Saturday, December 31, 2016

Unseen Films Awards 2016

It’s time for this year’s Unseen Film Awards. As opposed to last year when the winner was clear cut, this year’s award was more a hard fought battle. Passions were high as everyone had one film that really was their favorite-and damn it they were going to fight to the death to defend it (see below).

The voting this year was different than last year. Where last year I asked for the winners in a whole bunch of categories this year I simply asked for a list of no more than five films which intellectually are the best films of the year and a list of no more than five films that were your favorites intellect be damned. I did this because in many cases people will give one list if they think it's public consumption and other for what they watch when they are on the couch. I also asked for anything from any film that the voter thought should be noted.

This resulted in some really interesting responses. I was hoping for titles that were not the typical list of films that mirrored all the other film lists- and since this is the Unseen Films family that’s exactly what I got – responses that were completely and wonderfully unique. Oh sure some of the “big” films appeared but all of the films that people were most passionate about were not the big films, instead they were films that were unique to the voter. So much for the heard mentality. As with a dinner of the Unseen family the awards were lots of discussions about all sorts of things.

Frankly I am delighted. As I said I wanted things not to go in any expected way and that's what happened. Even based on early voting when I kind of thought things would go one way but things swerved and then swerved again.

After much swerving I am pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s UNSEEN FILM AWARD is:


For those of us who were at the press screening at the New York Film PATERSON was the film everyone referred back to for comparison. For those of us who saw the film in the theater since it's late in the year release the film was an unexpectedly wonderful way to end the film year.

It was the late in the year viewers who broke the virtual tie that the awards had been in from when voting started.  PATERSON was deadlocked literally until a day ago with HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE which was the film everyone compared everything at Tribeca to.

Because WILDERPEOPLE is a hair's breath's second place, it's loss was simply the result of positioning on some weighted lists,  I have to award the film the Award For MOST HAUNTING FILM of 2016. While that may not fully fit with a film that is essentially a feel good comedy, it is appropriate for a film that hung around for nine months and was always in the mix of any discussion of the best/favorite films of the year, something that even last years winner for MOST HAUNTING, KUMIKO THE TREASURE HUNTER never fully managed to be.

We are awarding the BEST ANIMATED FILM award to MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI. The Best Foreign Language short listed film from Switzerland rocked those of us who saw it. While the film did not figure into the official balloting it did come up in several conversations as a film spoken about with passion and surprise. It was a film everyone mentioned to each other as a film we all needed to see and felt should win an Oscar if there was justice. It is a film of quiet power that transcends the notion of just being an animated film.

The BEST SHORT this year is Shaun Clark’s NECK AND NECK. While this has been an excellent year for shorts there is something about Clark’s retelling of Othello that has haunted me more than almost any other film of any length. It was the fact that I have been carrying the film around in my head since I first saw it that was the deciding factor. There was no clearer indication of that then when I bought tickets to see Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo in Othello simply to compare the film to the play.

Our Award for BEST CINEMATIC EVENT is going to Brent Green and Sam Green's Live Cinema at BAM which transcended being a film or a live event to be something more.

The BEST REVIVAL goes to Joe Dante's MOVIE ORGY. Five hours of cinematic madness is like watching the director channel surf in a communal setting with the audience engaged with it and each other.

This year we’re giving a SPECIAL AWARD OF MERIT to two films that are going to inspire generations of young girls to come to follow their hearts and make them realize that they can do anything they want to regardless of what anyone says. These films went above and beyond in their depiction of women as kick ass heroes who didn’t need anyone other than themselves to make their dreams come true.

Paul Fieg’s GHOSTBUSTERS reimagined the classic film as something so entertaining and seemingly radical that it had all of the basement dwelling fanboy’s screaming foul before they ever saw a frame of it. It’s a film that moved many of the women I know deeply because it was the film that they wished they could show their younger selves to make them realize anything was possible. My overriding thought when seeing it was the thought of how different the world might have been these past three decades if all the women of the world had had this film to hang on to instead of the Ivan Reitman one.  No matter it's here now and hopefully it will change the world for the better. I am thrilled to death that my niece was going to be growing up in a world where this version was going to be her GHOSTBUSTERS

Equally worthy is Rémi Chayé's LONG WAY NORTH about a determined young woman who breaks with convention and runs away from home to rescue her grandfather who has gone missing on an arctic expedition. A grossly under seen animated film this is a that shows us what can happen when we follow our hearts and instincts and break with the confines of convention. One of the best films of the year its fantastic tale of female empowerment that women and girls need to see. They need to know that they can do whatever it is they put their minds to.

This year we’ve added a list of FILMS SO GOOD THAT IF YOU DON'T SEE THEM OUR CONTRIBUTORS WILL BEAT YOU UP. These are films which our contributors were madly passionate about and have been trying to forcibly to drag everyone to.


I have to single out Mondocurry's top film of 2016, and his film that he would beat you up if you don't see it, HAPPY HOUR. Its a five hour seventeen minute film about the lives of four women who thought they knew everything about each other. Its  slowly building film that lets you in on the lives of its characters in ways that most films never ever manage. Its a film that I wrongly left off my year end lists but which haunts you. Its a film that has improved since I first saw it, especially after several conversations with Mondo. HAPPY HOUR is a film you need to have on your radar. Of the films chosen passionately as the best film by our contributors it's the one you're least likely to run across and therefore the one you most need to be directed to

Regrettably this year we are not giving a Best Documentary award. It’s not that there wasn’t a best documentary (I think any of the voters could name at least five off the top of their heads), rather it’s simply there were so many documentaries that a good many of us simply didn’t see enough of the same films.

I received a large number of suggestions for other awards such as acting,songs, dance sequences, ect. but the award the choices were so singular that I couldn't get any sort of consensus. I suspect that next year the way to work that part of the voting out is going to be to get everyone together for dinner and have the conversation determine what gets the additional awards.

And that concludes the Unseen Film Awards for 2016. Congratulations to the winners. I suggest you keep reading Unseen Films over the next year so you can try and figure out what our winners will be next year.

Year End 2016:Best of the Year Part 2

These are the best of the best cinema related things and movies that I saw this year. They are a half step above yesterday's list if only I never second guessed any of them nor did I ever forget any of them.

The deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds earlier this week makes this bittersweet- but suddenly having Debbie Reynolds call into the New York Film Festival was just one of the coolest things that happened all year.

Brent Green and Same Green's LIVE CINEMA was probably the coolest cinema event of the year. It transcended being a film screening or a theatrical event to be a one of a kind moment in time. What happened touched your head and heart and was a one night only happening despite being repeated, with variation each night of the run. In an age where film viewing is becoming a more and more insular event the Greens have returned it to a communal experience where our dreams become something we all share.

Patrick Meaney sending me two new films this year was really cool. His agreeing to let me ask him a lot of questions about both of them was even cooler. This was the sort of thing that as a film fan one dreams of happening but never expects it to. Best of all his film kicked serious ass.

NECK AND NECK - Shaun Clark's short is as perfect a version of Shakespeare as I have ever seen. In minutes he explains Othello so perfectly as to make you understand the play better than if you've seen the whole play. This is why he is one of my favorite filmmakers.

RED TURTLE- This fable of life had me sobbing audibly for the final third. I have no words only wet tissues.

CINEMA TRAVELERS - glorious celebration of film and the dying way of life of traveling movie shows. This film should have opened the New York Film Festival instead of being shunted to a sidebar.

DAWSON CITY Bill Morrison's look at a town at the end of the road where movies went to die is a glorious celebration of life, of film and everything. This unique vision of our dreams is the why Morrison is one of the greatest filmmakers working today.

LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND- Ralph Bakshi's short masterpiece is sheer genius. It is the master working free of constraints and at the peak of creative powers

The main character in the short HUM is one of the greatest robots ever

the title character in MR SIX is just cool as all hell

SEOUL STATION/TRAIN TO BUSAN- the rebirth of the zombie film via one Korean director.

THE WAILING- Even if the film has one huge logic flaw this film just fucks you up so damn bad that I still can't shake it.

NEIL GAIMAN DREAM DANGEROUSLY- Patrick Meaney's documentary masterpiece is one of the greatest cinematic biographies I've ever seen. Everything he has ever done has lead to this and its amazing.  (And my best friend is in it)

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE- Charming, life affirming and why the hell hasn't everyone seen this marvelous film?

BASKIN- Turkish nightmare is one of the scariest films ever. Even if the last ten seconds are WTF this film is just wrong in all the right ways

THE LITTLE PRINCE- Mark Osborne has expanded the tale and made it something marvelous.

DIXIE- The history of the song, of racism and the struggle to end it and reclaim the tune. So good on so many levels.

INTO THE INFERNO- Werner Herzog and Volcanos. That's all you need to know.

UNCLE HOWARD- portrait of a filmmaker who died too young.

the technical virtuosity of H.O.M.E blew me away. I can't remember the plot only every shot, sound and transition.

EMBERS has haunted me for almost a year. A film about not being able to remember is one of the films I simply will never forget

PSYCHONAUTS- bleak animated film is more real than any live action film or documentary I've seen this year. What does it say when I feel a kindred spirit for a suicidal drug addled bird heading for oblivion?

INERASABLE for most of the film its all stories in this quest to find the source of a haunting. I literally couldn't sleep after I saw it.

RAGE OF THE DEMON- what if George Melies was making demonic films? Wonderful spoof documentary will chill you.

LEGEND OF TARZAN- possibly the greatest Tarzan film is everything I ever wanted and much I never knew I wanted. This is the Tarzan of my heart and soul and I love it.

OJ MADE IN AMERICA- amazing look at crime, race, America and OJ. So much to think about....

CURMUDGEONS- Danny DeVito's short is just amazing. Its lovely and heart warming and the best damn thing he's ever done.

KILLER & THE UNDERCOVER- Fantastic short about a cab driver and a cop and the things that happen one night. Possibly the best film at NYAFF which is saying a great deal,

EMBRACE THE SERPENT- Mind blowing tale of two trips down the river and what happens. I was not expecting where this went. This is what cinema is all about.

PERSONAL SHOPPER is an imperfect portrait of a young woman-it is very much a character study and a drama which has some of the scariest ghost films you'll ever see. As many have said why is it that the best horror films of the year isn't a horror film?

SILENCE (2016) Faithful adaption (more or less) of the classic novel is a moving film. While imperfect in a couple of places the film must be on the best of the year list since it is causing reactions to every audience from groans of pain, sobbing and even walk outs. I've heard it called a masterpiece and a piece of shit. Any film that causes everyone to react differently is a masterwork because it does what any great piece of art should do-forces the audience to engage with it for better or worse.

My favorite film poster of the year

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year End 2016: Best of the Year Part 1

As I've been doing the last few years I have too many great films not to have a really long list (you see over a 1000 films a year and try to go down to 10 or so). these are the first round of truly great films I saw this year.

IP MAN 3- Donnie Yen returns in a a film that has him fighting Mike Tyson. Imperfect but damn entertaining

JERUZALEM- one of the best found footage films has a reason to exist and is scary to boot.

THE CUT- Short film with great advice from a hairdresser

STARLESS DREAM- a crushing look at Women in Prison

ALMOST SUNRISE- Two Vets walk across America to make people aware of the dangers of PTSD

TICKLING GIANTS- Portrait of an Egyptian comedian who tried to do a version of the Daily Show and almost got killed for his troubles. Such is the dangers of an unfree society

WIN- Wonderful portrait of the first year of the New York City Football Club that goes in unexpected directions

MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART- a search for answers in the past doesn't have easy answers. Gloriously uncertain.

GREEN ROOM- Ugly nasty portrait of people trying to flee white supremacists. Chilling in all the right ways.

OFF THE RAILS- Great portrait of a man who loves to ride the subways so much he's a better driver than the real ones....

SHIN GODZILLA- Wonderful rethink of Godzilla is also a biting social commentary

LONG WAY NORTH- one of the best animated films of the year needs to be shown to every little girl....and anyone who wants a great adventure

The first half of NERUDA is a cinematic delight. Its a film in  love with the movies. The second half is nowhere near as good as it has to actually do something. Still the first half haunts me,

MOONLIGHT - wonderful portrait of a man questing to find himself and that which his heart desires most. (Intellectually one of the best of the best of the year but emotionally its half a step off, though I will be delighted if this gets a Best Picture Oscar)

PATERSON - wonderful off kilter portrait of a poet where nothing happens and everything does

ART BASTARD/BURDEN/MAURIZIO CATTELAN ...I'LL BE RIGHT BACK- trilogy of art films I'm clumping together because they made me love art and their subjects even more.

Jerry Lewis in MAX ROSE is Oscar bait. Wow.

FOURTH PLACE- what will you do to succeed when that requires you to win at any cost. This film rocked everyone at NYAFF and I can't believe it hasn't hit anyone's radar outside of that.

WINDOW HORSES- wonderful portrait of a young woman trying to find her identity and her home. Amazing. Why isn't this better known? Why wasn't this at NYFF? WHy hasn't GKids picked it up?

DESERT CATHEDRAL- haunting true story of a man who films everything going off the rails while his wife tries to find him. This film is burned into my brain

CITY OF JOY- Moving film about a place where women can go to find strength and life. Truly moving and amazing

ARRIVAL One of the headiest science fiction films in years is also a portrait of a woman coming to terms with life. Wow.

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI - A review will come when it hits US theaters but this film is an atypically dark and heart warming look at childhood. Thank GKids for picking this up

The photography in THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES is as beautiful as I've ever seen- Wow.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year End 2016: The Film Finds

This years list of films which just missed the best of the year list  and are too good not to be noted at the end of the year. All are more than worth your time

DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE 3- send up of 1980's/1990's VHS horror that gets the time and the spoofing dead on right. One of the best spoofs in years is a joyous guilty pleasure.

SEARCH FOR HELL- incredible documentary about the search for the entrance to hell on earth. I wonder what this would be like in the way it was intended to be seen as a VR film

THE LESSON-Horror film that transcends its dip into torture porn to be a film that will rattle your cage as a teacher gives lessons to some bad students. Brilliant on so many levels

PRIESTS- Exorcist film about priests trying to drive an evil spirit out.  Truly a great film where the actual exorcism is the weakest part of the film.

Kalki Koechlin in MAGAHRITA WITH A STRAW is glorious. This is should be on the Oscar short list but won't be because almost no one has seen it.

MARK OF THE WITCH low budget horror film that transcends everything to be a really creepy visual and aural delight (stay through the credits)

HOOLIGAN SPARROW-If you want to know how women's rights are in China see this film about an activist who is on the government hit list

TIGERS- crushing film portrait about the way that companies are taking baby formula to foreign countries and effectively destroying the population by having the doctors recommend the high priced food when breast milk would be better

PISTOL SHRIMPS - Screamingly funny and utterly enjoyable film about women who start a basketball league. Oh an many are writers and actresses who play to win.

I VOTED? Under seen film about how easy it is to rig elections- Paging anyone who voted against Donald Trump- you should have seen this.

MR CHURCH- Eddie Murphy is Oscar worthy in this true story of a cook who changed a family's life. Magical

LIFE,ANIMATED- The story of a boy brought out of his autistic shell by Disney's cartoons. Magical.

FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE- Under seen film survives on the strength of it's performances. David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Rosie Perez all are at the top of their game.

DEMIMONDE Form over content about love lust and murder in the early 1900's in Europe. It will kick your ass. with it's style. I love this film.

AS I OPEN MY EYES-Baya Medhaffer's performance is stellar

CHASING BANKSY Frank Henenlotter's film about trying to steal a Banksy film improved with age for me. Certainly its much better than several documentaries on the real Banksy from this year.

DEMON- Polish horror film mixes horror and comedy and leaves you chilled to the bone as it ends in uncertainty

ADAMA- Grossly under seen and under appreciated animated film about a youngman who travels to France to save his brother and ends up in the middle of the First World War. This is what animation was meant to do.

PUPPETMAN - The best John Carpenter film he never made. An awesome short

HISSEIN HABRE- Think SHOAH as done by Jonathan Oppenhiemer

KEDI- This opens in February (films are ranked the year I see them)- but it's a 80 minute movie about the cats of Istanbul

NEW COLOR: THE ART OF EYDTHE BOOTH- Glorious portrait of a wonderful woman and artist

REDEMPTION SONG- Portrait of the refugee experience as hell shot by a refugee. Light years ahead of other similar films- especially FIRE AT SEA.

FOR KIBERA- Agitprop as it should be- vital alive and the sort of film that will spur action

DARK HARVEST- Cheech Marin gives an Oscar worthy performance in a killer little thriller

WEST COAST- Here for sheer audacity-as I said films that need to be noted at years end- this is the story of poor white French kids who think they are West Coast gangstas

SUICIDE SQUAD- The villains suck but the characters are spot on. I really liked it.

BAD CAT- foul mouthed animated film from Turkey about a cat with human desires who has a run of bad luck- this is what adult animation like SAUSAGE PARTY or NERDLAND should be like.

