Monday, December 11, 2017

Animation Show of Shows at the Quad starting December 29



The Quad presents the 19th annual Animation Show of Shows, with 16 animated shorts from across the globe

For 19 years, the Animation Show of Shows has been presenting new and innovative short films to appreciative audiences at animation studios, schools and, since 2015, theaters around the world. Over the years, 36 of the films showcased in the Show went on to receive Academy Award nominations, with 10 films winning the Oscar. Founded and curated by producer Ron Diamond, this year's edition features 16 funny, moving, engaging, and thought-provoking animated shorts from around the world.

Presented in order of appearance – Total Running Time: 93 minutes
Can You Do It - Quentin Baillieux, France
Tiny Big - Lia Bertels, Belgium
Next Door - Pete Docter, U.S.
The Alan Dimension - Jac Clinch, UK
Beautiful Like Elsewhere - Elise Simard, Canada
Hangman - Paul Julian and Les Goldman, U.S.
The Battle of San Romano - Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland
Gokurosama - Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, Romain Salvini, France
Dear Basketball - Glen Keane, U.S.
Island - Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel, Germany
Unsatisfying - Parallel Studio, France
My Burden - Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
Les Abeilles Domestiques (Domestic Bees) Alexanne Desrosiers, Canada
Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon - Tomer Eshed, Germany
Casino - Steven Woloshen, Canada
Everything - David OReilly, U.S

Love and Saucers (2017)

This is the story of  David Huggins who has had  lifetime of interacting, sometimes sexually, with alien visitors as told to us by the man himself.

I'm kind of bemused by this film. It is not that there is anything wrong with the film, there isn't. Rather that with all of the stories of contact between earthlings and extraterrestrials way this one is getting noticed is beyond me. I suspect that the fact that the film isn't overdone and simply lets Huggins tell his story is part of the reason. I also suspect that the film isn't as crudely made as many direct to home video or You Tube films are helped it score an audience.

How you react to LOVE AND SAUCERS is going to depend on if you've some in contact with stories of alien abduction before and if you have a reasonably open mind. If you completely dismiss the possibility of intergalactic contact just pass this by because the film is going to be a yuck fest. Huggins is going to come off as daft and you're going to hate the film. If you are at least open to the possibility that there could be something to the story then you will find it engaging.

As someone who has been down the rabbit hole and built an extension for a portion of my book and film collection I found the film to be good but nothing new. I've heard any number of similar stories over the years and while I've no idea if any of them are true they raise interesting question if they are.

Is the film worth seeing yes it is. Its a very good look, for better or worse at something the vast majority of people don't seriously consider. Its a well done film on a fringe subject that will get your grey cells going and more than likely get you talking about it afterward.

LOVE AND SAUCERS will be available for streaming tomorrow.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nightcap 12/10/17: Pieces from the last few weeks and a few of Randi's links


CityOfJoy_OfficialTrailer from Essence Road on Vimeo.
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It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Nightcap but things have been hopping so I haven't been able to sit down and put one together. I have however been collecting little bits that were supposed to turn into big bits and now that there is a slight lull I'm going  to cover lot of topics in one post.
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There has been a lot of questions about what do we do with all of the films and TV shows that feature sexual predators and other malcontents. Do we flush them and never look at them or do we do something else? Of course there is a question of lines, at what point are people persona non grata?

I've been asked by a bunch of friends what I thought we should do but I don’t have answers.

Film Twitter would have all the films of any offender burned and scattered to the wind. I find that impractical simply because if we do that then is a chance we’ll be wiping out the work of thousands of people over the decades who did nothing. Films from across the history of film will go the way of the wind (I mean what do you do with problem like Hitchcock or any film that involved a casting couch?).

While I despise predators I’m not going to instantly dismiss a film that is out because a bad man is in it or made it. I realized this when I was watching Baby Driver a couple weeks back and Kevin Spacey showed up. There was this momentary disconnect where I had to think if it was okay to see the film or not, and then I fell into the film and went with it. And I realized that I’m going to keep the art separate from the person. What exists exists and I’m just going to take the film on its own terms.

Of course if there is something about it that bothers me then I’ll take a pass on the film. For example the whole Louis CK nonsense makes his film an impossible watch. His creepy behavior is too close to his film.

This is not to condone the predator, rather its simply to state how I’m going to handle things-taking films on face value and then adjusting if real life crashes in to it.
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More commentary on another Twitter furor- this time critics not of a group reviewing a film. It seems people are pissed at how white critics are writing about COCO since they are explaining the culture to the people whose culture is on screen. Additionally straight critics are taking brick bats for talking about CALL ME BY YOUR NAME as a gay classic. Can critics write about films highlighting groups they are not part of?

I know they can because I do, and others do as well. Most pointedly gay critics write about straight love stories and no one bats an eye.

I think the problem comes when people try to explain things about which they probably know nothing. I would never suggest to know what a great LGBT film was. On the other hand when films transcend a category to be universal I’m all there. I’ve reviewed dozens of films released by Wolfe Video which specialized in LGBT themed films and I have always tried to see the films as representations of the human experience. Love is universal and the emotion is what is important, who you love is irrelevant to the feeling. One of the best films of this year is --- which is about the return of a lost love. It’s a film that is so perfect and on target that the fact that the fact the central couple is gay is irrelevant. I felt everything that was going on on screen despite not being gay.

Critics need to profess less and look for the universal.

And Twitter needs to come out of their basements and grow the hell up and behave like adults who interact not backward children who never have seen another person
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As the best of the year lists come in and the awards are handed out we have to ponder if the lists really are anything close to the best of the year or are they simply the best of what the writers really saw or are these the best of what the writers had placed in front of them because that’s what the PR people shoved in their face?

I think in large part it’s the result of the writers going with the PR people’s choices and rubber stamping them.

The reason I have brought this up was that there was a couple of online discussions I was following where people were wondering why best of the year list of most critics/writes all come up with the same films. It is because as I said above they allow themselves to be fed the same films. Part of this is the result of many outlets wanting just the big films covered because that will get tem hits, but also because many writers are too lazy to go outside the box.

