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Column Fri Sep 18 2009
The Informant!, Jennifer's Body, Bright Star, No Impact Man, Amreeka, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Burning Plain and What's the Matter with Kansas?
Hey everyone. Before we dive into this week's mainstream and art house offerings, I wanted to alert you to a neat little film festival taking root in Chicago for the first time this year at the Music Box Theatre for one week. The Chicago United Film Festival features a weird little mixture of documentaries, shorts and features, but there are some gems in the mix (at least among the films I've seen or am familiar with). The crown jewel of the bunch is the Jaws documentary The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws, narrated by the late Roy Scheider and featuring interviews with many of those responsible for getting that film made. But the movie also examines the new redefining of the summer blockbuster as a result of that film. It's playing three times this coming weekend, and you should absolutely see it. As a bonus film, Friday night at midnight sees a screening of the original Jaws in all its bloody glory.
I'm also going to highly recommend the doc The Providence Effect, which tells the almost impossible to believe story of Chicago's own Providence St. Mel school and its 30-year, 100 percent college placement record. Their way of teaching and putting much of the responsibility of learning on the students and their parents is remarkable and it is baffling why other schools aren't following this model. I'll have a longer review soon, when the film opens in wider release.
For information on purchasing tickets and the full screening schedule, go to theunitedfest.com/chicago/. There's some good stuff here, and if I wasn't heading off to Fantastic Fest in Austin next week, I'd be hitting quite a bit of it.
Have you seen the poster for Steven Soderbergh's latest work The Informant!? In many parts of the country, this is Soderbergh's third film to come out this year, following two other outstanding — damn-near miraculous — works, Che and The Girlfriend Experience. The poster for the new film features Matt Damon gazing upwards in wide wonder with a joyful smile on his slightly pudgy face. Even the title of the film is excited; that explanation point in the title The Informant! is not my addition. Movie posters are supposed to capture the spirit of the film, not just give us a cast list with a series of faces, and I can't think of a poster in recent memory that quite captures what fuels The Informant! better than the near-orgasmic, open-mouthed smiling Matt Damon.
In this true-life tale, Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a vice president at Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest agribusiness multinationals, which became a target of a huge FBI investigation into price fixing in the 1990s, thanks entirely to Whitacre's whistle blowing and subsequent audio- and videotaping for the Bureau. But what The Informant! teaches us is that the only reason Whitacre was ratting out his company's upper management was to save his own job at a company that might have been driven out of business by his actions. A formula he was working on kept developing a virus for reasons he couldn't explain. Whitacre lied and said that a Japanese competitor had a mole in ADM that was deliberately injecting the virus into the formula and was demanding a huge pay off to provide the solution to the problem. This was all a lie to buy Whitacre time to figure out the real source of the virus. But because of the accusation of corporate espionage, the FBI was brought in to tap Mark's business lines, and thus the stage was set for one of the strangest criminal cases with one of the most bizarre characters at the center of this circus.
Watching The Informant! is like watching a building fall down one brick at a time, but in rapid succession. Whitacre is clearly bipolar and a compulsive liar, and Damon's performance is, without debate, the finest he's ever committed to film. His issue is not that he wants to do the right thing. Specifically, he wants the world to look at him as someone that did the right thing. He has a hero complex, and when his multiple lies start to be revealed, he wants the world to see him as a victim of the very law-enforcement agencies he sought to assist. To try to explain the layers of lies that Whitacre here would be pointless for two reasons: it would be a very boring read and it would in no way convey just how damn funny watching this thoroughly bat-shit crazy this movie gets at times. It literally gets to the point where every time Damon tells someone that he needs to talk, you hold your breath and wait for what new bit of information he's about to drop like a hand grenade in a room full of window panes. He's as infuriating as he is hilarious.
But Damon is only a portion of why The Informant! absolutely rules. One of the most bizarre choices on Soderbergh's part is the casting of a large number of stand-up comics and comedic actors in many of the supporting roles, all playing it straight and serious. From Joel McHale as one of two FBI agents who are Whitacre's handlers (the other is played by Scott Bakula) to Patton Oswalt to both Smothers Brothers (in separate scenes) to Paul F. Tompkins to Tony Hale. Look for Candy Clark (American Graffiti, Buffy the Vampire Slayer [the film]) as Mark's mother. I spent half the movie having the best time admiring Soderbergh's unexpected yet totally successful casting choices. He's having fun letting these funny people work against type, and it works.
