The Nantucket Film Festival
(Click here for official web site)

     I spent last weekend at the Nantucket Film Festival.  I managed to see five films.  The films were Dirty Pretty Things,  American Splendor,  Whale Rider,  Thirteen, and 28 Days Later.  These films have all been making the rounds of the film festivals but only Whale Rider is in limited theatrical release at the moment. The others will be released later this summer. I also attended a live reading of the screenplay for A Confederacy of Dunces which is about to go into production. It is being produced by Steven Soderberg and Drew Barrymore, and will be directed by David Gordon Green.  He is 28 years old and looks it.  His last film was All the Real Girls.  The actors taking part in the reading, who are not the actual cast of the movie, included Will Ferrell (as Ignatius Reilly), Anne Meara, Olympia Dukakis, Dan Hedaya, Alan Cumming, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Johnson and Rosie Perez. Other than seeing these actors on stage, I didn't have many celebrity sightings unless you count John Shea (Lex Luthor in Lois & Clark) or Paul Giamatti (see below). Nothing rivalled my sighting of the First Lady earlier in the week.

     Here are my mini-reviews:

28 Days Later (June 27 release)

     This is the latest movie by Danny Boyle, best known for directing Trainspotting.
In 28 Days Later, Boyle is fusing The Day of the Triffids with Night of the Living Dead. A man (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma to find that the city of London is apparently deserted.  A virus has spread throughout Great Britain turning normal people into angry zombies who only come out at night.  Murphy links up with a few unaffected people trying to escape to safety.  Despite the cool beginning, this is your average zombie movie.  Murphy's group continually put themselves where they will certainly be attacked by zombies. And then they are over and over again.  I was not impressed.

Whale Rider (wide release July 4)

     This movie from New Zealand has had great buzz and it is a very sweet story.  Whale Rider is the story of a Maori tribe in modern day New Zealand.  The chief of the tribe is troubled because his son only has a daughter.  Tradition says that only a son can become chief so he tries to find a new chief among the young boys in the town.  However, his granddaughter (Keisha Castle-Hughes) has other ideas.  She won't take no for an answer. Her grandfather desperate for a boy, ignores sign after sign that she must be the one (a la Neo). Don't look for subtlety here. This is a very simple story told very simply but beautifully.  Castle-Hughes and the rest of the cast are extremely good and even though you know from the first minute how it will end, you will be in there rooting for her.

Dirty Pretty Things (July 18 limited release)

     This was the best film I saw at the festival.  It is the latest film directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Dangerous Liasons, The Grifters).  In Dirty Pretty Things, Frears is making a kind of sequel to his early film, My Beautiful Laundrette.  That film dealt with the immigrant Indian population in London in the 1980's.  Dirty Pretty Things deals with the much more diverse immigrant population in London today.  The main two characters are a Turkish woman (Audrey Tautou) and a Nigerian man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who meet while working at the same hotel.  They both are on the run, Tautou because she is an illegal immigrant,  Ejifor because he is a wanted man back home.  They fall in love as they try to help each other keep their heads above water in the shadowy world of new immigrants.  The story is very complex and interesting, and Frears keeps the film moving along.  The two leads are excellent. Tautou made a splash last year in Amelie
.  Her turkish accent is a bit muddled but who cares.  Ejiofor is amazingly good.  This one is a must see.

American Splendor (August 15 limited release)

     This is one weird whacked out movie.  There is this guy, Harvey Pekar, a real guy, whose existence I had been blissfully unaware of.  Harvey has been producing a comic book called American Splendor based on his own life for about 30 years.  A play has already been produced and now a movie.  The movie is strange because half of it is a documentary with the real Harvey and his wife, and half is a dramatization with Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis.  I had a hard time getting into American Splendor because of the format but as time went on it became more and more compelling as we would see the drama and then a few minutes later see the real-life characters. Paul Giamatti, best known for being the son of former baseball Comissioner Bart Giamatti, usually has small parts in movies like Saving Private Ryan. But here, he really gets to shine as Harvey Pekar.  Hope Davis, the daughter in About Schmidt, is also very good as Harvey's wife.

Thirteen (August 20 limited release)

     Although Thirteen is a very typical movie about troubled teens, it is unusual in that one of the screenwriters is thirteen years old, Nikki Reed who also stars in the film. Thirteen traces a few months in the lives of two teenage girls (Reed & Evan Rachel Wood) and their perplexed parents including Holly Hunter.  In a story that you will think you've seen many times before, a nice geeky girl who wants to run with the in crowd takes up with a scheming "it" girl and starts ignoring her old friends and starts scamming her mother.  As these stories go, the girls have a lot of fun at first but then enter a death spiral as sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll take their toll.  It's very good and well acted but feels like an after-school special.