Frame of Mind: Film Festival
If you have ever wanted to see Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) at his eccentric best, watch Franny. Gere stars as the title character Franny, a wealthy philanthropist who has always been a tad outlandish. His behavior becomes altogether erratic after he loses his best friends in a car crash and he is left ultimately alone. Five years later and a call from their daughter Olivia (Dakota Fanning from The Runaways), who Franny always referred to as Poodles, and he is suddenly drawn out of his reclusive state and hell-bent on helping her and her new husband build a life. The catch is of course that Franny has deep psychological wounds following the accident that claimed Olivia’s parents life but spared his and he does not exactly know how to acclimate himself into the young couple’s life.
Simplicity. There a few films made today that act upon the word. They instead feel the need to fill space with the unnecessary, oftentimes to mask the problems that lie within the story being told. Mexican Director Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Millas (600 Miles) takes the simplistic route to produce a film worthy of the art form. 600 Miles makes simplicity look like the best choice for a filmmaker, and viewers are sure to agree.
A mere 13 minutes would have changed the world forever, and one of the greatest atrocities in history could have been avoided. In German director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s (Downfall, Das Experiment) newest film, the WWII-centered thriller 13 Minutes (Elser), he tells the true story of how one man, working alone, tried to change the world in 1939 by assassinating Adolf Hitler. The film is by far one of the best tellings of real life heroics enacted during the time period, and it is done so as an homage to a man who went unrecognized for his valiant actions for decades.
Barney Thomson is an unassuming Glasgow, Scotland, barber. That is, until a pair of scissors finds its way into the chest of his employer, and Barney is mildly to blame. So begets the story of how Barney Thomson became a legend in his small corner of a big city. As a barber who was on his way to being fired, he now finds himself tasked with covering up a murder, maybe two. In The Legend of Barney Thomson the happenstance of murder is carefully crafted in a dark comedic style, with the guidance of actor-turned-director Robert Carlyle (28 Weeks Later, Trainspotting) who also plays the starring role of Barney.
One of the most satisfying things about film festivals can be the sidebar of retrospectives or, in the case of the LA Film Festival, the intermittent "Films That Got Away". There was only one such this year, but it was a good one – Wakamatsu Kōji's follow-up to United Red Army (2007), and his penultimate completed feature before his accidental passing in 2012. Caterpillar played at Berlin and various other festivals – to generally favourable notices – and this did indeed disappear (from these shores at least) almost without trace, so it was a treat to have a chance to see it on the big screen.
Jimi: All Is By My Side is a film with multiple problems serious enough that the couple of very good things it has going for it stand little chance of compensating. As written and directed by 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, the narrative sets off down familiar musical biopic lane: musician discovered; gains success; deals with distractions and behaves badly; and that's it.. Perhaps because the production was denied the use of Hendrix's music by his estate (holding out for full control of the production), the story ends in mid-1967, with Jimi and his Experience trooping off to Monterey and international fame.
A provincial young man dreams of writing songs. He is not very good at it. A chance encounter with a touring American band with an unpronounceable name leads to his stepping in for their sectioned keyboard player, travelling to Ireland to spend a year of musical experiments and recording and, through slightly underhand methods, getting the band booked at a big-time US festival. But at what cost? Is he a weasely manipulator, or just blindly self-serving? Is art compatible with commerce? Is genius born from mental distress? Is it in fact essentially unfathomable? And why does the band's leader/singer/guru Frank never take off that large cartoon head?
Behind the scenes of the great Künsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, as a close pan up Breughal's Tower of Babel at the end of Das groβe Museum suggests, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work. This is in fact the only moment akin to commentary in this hands-off documentary – without talking heads, voiceover, or music – unless one counts also the gentle puncturing of the traditional sanctity of such grand repositories of fine art scattered through the opening sections: an employee gliding through the narrow passageways of the office/library on a scooter to pick up a photocopy; a workman violating the parquet floor and echoing silence of an empty gallery with a pickaxe; the dusting of the groin of some giant marble Greek dude (it's Theseus).
A title at the end reveals that Joanna Hogg's third feature, Exhibition, is dedicated to the recently-late architect James Melvin, which should come as no surprise since the film is as much a portrait of the sleek, modernist Kensington townhouse in which it is almost exclusively set, as of the mildly dysfunctional marriage that resides therein.
