Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nightcap 3/18/18 The Kit Film Noir Festival and Boston Underground start this week and other upcoming festivals

Buy your snacks now because there are lots of films to watch (dark glasses optional)
The truly marvelous and absolutely kickass Kit Film Noir Festival starts Wednesday and if you are in NYC you MUST go

Think of all of the great noirs in one place playing over the course of one five day period and you have the festival. Seriously  you get THE MALTESE FALCON, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, LAURA, MURDER MY SWEET and many others all playing at Columbia University.

Its so incredible that I know people who are moving into the screening room for the week.

Go to your planner, cancel all your plans for the 21st through the 25th then go to the website and look at the schedule and  say to hell with it and just buy tickets for everything.

Seriously The Kit Film Noir Festival is the best thing you can do in New York.


The Boston Underground Film Festival starts Wednesday and runs through the weekend. Its full of great films so just buy a ticket and go.

Because of embargos I can't run new reviews until the day of the screenings so don't wait for my word just buy tickets for anything you are interested in. I highly recommend THE THETA GIRL, which is a throw back to weird 1970's drive-in exploitation  and TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID which is like a Guillermo del Toro film only better.

I also recommend REVENGE and one of 2017's very best TOP KNOT DETECTIVE. I'll be reposting reviews before the fest.

Basically just go and buy tickets.


Queens World Film Festival continues this week and we'll be running more reviews. Other than one film I've loved everything that I've seen so buy some tickets and go.


The next few weeks are going to be crazy so if you're looking forward to coverage of inde and festival films this is the place to be.

New Directors New Films is coming March 28 to MOMA and Lincoln Center and we'll have a good selection of films covered.

The What The Fest March 29 to the IFC Center in Manhattan and assuming this week's nor'easter doesn't wash out the tracks we'll have some reports from the press screenings.

The Kino Festival the annual collection of German films is coming. This is one of the great festivals of the year and is a must attend. A small word of warning - where in past years we've covered the entire festival, this year our coverage will be smaller owing to the fact that we've already done a number of the films

Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer is getting a tag team retrospective at The Japan Society and MOMA  starting April 12 (with Mizoguchi's A Story From Chikamatsu and Sansho the Bailiff  at Film Forum from April 6-12.) Its a killer retrospective with most films playing in each location, however check to be sure. Thanks to JB we'll have a good selection of reviews coming.

And complicating everything is the fact that the Tribeca pre-fest screenings start so we'll be distracted from everything else as we wade into the 100 plus features and lord know how many shorts.

And on top of the festivals we'll have new release coverage (and the last two episodes of THE ALIENIST) as well.So things are going to be crazy.

Trust me when I say we have lots of stuff coming- we do.  I've spent a portion of the last three months catching up with older films you probably missed or  never heard of which I figured would allow us to coast for a bit, but we've got so much new film and festival coverage coming that I keep pushing the old stuff back with the result that if I stopped reporting today Unseen would run uinto September.

Keep reading because we're going to keep reporting

Panic Attack (2017) Queens World Film Festival 2018

Eileen O'Meara's PANIC ATTACK begins with a woman at a stop light pondering if she left the coffeemaker on and then spiral outs as she deconstructs her life.

Beautifully animated so that one metaphysical crisis blends into the next this film score huge points and more laughs by nailing how our minds work when left untethered. How we get from A to B to Z makes absolute perfect sense not so much because it does but rather we all have done exactly that.

Rarely has three minutes been so perfectly spent.

This charmer is one of the best films at Queens World Film Festival and is absolutely something you have to track down.

Fucking My Way Back Home (2018) Queens World Film Festival 2018

A man in debt to bad man is hired to drive an escort to her clients for an evening and deduce if she is skimming money from their boss. In the middle of the evening  she gets a call that her mother has died and that if she doesn't have the  $50,000 for the rent owed by her mother on her house by the next morning it will be taken away and her relatives will put her daughter into a foster home.

To be honest this is a film with a great deal going against it, beginning with a contrived plot. Not only does it have a non-family friendly title which will prevent some bookings, the film barely runs over an hour with an official running time of 70 minutes. If there was a film doomed never to be seen this is it...

...which is a shame since if you can get past the fact that the plot makes zero sense, even the most contrived soap opera would never make up the incredibly stupid reasoning to set the action in motion this is a pretty good little drama on it's own terms. Seriously the whole time frame thing makes no sense and then marry it to the "we think the person is junkie stealing money" nonsense is just too much to take.  However if you  skip the set up and then just go with it the film turn out to be something nicely off beat.

Sure there are other bumps along the way but film has some really nice moments such as Megan talking to an old man while on a date and the exchanges between the main characters that reveal character more more than just move the plot work very well. Its good enough that I could recommend this film to people with a taste for small inde films who don't mind the bumps.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Screamers (2017) Queens World Film Festival 2018

SCREAMERS is not only the title of this film but also the description of the audience watching of the film as they implore it to do something other than be a "conceptual horror film" based on Kubrick's THE SHINING. (descriptions are those on the film's IMDB page and Queens World FF page)

Slow painful and mannered in ways no Kubrick's films never were SCREAMERS is horror film made by some one who doesn't understand what a horror film is and only seems to understand obtuse performance pieces. I say this since each shot, each line of dialog is purple with meaning. Everything oozes meaning for no serious reason.What those meanings are are not on the screen, but are held by the filmmakers who refuse to reveal them to the audience.

