Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Latin Noir (2021) Miami Film Festival

LATIN NOIR is a killer documentary. This is an hour long look at crime fiction, noir, in Latin American countries such as Cuba, Mexico, Argentina and others.  The genre took hold in the 1960s with the rise of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes across the Americas.

In countries where you could not criticize the government without risking death, crime novels were a way to say everything was not well. Because the genre didn’t always have a happy endings and was always riddled the corruption the writers could write tales that came very close to reality. They were never really questioned despite the fact that they were needling their masters all along.

This film is a stunner. It is one of the best literary documentaries I’ve ever seen. It not only reveals way more about crime fiction than my college literature class on the subject, it does so with such skill that you want to buy every damn book mentioned. Seriously I watched the film the first time in completely enraptured, and then I watched it again to write down all of the authors (Leonardo Padura (Cuba), Luis Sepúlveda (Chile), Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Mexico), Santiago Roncagliolo (Peru) and Claudia Piñeiro (Argentina)) and book titles mentioned so I could see about ordering them if they are in English.

I love this film a great deal. I have been having a conversation with several friends who love noir  and crime novels since I saw it. I am also looking to get a copy down the road after it’s festival run s because even on its own terms its just so much fun

Highly recommended.

LATIN NOIR plays the Miami Film Festival this weekend

Keep an Eye Out (2020) hits VOD Friday

Quentin Dupieux, the man behind RUBBER about an sentient car tire that goes around killing people and REALITY about people in Hollywood watching each other on TV comes KEEP AN EYE OUT a police comedy with and equally bent view of reality and refusal to to go in anything remotely like a straight line.

Nominally the story of a murder investigation it wanders all over the place from the start where a man in his undies conducts an .orchestra in a field. Why? No idea. Conversation take odd turns and characters reveal WTF things to each other for no real reason. Smoke comes a detectives chest as he smokes. It simply goes loopy at every turn.

Is it funny? Yes. Does it add up to anything? Beyond laughs and getting the gears of your mind going? I'm not sure. While I shouldn't knock any film where I laughed a lot when it ended all I could wonder was "Is that all?" Don't get me wrong it is very funny at times but it feels ore like having an appetizer at a restaurant and then discovering that is your meal.(The film barely runs 73 minutes)

Worth a look, especially if you like off the wall comedy.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2021's Curtain Raiser

Okay the title of this post is a misnomer, this is going to be less a curtain raiser and more a pointer. Things have happened and in order to get this piece up I have to change things up.

What isn't changed is the fact that Thursday night this years edition of RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA starts. This is the annual look at French cinema hosted by Film at Lincoln Center. Last year the series had to be abandoned because of Covid. That really killed me because last year it produced some of the best films of the year, which is par for the course for the series.

This year the series is virtual which means the series can't be stopped.  What I love about this year's fest is the fact that the films are playing  for several days and you can watch them any time with in their proscribed time period. This means you don't have to rush to see all the good films.

And normally at this point I'd list all the great films you absolutely must see. The trouble is that just as I was starting to do this piece I was sent a stack of screeners so I while I've seen a few films I still have a good number of films yet to see. I will say that RED SOIL is really good and I am very curious how you will react to SPRING BLOSSOM which uses dance to express a deepening relationship.

 I have seen LIFELINES however I am not going to review it. It is nothing to do with quality, it is all to do with my not having anything to say other than its good after two passes by it.

That's about it for now. I'm ging back to the viewing room and watch some more films. I suggest that you go to the Rendez-Vous Website and pick out some movies

Fukushima 50 (2020) hits VOD and digital Friday

Setsurô Wakamatsu's FUKUSHIMA 50's  first ten minutes is as nerve jangling as anything you will see all year. Depicting the massive earthquake and following tsunami that took out the Fukushima nuclear reactor it will make you want crawl under your chair and hide. It's not that it's graphic, rather it makes real one of the very worst nuclear disasters in history.

After the killer opening the film settles down to tell the story of the men and women who fought to keep the reactors from gong completely out of control. It's a tense tale of people facing oblivion and the choices they are forced to make. Indeed one of major plot point is whether to follow orders and stop cooling the reactors or to keep going because it's the only way to even remotely save the world (no really). It's a ride that will force you to do a lot of thinking.

