“Ideals are peaceful, history is violent” passes for profundity in the remarkably uncomplicated and old-fashioned World War II movie Fury. Playing a tank commander named Wardaddy, it’s a straight-faced Brad Pitt who delivers the hokey line. But it might as well be John Wayne, William Holden, or any number of battlefield heroes from the early days of Hollywood — Fury is that far removed from the world of 21st-century film. Only the graphic depiction of heads and limbs getting blown to smithereens marks the movie as a product of the modern age.
Set during a single 24-hour period in the final days of the Great War, Fury has Army sergeant Wardaddy leading his grizzled tank-crew deep into Germany for a series of brutal encounters with Nazis angered by their impending defeat. Pacifist rookie soldier Norman (Logan Lerman) joins the crew just before battle calls, forcing Wardaddy to school the new guy quickly or put his all his crew in jeopardy. It’s a simple setup that evolves in predictable ways, leaving us not as emotionally involved as we should be. Apart from realistic battle scenes, Fury’s primary selling point is the videogame-like thrill of seeing Nazis taken down before they can do the same to us. That’s a slender hook on which to hang a lavishly produced film, and one that seems a bit misguided given the sober nature of the subject matter.
Fury starts today, Oct. 17, at theaters across the New Orleans area.
The 2014 New Orleans Film Festival and its mammoth slate of more than 250 films kicks off tonight, Oct. 16, at 7:00 p.m. with the red carpet premiere of writer-director Mike Binder's Black and White at the Civic Theater, 510 O’Keefe Ave. The Hollywood drama stars Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer as grandparents involved in a custody battle. Those scheduled to attend the premiere include Binder, cast-member Jillian Estell, and producer Todd Lewis.
Remaining tickets for tonight's premiere will be available at the door starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $25 for Film Society members and $35 for non-members. A second Film Festival showing of Black and White is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Prytania Theatre. Advance tickets are available here. See the full schedule here.
Most music documentaries are designed to reach the existing fan base for a particular artist or type of music. Modest ambitions often come with the territory, if only because it’s difficult to convince general audiences to spend time and money on unfamiliar artists. Created by co-directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard in collaboration with rock icon Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth comes from another place entirely, one where music-film conventions and marketplace concerns don’t apply.
Ostensibly a portrait of a single day in Cave’s life — his 20,000th — the film walks the line between documentary and fiction to examine the mysteries at the heart of the creative process. It may not find an audience beyond Cave’s international legion of fans, but anyone with a stake in where art comes from or how it is made will find much to consider here.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
The 3rd Annual Pontchartrain Film Festival will take place Nov. 7-9 at the Slidell Little Theatre, 2024 Nellie Drive in Slidell. Presented by the Olde Town Arts Center, the Festival spotlights regional films and is accepting submissions through Oct. 27 from high school and college filmmakers in Louisiana for inclusion in its Student Short Film Showcase. Films must be less than 30 minutes long and filmmakers must be currently enrolled in school. Prizes include a gift card from Lakeside Camera. Go here for full submission guidelines.
Also featured in this year's Festival are screenings of Bayou Maharajah, Lily Keber's groundbreaking film about New Orleans Piano Prince James Booker; Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney' Dear Governor Cuomo, a 2012 documentary and about a concert to rally New Yorkers Against Fracking; and local film legend Glen Pitre's little-seen 2003 film Home Front, which stars Tatum O'Neil, Tim Curry and Julian Sands and tells the story of German POWs in coastal Louisiana during World War II. The Festival's full schedule is available here.
The 6th Annual Film Industry Expo scheduled for Oct. 11 at the Sheraton New Orleans has been cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances." According to the Expo website, those who pre-registered can expect refunds within 30 days.
LSU film professor Joshua Overbay’s low-budget but quietly affecting As It Is In Heaven shows how much can be done with limited resources as long as all the crucial elements are in place. Shot in a scant 17 days with a crew consisting almost entirely of film students while Overbay taught at Kentucky’s Asbury University, the movie portrays the rise of a charismatic religious-cult leader and his power struggle with the son of the sect’s original “prophet.” Armed with a subtle script written by his wife, Ginny Lee Overbay, the director sidesteps easy caricatures and stereotypes to find the humanity at the core of religious fervor. Cinematographer Isaac Pletcher uses light and shadow to ratchet the tension amid the film’s bucolic rural setting. The result is an original piece of work, and one that finds its purpose in empathy and understanding.
As It Is In Heaven begins an exclusive run tonight, Oct. 3, at Zeitgeist Films. Director Joshua Overbay will be in attendance tonight only for an audience Q&A. More info here.
The massive schedule for the 25th Annual New Orleans Film Festival is now available on the New Orleans Film Society website. The Festival takes place at venues across the city Oct. 17-23. Two new series have been added this year. The Marquee series spotlight films made in or about New Orleans and includes Big Charity, a documentary about New Orleans' Charity Hospital, and We Won't Bow Down, a history of Mardi Gras Indians. The Centerpiece series presents some of the year's most highly anticipated films, including the award-winning satire Dear White People and The Great Invisible, which examines the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its effect on the people and culture of Louisiana.
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