The Queue: January

Stephanie Chen, Senior Staff Reporter

Big Charity

showing at: Chalmette Movies

Even though its doors are shuttered, windows are smashed and floors are abandoned, Charity Hospital’s presence looms large in New Orleans. This documentary clocks in at a concise 60 minutes and centers on America’s oldest public hospital in its time before and after Hurricane Katrina. “Big Charity’s” greatest strength is that it gets straight to the meat of the matter. Rather than dwell on the Katrina narrative that most people already know, it focuses on the hospital’s importance to the local community, as well as the political and economic backroom deals that shuttered it, in anticipation of the new university medical complex. Private lives and public concerns intersect in what could be the perfect, implausible television drama of corrupt politics, apocalyptic disasters and epic narrative — only this is real. The documentary’s release is timely as the university medical complex nears completion.

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The Big Charity Fundraising Video from Big Charity on Vimeo.


The Imitation Game

showing at: Prytania Theatre, AMC Elmwood Palace 20, The Theatres at Canal Place

There’s already buzz that this film will be nominated for a few Academy Awards, and not even in the category of Most Prominent Bone Structure (re: Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.) Based on a true story, the film centers on British mathematician Alan Turing and his contributions during World War II to break Nazi Germany’s code. Though Turing helps the Allied forces win the war, his contributions are nearly forgotten, and he is later vilified for his homosexuality. Cumberbatch proves adept at playing the misunderstood, socially disconnected genius, but his performance isn’t a mere reprisal of his Sherlock Holmes role and is instead nuanced and continuously surprising. Where he succeeds, however, the film falters. Hampered by a conventional plot, formulaic dialogue and scant surprises, “The Imitation Game” relies too much on the mere facts of history to impress its audience, and not enough on imaginative storytelling. Even then, however, Cumberbatch’s performance is enough to make this film worth its stale sections.

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available on Netflix

If Wes Anderson made a film with fewer twee elements and instead drenched it with dark, dark humor, that movie might look a little bit like “Frank.” This critically acclaimed comedy is about a way-out-there experimental rock band Soronprfbs and its frontman Frank (Michael Fassbender), who always wears a papier-mache head. The film is based on the true story of Chris Sievey, an English comedian and punk rock musician who also performed from inside a crafted head.

It seems strange to cover up Fassbender’s objectively handsome face with an objectively off-putting mask for the better part of two hours, but he uses his body and disembodied voice in convincingly emotive ways. When the band accepts a slot at SXSW, things begin to fall apart for them. Things settle into place for the film, however, as it sharpens its focus on mental illness, the parody of outsider-art culture, social media and the creative impulse. As the band’s manager Don says at the film’s outset, “Look, you’re just going to have to go with this.” If you’re willing to take that leap, “Frank” proves to be deeply funny and sincere — especially in its strangest moments.



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