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'The Big Fix' review: BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

Also reviewed: 'Dragonslayer,' 'Dzi Croquettes,' 'Whitney Brown' and more.

November 11, 2011
  • Josh and Rebecca Tickell in a scene from the documentary movie, "The Big Fix."
Josh and Rebecca Tickell in a scene from the documentary movie, "The… (The Big Fix )

The scathing documentary "The Big Fix" investigates questions of corporate negligence and political corruption surrounding last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its lingering aftereffects on the Gulf Coast.

Even before the devastating spill off the coast of Louisiana, BP — the British company that operated the Deepwater Horizon — had racked up numerous safety violations, as well as deadly explosions and ruptured pipelines in Texas and Alaska. Filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell, however, have more than one villain in their sights. Branching out from the April 2010 spill, they paint a portrait of a political system so corrupted by the oil and gas industry that it has rendered Louisiana less a state in our union than an "oil colony."

BP chose not to represent its side of the story — the company declined to be interviewed for the film. Instead, "The Big Fix" presents a compelling array of damning testimony from EPA officials, journalists, scientists and politicians as well as emotional scenes of distraught residents, a number, like Rebecca Tickell, experiencing troubling physical symptoms in the wake of the disaster.

— Mindy Farabee

"The Big Fix." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. At AMC Loews Broadway 4, Santa Monica.

With "Dragonslayer," director Tristan Patterson brings a gentle lyricism to an aimless year following Orange County skateboarder Josh "Skreech" Sandoval.

A semi-professional, Sandoval spends much of his time drinking, smoking pot and alternately placing in and flubbing competitions. "I don't win," he informs the camera, just before explaining to a young fan he's only now come back from a spell that left him too depressed to skate. Perennially broke and occasionally homeless, at one point, Sandoval's happy just to pitch his tent in a friend's backyard.

As the film, divided into 11 impressionistic chapters, progresses, now and again, he will visit with his infant son; mostly he hangs out, on the road, in the skate park or drained pool or with his new girlfriend. Before shooting "Dragonslayer," Patterson worked as a screenwriter, and his documentary debut carries the imprint of experimental narrative filmmaking à la Gus Van Sant.

Weaving Flip cam footage logged by Sandoval and company with shimmering scenes of bonfires, drive-ins and road trips shot with moody elegance by cinematographer Eric Koretz, a youth culture backdropped by the crumbling edge of California is rendered with punk rock energy and grace.

"Dragonslayer." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

The new documentary "Dzi Croquettes" brings to mind San Francisco's legendary gender-bending Cockettes, a collection of drag performers who made no effort to hide their more masculine attributes. But the Dzi Croquettes, a 1970s-era troupe whose members also celebrated their bodies while clad in glitter and spangles, were a much bigger deal.

Lennie Dale, a virtuoso Broadway dancer and émigré to Brazil, founded the 13-member group in 1973. Their productions were lavish explosions of creativity and imagination that had wide audience appeal. More significantly, the group flourished at a time of extreme repression under a harsh military dictatorship; Brazil's government shut them down only to be persuaded to let the show go on.

For "Dzi Croquettes" director Tatiana Issa, daughter of the group's set designer, and her co-director/executive producer Raphael Alvarez have rounded up the five surviving Croquettes, their backstage colleagues and a raft of Brazilian stars to speak to the group's lasting impact. The filmmakers also interviewed choreographer Ron Lewis and Liza Minnelli, both close friends and admirers of the late Dale.

The extensive performance footage illustrates just how electrifying these entertainers were. Dzi Croquettes transcended camp with inspired artistry and achieved moments of poignancy amid much exhilaration. "Dzi Croquettes" is both a tribute and a terrific entertainment.

— Kevin Thomas

"Dzi Croquettes." No MPAA rating. In Portuguese and English with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

"The Greening of Whitney Brown" is a kind of reverse-fairy tale about a spoiled Philadelphia middle school student (Sammi Hanratty) forced to ditch the limelight and the lattes when her affluent father (Aidan Quinn) loses his job — and everything along with it.

But a worst-nightmare move to the sticks and into the farmhouse owned by her dad's estranged father (Kris Kristofferson) proves a much-needed reality check as Whitney reorders priorities, befriends a genial horse named Bob, bonds with her long-lost grandpa, and learns to live a popularity- and cellphone-free life.

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