Wakamatsu's film is interesting in that it is kind of more straight reporting of events rather than a film filled with who is to blame. This is the story of what happened and while the distance of time would make you think that some blame throwing would be in order, Wakamatsu takes the stance that these are people just trying to survive so that what they are doing is not black and white of hindsight but the grey of living in the moment. That may not sit well with those looking for heroes and villains, but life isn't always clearcut.

I should point out that in telling the tale Wakamatsu has changed the name of everyone other that Ken Wantanbe's Masao Yoshida. That is not a flaw in the film, rather an acknowledgement that there were too many people responsible for stopping the nightmare to name them all. Yoshida on the other hand was the guy everyone new and he was the one who made many of the fateful decisions carried out by his teams.

I absolutely loved this film a great deal.

Highly recommended, FUKUSHIMA 50 hits Friday.

Stray (2020) opens Friday

While the film is being sold as a portrait of the dog Seytin and the other strays in Istanbul Turkey, the film is also a portrait of the street people he and the other dogs interact with on a daily basis. 

If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be a dog this film is for you. This is a dog's eye view of the world and it is an eye opening experience. I am a dog lover and much of this hit my sweet spot. If there is any complaint, it's the minor one in that the camera gets too close to the dogs and the images become overwhelming. Still it's a minor complaint and if you love dogs this film is for you.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Nightcap 2/28/21 Flying Saucers Are Real and government horse hockey

I've been putting on news reports and books on tape to help me  fall asleep. Some things help me fall asleep better than others.

One of the things that put me out is Donald Keyhoe's The Flying Saucer's Are Real. Written in the early days of the UFO wave originally as an article in True Magazine, Keyhoe essentially destroys the government case against there being anything going on. Keyhoe's method is simply to use the various government press releases against itself as well as deal with the largely forgotten case of Captain Thomas Mantell.

Thomas Mantell was a pilot who was killed when his plane crashed while he was chasing a huge flying disc. The disc was seen by hundreds of people, however no one knows exactly what happened since Mantell went into a cloud and then plummeted to earth. Rumors flew that his body was riddled with bullets, that he was destroyed by a ray, that he had simply blacked out by climbing too high. The government initially said it was all a mistake sine he was chasing Venus. The trouble was was it was almost  too dim to actually see and very small. Several years later they realized the mistake and changed their story. That may have calmed the public but his death didn't sit well with military people who knew or knew of Mantell and they knew he was a good enough pilot that that he was chasing almost certainly chasing something. As Keyhoe said several people said they thought UFOs were a joke until Mantell was killed.

The reason I'm bringing this up, beyond the fact that the book is a hell of a read and the Librivox recording of it is fantastic.(It can be found here or here), is that in this day and age of fake news and changing stories, Donald Keyhoe's story of trying to find the truth about what is going on is one we need to see. Keyhoe wades into the fray and searches for the truth with open eyes and a burning desire to find out what lies beyond the bullshit. 

What I find interesting about the book, which is almost 70 years old is that the battle for truth hasn't changed. I originally read Keyhoe's book decades ago when I was first interested in UFOs. It was a classic and required reading.  I only picked it up as an audio recording because I wanted to hear something that I knew and wouldn't be taxing. Somewhere along the way I suddenly realized how the lessons Keyhoe was presenting, beyond the UFOs , was really relevant for today. 

If you want proof consider that today we have politicians both Republican and Democrat who are trying to change the stories that they themselves are telling. The GOP is trying to turn the recent insurrection into something different than what it was and their stories are changing. Meanwhile our new President is already dropping his promises or now saying that what he meant was something other than he said. No is really taking everyone to task because everyone in the media has an agenda because that agenda is what gets them viewers. 

The quest for viewership and the money made from advertising is killing truth, breaking apart families and destroying the country. We need to hold these people accountable by showing them their words and making them own up to them. 

If not we are doomed.

Read Keyhoes book or listen to the audio recording and watch how chasing the truth nudges us toward a better reality.


