Frame of Mind: 2011
Greed, blackmail, sex, and...butter. These are the four components that make-up Director Jim Field Smith's quirky movie aptly titled Butter. Set in the oh-so-americana State of Iowa, where State Fairs do indeed still exist, there is the royal family of butter carvers, the Picklers. Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has been the Iowa State champion of butter carvers for the past fifteen years, his crowning achievement's include 'The Last Supper' and 'T-Rex Eating Girl', plus the impressive 'Shindler's List'. It is his wife Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who has been by his side the entire time, making sure Bob achieves greatness, and doing her part to maintain the utmost of poise as the First Lady of butter carvers.
Everyone has survived the holidays, and the time has now come for the movie industry to slow down a bit. Take a deep breath and sigh as the winter movie season has officially begin. Say hello to horror movies, romances, and the odd-ball comedy or dramatic piece that did not seem to be award worthy. This is also the time where the limited release award films expand--so all is not lost on what we call "the season where movies go to die." I am only (partly) kidding of course, there are always great movies to be found regardless of the season and everyone at FilmFracture is excited to see what the New Year brings.
The time has come for The Academy Awards 2012! Who will win, who will lose, and what extra long speeches will we have to endure. We are live from Colton, CA watching The Academy Awards. Please excuse the blunt and possibly offensive commentary. The Oscars are all about having fun, and good fun, we mean no offense--we're just sarcastic.
A good horror movie needs a frightening antagonist to keep the action coming. Whether it’s a faceless killer or a wild animal, a good villain is the driving force behind any film, not just horror films. Sometimes, however, an unseen force is a much scarier foe, a phenomenon that has been dealt with over and over again like in the Final Destination series. Producer David Foster’s The Legacy has one of these deadly entities, and is one of the freakiest movies of the seventies.
Each year Russell Espinosa watches every film released in theatres; and each year he takes the time to write up an epic "best of" list. Here it is for the year 2011, and while some of his choices may seem typical, others are an interesting surprise. Enjoy!! - Kathryn Schroeder
In the late 60’s, the Alice Cooper band invented the musical genre of “shock-rock,” with their in-your-face music and horror-themed stage antics. It seemed like a logical progression that, once his musical career cooled off, Cooper would go into acting, and the natural place for him was in a horror film. In 1984, after a string of unsuccessful experimental albums, Alice found himself cast as the lead in a cool little werewolf movie called Monster Dog.
There are few events more horrific than war. Of course, when something is fear-inducing, there will always be filmmakers ready to make a movie out of it, and horror films have been effectively using the backdrop of war for years, from the classic Isle of the Dead to the more recent Dead Snow. Master British director Henry Cass (Blood of the Vampire, Last Holiday) made a film about a group of World War II soldiers in 1960 called The Hand that explored the physical and psychological scars of battle while scaring the heck out of its audience.
The nominations are in for the 2012 Academy Awards. Here are all of the nominees for awards that will be telecast at the ceremony. For a complete list, including the technical categories, go to www.oscars.org. The asterisk next to a film/person(s) is the best guess at who will take Oscar home--but more on that later because it does not mean we agree.
For the past five years or so, the horror genre has been saturated with a new subset of films that critics have dubbed “torture porn,” meaning that the films pay more attention to sickening gore than a cohesive plot. While films like Saw and Hostel seem fresh and new, one only needs to look back about twenty years to find the prototype for today’s torture porn, 1986’s Crawlspace.
The AFI FEST presented by Audi is fast approaching (3-10 November, 2011), and with much of the program already announced, a healthy number of interesting titles are already trailing good word of mouth from other North American and European fests. One such is Alex Ross Perry’s second feature The Color Wheel, winner of the Narrative Award in Chicago: following the oddball backwoods Pynchon riff Impolex (2009), he this time ditches surrealism and heads straight for mumblecore land.
There are a huge amount of must-see movies in 2012. The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and The Avengers top most must-see lists, and to no surprise. There is also The Expendables 2, a film that will bring together all of the favorite action heroes from time past once again, and a few more recent faces looking to become epitomized in movie history for having rock hard abs and one-liners people will be quoting for years to come.
One of the action hero relics everyone knows is Sylvester Stallone, the man who will head up The Expendables 2. In case you were unaware he has another action film releasing this year with Warner Bros. Pictures. The first official image has been released from the film and Stallone is looking like his old self, kind of (we all know his marbled chest and tightened skin can be credited to someone other than Stallone himself). Regardless, everyone loves a good action trip with Sylvester Stallone, and Bullet To The Head looks to be something out of 80s action movie heaven.
After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.
Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.
**Winners being updated, as the show airs, LIVE now!**
The Award Season has officially begun with The Golden Globes airing on Sunday, January 15, 2012. The list of nominees is included below and come Sunday all of the winners updated as they are announced.
The Golden Globes began awarding their Best Animated Feature category in 2007, and have continued each year to nominate three to five films (not the standard five as in other categories). Every year, beginning in 2007 (for the year 2006), a Pixar (or Disney-Pixar) film has been nominated; and every year wins the award. It began with Cars in 2007 (up against Monster House and Happy Feet), then Ratatouille in 2008 (up against The Simpsons Movie and Bee Movie); in 2009 WALL-E took home the prize and not Bolt or Kung Fu Panda. The year 2009 marked the first time five films were nominated, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and Up. Even with two more films competing against them, Pixar was victorious with Up. Now, 2010 was a tough year for Pixar at The Golden Globes competition wise and the winner was not clear going into the award show. Dreamworks Animation had finally produced an equally good product as Pixar with How To Train Your Dragon and it was anyone's guess whether Toy Story 3 would reign victorious (the other films nominated were Tangled, The Illusionist, and Despicable Me although none had a chance). Dreamworks may have been hopeful but Pixar reigned King once again as Toy Story 3 won--I myself think it had to do with the instantaneous weeping the film caused a viewer, beginning with the incinerator scene.
The psycho killer has long been one of the obvious staples of the horror genre. What could be more frightening than an unstoppable madman preying on innocent and unsuspecting victims? How about an unstoppable madman who has mastered the art of invisibility? In 1976, television director John Florea (who directed episodes of both “CHiPs” and “Sea Hunt”) asked the question in a feature-length sci-fi cop show called The Astral Factor.
Relativity Media continues to promote the film Haywire, directed by Steven Sodebergh and releasing in theatres January 20, 2012, by providing viewers the opprtunity to watch the first five minutes from the film. I have seen Haywire and these first five minutes feature one hell of a fight scene between MMA superstar Gina Carano and Channing Tatum. Tatum has seen better days, and Gina proves she is one tough woman.
On January 6, 2012, a live Q&A will stream following a screening at the Wadsworth Theatre of The Artist featuring director Michel Hazanavicius, stars Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and producer Thomas Langmann.
Of all of the mythical beasts that have been immortalized over the centuries, the lycanthrope, or werewolf, has arguably made the smoothest transition into motion pictures. Aside from the vampire, no other creature has been done and redone over the years, from Lon Chaney’s definitive performance in 1941’s The Wolf Man to the Team Jacob shirtless heartthrobs in the Twilight films. In 1956, the incomparable sci-fi producer Sam Katzman (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea) took a shot at revising the werewolf mythos with the appropriately titled The Werewolf, and set forth some new theories and ideas about lycanthropy.
Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).
December 2011 brought a great deal of new trailers for films releasing as soon as January 2012 all the way into Summer 2012. Welcome back Kate Beckinsale and your spandex/pleather wearing self in Underworld: Awakening! Three of the most anticipated films trailers finally arrived, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, causing a flurry of excitement for moviegoers everywhere. Then there were some less than exciting additions to the trailer universe, including Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and The Three Stooges (what looks to be the first train wreck of the new year). [Continued]
Tucked in amidst all of the action hero and martial arts films made by Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus (the producers who brought the world the American Ninja series, the Delta Force films and the Death Wish sequels, among many others) can be found a neat little horror film called New Year’s Evil. Made in 1980, during the golden age of the slasher film, it is more than just an entry into the holiday-themed horror craze that ran rampant during the early eighties; it is an inventive twist on the serial killer movie.