I grew weary of the intellectually intentionally contrived nature of it all and rapidly slid off to sleep... It took me several restarts to get through the film but it wasn't worth it.

Its not so much that anyone thought making a film like this would be a good idea, rather it's more a question of who did they think we would actually want to watch it?

I can't recommend this film.

The one clunker at this year's Queens World Film Festival

Before Summer Ends (2017) Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2018

Not long before one of them is set to return to Iran three Iranian friends take a week long road trip across France.

Part Road trip part mediation on life BEFORE SUMMER ENDS is a thoughtful film about life. Not really content to just talk about useless stuff the friends actually have deep and meaningful conversations about life, their homeland, their host country and everything else. The depth of the conversation is slightly unexpected since with some of the goofing around (not to mention discussion of farts) you'd think this was a bit less serious.

Gorgeous to look at, the film is carried along by the the actors who make you believe that the men at the center of the tale truly are great friends.

Worth a look.

Friday, March 16, 2018

No One Is Safe From Son of Sam (2018) Queens World Film Festival 2018

Excellent short documentary (screaming to be made into a feature film) about the Son of Sam case is a trip back 40 years to the summer of fear.

Made up of footage from WPIX in New York and containing interviews with veteran reporters Mary Murphy and Arnold Diaz, as well as archivist Rolando Pujol the film has a wonderful lived in and you are there feel. Having lived through the massive amounts of new coverage that surrounded the attacks this film brought back the feeling of what it was like to be there.

Expertly and vitally edited by director Heath Benfield the film has a living breathing quality to it that is missing from most other crime documentaries. Benfield sweeps us up and pulls us into the crime and the time in a way almost no other filmmaker has ever managed. Its so good that I would love to see if he could really explore the murders in a feature expansion of this short. If not I will be extremely happy just to know that this film exists.

Highly recommended. One of the very best films at The Queens World Film Festival.

Nothing Changes: Art for Hank's Sake (2016) Queens World Film Festival 2018

NOTHING CHANGES is a portrait of Hank Virgona who is director Matthew Kaplowitz‘s uncle. Virgona is an artist who has been making art in his Union Square studio since the 1950’s. He commutes from his home in Queens six days a week. While his health has deteriorated and his gait has slowed he still makes the trek into Manhattan hoping every day to discover little mistakes that reveal a greater truth.

In its way NOTHING CHANGES is one of the best portraits of an artist ever put on film. A soup to nuts look at the man and his life you will come out of the film knowing Virgona and his work better than most members of your family. Certainly you will know the man’s work intimately. More importantly you will come to understand why and how he creates his art. His is not a quest to make money but to discover some grater truth about life. This film will go a long way to explaining why anyone does what they do.

The reason the film works as well as it does is that the long interview with Virgona that makes up the spine of the film is filled out by wonderful talks with friends and colleagues who have known him for decades. They fill in details he leaves out at the same time giving his story some context. Through their eyes and words we come to understand just how good Vironga really is.

If there is potential problem with the film it would be that the film can be very intense is showing Virgona create. If you don’t fully click with watching him drawn and paint explain what he is doing the film could seem a little draggy. While the sequences made me a little weary at times and in the moment, by the time the film had ended I had forgotten about them. Frankly if I hadn’t made a couple of references to them in my notes I never would have mentioned them.

Over all this is a super film and highly recommended to anyone who loves art and the act of creation.

Nothing Changes plays Sunday March 18th at the Queens World Film Festival.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Shoulder (2018) Queens World Film Festival 2018

The Shoulder Trailer from Rebekah Nelson on Vimeo.
A man tries to help his drug addicted brother by taking him across country to get him off the drugs.

Killer film is a spot on portrait of what many people go through when they have to deal with a loved one in the thrall of drugs. A heart breaking story it clearly shows that often no good deed goes unpunished. Alternately heartbreaking and heartbreakingly funny this film will make you feel for our hero. It is a small portrait of a moment in time that kind of makes you wonder why we bother to help the people in need, while at the same time makes you understand why we bother to try.

While definitely worth your time I think it’s best to keep in mind that this is a moment in time and that there is no definite resolution. I was a little thrown because I expected closure and there isn’t any. Ultimately this could be spun out to a feature film- which I would gladly see if its as well done as this small gem.

THE SHOULDER is included in a block of films "Kicking It" premiering on Friday, March 16th at 7:45pm at the Museum of Moving Image. For tickets and more information go here.

12 Days (2017) Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2018

Riveting documentary chronicling what happens with in the court rooms where the fate of those involuntarily committed are examined by a judge to see if they can be let go. The screenings are based on a French law that requires a judge to weigh in on involuntary committals within 12 days of a patient entering a hospital.

Made up of 10 meetings between patients and judges the film is little more that a series of close ups of the patient and the judges. They are spaced by shots of the hospital hallways. Its very minimalist but absolutely captivating since there is so much drama in each encounter we simply can not look away.