Chistian Porumboiu ups the formal rigour of his last, Police, Adjective (2009), with a film composed of 17 shots, most capturing conversations for a full reel's 11 minutes, and filmed with an almost entirely static camera. His subjects are film director Paul and his actor and new bedmate Alina, rehearsing, eating, discussing the restraints (those 11-minute reels) of film versus digital, or how national cuisines developed according to the utensils used. They contrast in his shlubby demeanor and her careful, dancer-like movements; they misunderstand one another over dinner; and he wearily humors her working over the fine details of a scene, in order to achieve his aim of getting her naked onscreen.
Like Asghar Farhadi's previous film, A Separation (2011), Le passé (The Past) is a superb feat of narrative construction and mise en scène, keeping three to four characters at the centre of attention, and balancing their motives and desires with careful equanimity. The problem is that there's little more to recommend the film than this cleverness, since none of the characters are especially interesting or likable, and the third act develops into a twist-too-far detective story, before ending on a note that, albeit presumably not deliberate, is a thudding sequel set-up, and for a far more lively film to boot.
One wouldn’t necessarily guess it, but A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, a collaborative effort by two of the leading lights of international experimental film, Ben Rivers (UK) and Ben Russell (US), is an enquiry as to where utopia(s) may exist (as noted in interviews and screening introductions). Possible locations, it is suggested, are in the present and in cinema (an art-form, the film-makers posit, which is permanently and exclusively located in the present). The film itself is nothing like as explicit.
It’s understandable that Alain Guiraudie won the best director of Un certain regard at Cannes this year, since for the most part L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake) is a very tight piece of work, effectively exploring the time and place of a single location and milieu, charting the uncertainties that blossom as a new relationship deepens, unfussily depicting the mores of a gay lakeside cruising ground, and building with a skillful slow-burn to a long final shot of excellent tension.
Wunderkind Xavier Dolan never seems to make it to the AFI festival because he's always off shooting his next movie (four movies by the age of 24 and Cannes prizes galore). He was in production on this one when last year's Laurence Anyways screened, a continuation and expansion of the high-pitched emotional drama of his first two films. Whether these were conceived as a triptych or not, Dolan switches tack for his fourth, adapting a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, and serves up a high-pitched psychological thriller that frequently borders on Grand Guignol.
Vic + Flo Saw A Bear is something like an expansion on Denis Côté's last, the strictly observational non-documentary Bestiaire (2012), although that in turn was a distillation of his favoured practice of looking at slightly odd characters shut away from the world. In Curling (2010) and Carcasses (2009), for example, it was by their own volition, as distinct from the animals of Bestiaire, and in Vic + Flo Saw A Bear the same is true, although rather weighted since both women are not-long released from prison.
Agnès Varda has cited Documenteur as her favourite of her own films, presumably because even more than The Beaches of Agnes (2008), it is her most personal and most emotional. She was apart from her husband Demy on her second trip to Los Angeles, at the start of the ‘80s, to develop a script (turned down), deciding instead to make her documentary Mur Murs (1981) on the city's mural art. During this time she was inspired both by her sadness of separation and by the sense of disenchantment and exile she found in Venice, to make a film that fully justifies its subtitle of an “emotion picture.”
The title R100 is a joke on the ratings system because director Matsumoto (Big Man Japan, 1997) claims that no-one who has not lived a century will understand this film. Such a pronouncement is in keeping with the striving absurdity of the movie, which is frequently funny, but overall a slightly laboured litany of craziness.
Jafar Panahi continues to defy the 20-year ban on film-making imposed on him by the Iranian government with a new feature, co-directed and starring his colleague and frequent collaborator Kambozia Partovi, and it is an intriguing magnification of his last illicit achievement, This Is Not A Film (2011). That title was wittily, bitterly disingenuous, whereas Closed Curtain specifically evokes the shut-in existence both of the writer protagonist of the film’s first half, and that of the film-maker himself. There is an opposite sense as well, however, since more even than the previous experiment, this film both opens itself to what kind of cinema can be made under such straitened circumstances, and opens the consciousness of its writer-director; and, despite his palpable anguish, the curtain of possibility remains open at the end.
Reconstructing the last day in a man's life was the difficult task put to director Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station. The events leading up to Oscar Grant's untimely death on New Year's Day 2009 is the basis for the story, the sensationalized media frenzy that came afterwards is left out of Fruitvale Station, giving the viewer an opportunity to know Oscar as the man he once was, and was trying to be for his family. His death caused a media uproar, shook the San Francisco Bay Area, and continues to influence the politics of how police officers act, and react, in situations. Oscar was unjustly killed by a Bart Officer coming home on New Year's Eve; a death that could have been avoided, as was seen by millions thanks to cell phone videos taken at the scene.
LAFF Film Review: 'Europa Report' Will Make Science Fiction Fans Euphoric (Dir. Sebastián Cordero 2013 USA)
Found footage has a secure home in horror movies, and with Europa Report the science fiction genre gets its best found footage film to date. From director Sebastián Cordero, his first English-language film Europa Report tells the story of a privately funded space mission to one of Jupiter's Moons. The hope of the crew, and the company behind them, is to find signs of life--albeit at the molecular level in the ice or water; or nothing at all. Europa Report takes place far in the future, where technology makes it possible to send astronauts into space for years at a time without the use of the sleeping pods the genre is so fond of, a la Alien.
There are scary movies, and then there are SCARY movies. The Conjuring fits into the latter category as it will undoubtedly frighten you to the point of laughter, make you squirm in your seat, cover your eyes, and wish you had left the lights on in the house because you will be afraid of the dark when you get home. The Conjuring is the horror movie we dream of, because its a hark back to an older style of horror filmmaking, before torture, excessive blood and guts, and the like took over cinema screens, and found-footage too.
The unhappy, bored housewife dilemma is no longer confined to narrative storytelling about heterosexual couples thanks to Concussion, a movie that gets a great deal of things right with representation, but falters when it comes to the scandalous underbelly of its story.
The blessed event of pregnancy, made unforgettably horrifying in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, has found yet another outlet to promote birth control with first-time Director Brian Netto's Delivery. Written by Netto and Adam Schindler, Delivery uses the found-footage motif to tell the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy's road to parenthood, as the stars of a new reality show, "Delivery."
Fritz Lang’s Fury is based on the same small-town California news story, but this is the real deal. Instead of an innocent man threatened by a lynch mob, Try and Get Me has returning GI (never saw combat) Frank Lovejoy struggling to make ends meet for his wife and child, falling in with startling sociopath Lloyd Bridges, and them going to jail for the callous murder of a local rich boy. The lynch mob still gathers, but infinitely more frightening than Lang’s, storming the jail in an unstoppable onslaught, rather than burning it down, captured with occasionally startlingly verité camerawork by Guy Roe.
Scarecrow would have been a very different film had it starred, as originally intended, Bill Cosby and Jack Lemmon. As it is, it allowed up and coming Al Pacino and Gene Hackman to give two of the best performances of their careers, and it remains a mystery why the film has remained so long under the radar (the answer is partly that, despite winning the Palme d’Or, it was cold-shouldered by Warner’s a week into its theatrical release, in favor of pushing The Exorcist). Perhaps too, because it is about a pair of bums, with no real story aside from the picaresque of meanderings and passing encounters; but it also charts the growth of a male friendship, in a fashion extremely well-judged and genuinely moving.
The films of husband-and-wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry are amongst the most undervalued of the wave of semi-independent American films of the 70s. In titles like Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) and Play It As It Lays (1972) they tackled a specifically contemporary sense of malaise and neurosis, on both coasts, in a way comparable really only to some of Woody Allen, with a slightly gauche self-seriousness in place of the comedy.
Beloved in France but little known elsewhere, La traversée de Paris holds the distinction of being the one film by Claude Autant-Lara deemed acceptable by the young François Truffaut, in his campaign against the prevailing cinèma du qualité in 1950s France.
Cheap, tough, and drenched in shadows, The Narrow Margin was the sort of thing that the RKO technicians could knock out in a couple of weeks with no trouble at all, but is raised by particularly tight direction from Richard Fleischer, including terrific use of confined spaces, windows, and yes, lots of shadows (but also, some nice harsh sunlight); and by lived-in performances from never-quite-made-it players, Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor.
