Film review: ‘Ivory Tower’

IVORYTOWER1Is college a bastion of intellectualism, providing a broad-form liberal arts education to prepare driven young people to go forth in the world, or an over-priced trade school teaching its acolytes to land a good job at 22? That’s one of the conundrums posed by Ivory Tower, a new documentary about the value, if any, of higher education.

The defenders of these elite institutions speak reverentially about “The Ivies,” private and public (full disclosure: I attended one of the schools focused on here, and had a productive time there) and how essential they are. But even some of them realize universities have become an arms-race of educational institutions that have become too expensive. “It just isn’t viable,” says one, noting that since 1978, the cost of college tuition has increased 11-fold — twice the rate of healthcare, and four times that of food.

The film, which is now playing at the Magnolia Theater, is comprehensive and, in true academic style, laden down with statistics — percentage of out-of-state students at party schools, money spent on making colleges seems more attractive to prospective students, etc. —  but it’s not dry and uninteresting … at least not if you’re interested, as I am, in the role of education in our society. Director Andrew Rossi peels back much of the veil surrounding the educational elitism, and how students are being served (or disserved) by the pressures of fundraising, popularity and reputation. It’s not exactly a hopeful movie, but it is a sobering one, and a reminder that non-for-profit schools have to survive.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

End of an era: “Bernie” closing at Magnolia

We knew this day had to come eventually, but for a while it seemed like it never would. After five months, Bernie is finally going final at the Magnolia Theatre this week. Thursday’s matinee will be its last showing in Dallas.

It was always a good fit. The hilarious comedy about an actual murder in East Texas is as authentic as a Fletcher’s Corny Dog in portraying Texas characters. It opened here on May 3 — that’s the same day as The Avengers, which hasn’t been in theaters in months. Of course, The Avengers made a billion dollars; Bernie hasn’t even grossed $10 million nationwide. But think about that: Five solid months in one theater and still profitable. The Magnolia had an audience at they got it.

It was tough to get a seat sometimes, even when it played on as many as three screens, but everyone who saw it laughed at Jack Black’s surprisingly sensitive portrayal of a goofy murderer and Matthew McConaughey pre-Magic Mike as a blowhard D.A.

It’s not on multiple screens anymore, down to at most two shows a week. (It was “officially” pulled from release last Friday, though Landmark seems not to have gotten the notice.) It has already been released on Blu-ray and DVD, even. But if you missed it and would like to see it in a theater, there’s still time.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Movie Monday: LGBT action at the Asian Film Fest tonight

Gay movie night

The Asian Film Festival of Dallas continues at the Magnolia with tonight giving big focus to the LGBT community. Two gay films screen tonight: The Thai lesbian feature Yes or No,  at 7:30 p.m., and the horror thriller I Am a Ghost from queer director H.P. Mendoza, screening at 9:45. In between the festival fit in an LGBT mixer (with Mendoza in attendance) at Malai Kitchen in the West Village. And FYI: We are giving away tickets to both show and the mixer, so stay tuned!

DEETS: Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave. $10.

—  Rich Lopez

“Noah’s Arc” creator announces partnership with DFW Pride Movement to screen new film

Derrick Spillman announced today that his organization DFW Pride Movement will team up with Patrik-Ian Polk for a screening of his new film The Skinny. The director and creator of Punks and the TV series Noah’s Arc will be in attendance when the film screens in Dallas on April 20 at the Magnolia Theatre. Polk’s appearance will also include panel sessions to “discuss the HIV awareness story-lines in the movie and other sexual health issues of importance to the LGBT population.”

“I’ve been involved with the Black AIDS Institute since the early days of my Noah’s Arc television series, and I’ve been addressing issues of HIV and AIDS in my work since my first film Punks,Polk explains.So it makes perfect sense to partner with other African American LGBT organizations across the country to promote their great cause and highlight the HIV awareness issues raised in my new film The Skinny,” Polk says in the release.

The film has already opened in limited release in other cities but makes its debut here later this month. You can watch the trailer and read the entire release after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez