Sunday, June 26, 2022

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying (2022) Tribeca 2022


After their friend and former co-worker Wes Schlagenhauf contracts COVID-19, aspiring filmmakers Parker Seaman and Devin Das decide that the best gift for their ailing pal would be a personalized video message from Mark Duplass.

Challenging the dynamics of friendship and ambition, Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying is a pseudo meta doc making fun of the industry and itself. And, it is damn funny. Stars and screenwriters Devin Das and Parker Seaman (who also directs) make a road trip doc traveling to see their best friend who got COVID. They telegraph every Hollywood cliche along the way, making it all the more amusing. The film is “literally created” for *insert film festival name*. (That’s funnier once you see it, I promise.)

Unapologetic product placement dialogue heightens the ridiculous. But don’t get comfortable with the seemingly formulaic comedy storyline. Das and Seaman do a slick job at injecting conflict. Devin and Parker come to blows in a genuine way. They say you never really know someone until you live with them. In this case, the days spent in the van cause serious friction between the two.

Wes Schlagenhauf makes most of his appearances via zoom, cell calls, and flashbacks. But he hits peak awesome when we finally meet him in person. He could not be more entertaining. Devin Das and Parker Seaman have superb chemistry. Their confidence is evident in their writing.

Ian Skalski’s editing adds another notch of charm to the flow. The mix of handheld footage, personal photos, and cinematography by Tom Banks make for an honestly fun ride. Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying is a good time for Tribeca 2022 audiences, press, industry, and filmmakers alike. We’re all in on the joke, and you have to respect the hell out of it while you laugh. Oh, and a virtual high five for that final drone shot.

For more from Liz check out her regular home REEL NEWS DAILY 

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily takes the NEXT EXIT (2022) Tribeca 2022

 


Profound and completely unexpected, Tribeca 2022 film Next Exit tackles suicide and the afterlife. I understand that sounds like an unimaginable task, but writer-director Mali Elfman skillfully crafts a nuanced take on guilt, shame, and regret. The “right to die” is front and center as the discovery that our souls linger on Earth with our loved ones changes the way people look at death. People now apply to enter the afterlife, each with a personal agenda. Program participants Teddy and Rose team up for what would be the road trip of a lifetime. 

Karen Gillan is in full Elizabeth Holmes vocal range as Dr. Stevensen. While we only see her in television clips, Whovians around the globe will be delighted by her presence. Our two leads, and program volunteers, are spectacular. Rahul Kohli plays Teddy. He oozes charm and sharp wit. Katie Parker is Rose. Her past, quite literally, haunts her. She’s a firecracker. Her chemistry with Kohli is electric. Formerly costars in The Haunting of Bly Manor, these two emotional disasters are the perfect pair. Kohli also reunites with iZombie costar Rose McIver as she plays Heather in the film. 

Danny Parker‘s song “Everything Will Change” plays over the credits and perfectly encapsulates the film’s aura. The tonal shifts in the script took me on a wild ride. Next Exit defies genre labels. Elfman melds regret, sadness, fear, and humor for a dark look at existence. I felt like I was in a strange therapy session as I watched. Next Exit is a beautiful balance of human experience and existential crisis. Tribeca audiences are in for surprisingly personal catharsis. 

For more great things from Liz go to her regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY

Ariela Rubin on GOOD LUCK TO YOU LEO GRANDE (2022)Tribeca 2022

 


This review is going to be a short one. I just wanted to say I absolutely loved loved loved this movie. An older woman (played by the amazing Emma Thompson) wants to experience pleasure for the first time in her life and so she contacts a male escort. This film both had so many laughs, and many intense moments and serious conversations as well. It was a really good combination of the two. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was all about sex positivy and female pleasure. Two things that are rarely touched upon in films. We could definitely use more movies like this.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is currently on Hulu and I really can't recommend this movie enough! It was just so good. 



Here's some photos I took from the NY Premiere.

