Thursday, September 16, 2010
There are two things wrong with this. 1) Why release this now? Why not hold off a little bit longer so that all audiences can experience the film the way the I did- with an uneasy sense of reality and doubt? 2) What are the critics going to say? We have all been duped and when you sit back to think about why would they even need to do something like this and your thoughts don't go that deep; because this is all a gimmick.
Read the full article in the NY Times HERE.
And for my last day of screening, I saw 4 films and I am packed up and ready to leave early tomorrow morning. It has been such a dream this week. I could not have asked for anything better. I hope to be back at Toronto next year.
NEDS (Peter Mullan) UK: NEDS stands for non-educated delinquents and these young boys that become hedonistic gang-members in their small town really are delinquents. The film builds nicely around a young, promising boy who is extremely smart and his brother is a well known and respected leader of one of the local gangs. Sometime in the span of a summer all the boys turn to fighting and even killing. The film begins with a lot of potential but loses its pacing and ultimately the point by the end of the film. This writer/director should have stuck to just one job and not both.
L'AMOUR FOU (Pierre Thoretton) France: This is a wonderful documentary on Yves St Laurent and his emipre of fashion that he built but ultimately the art collection and houses that he lived in. Mainly told from the prospective of his lover of 50 years, it showcases the auction where all of his major art was sold. The film was good but could have been great if more time was spent on discussing the art that he owned and more of the fashion trends that made him an icon.
!WOMEN ART REVOLUTION- A SECRET HISTORY (Lynn Hershman Leeson) US : Although slightly amateur, this documentary about feminist art was compelling and inspiring. There are so many interesting interviews, clips and photos of artwork from the late 60s through the 90s. We don't often think about the lack of female artists in galleries, media or schooling and this film is trying to give a voice back to the female artist.
I SAW THE DEVIL (Kim Jee-Woon) South Korea: This film is simply about revenge. Revenge in the craziest, bloodiest and most consuming way. It is bloody, gruesome and at times I was holding onto the seat next to me. The movie begins with a brutal murder of a young woman. Her husband then sets off to find and slowly torture the serial killer that did this. Done is ways that Quentin Tarantino would be proud, this film never gives the viewer a break and what is so fun about it, is that you don't want one.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
And now that I think about it, after this...only one more day to go (tear).
BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky) US: Now, I am not ready to fully review this film tonight so I will only say that it is wonderful. Aronofsky is a truly talented filmmaker and with this film he has taken a simple idea, one that is found in many films and made it his own. Natalie Portman gives a breathtaking performance as Nina, who has been recently chosen to play the Swan Queen and the Black Swan in the ballet production of Swan Lake. From the moment that she has to embody both good and evil roles the film plays with your sense of perspective, understanding and expectations leaving you with a true experience.
*OKI'S MOVIE (Hong Sangsoo) South Korea
*22 OF MAY (Koen Mortier) Belgium
* AS IF I AM NOT THERE (Juanita Wilson) Ireland/Macedonia/Sweden
*I began screening all three of these films and after giving them about 20 minutes each I could no longer continue. Therefore I do not feel comfortable grading them, when I did not see them as a whole. I could go into more detail but I will spare you.
MAMMA GOGO (Fridrick Thor Fridriksson) Iceland: This movie had potential in the beginning but lost the lighthearted feeling that it tried to capture. GoGo is the mother of Christopher, who is a struggling local filmmaker who has lost all of his money. GoGo needs constant care as she begins to lose her memory and is becoming a danger to herself and the community. There are a few funny moments between the family as they figure out what to do with each other but that's it! The film does not develop much further, except that GoGo starts to be visited by her dead husband and she runs away to be with him, END.
MOTHER OF ROCK, LILLIAN ROXON (Paul Clarke) Australia: This was a fascinating documentary on Australian music writer and columnist Lillian Roxon. She championed the music that grew out of the dirty streets of New York including Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Alice Cooper. Not only was she close with Andy Warhol and company but she had a knack for spotting new talent and recognizing the potential of rock and roll. Even if you have not heard of her (she is the author of Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia) if you are interested in any of the music to come out of NY in the 60s and early 70s you should catch this film.
NORWEGIAN WOOD (Tran Anh Hung) Japan: This film is based on the book with the same title. Now, I have not read the book but the movie is not worth catching. Although beautifully shot, the film fails to capture any of the main themes that must be in the novel. We are introduced to three best friends in their late teens, two of whom are dating, when one of them commits suicide. The two friends, Watanabe and Midori, deal with his death by leaving town and when they reconnect years later they fall "in love" with one another. Watanabe vows to love and protect Midori but she is haunted by her first love's death and can never love him back. It is really a sad story on love and love lost but NORWEGIAN WOOD relies on inaction instead of action and emotion is hard to capture without explanation.
I am sad that there is only one more day of screenings. I do not want to return but I am excited to continue screening, searching and writing about movies when I get home.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Today was a bit of a light day, only 4 films but all rather interesting.
BLESSED EVENTS (Isabelle Stever) Germany: This was an interesting, simple film that somehow came together but still left a lot of questions unanswered. A guy and a girl hook up one night and the girl becomes pregnant. They decide to become a couple and have the child together. They are never very intimate and you never find out anything too personal therefore there are many things left unsaid that any displays of emotion are strange.
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog) US: Yes, Herzog tackled 3D and yes, it looked great (at times) but as a film it was strange, slow, sometimes informative and patch-worked. Herzog is given permission to enter into a cave in France that houses the oldest known cave paintings, dating back over 30,000 years. The use of 3D is so amazing at these points that it is truly awesome. Other times your eyes cannot adjust and it is blurry and you are unable to concentrate on the image on screen. As for content of the film, Herzog trails off and brings in some pretty interesting subjects for interviews. It is definitely worth seeing but just be prepared for how weird it is.