If you are a regular reader of Unseen Films you’ll no doubt have noticed that we don’t really cover the big films unless they fall in a festival well before opening or we stagger into a public screening somewhere along the way after the films have opened. The reason for that is twofold, first I am not on some PR lists. There are reasons for that which I won’t get into but it means I don’t get everything shiny new movie thrust at me each week. The second part of the reason is that as much I would love to cover the big films, Unseen Films was set up to cover the underdogs and the underseen. The reputation for the site has been built on coverage of the small and independent films and it is with that we thrive. People come to us to see the small films not the big ones- after all everyone is reviewing those but no one is talking about the small ones.

This makes my end of the year lists and the Unseen Film Awards so different than the rest. It also makes the Unseen Film Awards decidedly not mainstream- even by inde film award standards. We don't follow lock step and if you look at the best of the year lists of the family you'll find some films on the list match the big critics but most are unique. We are rooting round in all film and not what is just put in front of us on any level.
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And some random links from Randi and else where
Closing opening night
The Lost Kong film
Judi Dench raps
Haunted NYC
Kaboom cereal
What if Norbert Leo Butz were Hedwig?

Devil in A Blue Dress (1995)


Devil in a Blue Dress, the film, was ahead of its time. Based on the first of the Easy Rawlins novels it’s a mystery story that is ultimately has less to say about the mystery then it does about race in America. Never mind it’s set a few years after the Second World War, the story is a vivid portrait of racism in America today. That wasn’t always the case, once we thought we were being better than that, but in a world where Donald Trump got elected by inflaming divisions and support from white supremacists and we have to repeat remind each other that Black Lives Matter the film stands out as a sobering reminder that things are not all that much better.

The plot of the film has Easy Rawlins, played by Denzel Washington, looking for work after returning home from the war. He meets Dewitt Albright ,Tom Sizemore, in a bar who offers to pay him if he can find a woman named Daphne Monet. The job soon turns deadly as the girlfriend of one of his buddies is killed and people are taking shots at him. As things escalate Rawlins needs to call back up. It comes in the form of his old friend, the very dangerous Mouse, played by Don Cheadle.

The mystery is not an expected one. The central mystery, the search for the missing woman, has less to do with misdeeds and greed than love and the ability for people to cross the color barrier. The missing woman is the love of a mayoral candidate who sends her away because if its discovered that she is black it would ruin his career. She goes but discovers that that her lover’s political rival has an even worse secret, one that he will kill to keep. It’s her desire to use it to get back with the love her life that sets everything in motion.

This is beautifully acted across the board, especially by Cheadle whose performance will etch itself into your brain. Once seen Mouse will never be forgotten. I say that because I was recently watching this film on cable when my dad came in and sat down to see what I was watching. Before I could answer Cheadle walked on screen “Oh Mouse” he said. He was then in his seat to the end. Mouse is a strange character, he’s one anyone who has ever seen the film knows. Its quietly iconic (and could have been huge if another film had been made) but it never overshadowed Cheadle’s career. He has not been marked by the role despite how many people I know who love the character.

The most interesting thing about the film is how it handles racism and race relations. Prejudice and societies rules are everywhere. The couple at the center of the story is barred from happiness because they cross the color line. Cops abuse Easy just because they can. While Easy is more well off than many, he has his own home in a “good” neighborhood he is still under the thumb of the cops who are constantly watching him. Easy’s pay at the end of the film to have a white man in power call off the cops who’d like to charge him with murder because that’s what they do to blacks.

Watching the film now it is no longer a faux nostalgia piece, instead it’s a modern tale of racism reset in the 1940’s. While there has been a breaking of the color barrier and mixed race couples are more accepted, everything else, from the causal racism to the institutional kind is dead on happening now. Twenty two years on its sad to think that many people saw the film as quaint and of a time.

It breaks my heart to realize the film is of our time-we haven’t gotten better we just drove the feeling under cover. Watching the film again in a hated filled Trump America the film seemed to be grow stronger. Director Carl Franklin hasn’t made a film that is of the time rather one that it is ahead of it. Unlike most people in the media and most americans he knew things hadn’t changed.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Man Who Came to DInner (1941)

Monty Woolley plays Sheridan Whiteside an acerbic writer stopping in a small town on a lecture tour. A self centered prick Whiteside slips and falls on the steps of his hosts home and ends up stuck in their house for months. As his secretary falls for a local newspaper reporter Whiteside plots to keep her and cause pain to the family hosting him.

Wickedly funny film made Monty Woolley a Hollywood character actor. It was the role he had taken Broadway with. Most amazingly while he is on screen almost the entire 121 minutes of the film he is listed 3rd. Its understandable since no one knew who he was going in but coming out everyone did.

The part is based on literary legend Alexander Woolcott which came about when he took over Moss Hart's home for a day. He and George Kaufmann turned the thought of that one day into an unending visit and had the play. While the behavior is pumped up and done for comic effect one has to pause and wonder what one would do if someone like Whiteside stayed at your house.

The problem with this film version is that until we are about 30 minutes into it Whiteside is a complete and utter ass. Why anyone puts up with him is never quite explained. Worse he is such a monster that you really don't know why he wasn't poisoned.  After the 30 minute mark things settle down and you can just ride the comic situations- and not think about the logic problems.

For me the joy of this version of the story is Bette Davis. Davis is playing against type and turns in a performance completely unlike anything else she ever did. She's so good that you lose track that it's her up there on the screen and not someone else.

The joy of the story whether on screen or stage is the dialog which carries the film from start to finish.

An acerbic delight

Friday, December 8, 2017

Walking Out (2017)

City boy goes to Montana to visit his estranged dad.  While out in the wilderness an accident occurs and the boy must now step up and attempt to save them both.

Good looking adventure coming of age film is pretty good on it's own terms.  Solidly made and expertly acted, especially by Matt Bomer who reveals he's much more than a pretty face. This in many ways this feels like a wonderful short story brought to the big screen.

The film however has two niggling bits that kind of work against it but don't kill it.

The first is that the film feels very much like a short story brought to life. There is a sense of literature on screen more than of life. We can feel the important themes being laid out for us to catch on to.