Rendez-Vous With French Cinema and the New York International Children's Film Festival start this week. I will have curtain raisers for both in the next couple of days

Black Holes: The Edge Of All We Know (2021) its on VOD on March 2


A look at efforts to take a picture of a black hole. Along the way we find out that black holes are much more than things that just swallow everything.

This is a solid documentary that will get your brain going. Say what you will, black holes are much more complex than you can imagine, with the discovery that they are actually seeming to radiate random particles out into space. My mind way kind of blown wit some of the recent discoveries.

Moving at a brisk pace the film plays like one of the best Smithsonian or Discovery Channel docs but without the mindless actor recreations that are the current rage. I had a grand time watching this and I kept wondering why aren't there more meaty docs like this coming down th pike.

Great fun as well as highly informative BLACK HOLES is recommended.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

A brief look at THE WAR AND PEACE OF TIM O'BRIEN (2020) which hits VOD Tuesday


A look at writer Tim O'Brien as he works on a book for his young children. The book is the result of O'Brien realizing that in his 70's he will not be there for his kids who are only just approaching their teen age years.

Good with great moments portrait of a great writer. This is a look at the man looking back at his life and taking stock of the life he has now that gives us  good sense of the man.

While this is wonderful portrait of the man today, I'm not sure it really works as look at O'Brien's whole life. Yes we get glimpse of earlier works and but its all seen through the now and the man he is today. This was all well and good for me since I had read some of his books but at the same time I never really felt that I got a sense of his whole life.

While never bad it never fully soars to the level of several fleeting moments. Worse because the film is so focused on now and the ticking clock to finish his book the film feels link of repetitive and as though we could trim 20 minutes without losing anything. (How many times is he going to talk about the shortness of his time on earth anyway?)

Still, for fans, its a must see.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Monkey Bars (2021)

Jacqueline Xerri's MONKEY BARS surprised the hell out of me.  It gloriously didn't do what I expected and more importantly made me want to see where the story went next.

The plot has three fourteen year old girls meeting some older boys and agreeing to hang out by some monkey bars. 

And that's all I'll say not because there is anything bad, rather because I want to to be surprised. I want you to feel the same sense of a life lived that I experienced. I also want you to ask yourself what happens next.

I like what Jacqueline Xerri has done. Actually I liked it so much that I want to see what she does next. I want to see if she can make the sense of life remain for a full feature rather than 15 minutes. I also want her to tell me what happens next.

MONKEY BARS is currently on the festival circuit

Thursday, February 25, 2021


The Opening Night Film of Slamdance 2019 was the portrait of the late great Warren Miller who not only changed sports filmmaking but was responsible for the rise in skiing across America.

Using the last interview Miller gave before his death in 2018 as the backbone, SKI BUM is the life of Miller from start to finish. Along the way we witness his discovery of skiing as well as his fascination with making ski films- which he schlepped across the country on barnstorming tours every winter. It is filled with interviews with friends, family and admirers who add details and explain how Miller changed the  world.

If you've never seen any on Miller's films you should make an effort to see this because it will give you a really good idea as to why he had such a big fan base and how he influenced everyone who came after him. Filled with seemingly endless ski footage, some of which hasn't been really seen in years because some of Miller's earlier films are hard to come by, SKI BUM will make you ooo and ah for much of it's 90+ minutes. The footage is simply that stunning, even if you've seen some of it before. (The ability to stand up to repeated viewings is what made Miller's films so special.)

For much of SKI BUM the film is like hanging out with a good old friend who is telling you great stories about the good old days. It is great tales about a great guy telling stories about the things he loves.

Unfortunately there is a point about half way in where there are sections where things really aren't as interesting as what went before. Some of it seems repetitious and some of the talk about Miller's film business or differences in the way the films are made today isn't as interesting as what had gone before. Its not fatal but it does kind of take a little bit of the sheen off the film.

Regardless this film is a must especially if you are a fan of Miller's films or if you've never seen them.

Almost certain to have both a long festival life and long commercial run SKI BUM: THE WARREN MILLER STORY is recommended.

