Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Empty Nostalgia of Ready Player One (2018)

This is a piece that I cobbled together after seeing READY PLAYER ONE. It is based on the conversations I had with Lesley Coffin and Hubert Vigilla. If there is anything you like it is due to their cleverness- I just wrote it down.

READY PLAYER ONE is a gawd awful mess. Yes it has moments, The Shining sequence for example, but it is so badly thought out and written that you have to wonder if Steven Spielberg really directed it.

The plot has a kid in the future trying to find the three keys hidden in an on line world called the Oasis, which will give him control of the whole thing plus the creators fortune. Unfortunately there is an evil corporation looking to seize control for themselves (for reasons that make no sense).

So much is wrong with the film that the only thing I can really talk about is the films numerous flaws. Frankly there are so many that I could be here for a couple of days pulling the film apart moment by moment because nothing works or makes any sense if you think about it.

Badly written on very level the two key roles of Halliday, the dead creator of the Oasis, and Sorrento, the villain of the piece, exist simply because Mark Rylance and Ben Mendelsohn are such good actors that they make something of their badly written characters. Full of someone's ideas of what these characters should be like instead of being real characters. They are full of cliches, goofy ticks and bad dialog to the point you wonder if writer Ernest Cline ever met an actual human being.

At the same would mention some of the other actors and actresses but they barely register in human form and only really impress thanks to their colorful avatars. They too are not really human beings but a collection of pop movie references and stereotypes.

Simply put there are no real characters anywhere on screen.  The closest is Mendelsohn's villain, Sorrento. He at least is given some scenery to chew but if you really look at him, he makes no sense. He was an intern for the dead Rylance who only got coffee for him (as we see in the Halliday journals) but he bullshitted his way into controlling hit squads and a slave army to do take over a virtual world and no one has called him on it - for years - when it's obvious he is a putz from second we meet him.  What board of directors would leave him in control when he had been unable to unlock any thing for years- especially when a kid suddenly discovers the first key seemingly out of the blue?

The problem with Sorrento's motivation is the first crack in a film world where nothing makes any sense on its own terms never mind real world ones. The laundry list of film world problems begins with:

-If Columbus Ohio is the worlds fastest growing cities why does it look like a shit hole?

-Does anyone work? No one seems to have a job or go to school. How is anything paid for?

-Why does IOI seem to have limitless power and yet none? How can they get away with all the bad things they do like sending out storm troopers to kidnap random people - except at the end?

-How can IOI make everyone slaves? What is their authority?

-Everyone on Wade's team is really in Columbus? Really?

-What exactly does IOI really do other than chase control of the Oasis? - And their grand schemes is take over the Oasis so they can sell the advertising rights?

-With everyone fascinated with the nostalgia of the 1970's,80's and 90's- did pop culture (and technology) cease after 1995? Why is there zero reference to anything outside of that anywhere in the whole film? It should be there.

And there is much more. You can take apart every bit of the world the film operates in and make it crumble, all you need do is just look at it to have it fall apart.

As a thriller or action film is a HUGE problem in that there is no reason to feel any suspense because nothing in the film has any weight. There is ultimately nothing lost if the Oasis was taken over.  The Oasis is lost its just a virtual place- lives aren't uprooted. No one is going to die. If they die in the game they just get to log back in and start fresh. What's the worst that can happen they get hauled off by IOI? Only very late in the game do we see what that means (and what it means really doesn't make sense) so it has no weight.

Sure IOI blows up the stack where Wade's aunt lives, but we really don't care because we have no freaking clue who she is. She is barely in the film and barely mentioned except to offer her up as a sacrificial lamb. She is the film's version of a Star Trek Red Shirt  who is there just to die. No one else, especially the main characters, is ever in any real danger - even when Sorrento takes a gun at the end we know nothing will happen since he is such a chicken shit character we know he'll never shoot because he uses Zandor to do his real world dirty work.

As for the much talked about nostalgia is empty. Its actually utter bullshit. It's less meaningful than posters on a characters bedroom wall.

In theory everything in the film is supposed to be around Rylance's love of things in his life- but everything stops at say 1990 or 1995 or so. While there are fleeting reference to newer things in the film almost every thing is old- 50 or 60 years. There is almost nothing past a certain point- as if Rylance, and the real world, had no interest in anything after that- except that he loved pop culture so there should have been references to things from the last 20 years, but there aren't. No one's love of stuff cuts off like that- not even the fanboys who live in their parents' basement. More importantly since the film makes clear that only a small number of people are obsessed with Halliday's Easter Egg, the actual nostalgia should be only a small portion of the Oasis since most people have moved on and  connected to later things and things not related to the creators life.

Even worse the nostalgia is just wrong. A key point is the Atari 2600 - except that Rylance's character would not have played the 2600 as a kid. He might have played  the games but on another system. While the point is the correct game, I doubt we would see him sitting on a floor in his bedroom with a 2600 system.  I mention this because unless Rylance was born in the 60's or early 70's the video game when he was growing up would have been something else (he'd have a later Atari on his floor). Trust me I'm old enough to know he would have to be around my age, which is kind of too old. To play with the 2600 at the age we see his younger self would have made Rylance around 80 or 85 when he died and that isn't likely.

So much of the nostalgia is just stuff whizzing by- "Hey there's Spawn!" "Look there is ... and over there...." Nothing is done with any of the references. Everything is pretty much just there. In one scene we see all these iconic space ships and they are just there- why? No clue. As I said above it would make sense if the things were posters that meant something to the character but here they are just "things" that are thrown on screen to fill a background.

As Hubert Vigilla and I discussed the film we came to realize that  the film is like looking into a a toy box where dozens of action figures and toys are collected. However they are just toys lying there inert because there is no child to bring them to life. Without a mover they are "just there". Its all a kind of dead nostalgia of things and but not the real nostalgia of emotions that comes from the things meaning something. If you want proof consider the Holy Hand-grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Wade uses it- but he doesn't count. If the grenade truly meant something within the world or to Halliday Wade would have to count because the instructions in Grail states you must count to three so that God will smite your enemies. It means nothing without the counting.

How could Spielberg nor any of his team realize just how wrong the film gets it? I have issues with many of Spielberg's films but this is just a mess. It is a huge over hyped piece of commercial crap. Not only is there no heart or soul in the film there is no thought, love or understanding.  It is an attempt to hook the fans of whatever with a false and misused nostalgia at the expense of good filmmaking.

Ultimately it is a cinematic version of of Sorrento's and IOI's plans for the Oasis where 80% of the visual field is filled with product placement-and as Sorrento warned there is so much shit before us out brains explode out of desperation

Not recommended.

Mobius (2017) NDNF 2018

Cinematic tone poem is dark and moody  and not what you expect and is worth taking a look when it runs at New Directors New Films.

The "plot" has a young woman in high school/ college going through her day while she narrates a tale of love lost...

...and that's all I' going to say since this film is big on mood and where it takes you depends on how you get there. Simply put I could tell you what happens and I could discuss it but until you see it it won't mean much.

I will say that based on this I want to see what director Sam Kuhn does next because he is definitely one to watch.

See it in the NDNF shorts block. For more information and tickets go here.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Scary Mother (2017) NDNF2018

Domestic drama gives way to a dark turn as Manana a fifty year old house wife throws herself into her writing. Becoming more and more obsessive about it, we begin to realize all is not well with our heroine.

Nato Murvanidze gives a towering performance in the lead. handling each turn with perfection. This is a performance that has rightly been the subject of awards. Murvanidze draws us in and grabs our throat dragging us along into this strange territory of the dark side of the soul in a way that very few filmmakers manage to get right. Imagine if Gena Rowlands worked with David Lynch and you might have an idea of what the performance is like.

This film is seriously kicks ass. I can see why Georgia submitted this for the Oscars and I also understand why they didn't pick it, the film is such that it leaves you feeling deeply disturbed for reasons not always clear. I had to watch the film a second time to write it up and found that I was bouncing though the second screening simply because I was uncomfortable.

Highly recommended. This is one of the better films at New Directors New Films.

For tickets and more information go here.

