Framed! The Corporate Media at War
Runs Fri., Feb. 13–Sun., Feb. 15, at Broadway Performance Hall
Whether from the left or the right, accusations of "media bias" always amount to the same witless charge: You don't agree with us, therefore you're biased. Add to that the additional pejorative of "corporate," and a journalist feels doubly damned simply for having a job. Only unemployed activists, it seems, are faultless in their opinions on world events. Affiliated with last week's Arab & Iranian Film Festival, this sidebar program on the Middle East packages various short screeds against a variety of deserving subjects: the Fox News Channel, Bill O'Reilly, George W. Bush, and Ariel Sharon. (Funny how Yasir Arafat, bless his peace-loving heart, is exempt from such barbs.) Anything here represented as "documentary" is obviously opinionated, and you can look forward to the usual valorization of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and Al-Jazeera—which, I learn in the festival guide, is a "leading independent media outlet." Oh, that's right: Bathing the screen in blood without context makes you independent. How silly of me to forget.
Still, it's impossible not to applaud the vigorous thumping of racist Arab stereotypes in several of these shorts. Planet of the Arabs provides a dizzying montage of film clips from Disney cartoons to Schwarzenegger movies (True Lies included) that's altogether dismaying and shameful. When Chuck Norris pops up in an atrocious mullet to decry and punch out "camel jockeys," you cringe. If Delta Force is the kind of movie being sold in pirate editions on the Arab Street, no wonder they hate us. BRIAN MILLER
Full schedule and information: 206-322-0882 and www.saiff.com. Tickets: 206-325-6500 and www.ticketwindowonline.com.
Hey Is Dee Dee Home
Runs Fri., Feb. 13–Sun., Feb. 15, at Little Theatre
Once you've seen one junkie's story, you've seen most every junkie's story, even if that junkie is Dee Dee Ramone.
Yet having directed the 1980 Sex Pistols documentary DOA and 1999's Born to Lose (about the New York Dolls' Johnny Thunders), Lech Kowalski is clearly not yet bored with familiar tales of pawning and copping. Although he originally sat down to interview Dee Dee in 1993 for Lose, the conversations took on a new significance when the former Ramone OD'd in 2002. Though there was more to Dee Dee than his tattooed torso or "Chinese Rock" (a term for heroin and also the title of a song that stirred hatred between Thunders and him), this underwhelming doc is content to focus on those two elements of the bass player's life. Ardent Ramones fans might enjoy his giggling, self-effacing tales of hawking Joey Ramone's TV, plus the inane descriptions of his many inked adornments, but most will find the film pointless and flat. (NR) LAURA CASSIDY
Runs Fri., Feb. 13–Thurs., Feb. 19, at Varsity
Literally, I Vitelloni means "the young bulls," but the best translation of what director Federico Fellini had in mind might be Slackers, or maybe Superannuated Brat Pack. Gorgeously restored for its 50th anniversary, his 1953 classic is about teenagers who won't admit they're pushing 30: five guys who sponge off Mama, dodge jobs, and scuffle aimlessly around their dead-end hometown (beachside Rimini, Italy), partying, joshing, punking one another, and pinching women they'd be terrified of spending more than one night with. If they manage to sprout a scraggly goatee or cadge 1,000 lire from a sister without instantly blowing it at the track, it's a big accomplishment.
>I Vitelloni really is an accomplishment, aging as well as its heroes don't; it's the liveliest indie that didn't play Sundance this year. No surprise that it made Fellini famous, and directly sparked Scorsese's Mean Streets, and caused Mel Brooks to instruct Barry Levinson to turn his slacker-youth reminiscences into an American I Vitelloni, Diner. Though it bears traces of the neorealist school in which Fellini apprenticed, and of the more circusy later spectacles we think of as Felliniesque, the movie is just its own scruffily lovely self: a softheartedly satiric look at the street life of society's plucky losers, occasionally granted transcendent visions that tend to end in hangovers the next day.
Folks in Rimini are born to fail. When luminous Sandra wins the local Miss Mermaid beauty contest, her victory speech is cut off by the first downpour announcing summer's end. A loser of a winner, she's pregnant; her impregnator, Fausto, gets nabbed inches from a clean getaway to Milan. So she gets wedded bliss with a guy who'd rather hang with his pals—sensitive Moraldo, spoiled sot Alberto, wanna-be crooner Riccardo, and talent-free playwright Leopoldo—or, better yet, flying-tackle any passing skirt. (This latter tendency loses him his job after he propositions his boss' proper wife.)
The Fausto/Sandra marital saga loosely connects the delightful episodes in the proto-slackers' non-goal-oriented lives: the heist of the painted church angel; the town carnival bacchanal; the time the guys' car runs out of gas right after Alberto insults the roadside workers, who whup the guys upside their heads. Told from the unobtrusive point of view of the Fellini alter-ego character Moraldo (the only one who finally escapes Rimini for the wider world), the film effects a sentimental mood without the gloppiness that afflicts much Italian memory-lane wandering (including Fellini's late-career work). We laugh at the slapstick, yet respect the mocked characters, who don't strictly deserve our respect. I Vitelloni feels like the first artistic rush transforming a young nobody into a genius. It's nostalgic, but also quietly ecstatic. (NR) TIM APPELO