The screenplay from Scott Z. Burns (who co-wrote The Bourne Ultimatum and adapted this story from the book by Kurt Eichenwald) is stuffed with sharp observations about behavior, motivation and just general loopy behavior. In a weird way, The Informant! plays like a thriller at times because Whitacre is so incompetent at times that we're sure he's going to get caught. But the film's greatest strength is that we literally never know from scene to scene where this story is going to take us or end up. This is not some trumped-up, inflated Hollywood version of corporate America loaded with assassins trying to silence a whistle blower. The lawyers for ADM are smart enough to know that if they just let Whitacre keep talking (which is does, often, against the explicit instructions of the FBI and his lawyers), he'll eventually hang himself. One more exceptional cast member I should mention is Melanie Lynskey and Whitacre's ever-loyal wife Ginger, who may or may not know what her husband is up to, but it doesn't matter. She will support him no matter how dumb he reveals himself to be or how much trouble his mouth gets him in to.
My first thought after watching The Informant! was "How soon do I get to experience that again?" Soderbergh makes smart films look effortless, and that is no easy task. Not all of his films have been great, but he goes out of his way not only to find unusual stories to tell, but also fascinating ways to tell them. And with word just coming out that his Spalding Gray documentary is finally finished and premiering at Slamdance in January, and casting news about his actioner Knockout being revealed, hopefully that means we'll be getting a couple more new Soderbergh joints in the next year. There are few things that excite me more than that prospect. In the mean time, just go see The Informant!, one of the funniest, intelligent, most entertaining bits of wackiness you'll see all year.
What kills me about this Diablo Cody-written horror comedy is that I know Cody (an Oscar winner for her first screenplay Juno) loves horror movies. We talked about them at length when she was in Chicago a couple years back doing press for that film. She told me as much as she could about a horror script she had already finished and was working with her Juno director (Jason Reitman, acting as producer here) on finding money and a director. But there's no doubt in my mind that Cody is a tried and true horror aficionado. This is why is actually pains me to report that Jennifer's Body is a mess, plain and simple — a horror film with too many jokes to be scary, and trying too hard to be earnest and meaningful to be funny. And what may shock some of you is that none of the blame for the film's failure belongs to star Megan Fox, who puts in pretty solid work as a seductive hottie who seduces high school boys and then eats them.
Cody's love of horror shines through in her script, but it does so in a bizarre way. It's as if she was afraid to lift too directly from any recognizable favorites, so instead she has created something bland and without much in the way of terror or even original gore. The story is actually told from the perspective of Needy (Mamma Mia's Amanda Seyfried), Jennifer's best friend since preschool. Needy has a boyfriend, and while she is undoubtedly pretty, she would be considered the plain friend next to the porn starish Jennifer (Fox). The two sort of make sense as friends. Jennifer brings out the slightly crazy side in Needy, while Needy tempers Jennifer's party girl insane behavior. The two go to a bar one night to see a band play and the place literally burns to the ground, killing dozens of people. But the band seems far more concerned with making sure Jennifer gets in their van to supposedly take her to the hospital. But when we see Jennifer again, she's covered in blood and vomiting black, spiky bile. Needy is terrified of what is happening to her friend, but by the next morning Jennifer seems like her old self with perhaps a touch more bitch built in.
It doesn't take long for us to see Jennifer start her clandestine killing spree of boys in her school, as she lures them with the promise of sex and then rips giant chunks of flesh off their bones with her enormous teeth. While I certainly love the idea that Cody has turned the tables on typical slasher or monster movies that almost always feature female victims, watching these otherwise harmless boys die didn't really do anything for me. These aren't the school bullies or thugs or boys who in any way wronged Jennifer. They're just boys. Compare Jennifer's Body to something like Teeth, which is the ultimate female-empowerment horror metaphor, and it just seems week and pointless. To make matters worse, director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, AEON Flux) doesn't really have a clue how to direct a scare movie. Scenes are set up for big scares, but then mangled so much by the editing that we lose the best moments for screams.
