Around Town

It’s almost Academy Awards season, which means plenty of chances to catch up on films you may have missed in the past year.

One of my favorite treats comes in the form of screenings of all the nominated short films, unavailable in theaters for most of us, but playing at Circle Cinema, Feb. 9-15, and likely elsewhere. From dramas and comedies to animated films, catch a wide variety of moods in a short space.

There’s sure to be a film to catch your fancy – if you don’t like one, just wait five minutes and you’ll see something completely different.

At Home

The film world lost a major talent in 2017 when director Jonathan Demme died. Demme never had the name recognition of Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese, perhaps in part because he favored shifting genres and styles rather than building a trademark niche.

Demme was at the helm of music documentaries, wild comedies and serious dramas, but he’s perhaps best known for 1991’s game-changing thriller, The Silence of the Lambs, out in a new edition this month from the Criterion Collection. The tale of an FBI agent who taps the “wisdom” of one serial killer to catch another, Silence is most famous for Anthony Hopkins’s riveting performance as Hannibal Lecter.

There’s much more to love about the film than the way Hopkins discusses fava beans. It’s a showcase for Demme’s ability to generate suspense while maintaining a human touch. This special release, aside from receiving the standard Criterion restoration, features many extras, such as deleted scenes, four separate production documentaries, and essays by critics.

In Theaters

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe gradually takes over as much of filmdom as possible, superhero fatigue can set in. The studio seems intent on combating that by sending its smaller franchises out in odd directions and handing the reins to directors who might push the boundaries a little (while not going too far out).

Horror director Scott Derrickson turned 2016’s Doctor Strange into a world-bending headtrip, while lowkey New Zealander Taika Waititi revived the stodgy Thor franchise by spinning the third film in the series into a buddy comedy. Now comes one of the most exciting installments: Black Panther, directed by exciting young filmmaker Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). Not only is it nice to see Marvel hiring more diverse directors, but Coogler should bring style and grace to the story of T’Challa, who moonlights as the title hero and prince of the fictional African kingdom Wakanda.

Chadwick Boseman showed nice screen presence in his debut as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, and the new film also pairs Coogler with frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan, tantalizingly playing a villain this time around.

While the Marvel sandbox has some clearly defined limits, it’s exciting to see what talented young filmmakers come up with when let loose to play inside of it.

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