Deeply moving and at times troubling look at how the mentally ill are treated in France. While it is clear that many of the people need help, its also clear that anyone of us is a hairs breadth from being locked up.

Highly recommended. This maybe the best film at this year' Rendez-Vous ith French Cinema

A parrothead looks at Escape to Margaritaville on Broadway

I saw Escape to Margaritaville on Broadway the other night. Because I had heard bits of the score on Jimmy Bufett’s radio station I was wary going in. They had rewritten some songs which didn’t always work. However as much as wary as I was of going I did have a good time. Taking it on its own terms it’s a fun evening. Its far from earth shaking but fun.

That said I have issues... and if you don’t want to know stop reading

While the cast is fine, the set looks good but the show is largely a mess beyond that.

The book is not really good. It’s a boy and girl meet on vacation tale that we’ve seen before but they have twisted and turned every action and every line of dialog to get in the maximum number of puns and references to Jimmy Buffett songs to the point of being distracting. Its designed to bring maximum joy to well versed Parrotheads. So much so that while I and many others laughed and giggled at all the references and the song lyrics turned into lines of dialog many others looked quizzical at why some people were laughing or clapping at a reference.

While jukebox musicals are often cash grabs, designed to make money on nostalgia, if done right (Ring of Fire, Mamma Mia) they don’t feel mechanical . Escape to Margaritaville is incredibly mechanical. While most certainly entertains, it plays like most Jimmy Buffett concerts over the last decade or so, as a mechanical money machine PT Barnum would be proud of. There is no pretense here to be anything more than being good enough to get people coming through the door to sing the songs and buy 11 dollar beers and 16 dollar margaritas from Buffett’s companies.

The biggest problem is that the score is large weak. Its not that the original songs are bad rather that most of the songs have been rewritten- some like It’s My Job to the point where you wonder why the hell they even bothered (if it wasn't a Buffett song this still born bastard version would have been tossed out) . Other songs are barely used with only a couple of lines fleetingly going by before disappearing. I understand modifying some of the songs to fit the play but they did it to almost every song. This is a jukebox musical where they removed chunks of the reason people were there. How can we sing along when we don’t know the words, only the melodies

That said when the songs work (they are the ones largely left alone)the show soars. Margaritaville is a wonderful ending to Act One. Cheeseburger in Paradise is perfectly used to describe one characters need for real food. Tin Cup Chalice, a song I’ve never been a big fan of, is so good it’s now become a favorite. And then there is He Went to Paris had me and several other people around me crying. It’s one of the best moments I’ve ever had in the theater. Most of the rest were okay or serviceable - but ultimately why didn't they just do new songs since they could have done more if the songs were not used as punchlines.

I do have to say the altered One Particular Harbor which I disliked when I heard it on Sirus/XM is great in context and is perfectly used with the changes fitting how it’s used.

As a real show it's not very good. Yes I had, and you will have, a good time. Yes I sang along, even with the heavy handed Why Don’t We Get Drunk sing along (which perplexed many in the audience). And yes I did Fins at the end (restrained myself during the show). Yes I left smiling, but thinking “yea well that was a thing” rather than needing to go back. I also wondered how I would have felt had the tickets not been discounted.

And no I can’t shake the feeling that its nothing but a money grab for the Buffett machine from top to bottom since all of the alcohol being sold and all the souvenirs are from Buffett's companies. It’s a kind of empty parrothead Disney.

Forgive me for bitching but I've seen a lot of jukebox musicals over the last 20 years of theater going and this is the first one that kind of missed the point with rewriting the songs almost to oblivion and then struggling badly to really link them

Yes I had a good time- and had there not been four or five moments where they got it dead nuts right I would have left it there but god damn it the show squanders what could have and should have been one of the best jukebox musicals to make something that is just okay and will probably last as long as a long vacation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Festival runs April 4–17 at the Castro Theatre, SFMOMA, the Theater at the Children's Creativity Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Dolby Cinema, the Roxie Theater, the Victoria Theatre, BAMPFA, and the Grand Lake Theatre
Sorry to Bother You
The complete lineup has been announced for the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival, running April 4–17 at venues in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

Browse the full public program info at

2018 SFFILM Festival by the Numbers:

183 Films
57 Narrative Features
37 Documentary Features
New Vision Features
Episodic Programs
83 Shorts
45 Countries Represented
46 Languages
World Premieres                                          
5 North American Premieres
US Premieres
66 Women Directors

Highlights from today's press conference included these announcements:

The Festival’s Opening Night selection is Silas Howard’s A Kid Like Jake, starring Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, and Octavia Spencer. Howard and other special guests are expected to attend the kickoff event on April 4.

Closing Night will be Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. Van Sant and composer Danny Elfman will present the film to close out the main 2018 Festival program on April 15.

The Festival’s 2018 award and tributes include honors for Wayne Wang (A Tribute to Wayne Wang), Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award), Annette Insdorf (Mel Novikoff Award), and Nathaniel Dorsky (Persistence of Vision Award), along with the previously announced Tribute to Charlize Theron.