The other problem is on some level we've been here before. If you done any reading or seen any number of movies or TV shows you've seen a version of this story before. Its not that there is anything wrong with the repetition more that there isn't enough here to set it off from all the other versions.  An hour after the film ended I had trouble remembering any real details.

As is my rallying cry at times, this is another it's not a bad film but it could have and should have been so much better.

Currently in theaters and VOD

Milwaukee Film Celebrates 10th Anniversary; Announces 2018 Festival Dates

MILWAUKEE – Thursday, December 7, 2017 – Celebrating a decade in the community, Milwaukee Film is excited to announce that the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival will take place from October 18 - November 1, 2018. The annual 15-day festival will include feature films, shorts programs, education screenings, post-film conversations, panels, and parties.

“We couldn’t have reached this incredible milestone without the warm embrace of the Milwaukee community,” states Jonathan Jackson, Executive and Artistic Director of Milwaukee Film. “Over the past ten years, we have strived to bring the best independent and international cinema to the city, and our amazing audience, members, donors, and sponsors have repaid us in kind, allowing for this period of unprecedented growth. We look forward to bringing the best in film to you for decades to come.”

Festival organizers hope the later dates will expand programming opportunities to gain access to premieres from such renowned festivals as the Toronto International Film Festival, Festival de Cannes, and Telluride Film Festival.

The Call for Entries for the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival will open in January 2018.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Other Worlds Austin ’17: Paleonaut (short)

Nicholas Sparks can’t top this message in a bottle. Scientists have developed a method of H.G. Wells-style time travel, so the first human test subject will travel back to the pre-historic era, hopefully to leave a message for the research team in the fossil records. Essentially, the time traveler will become the fossil. It was a mission Dr. Maria Lin volunteered for, but she might possibly start to develop feelings for the man chosen instead in Eric McEver’s short film Paleonaut, which screens during the 2017 Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival.

There might be a future in our past. If the so-called “Paleonaut” can successfully adapt to pre-human living conditions, it could open the door to colonization of the past, from the environmentally doomed near-future. Apparently, they are not worried about Butterfly Effects or Prime Directives, because desperate times call for desperate measures.

Unfortunately, Dr. Lin is too valuable as a team member to send her back in time, but Kai is pretty disposable. Indeed, he seems to have nothing tying him down to the present day. Yet, as the shy Dr. Lin trains the socially awkward Kai, they come to like and respect each other—and maybe even something more.

Any jerk who says science fiction cannot be emotionally engaging should watch Paleonaut and then grovel for forgiveness. It is a beautiful but finely nuanced film that suggests so much through hints and implications, yet it is epochal in its sweep. McEver takes a mammoth-sized big-picture-idea and examines it from a distinctly individual and intimate perspective.

Of course, he has a huge advantage in his remarkable lead, the uncannily expressive Tomoko Hayakawa, who can truly break your heart while lucidly explaining the principles of paleontology. Plus, she forges some acutely potent chemistry with Yasushi Takada’s Kai. He is also terrific and terrifically subtle portraying the standoffish Kai as he slowly comes out of his shell around her.

Paleonaut was shot on location at various Chinese research institutions and science museums, so it has a totally legit science fiction look. Genre fans will definitely respect its intelligence, but the central relationship makes Paleonaut accessible to anyone who enjoys a good tale of star-crossed romance. Very highly recommended, Paleonaut screens this Sunday (12/10) as part of the Scifi Shorts: Paradox of Choice programming block, at this year’s Other Worlds Austin.

Thoughts on why is no one talking about My Happy Family (2017) and why Netflix seems to have cut it loose

The fact that Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice is the only one truly screaming to the heavens about MY HAPPY FAMILY confuses the hell out of me. Why is such a good film being ignored by the company that is releasing it? More to the point why is a film as solid as it is not being screened in New York and Los Angeles for awards consideration? This is a film that for better or worse should be in the awards mix.

MY HAPPY FAMILY is the story of Manana who at the age of 52 decides to move out of her multigenerational home and live on her own. She is tied of having to put on the happy face and to bend to the whims of everyone else. It’s a move that sends quiet shockwaves through the family. There is more to the story but that should be enough to get you to turn it on.

Where to begin? I want to simply say that everything in this film is wonderful but if I had to pick one thing it would simply to say that this film is achingly real. Unless you live your life completely unattached from the rest of humanity this is a film that you will relate to. We all have families and we all submerge some or all of ourselves in order to make the ones we love happy. We all do it. Watching Manana switch masks from pained unhappiness at the situation to jovial hostess and back again moves us. The birthday scene where the gloomy Manana is in formed that guests might be stopping by to celebrate, something she wants no part of is dead on. I, for one, have been there, as she puts on a smile and is welcoming to everyone only to collapse from the effort of forcing niceness when it was done. We all have been there and we relate to her suffering.

The film doesn’t just bleed off the screen so much as infects the world around it. Watching the film the other night I felt the room I was in merging with the one on screen. I had a sense that if I went through the door to get a drink I might bump into someone in the kitchen.

And there are the other moments that break our hearts or inform us with a grand wisdom, from the reunion to the bracing moment where Manana’s student tells her that if she decides to go for what she wants in life she has to commit to it fully or else be seen as weak and become a prisoner.

This is a great film-- which begs the question why isn’t Netflix pushing it? I’m not certain. I’m never certain about what Netflix is doing with their PR since they often seem intent on not getting word out on any film. I would think it’s because the film isn’t in English and isn’t from a country that they know how to market. I mean it’s a family drama from Georgia not a Korean thriller or Bollywood epic.

If you have Netflix this should be on your list of films to see, if you don’t you should be bringing food and drinks to a friend who does and forcing them to watch the film.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Quad's Repertory Programs for December 2017

In addition to the previously announced William Wyler & Lois Smith series, upcoming repertory programs at the Quad include retrospectives celebrating the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis & prolific French filmmaker Claude Berri, plus Merchant-Ivory highlights for the holidays

More Than Meets the Eye: William Wyler

December 1-15
In The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris grouped William Wyler in the dreaded “Less than Meets the Eye” category, alongside Huston, Wilder, and Lean as “directors with reputations in excess of inspirations.” And what a reputation Wyler has: this consummate perfectionist worked for nearly half a century, from the silent era to the dawn of New Hollywood, earning the most-ever Best Director Oscar nominations with 12 (and three wins). His name has become virtually synonymous with Hollywood craftsmanship and prestige; Wyler made unapologetically big movies about big themes with big performances. But a closer look reveals countless grace notes between the crescendos, and shows Wyler to be an acute chronicler of mid-century American life. The Quad is proud to present New York’s most extensive Wyler retrospective in 15 years, a much-needed reconsideration of this vital film artist.

Titles include: Ben-Hur (1959, DCP), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, DCP), The Big Country (1958, 35mm), Carrie (1952, 35mm), The Children’s Hour (1961, 35mm), The Collector (1965, DCP), Counsellor-at-Law (1933, 35mm), Dead End (1937, 35mm), The Desperate Hours (1955, 35mm), Detective Story (1951, 35mm), Dodsworth (1936, 35mm), Funny Girl (1968, DCP), The Good Fairy (1935, 35mm), The Heiress (1949, 35mm), A House Divided (1931, 35mm), How to Steal a Million (1966, DCP), Jezebel (1938, 35mm), The Letter (1940, 35mm), The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1969, 35mm), The Little Foxes (1941, 35mm), Mrs. Miniver (1942, 35mm), Roman Holiday (1953, 35mm), These Three (1936, 35mm), The Westerner (1940, 35mm), Wuthering Heights (1939, 35mm)

Prime Lois Smith

December 12-14
Enjoying her seventh decade onscreen, actress par excellence Lois Smith was recently on view at the Quad recreating her stage triumph with her beautiful multifaceted performance in Marjorie Prime—and now she’s back in theaters with Lady Bird. Whether flinty or flustered, sweet or steely, imperious or meek, Smith is memorable every time she materializes as part of the fabric of a film, play, or TV show. To cap off her prime 2017, we’ve gathered together four movies from the first half of her career to which she made valuable contributions, plus a reprise of the acclaimed Marjorie Prime.

Titles include: East of Eden (1955, 35mm), Five Easy Pieces (1970, DCP), Foxes (1980, 35mm), Marjorie Prime (2017, DCP), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976, DCP)

All or Nothing: The Fearless Performances of Daniel Day-Lewis

December 15-24
On Friday, March 7th, 1986, Manhattan moviegoers opened up newspapers to find glowing reviews and ads for two new films opening that day, My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View. Double takes ensued, for both starred the then-unknown Daniel Day-Lewis—in utterly different guises. Who was this protean talent, this must-see, this one to watch? His lineage indicated a genetic predisposition towards artistic accomplishment; he is the son of Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate of England, and Jill Balcon, daughter of Ealing Studios mogul Sir Michael Balcon. But Daniel Day-Lewis has made his own name, flooring audiences and critics with his ability to meticulously root characters in a multitude of eras and locales. Revered by his peers and fellow actors, he has earned a record three Best Actor Academy Awards. On the occasion of a long-awaited new starring role for the actor with the Christmas Day release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s UK-set Phantom Thread—which Day-Lewis has stated will mark his screen farewell—we offer up a holiday bounty of his films.

Titles include: The Age of Innocence (1993, 35mm), The Bounty (1984, 35mm), The Boxer (1997, 35mm), The Crucible (1996, 35mm), In the Name of the Father (1993, 35mm), The Last of the Mohicans (1992, 35mm), Lincoln (2012, DCP), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985, 35mm), My Left Foot (1989, 35mm), A Room with a View (1985, DCP), Stars & Bars (1988, 35mm), Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971, DCP), There Will Be Blood (2007, 35mm), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988, 35mm)

Merchant Ivory Gold

December 23-28
With his moving screenplay adaptation of André Aciman’s beloved novel Call Me By Your Name, the 89-year-old James Ivory has enjoyed a true late-career triumph in 2017. Ivory first came to recognition alongside his partner Ismail Merchant as half of the formidable Merchant Ivory team, whose productions set the bar for refined filmmaking for several decades. Often prestige literary adaptations, their films not only honored their source material—novels by Henry James, E.M. Forster, and more—but often transcended it. In hopes of reintroducing audiences to Merchant Ivory’s transporting films, we’re pleased to present recent, gorgeous restorations of five of their best, including three from the Cohen Film Collection.

Titles include: *Heat and Dust (1983, DCP), *Howards End (1992, DCP), *Maurice (1987, DCP), *The Remains of the Day (1993, DCP), A Room with a View (1985, DCP)

*4K Restoration

A Very Berri Christmas

December 22-January 4
Claude Berri is surely the only French filmmaker to have won an Academy Award at the very start of his career—for his 1962 short Le Poulet. A veritable film industry impresario, in addition to directing 21 films, he produced 58 features, and set up distribution company AMLF in 1973. Berri broke into films with small acting roles in movies by Chabrol, Becker, Clouzot, and Renoir among others, and continued to act throughout his career; initially he was a triple-threat actor-writer-director, playing a character called Claude in five semi-autobiographical comedy-dramas. Firmly ensconced in the mainstream, his directing career couldn’t be further from the New Wave and post-New Wave cinema. While a handful of his early films received U.S. distribution, most of his light comedy dramas of the 1970s and early 1980s remain unknown to American audiences. All this changed with his 1987 international breakthrough, the classic Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources diptych, which marked a new phase in his career as he pivoted to a series of large-scale period dramas rooted in French heritage.

The Quad is proud to present this retrospective with a selection of films from both halves of Berri’s career in conjunction with the international premiere of the 50th anniversary 4K restoration of his celebrated first film The Two of Us.

Titles include: The Two of Us (1976, DCP, 4K restoration), The First Time / La première fois (1976, 35mm), Germinal (1993, 35mm), Hard Off / La débandade
(1999, 35mm), Je vous aime (1980, 35mm), Jean de Florette (1986, 35mm), Lucie Aubrac (1997, 35mm), Male of the Century / Le mâle du siècle (1975, 35mm), Manon of the Spring / Manon des Sources (1986, 35mm), Le Sex Shop
(1972, 35mm), Uranus (1990, 35mm)

Other Worlds Austin ’17: Three Skeleton Key (short)

It was one of Vincent Price’s most popular roles in the early 1950s, but he only performed it on radio. At the height of its fame, French author George G. Toudouze’s Esquire-published short story failed to make the transition to film or television, probably because the hordes of killer rats were too difficult to render properly on screen. However, Andrew Hamer proves it can be done in 2017. There will be rats in his short film, Three Skeleton Key, which screens during the 2017 Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival.

The remote lighthouse is literally welded to a narrow key that becomes entirely submerged in water during high tide. The surrounding waters are shark infested and the supply boat only comes once every three weeks. Its sole purpose is to keep boats off the rocks, but most vessels have the good sense to avoid the rugged stretch of coastline. However, nobody is navigating the derelict craft about to founder on the reef—for good reason. It has been commandeered by throngs of flesh-eating rats.

These are ships rats, the kind that do not drown. Having reached the rocky outcroppings, they will swarm onto the key and over the sealed lighthouse. With no relief scheduled to arrive for weeks, the weary light-keepers must hope and pray the door and windows will hold up against the scurrying masses.

Hamer’s film basically teases what presumably could become a full feature film treatment. Logically, he does not give away the store when it comes to swarming rats, but he still shows how realistic and scary they can look. He also makes a few changes from the original story and radio plays. Instead of the French Guyana coast, it is now set along a desolate stretch of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, which probably gives it more commercial appeal, but it makes it harder to accept the lighthouse’s extreme isolation.

What does work is complicated friendship between the white Terry Driscoll and the much-abused African American Andre Rolle, the two laborers on the lighthouse crew (memorably played by Robert Fleet and Dan White, respectively). It is definitely not a simplistic buddy relationship, but they are the kind of salt of the earth who will presumably rise to the occasion when the tower is overrun with vermin.

Hamer’s Key is loaded with atmosphere and first-rate period details. In a mere ten minutes, he rather impressively establishes a claustrophobic vibe and an ominous sense of foreboding. It is definitely Poe-like in that respect, but fans of the Vincent Price productions will miss the taciturn Basque boss Louis, and the high-strung Auguste, whose self-destruction was predetermined by their respective character flaws.

Although Toudouze’s 1937 story is still used as an example of a suspenseful tale in primary English classes here and there, it has largely receded from the popular consciousness, which is why it is so cool to see Hamer revive it. It would be great if the short led to a full feature adaptation. Regardless, the short film version we have now gives viewers a good taste of mid-Twentieth Century macabre. Recommended for horror fans, Three Skeleton Key screens this Saturday (12/9) as part of the Under World Shorts—Evil This Side of the Door programming block at this year’s Other Worlds Austin.

Falsified (2017)

In the running for an Oscar nomination FALSIFIED tells the story of an American man in London trying to contact the son who was taken from him at birth. The boy was part of the Spanish Baby scandal which had 300,000 children stolen from their parents at birth over 5 decades. The film portrayals the meeting of then man and the one he believes is his son.

Well made and beautifully acted FALSIFIED is a lovely film. It would make one hell of a feature film....

....and that is the major problem with it, this is not a whole film, rather it is part of a longer film. While the film most definitely has an ending  it doesn't really have a beginning coming into the action near the conclusion. It might have worked had the film given us some sort of background concerning the Baby scandal but we are dropped into the film and left to fend for ourselves. The result is a film where we can't help but feel, because we are missing something.

I loved what  is here but it doesn't satisfy.

On the other hand I would love to see this become a feature because what is here is awesome- it just needs more...

The trailer for Summer 1993

I don't normally run trailers unconnected to reviews or as shameless self promotion but here is the trailer for the Spanish Oscar entry SUMMER 1993 but I've heard great things about the film and I really want to see it so I'm running the trailer. The film is due for a US release in 2018

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Very Berri Christmas at the Quad December 22 - January 4


Claude Berri is surely the only French filmmaker to have won an Academy Award at the very start of his career—for his 1962 short Le Poulet. A veritable film industry impresario, in addition to directing 21 films, he produced 58 features, and set up distribution company AMLF in 1973. Berri broke into films with small acting roles in movies by Chabrol, Becker, Clouzot, and Renoir among others, and continued to act throughout his career; initially he was a triple-threat actor-writer-director, playing a character called Claude in five semi-autobiographical comedy-dramas. Firmly ensconced in the mainstream, his directing career couldn’t be further from the New Wave and post-New Wave cinema. While a handful of his early films received U.S. distribution, most of his light comedy dramas of the 1970s and early 1980s remain unknown to American audiences. All this changed with his 1987 international breakthrough, the classic Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources diptych, which marked a new phase in his career as he pivoted to a series of large-scale period dramas rooted in French heritage.

The Quad is proud to present this retrospective with a selection of films from both halves of Berri’s career in conjunction with the international premiere of the 50th anniversary 4K restoration of his celebrated first film The Two of Us.

Titles include: The Two of Us (1976, DCP, 4K restoration), The First Time / La première fois (1976, 35mm), Germinal (1993, 35mm), Hard Off / La débandade
(1999, 35mm), Je vous aime (1980, 35mm), Jean de Florette (1986, 35mm), Lucie Aubrac (1997, 35mm), Male of the Century / Le mâle du siècle (1975, 35mm), Manon of the Spring / Manon des Sources (1986, 35mm), Le Sex Shop
(1972, 35mm), Uranus (1990, 35mm)

BILL FRISELL: A PORTRAIT opens tomorrow at the IFC Center in NYC

Tomorrow BILL FRISELL: A PORTRAIT opens in NYC's IFC Center. Mr Frisell and director Emma Franz will be there for several screenings (see below). In order to get you to go I present a slightly altered  version of the review I ran at DOC NYC modified because time and thought have changed my feelings toward the film.

BILL FRISELL: A PORTRAIT is an excellent look at the man and his music.

Filled with discussions of Frisell and the people he's worked with and influenced (that's pretty much everyone)  and mixed with tons of music the film pretty much lets you know everything you want to know about the man.We hear stories about his working with everyone in every type of music as we hear the music that they made together. Its a wonderful celebration of the man and his life.

This is a super film, but  this can be a little long at times since there is a bit of repetition of points and an occasional too leisurely pace. On the other hand and more importantly sequences such as the opening one with artist Jim Woodring where they talk about how some things such as art and music being beyond words are stunning and then there is the music which is just magical.  It is the fact that the individual sequences and the music have hung with me for the last month that has forced me to go back and rewrite this review.

Recommended.

For tickets to the screenings go to:
http://www.ifccenter.com/films/bill-frisell-a-portrait/

The film screens:
Wed 6th & Thurs 7th Dec are 1.35pm, 4.05pm, 6.45pm, 9.25pm.
*Q&A with Bill Frisell and Emma Franz following the 6.45pm show on Wednesday night

Friday 8th through Tuesday 12th: 10.35am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm
*Q&A with Bill Frisell and Emma Franz following the Saturday 2:30 matinee

The Oxford FIlm Festival has announced the first wave of films for their 2018 fest

The 2018 Oxford Film Festival announced a special work-in-progress screening of Cassidy Friedman’s CIRCLES, the winners of the film festival’s inaugural screenplay competition and Artist Vodka contest for the 15th Anniversary edition and this year’s Magnifying Glass Fellowship recipient of the popular film festival. Oxford FF also announced the official selections in the feature film, short film, and music video categories produced in the state of Mississippi.

Melanie Addington, executive director of the Oxford Film Festival, said, “In our fifteenth year, the Oxford Film Festival will continue to put our best foot forward when it comes to inspiring the discussion of important and timely socio-political issues and topics through our films. CIRCLES is a great example of a film that provides a wonderful jumping off point for precisely that type of talk. We are also thrilled to debut our screenplay competition and partner with Artist Vodka to continue to not just inspire filmmakers, but offer significant cash rewards for their wonderful work, as well.”

Friedman’s CIRCLES, tracks a Hurricane Katrina survivor who is a pioneer of the Restorative Justice movement in Oakland schools working to keep black teenagers in school. However, when his own son is wrongfully accused, he suddenly finds his personal and professional lives collide. The screening will be co-presented by the Mississippi Humanities Council, and following the screening will be a discussion with Friedman and film subject Eric Butler, in partnership with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

The first winner of the Oxford FF’s inaugural screenplay competition is John Matthew Tyson’s “Twirling at Ole Miss,” and the runner up is John Bateman’s “Not Everything Was Burning.” Both scripts will have a live table read on Wednesday, February 7 at the festival, with the writer of Twirling at Ole Miss receiving $1000, a flight and hotel accommodations at Oxford, and mentorship from John Norris, film producer of such films as Get on Up, The Help, and the upcoming American Pain.

Magnifying Glass Fellowship winner Robbie Fisher and co-director Jenni Smith will world premiere their micro-short with the working title DEAR MR BRYANT on Wednesday of the festival. Fisher received $1,000 to have her film made.

Mississippi religious leaders share their informed and heartfelt thoughts in telling

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant why he was wrong to fight for and sign into law the controversial and extreme piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation known simply as H.B. 1523.
Nation Down, winner of the Artist Vodka competition.
NATION DOWN, WINNER OF THE ARTIST VODKA COMPETITION.

Liam Hendrix Heath’s NATION DOWN, which depicts a nightmarish world ruled by a manipulative king risking his rule in a warped bid for companionship, won the Artist Vodka competition. Heath will receive a grand prize of $5,000, along with flight and hotel covered to attend the festival. Tracy S. Facelli’s FAVORITES, about a man coping with the sudden death of his wife via the happy memories brought about by eating his favorite dessert that she had made for him prior to her death, was the runner up in the contest. Facelli received hotel accommodations to attend the Oxford FF as part of her prize package. In order to be eligible for the competition, the films were required to be less than 25 minutes and must incorporate one of the following:Artist Vodka mentioned verbally, a character wearing an Artist Vodka t-shirt, placement of Artist Vodka bottle in foreground in a scene, or the Artist Vodka logo in the opening credits.

Addington added, “The Oxford Film Festival has always had a clear and dedicated objective to promote and celebrate the work of filmmakers local to Mississippi. Giving those filmmakers an opportunity to show their work and be discovered by our audiences, as well as make connections with other filmmakers leading them to future work has been one of most important aspects of this film festival for going on fifteen years now.”

Four feature films will lead the way for Mississippi-based productions chosen as official selections for the 2018 Oxford Film Festival. Those films include Jeff Dennis’s THE PROCESS: THE WAY OF PABLO SIERRA about a potter, baker, and horseman who lived in Yocona, Mississippi. Born in Spain, Sierra came to Ole Miss on track scholarship, eventually becoming the man he is today. Astin Rocks.’ LOVE SOLILOQUY: A VISUAL ALBUM uses avant-garde storytelling to reveal the psyche behind young women navigating their relationships. Timothy Givens and Mark K. Brockway’s MISSISSIPPI MADAM: THE LIFE OF NELLIE JACKSON profiles an African-American woman born into poverty in Possum Corner, Mississippi, who opened a brothel in Natchez, Mississippi and ran it for more than 60 years with full knowledge of police and Natchez officials until a fiery end one hot July night in 1990. Frances Causey’s THE LONG SHADOW features two daughters of the South who look beyond their white privilege to discover the troubling and hidden history of their area, exposing the long and powerful reach of Southern politics.

Special Work-in-Progress Screening

CIRCLES

Director: Cassidy Friedman

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA, Running Time: 82 min

A Hurricane Katrina survivor who works to keep black teenagers in school in Oakland, California finds his personal and professional lives colliding when his 15-year-old-son goes to jail for a crime he didn't commit.

Artist Vodka Winner

NATION DOWN

Director: Liam Hendrix Heath

Genre: Narrative

Country: USA, Running Time: 14:57 min

On a strange world locked in a dystopian nightmare, an oppressive regime is met with riots and rebellion. Desperate to suppress chaos, the king triggers a perverse manipulative scheme before risking his dominance in a warped bid for companionship.

Artist Vodka Runner-up

FAVORITES

Director: Tracy S. Facelli

Genre: Narrative

Country: USA, Running Time: 17:24 min

Steve and Natalie are pretty happy together, until it all comes crashing down when Natalie dies unexpectedly. After the funeral, Steve is having some trouble processing until he finds that the last thing Natalie did before she died was to make his favorite dessert. With this last push from Natalie, Steve starts the grieving process.

2018 Oxford Film Festival Screenplay Competition Winners

"Twirling at Ole Miss”

Screenwriter: John Matthew Tyson

“Not Everything Was Burning” (Runner-Up)

Screenwriter: John Bateman

Mississippi Films – Feature length

THE PROCESS: THE WAY OF PABLO SIERRA

Director: Jeff Dennis

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA, Running Time: 66 min

A film about a potter named Pablo Sierra who lives in Yocona, MS. Born in Spain, he came to Ole Miss on track scholarship. He became a world-class runner, and is now a potter, baker, and horseman. For Pablo, the process is everything.

LOVE SOLILOQUY: A VISUAL ALBUM

Director: Astin Rocks.

Genre: Experimental

Country: USA, Running Time: 31 min

Distorting the perception of true events, LOVE SOLILOQUY uses avant-garde storytelling to reveal the psyche behind young women navigating their relationships. Astin Rocks. doubles as the band's vocalist, lyricist and film director.

MISSISSIPPI MADAM: THE LIFE OF NELLIE JACKSON

Director: Timothy Givens and Mark K. Brockway

Genre: Documentary

County: USA, Running Time: 81 min

In 1902 Nellie Jackson, an African-American woman born into poverty in Possum Corner, Miss., travels north to Natchez and opens a brothel she ran for more than 60 years with full knowledge of police and Natchez officials until a fiery end one hot July night in 1990

THE LONG SHADOW

Director: Frances Causey

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min

Two daughters of the South look beyond their white privilege to discover a history that’s been hidden, exposing the long and shockingly powerful reach of Southern politics from slavery through to today’s racial imbalance.

Mississippi Films – Shorts

The wonderful treasure that is D-Love (2017) opens Friday


I saw D-LOVE wen I covered Dances With Films Earlier this year and fell in love with it. Now after the festival circuit and numerous awards the film hits theaters Friday. Here is a repost of my review

D-LOVE is one of the best surprises of the year. It's a film that shocked the hell out of me, made me smile and stare at the screen wondering why hasn't this film rattled the pillars of film heaven. Its a film destined to end up on my end of year lists, possibly as not only one of the finds of the year but also one of the best.

Let me explain that I didn't plan to see this film, I didn't want to see the film, and I never asked for the film. I had the film sent to me blindly. That I screened it was purely an accident. It was a time killer. I had a short period of time where I could try a film before I was called away, so I put on D-LOVE because I knew I wasn't going to like it and I knew I'd never finish it....and then two minutes in as Elena Beuca and her real life husband Dave Rogers are being civil to each other in an exchange that screamed real life, I suddenly realized "oh shit this really good"

D-LOVE isn't really good, its really great.

Director Elena Beuca based the film on the encounter she and her husband had with Ditlev Dharmakaya (aka D-Love), a young man from Denmark at a low point in their marriage. In the film the couple run into D-Love at LAX. When they try to put him on a bus they find that they missed the last bus. Not wanting to leave him adrift they take him home. Magic happens

Even if the three leads were not playing versions of themselves D-LOVE would have a sense of reality that most similar dramas ever achieve. Some how this film captures reality in a way that few film, fiction or non, ever do. I suppose the fact that Beuca lived it once may be behind some of it, but at the same time that's not all of it. The film works because Beuca doesn't over write or over edit anything. She never lets things spin out in ways that they wouldn't do so in life. She also give scenes the time to develop in real life not cutting away so things move too fast or when the perfect line is said. Scenes develop naturally...

This is life.

How do I know? Because I've had some of these conversations, I've said some of these words. I've felt some of these things...or something close to them.

I love the central performances. I think that the three leads are essentially playing themselves keeps their performances perfectly under control. They can't over act because how they are in life is not over acted, it simply is. If you want to know how good they are watch how some of the other actors are, say the woman playing Beuca's boss. She is playing the role not so much for reality but for effect. While in the real ball park, ultimately its for comic effect. Beuca, Rogers and Dharmakaya, never do anything for effect, they just live and breathe and give performances that should make most big name actors jealous.

Thematically, the notion that we all must live in the present is beautifully handled. Everything flows from one moment to the next. Nothing seems rushed. Yes we know that the married couple will learn from their new friend but it never feels forced. Personally once the set up was made I stopped thinking about how I was reasonably sure where it was going to end up and just enjoyed the journey. Rarely have I enjoyed a cinematic journey as much as this... which is thanks to this film simply being good time with a bunch of people I'd just love to hang out with.

I don't know what to say other than this is what all cinema should be like- real, well made, entertaining and extremely thoughtful.

A must see.

Monday, December 4, 2017

All or Nothing: The Fearless Performances of Daniel Day-Lewis at the Quad December 15-24

The Quad salutes the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis with a retrospective in anticipation of his new (and self-declared final) starring role in Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread. With 14 films (12 on 35mm) including The Age of Innocence, My Beautiful Laundrette, There Will Be Blood and more!

On Friday, March 7th, 1986, Manhattan moviegoers opened up newspapers to find glowing reviews and ads for two new films opening that day, My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View. Double takes ensued, for both starred the then-unknown Daniel Day-Lewis—in utterly different guises. Who was this protean talent, this must-see, this one to watch? His lineage indicated a genetic predisposition towards artistic accomplishment; he is the son of Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate of England, and Jill Balcon, daughter of Ealing Studios mogul Sir Michael Balcon. But Daniel Day-Lewis has made his own name, flooring audiences and critics with his ability to meticulously root characters in a multitude of eras and locales. Revered by his peers and fellow actors, he has earned a record three Best Actor Academy Awards. On the occasion of a long-awaited new starring role for the actor with the Christmas Day release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s UK-set Phantom Thread—which Day-Lewis has stated will mark his screen farewell—we offer up a holiday bounty of his films.

The Age of Innocence Martin Scorsese, 1993, 35mm
The Bounty Roger Donaldson, 1984, 35mm
The Boxer Jim Sheridan, 1997, 35mm
The Crucible Nicholas Hytner, 1996, 35mm
In the Name of the Father Jim Sheridan, 1993, 35mm
The Last of the Mohicans Michael Mann, 1992, 35mm
Lincoln Steven Spielberg, 2012, DCP
My Beautiful Laundrette Stephen Frears, 1985, 35mm
My Left Foot Jim Sheridan, 1989, 35mm
A Room with a View James Ivory, 1985, DCP
Stars & Bars Pat O’Connor, 1988, 35mm
Sunday, Bloody Sunday John Schlesinger, 1971, DCP
There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007, 35mm
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Philip Kaufman, 1988, 35mm

Max Ophüls x 7 all in 35mm at the Metrograph


Beginning Friday January 5, Metrograph will present a 7 film retrospective of Max Ophüls, all in 35mm. The accepted wisdom that high style and grand emotion are somehow antithetical is given the lie by the sublime cinema of Ophüls, in which the two walk happily hand in hand. An international filmmaker whose career took him all over Europe, through Hollywood, and back to Paris before his premature death in 1957, Ophüls was a sensitive director of actors whose frame moved with peerless, sweeping grace. (“A shot that does not call for tracks/ Is agony for poor old Max” wrote his friend, James Mason, in a bit of doggerel poetry.) No less a virtuoso than Stanley Kubrick called him master when discussing his personal canon in 1963, stating “Highest of all I would rate Max Ophüls, who for me possessed every possible quality” and praised his “fluid camera techniques.” 
From Mayerling to Sarajevo (1940/89 mins/35mm)
The proverbial lost masterpiece in a filmography full of them, Ophüls’s elegant film of the star-crossed romance between Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Czech countess Sophie, disproved of by royal advisors and assassins alike, allows the director to luxuriate in the starchy, stately, sumptuous atmosphere of the prewar European courts whose follies he both chided and cherished.

The Exile (1947/95 mins/35mm)
Fleeing a Europe in flames, Ophüls found no work in Hollywood after his arrival in 1941, but his fortunes changed thanks to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., then self-producing a star vehicle costume drama and looking for a director who could bring the right blend of sophistication and panache to the project. The result was a custom-fit between actor and filmmaker, a movie of verve and charm set against the backdrop of the English Civil War whose theme of exile coincidentally connected to Ophüls’ own recent experiences.


Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948/87 mins/35mm)
In a deliciously artificial fin-de-siecle Vienna concocted on a studio backlot, Ophüls conducts a veritable symphony of moving camerawork, turning Stefan Zweig’s short story of consuming romantic delusion into a voluptuous tragedy begun when a young woman (Joan Fontaine) develops a consuming fascination with a concert pianist neighbor (Louis Jourdan).

Caught (1949/88 mins/35mm)
Barbara Bel Geddes’ fashion model seems to be living in a fantasy when she’s swept off her feet by Robert Ryan’s suave multimillionaire—the character is based on Howard Hughes—but soon discovers that her husband is an egomaniacal and tyrannical tycoon who intends to treat her as another acquisition rather than as an equal. A potent proto-feminist melodrama/ thriller, with James Mason in his American debut lending a shoulder to cry on.  
The Reckless Moment (1949/82 mins/35mm)
When Joan Bennett’s posh California housewife takes it on herself to cover up a crime committed by her daughter, she finds herself involuntarily involved up with James Mason’s unscrupulous Irish criminal—but then unwelcome emotions begin to develop between them that make mere blackmail look like child’s play. While twining together aspects of noir and melodrama, Ophüls creates an emotional experience entirely, inimitably his own.


The Earrings of Madame De… (1953/105 mins/35mm)
Noblewoman Danielle Darrieux, desperate for cash, sells of a pair of diamond earring gifted by aristocrat spouse Charles Boyer, only to have them borne back to her by Vittorio de Sica’s handsome Italian baron, a gift initiating a potentially destructive love affair. An exquisite evocation of Paris in the Belle Époque, in which Ophüls’s camera moves through ballrooms and bedchambers with the weightless grace of a prima ballerina.

Lola Montés (1955/116 mins/35mm)
Ophüls’s final film before his early death at age 54, and his first in widescreen and color, which makes one yearn to see what else he might have yet been able to do. The title’s famous courtesan (Martine Carol) has been reduced to working as a circus attraction for ringmaster Peter Ustinov, nightly reliving her famous affairs with Franz Liszt and Bavaria’s King Leopold I, which are realized in opulent, garish storybook flashbacks.

Subway Cinema and The Quad Launch Have Sword Will Travel

On Sat December 16, at 7.15pm The Quad launches a new monthly series, co-presented and programmed by Subway Cinema, focused on rogue warriors, rebel swordsmen, and exploring the multifaceted figure of the knight errant in East Asian films.

One-Armed Swordsman
Chang Cheh, 1967, Hong Kong, 111m, 35mm
The turning point in kung fu and wuxia cinema history, One-Armed Swordsman is the film that changed everything. Emblazoned with brooding machismo and blood-soaked action, this tale of a swordsman who loses his arm to his master’s pampered daughter propelled director Chang Cheh and actor Jimmy Wang Yu to superstardom. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Followed by...

The New One-Armed Swordsman
Chang Cheh, 1971, Hong Kong, 102m, 35mm
Then-rising star David Chiang takes the crippled warrior tale to another level. Chiang portrays a proud swordsman who is tricked into severing his own arm after losing to a cunning rival. Humbled, he hides in an inn, but the death of his blood brother forces him to unsheathe his blade again. In Mandarin with English subtitles.