For Your Consideration takes filmmaker Christopher Guest back to the target area of his very first film, The Big Picture -- namely the movie biz, more narrowly the Oscar buzz -- and back before he chained himself to the mockumentary format, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind. Any sense of liberation therefrom has not spilled over into comic invention. The behind-the-scenes satire is sufficiently old-hat that there must be a lot of truth in it, even if not a lot of laughs in it. And the parodies of on-screen Hollywood, both big budget and small, are so far outside the realm of possibility as to spare everyone's feelings, moviegoer's included. Guest is more on the mark with the assorted inanities of the P.R. game -- the studio publicist, the "infotainment" industry, the talk-show circuit. And Catherine O'Hara, among his stable of repertory players (Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, et al.), stands out as an over-the-hill actress who, try though she mightily might, cannot hide her vanity and her ego. Her surgical overhaul for awards season is truly gruesome, and indeed the outward aspect of the cast in general shows a loving, or rather a loathing, attention to detail. For your consideration: Best Makeup.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a Mongolian movie from one of the two directors of The Story of the Weeping Camel, Byambasuren Davaa. This one tells the story of a little girl and a stray dog, not a yellow dog, but white with a black face and a black spot on his back, hence his christening as Zochar (translation, Spot), and cute as the dickens, though the girl's father worries that the dog, likely mingling with wolves, cannot be trusted around the family sheep. In spite of an uneventful narrative and a glacial pace, the feeling for unspectacular landscape (low mountains, wide valleys), the sense of open space, and the placement of people within it are authentically cinematic. I might prefer my landscape to come with cowboys, but no one these days is giving me that option. I must settle for a studious ethnographic record of the making of cheese, the gathering of dung, and the disassembling of a nomadic domicile. Tolerably interesting.
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The recently renovated North Park theater (full name: the Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre) is making room for a series of classic, i.e. old, movies, under the heading of "The Fabulous Faces of the Fifties," organized by Andy Friedenberg of the San Diego Cinema Society and Scott Marks, late of the Museum of Photographic Arts. It shapes up like so: Imitation of Life, December 14 and 17; White Christmas, December 21 and 23; All about Eve, December 28 and 31; Roman Holiday, January 11 and 14; Giant, January 18 and 21; Some Like It Hot, January 25 and 28. Old movies in an old theater, a comfortable fit. Call 619-239-8836 for ticket information.