Rushlights is a twisted tale of lies and deceit, with a host of characters that get more shady by the minute. This is, of course, the extreme fun in watching Rushlights' story play out on screen. The twists keep coming, the momentum never slows down, and the near-pulpiness of the movie only helps matters.
Director William Savage creates a touching story of love, loss, and mourning with his first feature-length film In Lieu Of Flowers. Premiering at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival, audiences are sure to applaud the heartfelt sentiment found in the film. As well as the never faltering feeling of hope for life after heartbreak that permeates the narrative.
After ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.
Dreamworks Animation has given moviegoers some of the most treasured animated franchises; from the Shrek and Madagascar series of films to Kung Fu Panda's, as well as How To Train Your Dragon and the highly anticipated upcoming sequel coming 2014. Their newest film, Rise of the Guardians is based on a series of books by William Joyce called "The Guardians of Childhood" that brings to life a world where Santa Klaus (voice of Alex Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Jackman), Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (voice of Isla Fisher) exist to keep the world safe; they are The Guardians and it is with the belief of children around the world as to their existence that their powers remain in tact. There is one other fabled character who has never been given much attention in the modern age, or any age for that matter, Jack Frost (voice of Chris Pine). Rise of the Guardians is Jack Frost's story as to how he becomes one of the Guardians, while assisting the others in saving the world from the evil Boogeyman (voice of Jude Law).
Natural disasters are easy prey for filmmakers wherein the melodrama is grown organically out of the true story the film portrays. This is usually their downfall, as the events and performances are so over-the-top and seeping with mushiness that they get thrown onto a Cable Network and forgotten--all for the best. Then there is one that goes against the odds stacked up against it, a melodrama based on true events that takes place during a harrowing experience that is the entire film-worthy package, meant to be seen on a big screen. The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona of The Orphanage (2007), is that movie.
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Post Tenebras Lux (Dir. Carlos Reygadas Mexico/France/Germany/The Netherlands 2012)
Carlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón , and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven , but the calmed down Silent Light  won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.
Barbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.
Xavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother , or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats . He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.
The rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.
Caesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.
This is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Leviathan (Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel US/UK/France 2012)
Leviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).
This is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga , with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.
There are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.
Director Tobias Lindholm's first feature film R was a gritty prison drama that upheaved the generic genre conventions that came before. His second feature takes a drastic look at a very topical subject, and one very much ignored in detail in the media--except for the sensationalizing of pirates sailing the open sea. A Highjacking is the story of a group of crew members aboard a Danish ship headed to Mumbai, sailing in waters that are not common territory for water-bound highjacking. Never say never is the shocking truth that A Highjacking brings to life, with as much intensity and claustrophobia possible.
If nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.
It should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:
Abbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy ; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.
AFI FEST 2012 'Breakthrough' Must See Selection: Nairobi Half Life (Dir. Tosh Gitonga 2012 Germany Kenya)
If you go to the AFI FEST website, and select Film Guide from the navigation menu, you will find all of the festival's sections laid out before you, with an image from one film highlighting each. It should come as no surprise that Nairobi Half Life has been selected to represent the 'Breakthrough' section of the guide. Not to discount the greatness of the other five films in the section but after viewing Nairobi Half Life it is hard to imagine any other film being as remarkable--although I am sure they all have their respective merits, and I will discover those when the festival runs November 1-8, much to my excitement. For now I will share with you the fascinating and brilliant accomplishment in filmmaking that is Nairobi Half Life.
AFI FEST 2012 'Young Americans' Must See Movies: The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet
The 'Young Americans' section of the AFI FEST program is a place where emerging U.S. filmmakers showcase their recent works to the festival audience in the hopes that they will win the coveted audience award prize. There are eleven films in the section for the 2012 festival, three of which have made an incredible impression on me during my pre-festival coverage--I have not seen all of the eleven, and I look forward to watching the rest during AFI FEST 2012 (November 1-8). But for now, a preview of three sure contenders for the audience award, and they are undoubtedly going to please every festival goer who takes the time to see them--and I highly recommend you add them to your schedule--The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet.