Radical Presence: Anne Wiazemsky April 20-26 at the Quad (Plus an evening with Michel Hazanavicius)

The Quad presents an Anne Wiazemsky retrospective coinciding with the April 20 release of Michel Hazanavicius' Godard Mon Amour, based on Wiazemsky's memoir recalling her marriage to Jean-Luc Godard

Plus an evening with Michel Hazanavicius; on April 18, we'll be presenting a double bill of spy comedies OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies & Lost in Rio—with Hazanavicius in person!

As a teenager, Anne Wiazemsky was introduced by a family friend to French filmmaker Robert Bresson, who immediately cast her in his now-legendary Au hasard Balthazar. Bresson’s advice to the rest of his “models” on set was simply, “Watch Anne.” She became a crucial screen player (and then husband) to Jean-Luc Godard before appearing in works by some of the world’s most acclaimed auteurs. The granddaughter of Nobel literature laureate François Mauriac, Wiazemsky become a novelist and memoirist; her 2015 book One Year Later recollected the making of La Chinoise and her marriage to Godard, and served as the basis for the new Godard Mon Amour (opening April 20). After her untimely passing last October at 70, the Quad pays tribute to Wiazemsky’s captivating presence. In performance after performance, you can’t help but watch her.

Au hasard Balthazar, Robert Bresson, 1966, France/Sweden, 95m, 35mm
La Chinoise, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, France, 95m, DCP
L’enfant secret, Philippe Garrel, 1979, France, 92m, DCP
Porcile, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969, Italy, 99m, 35mm
Qui trop embrasse…, Jacques Davila, 1986, France, 84m, 35mm
Le retour d’Afrique, Alain Tanner, 1973, Switzerland/France, 108m, 35mm
Sympathy for the Devil, Jean-Luc Godard, 1968, UK, 100m, DCP
Teorema, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968, Italy, 98m, 35mm
Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, France/Italy, 104m, 35mm

Godard Mon Amour

Opens Fri April 20

Michel Hazanavicius, France, 107m, DCP
Adapted from Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir, One Year Later, the new film from Oscar winning director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) is a stylish, freewheeling account of the romance between a dyspeptic Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) at the height of his celebrity and burgeoning young actress Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), which reaches a fever pitch of marital and creative crisis in the wake of the revolutionary events of May ’68. The late Wiazemsky noted that Hazanavicius "understood something very profound about Jean-Luc.”

In French with English subtitles

Official Selection: Cannes Film Festival

“This movie is a stupid, stupid idea.” —Jean-Luc Godard
An Evening with Michel Hazanavicius

Weds, April 18
A double bill of two delightful comedies from the the Academy Award-winning director of The Artist, an acclaimed stylist at ease in seemingly any genre, in advance of the release of his new film Godard Mon Amour

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

6.45pm
Michel Hazanavicius, 2006, France, 99m, 35mm
Hazanavicius broke out with his second feature by reviving novelist Jean Bruce’s long-running titular spy protagonist, who had been portrayed in three movies in the 1960s. Here, though, OSS 117 is playfully refitted as bluff and politically incorrect, firing first and not asking questions later. Genre clichés are razzed as the French secret agent tracks fugitive Nazis in the Middle East of 1955, and lead actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo both began fruitful collaborations with the filmmaker.

In French with English subtitles

With Michel Hazanavicius in person

Followed by...

OSS 117: Lost in Rio

9.00pm
Michel Hazanavicius, 2009, France, 101m, 35mm
Following the first movie’s success, the filmmaking team reunited three years later for a sequel—but cheekily vaulted their French spy OSS 117 forward by 12 years, with star Jean Dujardin having even more fun showing his manly-man character buffeted by swingin’ 1967. The hunt for another Nazi in hiding (played by Rüdiger Vogler, of Wim Wenders films) takes OSS 117 and Mossad agent Louise Monot into South America, with delightful movie references throughout.

In French with English subtitles

With Michel Hazanavicius in person

Thursday, March 29, 2018

3/4 (2017) NDNF 2018

Minimalist drama follows teenage Milla who wants to go off and play piano, her younger brother Niki who simply wants to be silly and their dad who simply wants to talk about grand things and not deal with real life. Largely plotless the film is more a series of moments that add up to a a portrait of a family over a period of time.

Its a very well made  film that is going to play best if you life small whisper thin films where not much happens other than life. I was very mixed about the film. I love the technical aspects of the film, from the look, the acting and so on, however the fact it really is less concerned with things happening than it is in people reacting kind of lost me by the half way point.  Yes I knew what it was doing but I didn't much care.

Recommended for the art house crowd and those for whom the New Directors New Films less mainstream films are the manna for your soul.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

ND/NF ’18: An Elephant Sitting Still

The short life of Chinese novelist-turned-filmmaker Hu Bo recalls that of the late Marcin Wrona, except it is even more tragic. Both killed themselves before receiving the international accolades bestowed on their final films. In the case of Hu, it was also his first (finished under the supervision of his parents and a sponsoring arts group), but it is quite a statement—running just a whisker under four hours. An auspicious and heartbreaking debut, Hu’s An Elephant Sitting Still screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films, giving ironic meaning to the festival’s very name.

Arguably, Elephant could be considered a Chinese descendant of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy for the way it portrays personal corruption as a symptom of societal corruption. It is also long, but it never feels excessive. We follow four profoundly unhappy residents of a depressed northern industrial city in a vaguely Altman-esque way, until their paths definitively and organically converge during the third act.

Each is miserable in his own way. Thuggish Yang Cheng is wracked with guilt after watching the best friend he cuckolded hurl himself to his death. Tightly wound high schooler Wei Bu also wrestles with guilt after pushing the school’s internet troll down a flight of stairs and into a vegetative state. Huang Ling was one of the victims he shamed, for carrying on an affair with the school’s married vice-principal. In contrast, elderly Wang Jin hasn’t injured anyone, but he has little meaningful human contact, aside from occasional visits from the son eager to consign him to a retirement home.

All four principles become fascinated with the urban legend of an elephant in the distant Manzhouli zoo, who has gone on strike, in the John Galt tradition, refusing to eat or move, as a perverse way of asserting its independent agency. It is a strange bit of apocrypha to obsess over, but it is certainly in keeping with the multiple layers of tragedy hanging over the film.

This is a sprawling but strangely hardscrabble epic that has a very digital look. Nevertheless, Hu and cinematographer Fan Chao use the whole screen, capturing some strikingly scarred urban vistas and playing games with depth of focus for effect. Above and beyond all else, Hu and his cast create four unsparingly messy but deeply haunted portraits of four very damaged people. They are almost like four distinctively dysfunctional parts of a dysfunctional whole (sort of like Jonathan Carroll’s novella Black Cocktail, but not as bleak). Indeed, deep down, there is a scintilla of hope that human connections can still be possible and meaningful—maybe.

Peng Yuchang and Wang Yuwen have some TV credits on their resume, but they each have an unaffected naturalism that makes them look and sound like they were plucked out of provincial high school to plays analogs of their own lives. At the risk of indulging in hyperbole, we would suggest Zhang Yu shows the intensity and unpredictability of vintage De Niro in the hoodlum role. Yet, Liu Congxi really anchors the film and keeps it honest as the dignified Wang Jin. He also forges some aptly paternal chemistry with the little girl playing his granddaughter, whose innocence is in fact quite important to the film.

Elephant is the sort of film that will knock you for a loop. It is amazing to think it is Hu’s first feature and depressing to know will be his last. In terms of scale, ambition, and purity of feeling, it is arguably the great Chinese morality play film of its era and a devastating critique of the so-called “Chinese Dream.” Very highly recommended, An Elephant Sitting Still screens (in all its four-hour glory) this Sunday (4/1) at MoMA and the following Sunday (4/8) at the Walter Reade, as part of ND/NF 2018.

Azougue Nazaré (2017) NDNF 2018

Tiago Melo's AZOUGUE NAZARE is a one of a kind must see. A clash of cultures between Maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian burlesque carnival tradition and Christianity the film is wild and alive something truly special.

Centering around a couple where the wife is a Christian and her husband is not so much, preferring to partake in the madness of Maracatu.  It's kind of hard to day more than that because in it's way this mix of styles and genres is hard to really hard to fully explain.

With moment of song, dance and even the supernatural, Melo's film doesn't feel acted as much as lived in.  We are watching a controlled documenting of  life unlike any other.

To be honest in trying to come up with a way of talking about the film I read several reviews which talked about the traditions behind what we see and other bits that fall outside of  the film. It is almost as if they, like I, were unable to fully put words together to discuss the film. To that end all I can say is just buy a ticket and take a ride.

For tickets and more information go here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Brooklyn Film Festival announces there 2018 edition- Threshold June 1-10



BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL
Announces 2018 Edition: THRESHOLD

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, March 27, 2018 - Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), the first international, competitive film festival in New York, has closed submissions for its 2018 edition: THRESHOLD. BFF received a total of 2,584 films from 120 countries and will select roughly 130 film premieres to be announced in May. The films are divided in six categories: Feature Narrative, Feature Doc, Short Narrative, Short Doc, Experimental and Animation.

BFF’s selection criteria, a 21-year-old set of rules, constitute the true festival’s trademark. Participating films cannot be older than two years. Films are selected from the submissions only. All the selected films are shown twice. All the selected films participate in the competition. And the smallest film can win the top festival award: The Grand Chameleon.

The festival will run from June 1 through June 10 at two main venues: Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg and Windmill Studios in Greenpoint. Additional programming will be presented on June 5 at Syndicated in Bushwick and on June 8 at UnionDocs in Williamsburg. On June 6 and 9, BFF will present a total of five shows at Made in NY Media Center by IFP in Dumbo, where it will also present the 14th annual kidsfilmfest on June 2. On June 9, the 7th annual BFF Exchange program will be hosted by Kickstarter in Greenpoint and on June 4, BFF will be hosted by Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Additional programming and networking events will be announced at a later date.

BFF Executive Director Marco Ursino said of the 2018 edition, “This will be a special year: we are finally 21! We start seeing things for what they really are, although it doesn’t take a genius to see that we are living in pretty challenging times! Division, bigotry, the wall, Trump...but luckily, some great things usually come from bad times. For example, the Spanish Civil War gave us the Guernica; the NYC defaults in the 70’s gave us the best graffiti in the world. Even the Great Depression gave us swing dancing. It doesn’t matter how bad it looks, art always wins. And this year’s festival is not going to be the exception. In the middle of this undeniably appalling time in American history, directors, actors, producers and the festival want their voices heard. Bad times make great art. And if so, this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival should be amazing.”

BFF’s list of sponsors for 2018 includes WNET, Eurochannel, G-Star Raw, AbelCine, VER, NYC Camera Company, Sixpoint Brewery and for the 6th consecutive year, the truly innovative TBWA/CHIAT/DAY will create our promotional campaign. As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, BFF is supported in part by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Google for Non-Profit, CUNY, The Young Professionals of the Americas Society and Techsoup. Several BFF events this year will be organized in collaboration with Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, Brooklyn Documentary Club, Film Shop, Video Consortium, UnionDocs and Maysles Documentary Center.

In each of the six film categories, BFF’s judges will select Best Film, Spirit Award and Audience Award winners. From all the six categories combined, BFF will award one of each of the following: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Composer, Best Editor, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenplay Writer, Best Producer, Best New Director and Best Brooklyn Project. Through the resources of our sponsors, BFF will assign to the winning filmmakers over $50,000 in prizes (products, services and cash).

About the programmers
BFF’s Feature Narrative programmer is Jason Stefaniak. An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, he received a Master of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production at NYU, where he was awarded an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scholarship and a Graduate Craft Award for Producing. Jason’s work has been recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has been featured on 20/20, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Boing Boing, MoveOn.org, Upworthy, The Progressive, and has screened at the United Nations. The Feature Documentary programmer is Julie Bridgham, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She directed and produced “The Sari Soldiers,” for which she received the Nestor Almendros Prize for courage and commitment in human rights filmmaking, and both a Sundance and IFP Documentary Fellowship. Natalie Gee, a multiple short film producer, leads BFF’s Short Narrative category. Brandon Harrison, a graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television is the Short Documentary programmer. Melanie Abramov, a BFF Alumni and director from Brooklyn, is the Experimental category programmer. She received her BFA from Parsons School of Design and later founded her production company, Dame Productions, which lends a necessary and provocative voice to women in media. Julia Cowle, BFF’s Animation programmer, is an independent filmmaker, illustrator, animator and comedy writer.