Special live events include Blonde Redhead performing live with Yasujiro Ozu’s I Was Born, But… , A Thousand Thoughts – A Live Documentary by Sam Green and Kronos Quartet , A Celebration of Oddball Films with Marc Capelle’s Red Room Orchestra, and the 2018 State of Cinema Address by Canadian iconoclast Guy Maddin.

There is a particularly strong showing of films that have received support through SFFILM Makers artist development programs at this year’s Festival, with several SFFILM grant-winners making the cut. Supported films include the previously announced Centerpiece selection of Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink’s The Rescue List, and Jeremiah Zagar’s We the Animals.     

As previously announced, the SFFILM Festival is again featuring a slate of World Premieres as part of its Launch initiative, a boutique program designed to introduce a curated selection of films to screen for Festival audiences and select film industry representatives. Featuring five documentaries from the official Festival lineup, Launch serves as an alternative to larger-scale film sales environments elsewhere in the US.
2018 San Francisco International Film Festival
The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. The 61st edition runs April 4–17at venues across the Bay Area and features nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with close to $40,000 in cash prizes, and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.

SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world's finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 10,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services.

For more information visit

Action Figures: Prime Cuts from McQueen, Marvin, Bronson, and Brown March 31-April 12 at the Quad

The Quad explores another era of onscreen machismo with career highlights from four of cinema's most magnetic men: Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Jim Brown. With 16 titles (14 on 35mm) including The Dirty Dozen, The Magnificent Seven, The Professionals, and more!

Machismo can’t easily be defined, yet moviegoers can always sense when it manifests on the big screen. It has often materialized in the form of charismatic (read: cool) men who incite a mix of envy, admiration, and attraction in both sexes. In the 1960s, four of its most prominent practitioners parlayed their skills into cinematic immortality. They came from differing backgrounds and career trajectories: Steve McQueen had garnered attention on TV, Lee Marvin had exercised stage chops, Charles Bronson had toiled in journeyman roles, and Jim Brown was an NFL icon. Crossing over to the big screen, Brown broke down barriers as an African-American action star; Bronson carved out a distinctive taciturn persona; and McQueen and Marvin wrestled with audience expectations as well as their own drives and demons. Their respective paths sometimes crossed onscreen, as their roles took them back to WWII, into the West, and through 1970s grit. So saddle up, strap in, and clench fists for a wild ride with these tough guys.

Death Hunt Peter Hunt, 1981, U.S./Hong Kong, 97m, 35mm
Death Wish Michael Winner, 1974, U.S., 93m, 35mm
The Dirty Dozen Robert Aldrich, 1967, U.S./UK, 150m, 35mm
El Condor John Guillermin, 1970, U.S., 102m, 35mm
Emperor of the North Robert Aldrich, 1973, U.S., 118m, 35mm
The Getaway Sam Peckinpah, 1972, U.S., 123m, 35mm
The Great Escape John Sturges, 1963, U.S., 172m, DCP
Hard Times Walter Hill 1975, 93m, U.S. 4K DCP
Hell Is for Heroes Don Siegel, 1962, US, 90m, 35mm
The Killers Don Siegel, 1964, US, 93m, 35mm
The Magnificent Seven John Sturges, 1960, US, 127m, 35mm
Prime Cut Michael Ritchie, 1972, 88m, U.S., 35mm
The Professionals Richard Brooks, 1966, US, 117m, 35mm
The Sand Pebbles Robert Wise, 1966, US, 181m, 35mm
Slaughter Jack Starrett, 1972, US/Mexico, 92m, 35mm
The Stone Killer Michael Winner, 1973, US/Italy, 95m, 35mm

Something About Stray Dogs: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and a Kurosawa Retrospective at the Metrograph

Members Only Sneak Preview of Isle of Dogs on 3/21, with Six Films by Kurosawa
Curated by Wes Anderson, Who Will Appear In-Person!
"To people who love movies, Japan immediately conjures up the work of Akira Kurosowa: a cinematic sensei to generations of directors. If Isle of Dogs permits me an opportunity to present a few of the Master’s masterpieces in 35mm (which were on our minds and in our DVD players every day of the creating of this movie), I am grateful for it."  – Wes Anderson
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson/2018/101 mins/DCP) -  Members Only Sneak Preview
In a dystopian Japan, twenty years in the future, all the canine pets of Megasaki City have been rounded-up after an outbreak of Dog-Flu and exiled to a massive garbage dump called Trash Island. A twelve-year old boy named Atari journeys to the crumbling kingdom of garbage in his Junior-Turbo Prop plane to search for his dog Spots. Along the way, he makes the acquaintance of a ragtag ensemble of mutts—and begins to uncover a massive political conspiracy that will shake the city to its core. Exquisitely designed, innovatively scored by composer Alexandre Desplat, and featuring a vast array of voice talents from Anderson’s ever-growing family of collaborators, stop-motion delight Isle of Dogs is a wildly inventive addition to the director’s collection of constructed cinematic worlds.
Wednesday, March 21 - 9:30pm**
**Introduced by Wes Anderson

Six Films by Akira Kurosawa

Stray Dog (1949/122 mins/35mm)
A harrowing masterwork of postwar Nipponese noirStray Dog has a young Toshiro Mifune as a rookie detective disgraced after having his pistol nabbed on a Tokyo bus, driven into the city’s lower depths in order to seek clues to its recovery, the urgency of his mission increasing as the weapon is implicated in a crime spree, his composure unraveling as he draws closer to a culprit who comes to appear increasingly as a Dostoevskian double. Sustains a stifling summertime atmosphere, while shot through with passages of pure poetry.
Wednesday, March 21 - 4:30pm7:00pm**
**One of the key influences on Isle of Dogs, introduced by Wes Anderson.

