The concept behind The Method Fest, now in its ninth year, has always been a curious one. The fest bills itself as the only major U.S. festival that “pays homage to the actor,” but highlighting a part of the whole in such a collaborative medium as the movies only underscores how dependent one piece of the puzzle is on all the others. Movie performances come enmeshed in a network of craft efforts completely beyond the actor’s control, especially now when the presence of actual people onscreen recedes in significance before a digital onslaught of fast-cut, CGI, blue-screen manipulation. Which is also why the concept behind The Method Fest seems more vital now than ever. Too bad that more of this year’s films don’t match their intentions with solid execution, despite the best efforts of their casts. The likable leads of writer-director Jim Loftus’ political thriller, Trade Routes, or writer-director Brooks Elms’ Schooled, about a teacher’s midlife relationship troubles, simply can’t take up the slack left by overly earnest scripts and uninspired direction. In the case of veteran Mexican director Arturo Ripstein’s latest, El Carnaval de Sodoma, a mood piece set in a Mexican brothel during Carnival, it’s Ripstein who lacks confidence in his actually engaging and earthy ensemble cast and tries to compensate with nonstop roving, floating camerawork and a jumbled timeline. Still, there are gems to be found on the program. Writer-director Brad Gann indulges a taste for melodrama too often in his Boston-set family saga, Black Irish, but here outstanding performances across the board — led by Brendan Gleeson as the clan’s broken patriarch, and Michael Angarano as its long-suffering youngest son — put the whole effort over. Director Grant Greenberg’s short, Cricket Head, features a powerful turn by Cathy Curtin, as a high school teacher romantically obsessed with a student, who invests enough humanity in her damaged character to carry the weight of a feature. Multiple venues, thru April 5. (800) 838-3006 or

—Paul Malcolm

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