Friday, September 17, 2021

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain (2020) opens today


This is a long pained scream. Its watching a horrible event happen that you know is going to go wrong and as much as you want to you can not stop it. This is the film you find in the dictionary under gut punch.

The film is a recreation of  the killing of Chamberlain in 2011. He accidentally set off his medical alert and the company called the police. The police showed up. Chamberlain said he was fine the cops didn't believe him and they eventually broke down the door and then shot him while he was on the floor, later claiming he lunged at them.

This film will break your heart and make you scream at the screen. ten years on we see all the mistakes that were made, but we can't change them. This is a tough film to watch not just because its tragedy, but because we see how big it was and how it could have been stopped.

While the film, isn't perfect, the cast is a bit on even, Frankie Faison as Chamberlain is dead on. This is a performance that if this were a bigger film would have had him in talk for an Oscar. It is one of the top three performances you will see all year. This is the role of a life time and Faison grabs it by the throat and gives us a man we can grieve. This is a character with a soul that we can not help but follow to his much too early end.

This film crushed me.

A must see.

(Better yet program it with the documentary JOE AND ERNIE CRISIS COPS for a real life look at the way these sort of situations should be handled.)

Savior For Sale (2021)


 How you react to Savior For Sale will be determined by if you saw the  earlier Lost Leonardo which was released a couple months back. Both films are about the discovery and sale of the possible found Leonardo painting, Salvatore Mundi,  its restoration, authentication and sales. However  each film has its own focus. The earlier film is focused on the whole process from the discovery to the eventual sale to a Saudi Prince. The current film is less concerned with the discovery and restoration and focuses more on  the authentication and the sales of the painting.

The short version of the story is that a painting that looked to potentially be an old master came up for sale in New Orleans. A New York art dealer bought it. In looking at it, he and his experts decide that it may be a Leonardo DaVinci. They have it restored, its shown at the British National Gallery when experts say it’s the real deal (well possibly…). Its then sold and then resold to very rich people for more than the GNP of some countries.

To be honest I’m not sure what I think of this film. I know that my feelings for it were influenced by seeing the other film mere months ago. The fact that I have  that film in my head influenced my feelings for this film since the earlier film raises some intriguing issues that are not covered here. A key one is how much of painting that we see as the “restored painting” is the work of Leonardo and how much is the work  of the restorer. The earlier film also raises different issues about the authentication process. I wish  that the film had more of the details on the painting from the earlier film.

That said I do like the way this film deals with the big money aspects of art  and of this sale. It raises a lot of questions about how the art world works and whether things are really what people hold them out to be.

Frankly I would love to take the two films and cut them together.

My reservations aside  Savior For Sale is worth seeing when it hits theaters on Friday

Thursday, September 16, 2021

OSTROV - LOST ISLAND (2021) Camden International Film Festival


 Absolutely magnificent portrait of the inhabitants of Ostrov Island in the Caspian Sea.  Years ago the island was thriving community with a collective fishery but Soviet Union fell, people left, the farm was destroed and the authorities closed down the caviar harvesting. Those that were remained were left to fend for themselves. Fending means scratching out a bare subsistence and trying to avoid the coast guard, who will arrest them if they go to sea to fish (the government won’t grant them licenses to do so)

Beautifully shot film is a real slice of life. This is the arc of life on the island as we get to know the few inhabitants, see the rhythms and feel the pace of life. The images put us into the homes and on the beaches and we have a real sense place. You can feel the breeze and smell the food. Its an amazing achievement.

I love this film. I love how the film pulls us in and makes us truly understand what it’s like to be living on the island. Rarely have I ever walked out of a movie not feeling as though I was watching a film, but having gone somewhere else. OSTROV puts us in this other place.

This film is a stunner.

And when you see the film, stay with it. Yes, it can feel a little draggy. That’s okay. That’s what life on the island is like.  Just stay with it. I say that as someone who felt a little bored at times, I was tempted to wander off. However by the time the ending came I found I was deeply moved, just saying Wow over and over again. Not because it ended spectacularly but because I felt as though I was touching life.

