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{BY AL HOFF} Sean Baker’s film The Florida Project made a lot of critics’ year-end lists for 2017. Now, in celebration of Black History Month, Pittsburgh Filmmakers is bringing back Baker’s 2015 film, Tangerine, for one week. If you missed it then, or have recently discovered Baker via The Florida Project, don’t miss this chance to see this fierce and funny indie film. Below is a condensed version of City Paper’s review that ran previously.


Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez)

Tangerine kicks off its raucous, sweet-and-sour story with two transgender sex workers sitting in a donut shop, catching up: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is just back from a stint in the can, and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) is eager to fill her in on how Sin-Dee’s pimp Chester has been seeing another woman. That sets Sin-Dee off on a furious day-long search through the community — taco stand, motel, food line, nightclub — interacting with pimps, prostitutes and johns. Nominally, Tangerine is a shaggydog comedy, and the film is funny as hell, as Alexandra and Sin-Dee squabble, gossip and throw shade (and punches). But neither actress (both non-professionals) lets you forget that that fierceness and bravado covers up a lot of hurt and powerlessness. It’s a tough life in a brutal milieu, and prepare to be a bit heartbroken, too. Director Sean Baker shot Tangerine on location in Los Angeles’ rundown Santa Monica and Highland area, using just three iPhones. He collaborated with residents of the trangender and street communities depicted (some of whom play roles). As a result, the film is remarkably nonjudgmental toward its cast of typically marginalized characters (sex workers, petty criminals, street denizens), granting them the dignity of their experience. It’s an indie film in technique, spirit and subject that thrums with that authenticity. At its heart — and Tangerine has plenty of heart — it’s about how the friendship of two women endures through a lot of bullshit money and man trouble. Sin-Dee and Alexandra finish out the day as they started — under another fluorescent light, holding hands, and facing the holiday with their rough-andtumble sisterhood. Starts Feb. 9. Harris



S A KID, I toured the Winchester

Mystery House, in San Jose, Calif., and was instantly entranced with its legend. The 100-plus-room Victorian had been the home of Sarah Winchester, the wealthy widow of the man who invented the Winchester Repeating Rifle. Reputedly obsessed with the deaths of those killed by Winchester rifles, Mrs. Winchester adopted a novel solution: She could keep these tormented souls at bay through the nonstop construction of her home. And it hardly mattered what — rooms were built, taken apart and rebuilt; stairways led to ceilings; a room was built without nails; and a séance room, in which Winchester received building instructions from the beyond, had one entrance and three exits. It wasn’t just the fanciful nature of the structure that was captivating; for an avid reader of dark fairy tales like Winchester, the belief that she could cleanse her blood guilt by building a mazelike castle made complete sense. And now there is Winchester: The House



PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER 02.07/02.14.2018

If you build it … they will leave: Helen Mirren portrays Sarah Winchester

That Ghosts Built, an “inspired by actual events” spooker, directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig. The film, set in 1906, establishes a classic night-in-a-hauntedhouse plot, in which a doctor (Jason Clarke) is sent to assess the mental stability of the widow Winchester (Helen Mirren). Naturally, the doctor is unconvinced, until a bunch of specters disturb his sleep.

WINCHESTER: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT DIRECTED BY: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig STARRING: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, assorted ghosts

But mostly the doctor is persuaded by Winchester’s arguments, in which her guilt informs a certain logic. Of course, people who were killed with the namesake gun are angry, and doubly so that she lives in finery on its blood-soaked profits. Mirren, who seems to be having fun doing

a campy widow’s-weeds thing, delivers all the existential mumbo-jumbo with plenty of arch authority. What man wouldn’t be cowed? And these philosophical explorations are the best part of the movie. (Sadly, as a ghost thriller, Winchester is quite boring.) As ludicrous as the story is, the issues raised about profiting on the miseries of others and, more specifically, about how accountable a gun manufacturer is for the deaths its products cause, are lively contemporary debates. Another modern thread running through the film was another cost of violence: the unresolved PTSD suffered by Mrs. Winchester, the doctor and the ghosts. If only the Spierig brothers had made a thoughtful drama, inspired by a real-life eccentric, rather than a dull thriller, barely propelled by jump-out scares and creaky hallways. And if you’re ever in the San Jose area, and not afraid of ghosts, take a tour of the actual house, now up to 160 rooms. It’s infinitely more memorable than this film. A H OF F @ P G HC I T Y PA P E R. C OM

Feb. 7, 2018 - Pittsburgh City Paper  

Volume 28 Issue 6

Feb. 7, 2018 - Pittsburgh City Paper  

Volume 28 Issue 6