About the BFF Exchange (BFFX)
For the seventh consecutive year, on June 9 from noon-5pm at Kickstarter in Greenpoint, the festival will continue its BFF Exchange, aimed ultimately at connecting filmmakers with film distributors. BFF Exchange will feature a pitch session, panels and a Happy Hour. In an effort to bridge the city of Brooklyn with Mexico, BFFX is proud to feature as special guest Mexico City’s film commissioner Mauricio Aguinaco.

About kidsfilmfest
On June 2 from 1pm-3pm at Made in NY Media Center by IFP, BFF will present the 14th annual kidsfilmfest, which aims to discover, expose and promote the youngest generation of filmmakers. The film program is tailored for children of all ages (films are rated "G"), and consists of numerous animated shorts, documentaries and live-action films. A Q&A with the filmmakers and a filmmaker's workshop will follow the program.

About BFF
The organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival have been staging International, competitive film events since 1998. BFF's mission is to provide a public forum in Brooklyn in order to advance public interest in films and the independent production of films, to draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema, to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking, and to promote artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure. BFF, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

For more info about the festival please visit www.brooklynfilmfestival.org.
For more info about kidsfilmfest, visit www.kidsfilmfest.org.

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From the Vault: Cohen Film Collection April - May, 2018 at the Quad

The Quad presents rarely screened crime thrillers starring Alain Delon, W.C. Fields shorts, Jazz shorts featuring Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington & Cab Calloway, André Téchiné's Scene of the Crime, and more from the Cohen Film Collection

Criminal Tendencies: Three Alain Delon thrillers

April 2-12

Le Gang
Jacques Deray, 1977, France/Italy, 105m, DCP
In 1945, as World War II comes to a close, five small time crooks unite to form a gang led by Delon. Soon the police attempt to stop their crime spree—so how long will their luck last? In French with English subtitles
Three Men To Kill
Jacques Deray, 1980, France, 93m, DCP
Delon comes to the aid of a man lying wounded in the road, and soon becomes the target for the killers, who see him as a dangerous witness. A gritty, violent, and suspenseful thriller. In French with English subtitles
Two Men In Town
José Giovanni, 1973, Italy, 100m, DCP
Released from prison, former bank robber Delon finds honest work and new love. But a vengeful cop begins to stalk him, and his former partners in crime try to lure him back, pushing his determination to go straight to the breaking point. In French with English subtitles

Five shorts from W.C. Fields

April 13-19

TRT 91m
The Barbershop, Arthur Ripley, 1933, U.S., 20m, DCP
The Fatal Glass of Beer, Clyde Bruckman, 1933, U.S., 20m, DCP
The Golf Specialist, Monte Brice, 1930, U.S., 21m, DCP
The Pharmacist, Arthur Ripley, 1933, U.S., 20m, DCP
Pool Shark, Edward Middleton, 1915, U.S., 10m, DCP


Nine Jazz Shorts

April 20-26

TRT 100m
Jazz à la Cuba, director unknown, 1933, 5m, DCP
with Don Aspiazzu, "foremost exponent of the Rhumba"

A Rhapsody in Black and Blue, Aubrey Scotto, 1932, 10m, DCP
with Louis Armstrong

Symphony in Black, Fred Waller, 1933, 10m, DCP
with Duke Ellington

A Bundle of Blues, Fred Waller, 1933, 9m, DCP
with Duke Ellington

Cab Calloway's Hi-De-Ho, Fred Waller, 1934, 10m, DCP
with Cab Calloway

Hoagy Carmichael, Leslie Roush, 1939, 10m, DCP
with Jack Teagarden and his orchestra