JOHN CARPENTER'S THE WARD (John Carpenter) US: John Carpenter is back with a new thriller that takes place in a mental institution. Kristen (Amber Heard) is taken in as a new mental patient after she is seen burning down a house. All of the other girls on her floor start disappearing and when she tries to get out, she finds out that there are some scary things happening in her ward. This movie is ridiculous in a gory, fun way. Enjoy it for its campy qualities and do not judge it for the flaws in story because it actually comes together in a very interesting way.
AFTERSHOCK (Feng Xiaogang) China: Talk about a tear-jerker; there was not a dry eye in the house after this one. A family is torn apart after a devastating earthquake in Tehjung, China in 1976. Here the mother, who has just lost her husband has to decide which of her children to save (the son or daughter) who are both caught under a slab of concrete. She chooses her son and must live with the guilt of her dead child and husband her whole life. At the same time, the daughter never passes away and is adopted months later by another family. Years go by as the brother and sister grow up, have children and begin their own families and yet you wonder if the family will ever reunite and if they can ever really be a family again. The production of this film was incredible and epic. It was a little long and really capitalized on the emotional journey of its characters, making it a very heavy drama.
More to come tomorrow!
Monday, September 13, 2010
I got through 5 films today, making my total 21 films thus far. It is finally getting hard to remember what I had seen a few days ago so it is good that I am keeping track. I haven't even begun to assemble the "master" list of films and reviews from the other two people here from the festival screenings. I'll be sure to post that when I get home.
SILENT SOULS (Aleksei Fedorchenko) Russian: I went to see this film on a recommendation. I would have to agree that it was "good" but I should have asked for a little more information on why it was good. It looked good and flowed well, but it was a simple art-piece reminiscing about an old tribe in Russia. A man loses his wife and asks his friend to accompany him on a journey to give her a traditional burial, which includes burning and spreading the ashes into water. That's really all that happens with a few simple stories about the wife when she was alive. It was a nice film but for having a short running time it felt long, probably because there is something about a story that keeps the viewer entertained.
MONSTERS (Gareth Edwards) UK: This movie wants to be DISTRICT 9, but it falls short in so many ways and only comes close to its look-a-like that you ask yourself "why didn't I just watch DISTRICT 9?" Aliens have invaded the planet and the contamination zone is Northern Mexico. Our two characters must walk through the risky area to make it to the US and just so happens that the aliens are kept out by a giant wall. The illegal immigration agenda is so obvious but in case the audience did not catch on the male lead says something about how crazy it is to look at the US from the outside. The aliens are the best characters in the film and they and the entire production look amazing. I just have a problem with characters that state the obvious, over and over. For example, the female lead (who is engaged, but doesn't care for her husband) knows that they are traveling through an alien-infested area and when they run into these other creatures she actually asks questions like "what is that?" and "what are they doing here?"
THE PROMISE: THE MAKING OF DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN (Thom Zimmy) US: This documentary chronicles the making of the Boss' third record. You do not just have to like Springsteen to appreciate this film, in fact Bruce gives a lot of great insight into the obsessive, creative and dark places an artist must go to make a record. The film doesn't delve into anything too personal, just what was going on in the studio for the year that they were recording.
ROUTE IRISH (Ken Loach) UK: Ken Loach has proved again that he is a talented director. In his latest film he tackles the topical subject of the war in Iraq in this political thriller. Always one to glorify the middle-class, this is about two best friends who were contracted soldiers from the UK for Iraq. It begins with the funeral of one of the men, Frankie, who was killed in the line of duty but in a very suspicious way. His best friend Fergus then begins an investigation that leads to some interesting information and he takes it upon himself to find out who killed Frankie. Using the war as a backdrop, Loach seamlessly intertwines stock footage of wartime news clips with the film and creates a real feeling of chaos and despair. He also does not demonize the effects and terrible nature of war, with characters that are severely flawed and who realize that war is not humane so you cannot judge by normal standards. This was an intense, engaging and well made film.
BLAME (Michael Henry) Australia: Five prep school kids kidnap and plan to kill a piano teacher because they think that their friend committed suicide because of him. But then things go wrong. From the beginning of this film it is intense and very dramatic with suicide, murder and lies between friends. It it interesting how the students sway back and forth with their decision to kill the teacher or not. It is a dark first feature film from the director Henry and a film that is well acted and well executed but the end result is something sad and provides no catharsis being that teenagers have killed themselves and now teenagers want to kill.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
LOOK, STRANGER (Arielle Javitch): I don't really recall what I was expecting from this film, but it wasn't a lot and I was severely let down. Granted, I did view this early this morning, but thinking back on it, it is a minimalist film with two characters that never really describe what they are doing, where they are going and why. Whether or not I caught this film in the middle of the day I don't think that much would have changed in the story. We are introduced to a woman that is "trying to get home" (although we don't know where home is) and he helps her, until he gives up and leaves her in a place that is exactly how they started. Basically, just not good.
LAST NIGHT (Massy Tadjedin): The more that I think about this film, the more I realize how much that it stuck with me and I liked its premise, although sad. Joanna (Kira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) are a married couple that have dated since college. We are introduced to them at a party where Joanna sees her husband flirting with his colleague, played by Eva Mendez. After arguing that evening over potential infidelities the couple make-up and when Michael leaves on a business trip the next day with Mendez, Johanna runs into an old fling on the street who is only in town for one night, played by Guillaume Canet. What happens next is an evening between two couples, both cheating in their own way. One couple is far more interesting to watch than the other, being that Canett is magnetic and so charming around Knightley that you wonder how she could not be with him. But what is great about this film is that it begs to ask the question of which is worse, to cheat on someone because of physical attraction and lust for something new or to emotionally cheat by being in love with someone else?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA (Dustin Lance Black): Dustin Lance Black won the Academy Award for best screenplay for MILK and WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA is his first feature film with writer and director credits. Virginia, played by Jennifer Connelly, is the town freak; she sleeps around, is coughing up blood and has an interesting son who is trying to figure out his feelings towards women and God. Things get tense in the town when Virginia reveals that she is having the baby of the town Sheriff (Ed Harris) who is running for senator and married. This film is tough, being that there is a lot going on. It is layered with interesting feelings towards religion, age, marriage and love. It often tries to be funny and some moments really are, but the rest falls flat and becomes strange. Black is trying to take cues from David Lynch, but failing to minimize all of the ideas that are going on. Connelly saves this film with her wonderful performance as Virgina.
AMIGO (John Sayles): Unfortunately, this was simply a dud. I walked out after an hour and that was me being kind, compared to the rest of the industry audience. AMIGO is about American take-over of the Philippines and what happens to a town of people that must bow down to this occupation. The film felt inauthentic in style and costuming. The dialogue was cliche and painful and after an hour of this 2 hour film I decided that if it was unsure of its characters and of its conflict this far into it, it was not worth my time.
That's all today! Until tomorrow! (I can't believe that I am half way done...sigh)
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I only got the 3 films today. That was not all my fault and timing just didn't work out for me. It was finally a day that I needed to relax and enjoy the city and get myself to an industry party. Not going to lie, it was fun, but probably because I needed a drink pretty badly and I ended up getting into a conversation that went from hypnotism to fake breasts to orgasms to relationships...gotta love Hollywood.
But of the films that I did see, I enjoyed them all and for different reasons.
LITTLE WHITE LIES (Guillaume Canet) France: This was such a pleasure to start my day with. This film follows around a group of friends who all take their annual summer vacation together after one of the members of their group gets in a serious car accident. Almost too slowly at times the film unravels secrets that affect the entire group. It boils slowly and methodically in a way that makes you laugh and cry by the end of the film, growing with these characters. It is beautiful and it doesn't hurt that the cast includes Marion Cotillard.
SUPER (James Gunn): Here comes the next interesting superhero movie. Take KICK-ASS and think more gritty. This film removes ALL of the fantastical elements of a superhero flick. It is sometimes grotesquely violent, but that it what is so charming about it. This is a "real" guy that is going into the streets and fighting crime, ultimately to get back his wife who was taken by a drug lord, so it gets pretty raw when his weapon is a wrench that he bashes skulls with. But at the same time, it fails to make these people easy to relate to, therefore it is hard to care. But it is funny, cute and worth a viewing.
GRIFF THE INVISIBLE (Leon Ford) Australia: This is a different perspective of the superhero, taken from inside the mind. What if you truly believed that you were a superhero and were fighting crime to help you community but it was all in your head? That is how Griff, a middle-aged, middle class guy who believes that he is special. That is until he meets Melody, who wants to help him save the world. This is a charming film that is done in such an interesting way that it must be seen. The way that events unfold and characters are developed is a very foreign technique and works wonderfully here.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Today my my first full day of screening. I got into the theaters for 5 films and watched one in the press/industry room. They were all very different kinds of films and not all of them were very good. I will only be giving a (brief) update and hope to be able to fill you in on what I really thought about them later (when I don't have to be up in 6 hours to start it all over again).
THE KING'S SPEECH (Tom Hopper): This was a brilliantly executed film starring Collin Firth as King George VI and how he got over his speech impediment. Firth gives an Oscar worthy performance (as always).
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Woody Allen): He has done it again and this time it is so fun and light. This movie is all about fate/relationships/life- wait, that's what all of his films are about. But YWMATDS is wonderfully executed and delightfully funny, I compare it to drinking champagne in the morning and the nice buzz you get after a glass.
THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet): Based on a story by Jacques Tati and from the creator of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE comes the next beautifully animated drama of a magician who takes in a young girl that still believes in magic. It is a sad story and beautiful to watch.
LEAP YEAR (Michael Rowe): This Mexican film was hard to watch, in fact I turned it off after about an hour of watching it. It had won the Camera d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and yet I could not find a reason to finish it*. After I found out the significance of February 29th, I could not stand the ambiguous sexual encounters, beatings and rape. It just didn't do anything for me.
*This is a perfect case that as a festival viewer I do not have to finish the film and often industry professionals will walk out if they do not like it. It's pretty great.
IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden): I can see why some people will like this film, but it has so much potential to be better. Therefore instead of writing more about the film, it gives me the perfect platform to rant (only a little bit) on two things that I really didn't care for in the movie.
#1) When you are doing a movie about 16 year-old, coming-of-age, suicidal kids there should really be more dialogue and not so many long shots of blank facial expressions. These kind of quirky indie-comedies have not really captured "deep emotion" (example, JUNO) and should not rely on it.
#2) As a musician and lover of music, I really hate it when screenwriters have to put in favorite bands of the time, like "hey, wanna go to that Vampire Weekend show?". It puts a huge time stamp on the film and completely narrows the audience. If you don't know of the band, you might be too old and if you have heard of the band, they are probably not cool enough to have their name dropped. Just deal without it, let the soundtrack do what it is supposed to do, it does not need a formal introduction.
LIFE, ABOVE ALL (Oliver Schmitz): Probably a favorite of the night, this film was beautiful in so many ways. It tells the story of a young girl finding out that her mother has AIDS and what this could do to the community and her reputation in South Africa if she brings her home. It unfolds slowly and with such precision that this story of a small family resonates and paints a bigger picture of everyone's fear.
That's all for now! Back to more movies tomorrow!
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Today started early, checking in at the Industry Lounge for our credentials and familiarizing ourselves with the area. I even squeezed in three films. Three films that I really wanted to see. Not all of them great, but I am glad that I watched them.
As I am sitting down to write some reviews, I am really too tired to get everything out that I want to say. So I hope that you enjoy my abridged reviews, they will hopefully give you a taste of what I am able to get my eyes on at this fest.
THE TOWN (Ben Affleck) USA
This movie is most simply a good time; not the upbeat, happy-go-lucky sort but the action/drama kind of fun. Set in Charlestown, Boston THE TOWN is about the slums and those that grow up in a world of crime, where bank-robbing and car jacking are common practice. Doug (Affleck) and his three accomplices hold up a bank and take Claire (Rebecca Hall) as a hostage. When Doug gets romantically involved with Claire after the job and his crew start feeling heat from the FBI, things quickly get serious as they try to pull off one last heist.
Affleck has proved that he can direct an intriguing action film. His use of small streets for car chases and brutal violence give the film the grittiness that it needs. This is no DEPARTED although by its title, it should be more about Boston and not its leads. It is filled with cliches but it is a thrilling ride that works because of its great, seasoned actors. If there is one reason to see this film: Jeremy Renner's performance, he is perfect.
I'M STILL HERE (Casey Affleck) USA
Even with excessive drug use, prostitutes, male nudity, feces on the face and tears I'M STILL HERE resonates as a haunting portrayal of what the spotlight, or really any failed dream can become.
Yes, this is the documentary that follows Joaquin Phoenix on his journey from retired actor to rapper. Spanning over a year, Casey Affleck has made a triumphant directorial debut that dares to capture the "feelings" (if you can even call it that) of an apathetic generation, with Phoenix as the focal point.
The film is hard to describe, being that the viewer must just follow the journey. Phoenix rambles about why he wants to quit acting, saying that it was always false and never what he truly wanted to do, often cursing the media and what is the "perceived" version of Joaquin. Calling himself JP, he is mostly stoned, irate, contradictory and confused. But that is what is so funny. One conversation is Phoenix asking Affleck if winged creatures only use their wings to fly, he is thoroughly impressed when he finds out bees communicate with their wings. There are moments where I burst out laughing, unable to control how absurd and ridiculous he is and yet it was also so heartbreaking- you really want him to succeed.
But there are wonderfully poignant moments when Joaquin talks about the media, what it means to be a celebrity and why he is so important. He is the product of our own machine. Scary, but true. At the end of the film, when he dives underwater (finally washing his hair- you will want to personally buy a hairbrush and mail it to him by the end of this film) you are left thinking that if this crazy world can produce and crack the soul of human beings, then there is also hope for repair.
BAD FAITH (Kristian Petri) Sweden
Unfortunately, not all films that you see at a festival are going to be good. This film was so flawed in so many ways. It was "supposed" to be about a woman that is present in a series of serial killings and she takes it upon herself to solve the crimes. In reality, it played as a beautifully looking but drawn out, uneventful and uninteresting character piece that never developed its characters.
...and for tomorrow, I start screening at 9am. Goodnight!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I love flying, but I hate airports. There is something overwhelmingly exhausting about airports; everyone coming, going and uncomfortable. I realize that I am probably alone on this one, but I don't like waiting and airports are giant waiting rooms without walls. But once on the plane, I am a happy camper. The flight to Toronto was a smooth one, only a little over 4 hours. When the check-in associate told us that the flight would be light with passengers, I didn't expect it to have only 25 passengers, so I got a whole row to myself. As my boss says, I'm lanky, so I need that kind of room. Our room is cozy and we begin tomorrow at 7am. Time to get used to this three hour time difference and force myself to get some sleep. Until tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Personal enthusiasm aside, the line-up this year has some of the most anticipated films in the festival circuit. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Toronto has never failed to reveal the best in American and International cinema. I will go as far to say that this is the best festival in North America.
This is my first time with Industry Credentials. In non-festival speak, that means that I have a pass that will get me into the industry screenings of TIFF. To back up, TIFF is a market festival. This means that industry professionals, buyers, festival organizers and studio folks come to purchase the films that screen here that do not already have studio distribution. But these people do not screen the films with the general public; there is an entirely different screening schedule and set of theaters for us.
I have no idea what to expect, but I am as prepared as I can be. I have done my research on what is playing and what I really want to see. There are 300 films screening and my tentative schedule has me viewing between 35 and 40 films in 9 days, averaging about 5 films a day. There are so many good ones to choose from!
I know that I will not be able to see them all and for the sake of the Newport Beach Film Festival, I have to choose my films carefully, being that films with release dates already set are really no use to me. I am also heading into the screening room with our CEO and former Director of Submissions, so there are three of us with eyes on the screen; divide and conquer.
After splitting up the schedule, I am a giddy child with my wish-list. Even if I am unable to catch all the films that I want, I am just excited to be a part of the discussion, among film lovers like me. Here are just a handful of the titles, in no particular order, that I am excited about at this years TIFF (whether or not I get to see all of them):
BIUTIFUL (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Woody Allen)
THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet)
THE CONSPIRATOR (Robert Redford)
WHAT”S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA (Dustin Lance Black)
THE DEBT (John Madden)
THE PROMISE: THE MAKING OF DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN (Thom Zimny)
ROUTE IRISH (Ken Loach)
ANOTHER YEAR (Mike Leigh)
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog)
JOHN CARPENTER’S THE WARD (John Carpenter)
BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky)
THE KING’S SPEECH (Tom Hopper)
127 HOURS (Danny Boyle)
BEGINNERS (Mike Mills)
EVERYTHING MUST GO (Dan Rush)
…the list goes on.
