Should we consider the “Shaun the Sheep Movie” an art film?
Look at it this way. It’s foreign (British). It’s subversively funny. And it tells its story without one word of dialogue.
That’s enough for me to embrace the latest from Aardman Animation (creators of “Wallace & Gromit”) as a borderline art house entry.
But what really sells this movie, which opened this weekend, is the humor. This is the funniest film of the year, a gut-busting laugh-a-minute demonstration of comic inventiveness and perfect timing that — because there’s no dialogue — forces us to pay attention and pays huge dividends.
It’s a master class in pantomime and the closest thing to a great silent comedy since the days of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
“Shaun” opened Friday and if there’s any justice, it’ll still be playing at Christmas.
Jason Segel is a mainstream comedy star (TV’s “How I Met Your Mother,” “I Love You, Man,” “The Muppets”) who has picked up some indie cred (“Jeff, Who Lives at Home”). With “The End of the Tour,” opening Aug. 14, he is not only beefing up his independent profile but making a bid for Oscar consideration.
Based on David Lipsky’s nonfiction book, the film follows Rolling Stone reporter Lipsky’s five-day interview with novelist David Foster Wallace during the wildly successful book tour for “Infinite Jest.”
Segel plays Wallace; Jesse Eisenberg portrays Lipsky. Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack and Ron Livingston round out the cast.
This “unauthorized anti-biopic” (the estate of Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008 at age 46, has refused to cooperate with any dramatic depiction of the author’s life) is helmed by James Ponsoldt, who in 2013 gave us the memorable teen love story “The Spectacular Now.”
▪ Also opening Aug. 14 is “Best of Enemies,” a documentary about the 1968 TV debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative godfather William F. Buckley Jr.
These were two of the most memorable personalities of their era. For those of us who watched their verbal slugfests (at one point Vidal called Buckley a “crypto Nazi” and Buckley addressed Vidal as “you queer”) it was an intellectual clash of the titans.
It was also an omen of today’s in-your-face, name-calling, confrontational TV “journalism.”
Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon direct; Kelsey Grammer and John Lithgow provide the off-screen voices of, respectively, Buckley and Vidal.
For opera lovers, at 1 p.m. Sunday, the Tivoli offers the Royal Opera House production of “Rise & Fall of the City of Mahogany,” Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s jazz-infused 1930 satire of consumerism and capitalist excess.
For a more Midwestern ethos, take a gander at two films being shown Aug. 14 at the Tivoli. “The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers” is singer/songwriter Beau Jennings and filmmaker Bradley Beesley’s record of a national tour in which Jennings performed original tunes at key locations in the life of legendary Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers.
Also on the bill is “Calls to Okies,” Beesley and Ben Steinbauer’s short doc about Park Grubbs, an early ’80s cabal of pranksters who gained regional infamy by placing and recording joke telephone calls to their Oklahoma brethren.
Bonus points: The filmmakers will attend.
Find more of Robert W. Butler’s movie reviews at ButlersCinemaScene.com.