A Tulsa gem celebrates its 91st anniversary this month with the second Circle Cinema Film Festival, July 11-15. Just like last year’s inaugural event, this year’s showings blend the local with the national and marry films with Oklahoma ties to a broader concern of the state of independent cinema.
The festival features several promising documentaries, including the intriguing Words from a Bear, about the life of Lawton native and Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday, and American Heretics, which examines faith and politics in Oklahoma.
The Circle event has non-film options, too – including live music and a birthday party for the cinema – but it leans on its programming strengths by providing what’s often missing at other festivals: a retrospective on silent films featuring Oklahomans, accompanied by the cinema’s pipe organ. It should make for a varied event with something for everyone.
A good rule of thumb is that if you have the chance to acquire a clean digital transfer of one of the greatest films ever made – one that includes myriad insights into the making of the film – you should jump on it. That’s the case with the Criterion Collections reissue of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, a titan of American movie made 30 years ago.
The film’s exploration of racial tension feels as timely as ever, but its social message comes wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing package; the film shows Lee at his energetic, audacious best, full of bright colors and oddball shots. The copious extras include the usual critical essay included in Criterion releases (this one by Vinson Cunningham) and several interviews and press conferences with Lee and others over the years.
The real treasure is the lengthy set of excerpts from Lee’s journal during the making of the film; combined with the “making of” documentary, these bonuses offer unparalleled glimpses into the production of a significant film.
July isn’t the strongest month for movies. In general, most of the must-see blockbusters have come and gone, so studios release their tentative prospects. However, there’s one film that could transcend its on-paper promise. Stuber updates the classic buddy-cop comedy for the digital age by pairing a gruff police officer (Dave Bautista) with an unsuspecting Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani).
In the worst case, this is an uninspiring “opposites attack” film, plying easy jokes about cultural differences. But there’s hope. Nanjiani is a talented comic actor, and Bautista has a physical presence that belies his goofiness. Director Michael Dowse, who made the cult hockey comedy Goon, knows his way around physical comedy. Best of all, the film’s producers, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, co-directed last year’s Game Night, so maybe they’ve taken under their wings a film with a similar vibe.