Christmas horror movies are usually thinly-veiled slasher flicks where the killer is some maladjusted grownup who was scared into insanity by a freaky Santa when he was a kid. In 1996, screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) flipped the script with Jack Frost, an original story about a murderous snowman, and the Christmas horror movie genre hasn’t been the same since.
The holiday season is upon moviegoers once again, and that means a new season of movie-watching has begun. This season is always filled with Award contenders, big name Directors making big serious pictures, and the opportunity for actors and actresses to show their best skills on screen--all in the hopes that they will take home one of the many possible awards available to them for the year's best work. There is also always the underdog independent film that will take everyone by surprise. Lest us not forget the plethora of family movies that will keep everyone occupied during those big family gatherings at the holiday's. After a lackluster (and that is putting it mildly) year of movies, this holiday season holds high hopes for moviegoers, and moviemakers alike.
When a movie script calls for a set of twins but only one lead actor is available, what does the director do? Ask the lead actor or actress to play both parts, that’s what. Brian De Palma had Margot Kidder do it in Sisters, just like David Cronenberg asked Jeremy Irons to double dip in Dead Ringers. In 1943, B-movie legend Sam Newfield (The Terror of Tiny Town) got horror character actor George Zucco (The Black Raven, Scared to Death) to give the playing of twins a try, resulting in the creepy vampire/witchcraft film Dead Men Walk.
Legend has it that in the early eighties, respected horror director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) looked up at the Chrysler Building in New York City and said “that would be the coolest place for a nest.” The legend goes on to say that Cohen, fired from the directing job on another film and not wanting his New York stay to go to waste, quickly wrote, cast and shot Q, one of the greatest monster movies of the decade.
Earlier this year I received an email from an independent filmmaker, Joe McClean, asking if I would take a look at his short film How To Make A David Lynch Film before it premiered at the Dances With Films film festival in June 2011. I do not usually watch short films, or review them for that matter. I do always try and make time to watch as many non-distributed, festival bound (hopefully), independent feature length films I am asked to when approached by the filmmakers. The title of Joe McClean's short intrigued me--how could I resist watching something called How To Make A David Lynch Film? I watched Joe's short, and ended up writing a review of it because I absolutely loved it. How To Make A David Lynch received an honorable mention award at the festival and to my happy surprise the success, and positive reviews, have led to Joe McClean's production company, Red & Tan Productions, to secure the financing for a feature-length film.
Shakespearian plays have been adapted for the screen time and time again. "Othello", "Hamlet", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Tempest", the list goes on an on and the familiarity for a viewer with these stories is established before they ever enter the theatre. "Coriolanus" is a lesser know, and lesser adapted, play Shakespeare wrote. Well-known actor Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) in his first directorial effort has adapted "Coriolanus", with a screenplay by John Logan into a modern-day political film, while maintaining the original shakespearian dialogue.
Laure's family has recently moved to a new suburb in France. With her short blonde hair and ambiguous features it is unclear on first meeting Laure on screen if she is indeed a boy or a girl. This of course begs the question, "what makes a person look like a boy or a girl?" Laure prefers the walls of her bedroom to be blue, and her parent't happily oblige. She wears long shorts and t-shirts, never a dress. Her short cropped hair is typical for a boy of her age, as is her lack of girly attributes like barrettes. When she speaks her voice does not carry high or low, with no indicative speech markers of either gender. But Laure is a girl by birth, she just happens to not outwardly portray feminine characteristics and in turn her first meeting with a local girl, Lisa, results in the misunderstanding that Laure is indeed a boy; and she does nothing to correct the situation.
Whether they’re on film or in real life, cults are scary things. A group of people brainwashed to worship a deity and commit heinous acts in its name is a frightening thing, whether it’s the devil worshipping coven in Rosemary’s Baby or the murderous teenagers who pay tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn. In 1962, television director William J. Hole, Jr. (who worked on both “The Bionic Woman” and “Peyton Place”) teamed up with screenwriter Jo Heims (Play Misty for Me) and legendary B-movie producer Rex Carlton (Nightmare in Wax, Blood of Dracula’s Castle) to unleash The Devil's Hand on an unsuspecting world, and subsequently gave another meaning to the term “cult movie.”
