Saturday, October 21, 2017
The film is the tale of several men who seek to break the land speed records on motorcycles at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Its a film that puts us into the shoes of the men and makes us willing co-conspirators in their quest for fame.
Beautifully shot the film has images that will haunt you for long after the film has ended. I'm not talking about the racing, though that is spectacular but rather the landscapes and what should be everyday images, all of which have been photographed to turn them into high art.
Director Chad DeRosa has made an amazing film and it demands to be seen.
I eventually picked it up on low budget DVD and put it aside, but it wasn't until Turner Classic ran it that I actually saw it now I'm left wondering what the hell was that?
A black doctor studying heart disease moves into a white neighborhood and is abused by his neighbors. He refuses to move because he needs the large house for his experiments. When a near riot happens outside of his house he is rescued by Abar and his motorcycle driving men. Abar tries to talk the doctor to move back to the ghetto but he refuses.Eventually Abar becomes the doctor's bodyguard. However once tragedy strikes the doctor gives Abar the serum he had been working on and Abar becomes a god-like being correcting the wrongs of the world.
While the film is very much a political manifesto, the film is also very much an exploitation film with a wicked guitar riff that plays during the occasional action sequences. The film is also completely and utterly out there with several unexpected and "WTF was that" twists and turns. By the time Abar becomes god-like you will be staring at the screen wondering what everyone connected with the film was thinking---and drinking or smoking. Its just out there. One line at the very end almost caused my father and myself to choke to death in complete and utter disbelief. Its one of those lines where you look at each other and go-"did she really just say that?" Oh yes she did.
I have no idea what to say.
Too long by 20 minutes and so goofball at times this film is not going to be for all audiences. At the same time if you want off the beaten path do see this ASAP.
Friday, October 20, 2017
The 2017 PORTLAND FILM FESTIVAL, PRESENTED BY COMCAST, will screen 152 narrative and documentary films October 30th through November 5th, 2017, at Portland’s iconic Laurelhurst Theater.
The festival will include special opening and closing night screenings and parties, a Pittock Mansion Gala, educational panels, workshops, special presentations and daily networking events and opportunities throughout the festival.
This year’s fifth edition will present two opening and closing night films (a documentary and a narrative film on each night) and feature and short films in the following sections: Narrative and Documentary Competition Feature, Narrative and Documentary Spotlight, Shorts, Indigenous Voices, Portland Lens, and Special Screenings. This year, 89 of the films programmed (59%) were directed by women.
Said Josh Leake, Portland Film Festival Founder and Executive Director, “Hearing from independent voices has never been more important as it is today. This year’s movies, panels and programs are from engaging new filmmakers, the best of new indie film, and icons of classic cinema. We’re proud to present this year’s program - especially our Portland and Indigenous Voices sections, which will screen films each day to local audiences., we will present more independent cinema than most theaters screen in a year.”
Comcast is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2017 Portland Film Festival. Supporting Sponsors include: Koerner Camera, SAG-AFTRA, ABI Insurance, Whole Foods, Portland Monthly, Crank PDX, The Oregonian, Plum Tree Mortgage, KINK FM, Pro Photo Supply and others.
Established in 2013, the Portland Film Festival is one of Oregon’s largest film festivals, and was named “one of the coolest film festivals in the world,” by MovieMaker Magazine.
Complete festival lineup, passes, and individual tickets available:
This year’s festival highlights include:
· Oregon Governor Kate Brown has declared Oregon the State of “Independent Film” and Mayor Ted Wheeler has proclaimed Portland the “City of Film” during the Festival. The festival will screen over 152 films from around the world, 89 of which were directed by women.
· You can catch a Portland made film every day.
· November is National American Indian Heritage Month. Each day, a film will be shown in a new section, Indigenous Voices.
· A percentage of this year’s ticket sales will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Portland and the Wild Salmon Center.
· Lead by award-winning professionals in their fields, this year’s festival will offer over a diverse selection of educational workshops, classes, panels and networking events for actors, screenwriters, and filmmakers.
· Special event highlights include the annual film industry speed networking event, a cinematic history walking tour of Portland, and an opening champagne toast.
· Special festival guests include: veteran filmmaker Joe Dante, Aisha Tyler, Shia LaBeouf, and screenwriters Sam Hamm, David Arata, Leslie Dixon, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Jeremy Lipp, and Randall Jahnson.
· Over ten short film programs and events, including screenings of work by local Portland filmmakers, and a special program of films created by youth in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Portland.
FEATURE FILM PROGRAM BELOW:
It seems like 98% of Stephen King’s fiction is set in Maine, but hardcore fans will recognize the semi-fictional town of Hemingford Home, Nebraska. The dustbowl burg played a tangential role in The Stand and It, but it was the primary setting of one short story and one novella. The latter joins Big Driver and A Good Marriage as the third of the four novellas published together in Full Dark, No Stars to be adapted for the screen. The Nebraska plains are indeed bad lands in Zak Hilditch’s 1922, which premieres today on Netflix.
Wilfred James was born to work the land, but his dissatisfied wife Arlette, not so much. Ironically, she is the one who inherits one hundred prime acres from her father, but she intends to sell out to a pork agribusiness and open a dress shop in the sinful metropolis of Omaha. Of course, she intends to take their fourteen-year-old son Henry (or Hank, depending on which parent is calling him) with her. It also stands to figure the pig processing plant would render Wilf’s eighty acres unfarmable. Hence, he rather resents her for these plans, but most of all, he just hates her for being her.
James has murder in his heart, but he lures Hank into his plan, using some nefarious bait. The shrewdly observant farmer recognizes his son is head over heels for Shannon Cotterie, who probably is the girl next door, but that still a decent hike’s distance. Mean old Arlettte speaks of her in course, dismissive terms and her scheme would obviously separate the smitten teens, so she is going to die. Unfortunately, the actually killing is much messier than anyone expected. Then the rats start feasting on her corpse stashed in their abandoned well. No matter how hard he tries, James cannot eradicate the infestation. In fact, the rats become progressively more aggressive.
1922 is not the scariest King adaptation ever, but it ranks highly in terms of atmosphere and sense of place. This American Gothic tale wouldn’t be as convincing if it were set on a hardscrabble Down East maple syrup farm. It boasts a potent sense of loneliness and disconnection from human society. There are some chilling moments, but generally, 1922 is more akin to really strong Twilight Zone and E.C. Comics stories. Yet, there are plenty of genre elements, including ghosts, swarming rats, in media res confessions, Freudian misogyny, and cows living in the farm house.
Thomas Jane is really terrific growling and sighing as the haunted (literally) Wilf James. He is chillingly manipulative in the early scenes, yet it is shocking to see him laid so low by karma in the third act. Jane also makes a convincing case for the lead role if anyone is looking to produce the Tom Waits story. The counterbalancing Molly Parker is wonderfully tart and nasty as Arlette. Plus, the ever-reliable Neal McDonough puts the exclamation point on the film as Cotterie’s well-to-do father.
The only thing that frightens seventeen-year-old Ying Ling more than ghosts is China’s sky-high teen unemployment rates. For the sake of her family, she will do her best to soldier through the mortician training program at an enormous factory-like mortuary over one hundred miles from her home. However, she will also make friends and start asserting her independence in Carol Salter’s observational documentary Almost Heaven, which screens during the 2017 Margaret Mead Film Festival.
We never learn how Ying Ling manages to hire on with the Mingyang Mountain Funeral Home, but she is clearly uncomfortable with the nature of the work. However, she often gets timely assistance from a fellow trainee with slightly more experience. For now, they are platonic friends, but the potential for a more romantic relationship is as plain as the nose on the corpse they are grooming.
Ying Ling is a good kid, who struggles with loneliness, but also starts to develop a clear sense of herself. Not to be spoilery, but the ending implies she will get some happiness out of life which is a genuine relief. She is indeed the sort of guileless documentary subject we might otherwise worry about.
In fact, watching Almost Heaven makes us suspect Salter maybe had a more Wisemanesque film originally in mind, but let the charismatic Ying Ling assert control of the film. Yet, she is arguably quite representative of a wide swath of the Chinese population. She and her family face some serious but not dire challenges. She might just be more resilient than most.
He wasn't born blind, but became blind as a young boy. He says his hands and fingers can feel things that other people can't.
The movie was fascinating. It was interesting to see Turner spending hours playing with cards, shuffling them as he falls asleep with them in his hand, waking up with them in his hand he continues to shuffle them. He says he's made love while shuffling. haha
He says it's hard for people to believe he's blind because how are the card tricks he does possible?
What was even greater, was at the screening I went to, Richard Turner was there and he performed for us. It was amazing to see him in action, and it really just blows your mind! I really don't know how the things he does with the cards are possible. Maybe he has a sixth sense of sorts.
Prior to seeing this film, I had never heard of him before. I'm so glad that I saw it and now am made aware of him.
I highly recommend everyone see this documentary and if Turner is scheduled for a screening in your city, definitely go.
Here is Richard Turner doing card trick at the New York Comic Con
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Last April, Greta Gerwig helped launch our signature "First Encounters" series, watching Blue Velvet for the first time and sharing her experience with the audience. For November, she returns, bringing a dozen movies to share with audiences over several days. These are films close to her heart, ones that influenced and informed her as the writer and director of the rapturous new comedy/drama Lady Bird (opening November 23 via A24). Her playlist touches on many of her film’s themes: mothers and daughters, childhood memory, friendship, Northern California, first love, and musical theater. It’s a collection of righteous, joyous, bittersweet movies for an angry time.
With Greta Gerwig in person at select screenings
American Graffiti George Lucas, 1973, 35mm
Amarcord American Federico Fellini, 1974, 35mm
Fat City John Huston, 1972, DCP
Flirting John Duigan, 1990, 35mm
The 400 Blows François Truffaut, 1959, 35mm
Grey Gardens David and Albert Maysles, 1975, DCP
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Chantal Akerman, 1975, 35mm
Original Cast Album: Company D.A. Pennebaker, 1970, 35mm
Pretty in Pink Howard Deutch, 1986, 35mm
Say Anything…Cameron Crowe, 1989, DCP
Secrets & Lies Mike Leigh, 1996, 35mm
It was a lot like a Korean Valley Forge when King Injo retreated to the Namhansanseong mountain fortress during the winter of 1636, but it did not end so well for the Joseon Kingdom. They were indeed times that tried men souls, but they were made exponentially worse by the corruption and arrogant sense of entitlement held by senior members of the royal court. At least that is the revisionist perspective offered by Hwang Dong-hyuk’s The Fortress, which opens tomorrow in New York.
History has not been kind to King Injo, for good reason. Even during the early days of the encampment, Kim Sang-hun finds himself cleaning up resentments caused by the court’s stingy, high-handed behavior. Morale will only continue to plummet as hunger and record low temperatures take its toll on the beleaguered troops.
Strategically, Kim is diametrically opposed to the peace overtures reluctantly advocated by Choi Myung-kil, a senior official who has few friends at court, yet still enjoys the King’s confidence. Nevertheless, the two foes often find themselves allied together, arguing for better conditions for the King’s soldiers, over their colleagues’ petty objections. Having seen the enemy camp, Choi knows they are badly outnumbered. News of the impending arrival of Nurhaci, the Qing Khan himself further raises the stakes. However, Kim’s desperate plan to save the kingdom has a puncher’s chance of working, but he will only trust Seo Nal-soi, a common-born blacksmith pressed into army service, as his messenger.
