Sunday, November 18, 2018

One of 2018's best The World Before Your Feet opens Wednesday

This is a two part review. The first part is the review as written right after seeing the film. The second part is an addendum written a week after I first saw the film

Jeremy Workman is one of the best filmmakers I've run across. He finds these wonderful off the beaten path people and makes absolutely compelling films that change the way you see the world. His latest film THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET has just premiered at SXSW and it is absolutely a charmer.

The film is a portrait of Matt Green who has been walking all of the streets of New York City for the better part of the past decade. We watch as he walks the streets, meets people, and takes pictures of what he sees. We also get to know Matt via interviews with friends, family and ex-girlfriends.

You would think that a film about a guy walking would grow tiring but it doesn't. Thank to Jeremy Workman's expertise we find ourselves falling in step with Matt and his crazy walk. Workman makes sure that we are always full engaged by thinking ahead and answering all of the questions we might have at just about the time they pop up in our heads. He's so good at providing answers to everything that despite my initial thought that I would like to do interviews concerning the film, I can not in good conscious think of more than one or two things that aren't addressed in the film.

What makes the film work is that the film isn't just about Matt and his walk but about the city and the people in it. Matt isn't just walking the city but documenting it as well on his website. Researching what he sees he details what the things he sees are on line. Within the film he details things like the movement of the Jewish communities out of neighbors as witnessed by the synagogues being turned into churches, and how the various neighborhoods deal with tragedy as witnessed in the wide variety of 911 memorials. Matt also engages everyone he meets and as a result we get a portrait of the people across the city.

What thrilled me was that watching Matt walk and listening to him explain what he's seen I've been forced to rethink how I see the world. As someone who loves to walk around New York he opened my eyes to a good many things that I always took for granted.

This film has left me speechless. I need to see this film a couple more times to fully appreciate everything that is in it.

Highly recommended.

ADDENDUM- Thoughts a week after first seeing THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET
Jeremy Workman is a genius.

Yes I’ve drunk the Kool Aid, but if you’ve been following his career since the start you’d be in line for a refill as well. No one is making films quite like his and as a result we are the better for it. His films are not one and done, “what’s next?” affairs. They are fascinating portraits of outsiders who are revealed to be not so outside.

In MAGICAL UNIVERSE he profiled Al Carbee, an artist he stumbled up during a trip and who sent him hours of video tapes. It’s a weird and wonderful portrait of guy who wonderful art with Barbies. In his short ONE TRACK MIND he profiled Philip Ashforth Coppola who is drawing all of the subway stations in New York. For anyone who has ever traveled around the city via subways it’s an eye opening experience. Coppola forces us to reevaluate what we see every day and our notions of what art is since be suddenly see the true beauty of something incredibly utilitarian. This film is currently being screened as part of a show of Coppola‘s art at the Transit Museum in New York’s Grand Central Station. I attended the show and watched as people walked through the exhibit and ended with Jeremy’s film intending to watch a little and then leave. Instead they stood watching the entire film and then went around the exhibit a second time because they had to go back and see the things they missed. (I know this because I asked and I overheard them talking)

This brings me to THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET. It has haunted me since I saw it. There is something about the film that has stayed with me. I’ve been pondering how Matt Green sees the world. Thinking endlessly about how he linked up the history of the city. Mostly I’m just wondering how much of New York I haven’t seen even in the sections of the city I know.

And I can’t stop thinking about the film.

Is it one of 2018’s best films? Oh yes.

For me a film should really at least one of two things entertain or inform. World does both. Watching Green wander the city and talk to people is a blast. It simply is fun. We have a genuine good time as we travel along with him. Additionally it tells us things we probably didn’t know. In being a curious person and needing to fill in details for his website Green has become a human encyclopedia of NYC history and we are better for it.

I can’t stop pondering what it has shown me to really think rationally about the notion of “best”. What is best any way , great cinematography? A moving story? I don’t really know. I think it would be easier to say it’s one of my favorite films of the year- which means it’s better than best since Best films are forgotten and favorite films live on forever in your heart. The World Before Your Feet is going to live on forever in my heart and referenced every time I walk New York, which makes it truly something special

Thank you Jeremy Workman for something truly special.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas (2017)

DREAMING OF A JEWISH CHRISTMAS is the Christmas special you always wanted but never realized you did. The film, up for an international Emmy on Monday, is a killer look at the classic holiday songs, most of which were written by Jewish composers. As someone said why would you write a song that only 3% of the population will sing when you could write one that 97% would.

Charting the experience of the Jewish immigrants into American society the film shows us he influence that they made in popular culture. In charting the course of the various songs (many of which are performed in glorious and unexpected ways) we see how people’s ideas of Christmas changed from a purely religious holiday to something secular. We see how the collision of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas in December 1941 created the nostalgia for a past that never was (the song’s speaking of the idea of home meant so much to the soldiers fighting across the globe).

While the film is primarily about the “Jewish” Christmas the film also deals with the experiences of other minorities, particularly the Chinese. While it could be seen as stereotypical to say that Jews went to Chinese restaurants on Christmas because they were the only ones open, the fact is that Christmas was often the busiest day of the year kind of indicates there being more to the stories than we might think.

I love this film. I love that despite the title this is about all of us in one way or another.

Highly recommended.

Clyde Cooper (2018)

I was not planning on watching, let alone reviewing CLYDE COOPER.  I was in the middle of DOC NYC and I didn't have it in me chase down a screening link. Then the distributor sent me a whole bunch of links as a Halloween treat...and at a point when I never wanted to see another documentary again I sat down and gave it a shot...and damn its really good.

Set in the near future the plot is set in motion when Cooper is hired by a rich tech investor to find a certain woman. She is the love of his life and wants her back. Of course things go side ways.

Jordi Vilasuso is Cooper and he needs to make this a series. Vilasuso does a modern day up date of the hard boiled detective thing perfectly. He's tough and smart ass and always seems to be in control even when he isn't. While there are some bumps here and there in the film Vilasuso is always on target and he carries things along.

Yes, we've seen this sort of thing before but the script by director Peter Daskaloff is perfectly balanced so we don't care. Daskaloff as both writer and director knows how to lull us into going with the film and just having a good time. I enjoyed myself so much that I've been talking it up since I saw it.

Is this high art? Oh hell no but it is cinematic comfort food of the highest order.

CLYDE COOPER is recommended when it hits VOD on November 22

Friday, November 16, 2018

The dates and first films of the New York Jewish Film Festival

               THE JEWISH MUSEUM AND

               THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

               ANNOUNCE THE 28TH ANNUAL

               NEW YORK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL,

JANUARY 9–22, 2019
Opening Night: New York Premiere of Eric Barbier’s Promise at Dawn, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney
Centerpiece: U.S. Premiere of Israeli miniseries Autonomies

NEW YORK, NY (November 15, 2018) – The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 28th annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF), January 9­–22, 2019. Among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide, the NYJFF each year presents the finestdocumentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experienceFeaturing new work by fresh voices in international cinema as well as restored classics, the festival’s 2019 lineup includes over 30 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic, of which many will be screening in their world, U.S., and New York premieres. Screenings are held at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, NYC.

The complete lineup, including main slate selections and special events, will be announced in December 2018.

The NYJFF opens on Wednesday, January 9, with the New York premiere of Eric Barbier’s epic drama Promise at Dawn, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney. This riveting memoir chronicles the colorful life of infamous French author Romain Gary, from his childhood conning Polish high society with his mother to his years as a pilot in the Free French Air Forces. The Centerpiece selection represents the first time Israeli TV has been presented at the NYJFF with the 3½ hour miniseries Autonomies. Directed by Yehonatan Indursky, the dystopian drama is set in an alternate reality of present-day Israel, a nation divided by a wall into the secular “State of Israel,” with Tel Aviv as its capital, and the “Haredi Autonomy” in Jerusalem, run by an ultra-Orthodox religious group. A globally relevant tale of identity, religion, politics, personal freedom, and love, this gripping story follows a custody battle that upends the fragile peace of the country, pushing it to the brink of civil war.

Filmmaker Amos Gitai returns to the 2019 NYJFF with the U.S. premiere of his thought-provoking new drama, A Tramway in Jerusalem. Gitai uses the tramway that runs through Jerusalem to connect a series of short vignettes, forming a mosaic of Jewish and Arab stories embodying life in the city.

The NYJFF will also present the U.S. premiere of Fig Tree by first-time director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian. Set in Addis Ababa during the Ethiopian Civil War, the film concerns a young woman who plans to flee to Israel with her brother and grandmother to reunite with her mother. But she is unwilling to leave her Christian boyfriend behind and hatches a scheme to save him from being drafted.

This year’s festival features an array of enlightening and gripping documentaries. Highlights include the New York premiere of Roberta Grossman’s Who Will Write Our History, which uses painstakingly compiled archival materials unearthed after World War II to tell the story of a resistance group in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation and the reality of Jewish life in occupied Warsaw; and Rubi Gat’s Dear Fredy, focusing on Fredy Hirsch, a proud and openly gay Jew in Nazi Germany and, later, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, who oversaw and protected hundreds of children in the camps by setting up a day care center.

