Cinefiles: Smashed, May I Be Frank, How to Survive a Plague 

click to enlarge How to Survive a Plague DVD

How to Survive a Plague (NR)

Sundance Selects

As news trickles in about researchers inching toward a possible cure for HIV and AIDS, it's too little, too late for many victims. The Academy Award-nominated How to Survive a Plague pays tribute to those folks, and the struggles they've endured to turn international attention to the disease's rise. Starting with the fear that arose from the outbreak that caused many people, even those in the health care industry, to push victims away, we see the formation (and intense activism) of ACT UP, the denouncement of LGBT folks from Jesse Helms, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration being total jerks about approving meds, and, worst of all, people dying throughout. While the doc loses steam when it delves too much into the drama and in-fighting of the various organizations, Plague is still a very important document of a sad moment in time. — Louis Fowler

click to enlarge Smashed DVD

Smashed (R)


In the hands of a decent liar, alcoholism can be stealthy. That is, until some invisible threshold is crossed, when its presence shifts from unknowable to utterly obvious. Smashed zeroes in on that moment for Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an attractive schoolteacher whose drinking leads to harder drugs and vomiting in the classroom — a molehill the film unwisely fashions into a fake-pregnancy mountain. Making things far more difficult is the fact that her marriage to a barely employed, equally attractive charmer is both threatened and enabled by their mutual alcoholism. When a friend coaxes her into Alcoholics Anonymous, Kate's problem comes into greater focus: In order to get clean, she'll have to leave her husband. Whether co-writer and director James Ponsoldt presents a false choice here may be debatable, but the power of Winstead's performance is not. — Justin Strout

click to enlarge May I Be Frank DVD

May I Be Frank (NR)

Cinema Libre Studio

As someone who'll likely die soon thanks to a lifetime of bad decision-making, I get jealous every time I watch a documentary wherein well-meaning filmmakers help someone in a similarly bad-off way through whatever their problem is with crazy experiments, bizarre diets and insane spiritualism. But until someone asks to film me, I can only live vicariously through these subjects' defeats and triumphs. This goes double for May I Be Frank. Frank Ferrante is a 54-year-old overweight Brooklynite with a horrible diet, even more horrible drug habits, and Hep C. The filmmakers put Frank on a 42-day regimen of raw food, journaling, holistic healing and yoga, with constantly surprising results. This is great and inspirational, but the film's flaw is that at times it feels like a commercial for the director's dad's raw-food restaurant, workbook and yoga retreat. We should all be so lucky. — Louis Fowler


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