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Reviews: New Orleans Film Festival selections 

Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine and more

click to enlarge Welcome to Leith

Photo by Gregory Bruce

Welcome to Leith

Welcome to Leith

8 p.m. Thu., Oct. 15, CAC
2 p.m. Fri., Oct. 16, Ogden Museum

  White supremacist Craig Cobb was notorious for posting online the addresses and contact information of adversaries, exposing them to legions of his anonymous sympathizers. He resorted to an array of intimidation tactics when he moved into Leith, North Dakota, a town of 24 people, including one black — and Cobb's new neighbor.

  Cobb had a scheme to buy up properties and create a white supremacist enclave. He posted white supremacist icons and flags, including a Confederate flag, and he let townspeople know he expected to recruit enough Aryan sympathizers to gain political control of the town. He deeded one property to Tom Metzger, leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. Townspeople were not pleased.

  Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker's documentary Welcome to Leith runs like a real-time thriller as filmmakers record confrontations and ongoing wrangling over the makeup of the community. It's a gripping film about individual rights, tolerance and intolerance in a democracy.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon

9 p.m. Oct. 17, 7 p.m. Sun. Oct. 18, 9 p.m. Mon. Oct. 19; Chalmette Movies

  The part of Stork is a very small role in National Lampoon's Animal House. He says, "Well, what the hell we supposed to do, ya moron?" to John Belushi after the Delta Tau Chi members learn they are being expelled from Faber College. Stork was played by National Lampoon co-founder Douglas Kenney, a prolific writer for the publication and co-screenwriter of Animal House and Caddyshack. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon chronicles the rise and fall of the notoriously funny and raunchy magazine.

  Harvard University graduates Kenney and Henry Beard made the leap from writing for the school's century-old humor magazine, The Lampoon, to convincing Matty Simmons to invest in their idea for a freewheeling national humor magazine with a lust for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It launched in 1970 and found its feet with the help of artistic director Michael Gross, becoming known for satire and gratuitous flaunting of all sorts of taboos. One of the most famous magazine covers of all time was The National Lampoon's January 1973 issue ("If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog"), with a pistol pointed at a dog's head — typical of the magazine's blunt, dark humor.

  National Lampoon spun off other projects, including albums and a radio show, which became a live stage show featuring Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and others. Later, it spun off movie projects, and Animal House spawned a new breed of rambunctious comedies. As quickly as the magazine had established itself, it became a victim of its success. Its talent was regularly plucked away, and several live show cast members defected to early casts of Saturday Night Live.

  Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a celebratory review of the magazine's titillating and outrageous early years, including snippets of comics, articles and pictorials. There are interviews with Chase and many other surviving veterans and fans (John Goodman, Meat Loaf, Billy Bob Thornton). It also tracks the magazine's decline. The ongoing influence of its first generation of writers and comedians is impressive, but the movie also acknowledges the personal toll on some of the hard-partying figures, particularly Kenney.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

7 p.m. Fri., 9 p.m. Tue. Oct. 20, 9 p.m. Thu. Oct. 22; Chalmette Movies

  This Steve Jobs documentary by award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney is not to be confused with Aaron Sorkin's current biopic. Gibney is known for documentaries about everything from the Enron scandal and Scientology to Jimi Hendrix and Hunter S. Thompson. He starts Man in the Machine from a place of wonder, marveling at worldwide mourning following Jobs' death on Oct. 5, 2011.

  Gibney profiles the young, unrelentingly ambitious and shrewd Jobs, who became interested in computer programming and electronics as a teen. Jobs formed Apple with his teenage friend Steve Wozniak, and while they both had great technical skills, Jobs had a vision for the "personal computer" that came to define a sector of the computer industry and Apple's ongoing marketing of its devices, not as tools, but as part of the owner's person.

  Much of the technology and business information has been recounted elsewhere, but Gibney weaves it with Jobs' pursuit of Zen meditation and studying with Japanese monks. Young Jobs was a restless and complicated man. As a boy, he was distraught that his birth mother had put him up for adoption, and as a young man he went to great lengths to deny paternity of his first daughter.

  The contradictions are fascinating as Jobs goes from being the kid in a garage tilting at monolithic IBM, to becoming the CEO of the world's most valuable corporation. The film includes Jobs' tortured answers to questions about horrid labor and environmental conditions at Chinese factories. Yet no revelations — including the pooling of billions of dollars in Apple profits offshore — seem to shake Apple product loyalists' love of the tech guru. Gibney's portrait is detailed and entertaining and probes both Jobs' actual identity and the one idolized by millions of consumers.

Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story

6:15 p.m. Fri., Contemporary Arts Center; 5:30 p.m. Thu. Oct. 22, Theatres at Canal Place

  Dream Hampton's Treasure: From Transgender to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story, begins with a couple of heartbreaking details about Lyniece Nelson's discovery that her 19-year-old transgender daughter, Shelly "Treasure" Hilliard, was murdered. Her mother learned about it on Facebook and not all of Treasure's dismembered body was found.

  Though Nelson and Treasure's sisters were accepting of her transition, Treasure moved out of their home and often lived with transgender and gay friends at a budget hotel in a Detroit suburb. The hourlong film flies by as details are spaced out, and the portrait of Treasure comes through her family and friends. The film also explores police exploitation of vulnerable teens and transgender people in their efforts to bust drug dealers.

  Much of the film explores Treasure's world through the eyes of her friends and staff at the The Ruth Ellis Center, which provides services and outreach to the transgender community. For all the startling details, much of the film is a sensitive memorial to Treasure and a close-up of how harsh life on the margins can be.


Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
Rated R · 128 minutes · 2015
Official Site:
Director: Alex Gibney
Writer: Alex Gibney
Producer: Viva Van Loock and Alex Gibney
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Rated NR · 94 minutes · 2015
Official Site:
Director: Douglas Tirola
Writer: Mark Monroe and Douglas Tirola
Producer: Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, John Battsek and Nicole Stott

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