NYJFF special programs include the New York City premiere of the new digital restoration of Ewald Andrew Dupont’s 1923 silent masterpiece, The Ancient Law, featuring a new score and live accompaniment by pianist Donald Sosin and klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals. In this classic drama the son of an orthodox rabbi leaves home, against his father’s wishes, to join a traveling theater troupe.

NYJFF ticket information and the full festival schedule will be available at NYJFF.org in late December.

This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Director, THE OFFICE performing arts + film; Gabriel Grossman, Coordinator, New York Jewish Film Festival/The Jewish Museum; Miriam Niedergang, short film curatorial consultant; and Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator, The Jewish Museum and Director, New York Jewish Film Festival; with Dennis Lim, Director of Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center, as adviser.

The New York Jewish Film Festival is made possible by the Martin and Doris Payson Fund for Film and Media.

Generous support is also provided by Wendy Fisher and Dennis Goodman, Sara and Axel Schupf, The Liman Foundation, Louise and Frank Ring, an anonymous gift, the Ike, Molly and Steven Elias Foundation, Amy and Howard Rubenstein, Robin and Danny Greenspun, Steven and Sheira Schacter, and through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council.

Additional support is provided by Office of Cultural Affairs – Consulate General of Israel in New York, the German Consulate General New York, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

THE JEWISH MUSEUM
Located on New York City's famed Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum is a distinctive hub for art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Founded in 1904, the Museum was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years. For more information, visit TheJewishMuseum.org.

FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTERThe Film Society of Lincoln Center is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema. The only branch of the world-renowned arts complex Lincoln Center to shine a light on the everlasting yet evolving importance of the moving image, this nonprofit organization was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international film. Via year-round programming and discussions; its annual New York Film Festival; and its publications, including Film Comment, the U.S.’s premier magazine about films and film culture, the Film Society endeavors to make the discussion and appreciation of cinema accessible to a broader audience, as well as to ensure that it will remain an essential art form for years to come.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Shutterstock, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. American Airlines is the Official Airline of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.org and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.

Holidays at Metrograph

Throughout December
Holidays at Metrograph 

The Academy at Metrograph Screening of Scrooged
with Karen Allen and Carol Kane In-Person

Phantom Thread, Eyes Wide Shut, Carol in 35mm, and more

The Metrograph Holiday Book Fair on December 15 and 16

 
Opens December 7

Holidays at Metrograph
 
The holiday season provides the backdrop for a great many magical and mischievous films, for all sorts of adventures and romances can happen when regular work schedules don’t have to be attended to, and there’s something just plain cinematic about the twinkle of Christmas lights. With so many naughty and nice seasonal movies to choose from, we’ve made an annual tradition of showing the best, and this year we’ve heaped up plenty of seasonal goodies under our tree, from warm-and-cozy silver screen standards to modern masterworks—because chestnuts roasting on an open fire are nice, but there’s no substitute for the glow of the cinema screen.

3 Godfathers (John Ford/1948/106 mins/35mm)
The Apartment (Billy Wilder/1960/125 mins/DCP) *Extended engagement begins December 7*
Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff/2003/88 mins/DCP)
Carol (Todd Haynes/2015/118 mins/35mm)
Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey/1945/101 mins/35mm)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick/1999/159 mins/35mm)
Gremlins (Joe Dante/1984/106 mins/35mm)
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli/1944/113 mins/35mm)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson/1992/85 mins/DCP) *As part of  PLAYTIME*
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson/2017/130 mins/35mm)
Remember the Night (Mitchell Leisen/1940/94 mins/35mm)
Trading Places (John Landis/1983/116 mins/35mm)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy/1964/92 mins/DCP)
December 15

Academy at Metrograph

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Continues its Residency
at Metrograph with Upcoming Winter Programming

Karen Allen and Carol Kane Present Scrooged on December 15
ACADEMY AT METROGRAPH continues in December, with upcoming programming that includesScrooged presented by actresses Karen Allen and Carol Kane on December 15.