The 2012 Spirit Award Nominations are in, celebrating the best in Independent Film for the year 2011. We have seen most of the films and could not agree more with the selections; some we must disagree with but that is the nature of the beast. Here are all of the nominees; we can't wait to see who wins in February at the Awards Show.
It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.
A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).
An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.
This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.
Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.
Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.
A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.
This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?
In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.
Every year at AFI FEST there are films placed in the Special Screenings section of the program. They are films with distribution in place, and will become available for the general public to see in the coming weeks or months. Jeff, Who Lives At Home was a part of this special screening section and will be opening in theatres in March of 2012 thanks to Paramount Vantage. The newest film from The Duplass Brothers, who have been festival darlings in the past with The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and last year's Cyrus, is in the style of The Duplass Brothers who like to make movies about people and relationships, with an offbeat sly humor. Jeff, Who Lives At Home keeps with their traditional themes, and continues to provide the more subtle, and not so subtle, humor we come to expect from them.
Making himself known as a man who enjoys making movies about damaged souls in uniform, Director Oren Moverman departs from the military of his 2009 film The Messenger to focus on a cop in the Los Angeles Police force in Rampart. Taking place during the Rampart scandals of 1999, scandals that forever changed the Los Angeles Police Department, when police officers were implicated in acts of misconduct, including planting evidence, unprovoked beatings and shootings, perjury, and covering up evidence. These were dark days in the city of Angels, and amidst all of the greater scandal Rampart takes a look at one officer's own personal struggles, on the force and at home.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Carré Blanc (Dir. Jean-Baptiste Léonetti 2011 France, Luxembourg, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland)
As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future. Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: With Every Heartbeat (Kyss mig) (Dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining Sweden 2011)
Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section. Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man. A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.
The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.
What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.
It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.
AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.
The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.
It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.
There’s always some good weirdness to be found in the Midnight Movies strand at film festivals, and my top tip for the AFI FEST sponsored by Audi, starting this week, is the fantastically trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow. Let me be clear: this film has not been picking up fans at previous festivals, with complaints ranging from “deathly dull” and “unnecessarily lengthened student short” to “retro-hipster counterfeit” and “complete crapola”. It’s slow and derivative, with a jarringly misjudged ending, but far as I am from an ’80s nostalgist, I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with it.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2011 Belgium, France, Italy)
A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).
AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi has announced much of the slate of programming for the festival, running November 3rd to the 10th. Free tickets are available starting October 27th, and on October 26th for AFI members and alumni. There a limited number of passes available for sale. More information about the festival can be found at AFI's website, www.afifest.com.
In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, with much acclaim. The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies. Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business. Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint. In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today. Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.
Film Rave: Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin 2011) as presented by the LACMA/Film Independent Screening Series
Presented as part of the new film series between Film Independent and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the second event in the series. The moderator for the evening was Elvis Mitchell, esteemed film critic and curator at Film Independent; and to the audiences delight quite friendly, engaging and funny with his opening address. After giving a brief synopsis of the film, and throwing in a well-received joke about star Elizabeth Olsen's famous sisters, matters turned to watching the film in LACMA's spacious Bing theatre.
Inspired by the life story of ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has spent 25 years with the BiAka pygmies of Central Africa, Lavinia Currier’s film aims partly to parallel Sarno’s work: that is, to bring to world-wide attention the wonderful and complex music of the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. The BiAka’s music is as rich and well-practiced as any other such heritage in the world; possibly even more so, structured around an unusually long 64-beat cycle, and incorporating the natural sounds of the jungle as an integral part of the harmonious, pulsing music.
**Winners Announced--Was it Your City**
Paramount Pictures announced today a very different method of deciding what cities to release Paranormal Activity 3 in first. Only 20 cities will open the film on October 18th before its global release on October 21st, based upon the most fans who, and I quote, "Tweet To See It First."