18th & GRAND: THE OLYMPIC AUDITORIUM STORY (2021) Slamdance 2021


The closing night film of Slamdance is one of the best of the fest. A portrait of the legendary Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and Aileen Eaton, the woman who ran it, its transcends its subject to be a portrait of the city it was located and the times it existed.

A more or less straight forward tale of the Olympic over the decades the film on the face of it doesn’t look like it’s going to rattle the pillars of heaven, but in between the discussion of boxing, wrestling, roller derby and concerts the film opens up into the changing  nature of society.  We get a look at what sparked the zoot suit riots, at how the weekly boxing programs saved the sport when it was seen as something that was fixed, how it created the persona of Muhammad Ali as well as other little tidbits.

Frankly what makes the film so powerful is not the main through tale but all of the little tidbits that we learn along the way. This is a portrait of the ever changing face of Los Angeles and America. Yes the city and country was divided by color and racial lines but everyone went to the Olympic. Some times they were fine and some times they fought, but it was always interesting.

I adore this film. I not only learned a great deal but I was entertained. The stories told by the people who fought or performed there as well as those who filled the seats are entertaining as all get out.  They are so good that the film made me sad that my dad wasn’t around to watch this with. He would have had some great stories to add to the mix.

Highly recommended

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Til Kingdom Come (2020) opens Friday

Deeply troubling look at the alliance between evangelical Christians in the US and groups in Israel linked to the Israeli government. As the Israelis take money for settlements and such in the name of Jewish/Christian brotherhood, the Israelis push for the evangelical agenda in Washington. 

This film made me uneasy. It's not that Christians and Jews shouldn't get along, but more that the end games they are working for are kind of polar opposites. The Israelis want a strong country and the evangelicals want the second coming which means the end of Israel and the conversion or death of the Jewish people (a fact that is pointed out in the film). Outside of supposedly getting their agenda carried out by any means necessary they are really working with people working against them. I know everyone sees it but no one really talks about it, which makes a late in the game talk between an evangelical and a priest in Israel highlighting the differences rather uncomfortable.

I'm truly not certain what I think of all of this. I am deeply bothered by it, largely because I think at some point this can't end well. I'm also a bit saddened by it since the film begins with a pastor talking about how people in Applicachia are looked down upon and then the film does look down upon them and their end days view of the world. We kind of see them taken advantage of by people who want things from them being a vote or money.

There is much to unpack and think about, and frankly I need to see the film again because there is great deal that the film is trying to say.

If you want a heady discussion of religion and political agendas this film is for you.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

My Name is Pedro (2020) hits VOD and DVD today

Solid portrait of Pedro Pedro Santana who’s unconventional approach to education was so successful on a small scale that he kept getting bumped higher and higher up the chain of command where his ideas met more and more resistance despite being successful.

Definitely worth a look, especially if you care about the future and the education of children. Ths nice little film makes it clear that perhaps we all need to be looking outside the well established box for answers since the kids who cross in front of Santana clearly are achieving more than those still inside the box.

Worth a look.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Brief thoughts on RAGE (2021)

 A violent home invasion lease the husband in a coma and his wife traumatized. hen he awakes he discovers that one f the attackers is still out and about and it set in motion a revenge plot.

This is a good complicated thriller that will hold your attention. In all seriousness the synopsis above doesn't do justice to the twists and turns that are found inside this film. Big bonus points for not being something you can guess ten minutes in.

Unfortunately the film has one big flaw and that is a run time that is close to two and a half hours. While I appreciate the complexity of the film I ran out of steam about half way in This is not to say the film is bad only that there is a lot to it and I had to stop it and walk away for a bit.

That said I did like it and can easily recommend it to anyone liking thrillers

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Nightcap 2/21/21- Do the movies reflect life?, ALIEN PLANET is looking for funding

This is a piece I've been working on for a long time. It kept morphing.  It concerns how we see the world as a result of the movies. I'm not sure its wholly finished but for now this is where it is.

The death of Kim Ki-duk and the discovery, for me, of his abuse of several women made me sit up and realize that while I love films from Korea the society they tend to project, at least in the films I see, is really cruel. Its so cruel and nasty that I wasn't surprised at what happened. It's a reaction that bothered me because I shouldn't have thought it was a foregone conclusion.