The best thing about Jennifer's Body is the casting. Fox and Seyfried deliver pretty terrific performances overall. Fox does know how to keep things sexy and bitchy, while still giving some zing to Cody's distinctive and sometimes funny dialogue. Seyfried is good at burying her looks and sunshiny personality, as she's required to here. She's meant to be the girl who blends in, but she's also required to get increasingly anxious and gutsy as the film progresses. I also really like toupee-sporting J.K. Simmons (big surprise) as one of the girls' teachers. He's got what I believe is a painful-to-the-ears Minnesota accent and a hook hand. I don't know how you could ask for more. But these great acting touches don't quite make up for the shortfall in the writing. The script and its ideas feel dated, and I kind of wish Cody had maybe given it another pass to make it feel fresh and relevant. In its current state, Jennifer's Body feels choppy, disjointed and void of many screams or laughs. I was an unapologetic lover of Juno from Day 1, and I'm mad about Cody's TV series, "The United States of Tara," but this one just doesn't cut it. I'm disappointed as both a horror lover and a Diablo admirer. I guess I'll have to satisfy myself with her entertaining Tweets and pop-culture columns in Entertainment Weekly until the next script.
While all of the performers in writer-director Jane Campion's long-overdue return to the lives of cloistered women in frocks who want nothing more than to tear them off for the right man (or possibly the wrong man) are quite good, but I find it quite funny that American Paul Schneider (Away We Go, The Assassination of Jesse James, Lars and the Real Girl, "Parks and Recreation") completely swipes every scene that he's in away from the film's stars. New Zealand-born director has constructed a convincingly angst-ridden love drama about British characters played by Americans, Kiwis, Australians and, yes, one or two Brits with Bright Star, about a secret love connection between struggling poet John Keats (Ben Whipsaw) and his high-society neighbor Fanny Brawne (the astounding Abby Cornish).
Living in the early 1800s, Brawne is a fascinating and seemingly contradictory young woman. She's considered an expert on fashion and sews her own exquisite dresses, yet her artistic sensibilities seem not quite in tune. She's eager to learn about poetry and classic literature from Keats, and while she doesn't understand it all initially, she's smart enough to figure it out and absorb. She's also a creative comprised entirely of extreme emotion. When Keats goes away to work and travel, Fanny is devastated beyond consolation from her family, especially her mother (played by Campion regular Kerry Fox). Keats, on the other hand, is impoverished, sickly and surprisingly incapable of expressing his feelings verbally. The scene-stealing Schneider plays Charles Armitage Brown, Keats' closest friend and someone who was utterly against his relationship with Brawne — primarily, it would seem, because it distracted Keats from his work. Schneider's boorish behavior cuts through everything that was considered proper at the time and cuts so deep as to be almost cruel...if he wasn't so damn funny.
Bright Star lags a bit in the second half, when Fanny gets so swallowed up by her own sorrow at being separated from Keats that it seems ridiculous and a bit obnoxious. Still, Cornish's performance is so strong that Fanny's behavior is never laughable. And some of the things she does to occupy her time and cheer herself (such as start a butterfly farm in her bedroom) are quite amusing and stunning to witness.
I've been a fan of Cornish (Stop-Loss, Somersault, Candy), Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited, Perfume), and Campion for quite some time. Campion faltered a bit with her last feature, In the Cut, but with films like Sweetie, An Angel at My Table, Holy Smoke and especially The Piano as part of her body of work, she's been at the forefront of making movies about strong women who aren't afraid to acknowledge their sexual needs and bottomless emotional capacity. There is a kind of dance between men and women that Campion never tires of exploring, and Bright Star shows us an aspect to that dance that she's never explored before. The love between Brawne and Keats is steeped in passion but not the type that manifests into actual sex. I know that's going to disappoint some of you, but the way this is examined is so intriguing that I found the relationship (not the movie) frustrating at times. That's a good thing.
Watching Cornish and Whishaw together is interesting. He is not the manliest of men, and it made me wonder if Brawne fell for Keats because he was so overwhelmingly non-threatening, especially when you juxtaposed him against Brown. Even the way the pair bond over Keats' brother, who was chronically ill almost from birth, and her desire to help the seemingly helpless appear to be a part of their glue. Campion doesn't explicitly address each of these issues, but they are their out in the open waiting for the curious among us to dive in and question. Bright Star (taken from the title of a Keats' poem that many believe is about Brawne) gives us an explosive romance in a quiet celestial body, the kind we know will burn out quickly but that doesn't stop up from admiring its brilliance. I can't think of a better way to describe this lovely film.
