Opens Fri Jan 14
Jessie (impeccably portrayed by my new favorite actress, Elisabeth Moss), is a rebellious teen in a small, drizzly, Christian town, who gets wasted, date raped, and finds herself pregnant. Unconscious at the time of conception, she has no memory of losing her virginity--and therefore concludes she is carrying the second coming of Christ. Ironically, her rapist is the hotshot, college scholarship-receiving boy that Jessie has a mad crush on, a fondness only matched by her soft spot for cigarettes, whiskey, and shoplifting makeup.
The meditative, sullen Virgin tracks Jessie's pregnancy and claims of immaculate conception, both of which infuriate her family and the town, resulting in rejection, vandalism, and most disturbingly, violence towards her. Creepily serene throughout, Virgin relies heavily on silent, contemplative accompaniment of Jessie's solitude--the camera goes with her even as she delivers papers in the wee hours or lurches drunkenly through the woods. This is a deeply feminine film, examining the spiritual and emotional miasmas of pregnancy and teenage girlhood. Men suffer a price for this in Virgin, relegated as rapists, hypocrites, wife beaters, and guilty boys who stand by and silently watch Jessie be persecuted for their own drunken impulses. But Virgin is so depressingly and beautifully real that it's hard to sympathize. Sorry guys. MARJORIE SKINNER
The Future of Food
Dir. Koons Garcia
Opens Thurs Jan 13
Clinton St Theater
I admit, I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories--but this shit is real! Do you remember in 2002, when Oregon voted on Measure 27, which determined whether genetically altered food should be labeled? Well, due to a huge advertising push by evil corporations like Monsanto, this measure failed, and Oregonians and the rest of the world were left as they are now--eating freaky, potentially toxic, genetically engineered food without any way of knowing it.
Because assholes like Dan Quayle, George Bushes I and II, John Ashcroft, and even the Food and Drug Administration are in cahoots with profoundly evil corporations like Monsanto (a company that produces seeds, pesticides, and develops plant biotechnology), the company has never been required to test the safety of the genetically altered seeds or food they create. Thus, millions of Americans unknowingly eat corn products that have been pumped with antibiotics and pesticides, and no one knows what the long-term health effects will be.
The Future of Food deals with all this, and it's profoundly horrifying. It explains how we could arrive at a point where corporations and the government are actually making money off of poisoning Americans--and thankfully, it also provides us with our own meager methods of resistance. And in case you don't see it, remember this: Eat organic--or die! KATIE SHIMER
Opens Fri Jan 14
The heavily hyped Coach Carter tackles a worthy, deservedly inspirational story about a tough-love basketball coach who turned his dead-ender squad into academic winners--and treats its subject in such a neutered, worshipful fashion that it ultimately does the actual accomplishment a disservice.
As the title character, a successful businessman who returns to the hood of Richmond, CA, Samuel L. Jackson does his patented eye-flashing speechifying, whether busting ass on the sidelines or raging against the educational machine. He's fun to watch, as always, but the film seems to be too awed by his gargantuan presence to offer up much in the way of challenges. Throughout, the filmmakers seem determined to round off the prickly edges of a main character whose tactics occasionally verge on the totalitarian. On the way to the big game finale, standard urban tropes such as teen pregnancy and gang ties get dealt with in the blandest way possible.
Before director Thomas Carter moved behind the camera (for a career that includes the worthy Save The Last Dance and Don King: Only in America), he acted in the '70s tube classic The White Shadow. This actually may be the best light to view this film in: as an overextended, proudly square pilot to a mildly diverting series. As you watch, you may find yourself mentally counting down to the next commercial break. ANDREW WRIGHT