Playing as part of the Camden International Film Festival OSTROV is highly recommended



Last Night in Rozzie (2021) opens tomorrow

Ronnie Russo returns to Boston to see his dying friend. He’s tasked with finding the friends son so that he can connect with him before he passes away. As sets out on his appointed task, the past come calling and he begins to ponder a tragic event from his childhood that linked the two friends.

Beautifully acted film over comes the occasional feeling that we have been here before. While there is nothing wrong with the story, it’s the cast that does the heavy lifting. You fall in love with the characters that Neil Brown Jr., Nicky Whelan, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Chapman play and they make taking the ride worth the trip.

This is a nice little film. It may not rattle heaven but it entertains and moves us.

Worth a look 

FERGUSON RISES opens Friday


Portrait of the city that became the epicenter of protests when Michael Brown, an unarmed black man was shot dead by the police. It is a look at what happened and how the city try to fix the problem and rebuild.

This is a very good film, that unfortunately may end up getting lost among the similar films that are coming out on the never ending  police misconduct incidents . That said if you want a film that focuses just on Ferguson this is the one to see.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Indie Memphis Film Festival Announces Full Slate, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET Opening Night, World Premiere of FERNY & LUCA + More

 


The 24th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival Announces Full Slate, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET as Opening Night Film, World Premieres of FERNY & LUCA and BUNKER, and More

(September 15, 2021 | Memphis, TN) Indie Memphis Film Festival, presented by Duncan Williams, Inc., is pleased to announce the full slate of films for its 2021 incarnation, spanning from October 20th - 25th, 2021. This year’s festival promises to be a very exciting and wildly varied one, featuring films ranging from new discoveries to beloved classics, from festival hits to experimental wonders, and everything in-between. 

“I am incredibly excited by what we are offering this year with the festival,“ says Indie Memphis Executive Director Knox Shelton, “The programming is stellar and, in terms of how we've planned the festival, we hope that we have found ways for people to celebrate independent filmmaking based on their comfort level. We understand that there is no perfect way to do this, but we've taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our filmmakers, attendees, volunteers, and staff.”

In the quest to reach a large audience while taking staunch COVID-19 precautions, this year’s festival will be a hybrid of online and in-person screenings and events. For in-person Memphis screenings and events, proof of COVID-19 vaccine is required for all staff, volunteers, contractors, and attendees and masks are required at all times indoors. Venues for screenings are now focused on larger theaters to better accommodate social-distanced seating; these include Crosstown Theater, The Block Party will be delayed until a year in which we can better protect the health of our attendees, partners, and staff. Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, and the Malco Summer Drive-In. Festival parties will be limited to outdoor celebrations on Opening and Closing Night.

The 2021 festival features work from up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as festival hits such as Jonas Carpignano’s A CHIARA, Jane Schoenbrun’s WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR, Penny Lane’s LISTENING TO KENNY G, Céline Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN, and many more. 

The festival also features exciting premieres, such as the World Premiere of Andrew Infante’s FERNY & LUCA. The film is a look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys. There’s also the World Premiere of Jenny Perlin’s BUNKER, a documentary that investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.

The Opening Night film is Sean Baker’s Cannes favorite RED ROCKET, starring Simon Rex as a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him, the Centerpiece Presentation is Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s DRIVE MY CAR, and the Closing Night is Pablo Larrain’s SPENCER. Some additional standout titles include Robert Greene’s PROCESSION, a documentary about a group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice, and Rhayne Vermette’s STE. ANNE, a drama that traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites.

“We’re honored to be introducing these titles to Memphis audiences,” said Indie Memphis Artistic Director Miriam Bale. “I’m confident many of these are classics that will be talked about for a long time to come. We aim to have a collection of films that is winnowed down to the best of year, and I think this line-up reflects that.”   

The festival continues to feature live music performed in the theaters before every screening. The Black Creators Forum also returns for a fourth year, this time in a hybrid format, both online and with an outdoor in-person component. This festival programming continues to reflect diversity in all areas, with a special focus on films from the African Diaspora and Africa. Indie Memphis is privileged to present the North American premiere of JUJU STORIES, an anthology film from the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16, after its World Premiere at Locarno.

Additional upcoming announcements will include the Black Creators Forum program, virtual IndieTalks Panels, Live Music Lineup, and more.

The 2021 slate was unveiled publicly on the evening of Tuesday, September 14th via Zoom. For more information, please visit http://indiememphis.com/.

 2021 Indie Memphis Film Festival Slate

Alphabetical by Category

Investigative Film Festival & Symposium, Double Exposure 2021 Announces Film Lineup for October


SONIA KENNEBECK’S UNITED STATES VS. REALITY WINNER TO OPEN THE SEVENTH EDITION OF DOUBLE EXPOSURE 

THE FESTIVAL CLOSES WITH ACCEPTED, DIRECTED BY DAN CHEN  

THE RESCUE, DIRECTED BY ACADEMY AWARD-WINNERS E. CHAI VASARHELYI AND JIMMY CHIN, IS THE FESTIVAL CENTERPIECE 

JONAS POHER RASMUSSEN’S FLEE IS THE FESTIVAL SPOTLIGHT SCREENING 

Washington, DC (September 15, 2021) – Featuring its largest slate to date, Double Exposure proudly presents 12 investigative feature films and a selection of more than 15 shorts in its seventh season, taking place as a hybrid event, October 13-17. 

The 2021 slate illuminates investigative and urgent stories from across the globe. These films look deeply into our common humanity, and the future of democracy and of our planet. Drawing on a range of cinematic styles, from reportage to cinema verité to animation, from features to shorts, this year’s slate will take you inside urgent stories of our times and our lives. Meet the 25-year-old NSA whistleblower who exposed Russia's interference in the 2016 election, enter a hospital caring for Covid patients during New York’s first wave, travel to Iowa where a small independent newspaper courageously fights for survival. This year’s films interrogate police corruption in Baltimore and school corruption in Louisiana, heartbreak at the Tallahassee Unified Family Court, and the enduring trauma of the refugee experience for an Afghan man who is gay, told mostly through animation. Witness the oddysey to rescue 12 boys trapped in a water-filled cave in Thailand, using contemporaneous footage from inside the cave, fires wildly burning in Australia and the determination of a group of Dalit women, dismissed as “untouchable” in India’s caste system, to build a first-ever Dalit news organization from the ground up. 

The co-directors of the festival noted:

“Through this awe-inspiring lineup, shaped and driven by the investigative instinct, we glimpse the growing power of film to engage people with pressing issues of justice, humanity and our shared future on a profound level.” said Diana Jean Schemo, founder and co-director of Double Exposure. “The festival pays tribute to the resourcefulness, resilience and creativity of investigative journalists and filmmakers, whose best work allows us to call power to account.”

“The outpouring of work by filmmakers and journalists who reside at the intersection between both cultures has never been more prolific, nor more creative” said Sky Sitney, festival co-creator and co-director. “Whether excavating a dormant archive, meticulously piecing together citizen-created content, turning to animation as both a storytelling device and a protective measure, or boldly entering the frontlines of an ICU during a pandemic or forests ablaze with fire, the filmmakers and journalists featured in this year’s program are reaching extraordinary new heights with their craft, and telling vital stories that go well beyond headline news.”

This year’s program includes Opening Night, United States vs. Reality Winner, directed by Sonia Kennebeck; Closing Night, Accepted, directed by Dan Chen; Centerpiece, The Rescue, directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin; and Spotlight Screening, Flee, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. The main slate includes 3212 Un-Redacted, directed by Brian Epstein; Burning, directed by Eva Orner; Courtroom 3H, directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza; The First Wave, directed by Matthew Heineman; Luchadoras, directed by Paola Calvo and  Patrick Jasim; The Slow Hustle, directed by Sonja Sohn; Storm Lake, directed by Jerry Risius and Beth Levison; and Writing With Fire, directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh. 

Single tickets will be available for sale starting September 21.

For more information visit: 
http://doubleexposurefestival.com

 2021 Double Exposure Official Selections

BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER (2021) opens Friday


Loving portrait of Boris Karloff told by fans, friends, colleagues and family. 