No Impact Man
The story of this year in the life of author Colin Beaven and his family is an interesting dissection of a man trying to set an example for good environmental behavior and a rampant self-promoter whose ultimate goal is to sell books and get pageviews on his blog chronicling his year of attempting to have no environmental footprint. This issue of Beaven's motivations is honestly dealt with in the film, from directors Laura Gilbert and Justin Schein. The question is never 100 percent answered, and that's because I don't think there is an easy answer. I do think Beaven honestly believes that he's doing good by living an extreme lifestyle and hoping that people hear about it and perhaps pick up two or three of his ideas on minimizing consumption and waste. And regardless of whether he's trying to make money or whether he's a selfless, altruistic saint, the movie No Impact Man is quite entertaining and thought provoking. But the no-toilet-paper thing might be more than most human beings can handle in thought or practice.
The thing you have to realize first is that Beaven and his wife Michelle don't go cold turkey for a full year. They phase out all consumptive and wasteful practices during the first six months of the year in New York City, concluding with shutting off the power to their apartment at the six-month mark. Slowly over the first six months, they eliminate buying any non-food, non-local consumer goods (his wife having to give up coffee is a real bone of contention through the year); they compost their organic waste with the help of a bin filled with worms; they visit a farmers market on an almost daily basis; they don't take any motorized form of travel; they walk up stairs rather than take an elevator; and the list goes on. Michelle, a Business Week reporter, does get to experience some creature comforts at the office, but Colin is vigilant about his behavior. The only electricity in his house is for his computer, which is connected to a single solar panel on the roof that he installed himself. The things that they struggle with in terms of what they are capable of giving up and not always what you'd expect. For example, the first couple of weeks without power almost break them. And did I mention the toilet paper thing?
The global publicity Beavan generates during the year is extraordinary, and he's happy to grant as many interviews as he can. "Good Morning America" has him come into their studios or they visit his house every couple of weeks, and most news organizations focus on the suspicious motivations he might have. Is he a liberal extremist crackpot? Is he out to make a buck promoting something he himself has only done for a short time? I think the answer lies somewhere in the midst of all of this, and the film doesn't attempt to answer the questions; it only wants to give as much information as possible and let you decide. But the simple fact is, the guy actually did this. His wife's healthier eating habits in this year brought her back from the brink of a pre-diabetes condition. Their young daughter seemed to take to the new lifestyle without complaint. The scenes of the family enjoying this shared experience — such as doing laundry in the bathtub by stepping on the soapy clothes like they were grapes at a vineyard — are some of the film's best.
Even if Beavan and his wife both broke their limitations every day (which they didn't; cheating was monitored carefully and was simply part of the experience), their ideas are still solid ones that can be attempted in any combination. I believe that is the true purpose of this movie: to give us as much of the total picture as it can in the most entertaining way possible, and considering how much screen time is devoted to showing Beavan suffer due to some pretty harsh negative allegations, I'd say the truth is in their somewhere. The film opens today at the Music Box Theatre. As an added bonus and to muddy the promotional waters a bit, Colin Beavan will be appearing at the theater on opening night (September 18) for a book signing and Q&A. Check out the theater's website to find out after which showtimes Beavan will appear.
Films about people immigrating to the United States and finding out the American dream is an exclusive club that might not want them have been made many times before. And films about how Arab-Americans were treated quite badly when the Iraq War began have been covered as well. The latest work to cover both quite thoroughly, if not all that originally, is Amreeka, about Muna (Nisreen Faour) and her teen son Fadi (Melkar Muallem) who are allowed to legally migrate from Palestine to America and move in with Muna's sister (Hiam Abass from The Visitor and Lemon Tree) in a small Illinois community. Although Muna had a job in banking back home, her efforts to find equivalent work are fruitless. She is forced to take a job at a White Castle but insists on hiding this fact from her family, instead letting them think she works at the bank next door.
