Weekend!Movies: Curling irons in Afghanistan, some bad decisions and rating the movie ratings board
by: © 2006 Jonathan Wenk, 'The Last Kiss'

Edited by Anne Marie DiStefano.

'Beauty Academy of Kabul' (NR)

Liz Mermin's documentary follows a group of American hairdressers as they barrel into Afghanistan and open a school for beauticians, determined to trade burqas for beehives in war-ravaged Kabul.

At first, it's a cringe-inducing look at the cultural rift between Western and Middle Eastern cultures, with the female stylists bossing around resentful Afghan contractors as their multinational 'Beauty Without Borders' group - backed by Vogue magazine - cheerfully equates makeovers with democracy.

But as the students tell their stories of living in this oppressed culture and become empowered as they learn a trade, the film blossoms into something altogether more compelling.

As bizarre as the beauticians' mission may seem, they offer a chance at economic freedom for these women in a world where, under the Taliban, perms and lipstick were considered criminal.

Combs and curling irons may seem like odd weapons, but the stylists wield them in order to help these Afghan women regain their place in their country - and it's beautiful.

- Dawn Taylor


'Jimmy and Judy' (R)

With the release of this spirit-crushing, theater-emptying monstrosity, the bar has now been set so low that bad filmmakers everywhere may have to surrender in frustration. Can the worst film of the century already be among us?

Don't ask the small audience at a recent promotional screening - because most of them left before it reached its tediously predictable climax. Ask someone who watched it all, so you won't have to. Utilizing the already wheezy gimmick of video-cam POV, this tale of two troubled young people on an increasingly violent odyssey is a sort of 'Natural Born Pinheads' with delusions of being raw and daring.

Edward Furlong (of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day') and Rachael Bella (apparent winner of the 'I Want to Be Cameron Diaz's Slutty Younger Sister' tournament) flail away helplessly in what amounts to potential contestants in the drool-bucket relay at the Village Idiots' Picnic.

If only the theater employees who pick up garbage between shows had started in the projection booth.

- Pat Holmes

Fox Tower

'The Last Kiss' (R)

Oh, boy. Another movie about financially secure white men in their late 20s, kvetching about all the soul-killing responsibilities of adulthood. Whee.

Seriously - do we really need another film like this? Zach Braff, who already trod this well-worn path in the superior 'Garden State,' plays a 29-year-old architect with a pregnant girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) and an attraction to a comely college student (Rachel Bilson).

He's frightened about his impending fatherhood and scared that his life soon will sink into dull, repetitive tedium - a fear shared by his three self-involved, idiot friends, who all treat the women in their lives abominably.

Marketed as a romantic comedy, this actually is a depressing indie-wannabe about unpleasant, boring people who make stupid choices.

The film becomes slightly more interesting when the girlfriend's parents (Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson) hash out their 30 years of difficulties, but not much.

It's unfunny, unnecessary and simply painful to sit through.

- DT

Century Eastport, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Evergreen Parkway, Division Street

'This Film Is Not Yet Rated' (NR)

Filmmaker Kirby Dick - whose name alone likely would garner at least an R rating - takes a much-needed shot across the bow of the Motion Picture Association of America's cabalistic ratings board.

Since its arguably well-intentioned creation in 1968 as a parental guidance system meant to ward off government censorship, the ratings board has gradually become a blunt object of censorship wielded by the major studios, working behind a veil of secrecy that the CIA must envy.

Alternating between the testimonies of harried filmmakers and his own stakeouts with a private detective (in order to 'out' the board members), Dick takes a briskly good-humored approach as his film itself approaches the ratings labyrinth.

There's an entire reality show's worth of material in the many aspects of this subject - and no doubt a wealth of future DVD extras - but this will do for starters. Rated K for Kafkaesque.

- PH

Cinema 21

Also new this week: The series 'Lens on Syria' offers insights into a rarely seen body of cinematic work and the culture that produced it. Featured this week are 'The Duped' (7 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15-16, Whitsell Auditorium) and 'Dreams of the City' (6:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16-17, Whitsell Auditorium). Cinema Project kicks off another season of challenging experimental programming with Trevor Paglen and Speculative Archive (4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17, Whitsell Auditorium, part of the Time-Based Art Festival). 'By the People' goes behind the scenes during the bitterly contested presidential election of 2004 (Clinton Street Theater) and - TOGA TOGA TOGA! Toga party at 11 tonight at Clinton Street Theater and Brew Pub, with a screening of 'Animal House' at midnight.

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