Critics' picks for reel experience

The Baltimore Sun


Getting the lowdown on the U.S.' increasingly desperate financial straits may not seem an appropriately celebratory way to kick off the first full day of 2008 festival-going. But Patrick Creadon's I.O.U.S.A. (11:30 a.m., Charles Theatre 1) offers a lucid and surprisingly engaging primer on what it means when economists talk about the country being several trillion dollars in debt, employing everything from roller-coaster-inspired graphics to clips of Saturday Night Live in the process.

At 2 p.m., David Zellner's Goliath (Charles Theatre 1) features an Everyman hero who can weather any situation the world throws at him -- everything, that is, until his beloved cat, Goliath, disappears. Word is the film features a memorable star turn from a tree saw -- what's not to love?

Greg Kohs' Song Sung Blue (4:30 p.m., Charles Theatre 5) traces the careers of Mike and Claire Sardina, who, using the stage names Lightning and Thunder, have been regaling Midwest audiences since the 1980s with the songs of Neil Diamond. The film's cast list doesn't include Diamond himself, but Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder makes an appearance, and that's got to be good.

The embracingly incorrigible John Waters makes his annual festival appearance at 7 p.m. in Charles Theatre 1 for a showing of Claude Chabrol's 1988 Story of Women (Une affaire de femmes), with Isabelle Huppert as a French woman who works as an abortionist during World War II. Waters told WYPR listeners last week that he admires the film for having a central character who isn't exactly sympathetic, and for having the courage to come down on neither side of the abortion debate.

Close out the day with beloved cinematic huckster William Castle, who thrilled 1950s and 1960s audiences with such stunts as skeletons hovering over their heads, electric charges in their seats and insurance policies, in case anyone in the theater died of fright. Hollywood doesn't make them like that anymore, and Jeffrey Schwarz's Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (9:30 p.m., Charles Theatre 5) explains why we're all the lesser for it.

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