Fadi is relentlessly bullied at school and eventually falls in with a couple of kids who are nice enough but smoke a tremendous amount of pot and get into a whole lot of mischief. Aside from some very strong performances, the one aspect to Amreeka that I really liked was that both Muna and Fadi find friends and allies slowly over time and not immediately upon arrival. These helping hands emerge slowly from the landscape and come through at key moments in both their lives. Fadi's principal becomes a champion of their existence in America and a possible love interest for Muna. Muna also makes friends with a co-worker who has dropped out of high school, and she encourages him to return so he can get a better job than the one they both have. Since so much of Amreeka is built on moments we've seen before, I appreciated these scenes most of all.
We also get scenes I fully expected, such as Muna's sister and her husband fighting about letting them stay. The husband is a doctor who is losing patients and money because the war is driving them away. The sister won't hear of kicking them out. Muna's self worth is a big part of this story. Her husband left her for a younger woman, and clearly the experience not only hurt Muna emotionally, but it made her feel ugly, fat and worthless. Part of her starting a new life in America is about reclaiming her self worth, and that, too, feels like a fresh angle to this oft-told story. Amreeka is not great or original storytelling, but that doesn't mean it's not a story worth repeating. The film has humor, heart and an authenticity that makes it a work of beauty is so many ways. Faour's performance is emotionally death-defying, and I was rooting for her every step of the way. She's a magnificent character, and when the film ended, my mind immediately wanted to know how her life was going to continue from this point forward. In the end, I guess that's what every movie strives for, and so on that level, Amreeka is triumphant.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
It's actually pretty rare when you load up an animated film with a great cast of funny people or great screen actors that the finished product is anything worth checking out. But I'll admit with no shame that I laughed a great deal at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, because the funny people actually came through with the funny. I applaud the direction and writing by Chris Miller and Phil Lord (who loosely adapted the book by Judi Barrett), two TV comedy vets on their first job as feature directors, for actually letting the actors come up with satisfying personas for their characters and not worry as much about fitting in the obligatory pop culture references and pop tunes to pull in more kinds. If anything, I think adults might actually appreciate some of the humor more than the kids drawn in by the prospect of oversized pancakes and a snow bank made of ice cream. And it's available in 3-D on some screens, if that floats your boat.
SNL's Bill Hader (most recently seen in Adventureland and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) voices Flint Lockwood, an inventor since he was child who fantasizes about becoming a hero for creating something good for the world. As a tyke, Flint's mother (Lauren Graham) encouraged his flights of invention, but after her death, his father (James Caan) is less able to communicate without the use of fishing metaphors that Flint simply doesn't get. Flint lives in a small anchovy fishing community on an island in the Atlantic, and now that the world realizes that anchovies are disgusting, the town is dying.
When Flint invents a machine that can turn vaporous water in the atmosphere into food that rains down on the earth, he attracts the attention of some folks who could potentially turn the fate of the town around. The mayor (Bruce Campbell) wants to turn the island into a theme park revolving around made-to-order food that falls from Flint's device. Also coming to town is the lovely weathergirl/intern Sam Sparks (Anna Farris), who puts on a dumb on-air persona that disguises her near-genius mind. Also on hand is Andy Samberg as the now-grown Baby Brent, the mascot for the anchovy business; Mr. T as what would appear to be the town's only police officer; Bobb'e J. Thompson as the cop's young son; Benjamin Bratt in the hilarious role of Manny, a man of few words but many skills; and Neil Patrick Harris as a character named Steve — I'll say no more about that.
Not surprisingly, Flint's device malfunctions and begins to produce ginormous food items (made to order) at an alarming rate all over the world. Cloudy even gets in a joke about how all of these major film-born natural disasters always seem to target major landmarks around the world before moving to the boring parts in between. There's so much to like in this film, from Hader's geek-centric lines and delivery to Farris' sweet and funny take on her hidden brainiac character. There's even a running gag that could be looked at as an answer to Up's talking-dog collar. I think the implication is that monkeys have a lot less going through they heads than dogs. I'm not sure the 3-D really added anything to my enjoyment of the film, but seeing a giant meatball hurled at you in 3-D was pretty sweet.
Above all other things, there's a whole lot of impressive creativity going on in this movie on top of some great comedy. I'm even impressed that the film foregoes any kind of big message (beyond the obvious "don't give up on your dreams-be yourself" stuff) for just pure inventiveness. After Up and Coraline, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of the best animated works of 2009.