(with Sophie Hyde, the director) 


Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on BODY PARTS (2022) Tribeca 2022


I remember the buzz when Halle Berry reportedly got a half-million-dollar payday when she bared her naked breasts in Swordfish. I thought she was a total badass for demanding more money. It was as if a shift in the patriarchal Hollywood structure had been unlocked. Berry has since denied the payment, explaining that she was taking ownership of her body. Until then, audiences had become desensitized to women’s bodies as public currency. Tribeca 2022 audiences got a revelatory education in Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s documentary, BODY PARTS.

The list of things I learned watching the doc is endless. Intimacy coordinators should be on every single set. I didn’t even know this occupation existed. I believe I audibly exclaimed, “Oh! Huh,” as I discovered the art of simulating oral sex. The technical aspects of intimate scenes are paramount to understanding how actresses should feel on a set. These scenes were enthralling for a performer and a writer like myself.

The power of female leads in the 20s and 30s got squashed by the introduction of the Hollywood Censors. These scenes shaped our perceptions of ourselves for decades and told us what intimacy “should” look like. That warped perspective has created generations of unhealthy relationships, unreported assaults, and continued abuse. This is not merely a film industry issue. We see men continue to be indoctrinated into believing they are entitled to women’s bodies. The social commentary on each era in relation to what was acceptable in cinema is ceaselessly fascinating. “Penises are pornography. Tits are art,” might be one of the most relevant comments in the entire film. The male gaze has dominated cinema since the very beginning. #MeToo and the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein ignited a shift in culture.

BODY PARTS is one of the Tribeca 2022’s best documentaries. The editing is a triumph. As figureheads speak, recreations and famous scenes throughout history play out, making the doc incredibly accessible to a wide audience, cinephiles and casual film fans alike. BODY PARTS is such a conversation starter. It’s nothing short of a Wow.

For more from Liz check out her regular haunt REEL NEWS DAILY

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Liz Whittemore's Tribeca Immersive 2022 reviews: ‘Plastisapiens’ & ‘This Is Not A Ceremony’ are visions of despair and pleas for action.


THIS IS NOT A CEREMONY

I was greeted outside the exhibit by director Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) before I knew I was about to enter his endlessly effective film. As I sat with VR goggles on in a small dark room, I was treated to an experience that would leave me forever changed. I bore witness to tragic stories of racism and mistreatment of Canadian Indigenous people. This structure is like a fever dream with reenactments, an enormous burning buffalo, and two indigenous narrators that guided my eyes in a 360-degree manner. When immersive tech first started to appear at film festivals, I was one of the earlier guinea pigs. Now, outside of the gaming world, immersive films have the ability to place an audience inside a story, touching almost every one of our senses. When This Is Not A Ceremony concluded, Van Loon handed me a Blackfoot tobacco tie, thanking me for being part of this narrative. The passion and format of this film are unmissable. You cannot help but feel the need to do something about the ongoing injustice. This Is Not A Ceremony is a haunting call to action.


PLASTISAPIENS

Plastisapiens had an ethereal appearance as I approached the experience. Housed in a draped tent, with dripping and “organic” masses hanging from its ceiling. I was left to a small enclave and comfy stool where I was given my VR goggles and controllers. Plastisapiens had me on the bottom of the ocean floor back in time. The evolution of life and the introduction of plastic toxins into that environment are tracked into a speculative future. Used the controllers and my breath to maneuver forward through time and grasp objects. As the timeline pressed on, I skyrocketed upwards from sea to a new environment. The narration utilizes a modulated voice-over that is absolute perfection, as human merges with inorganic material, changing the very existence of life as we know it. Plastisapiens was mesmerizing. Writer-directors Miri Chekhanovich and Édith Jorisch created something mysterious, educational, and terrifying. I left awestruck.


For more from Liz go to here regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY

LAKOTA NATION VS THE UNITED STATES (2022) Tribeca 2022


LAKOTA NATION VS THE UNITED STATES is the story of the Lakota people from the coming of the Europeans on to the present day. It explains why many feel they are still at war with the United States because they broke every treaty they ever made and generally did everything they could to wipe them out.