SUPERPOWERLESS- What would happen if Superman wasn't super anymore?

THE UNSEEN  Awesome thriller about a man turning invisible who has to rescue his daughter who is similarly afflicted

LOST CITY OF Z- Excellent film is a true story of a man over come by his obsession

CRAZED- is. A wild over the top action film is a hell of a lot of nasty fun

CROSSCURRENT's cinematography makes this a must see. A loving portrait to a river that gives China life

I DON'T BELONG ANYWHERE-probably the best portrait of Chantal Akerman I've seen

TOY- excellent thriller/drama about a romance

ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE crazy horror film about god reincarnating a nebbish in order to have him save his girlfriend who was taken by the devil- its just wacky fun.

IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE- a great look at people looking for silence

POOR BOY- I have no idea if this tale of brothers living on a boat in the desert is good but it sure as hell is one of a kind to the point I remember it 8 months later.

COURTED lovely drama about a judge romancing a juror. This needs a huge release in the US.

2037 WINTER DREAM- great apocalyptic/end of the world story just does it all right.

PATTAYA- a film about dwarf fighting is a very unPC comedy

MAN WHO SAW TOO MUCH- excellent film about the desire to see terrible things on the news.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thoughts on New York Theater Workshop's Othello

Spurred on by Shaun Clark’s excellent short NECK AND NECK which condensed Shakespeare Othello down to around 6 minutes I decided to try and see Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo in Othello at New York Theater Workshop. The decision was made partly to see how the play compared to the short, but also because I wanted to see what the two stars did with their roles.

What the star did with their roles was tear down the house. As good as they are in film roles both are better stage actors, especially where they have material that allows them to really emote and take charge. We need to give them more roles where they can physically attack one another and roll around on the floor. That is not a joke, the last act battle between the two men is truly gripping and makes me hope that in the future the two men can play enemies on the big screen

The setting for the play is a military barracks. Its all ply wood and hardware from Home Depot. The set is dressed with stuff from the army navy store. There is a real sense that you are there in the thick of things.The audience is on three sides of the stage in stadium seating. Mattresses and other barracks material are on the floor. All the lighting is natural, Lamps on stage, on the barracks seiling, or flash lights & head lamps. Some scenes take place in near blackness (an effect that will be lost should the play transfer to any sort of larger theater-and forget this working in a traditional one). We are close and in their space, allowing  Oyelowo and Craig  to really talk to the audience. When they address the audience, they are talking to each one of us, they are making us all co-conspirators.

While this is probably as a good a production as we are likely to ever see there are some bits that don’t quite work as well as others. Some of the early dialog gets lost in large space. Matthew Maher as Rodrigo, comes off as too much a fool with the result that we feel nothing when he meets a bad end. The biggest problem is a bump in Oyelowo’s Othello who goes from all around good guy to a man crazed with jealousy in an instant. There is no slow change, he simply chooses to believe that Desdemona is cheating and plots her demise. While the performance is excellent the lack of shading diminishes the character because we don't know how such a loving person can hate so quickly.

Ultimately none of that matters because Craig and Oyelowo are so forceful, so inviting, so (fill in you favorite rave term) that nothing matters anywhere along the way. We are seeing all of natures fury on stage and nothing can stand in the way. If this was a film they would win Oscars.If it were Broadway they would either end up sharing the Tony or end up fighting to death for it.

Peter Gutiérrez who went with me to the show said this was probably the best version of the play he’s ever seen. The audience, who you could feel waiting to explode with joy and cheers,  was on its feet with thunderous applause as soon as it was done. Several people joked they would have loved an encore but how could they encore (perhaps doing Hamlet or Lear?) when they pretty much dismantled themselves emotionally and left it all on the stage.

It’s a great show and if you can grab some tickets I suggest you do so. Its’s so good that when I was trying to go to bed after the performance I ended up on the phone with Alec Kubas-Meyer at 130 am trying to help him pick out seats.

Yes it's that good

Year End 2016: The Worst of the Year

Every year there are some films so bad we can't forget them no matter how we try- these are the ones I truly hated from start to finish. Finished is important because there wee a lot of films I really hated that I abandoned somewhere along the way.

ZERO- produced by Ridley Scott and directed by his son this turd ball is about the day gravity stopped. A big budget for a small terrible film that goes nowhere. If Papa Scott wasn't involved this would never have seen the light of day.

MOONWALK-unfunny comedy about faking the moon landings by some nitwits when Stanley Kubrick refuses to do so. Bloody and unfunny

SPOILS BEFORE DYING- stupid TV minseries about a jazz musician turning detective. Not funny and not good

TIGER ROAD- opened up stage play about soldiers who kidnap a woman during the Iraq War only to find one of them is her ex-boyfriend. What  works on stage doesn't always work on screen and opening up what would have been a one set one act play is often a bad idea- one need look no farther than this film.

NERDLAND - vile vulgar and just plain dumb cartoon about two guys searching for fame. Painful. No one I met at Tribeca, where it premiered, liked it.

ACTOR MARTINEZ- meta inde film you either click with or loath. I loath it.

EL CARRO DE TOLUQUILLA- semi documentary about a singer with AIDS is incredibly interesting for about 20 minutes until you realize it's slice of semi-constructed life is going nowhere.

KING COBRA- good performances get lost in a film where the director focuses on the least interesting character. How did this get major attention?

HOLIDAYS- awful horror anthology where in every case except one you know how it will go. Its also the worst thing that Kevin Smith has ever done

BUGS- unfocused and repetitive look at the possibility of using bugs as a food source.

SPAGHETTIMAN- man has in incident with a microwave and a bowl of pasta and can fire pasta from his hand and elsewhere. its a five minute skit dragged on for 90 minutes. The screener I had broke after an hour and I was thrilled I didn't have to stay to the end

ONE DOLLAR TOO MANY- awful spaghetti western comedy with no laughs

37- A story about Kitty Genovese where she never appears.What would have been an okay slice of life is wrecked by connecting it to a real event.

REHEARSAL - Morally offensive film makes no sense on any number of levels and commits the sin of being against statutory rape in most sequences but is okay with our hero sleeping with a 13 year old. I don't care if it worked in the book it's not on the screen.

2 JENNIFER- awful horror film

JUDGE ARCHER- slow dull martial arts film that should have remained unseen

IN SEARCH OF ULTRA SEX- a bad sex film made from bad sex film clips

THERAPY- found footage fiasco has way too many shots and events that defy reason.

TAG-A-LONG- awful horror film about a ghost that follows along behind people bringing bad luck,

ELLE- Paul Verhoeven's rape comedy about a woman who is raped and may or may not have liked it and...empty meaningless and probably offensive (though to be fair because Isabelle Huppert is involved there maybe something here but I have yet to find it)

MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA- badly done animated film is a clear explanation why it's director is a cult graphic novelist instead of a major filmmaker.  Its a mess and the more I think about it the less I like it. How did this get into NYFF and so many other better films didn't? More amazingly the usually spot on GKids is releasing this and I'm left scratching my head.

NEIL STRYKER- I initially thought this was pretty good but a second time through and lots of discussion made me realize just how awful it is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Year End 2016: Cinematic Disappointments

This year  I'm going to start my year end review with a look at the cinematic disappointments. These are the films that kind of almost were something but crumbled for one reason or another. These are the films that kind of might have been something if they had either been just a tad better or failed more.

You'll notice that there really aren't any big Hollywood films and that's simply because either I didn't see them or they didn't disappoint so much as were really good or really bad.

HERE ALONE- this won the Tribeca Audience Award? Really? I have yet to find anyone -ANYONE- who feels it deserved that award even some writers who were passionate champions for the film. Not one person I know can explain how this won other than ballot stuffing- which considering the truly bad way that Tribeca did the balloting is entirely possible. The voting had to be done either via cellphone orspecial kiosk (which didn't always work) and it had to be done within 30 minutes of the end of the film which became complicated if there was a long post film Q&A. It is an okay zombie film about being a solo survivor that goes off the rails in the last half hour as logic goes out the window.

14 MINUTES TO EARTH- Okay portrait of a man who parachuted from the edge of space is nowhere near as exciting as it should be. While jump itself is cool, the whole lead up is so clinical as to drain any excitement from it.