The Burning Plain
Lord spare me from self-important, overly dramatic to no end, telescoping the big reveals kind of dramas like the one from writer-director Guillermo Arriaga, a fine screenwriter in his own right (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) who is stepping behind the lens for the first time as a feature director with The Burning Plain. On the surface, the film appears to be about three different women of different ages — a teen girl (Jennifer Lawrence), her adulterous mother (Kim Basinger), and a restaurant owner (Charize Theron) who likes to sleep around. Their three lives do not appear to intersect, but since this film belongs to Arriaga, we know the connection between the women will be made clear eventually. And moreover, you'll figure it out waaaay before the reveal.
There's not much to say about the plot here. Basinger is cheating on her husband who appears to be impotent since her left breast was removed after a cancer diagnosis. She has found a Mexican man who loves her long time in a mobile home in the middle of the desert. Basigner's daughter is highly suspicious of her mother's behavior and discovers the affair. Meanwhile, Theron's character seems primed for a life of self-destruction and isolation, until a mysterious man lands on her doorstep with news she never thought she'd hear. Theron does an admirable job keeping her gloomy character interesting, but when the film is done, I felt I never learned anything of value about her.
The screenplay is deliberately looping and deceptive with its timelines to make for a more interesting way of hiding its secrets. The problem is that if you unraveling the story and told it chronologically, it would be dreadfully dull. OK, so I'll give Arriaga the benefit of the doubt and assume his means of telling this story was to make it more intriguing, but it just isn't there, not in any construction. The Burning Plain is just oppressively heavy and dark, as if the filmmaker believes that by shooting everything in grey tones and making everyone mope around like their puppy just died, that somehow is going to add to the dramatic weight of the film. It doesn't. In fact, my immediate response after watching this was, "If everyone in this movie died in the last five minutes, I would not have cared. In fact, I might have thrown a little party to celebrate." And that's all I'm willing to say about this film. If you're still driven to see The Burning Plain, you're a stronger and slightly dumber person than I am. The film opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.
What's the Matter with Kansas?
Documentaries are about discovery and learning, at least that's how I view them. The subject matter of any given doc doesn't have to be of extraordinary importance but if I come out of it having learned something about a person or event that I was unaware of or under-informed about, I'm a happy viewer. I began watching Joe Winston's What's the Matter with Kansas? thinking I was going to laugh and roll my eyes at the state that has kept hardcore conservative values and agendas on the docket for quite a number of years (no, not the only state, but damn-near everyone in this state is on the same page). Instead, what I walked away with was a clearer understanding of why some of these folks feel they way they do, why they feel that their religion-based way of life is being threatened, and how not everyone in Kansas is a right-wing nut job. And while I didn't laugh that much, my eyes still ache a bit from some of what goes on there.
Based on Thomas Frank's extremely popular book, Kansas informs us about one of the most shocking things about the state: that it was a bastion of left-wing radicalism (complete with a socialist newspaper) not that long ago. And there are still pockets of farmers and other blue-color workers who couldn't stand George W. Bush for how he systematically ignored problems his base was having. Still, it's hard to hear people from all walks of life reciting the same dogma over and over again, calling pro-choice advocates "pro abortion" or "pro death," the rampant and explicit anti-gay hate speak, and the adherence by so-called scientists to creationism (the film includes a visit to Kentucky's pride and glory, the Creation Museum, featuring statues of dinosaurs and cave dwellers living side by side). If you are easily angered by such beliefs, be prepared to take your meds before you see this film.
But it's also a movie that exhibits what blind faith in your religious leaders can lead to. For example, the film chronicles what appears to be a scam on the part of a dismissed pastor who many former Congregationalists follow to his makeshift church set up in a Wild West theme park. Many of the parishioners invest a great deal of money in getting this new church off the ground, and they are systematically ripped off, some for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The film jumps around from person to person, following about a dozen or so regulars of various backgrounds and age. There's a girl about to head to college who is crushed when a local election goes toward a more liberal candidate. But perhaps the sadder thing in the scenario is that all she knew about the other candidate was that he was "pro abortion." This is where the children of Jesus Camp come from and/or end up, and if you need a clearer blueprint for why there is such division in this country, look no further than What's the Matter with Kansas?, which opens today for weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Director Joe Winston, producer Laura Cohen, and author Thomas Frank will be present for audience discussion on Friday and Saturday at 8:15pm.