If you dare to follow what I will be watching, I will be updating as often as I can. And now, time for the next wild ride.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
$5 A Day refers to how much someone can get by on a day; this includes food, shelter and transportation, accompanied with a great con. If you know how to work the system, then the system will work for you. Much like the title of this film, $5 A Day can get by on its charming low-budget mentality, although flawed it comes together in an unexpected way that becomes satisfying.
This film, directed by Nigel Cole, toured the festival circuit for a year, playing at Toronto International Film Festival and Palm Springs, to name a few, before having a limited release in Los Angeles and New York. If you were unable to catch this film, you can now.
Flynn (Alessandro Nivola) has just lost his job and his girlfriend of two years (Amanda Peet). When he is confronted with news that his father is dying, he decides to make a trip to Atlantic City to see if he really is on his deathbed. Christopher Walken play’s Flynn’s father, Nat Parker, who is a small-time conman; scamming radio shows and phone deals so that he never has to pay for anything and has lied about almost everything. After convincing Flynn to take him on a road trip across the county, they slowly mend a relationship that was built on lies and start a relationship that they never really had.
Walken is truly dynamic in this film. As long as the camera stays on him you can believe that he is lying about everything and at the same time he is doing it for the love of his son. The director has given Walken room to be nimble, dance and even the time to pause and reflect, which is so rare and often missed in father/son films. The whole film Nat is looking to be accepted by his son and you believe in his genuine goal.
The film unpretentiously combines comedy and drama in a way that seems so simple, but really is quite difficult to execute. The little nuances of driving an obnoxious pink “Sweet n Low” car and eating at Ihop restaurants are familiar and funny in their tackiness.
There is not much time spent on back-stories of the characters, which is both a good and bad thing for the film. It is not fully understood when and why Nat and Flynn had such a bad relationship. But the film is consistent, always moving forward. They are more often seen arriving somewhere then driving to that destination. They become closer out of proximity and when they run into different people along the way and spend time together, Flynn pieces together a different story about his father.
$5 A Day is really a film about relationships and what it means to be a family, however flawed that it may be. Nat has been living by his own rules for so long and when you find out how flawed the relationship with his son really is, you cannot help but feel for the sincere bond between father and son.
The most worthy extras on the DVD are the Interviews with the cast/crew. There are multiple interviews, most notably with the Director, Nigel Cole and actress Sharon Stone. Unfortunately, there is no interview with Christopher Walken, but there are many informative and interesting interviews that are broken up in a way that give a great insight into how the film was made.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Beth (Kristen Bell) is an aspiring curator who is handling an important art benefit in a few days. When she gets word that her younger sister is getting married in Rome, she flies off to Italy for a few days for the wedding, but warned by her boss (Angelica Houston) that her job depends on this show. At the wedding she meets Nick (Josh Duhamel) but is soon disappointed when she assumes that he is not interested in her. That night, she taunts all believers of love when she steals five coins from La Fontana de Amore before heading home. The myth goes that if you take someone’s coin from the fountain, they will fall in love with you. On her return to New York, she is obsessively stalked by the men whose coins she took. With only a few days until her big show, she struggles to find the difference between a love spell and love, while trying to keep her job.
With a few lines of dialogue we find out that Beth is a workaholic and cannot date a man because of her job, also that she does not believe in love. When five strangers that unconditionally love her chase her around the city, both her and her closest friends begin to rethink what this means. There is the street painter, played by Will Arnett, the sausage manufacturer (Danny DeVito), the street magician (Jon Heder), the male model (Dax Shepard) and the sports columnist Nick, who used to be a star football player before he was struck by lightning. These characters provide the most entertainment throughout the film. They all only have small roles but they bring their comedic, lighthearted energy to their bit parts.
With such a star cast, it is a shame that none of the characters are given time to develop; every scene is split between Beth, a suitor and an awkward situation and there are not very many of these scenes. Even the relationship between Beth and Nick is given so little time that it becomes forced and unbelievable. We are to understand that the film only spans a few days and when she “falls in love” with Nick, it is as trite and overplayed as throwing a coin in a fountain—we don’t believe it either.
More unbelievable than Beth falling in love, is that anyone could fall in love with Beth. She is neurotic, insecure and often mean to those around her. Her courtship with Nick always leaves him chasing her through restaurants, rainstorms and even out of the chapel at their wedding. He has had one descent conversation with her and yet still seems to be chasing Beth with thoughts of love—making the other guys under the spell look saner then him.
But in they end we are to believe in true love in this fast paced environment. You can fall in love quickly and awkwardly, if you are open to it. “When in Rome” has many great moments that keep the film moving and the viewer guessing what will happen next; just don’t look too hard for much more, the fountain in this film has very shallow waters.
The DVD extras for “When in Rome” include deleted scenes, bloopers and music videos from some of the bands that have songs in the film. Take a look at both of the deleted scenes and bloopers, there are some very funny takes and ideas that did not make it into the film.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
When we do make time for a conversation, it is always the same back and forth; I can’t give enough time and he wants so much more of it. Film presents me with three-hour long classics and makes me feel bad for skipping over them to a film with a shorter running time. So what if I am in the mood for THIS IS SPINAL TAP instead of another Kubrick film? It may not be broadening my film knowledge, but it is only 82 minutes long.
And then there is Television. I’m not cheating or anything, it is just that it is that time of year with basketball finals and World Cup soccer games. Film thinks I am spending too much time with TV but it only happens once a year. Promise. Besides, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to Film.