This is a super film. It has everyone in it, from Dick Miller, Roger Corman, Peter Bogdonvich, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, Sara Karloff, and pretty much every one you can think of all telling stories about the man and what he meant to him. I was in heaven

I don't know what to say. This is just a great film. I love how it illustrates things. For example there is a late in the game story about how sick Karloff was, and how he could still turn it on. Not to spoil it but we hear the story of Karloff on Red Skelton and then we see the performance and it amazes us.

Then again Karloff always amazed.  

This film is a delight.

Highly recommended, the film opens Friday.

I Am Not Alone (2019) Opens Friday

I AM NOT ALONE is a thrilling film. The story of how Armenian activist/political prisoner /politician/ journalist Nikol Pashinyan toppled the status quo in Armenia is a tale for the ages. It is beautifully told (unexpectedly) by all the parties involved.

After two terms as president strong man Serzh Sargsyan moved to make the position of Prime Minister the more powerful position with an eye toward moving into that position when his second and final turn as President was done. He had been put into power by brutally squashing protests that happened after his rigged his election. Pashinyan decides that something had to be done he decides to protest by walking to the capital and holding a rally in Liberty Square. The idea is that his walk would motivate the masses…and what happened was entirely unexpected in the best possible way.

Recounting the fourteen days of the walk across Armenia and then the subsequent events in the capital I AM NOT ALONE shows us the power of what one good man working as an agent for the good of his people can do. A nail biting story that will keep you on the edge of your seat as events twist and turn in ways that are completely unexpected. While I knew how it came out, I never expected any of the tits and turns and as result was absolutely delighted.

The truly amazing thing about this film, and which lifts it up to the realm of truly great, is the fact that the filmmakers don’t just interview Nikol Pashinyan, but also former strong man Serzh Sargsyan, as well as the chief of police who sought to end the protests plus many others on all sides. This is a well balanced film where everyone gets to tell their story and we are so much better for it. The result is a stunning film that will make you shout and perhaps even shed a tear.

One of the best films you will see all year.

Nate Hood on The Lost Leonardo (2021)


It’s a simple painting, quiet and inauspicious. The figure at its center stares ahead from a void of darkness, his pale skin shining from the shadows like a beacon as his brown hair falls in delicate curls upon his blue dress. His face is calm yet inscrutable, staring calmly at the viewer as his right hand makes the sign of the cross. In his left sits a transparent crystal orb within which, it is understood, all the cosmos are contained. Those in the know label this painting a “Salvator Mundi,” a frequent motif in Renaissance-era art wherein Jesus Christ—inevitably whitened and enriched beyond his historical station as an itinerant Palestinian rabbi—is depicted as holding the Earth, and all of creation itself, in his hand. There are countless “Salvator Mundi” paintings, many by esteemed masters. But this one is different. This, it is said, is not just a “Salvator Mundi” by a master, but
the “Salvator Mundi” by the master. For this is the painting believed to be painted by none other than Leonardo da Vinci himself.

That is, of course, if the painting is authentic. Assumed to have been lost a century after its creation, it was spotted by an eagle-eyed art dealer in a New Orleans auction house where it was assumed to be the work of one of da Vinci’s students. But during the restoration process it was declared to be from the hand of the master himself, sparking one of the most controversial sagas in modern art history as its price ballooned from a few thousand dollars in 2005 to nearly half a billion when it was sold at auction in 2017. In the interim, this simple, quiet, and inauspicious painting would become a cause célèbre among art collectors and a cause maudit among art critics and historians. It would change hands from shady Swiss dealers to shadier Russian billionaires to mercurial and murderous Saudi princes. This stunning history has been captured and condensed for all to see in Andreas Koefoed’s brilliant and disturbing documentary The Lost Leonardo

Over my career as a critic, I have reviewed more documentaries about the art world and those who navigate it than I care to count or remember. But this is perhaps the only one that properly captures the sense of dread, corruption, and duplicity that lurks at its heart. The film isn’t just about the painting itself; Koefoed instead uses its story as a springboard to examine how corrupt businessmen and criminals use the art world to launder money, dodge tax laws, and rob the public of cultural masterpieces. After all, an ex-Soviet oligarch may not be able to transfer illicit funds out of Russia without raising the eyebrows of international investigators. But if that same oligarch spent hundreds of millions of dollars on paintings by Picasso or Gauguin, moved them to another country, and then resold them at wildly inflated prices with the aid of complicit auction houses happy for an eight-figure commission fee, there’s little any police force could do.

Which is exactly what happened to this alleged da Vinci. Notice the word “alleged,” for to this day there is still doubt among experts as to whether or not the painting is authentic. Not that it matters, as Koefoed explains. The film details how esteemed art museums, galleries, and auction houses seemed happy to ignore credible naysayers so long as they could sell exhibition tickets to the public or raise asking prices for sellers. After all, what’s more important: that something is authentic or that people think something is authentic? And who cares either way so long as it doesn’t hurt the bottom line?

Through it all, two figures seem to float above the madness. The first is Dianne Modestini, the woman hired for the painting’s initial restoration and who first suspected it might be an original da Vinci. Of all the people in the film, she seems to be the only one who acknowledges the painting as a work of art and appreciates it as such. She seems to care nothing for how much it’s worth or whether or not it’s truly authentic: it exists, it is beautiful, and therefore it is worthy of admiration and love. 

The second is the figure of Christ himself staring out from the painting. If the film has one flaw, it’s that it misses the central irony lurking at the heart of this story: all this duplicity, all this subterfuge, all this controversy, backstabbing, and greed revolves around a painting of a man who raged against the wealthy and lionized the poor. This was a painting made to inspire religious devotion towards a savior who drove moneylenders from the temple and said the meek shall inherit the earth. Fortunes were made and lost over this image of a man who told the wealthy to sell all that they owned, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Did anyone at any point in the making of this film wonder to themselves that if Jesus could feed 500 people with five loaves and two fishes, how many more could he feed with nearly half a billion dollars? Suddenly Jesus’ face in the painting doesn’t seem so blank. Is that exasperation or resignation we read? If it isn’t, maybe it should be.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Best Sellers (2021)


You need to see BEST SELLERS. You need to see the film because Michael Caine gives what may be his best performance on film, which would make it one of the greatest ever recoded.

The plot of the film has a young woman named Lucy desperately trying to save her families publishing house. The book that was supposed to save it has tanked. She may have to sell the company. She then realizes that Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) , a once great writer owes them one more book. He goes to see him, he tells her to get out. However he does eventually drop a novel on her desk and that sets in motion a cross country trip as they try to promote the book.

On a purely narrative level the film is largely unremarkable. It hits a lot of the expected notes, however the writing shines in the dialog and character construction, with the result the film is emotionally affecting.

However because  the filmmakers cast the film to perfection Best Sellers rises to the level of must see. Aubrey Plaza as Lucy is excellent. She takes a straight role, one that could have been bland in lesser hands and makes it a person we care about. We she is more than the typical tics the result is she kicks your ass in several scenes. She earns our love.

However shining above everyone and everything is Michael Caine. Accentuating his age, and seemingly not wearing any make up Caine looks like an older gentleman who has been kicked to the curb by life. Its all in the toilet but he’s still going, echoing a late in the game discussion of his novel as not being down beat but hopeful. He isn’t giving up but going on. There are years of heartbreak in his eyes and your heart breaks for him at every turn, even as he is making us laugh at something outrageous. It is a literally a full bodied performance with every move and gesture a master class. I was blown away from the opening moments and sat glued to the screen straight on to the end.

And when the film was done I was emailing and texting friends to say they had see this, because word has to get out.

And such is the problem with the Oscars and other awards- great performances get lost. I suspect that because BEST SELLERS is a small film from a small distributor the film and it towering performance by Caine will get lost. Because the film does not have big money behind it it will end up lost. Lost until five years down the road when it hits whatever streaming platform and people realize what a good film it is and what a towering performance Caine has given.  It will be spoken about as one of things Oscar got wrong

However don’t wait for the wave to come about BEST SELLERS you can see it when it hits theaters and VOD on Friday.

Trust me you will be moved

Monday, September 13, 2021

Camden International Film Festival starts Thursday


 Starting Thursday is the excellent Camden International Film Festival… that’s Camden Maine not New Jersey.  I say that because every time I mention it  everyone I know says they didn’t realize that Camden (New Jersey) had such a great festival.

I discovered the fest a few years ago and fell in love with it. Here was a documentary festival that was showing the best of the best of the year and it was tucked away in a small town in Maine. How the hell did they get so lucky? I’ve been trying to cover the fest as best I can ever since.

This year the fest is both in person (9/16- 19)and virtual (9/16-29) so if you want to get ahead of the documentary awards talk go to the website and get some tickets.

This year our coverage is going to be small scale. We’ve actually covered a number of the films, see below, and we’ll be covering a few more depending upon when the screeners come in. I would like to do more but because of the way time has shaken out I am limited in what I could do.

For those wondering what we’ve seen previously here is a list of films we’ve covered. Just click on the links and you’ll go to out review.

AFTER ANTARCTICA
ALL THESE SONS
ASCENSION
EXPEDITION CONTENT
FATHOM
FAYA DAYI
FLEE
NORTH BY CURRENT
PAPER AND GLUE

For more information and tickets go here

The Devil's Drivers (2021) Toronto 2021


Israel is in the process of building walls to seal up their borders with Palestinian lands. They do not want to allow free access between the two areas. However many Palestinians can not survive on the money they can make near home and have to make risky border crossings in order to get into Israel in order to make a living wage. Since Israel will not give them papers they trust themselves to people like Hamouda and his cousin Ismail who drive modified cars across the desert hoping to avoid patrols of soldiers looking to stop them.

Up close and personal tale of the men who drive for a living and the people who use their services to go back and forth. It’s a film full of crazy tension and heartbreak as we ride along on mad dashes and  see the cost of what a divided economy has done to the poor. It makes you think about the economies of both Israel and Palestine since its clear Israel can't function without the people its trying to keep out (much like the US and other countries)

I’m not going to say this is a perfect film, it’s not, but it’s a raw and real and it has gut punch of real life.  Hell the driving sequences are jagged as they come but at the same time they are more exciting than the CGI crap we get in Hollywood blockbusters. We feel for the men and their families because what we are seeing is not perfectly edited for perfect emotion, but rather everything is assembled to make it feel like we are with the people on screen. The fact that they are aware of the camera but ultimate oblivious to it, they really open themselves up to us, adds a depth of emotion you don’t usually see in films of any sort.

Honestly I haven’t been this excited by chases in film in a long time.

Recommended

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Filmmakers You Need to Search Out Part 5

Justin McConnell

Another Sunday and another part of my list of great filmmakers you need to trackdrown. If you missed any of the parts just go here and see who came before. And of course the list will continue so check back.... 

Justin McConnell is a great filmmaker  His CLAPBOARD JUNGLE (interview) is one of the best films on film you ill ever see. Its a collection on interviews with other filmmakers about the industry. His LIFECHANGER (interview) is an amazing horror film that transcends the genre to be something more and his short SOUL CONTACT which was made during the early days of covid is just a great deal of fun. There is nothing he can't do- and I willing to see every film he's made to make sure.

Tran Bao burst on the scene last year with PAPER TIGERS (Interview). Nominally a martial arts film it transcends the genre to be a touching family film. I can't wait to see what's next

Shaun Clarke is one of the great animators out there. He has a unique vision unlike anyone else. More to the point he takes big stories and makes laser focused versions. Hs  NECK AND NECK allowed m to understand Othello for the first time. His THE BEHOLDER is a wicked version of The Tell Tale Heart. I love everything he does.

I will be running an interview with Marq Evans very soon. Until that runs you need to know his bio of Wil Vinton, CLAYDREAM will move you to tears. His THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR is a magical look at the DJ who broke Nirvana and many others. Both films would seem to be your typical biography but the reality is they transcend the form.

Kenneth R Frank in films like FAMILY OBLIGATIONS takes small budgets and makes magic

Santho Goonewardene's short film PRAYERS OF A SAINT is the sort of film that makes you sit up and take notice and wonder where this great talent as coming from as it haunts you for days

Gabriel Bartalos is a special effects master who turned to directing/ The result is films like Saint Bernard which are one of kind films that need to be playing at midnight

Liam Gavin's A DARK SONG is an atypical horror film that has the smell of reality. It digs into your soul and stays with you. We need more like this.

Ralph Bismargi has created one of the funniest characters Herbie a well meaning life coach who misses the mark. He first appeared in HERBIE and continued in INSPIRATIONAL THERAPY . Rarely have any films so consistently doubled me over with laughter.

Elena Beuca's D-LOVE is based on a true story. The result is a lovely film. I'm hoping she has more true stories to tell

They/Them/Us (2021) Dances With FIlms 2021

 


Divorced father living with his two kids meets a single mom on a dating site. They fall in love and move in together. However the course of the relationship is bumpy with her love of kink and his getting a job at a Christian College.

Romcom/family comedy has some solid laughs and some nice characters which allows the film to over come the forced nature of some of the plotting. While the kink, Christian and pot angles provide some chuckles, they feel less organic and more like an attempt by the filmmakers to make a film that stands out. To be honest you could swap out or remove any of those angles with something else and have the film work just as well, and probably feel a bit less forced.

Still regardless of my quibbling I laughed in the right places enough to make this a film worth trying.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents Betrayal and Greed (2021)


 Its nice to see a biography of someone and realize that the person you always thought was sweet and nice really was. I mean seeing the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix is was great to see that he was a sweet man who liked to paint. Clearly he was no business man, but he was a really sweet guy.

BOB ROSS HAPPY ACCIDENTS, BETRAYAL AND GREED is the story of  Ross, the mad painter and the business partners who effectively screwed over every one around them. When you see anything Bob Ross these days it is the shady partners who are getting the cash and not the Ross family who were cut out. It’s a heart breaking tale of how Ross thought he was providing for his family and instead he was providing for other people.

The film itself is a nice little film. It plays kind of like one of Ross’s TV shows, being low key and inviting. Even as your heart is breaking its still kind of warm and fuzzy. Which actually is the films flaw, we really don’t get too angry at what happened. Yes the film tells us but the film never gets angry so we kind of don’t get angry. I should have been pissed  at the end, but I wasn’t. The result is a film we like but isn’t as cathartic as it should be.

Still, on it’s own terms the film entertains and informs and is worth seeing.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series has added a virtual component

 


We are very excited to announce that, with the extremely generous cooperation of the distributors and filmmakers listed below*, we are now able to offer a Virtual Alternative to the exciting in-person events for the Fall 2021 Port Jefferson Documentary Series. We have tried, especially during this pandemic, to keep everyone’s different needs and preferences in mind. Although the COVID protocols at Theatre Three are exceptionally effective (universal masking, mandatory vaccine proof, social distancing and excellent ventilation), we realize that some people are not yet ready to attend a live screening. In addition, our audience has grown geographically during this period and some people are now too far away.

Therefore, we will have an online screening on the night following each live screening. Six of the seven films will be exact duplicates and as we are not permitted to screen CLAYDREAM virtually, we are working on finalizing a “sneak peek” of a very special film on a date that will be announced shortly. 

The details for the 2021 Fall Virtual Alternative Series:

— Seven films, available individually at $10 per film for your entire household or as a seven-film Pass for $56.

— All purchases of virtual passes/tickets will be online from our website at: https://portjeffdocumentaryseries.com/tickets-venues-virtual-fall-2021/

— Each film will be available at approximately 7 PM on the night it is presented for a 24 hour period (until 7 PM the following night).

— Dates of our encore virtual films will be:

Tuesday, 9/21- LOVE IT WAS NOT

Tuesday, 10/5 - DEAR MR. BRODY

Tuesday, 10/12 - THE UNITED STATES VS. REALITY WINNER

Tuesday, 10/19 - NOT GOING QUIETLY

Tuesday, 10/26 - IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM

Tuesday, 11/16 - MISSION: JOY - FINDING HAPPINESS IN TROUBLED TIMES

— AND we can’t wait to announce our “sneak peek” film shortly!

— Although virtual, we are limited to selling 50 tickets for each film, so it is possible for tickets to our virtual screenings to be sold out.

*A special thank you to the following distributors/filmmakers for making our 2021 Fall Virtual Alternative Series possible:

The Film Collaborative

Codebreaker LLC

Greenwich Entertainment

Zeitgeist Films

Brody Documentary LLC

And thanks to all the folks who have stayed with us through “thick and thin” as we present some of the best new docs out there!

Warmest Regards,

The Film Board

Port Jefferson Documentary Series

516-639-2624

portjeffdocumentaryseries.com

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ATTICA (2021) TIFF 2021


While there were a number of films premiering at Toronto this year the one film I wanted to see the most was the documentary ATTICA about the infamous riot that happened fifty years ago and still is reverberating through society. It is a tale that I don't think most people full grasp any more. Using the first person testimony of the prisoners, the observers and some of the National Guard, the film puts us into the prison when it all went to hell

A big note about the film, it is not focused on either the run up to or what happened after the riot. ATTICA is simply focused on the riot itself, pausing to explain things like how all the guards were white and came from generations of prison guards, as needed. I mention this because there was a point where I was curious when they were going to give some background on what happened.

Despite this ATTICA kicks serious ass. This is a film that lays out hat happened in great detail. Because so much of it was filmed and photographed we get to see how it all went down. More importantly in the end we get to see the and truly understand the carnage and hell the guards rained down on every one in the prison yard. I was  horrified.

My horror at what the film shows comes from my doing a paper on the uprising when I was in college about ten years after the fact. I was stuck using the books and periodicals I could get from the school library. I didn't have access to the images of the rivers of  blood, the footage of the prisoners being forced to crawl through the latrines or of the shot up bodies of the guards victims. I never fully understood the full level of evil visited on the prisoners.

This film is a masterpiece. Its a brilliant explanation of what happened over five days in 1971. I only wish that the film might have put things into context of what it all meant and how the uprising changed many things. Still as a recounting of what happened this film can't be beat.

Highly recommended.

Dating & New York (2021) opens today


I went into DATING & NEW YORK not knowing what to expect. One friend absolutely loved it and another friend absolutely loathed it. Curious as to what the story was I waded in.

The film follows a couple who meet on a dating app and become friends. They are friends with benefits however as they both try to navigate to find the one they find their own friendly relationship complicated.

Cutesy to the point of pain, DATING & NEW YORK is a film you either go with and love or you hate to the point of googling the director and rude notes. Its clearly trying way too hard to win the audience over with a sweetness that had me shooting myself full of insulin in order not to have my blood sugar to spike.

I am decidedly mixed on the film. I found it very well written with (way too) frequent one liners that make you laugh. At the same time I loathed the way the film forces the sweetness on you. Everyone is a character to the point I couldn't relate to anyone. To be honest I've seen this sort of thing work, but it requires a lighter touch than we have here.

My reaction was to laugh at the jokes and wonder why a romantic comedy was making me hate all of humanity.

Clearly your mileage will vary.

Evan Wood (2021) Dances With Films 2021


Rachel returns home from college for her grandmothers funeral. She has been away for a while and her return is largely a happy occasion at a sad time. While there she begins to reconnect with her family and friends, particularly her brother Evan who is struggling with addiction issues. Unfortunately Rachel begins making waves unintentionally as she tries to be helpful.

This is a well acted and well plotted film and I don't know what I think of the film. I say  that because the film has some really great  bits, the "resolution" is unexpectedly real.

The battle between cliché and non-cliché comes from the -Rachel character. Differently drawn then everyone else she wanders through the action almost as if she is an outsider. She doesn’t seem to be connected t a lot of the other characters despite being Rachel doesn’t seem to know a great deal. Indeed some of her behavior toward Evan plays as if she has never interacted with him before despite being brother and sister. 

On the other hand the connections and interactions between all of the other characters are spot on. Everyone feels related and connected even the non-family members.  Their connection feels real.  Something that really hits home in the final school scene when Rachel is reading before the class and you realize how unconnected she is and how false her behaviors are. Watching the end for a second time I realized  how well written all the other characters were. They all felt alive.

I need to stop and make one thing clear here. My problem with EVAN WOOD is in the writing.To be honest if Rachel was better written I would consider the film one of the best I’ve seen this year but she disappoints. Charlotte Louise Spencer who plays her is fine. She does what she can with a poorly written character. Frankly I don’t think anyone could have played it better she just is stuck playing a deus ex machina and not a real person.

Ultimately, reservations aside EVAN WOOD is worth seeing for the bits that work.