The country of Colombia has always been a place of violence, political unrest, and consistently under scrutiny. Famously known for its Drug Cartel, and former cartel leader Pablo Escobar, Colombia continues to supply 90% of the cocaine to US drug traffickers. A rarely told viewpoint is that of the women in Colombia, from the rural villages that are caught in the crossfire between the government and guerillas. Director Nicole Karsin ventures into this unchartered feminist viewpoint with the documentary We Women Warriors. Told from the perspective of three native women, Doris an Awa from Southern Colombia, Ludis a Kankuamo of Northern Colombia, and Flor Ilva, a Nasa woman in Southern Colombia, Karsin weaves an intricate story about perseverance in a place where violence has overrun the desire for peace, but three women seek to make change with non-violent actions.
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.
TCM Classic Film Festival: The Legendary Costume Design of Travis Banton, with Mae West in I'm No Angel
Mae West...the feisty screen siren who defied the dictated societal norms placed upon women and was brash, to-the-point, and oh-so sexualized in every movie she made. Teaming up with Cary Grant for the second time, Mae wrote the screenplay for I'm No Angel, a movie about a woman working in the circus who has a non-stop parade of boyfriends who keep her in nice things that are far above her social status. With one-liners to die for rolling off Mae's lips and a story that is sweet if not audacious in its execution of sexual innuendos, I'm No Angel is a romantic comedy featuring the undeniably sexy West and enough men to keep her occupied. The movie is hilarious, sweet natured, and evokes many a temptation in the viewer. To call I'm No Angel sinful is the greatest of compliments.
The collected works of Ernest Hemingway are popular for cinematic adaptation. One of the lesser known, and only adapted once for the screen, is Hemingway's novel "The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber". In 1947, Director Zoltan Korda, of the famous Korda family, brought The Macomber Affair to the big screen with the legendary Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and the soon-to-be star of Broadway Robert Preston. The story revolves around the Macomber's (Bennett and Preston) vacationing in Africa where they hire a hunting guide (Peck) to take them on a hunting exhibition. Things go terribly awry and Mr. Macomber ends us being shot in the back while on the hunt. The event is considered an accident but the truth over what really happened is shrouded in secrets until the pieces are slowly revealed in flashback.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
The Cinecon Classic Film Festival is not for novices. Held over Labor Day weekend mere steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Cinecon attendees are more likely to stop and admire the sidewalk stars of Louise Fazenda and Richard Barthelmess than Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Do you recognize those names of old? Cinecon is an annual gathering of the people who not only recognize, but celebrate, laud, discuss, and admire the oft-forgotten legends of silent and early sound cinema.
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.
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.
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...
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.
I realize it may be difficult to see Pablo Escobar as a positive influence on Colombia. This is the great paradox of the film. It defies the historiographies and provides a new outlook. We may go as far as to say Andrés is similar to Pablo in that he is fully what Pablo was partly. The good soul who wanted no more than to give pride to his country. Only to have that stripped away from him by his own people when murdered. As the filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist state about making the film, "it became clear that this was far from a classic "deal-with-the-devil" narrative". That statement only becomes more and more clear as every piece of history is revealed. Call Pablo a devil if you like but be prepared to see a side of him that has not been seen before while being introduced to a man full of love for his country who could only have existed with the devil by his side, Andrés Escobar.
It is impossible to know the events of that day or what happened between Director and Subject leading up to filming. By the way the scene plays out it is hard for me to see anything other than a form of reality television occurring. As we all know, reality television is nothing close to reality, it is scripted. I can hope this is not the case and I do not mean to take away from the amount of work involved with this documentary as the production value is good. I simply cannot reconcile that what I have seen is in fact natural. All I could think at the end, when trying to decide where this film falls in the documentary genre, is that it belongs with Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty 1922).
When The Tillman Story draws to a close and the lights go on you will feel a rush of emotion. I noticed a definite quieting of people as they left the theater as if deep in thought and in need of processing what they had just watched and in turn learned from. This is a film everyone should see because it unmasks so much in terms of our government and military. To say you will enjoy the film is impossible. I did not enjoy watching this movie but I did appreciate it and gain respect for all involved. For to tell this story could not have been easy and took much bravery to put it out there for the world to see regardless of the repercussions. No matter what reaction the film evokes in you remember it is not just the story of Pat Tillman. It represents all military personnel and the truth that what happened to Pat can and will happen again.