A new clip has emerged (pun completely intended) for The Thing (2011) that is titled the "R" rated clip. Sounds like fun, yes? You even get a better look at the "thing" itself. While some things are better left a mystery, it never hurts to have a little tease now and again.
The year is 1982 in Peru. Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) lives in a spacious home outside the city with caretakers. Her mother, and stepfather, are returning home after a long while away and Cayetana is not interested in seeing either of them. Buntinx makes the most disinterested, annoyed, and ultimately bothered facial expressions--this is an actress who does not need dialogue to convey emotion, it is written all over her face. Now Cayetana is a bit of an odd-ball; some may call her sinister. In reality, she is a child going through a great deal of emotional turmoil and unfortunately the good intentions she should have veer towards the bad.
Bucky Larson: Born to be A Star is releasing this Friday, September 9th, 2011 in theatres across the country. In an attempt to see what "buzz" surrounded the film I turned to Twitter. Here are some of my favorite's tweets, and possibly the source of the best laughs of the year:
Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a documentary chronicling the struggle to make the public aware, and the Marine Corps/Government admit to their gross negligence in dealing with contaminated water at a variety of Marine Corps, and other, military bases across the United States of America.
The 1960s, a time of free love and drugs aplenty. The "hippie subculture" of this era took root around 1965, spawning a worldwide counter culture movement that still has remnants in today's society. How this new subculture was established, and spread so quickly around the globe, can be attributed to a variety of factors. Ask those close to the movement and they may have one clear answer to give you, "it all started on the bus."
That Raúl Ruíz describes his new film as his most theoretical might seem a bit daunting. He’s made over 100 movies in 30 years and they’re all pretty theoretical, from The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979), to Time Regained (1999). Plus, the new one’s a four and half-hour nineteenth-century drama.
The Superhero, a modern-day myth of a man, or woman, who protects the innocent. Or more humorously, according to the Urban Dictionary's number one definition: a person who is looked up to, fights crime and looks good in tights (the latter is not a must). The image of a person in tights, or some sort of costume that masks their face from public view so they may lead a normal existence outside of the crime fighting world is a common visual for the superhero. It is also common, and deemed sane, to understand and reason that superhero's do not exist in reality. There are no superpowers, fancy gadgets, cars that can turn into boats at the flip of a switch or palms that shoot spiderwebs so one can swing from building to building. The man of steel is fictitious. Even Batman, who has no actual "superpower" cannot be real. But what if there were superheroes?
From Korea comes Director Kim Min-suk's Haunters. A film centered around two men specifically who both harbor exceptional abilities. Kyu-nam (Koo So) believes himself to be ordinary. Having just lost his job at a junk yard he is seeking employment. He finds work at a pawn shop, and believes this is the moment his life will take off and become great. When an unknown man (Gang Dong-Won) walks into the shop one day and freezes everyone present, being Kyu-nam's two friends, and the owner, things begin to get weird. Weird in that the only person who does not freeze is Kyu-nam. He is not ordinary after all, but is the only person this unknown man has ever come into contact with who is not susceptible to his powers. This of course causes great panic in our unknown antagonist, who has lived his entire life with the ability to freeze people, as well as control their actions with his eyes.
The dry humor that surrounds Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) is just that, dry--a lifeless, suburban enclave of Quebec where the most interesting amusement comes in the form of a giant blue inflatable something or other in front of a car dealership. This is not to say the film isn't good, far from that actually. It is very much internalized, leaving the characters to meander through their humdrum lives interacting with one another on such superficial and unemotional levels that the pure existence of the lifelessness becomes somewhat fascinating.
Director Asif Kapadia takes Senna's story from his humble beginnings in Brazil to his star turn on the track in the documentary Senna with great success. Structuring the documentary like a narrative feature, as written by Manish Pandey, it maintains a successful story structure that becomes full of more energy, drama, and feeling than many fictional story's put to film. Told with a linear structure through archival footage (from F1, Senna's family, as well as news coverage), actual voice-over of Senna himself explaining parts of his career and life, as well as still photographs and other voiceover narrative Senna's fascinating story comes to life, without the feel of a stiff documentary.
