The Childhood of a Leader
Wednesday July 20 through Thursday July 28 at IFC Center: $14
Actor Brady Corbet’s directorial debut follows the coming-of-age of a seriously naughty child who is maybe the scariest looking blonde-maned creep you’ve ever seen standing 3-feet tall in a Victorian drop-waist looking slightly underfed. Maybe early cutoff from the teet is to blame– always look to the mother, right? Well, maybe– but this isn’t Corbet’s first sociopathic-character-study rodeo (see: 2013’s Simon Killer where Corbet played the part and helped co-write with director Antonio Campos), so let’s trust that he goes a little bit farther than some yawn-worthy evolutionary quibble.

As early as schoolboy-hood, the bb in question, Prescott, is already fully capable of manipulating the adults around him and has mastered an all-knowing, thousand-yard unblinking stare that’ll obliterate that movie-theater-sized box of gummy bears you regrettably wolfed down by shivering it right off your skin. It’s easy to picture this Prescott leveling his eyes to his Governess and telling her that she’d do better to smile once in a while. Oh wait, he’s well beyond petty harassment, so he’s gonna go ahead and grope her during a lesson instead. Ew! But really guys, prepare yourselves, because that kind of behavior is just child’s play– this kid’s got it all planned out and, with Fascism well on its way to becoming the hottest fashion trend of the post-WWI season, there are more than a few hints that this lil’ sociopath might grow up to become something of a charismatic leader.

But don’t call him Baby Hitler– this film offers a slightly alternative take on history. The same color palette’s all there, only with a slightly different autocratic emblem, one that’s closer to a cat butthole than an old Buddhist symbol. Do I smell a sequel along the lines of Man in the High Castle?

Maybe.

But for now, all we’ve got to work with is this film, which opens in the year 1918. Setting: French countryside, where the little Master resides on an estate with his parents and their crew of servants. It might not be as killer as The Good Son, which is fine– few things in this world are. Critics have mostly agreed that it’s actually a tough film to swallow– for one, Scott Walker’s responsible for the foreboding, hugely imposing score, which vacillates between super-freaky discordant noise tantrums and heavy orchestral pieces that are just pure doom and gloom. Apparently, some people find Walker’s music kinda panic-attack inducing. Huh. And then there’s something “maddening” about plot and character development, specifically– that overly simplistic debate about biological predisposition versus blame-the-parents, and the fact that Corbet’s not afraid to clunk you over the head with a meat mallet when it comes to historical context.

But could it be that his use of cold, crisp tuberculosis chic celluloid lensing and instances of toying with period drama tropes add up to a proper parody of the genre? Maybz. If you can’t stomach all the brain-usage you’re going to have to engage in to figure that out, you can take turns marveling at all the weirdness and staring at Robert Pattinson– a gloomy, babe-ish presence in this film, aka the guy from Twilight who looks like he was carved from a narrow block of Italian marble. But what makes “The Childhood of a Leader” most intriguing is that, even in light of the film’s screwy awkwardness, everyone seems to agree that Corbet’s truly on to something with the start of his filmmaking career, so I guess, in a way, film-goers will be witnessing Corbet’s own childhood, in all its painful and bits-of-genius-glimmering glory.

And hey, if you’re quick on your feet and go see the movie tonight at IFC (7 pm), Brady Corbet and his co-writer, Mona Fastvold, will be on hand for a Q+A so you can ask him yourself whether he’s made it to pullups yet or no.


The Seventh Fire
Friday July 22 through Thursday July 28 at The Metrograph: $15

In this Terrence Malick produced documentary, director Jack Pettibone Riccobono shows us maybe the most comprehensive and deeply-felt documentary about the contemporary situation of Native Americans, seen through the eyes of a few members of the Pine Point Ojibwe tribe. Riccobono had spent years returning to the White Earth Indian Reservation working on a variety of projects, including a doc about wild rice. Situated in northwest Minnesota, the reservation’s been around since 1867. By the early 1900s, much of the land had been co-opted by lumber companies and the encroaching white population, and after WWII Ojibwe started to move away in droves. Today, the place is a depressingly typical reservation in that it’s bereft of resources, sapped of economic opportunity, stagnant and crumbling. As Riccobono shows us, the situation understandably lends itself to drugs, violence and, in turn, high incarceration rates and what people refer to as an inescapable “cycle” of despair.

One of the central voices in the film, Rob Brown, is a middle-aged member of the tribe, a drug-addicted fellow with a good heart who speaks of his experience as a gang member, and once he’s sentenced to yet another term in prison during the course of the film, we find out that his childhood consisted of passing in and out of 39 foster homes where he was repeatedly the victim of sexual and physical abuse.

Kevin Fineday, on the other hand, is the film’s 18-year-old subject. He’s been part of the NGD gang (Native Gangster Disciples) since he was just nine years old. But much like Clayton Patterson’s co-authored book, “The Street Gangs of the Lower East Side,” Riccobono presents his viewers with a better understanding of gang culture. Instead of blaming the violence and drugs on gang life, it’s understood to be something much more complex than a simple scapegoat, and the real problems– systemic oppression– become a little more clearer. The director will be on hand for several Q+A sessions (July 22, 23, 24, and 25), see more details here.


Critical Paranoia: Aquarian Conspiracy 
Friday July 29, 7:30 pm at Spectacle: $5
Whatever you do, leave the LSD at home for this one– Ernest J. Ramon’s Critical Paranoia “megamixes” have a tendency to induce extreme fits of chem-trail psychobabbling and urgent head shaving. That’s why we strongly recommend that only the iron-stomached and those of you who’ve watched The X-Files from a tender age on attend an event like this one alone. Otherwise, you should always bring a friend in the case you need to be talked down from high up in your weather-watch/broadcast tower where you’ve screaming about staying #woke and beckoning the masses to, “Wake up sheeple!” for 24 hours straight.

But if you can get through the initial panic caused by such earth-shattering revelations, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with even more of the  glorious absurdities unflinching truths that Critical Paranoia bestows upon its viewers. You and a bunch of MMA fighters in attendance will be inundated with illuminati unravelings, subliminal message divination, and conspiratorial explications galore.

I bet you still think that Hillary Clinton’s the only lizard person we need to watch out for, right? Well, what if I told you that they’re literally all reptilians and they’ve been using Pokemon Go as just another means of brainwashing the already naive supplicant populous into believing that they can control the universe with their smart phones. Wait– were you even aware that Steve Jobs isn’t dead? So no one’s told you that he’s living on an island somewhere off the coast of Argentina, plotting the demise of the electoral college system and toying with Americans by way of planting “rare” Pokemon creatures in remote locations, leading to total, actual blindness as opposed to just willful myopia? Damn. Well, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, don’t we?

Spectacle hints at some of the questions you’ll be pondering with your fellow truthers:

“Did journalist Hunter S. Thompson infiltrate the notorious Bohemian Grove Club
and subsequently seal his fate as an illuminati puppet? How many Paul McCartneys are there? Is it just a coincidence that almost all so called rock and pop stars are products of high ranking military families? Who really wrote all of the Beatles’ songs and masterminded the counter culture and mainstream pop movements of the last 50 years? What’s the significance of the number twenty-three and the true meaning of the Aquarian Conspiracy?”

The answers to these questions and more lie just beyond a $5 paywall that could mean the difference between a total reptilian takeover and some semblance of freedom– make haste, don’t be cheap, and resist Illuminati mind control at all costs.