On Saturday, December 15 at 5:00pm, actresses Karen Allen and Carol Kane will present Scrooged. An updating of A Christmas Carol for the “Greed is good” 80s, Richard Donner’s salty-sweet comic morality tale—co-written by Saturday Night Live legends Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue—stars Bill Murray as a nasty executive at IBC Television who, heartlessly keeping his underlings at work on Christmas Eve to complete a live telecast of Charles Dickens’s classic, finds himself visited by three very novel versions of three familiar ghosts.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) began a yearlong residency at Metrograph in July 2017, bringing exciting and entertaining programs to the big screen. Programs in ACADEMY AT METROGRAPH have and continue to feature onstage conversations with filmmakers and scholars of motion pictures, tributes, newsreels, rarely seen clips from past Oscar® ceremonies, and home movies from Hollywood legends.  This monthly series highlights unique archival elements, including recent restorations and film prints from the Academy Film Archive by celebrating classic moments from the Academy’s 90-year history.
December 15 & 16

The Metrograph Holiday Book Fair

Hundreds of Newly Acquired Cinema Books and Periodicals

Sara Berman's Dream Double Feature Presented by Maira and Alex Kalman

Ed Halter To Discuss Evergreen Review with Film Screening 
Metrograph’s Film Book Fair returns for the 2018 holiday season with hundreds of newly acquired vintage cinema books, out-of-print monographs, rare periodicals, and ephemera. From biographies of favorite Hollywood stars like Barbara Stanwyck, to treatises on cinema written by Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, this is an entirely new bounty of treasures. In addition to a gift-wrapping station, vendors will include New York Review Books, Posteritati, Light Industry, and more.

In conjunction with the Holiday Film Book Fair, Metrograph will present Sara Berman's Dream Double Feature on December 15 with Maira and Alex Kalman in-person to sign copies of Sara Berman’s Closet on December 15th, followed by a book signing. On December 16th, Ed Halter will discuss the newly editedFrom the Third Eye: The Evergreen Review Film Reader, Grove Press, and its defunct film company, Grove Films, with film screening. A table of supplemental material of Grove Press, Grove Films, and the Evergreen Review will be available for purchase during the Holiday Book Fair.

In addition, a members/press preview of the Metrograph Holiday Book Fair will be on Friday, December 14th, with a reception. Memberships are available to purchase online now, and as of November 23, as gifts as well. More information here.

Beauty Queen (2018)

Following a discussion in one of her high school classes a Christina decides she would rather be beautiful instead of pretty. Taking steps to make that happen she eventually ends up meeting a photographer…

This excellent short film about how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us packs an emotional wallop. Because nothing terrible happens (sorry spoiler) filmmaker Nicholas Goodwin keeps this grounded and real. Also helping is that Christina Goursky as the girl at the center of it is herself beautiful. Making her just as lovely as the girls she thinks is more beautiful than herself allows us to see ourselves in the story. If she doesn’t see herself as beautiful then the rest of us who feel similar may also be beautiful. It forces us to consider how we think about ourselves.

A great addition to the film is Timothy J Cox as Christina's‘s father. Playing the sort of dad we’d all like to have Cox is the moral center of the film and the rock to which Christina is tethered. Its not a showy role but it is an important one that keeps things things real as opposed to just being a movie.

This is a solid film and worth tracking down.

DOC NYC Short takes

Sometimes when you see a film something happens and you don’t have a lot to say. It’s often not a reflection of the films, rather simply a matter of things not clicking in a way that gives you enough that you want to talk about. What follows are 8 films that kind I saw for DOC NYC that didn’t leave me with a great deal to say. I liked some, didn’t like others, but either way I simply didn’t have many word to say about them.

The Blessing
Is a beautiful film about an Native American family trying to come to terms with the intrusion of the modern world into their traditional community. As dad battles with the fact that the company he works for is mining the tribes ancestral lands, his daughter wants to break free of traditional roles. It will haunt you.

Boy Who Like Girls
Good but unremarkable film about efforts to change the attitude of boys toward girls in the wake of brutal gang rapes in India. This is good but considering the subject matter it should have been better

Colossus
An American young man born to parents who have deported tries to cope with being left on his own and living in the care of relatives. A charming young man at the center lifts this film up from being just another story about America’s immigration crisis

Crime + Punishment
Playing as part of DOC NYC’s Oscar Short List side, Crime + Punishment is about the NYPD’s quota system. Allegedly stopped years ago numerous officers go on the record to reveal that the police is still demanding they make arrests and write tickets. A very good, if slightly over long, look at official crime going unpunished is definitely worth a look, though I’m kind of at a loss to explain the Oscar talk.

16 Bars
Todd Thomas of Arrested Development works with those in and just out of prison in crafting music. This is a very good.

Great Mother
In the wake of so many deportations Nora Sandigo acts as the legal guardian for 2000 kids whose parents have been deported. This film will make you smile at the thought of one person stepping up and anger you that it is just one woman and we have been forced into this.

I Am The Revolution
Portrait of three women making a difference in the Arab world. This is a really good film but each woman could have had a film of their own and the brief run time (it runs 78 minutes ) kind of works against this being as good as it could have been.