[Excerpt] You want desperately for more light, more noise, anything to clue you in to what is going to happen. All of your senses awaken in an attempt to find answers. To solve the puzzle before the characters do so you can sit in peace for the rest of the film. This peaceful existence never happens because there are no answers it seems.
"If you like your history bloody, this is the film", Director Neil Marshall introducing Centurion to the audience at The Los Angeles Film Festival Ford Theatre screening. Those are strong words to live up to and it was with great pleasure that the film delivered just what he promised. Centurion is an epic of small proportions.
As a spotlight film of the 2010 Feel Good Film Festival it definitely was well suited for this particular festival as you walk away from the film with a positive feeling, regardless of the somewhat uncertain and bleak ending for the two documented filmmakers. The film took home Best Director for Brent Florence at the festival. More information on the film directly can be found at its website here.
Even with its tendency towards the melodramatic, Bedrooms does portray important human struggles that are relatable. The disillusionment of life, the secrets people keep, and the possibilities of reconciliation with truth, are wonderfully presented. Bedrooms is a raw portrait of human relationships in its writing and presentation; but looking past the rough edges you can see the impressive depth of each story.
Adalberto faces an incredibly difficult decision on whether to stand true to his beliefs that not everything has a price or to give in to the tempting prospect of selling the magazine for the spoils the money may bring.
Set in Hamburg, Germany, Soul Kitchen is a comedy of errors centered around Zinos, a small-time restaurant owner who has seen better days. His girlfriend is moving to Shanghai, his restaurant performing below expectations, and his parolee brother causes him the occasional amount of grief. To make matters worse, he injures his back causing a herniated disc, making it impossible for him to cook. Adding to the already full plate he has is a childhood friend who is set on purchasing the land the restaurant sits upon and he will stop at nothing to make it his own. Poor Zinos, he just cannot seem to catch a break. Thankfully this adds up to a great amount of comedy for the viewer as we watch him stumble through the multiple trials put in front of him.
Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) comes from a family of assassins with a long legacy of deadeye pride. His mother (Eileen Atkins), who he has recently moved into a retirement home after living with her all his life, is none too pleased Victor has heretofore failed to produce an heir to continue the family trade. Lonely, exacting, socially awkward and approaching his fifty-fifth birthday, Victor is a failure. (The fact that he's the most ruthlessly efficient and expensive assassin in London does not seem to impress dear, old ma.) But when Victor is hired to kill Rose (Emily Blunt), a beautiful thief on the wrong side of an elegant criminal (Rupert Everett), it seems his legacy problems might be solved.
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the stunning debut feature from twenty-five year old writer/director Damien Chazelle, harkens back to a time when intimate, docu-realist love stories were common and the lines between film genres weren’t so rigid. Chazelle’s film feels both classic and thrillingly new, something we haven’t seen much of since the French New Wave pioneered that kind of storytelling more then fifty years ago. Guy and Madeline is a love story set to music, scored by the jazz that he (trumpeter Jason Palmer) plays and she (Desiree Garcia) longs to share.
As part of the Special Screenings section of the 2010 AFI FEST, Made In Dagenham held the promise of a rousing tribute to the women of Dagenham, England, who in 1968 went on strike against Ford Motor Company to demand equal pay to the men employed at the factory. This Norma Rae type film ended up being a practically disgraceful representation of this proud moment in women's history.
American writer/director Aaron Schock wanted to make a documentary about a traveling circus, but in the U.S. that kind of entertainment is a relic of a bygone era. So, he went to Mexico. The subject of Schock’s film, La Gran Circo de Mexico, is nowhere near as majestic as its name, consisting only of members of the Ponce family who can trace back their participation in the circus business a century. The leader of the family now, Tino Ponce, is a man determined to live and die by the circus.
Mandrill is a rollicking B-movie exploitation flick from Chile that gleefully references everything cool in espionage and action cinema, from James Bond to 1970s exploitation and kung fu movies. As a boy, Antonio Espinoza witnessed the murder of his parents by a ruthless gangland boss named Cyclops. Now a man, Antonio has adopted his own one-named moniker, Mandrill, and a similar profession as a highly stylized, highly efficient assassin for hire. Still on the hunt for Cyclops, Mandrill (Marko Zaror) tracks him to Peru, where he falls for his beautiful and dangerous daughter Dominic (Celine Reymond). The pair fall in love but mixing business with pleasure is never easy, as Mandrill soon discovers.