I think it’s because Film is one of those night-owl types and I simply don’t have time to get into a dialogue that late. I work a lot. Doesn’t he understand? I am dealing with the same withdrawals, but no one cares what I think.
I know that I miss Film. Too often I have hung my head guiltily with my lack of viewing. I get stomach pains for the experience of a movie theater, I just try and ignore it. Film is trying to help- taunting me with emails of upcoming movies and suggestions for my Netflix queue. I just sigh and think of the old days when I would watch three films in a row and have to make a second trip to the video store.
So perhaps I need to change. I know that I am up for the challenge, if Film will have me. More than ever, I am ready for late nights with Bergman, Carpenter and Wong Kar-Wai. We have to compromise-like in any good relationship. I will find a way to balance all of the things in my life to screen the new films and I will make fond visits to my favorites when I can.
Relationships are tough. Out of the blue they change so quickly, challenging even the most devoted couples. They demand a lot of care and attention and other times they move smoothly, almost effortlessly. So Film and I may of hit a bump in the road, but not to worry, this love isn’t going anywhere.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival was a great success—or so I am told. Having to “work” the entire event, I know more about what films had the crankiest audiences and what screenings had problems with focus, projection or sound. I forced myself to screen one film, but that was because I wanted to sit with my boyfriend and his mom-but later realized that I was actually more worried about the copy of the film that we were playing. Sigh.
I have to say that it was in impressive event. Opening night was simply spectacular, with white archways as you walk in, glowing fountains that people danced around, a high-rise stage so everyone could see Cirque du Soleil lifting men on top of other men and everyone walking out with Stella Artois glasses in their hands and purses. That was just the beginning. The rest of the week was filled with great parties every night and sold out screenings for the line-up of great films.
To me, the festival is about bringing movies to any audience, an audience that loves to see great movies, movies that they could never see anywhere else. The hunger to see great cinema is within every viewer, it is just simply how you satisfy this craving. The festival provides something for everyone, you just have to sift through over 300 films to find it.
One of my favorite films of the season was THE WILD HUNT. From the moment that I screened this movie on my laptop to freaking out in the projection booth when the aspect ratio was off, it was my favorite film all festival. The audience was a mixture of family, friends, industry acquaintances and eager viewers that all stayed glued to their seats when the end credits rolled because they all had to digest what they had just seen. Awesome.
This year was a challenge. Everything just seemed a little difficult. From putting the program together to screening the program, something was always tough—easy was not a part of our vocabulary. Maybe that is why we are so exhausted. Maybe that is why this festival seemed to take a little bit more out of us. We scraped our knees for this to work and it feels like we are going to need a little bit more time to heal.
These wounds create the best scars. They are reminders of what the 11th year really did to all of us and what it will take for year twelve. I am so thankful for the support that was given through all of this. I am so happy for all of the new friendships that were created and proud of the team that I get to call my coworkers, because we all know that we are crazy to be doing this year after year. And although it has been a couple of weeks, it has taken this much time to get back on my feet. Now we start the whole thing over again—open for submissions on August 1, 2010!
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
After months of grueling attention, love and a few tears the films for this year's festival are ready to play in Newport Beach.
I would like to say that I know this schedule "like the back of my hand" but I think my hands seem less familiar to me lately. In fact, having time to look in a mirror, shower or even put on a decent outfit have failed to garner any of my attention. We live and breathe this program.
This is something that I am proud of, something that many people that I love have helped to bring together and just because I can, I am giving you a sneak peak into the schedule before anything goes on sale...
So check it out HERE, tickets on sale at midnight!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Marketed as an adult family film about a “picture perfect” holiday that doesn’t go as planned, the film masks what it is really about; the sad and challenging ways that a family connects and communicates. Unsure of what the audience is to expect, at least we have a talented cast to lead us along.
It has been 8 months since Frank Goode’s (Robert De Niro) wife has passed away and as he prepares for a family dinner with all of his kids, they all make some excuse as to why they cannot make it. Frank then decides to go to them, surprising them at their homes. He first travels by train to visit his son David in New York and is unable to reach him so he hops on a bus to Chicago to see his daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale). Unable to house him, she drops him off on a train to Denver to meet up with his other son Robert (Sam Rockwell) and when he can’t stay there, he moves onto his last destination. He finally makes it to Las Vegas to see his daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore) who finally puts him on a flight home after he is finished with his trip.
Throughout his trip Frank realizes that not one of his children has told him the truth. Amy is having trouble at home, lying about her son’s schooling and trying desperately to cover up a failed marriage. Robert finally tells his father that he does not have the job that Frank thought he had and Rosie lies about her apartment and her newborn child all because she does not want to hurt her dad. David is nowhere to be found—thought to be detained in Mexico, and any information is kept from Frank. Unable to speak to their father about their lives, Frank finally gets through to them in the hospital after he is admitted for a mild heart attack that he experiences on the plane.
Information travels fast in this film, but fails to reach those that need it. As the camera follows telephone wires, voice-over phone conversations between his children take the place of the personal connection that Frank is desperately trying to regain with his kids.
De Niro gives an incredible performance, portraying a father that has grown soft over the years, carrying a weathered look that shows both compassion and pride for his family. It is really De Niro that carries the sympathy for the family in this film, allowing for tragedy and reconciliation to coexist. If you believe him, you can believe in the outcome of this family.
"Everybody's Fine" fails to reconnect the children with their father, acknowledging that things are not okay and perhaps they never will be. Relying on a scene that takes place in a pseudo-dream Frank finally confronts all of his children, but as kids, not as the adults they are today. It is nice to see Frank realize his own faults as a father, being that he literally cannot get through to them as adults. But a family needs to work both ways and the children never quite learn how to understand Frank.