ALL THIS PANIC  could have been the greatest coming of age doc about women ever made. The problem is the editing is so bad we have no sense of time, of place or anything else. The film focuses on some girls more than others to the point we don't know why the lesser ones are here. Worse it feels like the filmmakers only filmed now and again when they thought of it so any sense of life is nowhere to be found. If this could be re-edited, assuming there is a lot more footage, it should be great, but as it stands now it's shit

LAST LAUGH- a look at humor and the Holocaust is not informative enough. While it contains all the right people (Mel Brooks, Gilbert Gottfried ) the film tries to do too much and goes too far a field bringing in other subjects and focusing on a Holocaust survivor in such way that the film doesn't always seem to know what it's about. It has moments but it should have had more.

TONI ERDMANN- hailed from Cannes as the best film of the year and by Dennis Lim at NYFF as the second coming of Christ (no really), the film is simply a much too long dramady that isn't the screwball one advertised. Yea it has some of the best laughs of the year but it isn't a comedy and it's frequently heartbreaking. What film did it's champions see because this film is just okay and nothing more. (Now if it was cut in half it might be something)

CREEPY- Kiyoshi Kurasowa's latest is a white knuckled thriller from start to finish- though the reasons in the first half are different from the second. In the first half a cop hunts for a serial killer and we are tense waiting to see how it will play out. In the second logic and reason go out the window and we are trapped on a rollercoaster to hell as literally anything can happen just because.  Its the director at his best and worst and gives the audience whiplash as it switches from genuinely great to being intriguing because its so far off the tracks you want to see where it crashes, burns and blows up.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL- Film about the  Process Church sets out to clear up all the misconceptions about it by talking to everyone in the church...and in the process wrecks the mystery and does so in a manner that isn't all that thrilling.

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALF TIME MARCH- shot in an experimental process that varied the frame rate to up to 120+ frames a second creating a hyper real sense. Sadly the film has a weak script and crappy direction that makes it no better than 1000 similar straight to home video dramas except with 3D and a big name cast. Ang Lee who blew viewers out of the water with the 3D in THE LIFE OF PI here is blind to the possibilities many scenes simply actors talking to the camera. All I can think is that he took a paycheck and ran. Absolutely not worth your time

You Only Live Twice

Last of the initial run of Sean Connery Bond’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is one of the biggest Bond films ever. It certainly had a world record size set with the Spectre Volcano base being the biggest ever built. It’s so big that its understandable when the film when more character driven in the next film ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE

The plot of the film has Bond’s death being staged as he’s put on the trail of who is behind the theft of Soviet and American space capsules. Someone is trying to start a war and the superpowers think it’s the other guy. The British don’t and Bond ends up in Japan chasing down leads and finally meeting Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Quite possibly the last of the huge Bond films that work on every level (some that followed wobble in balancing the humor with the spectacle- though MAJESTY'S and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY maybe the only others to come closest to getting the balance right) YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE has spectacular set pieces, real characters and most importantly a sense of danger. Say what you will most Bond films after this until the later Daniel Craig films never really fear that Bond won’t be walking away from whatever happens. Bond will become invincible after this and caricature and not a person. Even in Majesty’s, which is one of the best in the series, there is a snideness that has us distanced.

With YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE everything is firing on all cylinders. You have in intriguing, premise, a great villain (this is the first of the so called Blofeld Trilogy), actual colorful locations, the right number of witty remarks and nicely handled action. Its a film you can get lost in and munch popcorn to and not really feel guilty doing it.

This is probably the last Connery outing as Bond that really works. Yes he played it two more times, In DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, a desperate move on the part of the producers to save the franchise after MAJESTY'S bombed and star George Lazenby walked. Connery was happy to take the cash and he walked through the role in style similar to what Roger Moore would do in some of his outings. He also played it again in NEVER SAY NEVER, his thumb in the eye to the Broccoli's with whom he had been warring for many years. While both films are entertaining, neither is the best of the best of the series - even if DIAMONDS crematoria sequence still gives me nightmares some 45 years on.

I love this film and it's one of the few in the series that I would actually stop and watch when the Bonds get into the cable TV rotation and I get fed up with the series.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Thoughts on Martin Scorsese's SILENCE (2016)

I saw the SILENCE with Nate Hood over this past weekend. It was a film that both of us were highly stoked to see and which we were both going into having previously  devoured the source novel by Shusaku Endo. Additionally I had seen the earlier film by Masahiro Shinoda which was written by Shinoda and Endo.

Both Nate and I were holding off completing our best of the year lists because we wanted to see how the film figured into things. I'm not sure how Nate is figuring his list but I'm including the film on my best of the year list, not because I feel strongly that it is a holy grail film, rather because in reading the reviews (which have been all over the place) and being in a theater with a paying audience I find that few films have provoked such strong reactions in the audience. SILENCE is a full frontal assault on your belief system.

As I said not only have I read reviews that were across the spectrum, but so was the response by the audience.  Those sitting around me reacted to the violence on the screen, some members sobbed at some of the turns, while others huffed and puffed and stormed out of the theater unimpressed. Clearly Scorsese is hitting a lot of buttons and I must commend him for forcing his viewers to engage with the film.

Like the novel I was not fully engaged with the film for a chunk of the early story. The film, like the novel takes a bit to get going as it moves it's characters around to certain point where we suddenly find that we are engaged. For me the point I knew I was engaged was when Father Rodrigues speaks with Mokichi before he goes off to meet his end. There was something about the character's expression of belief that made me to mist up. It was at that point I knew that the film was on the right track. I remained engaged all the way to the end finding myself deeply moved on several more occasions.

There is something about Scorsese's examination of faith that rang true for me. Some how Scorsese's refashioning of Endo's themes about the nature of belief in an alien world  into something about belief in our hearts worked for me. Interestingly I don't think Scorsese threw out any of Endo's (or even Shinoda's) themes or ideas, all I think he did was highlighted them differently.

I have a friend who is a rabid atheist who disliked the film a great deal. He had trouble with the end section of the film. While we never spoke of specifics I suspect he had a problem with the final confrontation of the film onward since the film's playing of  events are not as ambiguous and are clearly tinged with the mystical where in the novel and earlier film it could be argued there is nothing mystical. To be honest I don't think the film was made for him since I think the film was made more with an ear to hearing something in the silence. This is a film about possibility as opposed to dead certainty. The characters are questing and if you are certain of the answer there really is no reason to look. There is no hint that the mystical is delusional in this film which I know can rattle the cage of some non-believers.

I, one on the road and forever searching for answers, was moved. Perhap this view of God's silence is valid. Perhaps not. either way I find the the themes thrown up interesting to wrestle with. But then again I like to ponder the possibilities since they open up doors to a kind of enlightenment that the certainty of nothing in the darkness closes off.

As a representation of the novel I think the film does a fine job of putting it all on the screen. While the film perhaps does away with a tad of the ambiguity, everything that should be here is on the screen. The performances are first rate and they make the characters real living and breathing people, something I think was missing from the earlier film version. The lack of emotion made the first film a tad too distant for me.

If there is one thing I am unhappy with in regard to the film it is the change of the reason for Father Ferreira's apostatizing. In the film he did it to save himself, while in the novel he does it save the lives of three people in the pit. Its a small thing but without it his path is not as parallel to Rodrigues's as it should be. His advice to his student carries different weight. Its a minor thing in some ways, and not in others. (If you don't know of the change you don't know what is missed)

Ultimately I really like this version of the story. I like that the film makes the characters real and not ideas. I love that the battle of the various themes are given our hearts to battle in not just our heads thus giving the film a better chance to move us.

Admittedly not everyone is going to like the film-it is a challenging film.. Never mind the violence and cruelty even the notions of faith and belief are not always easy to take. This is film that has to be.wrestled with and confronted. To get anything out of it you have to engage with it. To be certain you may hate the film, but at the same time even if you do this is a film that is going to leave a mark. This isn't one you're going to love or hate without having a reason- nor is it a film that you are not going to talk about.

If a great film provokes a reaction then SILENCE is a great film. Go see it.


James Bond's third outing exploded and made Bond mania go into over drive. If you ignore the Bond turns lesbians straight subplot, this is a cracking good action/adventure thriller.

The plot has Bond butting heads with Auric Goldfinger. Goldfinger loves gold and he plans to rob Fort Knox. Along the way Bond woos various women including Pussy Galore, Goldfinger's lesbian pilot. Of course there is more to the robbery than a simple robbery.

Full of  I conic characters Goldfinger, Pussy, Oddjob, iconic lines (" you don't expect me to talk" "No Mr Bond I expect you die") and iconic images The gold painted body of jill masterson, Oddjob tossing his hat this is a film that launched a million parodies.  Surprisingly the film still stands up as an exciting piece of fun

I grew up loving the Bond films. I loved to watch them when they were on ABC growing up. When I got a laserdisc machine  the first films I bought were Bond films. The films were treats I'd doll out to myself now and again. I went to every film on the day the came out and I watched them when they were on TV...