I should point out that Ki-duk's films are ugly affairs. People abuse each other in everyway possible. Yes. he used it to get to some greater truth, but at the same time it was brutal. Its s brutal that while I would watch one of his films I never wanted to be in one of his films. That there was so much ugliness in his films is what made me not be surprised at the charges against him.

But he isn't the only director to show the cruelty- one need go no further than Chan-wook Park and his Vengeance films (hello OLDBOY) or Jee-woon Kim and his I SAW THE DEVIL or even Bong Joon Ho's Oscar winning PARASITE to know that many Korean directors see the world as a cruel and ugly place. 

But it extends beyond the big directors. If you watch Korean film for a while you begin to notice little things, like slaps, hits, belittling, and other efforts to become the alpha and go up the pecking order. It seems no matter what film you see there is always at least one  person playing a power game. I remember watching a comedy a few years ago and I suddenly realized that the same power games that I was seeing in the crime films was operating there as well and all I could think was "what sort of a place is South Korea?"

The thing that bothers me about this portrayal of South Korea is that it makes me hesitant to go to the county. I keep wondering what would I be getting myself into. The cinematic portrayal of power games and abuse of people bothers me more because I have several friends who have gone and loved their time there.  More importantly I know several people who are from Korea and they are some of the coolest people around. Hell, Choi Min-sik, an actor who has portrayed some of the nastiest gangsters ever to be put on film was one of the nicest people I've ever run across.

But whether the cruelty is real or not, the cinematic conditioning in my head  speaks volumes about how the movies make us think other countries or people are a certain way. I mean why do people hate the US in some parts of the world, its because of how they see that we portray them. In the past it was the portrayal of Asian as a "Yellow Peril".  Hollywood in recent years has made all Arabs out to be terrorists. Even the portrayal of ourselves as cocky cowboys who blow things up hits people the wrong way.

Sadly no one in any of the studios across the globe are really thinking about how the negative (or even positive) things we see in films are shaping how people see their countries. For better or worse movies and TV are the way that people remember things for better or worse. Its a scary thought because it may not be the way  we want to be seen.  I know I shouldn't be thinking that the cruelty of some films makes me think cruelty is to be expected.

While I know that studios and producers should just focus on making good films and good stories they should also keep an eye on the message they are sending out in the world since what they are saying will have an effect.

Why do the filmmakers seek to frame the things in their stories with certain portrayals? Is it a lazy short hand? I suspect it is. 

However at the same time we must consider that as much as it bothers some segments of the audiences, producers wouldn't do it if most audiences didn't want the portrayals on the screen. They aren't looking for "reality" but instead want to see their own prejudices reflected back at them. Most studios want knee jerk reactions so they can get enough emotion flowing that people want to buy a ticket. 

And to daisy chain this back I have to ask - were these views there all along or did the movies create them.

Sadly I think that the feelings were there. One need only see the rise of minor celebrity and disgraced former president Donald Trump riding the wave of hatred and bigoty into the White House to realize that often what the films portray is just a reflection.

Happily though if filmmakers choose to they can change how people see the world, the question is are they going to be willing to do that for the good of everyone or will they only seek profits by reflecting hatred?


I've decided against getting a press pass for SXSW.  The decision was made because, I can't handle another big festival right now. I simply will not do it justice after over 70 films at both Slamdance and Sundance.  As it is New York International Children's Film Fest, Rendez-Vous With French Cinema and Oxford are coming in March as well.

I can not do a big fest unless my heart is 100% in it.

That said I will be having a small amount of coverage of the festival


The film ALIEN PLANET is looking for backers.

The official synopsis:

Alien Planet is a sci-fi adventure film with a meaningful story that mirrors struggles found within humanity. There is one big difference between this film and other science fiction movies, which is that Alien Planet has no humans. It is packed with practical effects makeup, monster suits, and puppets.

In this story, two different alien species are out of water. They must travel to a dangerous world in order to find the key to rejuvenating their planets with sustainable drinking water. Can they put their differences aside in order to survive this hostile new planet? And will they figure out a way to save both of their dying worlds? Danger lurks around every corner as the extinction of their civilizations loom ever closer.