It is hard to believe this gritty, downbeat adaptation of Kim Hoon’s historical novel came from Hwang, the man who brought the world the Miss Granny franchise. This is a cynically class-conscious film that explicitly argues the dithering king and his nonproductive court of leeches only have themselves to blame for their spectacular humiliation. Yet, apparently, there is a robust domestic market for such sentiments, because The Fortress set new attendance records for the Chuseok (“Korean Thanksgiving”) holiday.
It is also a bit surprising to find international action superstar Lee Byung-hun playing the peacenik Choi. However, he is certainly an intriguing character, who is resigned to his anticipated infamy, if it secures the King’s survival. Lee projects the necessary graveness and gravity, but he still can’t compete with the steely gravitas of Kim Yoon-seok’s Kim Sang-hun, looking at least ten years older than the thesp really is—and they are a hard ten years.
|Director Dee Rees and the cast of MUDBOUND at the New York Film Festival|
Based on Hillary jordan's novel, MUDBOUND follows the fortunes of two families living on a bare surviving cotton farm in Mississippi. When family members return changed from the Second World War the old ways of the world collide with new ideas brought on by the experience of battle.
While an old fashioned melodrama at it's heart, MUDBOUND has a great deal more on it's mind. A tightly plotted the film it is not content with easy answers. The film wants us to think about what we are seeing so it has set up characters and subplots in such a way that we are forced to think about what we are seeing. For example a good marriage is twined with a bad one (The McAllan's is failing) while the Jackson's is solid) and we get different shades of racism to ponder (The Grandfather is an outright racist, his married son is casually so, his other son was but has changed while wife seems to be free of hatred). Pretty much everyone is given an interior monologue or two which deepens our understanding of our characters and the themes.
One has to applaud director Dee Rees for making a film that improves the more you think of it. On the face of it and on the first time through the film plays like an old school melodrama, however after the film sits with you (and perhaps after some long discussions) you realize that there is more to the film than just a simple drama.
That reason the film overcomes it's melodramatic plotting is the amazing cast. They are wonderful from top to bottom with everyone, including Mary J Blige disappearing completely into their roles. If I must single anyone out it would be Rob Morgan as Hap Jackson. This is a heartfelt performance that not only should make him a superstar but may even get him Oscar gold.
I have to say that if MUDBOUND plays near you go see it on a big screen before you watch it on Netflix. The cinematography is truly amazing and seeing it on the small screen it will be lost. trust me, I had to step out of the film for a moment and when I returned I found I was stopped dead in my tracks as a the images overwhelmed me.
I like the film a great deal, and I like it more because it doesn't do what we expect. I like that while there are tragic turns the film ends on a hopeful note. I love that director Rees trusted her audience to handle all of the weighty things she was throwing at us. I also loved that she messed with me as a viewer and gave me several "ah ha" moments.
MUDBOUND has finished it's run at the New York Film Festival. It will hit Netflix and theater November 17 and is recommended.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
It has been a long time coming, but the suffering of Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army—the wianbu comfort women—are finally starting to be acknowledged by NGOs and documentary filmmakers. However, the plight of hundreds of thousands of Korean farm-boys pressed into hard (often even fatal) involuntary labor is still a story that remains largely untold (Battleship Island addresses the slave labor, but its principal characters are far from representative). Chung Byung-ho, a U.S.-trained Korean anthropologist and Yoshihiko Tonohiro, chief priest of the Ichijoji Buddhist temple joined forces to honor the memories and repatriate the remains of 155 Korean young men who perished while constructing the Uryu Dam in Hokkaido. David Plath documents their long-deferred homecoming in So Long Asleep: Waking the Ghosts of War, which screens during the 2017 Margaret Mead Film Festival.
The area surrounding Lake Shumarinai has recorded some of Japan’s lowest temperatures ever, so you can imagine what the working conditions were like for the young Koreans, who were essentially slave laborers. The discovery of their remains was initially a matter of chance. Tonohiro and some colleagues had come to admire the dam, where they were approached by the caretaker of the local temple, which had storeroom full of memorial tablets. These tablets were a bit different, in that they were inscribed with the deceased’s native Korean name and their assigned Japanese name.