False Confessions
Nominally a look at people who confess to crimes they never committed, it often seems to be more about Jane Fisher-Byrialsen who is working to clear people who have falsely confessed. While not bad, the fact that Fisher-Byrialsen remains front and center as much as she does makes this less compelling than if we had disappeared into the cases.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Nate Hood on the City That Sold America (208) DOC NYC 2018

At a certain point watching Ky Dickens’ The City That Sold America, I had to stop taking notes and just let the rest of the film wash over me. The information was coming too fast for my fingers to keep up, a veritable firehose of factoids and anecdotes. Just as I would finish typing how Chicago ad agencies invented Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer to help promote mail order catalogues to rural farmers, the film would already be a mile ahead of me, talking about how Kimberly-Clark revolutionized women’s hygiene in the 1920s with their discreet ads promoting a new product made from leftover wood pulp fiber—a disposable “sanitary pad” named Kotex. Here’s a meditation on the Marlboro Man and how advertising experts had to fight to get corporate bigwigs to accept him (they apparently thought city folk would be confused by cowboy mascots!); here’s a lecture on how Chicago was “the first great city created just by Americans” and how its nascence signaled a new age of American progress, one including the invention of skyscrapers, Ferris wheels, and Tony the Tiger.

With a run-time that doesn’t even reach 70 minutes, it’s a masterclass of cinematic compression, cramming in enough material for an entire TV miniseries. Yet it never feels cramped, as Dickens’ sheer enthusiasm for the Windy City keeps things feeling light and breezy, even when the material takes darker turns such as the mass migration of southern blacks flocking to Chicago to escape Jim Crow. The film’s central issue, then, is that it eventually forgets that it’s a documentary first and foremost about Chicago itself—why else would it include a history lesson about something as dangerously dry as how the city’s location near the geographic middle of the country made it the perfect distribution point for consumer goods?

But as Dickens continues to roll out talking heads, Chicago fades into the background entirely—I don’t think it’s mentioned once in the last 10 minutes. Instead it becomes a puff piece about benevolent advertising, climaxing in a 1967 speech where ad magnate Leo Burnett tearfully begs his employees to never forget how advertising should serve mankind for the better. It’s almost as if Dickens lost his ability to distance himself from professionals who are essentially glorified carnival barkers shelling beer and tampons. It seems the advertisers advertised themselves too well. Don Draper would be proud.

Rating: 6/10

THE INSUFFERABLE GROO (2018) DOC NYC 2018


Portrait of no budget filmmaker Stephen Groo who has made almost 200 films in the last 20 years by any means necessary. No budget is too small for Groo who makes films because he has to.

Full disclosure watching the film I realized that I have seen a couple of Groo's films over the years. I couldn't tell you what they were because other than the cheapness they never stayed with me. And to be completely fair I can't be certain I didn't turn them off before the end.

You have to admire his drive.

That said I'm really not sure we needed a 90 minute love letter to Groo. While I'm sure his fans will disagree, I was largely done after about 20 minutes. There isn't enough here to support a feature film. Its largely shots of him making the film and stories of past films. That's fine for a while but after a while it runs out of steam.

The idea of covering the work of a no budget film maker isn't anything new, but usually either they are short enough not to wear out their welcome or they have something more to offer (see Jason Kartalian's GIANT WOMEN MICRO-BUDGET or KUNG FU ELLIOT)

If you love low no budget films give it a shot. All others take a pass.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

DOC NYC Capsule reviews: THE PROVIDERS, THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, and FAMILY IN TRANSITION

The Providers
Excellent and heart warming portrait of three health care providers in Health care providers in Northern New Mexico. These wonderful people do what they can to help those struggling with various forms of addiction. They are the sort of professionals that we'd all love to have taking care of us since they show a real compassion for the people in their care.

This film is a genuine gem. It is highly recommended and is one of the highlights of this year's DOC NYC

Smartest Kids In The World
Portrait of four kids who left the United States to go study abroad because they flt the systems in other countries (South Korea, Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland) A good film that is a guaranteed discussion starter. As good as the the ideas are and as charming as the kids are the presentation is a little too by the numbers for me with the result that we kind of get the sense that we've been here before when we really haven't.

Family in Transition
What happens when a family in Israel has to deal with the father's announcement that he wants to transition into becoming a woman? This is an heartfelt and kind of intense look at  the changing dynamics of a family. Wonderfully in the trenches we are there are the family goes through the seismic changes and everyone is forced to consider where they stand.  Recommended
(Family in Transition will open Friday November 16th in New York and Los Angeles November 23)

DOC NYC Capsule Reviews: FIRE ON THE HILL and SEE KNOW EVIL

FIRE ON THE HILL: THE COWBOYS OF SOUTH CENTRAL
Intriguing look at three young black cowboys living in South Central Los Angeles who fight to preserve The Hill, the last public stable in the city.