... and then they got into heavy rotation on cable and it killed by desire to ever see any of the films again (I still haven't see the last two or three Daniel Craig films)

And then after years of not watching the film I sat don and stumbled on the films on a Starz station and over a couple of weeks I started to watch the films again and fall back in love with the films.

GOLDFINGER works because the plot is intriguing enough that we get hooked early on. The action is first rate and as I said about the characters are wonderful.

The problem with the film is the social attitudes are way out of date. While all of the classic Bond films are sexist, GOLDFINGER's attitude that a manly man can turn a lesbian straight is offensive. It's also so ludicrous as to be screamingly funny. While on some level the better part of me should hate the film because of it, there is a point at which one has to allow old films their mistakes and move on. I doubt the film will make anyone think its sexist ideas are okay, any more than anyone would believe some one like Goldfinger could do what he does or that Bond is a superman. At this point its better to just know the film is wrong and move on. If I got upset about every film that was similarly wrong headed most of our classics would disappear. I can't do that.

Taking it on it's own terms GOLDFINGER is a lot of fun. Just be aware it, like all the Bond films are sexist time bombs.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nightcap 12/25/16 Happy Holidays, Randi's links

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukah
Happy Kwanza
Happy Boxing Day
A few quick notes before I collapse back under the tree in an eggnog induced stupor…
Reviews this week are going to be limited. This week I’ll be sharing my personal end of the year lists- Disappointments, Worst, Finds and the two part Best of the Year lists. I’ve been going over them again over the last few days and I’m certain that in most cases you are not going to find anything similar anywhere.
I am also working on the Unseen Films Awards. I’m still waiting on a few more ballots-including my own because I’m playing catch up with the year-end releases.
Randi's links

General Tso's Chicken
Anime in China
KFC for Christmas
Steve Martin and Edie Brikell's Bright Star in concert
The movie that people thinks exist but doesn't
Brooklyn Paper puns


I recently sat down and watched Octopussy for the first time from start to finish in probably a decade. It was never my favorite, there were flaws but it still was okay. Seeing it again I was kind of surprised, some typical Roger Moore silliness aside the film actually is pretty good.

The plot of the film has to do with a Soviet general using Russian treasures for how own ends. He’s mixed up with Kamal Khan and a woman known as Octopussy who think that it’s a simple jewel robbery when in fact it’s something darker. British Intelligence isn’t sure what is going on and they send in James Bond.

The Roger Moore Bonds are cinematically odd. A weird mix of humor and action the ones that were too silly have aged badly (Moonraker, View to a Kill) while the more realistic ones (For Your Eyes Only and this) actually stand up as fine action films. Looking back now the Moore films make many film fans wince if they didn’t grow up watching them. Yes they are fun goofs, but any tension that might have been there is wrecked by the sense Bond is never going to be hurt even remotely.

However in For Your Eyes Only and here in Octopussy the possibility of injury is kind of real. For example here in Octopussy Bond is injured at the end. Yes its turned on its head but its one of the few time in any film where his injuries are more than a scratch.

For me seeing the film for the first time in years it was kind of a revelation. Yes the film is extremely sexist, I mean the dress of Octopussy's girls is a dead give away, But at the same time if you strip away the nonsense and for give the intrusive silliness it's actually one of the better Bond films.

Seeing this film again for the first time made me actually want to go back and rewatch the earlier films because I realized that past the hype and past the constant cable TV rtation the films are pretty good adventures.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Silence (1971)

With Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel SILENCE now in theaters I chased down a copy of the first film version of the film made by Masahiro Shinoda. Shinoda wrote the screenplay with Endo, so you would think that what resulted was author approved, but Endo didn't and he disavowed the finished film. Having seen read the book, I can understand why, but at the same time, on it's own terms it is a very good film.

For those unaware of the plot, the plot of SILENCE concerns two Jesuit priests in order to find out what exactly happened to an earlier missionary. It is a difficult time in Japan and Catholicism is band and it's practitioners are hunted down. The priests have to hide from the authorities who would love nothing more than have them publicly renounce their faith. Eventually they are captured and the resulting battle of wits/faith/philosophy is the film.

It should be stated that this film has several radical changes from the novel. I will be discussing some of them. I will not be discussing the Scorsese film because as of this writing I haven't seen it.

Seeing SILENCE and taking it on it's own terms, I found it to be a very good film about faith and people trying to remain true to what they believe in, or think they believe in. The drama and the story structure are largely lifted from Endo's novel so things move along as the author intended and it's all given the weight he invested in the situations which helps carry things along.

If you've read the original novel the film is going to play differently than it would just walking in off the street. Shinoda and Endo have changed things around which changes some of what the story is now about. The first thing you'll notice is two changes, first the film begins with the priests arriving in Japan. the second, and this completely alters the story, we don't know why they are in Japan other than to find Father Ferreira. In the original tale they have come to Japan to see if their teacher truly had renounced his faith. Here they are simply looking for a lost friend/priest. Not giving the men the additional reason for what they are doing changes what the story as its no longer a long mediation of the depth of faith but something else. I think the fact that we aren't given the reason until some point into the film is one of the reasons the ending of the film wobbles.

Actually not having the reason alters how we see the Kichijiro character. In the novel the fact that he is himself a Catholic who renounced his faith and yet still believes sets up an interesting dynamic with the priests who are trying to find out if their teacher did something similar. By not giving us that motivation we are kind of left hanging- who is he really. While his actions move the plot we don't have the resonances we need to understand what Endo was trying to tell us trying to tell us in his novel.

On the other hand this is a film and the man in charge is Shinoda so we are forced to have to try and divine what he is trying to tell us.  I think its something similar to Endo but not the same thing. This is most clear in the final part of the film where a certain element of spirituality is removed from the tale. Shinoda's silence is much more deafening than Endo's.

This is a very mannered production with everything seeming set up for the director's purpose. You can feel the hand of Shinoda moving things around. You can see him lining up all of his ducks. Granted it's how it had to go but at times it's a tad too obvious. Even allowing that I finished the novel a short time before seeing the film didn't account for some of the sense of foregone conclusions I felt at times.

Worse both priests, especially Father Rodrigo, come off as incredibly arrogant and immovable through most of the film and so when it comes time for the big climax don't feel it emotionally. I never got a sense of him wavering or questioning his faith in his heart. Intellectually I knew he was but emotionally he remained distant. Its a problem that haunts the film through much of the second half. I don't know if it's the performance or the direction but what should have been a crushing moment isn't. I suspect that the problem is the difference between what you can do with words in a book and get inside a character through narration where in film sometimes the inner struggle is lost. Even the films final shot which gives us an emotional reaction from the priest doesn't connect emotionally.

I should also mention that the film's biggest flaw is a bit of serious miscasting of Tetsuro Tanba as Father Ferreira, the object of the search. While there is nothing wrong with him as such the fact that he doesn't look like a man from Europe and he speaks English with a thick Japanese accent (English is substituted for Portuguese) works against the film.

This isn't to say it's a bad film. Its absolutely not- I absolutely think that the IMDB rating of 7 is right on. I really like the film, especially as a meditation on faith and belief in a new world. I think it's a great look about the clash of ideas as societies come into contact and conflict. While I think  it doesn't nail it in the conclusion because there is a little too much head over the heart, everything in the proceeding two hours is deeply thought provoking - in some ways that enhance the novel and in others that are completely new.

Having seen the film and having spent many hours pondering it and the novel I completely understand why Endo disavowed the film. The alteration of motivation changes what the story is. Where Endo's tale is a spiritual journey about our own faith,  Shinoda's film is a story of belief in an alien world and a clash of cultures. Its a version of the story of the novel but it is not completely the heart of it.  I can completely understand why Endo would eventually walk away from something he had worked on. However I don't think the changes invalidate the film either as a version of Endo's story, it is after all extremely enigmatic, or as a film on it's own terms.

What is really cool is that despite differences from the novel the film stands on it's own. I really do think that had I seen the film blind, without reading the novel or being aware of the Scorsese film I would have liked this film just as much (though I don't think more). Yes it is flawed on it's own terms, but  it also a wonderful meditation of thoughts and ideas.  Its a film that is absolutely worth seeing for itself and not for any connection to any other version of the story because it will confront you with a whole new set of questions about what you believe.