Sgt. Gerry Boyle is an Irish Guard, aka policeman, in a small town in the West of Ireland. As the man in charge he takes little, if anything, seriously. When his newest recruit and he discover a dead body of a man they do not recognize it is with dark humor, and a general sense of not giving a --ck that Boyle cheekily investigates the crime. This death is not so easily forgotten as the United States sends their own investigator, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to team up with Boyle on the case. For this is a case that is much bigger than Boyle thought, it involves drug trafficking, murder, and cover-ups. For a lawman of a small town in Ireland this could be the case of a lifetime, for Gerry Boyle it is more of an inconvenience.
The stuffy, bourgeois lifestyle in England was quite the opposite life Christopher Isherwood desired to have as a young man. In Berlin things would be different for the published author, who was a homosexual during a time where such a lifestyle choice had to be hidden at all costs. Christopher and His Kind tells the story of Christopher's time in Berlin. A time of great freedom and passion with the rent boys, of fanciful and daring conservations with the sensational and heartbreaking Sally Bowles; and the first glimpse of real love in a time of great fear and anxiety as the Nazi command begins.
Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend concerns Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young British men who meet at a bar one Friday night and embark on a 48 hour affair. Haigh’s emotionally honest scripting and the pitch-perfect performances by Cullen and New lend poignancy and unexpected intimacy to this story of a brief but powerful affair.
Project Nim is not a film about a happy chimpanzee who came to live with humans. It is more a commentary on the flaws of behavioral science, the flaws of mankind, and above all the realization that it is possible for a primate species to evolve in unimaginable ways--if only humans were a strong enough species to allow the flourishing to occur without dire consequence.
While watching Another Earth is a completely enjoyable experience, thanks in part to the performances by the very talented William Mapother (John) and Brit Marling (Rhoda) it is a very routine and predictable film. Rhoda is awash with grief and must reconcile with herself and the man she hurt; as she goes about doing this it is obvious where the film is going to take you. The side-story of there being another Earth out there, and the upcoming launch of a group of civilians going to visit it, is important but obvious in the direction of the story. The ending, completely expected and a tad redundant.
"Print Media is Dead!" Well, not exactly dead but it is slowly dying. Numerous newspapers across the country have gone out of business since the Internet grew exponentially, providing immediate content distribution via a free source model. Some of the largest newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times (and its sister publications) have been forced into bankruptcy to protect themselves, resulting in a much smaller version of the paper with less than stellar content. Andrew Rossi's documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times goes inside the largest newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, to document the effects the Internet, and changing media platforms, have had on the paper, as well as seeking answers to the question that has been circulating for years amidst the changing tides of media distribution, "When will the New York Times cease to exist?"
It is astonishing – incomprehensible, even – that local indie drama How to Cheat should have won the acting prize for its ensemble at this year’s LA Film Festival – the leads of Sawdust City, for example, were far more deserving. True, the acting is one of the least bad things about the film, and if star-acting is the trick of making the character become the actor as opposed to vice versa, then across the handful of films of his I have seen, indie everyman Kent Osborne is certainly a star, and one of the most charmless onscreen today.
Frivolous lawsuits, tort reform, caps on damages, just a few legal terms that if you asked the average person on the street the likelihood they would know what these things are is questionable--or at least that is the belief Director Susan Saladoff wants you to have given her on-the-street interviews in the documentary Hot Coffee. The film centers around four specific cases, each relating to one of the above terms, and how they have impacted the legal system today. It is an incredibly dense documentary that provides little entertainment value to the material being presented. Consisting of interviews with the parties involved in each case as well as others, and additionally legal jargon or definitions titled throughout Hot Coffee feels like an educational video. In its defense, it provides great detail on the matters addressed, yet it is plagued with poor production values and a clear social message at the end that is off-putting to a viewer who is not easily influenced.
The iconic image of Henry Spencer from Eraserhead floats across the screen as the short film How To Make A David Lynch Film begins. For all the ways this man looks just like Henry, a true Lynchian fan knows it is not; this man is an impostor, and something is awry. This trickery is of course done on purpose by Director Joe McClean for this is a film about how to make a film like David Lynch makes a film, and what better way to begin such a fete than with Lynch's illustrious main character from his first feature film.