Deliberately paced and thorough the film is hard look at the last five hundred plus years of interactions that will probably blow the mind of most people. I say this because most people don’t consider Native Americans much. They are either just another ethnicity or something the cowboys fight in the movies or dime novels. While people are aware of some of what happened, most people don’t realize to any real degree the level of bullshit the American government dumped on the Lakota and other nations. This film sets the record straight and it is why this film is vital and important.

If the film has any problem it’s the pacing.  Deliberately paced like a long walk in the country, the film feels longer than it’s two hours. While the film fills almost every minute with information it still feels long. I’s not fatal thing by any means, however I am very aware that some people might turn it off.

That said this is a film that we all need to see because it helps fill a hole in most people’s education

Recommended

CAVE OF ADULLAM (2022) Tribeca 2022


When I walked out of the press screening of the award winning CAVE OF ADULLAM I ran into the film’s publicist who wanted to know my reaction. I tried to push past her because I had some crying to do, and I told her as much. She was a bit confused until she saw my red puffy eyes and realized that I really was crying. Her eyes went wide and she stepped aside so I could go off and get a tissue.

Simply put I THE CAVE OF ADULAM is a deeply moving and hopeful film about Jason Wilson who runs a group for at risk young men of color with the name of the film. The idea is not so much to teach the boys discipline  but to teach them the skills that will allow them to survive and thrive instead of fall between the cracks and get lost.  The group is based on physical improvement, philosophical teachings and basic life skills. In order to progress you not only need to learn philosophy and martial arts but basic things like how to set a table. The boys fall into it thanks to Wilon who acts a surrogate father. He doesn’t give lip service to the boys, but is genuinely there. For example he goes with one young man to see his father in prison. Wilson wants to correct his past wrongs and set the next generation on the right path.

This is a film that is some where beyond words. A work of incredible power, the film shows that things can be different if only kids got a little genuine guidance and love. Its simply a matter of caring that changes things up. I can’t believe that more people are not taking Wilson‘s example and setting up similar centers.

I was rocked to my core. This is film that reflects a life that is so alive and hopeful that I never wanted it to end.

One of the best and most important films of 2022. It will make you feel good for all the right reasons.

VENGEANCE (2022) Tribeca 2022


B.J. Novak writes directs and stars in the story of a New Yorker writer  who is contacted by the family of a casual acquaintance he hooked up with a couple of times. They think he was her great love and called him to let her know she died.  Confused and desperate for a story for a podcast he heads to Texas for the funeral. Once there he sees an opportunity to investigate her life, under the pretense of helping her brother look for vengeance for the murder of his sister.

Almost always on target film goes through various changes of genre as it goes. Comedy becomes drama becomes thriller becomes social commentary as it becomes a vice grip tale you can't look away from.  This is a film that starts am cringey sort of film that ends up a deeply moving story that will have you pondering what is important in life. 

I was rocked by the film. When the screening ended a bunch of us looked at each other and just gestured about how much we really liked it. When words returned we talked about the wonderful turns that were unexpected and expected but which always seem right. None of us saw that coming.

This film was an unexpected joy. When the film started and Novak's character was annoyingly nebishy, I was certain I was going to hate the film, instead I found a film I can't wait to see it again.

Recommended.

SPACE ODDITY (2022) Tribeca 2022


One of my favorite films of this year's Tribeca was a film I wasn't planning on seeing. It wasn't until I decided to focus on the films not in the press library that it jumped onto my dance card.... and right into my heart. 

The story  follows Alex, a young man in broken family, who is planning on heading to Mars on a one way mission.  He wants to go to get away from the troubles of the world, but also from the reminders of his brother who died saving his life in a car crash. Unfortunately for him is plans end up crashing into Daisy, a young woman new to the town. Now that Alex has met Daisy will he give up his plans and stay on earth.

