The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit
Director Stuart Gordon and actor Edward James Olmos are scheduled to attend.
Monday, April 20; 7:10 p.m.

If you've ever wondered why the works of Ray Bradbury only occasionally make it to the big screen, you haven't read any of his amazing fiction: In two paragraphs, the guy can describe a raging tyrannosaurus rex or a hovering spacecraft with all the conciseness (and more pure poetry) than any computer animator. But his flights of fantasy wriggle underneath our skin so successfully because that's where they came from: Bradbury is a moralist, in the sense that he's concerned with how people's behavior affects the quality of their lives. Who knew that director Stuart Gordon, creator of the hilarious gorefest Re-Animator, could not only figure it out, but also corral a top-drawer ensemble of comic actors to execute it gracefully on screen? The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit may sound a little too sweet to you, but it's a hilarious fable about a group of unemployed Mexican-Americans--including a dreamer (Joe Mantegna), an intellectual (Esai Morales), and a Latino version of Pig Pen (Edward James Olmos)--who pool their money to buy one beautiful, gleaming vanilla-ice-cream colored suit. Each man sees his dreams come true while decked out in the suit, which eventually turns the sartorial conspirators against each other. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit is a rich, charming surprise, especially for the revelatory comic skills of tough-guy characters actors like Mantegna and Olmos.(JF)

Strawberry Fields
Director Rea Tajiri is scheduled to attend.
Tuesday, April 21; 9:05 p.m.

Road trips. Acid trips. Dynamite. Hippies. Japanese internment camps. Wha?
Set in the early '70s in Chicago and the Midwest, this Japanese-American tale starts awkwardly but builds slowly in hypnotic effect. The dramatic narrative debut of noted video-film artist Rea Tajiri, Strawberry Fields posits an emotionally multi-layered problem: the rebellious teenager, Irene (Suzy Nakamura), a pyromaniac whose younger sister died a few years earlier, becomes obsessed with finding out about her Japanese ancestry--especially her grandparents' stay in an American WWII internment camp. At the same time, she's being haunted by the ghost of her sister and she's discovering her sexuality with her sweetly passive boyfriend, Luke. Her jerky swings between sullen quietude and explosive tantrums make her a shrill and unpredictable protagonist, but over the course of the film's 90 minutes, you begin to sense that her torment springs from a place far deeper than even she can grasp. Well-acted by the entire cast and beautifully scored, this is a low-budget gem of thoughtful, organic moodiness.(CR)

Where the Boys Are
Paula Prentiss is scheduled to attend.
Wednesday, April 22; 7 p.m.

Any excuse to get woefully undersung Eve Arden-heiress Paula Prentiss back into the spotlight is fine with us, but did USAFF have to schedule her appearance with the 1960 cult classic Where the Boys Are as part of "Bad Movies We Love?" While this year's other trash selection, the Connie Stevens vehicle Susan Slade, is just bad enough to be boring and no more, Where the Boys Are is rather revolutionary pop ephemera, dated in its hairdos, lingo, and music but evincing a frankness about how young women are expected to juggle sexual desires and gender role-playing. Throw in references to condoms and menstrual cycles as well as a soundtrack by Third Eye Blind and The Wallflowers, and you could transplant stars Prentiss, Yvette Mimieux, Connie Francis, and Dolores Hart onto the Fort Lauderdale shores of the '90s with relative ease. The fact that Where the Boys Are was packaged as teenage celluloid diversion makes it seem even more subversive, all the talk about imminent wifely duties included. This fascinating post-'50s fluff is still a smarter beach babe bonanza than Baywatch, currently the most-watched TV show in the world. (JF)

Tell About the South
Wednesday, April 22; 7:10 p.m.

Some of us, like Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, have always known that despite (or perhaps because of) the South's tradition of institutionalized bigotry, that American region has produced the greatest prose work of the 20th century. So fans of emotionally complex, mythic Dixie letters will be reassured, but not really informed, by Tell About the South, a literary documentary that mixes interviews with contemporary writers like Pat Conroy, Reynolds Price, Rita Dove, and Shelby Foote with narrated profiles of Southern wordsmiths as diverse as William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Johnson, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston. Faulkner is undoubtedly one of the great novelists of the 20th century, but because everybody already knows that, the length at which the filmmakers dwell on him is unnecessary. More impressive is the way in which Tell About the South strings blues legend Johnson onto the same jeweled necklace as chronic over-writer Thomas Wolfe and makes them seem perfectly reasonable companions in the Southern tradition of storytelling. Toomer and Hurston had to leave their birthplaces and make their literary names during the Harlem Renaissance, yet both continued to make black life in their home states their primary subject. They inadvertently served as ambassadors for a tradition that wouldn't let them flourish. Tell About the South feels ambassadorial too, a documentary designed for anyone who still believes, as blowhard H.L. Mencken did, that the American South is a "stunning vacuity." (JF)

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