With the Mill Valley and Cinema by the Bay film festivals fast approaching, October promises to be one of the year's most exciting months for Bay Area moviegoers. Until then, there's no shortage of vital, engaging films awaiting you at the local indie theaters. Among them:
The biggest difference between Tom Ripley, the duplicitous drifter Matt Damon played in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Mark Whitacre, the seemingly guileless whistleblower who tries to take down the agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland in The Informant!, is that Ripley was a homicidal sociopath, while Damon’s Whitacre, whose book smarts are rivaled only by his idiocy in practical matters, is a pathological liar, and a sloppy one at that.
Whitacre, a paunchy Midwestern everyman who sports an unflattering mustache and a comically prominent hairpiece he adjusts whenever the pressure builds, is the subject of Steven Soderbergh’s latest farce. If his story seems unbelievable, as the movie’s billboards loudly suggest, so is the man himself.
Sitting before a standing-room-only crowd of 6,500, most of whom had waited hours to catch a glimpse of the silver-haired animation master and greeted him with a raucous standing ovation at last month’s Comic-Con convention in San Diego, Hayao Miyazaki played the part of reclusive auteur to perfection.
He was soft spoken and unfailingly polite as longtime friend John Lasseter, the Pixar Animation chief who describes his films as “unique and inspirational,” questioned him about Ponyo, his wondrously illustrated tale of a fish who turns into a little girl after discovering love in the human world.
If his answers came off as less than revealing, nobody seemed to mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, set your DVRs. At the Movies, the beacon of televised film criticism founded by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in 1975, is about to undergo a much-needed makeover.
For those who have followed the syndicated weekly show since Ebert and latter-day partner Richard Roeper left Disney-ABC Domestic Television last summer, the introduction of Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott as the latest pair of critics to occupy the vaunted balcony should come as welcome news.