Drunken Angel (1948/102 mins/35mm)
One of the greatest actor-director collaborations in all of cinema began with this film, Kurosawa’s eighth feature and his first to star Toshiro Mifune, the fierce, fiery actor—startlingly handsome, here—who would anchor many of the director’s finest works. Mifune plays a tubercular Yakuza who strikes up an unlikely (and often volatile) sort of kinship with Takashi Shimura’s alcoholic slum doctor. Raw and humane, and perhaps the first of Kurosawa’s fully mature works.
Saturday, March 24 - 10:45pm

Ikiru (1952/143 mins/35mm)
One of Kurosawa’s supreme achievements, Ikiru shows the director at his most compassionate—affirming life through a fearless explora­tion of the approach of death. Takashi Shimura beautifully portrays Kanji Watanabe, an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer who is impelled to find meaning in his final days. Presented in a radically conceived two-­part structure and shot with a rich, perceptive clarity of vision, Ikiru is a multifaceted look at what it means to be alive.
Monday, March 26 - 7:00pm

I Live in Fear (1955/103 mins/35mm)
Both the final film of this period in which Kurosawa would directly wrestle with the demons of the Second World War and his most literal representation of living in an atomic age, the galvanizing I Live in Fear presents Mifune as an elderly, stubborn businessman so fearful of a nuclear attack that he resolves to move his reluctant family to South America. With this mournful film, the director depicts a society emerging from the shadows but still terrorized by memories of the past and anxieties for the future.
Sunday, March 25 - 1:00pm

The Bad Sleep Well (1960/151 mins/35mm)
A young executive hunts down his father’s killer in Kurosawa’s scathing diagnosis of spiritual malaise in corporatized culture, The Bad Sleep Well. Continuing his legendary collaboration with actor Mifune, Kurosawa combines elements of Hamlet and American film noir to chilling effect in exposing the corrupt boardroom skullduggery of a prosperous-but-poisonous midcentury Japan, where intrigue is every bit as thick as back in Elsinore.
Saturday, March 24 - 5:30pm

High and Low (1963/143 mins/35mm)
Kurosawa’s staggering formal genius is on full display in this tense kidnapping thriller based on an Ed McBain novel and set in contemporary Japan, starring Toshiro Mifune as a rich industrialist thrown into a nerve-shredding situation, first believing his son has been kidnapped, only to discover it was his chauffeur’s child. Enveloping extended set pieces, constant visual invention, geometric precision of framing, and fascinating narrative structure make High & Low a gripping take on the animosity sown by vast economic disparity.
Friday, March 23 - 4:00pm9:30pm

The details for the Port Jefferson Documentary screening of LOVE CECIL on April 23


DATE/TIME: LOCATION: Monday, April 23, 2018 @7PM
 Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook, NY

TICKET PRICES: $7 General Admission, tickets sold at the door starting at 6:15 PM
Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council, 631-473-5220


In Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s visually stunning film LOVE, CECIL, the glamorous world of the fashion/ celebrity photographer and stage set designer, Cecil Beaton(1904-1980), comes alive. Using archival footage, interviews and readings from his diaries by actor Rupert Everett, we see the world as he transformed it, as he wished it to be. With sparkling wit and often unsparing criticism, the quintessentially British Beaton photographed luminaries of his era such as Great Garbo, Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn and pictured them in VOGUE magazine and Vanity Fair. His official pictures of the British royal family are iconic as are the stage sets and designs for GIGI and MY FAIR LADY which won him two Oscars.

The stylish society that Beaton documented, created and inhabited came crashing down when he scandalized the world of fashion in 1938 by inserting an anti-semitic slur into an illustration in American Vogue. He was fired from the magazine and his reputation was ruined. With many apologies and what looked like penance, he devoted himself to his work as a war photographer, capturing the solemnity and solidarity of Britons on the home front. Many of his photos at this time appeared in LIFE magazine. Postwar, he returned to his first love, photographing celebrities such as Dean Martin and Mick Jagger. Perhaps though, his most iconic work was what he created for the stage and then the screen: the Ascot race scene from MY FAIR LADY, for which he designed both the costumes and film set.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson/ Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Port Jefferson Documentary Series brings directors, producers, and stars of each film into the theater for an up-close and personal question-and answer session. Our guest speaker is Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

Country: USA.
Language: English
Release Date: 9/ 17 Runtime: 98 min. Awards: Audience Award, Hamptons International Film Festival, 2017

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series ( is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, Steve Bellone, County Executive

Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (2017) NYICFF 2018

Benjamin Renner and & Patrick Imbert’s THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES is a classic. Manic, insane, full of random references and damn funny it’s as if Chuck Jones or Tex Avery went to Europe and made a feature. It’s a film that begins with the first frame and ends with the last and is full belly laughs all the way through.