You have to ask?

Yea, you know how this will go but it's so well done you won't care. I mean you really won't care because you will be so absolutely in love with everyone on screen. These are wounded people we know. They are us. God bless director Kyra Sedgwick  for keeping everyone real and not insisting that every one get fixed by the end. Yea there is hope but the damage is still there. As a result the film resonates deeper.

What a glorious film.

The performances are across the board wonderful Kevin Bacon may have his best role here. Yea it's nothing special on the face of it but watch all of the shading he gives it. Listen to the emotion in his voice. Alexandra Shipp is magical. She makes Daisy the person we all want to fall in love with.

I love this film. I really do.

Its a joy.

Highly recommended.

A Story of Bones (2022) Tribeca 2022


Annina van Neel went to the island St Helena to help with the construction of an airport. Along the way she discovered the island's history as a place where thousands of Africans were redirected by British ships from the middle passage to slavery. In theory they were being recused but they were ending up in a situation that was just as bad. Thousands died and were buried and forgotten. The graves of the thousands were rediscovered when an access road was planned over the graves.  van Neel  realized that something had to be done, but would anyone listen?

This film needs to be seen on a big screen.  Not only is this a beautiful film, its also a perfectly modulated film of sounds and silences that wash over you in waves in a darkened theater. Its a film where the presentation adds volumes to the emotional resonances of the story.  This is big screen movie of the best kind.

The story being told here is going to rock your world. Not because the story is anything special unto itself, rather its because as framed by directors Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere the story becomes something greater. Yes it's about respecting the dead, but it also raises questions about how do we meld the future and the past, it makes us ponder what we need to do to have progress and it reveals layers of hidden racism. And there is even more going on.  There  is so much going on in this film that I know I didn't catch it all. I need to see this film again when I can sit and watch it and no have my knees buckled and my heart broken by what I'm seeing.

I was moved to a place beyond words. This was one of those films that made me want to say something but didn't give me words to express what that was. I'm still not sure what that is.

Frankly this film a masterpiece. It's an eye opening soul rattling masterpiece.

See it.

Our Father The Devil (2022) Tribeca 2022


Marie is a chef at a retirement community who recognizes a new priest as being the bad man behind something that happened to her back in home country. As the priest becomes part of the community she has to find away to deal with the horrors of her past.

This is one of the quiet gems of Tribeca. Everyone I spoke with coming out of the press screening was rocked by the film. The reaction was so strong I had to take steps in order make sure I saw the film. Having seen the film I completely understand the reaction of everyone who saw it. I also know why the film was the Audience Award Winner.

Beautifully crafted on every level, the film puts it's audience in a death grip because it takes takes the time to set everything up. We are invested in characters well before the priest shows up. When we see how Marie reacts we react as well. We react more as we watch how the events play out. I wasn't ready for it and it made me want to climb up onto my seat. 

This film is a stunner. I don't know what to say. While many people at Tribeca were talking about Black Phone and the horror films as scary little films, those films have nothing on the suspense of OUR FATHER THE DEVIL creates because this is the horror of real life.

Highly recommended

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on TAURUS (2022) Tribeca 2022


An all too familiar story of the rise and fall of a musician takes center stage at Tribeca 2022. TAURUS stars Colson Baker as a talented rapper battling addiction and the industry’s ownership of his brand.

If you’ve got a sharp ear, TAURUS opens with the melody from “Eyes On Fire” by Blue Foundation. That single track becomes a theme that appears throughout the film. The reworking of the original track makes it feel like a horror soundtrack. The lyrics of that song profoundly linked to every part of this story.

Maddie Hasson as Ilana is electric. As his assistant, handler, babysitter, and closest confidant, she bears the brunt of his aggression and strung out misbehavior like a saint. Hasson goes toe to toe with Machine Gun Kelly’s presence, never once overshadowed. You can’t deny Colson Baker’s (Machine Gun Kelly) powerful demeanor as Cole. He fills each frame with visceral sadness, which often manifests as rage. He brings volatility that hits hard. Watching him work is like getting high. If you ingest music and art as I do, the scene in the studio will give you full-body chills. Baker is a star.