Artie Shaw's Class in Swing, Leslie Roush, 1939, 10m, DCP
with Artie Shaw

St. Louis Blues, Dudley Murphy, 1929, 16m, DCP
with Bessie Smith

Black and Tan Fantasy, Dudley Murphy, 1929, 19m, DCP
with Duke Ellington

Scene of the Crime

April 27 - May 3
André Téchiné, 1986, France, 90m, DCP
This restrained psychological thriller traces the complex ripple effects of a chance run-in between a 14-year-old youth and an escaped criminal in the woods in rural France. Anchoring the film is a spectacularly controlled Catherine Deneuve, who plays the boy’s mother and lives in turn with her own maman (Danielle Darrieux). As her life takes a chaotic turn, Deneuve’s dark past is gradually—and gracefully—unveiled. In French with English subtitles

A SUITABLE GIRL hits VOD March 30

A Suitable Girl is a look at the Indian drive to get married. According to the film women are raised with the intention that they will one day get married and raise a family. The film takes a look at three women who are aiming for marriage.

Dipti is a woman in her early 30’s who just wants to get married. Working as a school teacher she has been unable to find anyone. Part of the problem according to some in the lucrative marriage industry is her weight. She is a sweet straight forward woman who wants to just be married and loved.

Amrita marries a childhood as the film begins and move off to be with her husband’s family. A working girl and lover of partying before marriage The plan was for her to rejoin the work force after the wedding but a sudden illness of her father in-law changes the her plans and she is forced to cope with falling into a traditional role.

Ritu is a young woman working in high finance. While she feels she wants to get married she won’t do so to anyone who will not understand her need to work and be more than a traditional wife. We also get to know her mother who works as a high stakes matchmaker and who is unable to get her mother

A Suitable Girl is a good look one cultures obsession with marriage. I love that the film lets us experience the women’s uncertainty at how what they want will affect their lives. We also get a hint at them chaffing at what society expects from them (A baby by the third anniversary).

As good as the film is the film has two small problems. The first is that the film is so well versed in the world of Indian weddings there are times the film should explain more. Terms are used and events transpire that are not 100% clear to an outsider. It’s far from fatal, we catch up via context, but at the same time it keeps us slightly outside events. The other problem is the film is kind of devoid of dramatic tension. The film is about the path to the women getting married so the fact that they do is not surprising. The only question is who the grooms are going to be and since its outside the film until it happens no suspense is generated.

Regardless this film is definitely worth a look.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Retrospective of Emile de Antonio, the Radical and Fiercely Independent Documentary Filmmaker, Begins April 27 at Metrograph

A Retrospective of the Radical, Fiercely Independent Documentary Filmmaker
Including New 35mm Restorations of Point of Order and In the Year of the Pig
Beginning Friday April 27, Metrograph will present a 10-film retrospective of Emilie de Antonio. Intimate of Andy Warhol, John Cage, and the Weather Underground, few men lived though and chronicled the tumult of the 1960s and their aftermath as fully as de Antonio: savage satirist, collagist, political polemicist, montage artist, and fiercely independent filmmaker. Beginning with 1963 debut Point of Order, a brilliant distillation of 188 hours of the Army-McCarthy senate hearings, de Antonio tirelessly depicted the events of the day through a visionary, experimental lens, tackling the Warren Report (Rush to Judgment), the Vietnam War (In the Year of the Pig), and the Nixon debacle (Millhouse: A White Comedy). Essential now, essential always, and still thrillingly unreconciled.

Point of Order (1964/97 mins/35mm) New 35mm Restoration
Working with co-producer Dan Talbot from 188 hours of kinescopes from the CBS archives depicting the Army-McCarthy senate hearings, of “At long last have you no sense of decency” fame, de Antonio distilled down this taut true-life political-moral thriller, which following an opening narration by the director puts aside voiceover completely, allowing the historical record to speak clearly and convincingly for itself. Print courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater ResearchPreservation by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation.


Rush to Judgement (1967/98 mins/35mm)
An early and perhaps never exceeded entry in the field of Warren Report-skepticist works, Rush to Judgment, made in collaboration with attorney Mark Lane, reopens the case of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination in a manner both methodic and wholly absent of overreaching conspiratorial speculation. Documentary as inquest, beneath its cool surface a lm burning with a fervent desire for questions to be answered and justice to be done. Print courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.