Friday, December 23, 2016

6 Hours to Live (1933)

Warner Baxter plays a diplomat who is blocking a treaty that will mean war and all sorts of nastiness. His opponents want him out of the way so they kill him. Unfortunately a scientist has the ability to bring back the dead for 6 hours and he brings back Baxter who lives life to the fullest while trying to stop the bad guys.

Good little scifi film about what it means to be alive and and other notions. I love how this film is about way more than just the the main plot. There are all these little ideas bouncing around that are nicely refreshing to see. Its a smart little film that seems lost to the ages, which is sad since it's a neat little film.

This is a film to search out.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Best of Cinerama (1962)

Made as a stop gap release to fill the time between the release of Tales of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won, The Best of Cinerama was a clip show cobbled together on almost no budget. Made up of many of the highlights of the Cinerama series the film is kind of the best way to revisit all of the highlights of the series. From the roller-coaster, to run away sled to fly overs and water skis this film has it all. It the film that I would probably most want to see if I ever got to see a real Cinerama screening because most of the good parts are here. (Windjammer, which isn’t included in this film, is still probably the best “film” since its more than a travelogue)

If you’ve picked up the Flicker Alley releases of the other Cinerama releases this film may not be required viewing- except that that the Flicker Alley has a commentary track that makes it a must see. The talk by David Coles is awesome. Covering the production of all the previous Cinerama films the commentary tells you everything you’ll want to know about the making of all of the films. It’s incredible and it puts the whole production process into context with the result that you really appreciate the films even more. I know several of the other films have commentary tracks, and they are all excellent  but there is something about this one that workers better. I'm guessing it's because Coles ties the films together in ways that make clearer sense since we are seeing sections of the other films..

In a weird way this maybe my favorite Cinerama release because it’s all the high points, and it has a killer commentary.

Highly recommended-especially if you're getting the Flicker Alley release.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Russia and the Coming Holocaust

This is a half hour long odd ball short from the early 1980’s that takes a typical red scare stance about the evil of the Soviet Union before swerving into how the godless commies are bringing us close to the apocalypse.

I don’t usually watch red baiting films but needing to decompress during the Tribeca film festival and wanting something completely different I found a DVD of anti-commie films and popped it into the player. I figured it would be a complete brain cleanse and it was. Watching the film I was taken to another time and place some 35 years ago when the Ronnie Regan right wing takeover of America spawned odd ball films such as this.

The film is split between a history of the Soviet Union and is coupled with an former editor of Pravda revealing what things are really like. Its your typical anti-commie stance for most of the films. Then it get weird and turns about the atheistic stance of the USSR. It talks about thr closing of churches and all of that before turning again and getting completely weird and talking about how Biblical prophecy said that the end of the world would be brought about by an alliance between the Soviets and Afghanistan. It’s a supreme WTF moment that had me staring at the screen and replaying the sequence again because it’s just out there.

I love weird mindsets but this is something new altogether.

To be honest on it’s own terms the film isn’t anything special and not worth noting but it’s that final twist that makes this a must see for anyone who likes weird trains of thought- for all others stay away.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Magnificent Seven (2016)

Second cinematic western remake of Kurosowa's classic THE SEVEN SAMURAI  is a largely enjoyable mixed bag.  While nowhere near as bad as some reviews made it out to be, it's also nowhere near as a good as either of the earlier classics.

The plot of the film has a literal robber baron named Bartholomew Bogue tormenting a town on the road to his mines in remote valley. He wants the land to expand his mine and instead of paying everyone what it's worth he'll give them a token payment or kill them outright. He feels he can take whatever he wants. After her husband is killed a young woman hires a group of gunman, headed by a man named Chisolm  to defend the town and kill the robber baron.

A broadly drawn plot is nicely filled in thanks to a group of actors working at the top of their game. Make no mistake the reason the film works even as the plot sputters along along is that the cast of gunmen Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier make their characters people we care for. Trust me the shading these great actors give their characters will break your heart as they begin to die in the climatic battle. I could argue that D'Onofrio and Hawke turn in some of their best work of their careers which is saying a great deal.

The problem with the film is it feels about 45 minutes too short. Too many details are left out or fleetingly mentioned. There is a sense of a whole world of back story missing from the film. Either the writers took a short hand approach to everything, including a villain who is simply a series of stock evil traits or the film was heavily chopped by the studio.

The other problem with the film is that there are several plot points that make no sense. Why would there be a town in a valley with only one way in? Why would the villain want the town gone when it could help his mine since it could service his miners? Where are all the homes for the townsfolk? How can the Gatling gun riddle the entire town from a fixed position? More importantly how can it reach the town when it is so far far away? It was those last two that caused me to really throw up my hands.

The plotting is a real mess...

...and yet the film remains entertaining. Thanks, as I said above to the work of the actors who make the gunmen people we care about and whom we shed a tear over when they die.

Also the film has a great series of set pieces including the final hour long siege of the town. say what you will the motion helps a great deal.

This is a solid piece of filmmaking. While not nearly as good as previous versions, it is entertaining , and it does possess some truly great moments.

Defnitely worth a look see.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Panic (1982) (aka Bakterion)

England set Italian horror has a scientist working in a secret lab contaminated by disease hes working on. Stumbling out into the countryside he morphs into a gooey blood sucking monster. When the disease seems to spread the town is sealed off and the villagers are left tp fend for themselves.

Not particularly gory as Italian horror films go this is a reasonably well made thriller more interested in telling a story rather than just grossing people out. While to be certain we have been here before, and while it isn't the best film ever made, it is entertaining nonsense for a rainy afternoon.

What I like about the film is that the film takes itself just seriously enough that you buy it. It also helps that the film takes a uniquely bleak out look in the end, the government is willing to nuke the town to keep the world safe.

While not one of the truly great horror films from Italy it is one of the more more entertaining.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nightcap 12/18/16: Questions on artist bad behavior that have no answers, The Oscar Foreign Language Short List, Randi's links

With Casey Affleck’s truly horrible behavior coming under scrutiny now that he has a path to Oscar gold, and Nate Parker’s past wrecking his Oscar chances, it maybe be time to stop and think about artists, their art and personal life. What I'm suggesting is that with all the internet furor over Parker and Affleck, and the recent dredging up of Hitchcock's past its time we stop just knee jerk reacting and ponder what this all means.  I’m not saying that what was done wasn’t awful or criminal, and doesn't need to be addressed,  rather all I'm saying it's time we seriously take a look what are response are going to be to the art created by people who do bad things.

To that end here are a series of questions concerning artist bad behavior that I don't have answers to:

The most obvious question is if we discount the work of everyone who is a shit or has done something questionable will we have any art? Considering everyone has a dark side and if we look we can find terrible things that people do- if we dismiss anyone because they have ugly nasty things in their closet are we going to be left with anything to see, watch, read or ponder?

I’m not defending Affleck who I’m told can be a horrible human being, or Parker, or Hitchcock or....Polanski … or Caravaggio or Egon Schiele or… anyone. Where do we draw the line? Can we draw the line? If we draw a line what are we to do with what they create? Do we dismiss whole bodies of work? Do we burn all of Hitchcock's films? Do we destroy everything Nate Parker or Casey Affleck was in? This is especially relevant since the shitty behavior more often then not has nothing to do with what they are creating.

Can some one explain to me how does bad behavior outside of their art disavow the art?

Another question is at what point are we allowed to raise a ruckus or not? Alfred Hitchcock’s behavior is well known to anyone who has read on him, Tipi Hendren’s recent "shocking" revelation wasn’t anything we didn’t know before, but she publishes her autobiography and the internet melts down. Casey’s Affleck’s behavior has been a source of talk for years with the lawsuits a matter of public record. Nate Parker’s alleged misdeeds were on his Wikipedia page well before he made Birth of a Nation but suddenly they are discovered and people go berserk. The same thing about the talk about the LAST TANGO IN PARIS tempest, it was an old interview. Why are we getting upset now?

We also have to consider historically is it really proper to get pissed off for behavior that with in a the historical context was okay? Should we really go back and impose our more "enlightened" views on the past?

I have no answers but I don't think screaming at every misdeed is going to actually work because it will leave us with nothing on any level because even most saints did terrible things at some point.
The Oscar Foreign Language Short List titles have been announced to say the choices have blown the minds of the pundits is an understatement – any number of locks aren’t there.

The short list reads as follows:
Australia, “Tanna”
Canada, “It’s Only the End of the World”
Denmark, “Land of Mine”
Germany, “Toni Erdmann”
Iran, “The Salesman”
Norway, “The King’s Choice”
Russia, “Paradise”
Sweden, “A Man Called Ove”
Switzerland, “My Life as a Zucchini”

The lists most glaring omissions seem to be:

“Julieta” from Pedro Almodovar, which many people felt had a quiet chance to win.

