Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nightcap 2/19/17 New York Children's Film Festival Starts Friday. Winter Film Awards Starts Thursday, Happy Birthday to Unseen Films, ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS and THE GREAT WALL

Window Horses one of the best films of 2016 is the hidden treasure of NYICFF 2017

Friday is the start of 20th annual New York Children’s Film Festival

That should have sent you to the NYICFF website to buy tickets if you haven’t already because festivals don’t get better than this.

As I have been saying for the last two decades you don’t have to be a kid simply love good films to go. And if you don’t trust my opinion regarding what’s good consider that it is a qualifying festival for short films for the Oscars. Also consider that they are programing Oscar nominated features a year before they are nominated. Yes they are that good.

Our coverage is going to run through the entire festival. This year I’m not going to be close to covering everything – there are too many conflicts within the festival for it to work for me. (I’m sorry I could ask for screeners and get you coverage that way but NYICFF is one fest you need to be in the trenches for to understand why it rocks- the staff, the volunteers and the audiences are to be cherished and being there is the among the best film going experiences I have each year)

Go buy tickets.

Our coverage begins tomorrow with my review of MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI. Joe Bendel reviewed it earlier for Sundance (link below)- but I’m taking a crack at it as well. Then we’ll be reporting from each day attended- which looks to be most of them.

My advice is not to wait and go yourself- there is some great stuff screening so go buy tickets.

If you aren’t buying tickets to everything here is our NYICFF MUST LIST

WINDOW HORSES (one of 2016's best films)
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (Joe Bendel's review)
PANDA GO PANDA- Its Miyazaki working in support of Isao Takahata. Its goofy and silly and just fun. (Just don't expect the depth of Ghibli)
Anything else they screen-no I'm serious anything they screen is worth trying. I mean that- and after 20 years there has only been a single film that I really didn't feel that belonged there.

For tickets and more information go here.


Thursday The Winter Film Awards Film Festival begins and for me it’s one of the great discoveries of the year. While this is the festival’s sixth year this is the first year that I have actually interacted with it. That’s not meant to be anything bad, its simply to say that since Unseen covers around 60 festivals a year so we miss some- even here in our home of New York City.

I had the festival put squarely on my radar when I was sent an email asking if I wanted to cover it. I was originally going to just put together a cut and paste piece concerning the fest but then I started to look at the festival’s films and suddenly I realized that there was a large number of films that I wanted to see – I mean a really large number of films. I then chucked the idea of a cut and paste and emailed the festival to ask about coverage.

What came of the exchange of emails is that I’ve now seen about twenty of the films they are screening, both features and shorts and I have to say that this a festival that is wonderfully curated. As I’ve said I’ve seen twenty films and none of them is really bad. I think the worst thing I have to say about any of the films is that if I was seeing it outside of the festival I would have raved about it but basically it’s the least jewel in an embarrassment of riches.

This is an amazing festival.

What I love about it is that they have scheduled the screenings in blocks of two and a half hours or more. What you get is either a huge block of shorts or a mix of features and shorts together (and even some double features). You are most certainly getting your money’s worth. Pick a film and try something. Odds are you’ll like what you see- and if one thing doesn't float your boat something else in the block will..

We will have reviews starting tomorrow and running through the festival but to get you started here are my personal recommendations:

Rain The Color Blue With Some Red In It- premiered at the Harlem Film Festival. A riff on PURPLE RAIN but set in Africa this film was one of the great finds of 2016 and now it's back and it's a must see. (click on the link for my review)
Be Afraid- a scary throwback to there is something weird going on in the woods horror film
Lila- a beautiful semi animated short about a girl who’s sketches bring whatever is missing into life. One of my favorite films so far this year
Moon of a Sleepless Night- charming short about a boy and a squirrel who have to free the moon from a tree
Train Driver’s Diary- fantastic feature about a train driver and his adopted son. Great people mix with a dark humor to make something special
Corpse Series- one of the funniest films of any length from the last several years is a bloody vulgar comedy about two roommates who keep ending up with dead bodies. One of the best films I've seen in 2017
Zombies-a very good film about two people trapped in a room during a zombie apocalypse

Go see something. Go to the website and get tickets
It’s birthdays all around- today is my brother  and occasional contributor Joe’s Birthday (Happy Birthday baby bro) and tomorrow is Unseen Film’s Birthday. Tomorrow we will be seven and as I always say at this time – how the hell did we get here?

I have no clue.

I babbled back in January about the future so I won’t do that now-more so because things have shifted again- but more on that another time.

I would like to take the time to thank you all for reading. Over the last seven years where I went from one guy in a room writing to a website that has 17 regular contributors and many more occasional ones. We’ve gone from no one knowing who we were to being a place some filmmakers seek out because we were recommended to them. Our reviews have been quoted in trailers, on posters and in other promotional material.

Who would have thought it?

We are now, as we have always been, rough jagged and imperfect but always heartfelt. We say what we feel and speak our minds. I love that Unseen is a place where you can get a second opinion and are pointed toward things that aren't part of the herd.

I could go on  but I'm going to skip it this year and just say thank you again for coming along on this long crazy trip.

Lastly I have to thank (alphabetically) Alec, Ariela, Bob, Bully, Dave, Eden, Greg, Hubert JB, Joe, John, Ken, Lauren, Lesley, Nate, Pat, Peter, Randi, Roy, for helping make Unseen what it is. You guys and gals are the heart of the Unseen Family and I love you all dearly.
Briony Kidd's THE ROOM ON AT THE TOP OF THE STARS is currently on the Shudder streaming service. The film is the story of an art student who takes the room of a former student who seems to still be haunting the room.

Its a very good short film that is worth a look see.

(Sorry I'm saying more it's one of those shorts you need to see and not read about)
I saw THE GREAT WALL in IMAX 3D yesterday and had a blast.

Essentially men and women in armor fighting monsters this film is eye candy of the highest order. There is no depth but that which we bring to it- it's just soldiers and monsters fighting.

I know the casting of Matt Damon has resulted in flack but be honest there are no characters only archetypes. If you dropped in Asian actors into the film it would play exactly the same.

The ten year old in me thinks this is the greatest film ever-its what I would have done with action figures.

THE GREAT WALL is ultimately our dreams made real. It is what cinema is all about.

It is probably one of my favorite films of 2017.
No links this week- sorry
This week is full of new releases and festival reviews.

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