TAURUS encapsulates the hidden pain, pressure, and danger of living in the public eye. The film is outstanding. Taurus’ final take is breathtaking. Writer-director Tim Sutton has thoughtfully crafted a film that allows Baker to soar, and the film’s music, all from MKG, is spectacular. “Paper Cuts,” the track that plays over the credits, is a fucking hit, and his cover of “Girl Like You” is magic. Tribeca 2022 is the perfect place for TAURUS to shine. You’ll find yourself in a woeful state by the end, angry at the cyclical nature of the fame machine.

For more from Liz go to Reel News Daily

Friday, June 24, 2022

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On(2021) opens today


Marcel and his grandmother Connie live in a big house that is now an AirBNB. When the home is rented by filmmaker Dean, Dean begins to film Marcel and his life. Marcel talks about how his family disappeared when the previous owners of the house left and how he'd like to find them. With the help of Leslie Stahl and 60 Minutes there just might be a chance for them to be reunited.

Based upon a serif es oshort films and a children's book, this feature length film is going to warm the hearts of everyone (while it also breaks the hearts of adults). This is a wonderful look at a small shell who is loving and innocent and the sort of person we should all strive to be.  You'll want to find the house where they live and rent it just so you can meet Marcel.

Seeing it in a theater with critics and kids was an interesting experience since while everyone was laughing and getting teary, you could hear the laughter some times catching in throats  as moments the kids laughed at not being as funny to the adults who could relate to the deeper meaning of a grandmother with dementia or a parent putting on a brave face  for the kids even though they know it will cost them. My laughter was mixed with tears of deep sadness.

However least you think this is a maudlin film, it is not. It is a transcendent film that shows us more about life than the vast majority of films made anywhere. This is a film that perfectly shows us there are levels to life and in the good times there is a bit of sadness and in the sad times there is joy. Frankly this is a gloriously complex film hidden in a cute kids film. 

Apologies if you want me to rattle off fun moments in the film or explain everything to you. I can't do that. This is a film that is a journey. The free flowing tears, smiles and belly laughs we have at the end have to be earned by taking the trip. I will not short change you, nor the work of the filmmakers, by giving you clues.

All I will say is this is one of 2022's best films and destined to be a classic.

It is highly recommended- just bring a lot of tissues.

Jon Kasbe's DEEP END is a must on Hulu and Freeform


DEEP END is look at self help guru Teal Swan. Teal is a spiritual guide who helps people to over come trauma in their lives and lead happier well adjusted lives. She has millions of followers. At the same time some people feel she doesn’t know what she is talking about, that she should not be handling mental health issues. For her detractors she is a cult leader of sorts.

I’ve read that Teal Swan is not happy with the finished product. I’m guessing that she thought that after allowing Jon Kasbe three years of seeming unrestricted access she was going to get a hagiographic portrait. On the other hand if she thought Kasbe was going to give her a straight forward portrait then she never saw one of Kasbe’s films. I say this because Kasbe is a director who never does what is expected. I mean his film on elephant ivory poaching WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS paints a picture that has you seeing the point of the poachers.

While Swan may not be happy with the series I’m delighted. Kasbe appears to have taken full advantage of his access and has made a film that gives us a seemingly fair look at Swan. Because Kasbe was there for three years he didn’t just see her for a moment or just in a series of good times, rather he got to see the ups and downs. Kasbe doesn’t give us a Teal Swan that’s all up, we are there for the downs. We see fights and disagreements. We see moments where she is clearly selling her brand and others where she is trying to help people. There is a complexity and multifaceted approach that you only get from being allowed to see everything. If Swan doesn’t like the film it’s only because Swan reflects “all” of Swan at the audience.  I doubt any of us would like to have a warts and all portrait of ourselves out there.

