For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of The Toynbee Tiles 7:30
p.m. Wednesday Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch okcmoa.com 236-3100 $5-$8
Imagine coming across a homemade tile on a city street or sidewalk bearing the enigmatic, four-line message of “TOYNBEE IDEA IN MOVIE 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER.” Now imagine coming across dozens of such tiles.
Starting in 1994 on the East Coast, Justin Duerr did, and wondered what it meant. The more he encountered them, the more his interest was piqued. Curiosity beget obsession when an in-its-infancy Internet search yielded no results, and the documentary “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” follows Duerr in his roughly 15-year search for a solution.
An admirable alternative to the new “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, “Resurrect Dead” screens tonight at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Don’t miss it.
As debuting feature director Jon Foy’s film informs us, “Toynbee” refers to deceased historian/philosopher Arnold Toynbee, which is the lone clue Duerr had to pursue. His digging eventually uncovers tiles as far west as Kansas City, Mo., and as far south as South America. Sidebar messages and an eventual manifesto reveal the tile maker’s conspiracy theory about the “cult of the hellion,” a belief that the FBI is funneling info about him to the Soviets, and an instruction to readers to “Murder every journalist. I beg you.”
This whodunit is simultaneously a whydunit and howdunit, especially with the discovery of tiles in the middle of busy interstates. As Duerr’s list of suspects forms and grows several lines deep, the documentary becomes as engrossing as any murder mystery by our finest fiction authors. So barbed are its tendrils that the puzzle branches out to include Stanley Kubrick, David Mamet and Larry King as important pieces. Like Errol Morris’ “Tabloid,” another wildly accessible doc screened by OKCMOA, “Resurrect Dead” grows crazier at every turn.
Some of Foy’s re-enactments are a bit clunky; Duerr is no actor, but who expects that? I was nearly as hooked as he.
“Resurrect Dead” reminded me of an excellent nonfiction book from 2002, Tom Standage’s “The Turk,” which detailed the mystery behind an 18th-century chess automaton. Both works shed light on a relatively unknown stunt bundled tight with secrets, complete with one of those “ah, but of course!” V8 moments at the end.