THE BIG BAD FOX... is three stories based on sketches and stories that Benjamin Renner has been creating since he was a kid. “Intended” to be three TV specials they were actually a backdoor feature conspiratorially put together by the film’s producer after Renner said he couldn’t get a story with the characters to reach to feature length. One the specials were near completion the producer asked that they be linked together so Renner came up with the idea of the animals putting on a show in three parts.

The first part, based on cartoons did for his brother when his daughter was on her way, has pig, rabbit and duck trying to deliver a baby when the stork comes up lame. The second part, based on Renner being told that chicks think the first thing they see is their mom, concerns a fox who steals some eggs only to have them hatch and the chicks think the fox is their mom. The last part is a Christmas story where rabbit and duck think they have killed Father Christmas and take steps to take his place.

I roared with laughter all the way through. So did the audience.

Filled with wonderful throw aways, Totororo, a crepe recipe, Looney Tunes, and many more. As someone from the festival said, you’ll want to watch this with a remote in hand so you can pause it to see the things that go whizzing by.

I can’t recommend this film enough. I could go into a big discussion of each story but why? The joy is in seeing the gas for yourself. Why would you want me to spoil it.

This film is a masterpiece of screen comedy- live action and animated. An absolute must see when GKids releases it.

One of the best films of 2018.

Below is the first ten minutes of the Q&A that followed the March 11th screening. It was shot from the back of the theater so please excuse any imperfections

SXSW ’18: Milford Graves Full Mantis

You could say Milford Graves is an experimental jazz musician. He is the co-holder of a medical patent and often records the human heart as part of a long-term holistic musical project. Graves is also generally considered part of the free jazz school, but as is often the case, that label is not sufficient for his music. Graves’ former student Jake Meginsky and co-director Neil Young document the percussionist’s music and ideas in Milford Graves Full Mantis, which screens at this year’s SXSW.

Graves has played with some of the greatest names in free jazz. In fact, we hear him playing with a decidedly free group early in the documentary. However, whenever Grave’s percussion is front and center, it is totally accessible. We can hear African and Asian influences in there, but we are always talking about rhythm—sometimes boisterous and sometimes hypnotic, but always propulsive.

To approximate the experience of their lessons, Meginsky prompts Graves to speak his peace during Full Mantis—and he has a lot to say. Some of his ideas are a bit out there, but they are the eccentricities of a survivor. He has lived quite a life, having worked as a trained physician’s assistant (making us wonder if he ever played with Eddie Henderson, the jazz M.D.) and made it through the tumult of the 1960s in relatively intact.

He generally seems philosophically and empathically inclined, particularly during a concert in Japan at a school for autistic children. For most musicians, that would have been a tough gig, but he and dancer Min Tanaka use rhythm to reach the student on a profound level. Nor do they let it ruffle their feathers when some of the kids encroach on the performance space and in some cases start playing along. Fortunately, somebody captured it on a video camera, because it is an absolutely extraordinary performance that is quite moving, both emotionally and physically, in a toe-tapping kind of way.

The Japanese concert is such a crescendo, it probably should have concluded the film, but there is at least one more sequence that will stick with viewers for a long time to come. Graves relates a harrowing 1960s encounter with street crime and racism that sort of cuts both ways from the perspective of current gun and law enforcement controversies.

Full Mantis ranges freely across topics that interest Graves, including martial arts (that is where the mantis reference comes in), medicine, and of course music. His fans would not want it any other way. Meginsky and Young might just win over some new ones for him with their meditative yet surprisingly zesty treatment. Highly recommended anyone who enjoys feeling some rhythm, Milford Graves Full Mantis screens again tomorrow (3/15) and Friday (3/16), as part of the 2018 SXSW.

Queens World Film Festival Shorts: Atomic Mother, Mr Food, Mountains, All The World's a Stage, Blackmoor, Alphabet

L.E. Salas hypnotic meditation on atomic war sucks you in drags you along. More an emotional plea rather than a reasoned discussion it is a film that gets under you skin and sucks you along. It viscerally writes on your soul the understanding of what using atomic weapons means, especially their cost.

Highly recommended.

Amusing short animated film made by Peter Lozado in his Middle School class about a small monster eating and eventually meeting a bigger creature. It nicely has some chuckles in it.

A woman dances and finds flight in it.
Excellent little music video is a companion piece to the excellent GIRL WALK ALL DAY thanks to the girl at the center of this film is the rotoscoped image of Anne Marsen who is the girl in GIRL WALK. (I recognized her from her movement and not the credits). This wonderful marriage of image and music is highly recommended.

Sam West recites the speech from Shakespeare which is then beautifully animated so as to illustrate it. Its a stunning piece of art that makes a case for letting  filmmaker Hanes Rall lose on the entire play. A must see.

