This Divided State
Opens Fri Sept 9
It's easy to take sides in This Divided State, a film about Michael Moore's ridiculously controversial visit to tiny Utah Valley State College in tiny Orem, Utah. On one side, there are those who seem rational and kind and intelligent—these are the ones who want Moore, fresh from his Fahrenheit 9/11 controversy, to speak at UVSC. Then there are the ones who seem pig-headed and vindictive and closed-minded—these are the ones who do their blustering damnedest to keep Moore out of the conservative community.
Of course it's easy to pick sides when those are your options. But that's the whole point of This Divided State, a sometimes cheesy yet impressive film that documents how easily and enthusiastically Americans have come to embrace political extremism. Moore's not the Antichrist (as is insinuated by one of the righteous Mormon protestors), nor is he much more than a talented rhetorician (despite the claims of Moore's adoring faithful). But in a state that one resident proudly and truthfully boasts is "a bastion of conservatism," Moore's visit showcases a microcosm of the larger American populace—one that, regardless of their specific political beliefs, is happily content to live and squabble within ill-educated political margins. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
Opens Fri Sept 9
British filmmaker Andrew Douglas became so entranced with alt-Florida musician Jim White's debut album that he set out to turn one of his ghostly songs into a feature film. But when Douglas met up with the singer on his home turf of "Pensatopia, Florida," the director realized that the best film would come from simply turning the camera on and driving.
Enlisting White, a smart, chatty fellow, as his guide, Douglas and his film crew visit the Deep South's prisons, swamps, juke joints, and chicken fried steak restaurants that double as houses of worship. The movie is peppered with musical performances by White and other songwriters who draw inspiration from the region; While the music provides one of the year's best soundtracks, the film's showcasing of these musicians in "natural" settings, like barbershops and junkyards, jar the film out of its documentary premise, making it feel more like a succession of music videos. With all that Wrong-Eyed Jesus does right, it would've been nice if Douglas trusted more in the film's gripping documentary elements rather than its manufactured scenarios. CHAS BOWIE
Found Footage Festival
Sat Sept 10
I see a lot of movies. It's kind of my job, which makes me pretty lucky—some people actually have to work for a living, while I get to go sit in a theater, watch a film, go home, drink some beer, and decide what I thought about it. So when it comes to bitching about jobs, I really shouldn't complain.
But I'm going to anyway, because here's the thing: 99.99 percent of the movies I see, I've seen before. For all intents and purposes, all those blockbusters and studio films blur together, whether they're pseudo-classy attempts at arthouse drama or Bruckheimer-sanctioned orgies of adamant spectacle.
So when something new comes along, it's a pretty big deal. That's why I'm stoked for the Found Footage Festival. A collection of video clips scavenged from unwanted VHS tapes the fest promises some truly bizarre stuff: A Wendy's training video featuring a rapping grill cook, a disturbingly mullet-filled birthday party, an insurance company's hilariously graphic depictions of work-related accidents. In other words, the Found Footage Festival looks to be part of that rare and worthwhile sliver—that .01 percent of films that're like nothing else out there. ERIK HENRIKSEN