also 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21) Strongly recommended to fans of Richard Linklater's Slacker or Robert Altman's woollier ensemble pieces, Laura Colella's balmy, ingratiating feature has a bohemian household's loquacious leader (Theo Green) making conciliatory gestures to the neurotic neighbor kid he inadvertently traumatized five years earlier. The twist is that Colella cast her own squirrelly housemates (and house) essentially as themselves and fabricated a movie around them; the result is a sweet, amusing summer breeze of a movie that's like stumbling upon a neighbor's moonshine party. Suggested tagline: "More fun than ping-pong without panties!" JIM RIDLEY
SOME GIRL(S) (7:30 p.m.; also 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21) Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer (Party Girl) and adapted by Neil LaBute from his own play, Some Girl(s) casts O.C. heartthrob Adam Brody as an unnamed, recently minted author who pinballs across the country on a chilling pre-marital romp of emotional sado-masochism. Revisiting his top five exes (including Kristen Bell, Emily Watson and Zoe Kazan), he manipulates each situation for maximum drama, subjecting his unwitting victims to the wringer so as to cannibalize their interactions in his fiction. Fortunately, the sniveling little douchelord gets as good as he gives. The somewhat unremarkable film might work better onstage, but the ladies, widely varied in age and personality, all turn out exceptional performances. SARAH BROWN
VERY EXTREMELY DANGEROUS (8:15 p.m.; also 2:15 p.m. Monday, April 22) Somewhere between Jesco White and Rodriguez in the annals of myth-enshrouded American ramblers is Jerry McGill — a onetime Sun Records signee who ran around with Elvis, Waylon and Jerry Lee, but has as much of a penchant for boozing and armed robbery as for songwriting. Directed by Irish filmmaker Paul Duane and produced by longtime Memphis music journalist Robert Gordon, the movie rides warily with a pill-popping, gun-toting McGill, looking every bit of his 70 years. As much a meandering glimpse into the occasionally terrifying McGill's twilight years as a proper narrative, the film forms a compelling portrait of a wily, charismatic old coot who, sadly, probably could have had a real shot at the big time if he didn't like breaking the law so damn much. D. PATRICK RODGERS
I AM DIVINE (9:30 p.m.; also 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21) Jeffrey Schwarz follows his documentaries on adult film star Jack Wrangler and Celluloid Closet author Vito Russo with a figure who, appropriately, combines smut with queer activism: Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine. Divine seems so fully formed in her earliest work with John Waters that it's easy to underestimate the lengths she went through to create her unique, disgusting and sexy persona. The film fills in those gaps nicely, with insightful interviews with Divine's mother and high school girlfriend, as well as interviews with Waters, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Michael Musto, Bruce Vilanch and more. LAURA HUTSON