At an isolated cottage a man appears looking to buy the place. As he is shown around we get the  feeling he knows the place well already. Moody little stinger makes you want to see where it goes. heart felt little film where everything comes together in absolute perfection

Strange animated film about a person reconnecting with the alphabet of life. Bizarrely cool I honestly have no idea what it means or what I'm suposed to think of it but it is intriguing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zombillenium (2017) NYICFF 2018

ZOMBILLENIUM is a blast. A wonderful monster tinged story about family and workers’ rights.

Set in an amusement park set up on the site of a mine that broke into hell, it is a place where monsters and the undead can find a place to work and be safe. After an overzealous safety inspector is killed on the site and returns as a monster, Satan tells the manager of the park he’s going to close it down because it isn’t making a profit. This sets in motion a battle between the vampires and everyone else to make enough money to keep it open. Meanwhile the now demonic inspector wonders how he can repair being a terrible dad and dying to his daughter.

Driven by a great rock score and some great characters ZOMBILLENIUM is a great deal of fun. I laughed and smiled and sat on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen. This was a film that I simply lost myself in and just went with. Yea I know it has things like workers’ rights and parental responsibilities on its mind, but I didn’t care because I was just carried along by the events transpiring on the screen.

Seeing it the New York International Children’s Film Festival I was unsure what the audience was thinking. The small audience seemed to be paying attention, but I couldn’t get a read, but then things started happening in the third act and the audience reacted with cheers and applause. The kids sitting in front of me who have read the source comics were absolutely delighted.

Joe Bendel who was sitting next to me said that if they dub it into English correctly the studio doing so is going to make a mint. I tend to agree since the mix of chills and intelligence puts this light years ahead of other animated films for older kids or adults. It’s the sort of film that were it live action would be the start of a long running franchise.

I love this film a great deal.

I should note that the screening I attended was in 3D. Does it need to be in 3D? No not really. That said it does add a wonderful sense of depth to the proceedings that was really cool.

Highly recommended for horror fans and anyone who wants to see just a really good movie.

ZOMBILLENIUM has one more screening this weekend at NYICFF (in 2D) so if you’re in NYC go buy tickets and go

Waiting For The Barbarians (2017) Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2018

Six travelers flee into the country and seek refuge with a mage and his wife in order to be safe from the Barbarians.

Love it or loath experimental film plays with the fourth wall and the nature of reality, letting us know at the outset that this is a film. All the shots are tableau-like and the language is intentionally purple. What we are seeing is without a doubt an artificial construct. Whether you can go along or not is a matter of individual choice.

Created during some sort of workshop exercise, the film holds out its pretentiousness like a badge of honor. While in this case it is an indication of a high degree of intelligence behind it all, it doesn't make for particularly interesting viewing as we are always kept at distance from what is happening on screen. For me it just made me want to leave early into the proceedings.

Recommended only for a select audience.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Steve's thoughts on White Fang (2018) NYICFF 2018

While Joe Bendel already reviewed WHITE FANG I'd like to take a minute and just add my two cents.

Shot in Ultra widescreen- even a big screen TV isn't wide enough- this film looks like a textured paintings come to life.A kin to LOVING VINCENT is look at times this film simply pleases the eye with every shot.

While not graphic, it keeps the violence just off screen, the film doesn't shy away from the nastiness of life hundred or so years ago. People are ugly, violence happens both in the wild and the world of men. We are not spared anything. The result was an audience of kids that audibly reacted when things happened on screen getting upset when unhappy things happened and applauding when the good ones did. Many parents were wiping tears from their eyes at the end.

It is a stunning achievement and I would be shocked if it doesn't end up with an Oscar nomination at years end.

Highly recommended.

Ariela on KEEP THE CHANGE which opens Friday

KEEP THE CHANGE played at Tribeca last year. With the film opening Friday here is a repost of Ariela's review from last year.

Keep the Change is a different movie than one I'm used to. The film centers around a group of people with autism (played by non professional actors who have autism). The films main stars are David(who actually sat two seats away from me at the screening), and Sarah.

David has to go to a autistic community group after telling an inappropriate joke to a cop about a pig. He is more functioning than some of the others, and feels he doesn't need to be there. During one of the lessons he is grouped with Sarah. The group leaders instructs them to go to the Brooklyn Bridge together (to which David makes a joke about jumping off the bridge). At first David seems annoyed and doesn't want to be bothered by Sarah, but their relationship winds up growing and blossoming.

I think because this is an area I am unfamiliar with, some of the lines that the audience laughed at, I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to laugh at or not. Some scenes such as them kissing felt awkward for me.

Keep the Change is sweet and funny and honest. Sarah especially is very open with how she expresses herself, which was impressive. She always said what was on her mind(which wasn't always a good thing!)

I don't think there are many movies that show romance in this world so it was nice to be exposed to it. To see that even though people are different and may have a disability that they still have the desire and ability to love.

I recommend it!

THE ALIENIST: Episode 8: Psychopathia Sexualis

The team locks in a suspect as Connor takes steps to permanently stop the investigation with dire results.

In what might be the shortest episode of the series, sans commercials, it's all plot as the the investigators follow their respective leads that all lead back to the same suspect. Clearly they now know who the killer is. 

What makes the episode one of the most intense are the events in the second half which puts the lives of everyone in danger as Connor and his goon squad take drastic steps to prevent the alienist from solving the crime.  Clearly the forces of law and order are just as bad if not worse than the serial killers of old New York.

