Busy Film Weekend

Local films and festival

RAISING FLAGG: Produced, co-written and directed by Neal Miller. Produced and co-written by Nancy Miller. Co-written by Dorothy Velasco. Based on a short story by John D. Weaver, “Don’t You Cry For Me.” Cinematography, Erich Roland. Editors Paul Coyne, Ken Morrisey. Production design, David Sicotte. Set decoration, Sean Fong. Costume design, Ronald Leamon. Music, Alan Barcus, Les Hooper. Starring Alan Arkin, Barbara Dana, Lauren Holly, Glenne Headly, Austin Pendleton. With Matthew Arkin, Daniel Quinn, Richard Kind, Stephanie Lemelin and Jan Hoag. Magic Lamp Releasing, 2005. PG-13.

Indie film Raising Flagg is the brain child of Eugene resident Neal Miller, carried by Neal and Nancy Miller and birth-assisted by playwright Dorothy Velasco. Cast in Portland and shot in several small communities west of the city, Raising Flagg is family story of struggle, strife and surprise. Filmed during a wet Oregon winter, the film looks like home to my Northwestern eyes.

Alan Arkin and Barbara Dana play a long-married couple, Flagg and Ada Purdy, parents of three daughters (one still at home) and two sons. When Flagg and his childhood friend, competitor and fellow checker player Gus Falk (Austin Pendleton) have a major falling-out, the whole town’s knickers get twisted when a hastily brought lawsuit vindicates Flagg. People take sides. Gus quits selling Ada’s cage-free, organically fed chickens’ eggs. Flagg is snubbed by many people, and told by one that he’s just like his old man. That arrow hits home, and Flagg takes to his bed and tells Ada to call the children home.

And so the Purdy children come, except for the youngest, Jenny (Stephanie Lemelin), a high-schooler who already lives at home and is embarrassed by Flagg’s curmudgeonly ways. Rachel (Lauren Holly) is a hot blonde real estate agent, who thinks her dad’s fakin’ it. Travis (Daniel Quinn) wears his hair in a ponytail, sells worms for a living, and has a troubled relationship with his dad. Eldon (Matthew Arkin), the oldest son, is a minister who rides a BMW and tries not to lay his religion on his siblings. Anne Marie Purdy (Glenne Headly) is the family’s black sheep. She’s a popular radio talk show personality, who hasn’t been home in a long time.

Raising Flagg opens on Friday, Jan. 13. Make time to see it. Unlike commercial films, this one leaves you smiling. Arkin plays this sly rascal with vigor, while Pendleton competes with him to the end for the “most lovable old coot” award. Grounded, generous performances from Glenne Headly and newcomer Stephanie Lemelin add to the fun.

But Raising Flagg is not the only indie feature film making its Eugene premiere this week. From January 13-15 DIVA celebrates the OpenLens Film and Video Festival, and festivities begin when independent film director Susan Emshwiller screens her dark comedy, In the Land of Milk and Honey, at 8 pm on Friday, Jan. 13, for its Northwest premiere. The 89-minute film stars Christopher Coulson, Kim Gillingham, Tom Bower and Amy Madigan. Emshwiller and Coulson will discuss the film following the screening.

On Saturday, Jan. 13, Ermshwiller directs a screenwriting workshop from 10 am to 1 pm. Registration: 954-8373 or programs@divanow.org

Best of Explosion 2005 at 3 pm on Jan. 13 features UO undergraduate and grad student work in computer-generated and traditional stop-motion animation ($2-$5 sliding scale admission). At 8 pm, Ermshwiller hosts the OpenLens Short Film and Video Festival, which gets under way with a jury-selected program of 15 films by regional artists. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the screening ($5 admission).

Sunday, Jan. 15 at 3 pm filmmaker Neal Miller hosts an encore presentation of the 15 selected films for the OpenLens festival. For information on Miller’s film, Raising Flagg, currently playing locally, see review above($2-$5 sliding scale admission).