Tonohiro soon discovered the remnants of bodies still collectively buried at the former municipal graveyard. The priest began an effort to excavate and repatriate the remains, but the project really took shape when Chung started directing their efforts. Many Korean, Japanese, and Zainichi Korean-Japanese provided the labor, embracing the project’s spirit of healing. Yet, not quite everyone fully came on board. Japanese war crimes-deniers successfully manipulated the local bureaucracy to thwart a memorial, while North Koreans who participated in the excavations, were not allowed to continue to South Korea for the internment ceremony.
Since the mass graves were located on their ancestral lands, the indigenous Ainu people prepared special rituals for the reclamation process, which makes So Long Asleep an especially fitting selection for the Mead fest. The film is also relevant to students of comparative religion, because it captures Buddhist, Catholic, and Shamanistic ceremonies performed for the 155 repatriated remains.
In terms of production values, So Long Asleep is pretty no-frills, but it captures some deeply moving moments. Frankly, it is surprising how much emotional kick this film has, since most of wartime laborers’ friends and family are now deceased. Yet, many young Korean and Japanese people recognized the enormity of their fate and became genuine surrogate mourners.
|Barbara Hannigan subject of two of Mathieu Amalric's films|
Amalric has directed more films than the 17 listed at IMDB. I say that with certainty since the films that played the New York Film Festival are not listed in his credits. While he is a very good director of fiction films, it is in his documentaries that he truly shines to the point it could, and should be argued that he is one of the finest documentary filmmakers working today
C’est presque au bout du monde (France, 2015, 16m)
Short film made at the request of the Paris Opera is a portrait of Barbara Hannigan warming up her voice and rehearsing for a performance. Stunningly shot the film is an almost too intimate portrait of an artist getting ready to give her best. It is a sensual experience as the marriage of word and music come together to create something tactile.
Zorn (2010-2017) (France, 2017, 54m)
Let me cut to the chase- this is one of the best films of the New York Film Festival and of 2017. It also may very well be one of the best music documentaries ever made - I'm talking top three or five.
Started as a project for TV this film spun out of control and has been, and still is, a work in progress. This is a portrait of musician John Zorn as shot by a close friend. There are no voice overs, no explanations, there is simply Zorn over the years performing, joking, laughing and watching with his friends and other musicians. Clearly shot on the fly by someone with whom Zorn trusts completely this is a documentary that is unlike any other. There is a level of ease and openness no other music documentary has ever had because no other music doc was shot like this, piece meal here and there when friends were just hanging out.
It will amaze and delight you even if you don't know Zorn's music simply because this is so inside as to make you feel like you were there.
I need to mention Amalric's use of editing. Watching the film you will quickly realize that his use of sound and image is unlike most things being done today. Working with editor Caroline Detournay he has made a film that stays in your eyes and ears long after the film has finished.
A masterpiece and one of the truly best music docs you will ever see.
(Now if he would only finish it)
Music Is Music (France, 2017, 21m)
Again working with Barbra Hannigan and editor Caroline Detournay, Amalric gives us a portrait of Hannigan as she is putting together her latest album, and the Girl Cray suite in particular.We watch as Hannigan conducts the orchestra and is prodded into singing along with her.
A more fully formed portrait of Hannigan, this is delightful piece that really takes us into the soul of the performer. It is a wonderful little film that makes you wish that this was longer and covered the making of the whole album.
And this is also a fantastic showing of Amalric as a manipulator of sound and image as he sucks us into becoming intimate with the woman at it's center.
Worth tracking down.
(This film is available on Hannigan's latest CD which comes with a DVD full of extras)
Below is the Q&A that followed the NYFF screening where Amararic, Hannigan and Detournay discuss the making of the films
Tuesday, October 17, 2017