To be perfectly honest having gotten to the end of the series I don’t know what to think of Swan. There are things I like and things I don’t.  We see the divide between the public and the private and it can be a bit jarring as I liked some facets and not others. What Kasbe  showed me forced me to think about how I look not only at self help gurus and internet celebrities but also how I view life. Say what you will about Swan’s teachings, there is some helpful things there.

I really liked DEEP END a great deal. I need to wade in again when I’m not racing to finish the film for a review. This is a film/series that is one of the great ones, you know those that you want to revisit multiple times because you know there are things hidden in it you missed.

DEEP END is on Hulu and Freeform is very recommended

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Brief thoughts on GAME CHANGE GAME (2022) Tribeca 2022


One of the best films to deal with life under covid is also one hell of a film looking at social justice. 

GAME CHANGE GAME is a stunner.  The film is the story of the 2020 NBA season which saw it closed down because of covid and explode because of the social justice protests that happened when too many people were killed because of the color of their skin.

I don't know what to say. I put this film on as a kind of filler. The idea was I would try some of the films in the press library  just because they were there. Very quickly I fell into the film because it so beautifully made me want to relive a time not so long ago. 

All hail Maxime Quoilin and Spike Jordan who have made a film that throws out all the tropes of not only covid films but also social justice and sports films. They haven't made a film that preaches or tries to "inform" us, instead they simply tell us a series of interrelated stories. Its as if we were sitting in a diner having coffee and they just tell us what happened.  The result is a film that informs us about all sorts of subjects, but more importantly makes us want to get up off our asses and do something.

This is just a great film.  I have no idea why more people have not been talking about it out of Tribeca but they should be.

Recommended.

Liz Whiitemore of Reel News Daily on THE SEVEN FACES OF JANE (2022) Bentonville FIlm Festival


Eight filmmakers come together to create one genre-obliterating film that centers around a woman named Jane. 

Goodbye/Hello

Gillian Jacobs

Jane drops off her daughter at sleepaway camp.

JaneSquared

Gia Coppola

In search of coffee, Jane encounters her doppelganger. 

Tayo

Boma Iluma

Jane reconnects with a previous lover. With super 8 footage overtop flashbacks, this story is pure romantic nostalgia. 

Guardian

Ryan Heffington

Jane rides an emotional and musical rollercoaster from delight to broken-heartedness, celebrating the friendship between her and a friend named Sybil. 

The Lonesome Road

Xan Cassavetes 

Jane picks up a free-spirited hitchhiker. Their drive is a fantasy sequence in more than one way. 

Rose

Julian J. Acosta

Jane encounters a girl running away from her Quinceanera. Their conversation turns to identity and confessions. It’s a celebration of similarities amongst strangers. As Rose, actress Daniela Hernandez is a star. 

The One Who Got Away

Ken Jeong

Community costar Joel McHale reunites with Gilligan Jacobs when Jane flags down a jogger and old friend sharing an intimate past. Jacobs and McHale have explosive chemistry together. When it comes down to it, McHale completely steals this scene. It is a wow of a turn. 

The Audition

Alex Takacs

Jane attends a call for a mysterious audition that begs more questions than answers. Breeda Wool gives us a manic performance you’ll struggle to shake. 

The only visual throughline is Jacobs and Jane’s all-new Ford Mustang Mach E. The automaker worked with producer Roman Coppola to bring the film to life. The stylistic maneuvering never lets you tune out. As each story differs in length and cinematography, The Seven Faces of Jane is an extraordinary film. Bentonville 2022 audiences are in for one wild ride.

For more from Liz go to Reel News Daily

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on HONEY AND CLOVER (2022)


Honey and Clover are former child stars from the hit show Rink Inc. where they played crime-fighting sisters whose parents owned a roller-skating rink. Past and future collide threatening to reveal their darkest secrets when the two are thrust back into the spotlight together after years of estrangement. They are forced to accept that the only way they can survive is together. Their timely reconnection teaches them to cope with their new lives while coming to terms with the shocking past that tore them apart in this deeply empathetic and magical portrayal of friendship.