Left on an overwhelmingly somber note, "Everybody's Fine" tries to show the cookie-cutter version of every family. It is a way to make everything seem all right when in reality the wounds are deeper than they seem. This film clearly shows that everybody is not fine and unfortunately their problems are too convoluted to really be resolved, but we are left hoping that one day they will be.
There are two DVD extras that are worth taking a look at on the disk. The first is an inside look into the making of the Paul McCartney’s song “(I Want to) Come Home”. This gives a very interesting look at the process of writing a song for a film. The other extras include extended and deleted scenes from the film.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
If only I were Sandra Bullock...that was what I was really thinking to myself when I was waking from my dream this morning...
So I am really excited about the Academy Awards. Apparently so excited that I dream that I am dressed up in a gown and walking the red carpet as Sandra. It is just one of those things that I look forward to all year. For those of you that know me, I don't watch television, but once a year I will gather around the boob tube with beer and ballot in hand-ready to go. In fact, it is a day that I take off work because I don't want to miss out on this excitement. Now many haters wonder "why the Oscars?" and I simply respond "It's my kind of Super Bowl". Sometimes my favorite team is up and if not, I still can enjoy the game. Yes, the show is flawed and sometimes my favorite films of the year are far from represented, but it is a day to celebrate and award MOVIES. Mmm...I just like how that rolls off the tongue.
There are so many things to look forward to this year. "District 9" is nominated, which was one of my top 3 films of the year. Both favorites in the Best Supporting Actor category, Mo'Nique and Christopher Waltz, gave the best performances of the year. A 3D box office sensation with blue creatures might sweep the show and we now have 10 films given recognition for the best picture of the year. This will be an exciting thing to see and something that I am looking forward to. Like bets on the Superbowl, there will be money thrown down on the correct number of awards guessed and lots of beer to be had. The Super Bowl may be a gathering for a big game, but that's just a warm up for my favorite show which is a month away.
One of my favorite short films of last year, has been nominated for an Academy Award under Best Live Action Short. When I read the nominations I let out a squeal of excitement for this director and producer. I met them both at Sundance last year and they are the sweetest gentlemen. The film, "Instead of Abracadabra" is from Sweden and is about a struggling magician that still lives at home with his parents but has a true passion for magic- it is such a charming movie. Let me know if you want to see it, it is only 18 minutes and you will love it.
Now, how do you say "Congrats" in Swedish?
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Social networking takes on a frightening personality in Jeff Phillips' new film "UrFrenz", which premiered Saturday January 23, 2010 at Slamdance. This dramatic narrative examines the connections that are made on popular and "friendly" social sites and what can happen when you don't really know who you are talking to.
The film follows two teenage girls, one popular and one an outcast, who used to be friends. Catherine (Lily Holleman) struggles with depression and cuts herself, her life is monitored by her mother being that she does not want Catherine to hurt herself again. Madison (Najarra Townsend) also suffers from depression, she is the popular girl at school struggling to be happy with her family and herself, being that she was dumped by her boyfriend. A rumor started by Catherine prompts Madison's mother to create a fake online profile, posing as a home-schooled teenage boy, to track Catherine and her interactions with her daughter. Things get complicated when Catherine falls for Brandon, the fake alias, and when Madison's mother cannot remove herself from the fake person she has created until it is too late.
The film takes an interesting look at social networking sites, making the real evil the parents and them overstepping their boundaries into their child's privacy."UrFrenz" refers to the social website that hosts your profile, much like a Facebook/Myspace account where one can chat and update their profile name. The internet is a scary place, but also is shown as a necessary outlet for young adults to be able to remove themselves from the pressures and hardships of high school. Of course it can be a dangerous place being that you are never really sure of who you are talking to.
Poignantly, the director deals with the touchy subject of teenage suicide. Delicately handling the pain and frustration that every teenager feels; exploring the fine line between being unhappy and then taking the step to ending that unhappiness.
"UrFrenz" tackles high school, depression, loneliness and identity issues with ease. Phillips wrote his characters with a true sense of the angst of being a teenager. Funny that he said during the Q & A that he was inspired to write this film because he has a teenage daughter himself and it is so difficult to monitor and protect her with the internet. Although the parents seem to be the ones to blame in this situation the film brings up timely issues of the internet and the evils of social networking.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This Australian production is not without wonderful elements as director Scott Hicks and the entire cast, including lead actor Clive Owen, do a remarkable job at bringing these real-life characters to the silver screen. It is just that there is one message and too many elements that don’t get properly addressed that make this film feel unfinished.
Joe Warr (Owen) is a popular sports journalist that must deal with being a single parent and managing both of his sons after the sudden death of his wife, Katy. To make things more complicated, his oldest son Harry, from his first wife, comes to visit right after the death of Katy.
The first part of the film sets up Katy’s character and the intense impact on the family when she passes away. Joe ends up taking his youngest son, Artie, on a road trip to escape the emotional pressure that he is feeling from the family and himself. Often times he speaks to Katy and she is there. It never feels unbelievable, but intensifies the loneliness and fear that Joe is experiencing. When Harry arrives, the family unit struggles to find a way to coexist.
Both sons are the most interesting and complicated part of the film. Artie, has a hard time adjusting to his mother dying, asking if she will be gone forever and saying that he wants to die to be close to her. He is tyrannical and often selfish but frequently collapses in moments of despair when he thinks of his mom. He is played perfectly as you care about how he is developing and how he is handling this grief, because at 6 years old death is not something that can be fully comprehended. Harry is a teenager and not only is struggling with puberty, but he is trying to understand why his father left him for another woman and another family. Unfortunately, his story is never fully developed and although it is very touching, any kind of resolution is weak.