I audibly gasp "not now!" at the fade out because I couldn't believe that were ending it there.

I can't believe there are only two episodes left. I'm desperate to see how it all ends- even though having read the book I know how it all ends.

Any one know if they've greenlit the sequel Angel of Darkness?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Making the Grade (2018) SXSW 2018

Portrait of a spectrum of people studying for the graded piano exams in Ireland and their teachers. The students range in age from small children to older adults. They all share a love of music and a desire to be as best as they can be.

A sweet little film appears to be little more than people sitting at pianos and playing and practicing. However the film quietly reveals itself to be something more as all the students and teachers explain why they play, why they teach and what music means to them. It’s a film that builds in power as it goes on as all the words build to a quite swell of emotion.

What truly makes the film special are the frequent flashes of insight or pithy exchanges that punctuate the film. When the guard is down and the inner selves comes out the film sings with life and laughter such as when a nun is flummoxed by a student who asks about her costume. It does not go as expected and the result is sting of laughter. It’s the stings of laughter and the unexpected moments of understanding that lift the film up from being just another music documentary and make it something special.

Worth a look when it plays at at SXSW. For more information and tickets go here.

Queens World Film Festival starts Thursday

Queens World Film Festival starts Thursday and if you can get to Queens you should go. It is a huge sprawling event taking place in multiple venues across the borough and screening hundreds of films. I could be wrong but I think it may be the largest film festival in New York City as to film count. Best of all it is an extremely well programmed festival with films for everyone.

Admittedly Unseen Films has not given the festival the attention it deserves. It’s a major mistake on our part because the festival keeps being the place where great films and great filmmakers come to New York and I’m constantly kicking myself for missing a great film I could have seen earlier at the festival.

One of the (happy) problems with the festival is there are simply way too many movies. Don’t let the fact the majority of films are shorts fool you, they are all kick ass films. Films like BLACKMOOR have the impact of a full-fledged feature. Other films like ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE are true pieces of art, and SOMETHING IN THE DARK is just creepy scary. There is a vast embarrassment of riches.

In picking the films to screen I went with the films that instantly made me say yes without a thought. There was a long list and I had to triage somehow. I also included the films I was sent by filmmakers. I love to see films from filmmakers who are willing to do what they have to do to get their films seen and one of the best parts of the festival is thatthey always pick filmmakers who are approachable about their work.

Reviews will start closer to the festival start and there is some great stuff playing. Actually I’ve really liked everything that I’ve seen so much so I can’t wait to go through the remaining films. But don’t wait for me just go to the festival website and buy tickets.

SXSW ’18: People’s Republic of Desire

Chinese live-streaming might not have the weird fetish appeal of the Japanese idol industry, but the fake egalitarianism and built-in exploitation make it even more perverse. Popular hosts and singers on the YY streaming platform can make tens of thousands of dollars per month, but the system is still stacked against them. Molecular biologist-turned documentarian Hao Wu dives deep into the YY ecosystem in People’s Republic of Desire, which premiered at this year’s SXSW.

Shen Man is an up-and-coming YY host, who is the sole support of her unemployed father and step-mother. She will be a genuine contender during the annual YY competition, because she has a number of well-heeled patrons and a major YY talent agency backing her. If you read YY’s media kit, it probably makes the platform sound like an egalitarian place, where average folk determine who is successful with their votes and on-line buzz. In reality, they might be able to boost a host from obscurity to a modest following, but once big-dollar patrons start throwing online (but very real) money around the live-caster’s “showroom,” the serfs are effectively frozen out of the action.

Big Li is maybe the last exception. He is considered the “diaosi” (a hard to translate term for a homely underclass male) who made good. He is the last of the unagented hosts who will meaningfully compete in the YY contest. A win will bring online fame, as well as more sponsors and hopefully gifts, but it comes at a price. Agencies will spend hundreds of thousands ofreal dollars on online votes, which they charge back to clients, making second place an expensive disappointment.

Wu follows both hosts through two competitions and a very messy year of scandals and personal strife in between. Wu’s approach is primarily sociological, with a special focus on the disenfranchised diaosi, who become increasingly disconnected from the live-streamers they helped build. There is also a pronounced element of sexism in how female live-streamers are treated. Even top talent like Shen Man must regularly field vulgar comments and many of their patrons clearly expect sexual favors in exchange for financial support.

However, we see enough of the inner workings of YY and major agencies (many of whom seem to be bankrolled by sketchy underworld types) to know this racket is fishy. Frankly, someone should do a full-scale expose of the Chinese live-streaming industry, but there is not exactly a robust tradition of investigative journalism on the Mainland.

Desire manages to make Western social media look less corrosive and divisive, which is definitely quite an achievement. As director and editor, Wu shows a keen eye for human drama, but still gives viewers a good overview of the bigger picture. He vividly illustrates the disparity between migrant workers and the oligarchical patron class, without belaboring the point. Highly recommended as a snapshot of contemporary Mainland society, People’s Republic of Desire screens again this afternoon (3/11) and Wednesday (3/14) during SXSW ’18.