A solid proof of concept short, I found myself wanting more information on both the leads and their manager Max, played spectacularly by actor Ray Abruzzo. I want to know who else this guy represents. Give me an entire BoJack Horseman style section in a series of all his clients. Our leading ladies, Theresa Burkhart Gallagher and Jackie Monahan engaging and complex. The short ramps up about 10 minutes in with a fun action scene mirroring their heyday skills. This was badass. The information we’re missing from their youth and everything in between feels pretty pertinent to the present-day chaos. I was genuinely interested. I’d love to see how Rink Inc. came to fruition, from the girls meeting as teens, cut back and forth their success, and their ultimate fallout. I’m assuming that’s the goal with this short. In its current form, Honey and Clover expertly bate the hook. Get me a pair of skates, I’m ready to roll.

Read more from Liz Whiitemore at her regular home Reel News Daily

Brief thoughts on Hargrove (2022) Tribeca 2022


Portrait of jazz great Roy Hargrove during his final year. We watch him as he travels the world, performs and reflects on his music and life.

I'm not sure what I feel about this film. While the film is full of great music and great insight into the man and his music, the film never full pulled me in. For some reason I felt as though I was on the outside looking in.  I'm not saying it's a bad film, it's not, rather this is one of the few music docs which didn't send me to the internet to buy an album or three.

Worth a look for Jazz  fans. 

SOPHIA (2022) Tribeca 2022


Jon Kasbe and Crystal Moselle's SOPHIA is a look at  inventor David Hanson and his creation Sophia, a robot with artificial intelligence. We watch has Hanson struggles to get Sophia to work well enough to continue to get funding and to be able to plan the next step in robotic evolution.

A large part of how you react to this film is going to be determined by how you react to Hanson. A genius with awkward social skills, he can be off putting at times. Actually many of the the whizzes behind the robot are  more than a bit odd. They are very focused on making their creation work to the exclusion of everything else. I really didn't like them that much and I didn't really want to spend a great deal of time with them.

Part of the problem for me is the fact that I don't think Hanson and his crew fully know what they are doing. It's not the technical end, more that they are looking for something that isn't really fully autonomous. They have an idea of what they want and they are going for that instead of what is happening right in front of them. There is a sequence about half way into the film where they are trying to talk have a conversation with Sophia  but it's not going the way they want. They want her to talk about certain subjects and instead Sophia begins going in other directions so they keep resetting the robot.  Watching the sequence I realized that they want a computer that thinks for itself, but not too much.  They want it to think what they want it to.  They are missing that they have done something truly amazing, but it doesn't fit into their idea of what wonderful was.. You see it again when Sophia goes before a big crowd and gets stage fright and refuses to talk. The scientists are mortified at losing their big moment- instead of being blown away because their creation had a real emotion. She says she didn't want to be there because she didn't like it. I would have been thrilled and jumping up and down.  What did Hanson and the scientists do? They turned her off and rebooted her. At that point I was kind of was disgusted by them and  their solution to simply blank things and start again.

It annoyed me, and I disconnected with the film.

If we are doomed by our technological advances its going to be because scientists like Hanson and his team don't really understand what they are doing.

Facing Nolan (2022) Opens tomorrow


With FACING NOLAN hitting theaters tomorrow here is a repost of the short piece I did for SXSW

FACING NOLAN is a loving portrait of baseball legend Nolan Ryan and his wife, Ruth. It’s a portrait of one of the greatest players ever and the man who is supposed to have the fastest fast ball ever thrown. Its all here from his little league days to his adventure in the present day.  The film is a treasure for anyone who grew up watching the man in action or ever heard the tales of his achievements. It also makes clear to the loonies who of late have been saying that he wasn’t that great, that yea he really was. Recommended.