A super look at a part of life that most of us don't realize exists. It is an uplifting tale about three young men trying to keep off the street by keeping a tradition alive.  This is a small gem of a film that is better experienced than talked about. Highly recommended.

SEE KNOW EVIL
Portrait of photographer Davide Sorrenti who died while in his 20's. Sorrenti  had developed a rare blood disease as a child that should have killed him before he was five but he managed to hang on to become an influential image maker  who popularized heroin chic.

While I admire his images I really didn't care about his life. Honestly I've always heard he was a street kid who made good and I admired him pulling himself up, but my feelings were kind of dampened when I discovered that some doors were opened because of his parents which takes nothing away from his talent but does diminish the tale of the self-made man somewhat.

As for the film its a bit too in love with its subject with seemingly everyone having nice things to say. There also really isn't enough to this story to really warrant a feature portrait so I kind of drifted off after awhile at the sameness.

Worth a look for fans only.


Christina M Tucker ponders The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story (2018) DOC NYC 2018

Premiering at DOC NYC this year, The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story, directed by Scott Barber and Adam Sweeney, documents the history of Nickelodeon, the first children’s-only television network from its founding through its heyday.


The story begins with Qube, an early cable television system from 1977 that explored interactivity, and one of the team members at the forefront of the endeavor, Dr. Vivian Horner, who began the earliest incarnation of Nickelodeon, a program called Pinwheel. (The documentary makes a point to highlight the numerous women whose insight and talent made Nickelodeon what it was.)

The team from the Pinwheel program went to New York and began the Nickelodeon network in 1979. The documentary starts here, from Nickelodeon’s humble beginnings. Much of the film is centered around the Founder and President of Nickelodeon Geraldine Laybourne, exploring her leadership methods, perspective, and philosophy, and ending with her exit in the late 90s. The Orange Years is thorough, reverent, and interesting with an impressive amount of archival video and printed material to supplement fascinating interviews.

PANTONE 021

The exposition, in which Nickelodeon’s philosophy and origins is explored, effectively sets up an emotionally genuine and still moving story. It makes every victory for the studio (their first original programming, their studio lot in Orlando, Florida, their foray into animation) feel inspiring and meaningful. Nickelodeon is positioned, both in this film and throughout history, as a contrast to Disney, and the philosophy and execution of typical Saturday morning cartoons. They presented entertainment without condescension, with a hint

of irreverence and rebellion that spoke to children’s experiences. Nickelodeon was an underdog with a team full of talent and creativity that was pushed and challenged by an initial lack of funds and struggles to find programming that created a network that became a powerhouse, and The Orange Years capitalizes on this inspiring underdog story throughout to marvelous emotional effect.

The film explores the creative risks Nickelodeon were willing to pursue in their original programming including Hey Dude, Salute Your Shorts, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains it All and Nick News in their commitment to realistically depicting the high and low points of childhood. Their profile of Clarissa Explains It All is particularly interesting, as it shows without preaching or bragging, that boys will in fact watch a show with a female protagonist if it is well-made and speaks to something real.

The Orange Years also explores Nickelodeon’s history with animation Ren & Stimpy, Doug, and Rugrats, their first three animated projects that all became hits, which all subverted of the norms of children’s programming in different ways, while all using top-notch animation, voice-acting, and writing talent.

“If a Show is Good, Anyone Will Watch”

The Orange Years effectively defends its assertions of Nickelodeon’s uniqueness with extensive archival finds including video and printed material, that are both informative and keep the documentary kinetic and energized. The film is also peppered with original new animations that accompany interviewer stories, another sign of the overwhelming effort that went into making this film a documentary that doesn’t simply pander to nostalgia, but is engaging in its own right.

There are a wide range of interview subjects from talent (including Melissa Joan Hart and Kenan Thompson) as well as producers and executives. Most interesting is the insight of the executive production members. Former President Geraldine Laybourne, Former VP of Nickelodeon Scott Webb, QUBE executive Burt Dubrow, Former Creative Director Anne Kramer, figures who may be unknown to the general public, are full of humor, admiration, and knowledge about the channel and its history.

The Orange Years doesn’t entirely shy away from negative elements of Nickelodeon’s existence (the tours of the studio that made young talent feel like creatures in a zoo and infringed upon their private lives, the deterioration of Nickelodeon’s relationship with Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi due to issues with content, timeliness, and budget.)