Being a story about a broken family, Joe struggles to find ways to keep things together. He develops a “Yes” plan, which allows any question to be answered with yes and finds that parenting is not easy. What seems to be an easy solution somehow seems to work for the boys. They do not function like they used to, but things are different now and that’s exactly where it remains for the rest of the film.
Some of the scenes in the movie are absolutely beautiful. Hicks skillfully and purposely shoot the Australian landscape with a true love of the land, giving a sense of wonderment and hope to a rather sad situation.
The title “The Boys are Back” refers to these boys, young and old, regaining their trust and hope in one another. Not only do they need each other, but also they are learning to be a family however unconventional it may be. As for them really getting “back” to something, it is unsure what that really is, but for the moment things are okay—nothing resolved, maybe something learned, just okay.
There are two extras that are worth watching on the DVD. "The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey is an interesting look at production stills and stories narrated by the director, Scott Hicks. It is a nice perspective on the film. "A Father and Two Sons" is footage from when the real-life boys met their fictional counterparts on set- it is quite touching to see.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Slamdance is in its 16th year. The story goes that it was started by three filmmakers that were rejected from Sundance in 1994. In 1995 "Slamdance '95: Anarchy in Utah -- The First Annual Guerrilla Intl. Film Festival" was created and the projection booths were run by the filmmakers. This is a festival that have dedicated filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh supporting it and participating (his first documentary "Everything is Going Fine" premiered here last Friday), where Christopher Nolan played "Following" and where two years ago "Paranormal Activity" was picked up.
It now takes place at The Treasure Mountain Inn, which is located at the very top of Main Street. There are two screening rooms...which are really like large dining rooms that now have a classroom projector set-up with a max capacity of 130 people on bleacher-raised chairs. The air conditioning never works and you are always viewing a movie with a neck ache because you are struggling to see around the heads in front of you. But it's always a great way to meet people, because you might be sitting on them.
Here is where the true independent film making is seen. Here are where the low-budget, well written, projects of passion are being shown. This really is a festival that embraces the filmmaker and creates a community of friends and family in the week that it goes on. All of the films are attended by cast/crew of other films in the festival, you begin to see familiar faces. Audiences sit on the ground to catch a screening and you have to watch yourself if you leave to go to the restroom because you might block the projector.
Is this exciting yet?
The films really speak for themselves at Slamdance. They are the more offbeat. Check out one of the shorts programs, as they all tend to stray from Hollywood story arch, but are visually beautiful. That is not to say that all films are quirky. This year some of my personal favorites include "Drones", about aliens and humans that interact in an office space and "The Four-Faced Liar" about young couples in New York that are figuring out what they want out of their relationships and themselves. More in-depth reviews to come.
Soderbergh did his Q & A from Skype in his hotel room in Berlin at 4am to an audience no bigger than 150 people. You try seeing something like that at Sundance.
*Please note that I am not discrediting Sundance, but when your film is up against Phillip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut film, you could be overlooked. It is just something completely different.
There is life after Slamdance. A story that I enjoy telling is about the filmmaker Drake Doremus, who directed "Spooner" that premiered at Slamdance last year. It went on to play the festival circuit, picking up audience and festival awards wherever it went. It was a great success and this year he premiered his latest project "Douchebag" as part of the Narrative Competition at Sundance. Great things with great films do happen here.
I enjoy both festivals for different reasons. I just wanted to give you a taste of what it is like at the top of the hill. Along with filmmaker sled-races and hot-tub filmmaker chats, it has kept an independent feel and a love of cinema that leaks from the doors of the Treasure Mountain Inn.
Monday, January 25, 2010
As many of you know, I am hiking the the hill (Main Street, that is) of Park City and covering both Sundance and Slamdance film festival. This is my second year and I can't wait to make this a yearly excursion.
This has been a dream of mine since I had first realized that I loved films. This little dream of mine has become more complicated with time and revisions had been made to the original idea. Not only did I want to get to participate in Sundance/Slamdance, but I wanted to be paid to go. I wanted these trips to be because of my job and this year I did it again. Not only am I covering both festivals for press, but I get to scout for films to bring to Newport. It's pretty awesome.
With that being said, already coming back for my second year I feel that I have removed the "I can't believe I'm at Sundance" glaze and been able to really hit the streets with confidence. It is an exciting festival this year, with a theme of "rebel" and the idea that they are really returning to the independent cinema. Whether or not they are actually doing that (the films I have seen thus far make it true) it already seems to have a different feel to it.
To prove it, the reviews coming out of Sundance are all praising the smaller budget, non talent heavy films. Look up reviews from "Waiting for Superman", a documentary backed by Bill Gates that has been all the rage here. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut "Jack Goes Boating" is the major star-studded film that people are liking. That is besides "Howl" and "Get Low"- both films that will surely see the light of distribution.
As for Slamdance, I just love it up there. When I say "up there" I am referring to the two tiny screening rooms that are erected in an Inn, located on the very top of the Main Street hill. It is a trek to get up there, but worth it. The filmmakers and films at this festival (now in its 16th year) are the independents of the "indie film" category. Here Christopher Nolan got his start and films like "Paranormal Activity" were picked up. And this year, I have not yet been let down-the production value of all of the films are phenomenal and the writing is spot-on. I will have reviews up of these films soon.
I know that this is not much of an update, but there is not a lot of time between screenings and social events to write. The photo above is of Banksy artwork on the streets of Park City...there is a documentary on Banksy premiering here, "Exit Through the Gift Shop", and my ticket is for Wednesday. I'll let you know how it is.