Years from now, people all over the world will remember where they were when an American Navy Seal team caught and killed Osama Bin Laden in a daring raid. Me? I was watching Riff and Bernardo dance-battle at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
West Side Story, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was screened in a flawless 70mm print to a packed house at the iconic Egyptian theater. The audience sang and danced in their seats (or at least lip-synched), which might usually be a distraction or annoyance but with the festival atmosphere and stunning colors and choreography writ large on the screen, it was practically impossible to contain oneself. The news of Bin Laden’s death did nothing to dissuade the enthusiastic applause that followed every musical number. (It may even have contributed to the elation—USA! USA!)
During the 1920s, all films were screened with live musical accompaniment, from the small town piano player to the largest metropolitan orchestra. Without a prescribed soundtrack and audible dialogue, there was no singular version of any film, allowing for a diverse, collaborative experience and many repeat viewings. I have seen silent films with piano accompaniment, and I have seen The Cameraman many times, but I have never had a more exciting silent film experience than this one at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
The Tingler (1959) is a glorious exaltation of big screen gimmickry. The film features Vincent Price as Dr. Warren Chapin, a mad scientist (what else!) who discovers that extreme fear is caused by a parasite attached to the spine. The only way to stop the "Tingler" (so called because it causes that tingling sensation you get on your spine when you feel afraid) is to let out a blood-curdling scream, killing the monster and detaching it from your spine. In a Hitchcockian turn, Castle himself appears in the prologue of the picture, warning the audience: "Remember this: a scream at the right time may save your life!"
With a film so thoroughly parsed and analyzed, you can’t really review Citizen Kane—you just have to experience it. And the TCM Classic Film Festival provided one hell of an experience. Screening a newly restored digital print at the enormous, gorgeous picture palace of Grauman’s Chinese theater, Citizen Kane was a mighty spectacle. Perhaps you have not seen the film and scoff at the hype surrounding its status as Greatest Film of All-Time. Oh, no, my friend. Believe the hype. Although such designations are arbitrary, Kane is an almost indefensibly solid choice for the #1 spot. Celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year, Welles’ masterpiece is as modern as the day it debuted and, impossible though it may seem, somehow still comes across as fresh, innovative and something heretofore unseen in cinema.
Bernard Herrmann made beautiful music; whether it was romantic, chilling, laced with suspense, or of the fantastic realm. For those who study film it only takes a small sampling of a score before you know it was composed by Bernard Herrmann, his style is quickly recognizable, as is his musical genius. I may have seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir a dozen times before but never had I solely watched in order to let the music overtake me, and even closed my eyes at times to feel the emotions the score evoked without a single moving image to assist. It was remarkable, and the score should be noted as one of Herrmann's best, and appreciated more than it has been in film history.
A Night at the Opera does not have the satirical bite of their earlier masterpiece Duck Soup and for that, will probably always be considered by some to be the lesser Marx Brothers movie. However, in terms of comedy construction and pure laugh factor, A Night at the Opera is the better film. All of the comedy routines, including the classic contract bit (with the famous “sanity clause” joke), are perfectly timed and executed. Their inclusion in any other movie would be the highlight of a lesser film. As always, seeing a film (especially a comedy) in a theater, with an audience, amplifies its impact. There are so many laughs in the picture that are packed so tightly, it’s thrilling to hear an audience react to one joke with a hearty laugh, followed by little, mini-laughs: the glorious ripple effect you rarely experience watching at home.
In The Devil is a Woman Marlene Dietrich’s eyes are constantly moving: searching, darting, batting flirtatiously. By their fifth and final film collaboration, Dietrich and director Joseph von Sternberg had perfected the formula for exotic, onscreen seduction: just keep the camera on Dietrich. As Concha Perez, an enterprising destroyer of men’s souls, Dietrich is as alluring and deadly as any black widow spider. Can she help it if every man in the movie is so utterly powerless against her charms?