Most notable is the bittersweet ending that brings Nickelodeon into the present day. There is a feeling that the film and its interview subjects is holding back harsher sentiments as the film refers to the recent monetary successes that have come from the licensing of Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, and an initial commitment to originality and subversion has been replaced with a commitment to monetary gains. Nickelodeon is no longer an underdog, and there is an implication that the company has become stagnant in the successes of the last several years and that without Laybourne’s unique vision the network has abandoned its former philosophy of honesty, experimentation, and creativity.

Sometimes the music is mixed too high, or a conversation on a particular series goes on for too long, but overall this is a near-perfect film that chronicles a revolutionary and inspirational method of engaging with children through entertainment that still resonates with people who grew up with these programs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thanksgiving Second Helpings: 35mm 3-D + 4 Quad Favorites

Thanksgiving Specials
The Quad reprises four of this year's repertory favorites and revives our 35mm 3-D extravaganza for one weekend only!


Second Helpings

Wed Nov 21 – 22
To show thanks for our great audiences, the Quad is offering seconds of four recent repertory hits, none of them turkeys.
All That Jazz
Bob Fosse, 1979, U.S., 123m, 35mm

The Last Days of Disco
Whit Stillman, 1998, U.S., 113m, DCP

Purple Noon
René Clément, 1960, France/Italy, 118m, 35mm

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Mike Nichols, 1966, U.S., 130m, 35mm


Comin’ Back At Ya!
A 35mm 3-D weekend

November 23 – 25
The Quad reprises its now legendary 2017 3-D extravaganza with three days of demented three-dimensional mayhem. With today’s 3-D fully digitized into lockstep with DCP, we revisit some of the more arcane, quixotic, and disreputable uses of the process in the early ’80s over/under boom, that was heavy on horror sequels, sci-fi adventures, idiosyncratic cult movies, and grindhouse fare. Join us for an all-35mm survey.

Programmed by Harry Guerro in association with Exhumed Films
Amityville 3-D
Richard Fleischer, 1983, U.S., 105m, 35mm

Comin’ At Ya!
Ferdinando Baldi, 1981, Italy/Spain/U.S., 91m, 35mm

Flesh for Frankenstein
Paul Morrissey, 1973, Italy/U.S./France, 95m, 35mm

Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror
Enrique López Eguiluz, 1968, Spain/West Germany, 78m, 35mm

Friday the 13th Part III
Steve Miner, 1982, U.S., 96m, 35mm

Jaws 3-D
Joe Alves, 1983, U.S., 99m, 35mm

Parasite
Charles Band, 1982, U.S., 85m, 35mm

Run for Cover
Richard W. Haines, 1995, U.S., 83m, 35mm
With Haines in person Sat November 24!

Silent Madness
Simon Nuchtern, 1984, U.S., 93m, 35mm

Treasure of the Four Crowns
Ferdinando Baldi, 1983, Spain/Italy/U.S., 97m, 35mm

Romanian Film Initiative, BAM and Jacob Burns Film Center Announce the Lineup for Making Waves

The Romanian Film InitiativeBAM, and the Jacob Burns Film Center announce the lineup for the 13th edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema, November 26-December 5 

Highlights include festival winners Touch Me Not and I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, a new wave of films by women directors, and a focus on the darkly satirical work of internationally acclaimed auteur Radu Jude
 
New York, NY — November 13, 2018 — The Romanian Film Initiative, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and the Jacob Burns Film Center are proud to present the 13th edition ofMaking Waves: New Romanian Cinema, to run November 26-December 5. The survey of new Romanian cinema has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as having “helped define and establish the southeastern European country as a stronghold of socially incisive, independently minded personal cinema.”

Mihai Chirilov, Artistic Director of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema, states, “Following last year’s focus on Anca Damian, who returns this year with her latest mystery puzzle Moon Hotel Kabul, the 13th edition of Making Waves gives space to the brand new wave of female directors in Romanian cinema, with a program that opens the festival at BAM.” He continues, “The line up includes two of the most controversial films of 2018 — Adina Pintilie’s bare exploration of intimacy Touch Me Not and Ivana Mladenovic’s gay drama SoldiersA Story from Ferentari — the program also features three illuminating documentaries on Romania’s history: Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan’s mordant satire about the rise of nationalism, Free Dacians, Ana Dumitrescu’s touching portrayal of a 
centennial man who has seen it all, Licu, A Romanian Story, and The Distance Between Me and Me, Mona Nicoară and Dana Bunescu’s personal account of art and politics, fuelled by the convoluted destiny of dissident poet and icon Nina Cassian.”

“The work that the Romanian Film Initiative does to preserve and promote Romanian film internationally is unparalleled,” writes Gina M. Duncan, Associate Vice President for Cinema, BAM. “It's an especially strong year for Romanian films and we are excited that this edition of the program features a focus on women filmmakers and including the U.S. premiere of Touch Me Not which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.”

The only Romanian director to receive an award at Sundance (for The Tube With a Hat, one of his numerous shorts), Radu Jude took a spectacular turn with his extremely popular third film Aferim! After two contemporary family dramas that employed the trademark stripped-down social realism of the Romanian New Wave (the darkly funny The Happiest Girl in the World and Everybody in Our Family), Jude went back in time to tell this Western-like tale of Gypsy slavery in the 19th century. His interest in the darkest pages of Romania’s history — and specifically the issue of anti-Semitism — grew with his subsequent works (the essay-doc The Dead Nation and his literary adaptation of Max BlecherScarred Hearts), reaching an artistic zenith with his extravagant new work, “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, which kicks off this focus showcasing all Jude’s 
feature length films to date, presented at BAM.

In addition to “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” and the Golden Bear-winning Touch Me Not, the New Releases showcase at the Jacob Burns Film Center highlights the ever-growing diversity of New Romanian Cinema: from Constantin Popescu’s slow-burning thriller Pororoca, and its maddening quest for a missing child, to Andrei Crețulescu’s strange mix of black comedy and retro melodrama Charlestonfrom Daniel Sandu’s autobiographical coming of age story, the box-office hit One Step Behind the Seraphim (winner of several Gopo Awards, the Romanian Oscars), to Paul Negoescu’s light-hearted rom-com, The Story of a Summer Lover. Last but not least, there is a screening of veteran film-maker Alexandru Solomon’s fascinating and multi-layered documentary, Tarzans Testicles,  which examines the troubled state of Abkhazia through the prism 
of a primate-breeding institute.

Corina Șuteu, Festival President, states, “Making Waves is a film festival more necessary than ever, as it presents in an independent spirit the most recent auteur films. More and more subdued by standard advertising and by a taste for easy entertainment, contemporary audiences are in need of art – as a channel for contrasted emotions and feelings. This is what the Romanian Film Festival in New York brings to the American public – quality, crafty, challenging art!”

This year’s festival also focuses on the intersection between film and literature. Following the screening of “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians”, Romanian and Romanian-American writers Andrei CodrescuAndrei Crăciun and Carmen Firan will be in conversation with Corina Șuteu to discuss how fiction interprets historical 
events, and the manipulations and revelations that can occur as a result.  

Guests of this year’s festival include directors Adina Pintilie (Touch Me Not), Alexandru Solomon (Tarzans Testicles), Ivana Mladenovic (SoldiersA Story from Ferentari), Mona Nicoară (The Distance Between Me and Me), Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan (Free Dacians), Paul Negoescu (The Story of a Summer Lover), and director of photography Ana Drăghici (The Story of a Summer Lover). Special guest of the festival is Ada Solomon, producer of no less than ten films in this year’s lineup, including all the films of director in focus Radu Jude, with whom she has developed a strong creative collaboration.

As well as introducing these filmmakers’ voices to U.S audiences, Making Waves aims to help them connect to, and network within, the American film industry. For the second year running, an industry event will also accompany the festival screenings and gala events.

Making Waves was founded by the Romanian Film Initiative and is co-presented in partnership with BAM and the Jacob Burns Film Center. Co-founded in 2012 by Corina Șuteu, Mihai Chirilovand Oana Radu, the independent Romanian Film Initiative aims to preserve and enhance the festival’s critical and creative spirit.

Lead support for the 13th edition of Making Waves is provided by The Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Romanian National Film Center and the Filmmakers Union of Romania, along with numerous individual donors.

Schedule
 

COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE (2018) DOC NYC


Director Judith A. Helfand takes a Michael Moore style look at global warming beginning with a look at what happened in 1995 in Chicago where almost 1000 people, largely poor old and non-white, died in a heat wave. From there she examine how the rich and powerful are controlling the debate and remaining less affected than the rest of us.

A good subject is hurt by a reporting style that is much to similar to that of Michael Moore. While it is nice to admire the work of one of the best it's usually best not to steer so close in your presentation that all the audience can think about is making comparisons. (You'll be saying hearing the narration in Moore's voice). The film also has some of the same problem as  Moore's films in that COOKED drifts in and out of being straight reporting and being an essay and the tones wandering around.  They are flaws that of late has made some of Moore's films less required viewing and COOKED as well.

While not bad, COOKED never quite comes together.