“The law is the law, but men enforce it.” That line is said to Judge Tian (Ni Dahong), a fair and honest court official dealing with the sudden death of his daughter in a car accident. Tian is presiding over the case of Qiu Wu, a poor young man accused of stealing two cars, a crime punishable in China in 1997 (when the film takes place) by death. Tian’s heartbreak is compacted by the lack of closure in his daughter’s case: there are no suspects and the only detail of the crime is that she was killed by a stolen car. Thus the moral dilemma in Judge (Touxi), from co-writer and director Liu Jie: what is fair judgment?
The Weather Station (Pryachsya) is structured with two alternating storylines, one in the present and the other in the past. When a distress call is made from the station a team of investigators is sent to help. Upon arrival they find the station deserted and any signs of how or why everyone is missing are not present. As the two agents uncover evidence or conjecture hypothesis' about what occurred the film expertly shifts into flashbacks using fantastic cross cutting editing techniques, as well as match-on-action, to reveal the answers. But only partial answers are ever given as just as quickly as the film moves from present to past it moves back again to the present from the past. This deliberate withholding of all the facts keeps the mystery going and maintains the viewer's interest as twists in the story appear to occur constantly.
Shown during the midnight movie portion of AFI FEST, 2010, Cargo is the first ever science fiction film from Switzerland. Made over a period of eight years it has the much needed visual style to compete with the more mainstream science fiction films and enough mystery and suspense to appease the casual viewer.
California, a place known for its idealistic landscapes and plethora of tourist destinations. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego lay in wait every year, welcoming people from all over the world who embark on seeing how the people of these romanticized places live. There are other parts of California as well. Places locals may refer to as pit stops along the way to better destinations. Areas where you may stop to re-fuel or grab a snack. These are the towns that go unnoticed in guide books, and barely make it onto maps. This is small town America, nestled among the bright lights of big cities; places they are so close to but feel alienated from. The film Littlerock explores one such town, through the eyes of two travelers who inadvertently find themselves stuck there, fittingly named Littlerock, California.
Adapted from the stage play of the same name, the film Rabbit Hole examines the ways in which a married couple cope with the loss of their 4-year old son. Moving away from the initial aftermath of such an emotional and life-changing loss the story takes place eight months after his death. It focuses on what happens as days go by, and how we as people move forward when unexpected and unforseen actions rip apart our simple existence.
The pattern and main theme surrounding the film Rubber is an homage to the no reason. As the introduction states, "Life itself is filled with no reason". There is no reasoning behind why a rubber tire would suddenly gain consciousness; nor does there have to be. Such is the draw to the film Rubber: to try and make sense of it only plays into the idea of life being full of things beyond reasoning. Sometimes you just have to commit to the fact that there is no explanation. There is no actual reason for an event or an action. It just happens. Just as a group of people watching a rubber tire go on a desert killing spree just happens.
Twenty-two year old Aura has just come home from college in Ohio with a degree in film theory and no idea what to do with herself. “I’m in a post-graduate delirium,” she says. Tiny Furniture plays like a post-graduate, post-The Graduate--quarter-life crises of Woody Allen if Woody Allen was a twenty-two year old girl.
If I tried to explain to you the plot of Troll 2 you would not believe me. Many have tried to dissect the nonsensical structure and chaotic visual style that's rendered it notorious; either for its outrageous ineptitude or its towering avant-garde genius, depending on your point of view. Whatever your flavor of fanaticism, Best Worst Movie attempts to document the phenomenon of the unlikely cult surrounding Troll 2, the 1990…let’s use “film” loosely, which seems to have replaced classics like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space as the coveted Worst Movie Ever Made.
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It's hard to believe that Los Angeles has had its own film festival for only two decades, but this year is indeed the 20th edition of the LAFF, running from Wednesday, June 11, to Thursday 19. As ever, the program boasts a mixture of local and regional independent films, a couple of big-ticket studio films (Eastwood’s Jersey Boys is the closer, 22 Jump Street is a “pre-festival” special screening ), a couple of big-ticket independents (Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer is the official opener), a respectable International Showcase, and countless documentaries, shorts and music videos.