If you want more information or want to back it here is the place to go


Where is the rest of this?

Wonderfully twisted tale of an Israeli bother and sister looking for their younger brother, missing after a nuclear holocaust. This is a delight an wrong and wickedly funny.

Recommended it will make you fear cows more.

Musical series about a woman who is happiest being a rogue taxidermist. 

I liked this and I'm curious how this would go beyond this one episode. I'm not sure how long it will go but I'm curious.

Story of a young woman in high school trying to get into med school with the help of her martial arts master science teacher.

A good idea kind of gets lost in the quirks. The look of the film and the way things play out seem to be there more get noticed than to help the story. They area bit too noticeable for my tastes, but I like the characters enough to see how later episodes take things.

Saturday, February 20, 2021



A man with no limbs working in a carnival side show meets up with people from the Buterfly Circus and decides to travel with them.
Good little drama, perhaps tries a bit too hard to be deep and meaningful (the whole caterpillar/butterfly motif) however it still manages to warm the heart.

Four women relate the problems with the US healthcare system by revealing how costly the things they need are and how little is actually covered by insurance or the system itself. This film needs to be expanded into a feature so it can piss off more people and result in change.

Jumbo (2020) is in virtual cinemas and home video March 16

JUMBO is the name a young woman gives the new ride at the amusement park where she works. She works to night shift and spend the after hours cleaning. At some point she notices that the ride is trying to signal her with its lights. She goes over to it and soon a romance blossoms.

I have been chasing JUMBO for a year. Last year at Sundance it was a film that a large number of my friends were talking madly about. This was "one of the best films of the year" and I had to see it because I love off kilter films. Because the Covid nonsense wrecked  the release and festival schedules I seemed to miss it at every turn. However with the film hitting virtual cinemas I have finally caught with it.

In all honestly, I love the cast. I love the script. I love the filmmaking and I really like the movie.... the trouble is I never bought the central premise. For better or worse its the one thing the film never really does is make us believe. There doesn't seem to be any reason, there is no AH HA moment suddenly they come together and they are in love. Its kind of a given. Normally according to Raymond Chandler an artist can ask us to believe one impossible thing without the story collapsing. The trouble is that doesn't work when it's the central premise of your film. You have to believe  from start to finiah. That doesn't happen here.

Honestly I have been mulling this point over in my head for the week since I saw the film. What would have made it work? To my mind the only way would have been if the romance happened off screen. If we didn't see it happen then we could have filled in the details, but here there simply isn't enough meat for it to work.

That said, assuming you can just say to heck with it and go along, this is a great film. I love the characters and the interactions. I love the visual sense of the film and I am looking forward to what Zoe Wittock does next because she definitely has the stuff to make a great film next time.

Unseen Films turns it up to 11


Neither Unseen nor Bully or Shelly are going anywhere except into the other room for cake


Today we have turned 11.

11 years of movies and madness.

More importantly 11 years of great friends - some I write with, some I write for and some are filmmakers whose work I admire. 

The last 11 years have been a wild ride that has taken myself and my friends from our living room and into film festivals across the globe. We have seen our words go from ones quietly thrown into the dark with the hope someone sees them to become words that people read on screens across the globe in film trailers, while others have ended up hung on the wall on posters.

After having done this 10 times before there is very little left other than to once again say THANK YOU to all of you for coming along on this crazy trip. Its been nuts and as it stands now I have no idea when this madness is going to end (the site has been tentatively programed into mid November). More madness is coming so if you like what we are doing keep reading.

And now time to ask who wants cake?

Friday, February 19, 2021



Why is this in episodes? This is a one joke short film about three people trapped in hibernation pods on a spaceship decades out from their destination.  I honestly don't know where it can go from here.

A celebration of pierogis turns weird in this charming film about a Polish staple food.

A 4 seconds long film you'll end up playing a couple of times because after all Life is short.

Funny take down of white liberal thought

Magnificent essay film about how the changing of the way we think and interact is altering the world for the worse.