As one of Marlene Dietrich's most unpopular films, The Devil Is A Woman made the perfect choice by The Turner Classic Movie Festival as part of the Discoveries section as many people have never seen the movie. A newly restored 35mm print was loaned to the festival by the Museum of Modern Art. Katie Trainor of MoMa introduced the film and gave a brief history of the restoration. The only reason the film is available is because of Marlene Dietrich herself. Having always loved the movie, and saying it was the most favorite part she ever played, Dietrich had a print of the film in her personal vault. Paramount Pictures had destroyed the master shortly after release when Spain threatened to ban all Paramount movies because of the (so they felt) negative depiction of the Spanish Police Guard. Mildly put, this movie was scandalous...
As hard as it may be to believe Pixar Animation turns 25 this year. The brilliant minds, who have made animated films accessible to both adults and children, show no sign of slowing their total domination of the animated film market, much to the joy of many filmgoers. It may not seem like a big deal to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a company, but Pixar is special in a very distinct way; they have consistently produced product that is intelligent, entertaining, and flawless in design. They have also singlehandedly (in lieu of recent achievements by Dreamworks Animation) changed the face of animation forever.
Conception is a deeply intimate film. It borders on the voyeuristic in many ways as you are privy to the inner workings, the feelings, the heartfelt sentiment, and often hilarious banter of couple's private matters. The film holds nothing back as it develops, and the writing is exceptionally genuine joined with great talent by Director Josh Stolberg. These are conversations people do have, circumstances many people face, and uncertain futures one can relate with completely.
THOR, from Paramount Pictures...Watch the new "Taser" clip. See the trailers and television spots, and check out photography and one-sheets from the film.
Certified Copy is a movie about its ideas more than about its plot or even its characters. Director Abbas Kiarostami is renowned for utilizing the tight spaces of everyday life, like the insides of cars, to give us scenes of daily life unfolding at its natural pace. Couples talk, their conversations full of pauses, hesitations, parried opinions and careful retractions.
[Excerpt] The typical summer Blockbuster requires little to no thought, just a set of eyes on an empty vessel ready to be taken on a roller coaster ride. So a mid-July film that actually demanded one to utilize his/her brain cells was a pleasant surprise. More than a smart summer movie though, here was a movie that evoked thought. As normal Joes and Janes, we often go through our lives uninspired; we wake up, drive to work, clock-in, clock-out, sleep, and repeat. Routine breeds a society of unenthused zombies so when something as alarmingly original as Inception comes along audiences wake up to life as they allow awe and wonderment to reenter their imaginations.
Movie News | Trailers | Events | Goodies: 2011
There are The Golden Globes, The Academy Awards, The Directors Guild Awards, and a whole bunch of other award ceremony's for achievements in film each and every year. The most widely known, and often times thought of as the most prestigious is The Academy Awards, the "Oscars." There is one award ceremony that is all about the performers, and the awards are given to them by their peers--making it a little more special, and a lot more intimate.
FilmDistrict is proud to present Angelina Jolie in a Live online Q&A on Thursday Jan 12th at 8pm EST / 5pm PST to discuss her writing & directorial debut, In The Land of Blood and Honey. This exciting and interactive event gives fans the chance to ask Ms. Jolie questions about the film LIVE!
In 2003 Director Len Wiseman brought the world Underworld. A post-apocalyptic style Vampire story revolving around the blood feud between Vampires and Lycans (werewolves). The film was heavily stylized, a feast for the eyes with all of the special effects and moderate amounts of gore, and most importantly it introduced the character of Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale. Selene, a vampire death dealer who clads herself in a leather/pleather/plastic ensemble with boots that seem to be the boots Nancy Sinatra was referring to when she sang "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" instantly became the definition of a gorgeous ass-kicking siren on screen.
The Hollywood Reporter announced today information on the planned Psycho prequel series "Bates Motel" over at A&E TV. The show is currently in early development, working alongside Universal Television, and would be a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. As The Hollywood Reporter puts it, "the series would offer an understanding into how Norman Bates psyche developed and would tell the back story of the famed films killer, learning of how his mother, Norma, and her lover damaged him, transforming him into serial killing motel owner."