The 28th Annual USA Film Festival Film Clips

What follows are brief reviews of some highlights from the USA Film Festival, arranged chronologically. The festival runs Thursday, April 16, through Thursday, April 23. All events take place at the AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 N. Central Expressway, except for the Master Screen Artist Tribute to Christopher Walken, which will occur at the Lakewood Theatre, 1825 Abrams at Gaston. Call (214) 373-8000 for tickets. This list is not comprehensive; consult the festival's official program for descriptions of events not listed. The capsule reviews were written by Dallas Observer staff writers Jimmy Fowler, Christina Rees, Scott Kelton Jones, and Robert Wilonsky.

Rat
Goodfriends
Geri's Game
Director Mark Lewis is scheduled to attend.
Friday, April 17; 9:30 p.m.

There's a wise axiom to keep in mind when going to a film festival: Go short, and at least it won't suck for as long. That doesn't mean that everything you see is going to be bad, but if it is, you know you won't have to waste as much of your life watching it before there's a chance to see something actually worth a damn. Case in point is this collection of short films. Only one of them falls into the nefarious suck zone. The others are respectively OK and good. Rat is the middle-of-the-road-er. It's an animal documentary, but not the typical fare you'll find while watching Animal Planet on the Discovery Channel. Director Mark Lewis tells the classic battle of humans versus nature, played out by four New Yorkers and their battles against rat infestations. Although the film doesn't take sides, it does make a solid case against New Yorkers. The movie is offbeat, creepy, and surprisingly funny, especially when dishing out "Pop-up Video"-like factoids. For instance, as one visibly upset woman worries about a rat biting her child, a caption reports that in 1996, 184 people were bitten by rats in New York. Then, after waiting a beat, it goes on: "In 1996 there were 1,102 reports of people biting other people in New York." Or while showing rats mating, the film calmly reports that male rats have been known to mate with a female rat until she dies of exhaustion. "Even then they have been known to keep mating." And, "like man, rats will sometimes display homosexual behavior when members of the opposite sex are not readily available." Ultimately, the biggest problem with Rat is that it's an hour film about, well, rats.

Unfortunately for the makers of Goodfriends, hearing some documentary talk about rats mating is more interesting than hearing the characters in this film talk about the women they are screwing, which is basically the gist of this short movie. Apparently styled after the Kevin Smith-school of cool, young guys rapping about life in the candid, vulgar way that cool, young guys do, this film, shot in Greenville, proves--if nothing else--that the word "motherfucker" isn't as funny as it used to be and that an audience can actually tire of hearing it.

The final piece is the Academy Award-winning animated short Geri's Game. Geri plays a tough game of chess, and when he takes on himself, he's determined to win, even if he has to cheat. Another dazzling display of computer-generated animation from Pixar, the folks who gave us Toy Story, this film packs more character development into a few minutes than the other two shorts could in 90. Be careful you don't miss it, because the entire film runs under five minutes. If you can't pop your head into the theater for a look-see, you can check out a sampling on our Web site. (Scott Kelton Jones)

The Parallax View
Great Director Tribute to Alan J. Pakula
Pakula is scheduled to attend.
Saturday, April 18; 5:00 p.m.

You think director Oliver Stone is paranoid? Step inside Alan J. Pakula's 1974 suspense thriller The Parallax View. Hack reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) stumbles upon not just what may be a conspiracy behind the recent "crazed lone-gunman" assassination of a U.S. senator and the "innocent" deaths of six witnesses, but a plot by a mysterious self-help foundation to bring potential assassins into the web of intrigue. Make sense? Of course not, and neither do the plot points, but that's 'cause just like Joe Frady, you can't see the big picture. You can't see the figures behind the scenes pulling the strings. You can't outthink the movie, because you don't even know what the movie is really about. Open your eyes! Pakula is playing the audience for a patsy! Anyway, The Parallax View is a steaming melting pot of mistrust. If there was something worth fearing in the early '70s--the rise of "senseless" violence, including the murders of our nation's would-be leaders, government cover-ups, mind-control cults, Warren Beatty's sex drive--you can find an allusion to it here, and it's all sponsored by a sprawling, faceless corporation. Considering we've had almost a quarter of a century to hone that dread--and heighten our love of action over logic in our movies--The Parallax View is still an absorbing view. (SKJ)

Sophie's Choice
Great Director's Tribute to Alan J. Pakula
Pakula and actor Peter MacNicol are scheduled to attend.
Saturday, April 18; 7:20 p.m.

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