“Neruda”, which many people have loved, I was mixed on (I love the first half) but most people I know really disliked.

“Elle” from Paul Verhoeven, which has gotten much critical love, to the point that the pundits are having minor strokes because they were betting the house on a battle between this and Toni Erdmann. Personally I found Elle empty and just a button pusher.

As for the list of actual possible nominees Its intriguing. Yes it has the grossly over rated “Toni Erdmann”, but it has “ A Man Called Ove” which I’ve heard good things about and most interestingly “My Life as a Zucchini” which is awesome. Zuchinni may end up as the first film ever to get a Best Foreign Language nom and a Best Animated one.

I won’t guess what the ultimate winner is but based on what I’ve heard I’m going to say Toni Erdmann, My Life as a Zucchini, A Man Called Ove, Salesman and Land of Mine will be the nominees
Randi's Links

The evolution of Disney Animation from Snow White to Zootopia
Tattoos in  Jordan
Mystery of the Gold Finch
JFK conpsiracy
Black List 2016
Star Trek The Animated Series Storyboards
The algorithms that are closing our minds

Oscar 's Animated Life: A Look At The Animated Feature Oscar Race

This piece was written in the week before the Golden Globe Nominations were announced.  The announcement of  the Globes hasn’t changed my handicapping of the Oscars at all. The Golden Globes are not the Oscars and have been known to do some weird things (Pia Zadora anyone?). The Globes tend to be more populist in their choices than the Oscars. Besides other than the first two years of the Golden Globe Animation Award (2007 and 2008) when there were only 3 nominees for both awards the Globes have never matched exactly with the Oscars-with the GKids titles  knocking out Globe nominees. In fact while GKids has garnered eight Oscar noms in the last 6 years there were no Golden Globes noms- MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI is the first GKids release ever to get a Golden Globe nomination.

Additionally after it was written MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI made the Oscar Foreign Language Film Short List with the result additional comments have been added.

Most people don’t seriously care about the animated Oscar race.

I do. And I'm in the minority of people who love animation of all sorts not just the big budget stuff from Disney, Pixar, Fox and Ghibli. Honestly most people I know see the Animated Oscar as what is the best kids film of the year. It seems that if an “adult” sees an animated film and likes it it’s the exception and not the rule. Most adults don’t see animation as something they want to see more often than not the classify it as either juvenile Disney/Pixar or Japanese insanity. The result is that so many full-fledged film fans are missing out on some extraordinary films (full stop) Most people don't see that there are many filmmakers today are simply turning out some the most incredible stories, but using pen and in or pixels to tell their stories. There are exceptions of course, some people are noticing and the tide is slowly turning and the legions of animation fans is growing, but for most people animation is still a considered a kids genre and the award something for kids films.

At the same time back in 1991 when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST got a Best Picture nomination the universe changed. The Academy, the knuckleheads that they frequently are realized that some animated films deserve to be at the big boy table. Of course that lasted a short period of time and in 2001 the Animated Feature award was created effectively short circuiting the notion that any animated film  would ever get the respect of live action features- because after all they had their own award now.

While I could continue to jump up and down and scream MORONS! at the Oscars and most film writers (As I last did in this piece last March) I’ll just take heart in knowing that since the Academy created an Oscar for animation the number of features hitting theater screens has gone up from a hand full to several dozen. It’s a glorious thing, because we are now getting some wonderful films in local cinemas and not just on home video. And the visibility for good animation is even higher when you realize most big festivals that are now running great animated films every year. The best part is that because of the festivals and some smaller releasing companies we are getting animation that is prodding Oscar to notice wider varieties of films.

While many companies release an occasional film the two companies outside of Disney/Pixar that are releasing highly regarded animated films with clockwork regularity are Funimation and GKids. Both companies are doing fantastic work and both  are part of the real reason for the growing acceptance of animation and the growing number of animated films flooding into the market.

Funimation is releasing the best non-Studio Ghibli Asian films to the US. While primarily a home video distributor they are do release films to theaters on a limited basis including this year’s Oscar hopeful YOUR NAME by Makoto Shinkai. Funimation has been around for decades and they cut their teeth on the vast anime market. I have dozens if not hundreds of their releases in my collection and I can’t say enough about how they opened my eyes to what was possible with the art form.

While Funimation is primarily focused on Japanese animation GKids just wants to release good films never mind where they are from. GKids is a splinter from The New York International Children’s Film Festival. A 20 year old New York institution NYICFF has been bringing the best films from around the world to New York audiences, many of which they now end up being released through GKids. NYICFF is a festival that works miracles and gets films that no one else can. Need proof that they have run Miyazaki shorts from the Ghibli Museum that the studio insisted would never play outside the museum. The only other time it has ever happened in New York was as a fund raiser in the wake of the 311 disaster.

I have been going to the festival since they started and I have seen the most amazing things that they have presented to their audiences. They are simply one of the best film festivals in the world and sadly largely ignored by adults who think it really is just for kids. It’s not, it’s for people who want to see great films. Its a secret that more and more true film fans are discovering. I should also point out that festival's high regard for great films has been noticed and they are an Oscar qualifying festival for shorts. More importantly more often than not multiple Oscar feature film nominees play there a year before being nominated. (The next festival runs February 24 to March 18- I’ll be having much to say closer to time)

WIth a reputation among filmmakers and governing bodies  it's not surprising that NYICFF started to release films themselves.

The film releasing arm, GKids, has grown over the last few years to the point where they are releasing some of the best animated films from around the world. Not only are they the people keeping the Ghibli films in theaters they are releasing films that getting animated Oscar noms by the boatful. Last year they had two films nominated for an Oscar,BOY AND THE WORLD and WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE which join previous nominees BOOK OF KELLS, CAT IN PARIS, CHICO AND RITA,  ERNEST AND CELESTINE, PRINCESS KAGUYA and SONG OF THE SEA. The fact that they are getting films outside of the Disney/Pixar mix seen by more people is changing the way some people are seeing animation. I’ve been told by a couple of film writers that they look to see what GKids releases to know what’s good outside of the Hollywood box. With five animated films on the Oscar hopeful list you can be damn sure that at least one or more of the films is going to be from GKids - more so since the company's MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI survived the short listing process for Foreign Language films to beat out many bigger name and highly hyped films to move to the next stage, meaning GKids may have a nominee in two categories this year.

And what of this year’s animated Oscar race? There are 27 films competing to make the cut and I’ve seen most of them. For the most part the animated features this year have all been pretty good. There are enough films that I think probably half of of the films have some sort of shot at getting a nomination. There is only one film that I think has no chance what so ever of getting a nomination.

In order to make the Animated Oscar race into something that  will mean something to you  here are my takes on each of the  films. Where we have reviewed the film I've provided a link to the review. (with 25 APRIL the link goes to the trailer).

“The Angry Birds Movie” - Pigs invade the world of birds and war results. Video game based film isn't bad with some very funny bits. The trouble is from a visual stand point its one of the oddest films ever made. All of the action is framed to be dead center of the frame watching the film on Netflix I actually stopped watching the film for the story but started to just watch how artificially constructed the film was. I enjoyed chunks of the film, but to be honest the film over all doesn't work enough to be seriously in contention for an Oscar.

“April and the Extraordinary World”- extraordinary animated film that plays like a graphic novel come to life. Its a beautifully realized world of the sort few filmmakers ever create. It a film that plays better a second (and third) time as you can go with the story and not worry about the details. This has a shot at making the final cut.

“Bilal” fact based adventure film about a kidnapped warrior fighting back against oppression. I have not managed to see the film yet.  The trailer makes the film look okay, with the script probably outshining the visuals which are serviceable.

“Finding Dory” ill advised sequel to FINDING NEMO has Dory suddenly remembering her parents and dragging Nemo and Marlin across the ocean to find them. Receiving largely positive, though not rave reviews there were also a lot of naysayers who found the short term memory gags borderline or out right offensive. For me the biggest problem with the film was the repetitive nature of the jokes as a few gags are repeated to the point where it stopped being funny. While I liked many of the new characters, I lost any feelings for Dory as her one note schtick became shrill. I have a lot of problems, not the least of which is that where in Nemo all the creatures were nominally anthropomorphic characters, here some, such as the squid or otters, are not for reason I can figure out. I don't really think the film has much of an Oscar chance outside of the film being produced by Pixar.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” I have yet to see it. I'm not in any rush, I doubt this has any real Oscar chance especially since the best thing I've heard about it was that it was a grab bag of good gags that didn't fit in the other films- which results in a film with no story. No one I know who saw it was all that positive on it.

“Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV” Tie into a recently released home video game is one of a growing number of films from Japan made to be features for the non-game players.  I have not seen the film yet but Joe Bendel has (the link is to his review) and while he calls it probably the truest cinematic adaption of a video game, it has problems because its coming from a game. While he liked the  film it is almost a certainty that Oscar will be going nowhere near it.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” I know people who were left sobbing messes by the film. I was impressed by the animation but had all sorts of trouble with the story which really didn't work for me (with much of the story much too obvious). Then again I'm not a fan of Laika the studio that produced it.  I'll be running a review and examination of the studio just after New Year. As for it's Oscar chances the film is almost certain to get an Oscar nomination and the love and awards it has found in some quarters make it one of the front  runners for the award.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” I've seen this in pieces thanks to home video and meeting up with friends and family while they were watching it. Its moving and touching with some great set pieces, but it's more of the same and I doubt Oscar will go to the well with a third nomination for the series.

“The Little Prince” Mark Osborne's film is a brilliant expansion of the classic novel. The adults I know who have clicked with it have been deeply moved. This is one of my most favorite films of 2016. I expect this to get an Oscar nomination because it is so damn good. If it isn't nominated then I'm guessing that the film was released by Netflix with only a token release worked against it.

“Long Way North”  Wonderful tale of a young girl who decides to go off and rescue her grandfather. A must see for any little girl because it shows them that they can do amazing things, this is also one of my favorite films of the year. I don't think this film will get Oscar nominated, there are other "better" films but I can dream it might because it is that good (and Oscar does some weird things)

“Miss Hokusai” The story of the artist daughter of the man who painted the painting The Wave, is a beautiful film about creation and art. I know several people in love with the film. I think this is just outside the Oscar nominated films- but close enough to possibly make it in to the final 5.

“Moana” Disney's Thanksgiving film made a mint the first three weeks of release by remaining the number one box office draw. As this piece goes up I have yet to see the film (I'm waiting to see if I can go with my 6 year old niece). My spies have all been positive to varying degrees on the film so I think the film has a shot at a nomination - but only if one of the films I think has a lock (see below) gets bumped off the list. That is a possibility, less because of quality rather simply because the film is a current release and is making a enough money to be news worthy.

“Monkey King: Hero Is Back” Jackie Chan does the lead voice. The film, ariff on the Monkey King story is great deal of fun. It's not the be all and end all but it manages to be entertaining from start to finish.  It doesn't stand a chance Oscar-wise-on the other hand who the heck really cares because on it's own terms it's really entertaining.

“Mune” I originally saw this film last year at the New York International Children's Film Festival. It has some of the most spectacular images ever put on screen the film with giant beasts literally dragging the sun and moon across the sky. The trouble was there was something about the story (of a dark lord manipulating the guardians of sun and moon for his own end) that didn't sit well with me. With the film in the running for an Oscar I arranged to get a second look at the film and I was surprised to find the film is much better than I previously thought. Looking at the film with fresh eyes, and not in the crush of festival screenings, I found that much of the film plays better than I first thought. I realized that any reservations I had were due to the English voice cast which is trying much too hard. The second time through it wasn't a problem and I enjoyed the hell out of the film. Definitely one to bring the kids to, As for the Oscar race I don't expect it to end up nominated since while it's enjoyable, it's not as strong as some of the other films.

“Mustafa &  the Magician” I can find no trace of this film on line other than it's listing as a potential nominee and its weak web page. The web page is so blah that it has a trailer for the film in 3D on it - you know the sort of thing you'd need glasses to see clearly- except there are no glasses so it blurry.  I have not seen the film but based on the trailer it looks to be an eh film done with computer graphics that are at least 20 years out of date. The film has no chance of an Oscar, though the filmmakers don't really care since in the trailer for this film they mention being on the Oscar short list several times before. (its not that hard just rent a theater, play your film for a week in LA and you're in)

“My Life as a Zucchini” Switzerland's Foreign Language Oscar entry runs just over an hour and its going to confound a hell of a lot of people- largely the people who don't know what to do about animation that isn't aimed at kids. The story of a young boy who ends up in an orphanage after accidentally killing his mother is an atypical look at what it's like to be a kid. Lighter than the source novel (which I'm told is bleak) this is one of the best animated films of the year. I am embargoed from a full review until the film is released in theaters in February but I am allowed to discuss the film and it's Oscar chances which are quite good. This week the film made the Foreign Language Short list over several greatly hyped films such as NERUDA, JULIETTA and ELLE. It was something that surprised me greatly, but it was a very very pleasant surprise. This is an incredibly high vote of confidence by the Academy and leads me to believe that it will end up with some sort of Oscar nomination - possibly even two because this stunning little film is being championed by GKids who know how to market films correctly (and because it is so damn good). With the very real potential for two nominations I think makes the film into one that has to be seriously mentioned as possible, if not probable Oscar winner. (I have much to say but a full review is coming at a later time)

“Phantom Boy” great detective adventure about a sick young man who can leave his body and fly around unseen. Probably not as good as the directors earlier Oscar nominated CAT IN PARIS but a great deal of fun. Its so enjoyable that I think this has a good shot at an Oscar nom.

“The Red Turtle” A masterpiece of cinema. I was moved beyond words by it. If you want an absolute certain nomination this is it. Films and filmmaking do not get much better than this.

“Sausage Party” rude crude and funny if you are so inclined, this tale of food discovering what their purpose in life is enjoyable fluff. If you want to know its Oscar chances all you need do is ask yourself if you ever thought something like the PORKYS films could ever get nominated.

“The Secret Life of Pets” is an amusing film about the secret life and how a bunch of pet friends  in New York band together to find two of their own. A TV sitcom on the big screen this works best as a collection of funny bits rather than an 80 minute movie. While the film set a record as the first non sequel to open with an over 100 million dollar weekend, I don't honestly think the film hangs together enough to warrant an Oscar nomination. This isn't to degrade the film rather to point out this is more a collection of jokes wrapped in a well worn and over used sitcom frame work. However because it made money and because it is frequently fall down funny this may end up with a real shot at Oscar, but only if one of the locks turns out not to be.

“Sing” This has not been released yet- look for it next weekend. While the trailers and commercials have delighted, word from the film festivals it's played has been mixed. I've been told there are super moments and some not so super ones. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing it but I doubt it will get any Oscar love outside of one for any original songs it may contain.

“Snowtime!” based on the book The Dog Who Stopped the War and the films that resulted from it, this is a pretty good little animated film about a two week long snowball fight that threatens to tear a small group of friends apart until it all ends with tragedy. Never a fan of the earlier versions of the story,  I'm still bothered by the ending, I can't see this getting a nomination though weirder things have happened

“Storks” I have not seen this film, but I've heard it's good from pretty much everyone I know who saw it during it's brief theatrical run. That said while no one hated it, no one raved which mean an Oscar nomination isn't even a remote possibilities.

“Trolls” I was hoping to see this with my niece but it didn't happen. Half the people I know thought it was one of the best animated films of the year and the other half thought it was the worst. Oscar won't take up the fight and they will completely ignore it unless it gets a music nomination.

“25 April” Documentary from New Zealand about the Battle of Gallipoli. It looks wonderful...but its non fiction nature is going to keep it out of the running.

“Your Name.” From Makoto Shinkai who directed two of my favorite films (VOICES FROM A DISTANT STAR and 5 CENTIMETERS A SECOND) and winner of numerous awards this is almost certain to be an Oscar nominee. I've not had a chance to see it but based on word of mouth- on line friends are insisting the film is a real deal- I'm going to this has a great shot at the gold statue.

“Zootopia” I will be shocked if the film doesn't get an Oscar nom, This life in an all animal world is excellent and may be the best of the big studio animated films this year. I wish it didn't look like many other Disney films because its so unDisney like that it should stand on it's own. It maybe one of the best animated films from Disney- but I need to see it again when I can see it for itself and not a potential Oscar nominee.

Those are my thoughts. Do I honestly think I'm going to be on target come January? I think I'll be close. I suspect that I'll have picked four of the five with one of the nominees being one being something unexpected. Here in list form is how I think the Oscar nominees will shake out.

MOST LIKELY TO GET A NOMINATION (I would bet the farm that some combination of these 6 titles make up the 5 Oscar nominees)

POSSIBLE NOMINATION-(These films have a good shot at making the cut if one of the above don't  thrill Oscar voters)



Check back after the nominees are announced January 24 to see how I did.