The TCM Classic Film Festival, gearing up for its fourth installment and now officially an annual event, gets bigger and better every year. The channel and its hosts, inspire even greater devotion than one would imagine, until you see the queues of people eagerly lined up to touch the hem of Robert Osborne’s garment. For four days at the end of April (25-28) the strip of Hollywood between the Roosevelt Hotel and the Egyptian will be filled with film enthusiasts from all over the country, and all over the world, gathered simply to celebrate the classic movies we love.
The Indian Film Festival Of Los Angeles (IFFLA) has announced the opening and closing night gala films. Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur will open the festival and the closing night film will be Deepa Mehta's Midnight's Children.
In its 11th year, IFFLA will run April 9th to the 14th at Arclight Hollywood Cinemas.
The world premiere of Hitchcock took place at AFI FEST 2012 as the opening night film. A highlight reel of the red carpet arrivals is available for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!
The online universe has become one of the best places to promote, distribute, and gather attention for independent films. The Beneath the Earth Film Festival takes advantage of the online experience each year by hosting an entirely online film festival. A grand jury comprised of film reviewers will decide on the best film, screenplay, soundtrack, cinematography, and editing categories but the audience award is open for voting to everyone--this means you, the internet perusing movie watcher.
AFI FEST 2012 is nearly upon the filmmaking community and eager moviegoing audiences while the slate of films to be shown at the festival are slowly being announced. It may be the anticipation over this year's, and every year's, AFI FEST that makes it seem like it takes so long to know what is playing, or maybe its just myself and Tom von Logue Newth whom are impatient to cover the festival this year. Either way, AFI FEST is always a great festival to attend, with films from around the world and premieres of some of the biggest films of the Fall/Winter Season--with more than one Oscar contender thrown in for good measure.
Christopher Coppola may not be as well known as his uncle Francis Ford Coppola but his venture into supporting budding filmmakers, from all walks of life, with "Project Accessible Hollywood (PAH)" is worthy of great praise. Taking place in Los Angeles at Los Angeles City College October 20-28, 2012, the sixth annual PAH-FEST:Hollywood will teach hands-on filmmaking over the course of 8 days. The festival is held in conjunction with Los Angeles City College, Sony, Intel, Dell, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
New York City has had the pleasure of hosting the Korean American Film Festival and now it is Los Angeles' turn. The inaugural Korean American Film Festival Los Angeles (KAFFLA) kicks off on August 9th, 2012 and runs until the 11th at the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (5505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036). The festival will feature 4 feature-length narrative and documentary films and 13 short films in non-competitive programs.
A recent trend in journalism is to write about the death of film. Not film as a medium but as the method in which movies are created and screened for viewers. Digital is taking over, and 16mm, 35mm, 70mm, and the like are becoming distant memories of what was once standard practice at a movie theatre. Film is not dead, though, and The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is holding a rare 70mm film festival to celebrate some of the best, and in their own right epic, films that were made on the long forgotten 70mm format. There will even be rare showings of short films shot in 70mm as well. Running through the Summer the festival will feature six-films from the golden age of 70mm print filmmaking to be screened at the Academy's The Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.
The character of James Bond has become a worldwide icon, and an influential figure in pop culture. The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, and two events are happening in Los Angeles to celebrate the man, the character, the movies, of James Bond.
TCM Classic Film Festival Silent Auction, featuring Vertigo and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Memorabilia
The TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood April 12th to the 15th, 2012. In conjunction with the amazing line-up of films that will be showing over the course of four days there will also be a silent auction featuring two original posters from two of the films being screened, Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo and the unforgettable 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, as directed by Richard Fleischer. In attendance for the screening of Vertigo is the enigma creating lead-actress herself, Kim Novak; and for 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Kirk Douglas will take part in a discussion after the screening.
That time of year has returned, where classic cinephiles from around the country pay homage to great classic cinema at the TCM Classic Film Festival. In only its third year the festival has established itself as a must for cinema fanatics, and an event not to be missed. This year's slate of programming is outstanding, and features an array of films for every taste. More films may still be announced, and more special guests are sure to be attending. For now, here is the program for the TCM Classic Film Festival 2012: