Thursday, January 27, 2022

Midwives (2022) Sundance 2022


MIDWIVES is one of the great films at Sundance. 

The film is the story of two midwives, one Buddhist and one Muslim, in Myanmar who work together to give their community health care and deliver babies despite the fact that the Myanmar government is trying to ethnically cleanse the country of Muslims. 

It’s a deeply moving film full of humanity that makes it clear that there is no real difference between people other than the lebels we stupidly put upon ourselves. This is a film that will make you run a spectrum emotions as you see how the acts of good people can make a difference even as bad people commit crimes. I was moved.

Highly recommended this film deserves more and better words than I can manage- though if these words can get you to see it it will have been enough.


The Conductor (2021) opens today


 Marin Alsop broke the glass ceiling in regard to who can be a conductor of a symphony orchestra. Despite being told  she couldn’t be one because she was a girl she persisted and eventually became a student of the great Leonard Bernstein.

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel THE CONDUCTOR delights. It’s a film full of not only a deep love and respect for its subject but also a deep love and respect for music and conducting. It’s a film that you fall in love with because it is so in love with everything it is showing us.

I loved this film. I loved listening to Alsop tell her story. I loved watching her spread he love of music by teaching kids about music. Basically I was delighted at every turn.

I know this isn’t a deep meaningful review, but I don’t think this is the type of film that needs one. This is a big bear hug of a movie  that as a music and film lover that you slip into and are carried along.

It’s a glorious portrait of a woman you’ll want to hang out with and talk to for hours.

This film is a joy and highly recommended.

One of the unexpected gems of 2021

PIGGY (2022) Sundance 2022


Laura Galán will probably be come an interntional star after people see PIGGY because she give the role everything and then some. Truthfully if Oscar noticed films like this she would be a front runner, but the Academy never does, so her Oscar will not doubt come for some other, lesser performance.

I probably should say this but PIGGY made me laugh. This tale of Sara, a heavy girl who ends up tied to the crimes of a serial killer, struck me as exceedingly funny. The reason for my chuckling was that everything was so over done. For me it played like an uncomfortable comedy where lots of bad things happened and lot of blood flowed. 

While I admire Laura Galán's work, I have to wonder if writer Carlotta Pereda likes the character. She abuses the shit out of Sara and has her running around in such away that she always seems to be on the verge of being completely naked both physically and emotionally. It never struck as believeable because she is never given a respite, even for a second. What's worse the ending, which I guess is supposed to be cathartic just didn't make sense.

Then again much of this film doesn't make sense, with so much of the film seemed to provoke a reaction either in the audience or the characters, with the result that some of the turns had me scratching my head-beginning with why in the hell the killer would leave a body underwater where he does- I mean it was clearly ging to be discovered ASAP.

Yes,the film provkes a reaction, but I don't know if it does more than that. The plot doesn't make much sense and as a portrait of bullying it's so over the top and so incredibly cruel, especially to it's main character, that on it's own terms it isn't one that should be preaching.

Worth a look for Laura Galán's performance, I'm not too sure of the rest.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

32 Sounds (2022) Sundance 2022


Sam Green and JD Samson take us on an exploration of why sound is so important to us, using 32 sounds to illustrate their points.

When you see 32 SOUNDS wear headphones. I can’t imagine a sound system, short of a very high end one, that will give you the real special sense headphones does. I say this as someone who watched the theatrical/home version twice and I found the headphones made the film so much better.

I don’t know what to say about this film other than see it.  I’m not saying that as ploy not to write it up but because the film is not really a film but an experience. It’s a journey you take that takes you from point A to Z with a hell of a lot of stops in between. The joy and wonder of the film is taking the trip, watching how the sounds and the stories around them build on each other. It’s a cinematic companion to the work of the theater group Complicite which use sounds and image to tell you a story that takes things to another level.

I had a blast watching it smiling and laughing as I went-which confused the people around me  since they couldn’t understand why I was verbalizing when they couldn’t hear anything.

This film is a stunner and it’s a hell of a lot of fun

See it.

I should also point out that there are two versions of this film- a theatrical/ home version of the film  and one that will tour with live sound. A version of the live version was done on line. I missed the Sundance show, but having seen live performances by Green I’m looking forward to seeing the film in person

Additionally there is a live performance on line on January 27 at 130pm Eastern time. Check the website for details

I'm still processing DESCENDANT (2022) Sundance 2022


This is the story of the search  for the slave ship Clotilda. It was the last know ship to transport slaves to America. It was sailed into Mobile Alabama and up the river where it was offloaded and then burned.  The Africatown residents in Mobile, Alabama, are the descendants of the slaves on the ship and have fought to keep their tale alive.

This is going to be brief, because several days after seeing DESCENDANT I am still trying to parse it all out. I say tht because this is a really dense film. Containing more information than four or five other docs this is a film that covers the story of the Clotilda, the surivors, Zora Neal Hurston (she wrote about the story), the racism that that kept the story hidden, life in Africatown, the search for the ship, the discovery, the feelings of the descendants of all the people involved, the notion of reperations, plus the battle for the families to control the story. Any one of those threads could have been a film itself but its all here. More importantly its presented well enough that we havea great deal to chew on. 

I absolutely loved this film. It feels more like a really good book than your typical documentary.

Highly recommended DESCENDANT is a must.

The Territory (2022) Sundance 2022


Get ready to get pissed off as we watch how the indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people are slowly being squeezed out and hunted by people looking to get themselves some land to farm. Spurred on by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's hateful rhetoric people invade the protected territory and destroy the rain forest. 

Its a sad thing to witness because many of the people coming to tke over the land think the Uru-eu-wau-wau just live off the land and don't create anything. They think they should go get  life. Its tlling that these same people note how much cooler it is in the jungle than on the farm land they covert, but they stillwant to have farm land. Its also sad that all of the small guys causing the destuction  in the invasion will in all likelihood end up taken over by big farming companies.

Half way into this film I was so  pissed off I had to pause the film and calm down.. The stupidity of the people trying to take all the land is monumental. They can see the problems with trying to turn the jungle into farms but they don't understand it. I was well aware of the trubles but this film gave it a very real face.

This film is a stunner. Its a film that will clearly show you what is being lost to the world by the destruction of the forest, not just the human cost but the envirmental one as well.

One of the best films at Sundance it is highly recommended

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily raves about Brian and Charles (2022) Sundance 2022

 


Liz Whittemore was the one that clued me in on the wonderful BRIAN AND CHARLES. Its a great film and because you shouldn't just take my word on I'm reunning Liz's Reel News Daily review here

Brian is an eccentric inventor of creative, if not completely useless, things. After accidentally inventing a robot, he experiences the gambit emotions, the likes of which both he and the audience are not prepared for.

You have to wonder how much of the dialogue is improvised based upon David Earl‘s genius timing and rhythm. You will fall in love with this character. Earl creates a man that’s loveable, kind, and hilarious. You laugh out loud at moments that perhaps should not be funny. Ultimately, it’s Brian’s earnest care and wonder for Charles that hits you in the heart.

Chris Hayward as Charles is absolutely darling. As he is a newly created being, he possesses the whole of knowledge and yet has the social-emotional intelligence of a toddler. His unpredictable nature makes the chemistry with Earl pure magic.

The awkward juxtaposition of Charles’ massively disproportionate body with Brian makes for quite the visual gag at any given moment. Bravo to Earl and Hayward for this one-of-a-kind screenplay. The mockumentary structure adds an extra element of levity. If you’re not grinning from ear to ear, I suggest you get your head checked. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the biggest hits out of Sundance 2022. Brian and Charles is bursting with charm.

To read more of Liz's reviews go to her home bade of Reel News Daily

Something in the Dirt (2022) Sundance 2022


Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson return with a film where they are everything in front of and behind the camera. Its a wild psuedo documentary (of sorts) about two guys who try to get to the bottom of the weird things going on in on of their apartments. 

This may very well be Moorhead and Bensons best film. It's certanly as messy as their other films and in some ways it hold's together better than their other films. Its a film full of heady ideas, some brilliant and some crack pt. Its the sort of like hanging out late at night and talking with friends about all sorts of crazy stuff. I was  hooked because I really wanted to see where this was going and as a conspiracy/pranormal junkie from way back it as wickedly ccool how they wove all sorts of crazy things together into the story.

If thre is any real flaw it's that the running is about 120 minutes. Thats a lot of time to watch to guys talk about the mysteries of the universe and go in all sorts of weird directions, especially when most of the film is in one room. For what ever reason the film the film runs out of steam about three quarters of the way in.  Its not that the narrative collapses, it's just that there is so is so much here that we grow weary without a pause.

Exhustion aside I liked SOMETHING IN THE DIRT.

Aside note: In order to help fight piracy Sundance changed things up and made it so the film had to be watched a certain way on certain platforms. While I like the effort,  I hpe that next time Sundance works out the kinks since I know several people could not log in. I also had issues with the picture early on, and then I had the film lock up  toward the end. 

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on two of Sundance's best shorts WASHA an LONG LINE OF LADIES

The always wonderful Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily  Began her coverage of Sundance with reviews of a couple of great shorts. In order to get more eyes on the shorts I've stolen the reviews from Reel News and ruunning them here.


LONG LINE OF LADIES
A journey of tradition and self-discovery, Long Line of Ladies is a Sundance 2022 short film that allows us to peek behind the curtain of a once lost ceremony in the Karuk tribe.

The openness of the Karuk culture and the lack of toxic masculinity are so refreshing to witness. The entire community comes together to support each young lady as an individual. They are gentle and ceaselessly encouraging. The deep connection to traditions and nature is mirrored in the ceremony. After fasting, a young lady is blindfolded on a journey through the woods for 4 days, then emerges to perform a dance. The meaning and emotion behind it made my heart swell. It symbolizes her journey into womanhood so perfectly. This intimate portrait of cultural tradition will live with me for a long time. As a mother of a little girl that will soon be five, Long Line of Ladies inspires me to seek out a way to honor what has mostly been deemed an embarrassing or awkward transition. It makes me want to do better for the next generation.


WASHA
Circumstance drowning out his authenticity, Mohammad takes a risk at his construction job in the short film Warsha. Handheld and tight cinematography force the viewer into the vibrating chaos. But it’s the wide shots that astound in their scale and shared panic and awe. You will not see where this short is going.

Khansa plays Mohammad with a captivating vulnerability. Warsha introduces the entire world to Khansa, a multi-disciplinary artist redefining masculinity in the Middle East. I had chills watching his transformation. What brilliant casting. Writer-director Dania Bdeir has given Sundance audiences a short film that defies gender stereotypes. Its celebratory nature will leave you breathless.

To read more of Liz's writing go to Reel News Daily

Girl Picture (2022) Sundance 2022


Girl Picture is a good film. Its also not something I fully connected to. Forgive me I’m a old fart of a guy and sometimes I see a film and realize that this film wasn’t made for me.

Taking place over three Fridays the film concerns two female friends. One of them is looking just to get laid and is chasing various guys, while the other falls into a relationship with a figure skater. As one chases feeling good the other chases her heart’s desire.

Well-made and well-acted GIRL PICTURE is a portrait of the lives of the young ladies at the fore front. It’s a film that beautifully portrays the long for love and experience that we all feel. In all honesty there is a white hot heat coming off the screen that most other films never manages to generate. I was held captive by the emotion.

And yet I never fully committed. Perhaps I’m too far removed from the lives of these young ladies to connect to them or perhaps it was something else, outside of the emotion of the romance I remained outside of the film.

That said there is enough here to make GIRL PICTURE worth a shot, especially if you are a young lady close to the ages of these young women.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Maika (2022) Sundance 2022


Once more Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily returns to talk up the family film MAIKA

A grieving boy comes face to face with an alien girl trying to find her way home. Their adventures will bring unadulterated joy to Sundance 2022 audiences. Maika‘s cinematography is eye-popping. The production team dressed the sets and the actors in ways that hypnotized me. It’s the perfect eye candy for kids and parents alike.

Our three youngest leads, Phu Trong, Diep Anh Chu, and Tin Tin are darling. These kids are out of this world fantastic. Their relationships are the purest and most honest I’ve seen in ages. You’ll double over in fits of giggles at Hung and Maika’s first interaction, while unexpected sidekick Beo takes the comedy to the next level. 

Maika has a familiar arc with all the finesse of E.T. and the charming goofiness of Little Rascals. Maika stands out with the emotional pull of grief and unconditional love. Add in some family-friendly subplot hijinks, all wrapped in a hilarious and sweet package, and you’ve got yourself a hit. With a whimsical score, every aspect of this film is enchanting. I laughed and cried a lot. Dub this in every language because its messaging is undeniably universal. It is a magnificent addition to Sundance 2022. Maika’s future is written in the stars.

For more of Liz's reviews head over Reel News Daily

THE COW WHO SANG A SONG INTO THE FUTURE (2022) Sundance 2022


A mother takes her kids back to the dairy far she grew up on after her father claims he saw her dead mother outside a cellphone shop. Her mother had died years before so she thinks something is wrong. The truth is that the mother has crawled out of a river walked toward home. 

This is a magical realism infused film nominally about man's destruction of the planet. The village by the farm is up in arms because the pulp plant is killing the fish in the river the town depends upon. There are also some ther strange things afoot such as the animls seeming to sing.

This rambling film never generates much interest because things take a bit too long to get going. I sat their wondering when things would come together but by the time they did I was largely disinterested.  I kept wishing that everything in the film was pushed aside and we simply focused entirely on the main character's trans daughter quest for acceptance. 

This was a miss for me.

MY OLD SCHOOL (2022) Sundance 2022


This is the story of "Brandon Lee" who in 1993 went to a crumbling prep school and became the tost of the school until it was discovered that he was actually 30 and trying to get his way into being accepted into medical school. Director Jono McLeod was one of his classmates and via interviews with them and lip synced performanance by Alan Cumming as Lee he attempts to get to the bottom of it all.

Odd mix of animation and live action tells a hell of a hell of a story that kind of  leaves you scratching your head at the end. Yea, its a crazy story and it should be told but at the same time there really isn't enough here to support a feature. There is no dark revelations  or conflict. There is no real cautionary tale, I mean, hell, everyone likes "Brandon", even if they think he is a bit daft. There are just the stories of what happened and at a certain point that stops being enough. There is no reason for this to be almost two hours. At a certain point this was like a dinner guest who is really interesting but wouldn't shut up.

Worth a look for the curious but you may want to wait for streaming.

RIFKINS'S FESTIVAL (2020)


RIFKINS'S FESTIVAL was bitter sweet for me. It is this could be the last film Woody Allen will make, his years long battle concerning what happened with his daughter finally making it nigh impossible for him to find financing for his projects (though apparently he has a new film in the works). Never mind that his last few films have been terrible, with A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK being an absolute disaster unconnected to reality. It is also a film that had Woody had a collaborator might have actually been a return of form.

The plot of the film has Wallace Shawn playing Rifkin, a one time film professor now frustrated novelist. He heads to the San Sebastian Film Festival with his wife Gina Gershon, who is doing the PR for a French actor with whom he suspects she is having an affair. While there he strikes up a friendship with a married therapist.

Playing like a summing up of Woody’s career the film has riffs and references to not only Woody’s earlier films but film itself. Rifkin is constantly seeing the world as if it was scenes from various films (for example Christoph Waltz shows up as Death in a riff on the Seventh Seal.). Its an odd mix of forms and styles with Woody’s early funny comedy crashing into  some of his mid-period more serio-comedies.  It some times works and sometimes doesn’t, more often than not the result of clashing styles, say a goofy joke in a more realistic moment.

The real problem here is in the writing. Woody has crafted some good sequences and monologues that are in need of shaping. Bits run on too long. Speeches need trimming. As I said above the tone with in scenes sometimes shifts uncomfortably.

While I was watching the film I was kind of shocked that the film actually feels like a Woody film from about 15 years ago. It’s a film that actually kind of (almost) works. There are these flashes of brilliance that made Allen’s films the toast of Hollywood for decades. Granted they are encapsulated in a film that is wildly imperfect, but it isn’t the absolute train wreck of his last few projects.  My biggest take away was that if someone took the script and gave it a once over you’d actually have a good film.

While the film isn’t perfect (Its clear Woody hasn’t been at a festival in years)it isn’t a complete waste. It’s the first Allen project in many years where I didn’t wonder how it got made.

Is t worth seeing?

For Woody Allen fans, yes. It’s a nice palette cleanse after the last few films. For me a life long fan of Woody it was nice to see that Woody hadn’t completely fallen off the table.  More importantly in a film that will probably be his last hurrah it’s a nice summing up. It’s a nice end to a career. If nothing else it has Woody fading out while standing on his feet instead of on his knees

2nd Chance (2022) Sundance 2022


Portrait of Richard Davis who created the modern bulletproof vest and his company Second Chance. Davis is a man of contradictions with his actions putting just as many people in danger as he saved.

The legend is that Davis turnd to making bulletproof vests after several robberies and his pizza businesses went belly up. Developing a product that could stop a bullet and be light weight he sealed the deal by shooting himself repeatedly. However things turned dark as his crazier nature got him int trouble.

I don't particularly like Davis but I hav to admire his ability to keep going. Things happen and somehow he has largely been able to rise above the shit storm he creates. I was totally hooked by his tale and stared at the screen more intently than many other big titles at Sundance.  This is one of those films where you can't believe what you are seeing. Gtanted he got away with a lot of stuff because he was the big man in town but still...

You have to see this. Its a wild and crazy story that will keep you wondering how this guy isn't broke and in jail.

A must,

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Nanny (2022) Sundance 2022


Aisha is a young mother from Senegal. She is working a a nanny for a couple in Manhattan as she puts enough money together to bring her son over. As time get close for his arrival strange things begin happening.

I know it was labeled as a horror film by the Sundance people but the truth is the film is not really that. Yes it may have scray moments and fantastical elements, but the truth is this is just a really good drama.

For what it's worth I was all in on NANNY for probably the first three quarters of the film. It was a beautifully acted (Anna Diop is incredible) acted drama that refused to be overt. Hell, the film film goes out of the way to subvert expectations and be what it is, which is a the story of a woman trying to navigate her life and the life of the people she works for.  I went all in because I cared about everyone on screen.

The problem is there is a point where the film get a bit messy. The weird stuff begins to pile up and there are a couple of turns that don't fully make sense.It feels that the script is moving things along faster than it should. (And apologies I can not explain because it would require a detailed plot discussion which I don't want to do because it will give too much away). I took a step back. I didn't disengage but I was a bit less invested.

I am happy to report that the film pulls it together in the end with an ending that is right. I mean I got to the final fade out and as like "ah yes that works nicely." It was good enough that I leaned back into the film.

Ultimately NANNY is a winner. If you can go in know it's not a big tim horror film but a small jewel of a drama with a supernatural flavoring you will be delighted.

Liz Whittemore on Meet Me in The Bathroom (2022) Sundance 2022


Liz Whittemre from Reel News Daily returns once again with a look at the Sundance Film MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM

I was a Freshman in college in NYC when The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches were making a name for themselves. They came about in the city pre-9/11 and the ensuing global turbulence in the following years. New York’s energy back then was a revitalized monster that has not let up since. Music and art would serve as our escape and savior and influence us forever. Based on Lizzy Goodman‘s book, directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern Sundance 2022 doc, Meet Me In The Bathroom, perfectly encompasses that rebirth.

Meet Me In The Bathroom talks about the push and pull between art and fame. The relatable anxiety of Julian Casablancas makes the film all the more charming. The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches‘ nonchalance and earnest wonder at their lives will enchant you. The fame facade was just that; these artists were far more interested in music than money. It speaks to the plight of the artist in general. The darker reasons we make art. It’s a deflection and/or coping mechanism.

9/11 is still visceral for those that were here on that day. Any footage still brings cold sweats and chills from head to toe. There’s a video of these musicians walking in the ash-covered streets. The aftermath of sadness in the days and nights that followed, how we coped was through art and creation. I was a musical theatre major at the time, which means I really wanted to be a rockstar. At the time, Karen O explains, performance was our only outlet. We were not quite kids, not quite adults. Any Gen X New Yorker still has that fire 20 years later.

The editing is a whirlwind of wonderful. Their personal footage and raw confessions make Meet Me In The Bathroom a pretty riveting watch. Their bold honesty keeps you glued to your seat. (Almost) ending with one long uncut take of Karen O in “Maps” is goddam magic. It’s a real stand-out from Sundance 2022 because it just plain rocks.

To read all of liz's Sundance coverage as well as her regular excellent coverage of other films go to Reel News Daily

HATCHING (2022) Sundance 2022

 


Tinja, teenaged girl, finds an egg in the woods and hatches it- giving birth to a nightmareish doppleganger she names Alli.

This is a disturbing film from Finland that will have you wincing repeatedly as unlesant things happen. Your reaction is not going to be from the gore but from the disturbing nature of the creature as well as the decaying on the inside notion of the perfect family.

And of course this is a grand allegory for growing up and life. Its clear from the minute the perfect mother dispatches a bird that got into the house that something rotten is living in the house. Mom is a crazy and horny for th repair guy. Additionally the creature is very much another facet of Tinja with the whole arc of the creatures life calling into play the notion that Tinja is now growing up. I am going to be very curious how women react to the film and its turns.

I was both delighted and deely disturbed.

Recommended

You Won't Be Alone (2022) Sundance 2022


Described as a horror film in some Sundance material YOU WON'T BE ALONE isn't. Its a fairy tale about a a young woman who becomes a shapeshifter who takes on the form of a number of dead people. It ends where it begins.  

I liked YOU WON'T BE ALONE but I didn't love it. The film is the story of a someone learning about life and herself by walking in some eles's shoes, literally. I think it is a solid and very good film.  The cast is great with the multiple actors and actresses playing the same role blending together prefectly. Its a beautiful film to look at and has a great pastorl feel.

The problem for me was it was watching it was kind of like having a friend drive me some place I thought I hadn't been to before only to realize about half way in I knew the destination. Realizing what I was seeing altered how I saw the film. It took the wonder off the trip, despite having a blast taking it.

To me this film feels like a melding of Justin McConnell's LIFECHANGER with one of 2021's most haunting films ALL THE MOONS with a dash of La Ronde sprinkled in by way of Malick (TREE OF LIFE), Tarkovsky (ANDREI RUBLEV) ,Sergei Parajanov (SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS) and David Lowrey (A GHOST STORY). 

Its a film that feels it has been made with the best ingredients, it just didn't knock my socks off. 

Worth a look

Brief thoughts on blood (2022) Sundance 2022


 After the death of her husband Chloe travels to Japan on a photo assignment . There she reconnects with Toshi and his young daughter. 

This is a sweet little romance with a poor choice for a title (blood, Really?). Its a lovely story about nice people who find each other. Its a beautifully shot to the point that you will want to disappear into the landscape. Rarely has Japan ever felt so inviting.

I love this film a great deal. I love that it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it simply does what it does extremely well with the result being a film we want to curl up with.

If there is anything wrong with the film, aside from a poor choice of a title,  its that the romance between Chloe and Toshi is pretty much a done deal from the first frame. We know its going to happen, we just have to wait for the inevitable, however, its so well done you won't care.

Recommended