In the Year of the Pig (1968/103 mins/35mm) New 35mm Restoration
De Antonio’s best-known lm is a landmark of the burgeoning artistic protest against U.S. policy in Vietnam, drawing together found-footage material to create a comprehensive primer on the region’s colonial past and its destructively militarized present, its steady accumulation of photographically-indisputable facts gradually adding up to a sweeping damnation of American involvement—a lm that doesn’t need to raise its voice to issue a deafening roar of protest. 35mm restored print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.


America is Hard to See (1970/90 mins/16mm)
Offering an embedded perspective from inside cerebral Minnesota Congressman Eugene McCarthy’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, de Antonio observes the last stand of peace politics and moral sanity on the national American political field, including extensive footage from the Wisconsin and New Hampshire policies that ended LBJ’s ambitions to return to the White House. A eulogy of sorts, shot through with moments of hope—the rare de Antonio work driven by adulation rather than outrage, and one of his hardest to see. Courtesy of The Circulating Film & Video Library/The Museum of Modern Art.


Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971/92 mins/35mm)
and The Checkers Speech (1952/30 mins/16mm)
A biopic portrait of Richard Nixon as complicated, pathos-ridden, and ultimately absurd as the man himself, de Antonio’s found-footage comedy/picaresque follows Number 37 on his rise to power, both admiring the young Nixon’s poor boy’s ambition and drive and taking careful note of his boundless capacity for hypocrisy, resentment, and double-dealing. In making the film de Antonio worked tirelessly to excavate Nixon’s career-pivot “Checkers” speech, which will be screened in its entirety. Print of Millhouse courtesy Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.


Painters Painting (1973/116 mins/16mm)
De Antonio had been an intimate of the American Pop artists well before turning to filmmaking, and as such brought a unique access and understanding to this documentary, a series of profiles of painters and art world gures based around the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition ‘New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970,’ whose cast includes Willem de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler, modernist mandarin Clement Greenberg, art dealer Leo Castelli, and collectors Robert and Ethel Scull.

Screening Room with Emile de Antonio (Robert Gardner/1973/79 mins/Digital)
A televised discussion with host Robert Gardner and De Antonio, along with visual anthropologist Edmund Carpenter.


Underground (de Antonio, Mary Lampson, & Haskell Wexler/1976/87 mins/16mm) 
At the heart of Underground are de Antonio, Lampson, and Wexler’s clandestine interviews with on-the-lam militant “Weatherpeople” Bill Ayers, Kathy Boudin, and Bernadine Dohrn—the very existence of which were enough to get the filmmakers subpoenaed by the FBI—but this footage is woven into a larger tapestry of contemporary leftist activist filmmaking activity, including excerpted material from Chris Marker, The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971), Jane Fonda’s Indochina Peace Campaign, and de Antonio’s own cinema, making for a kind of State of the Counterculture review. Courtesy of The Circulating Film & Video Library/The Museum of Modern Art.

In the King of Prussia (1983/92 mins/16mm)

In September of 1980, a group of anti-war activists who would come to be known as the “Plowshares Eight” were charged in connection with the destruction of materials intended for nuclear warheads in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Starring the actual priest participants in the incident, Fathers Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the latter who’d appeared in In The Year of the Pig, and Martin Sheen in the role of their judge, In the King of Prussia is de Antonio’s passionate, engaged reconstruction of their subsequent trial.Courtesy of The Circulating Film & Video Library/The Museum of Modern Art. 

Mr. Hoover and I (1989/86 mins/16mm) 

De Antonio’s final film, released in the year of his death, is a bold departure from his famous found-footage mode, in which the filmmaker noted for eschewing narration appears directly addressing the camera in autobiographical reverie, reflecting on the events of his seventy-year life and the parallel rise of the American police and surveillance state under the guidance of J. Edgar Hoover, who’d once ordered another kind of biography of de Antonio: a 10,000 page investigative dossier. Courtesy of The Circulating Film & Video Library/The Museum of Modern Art

The China Hustle (2018)

THE CHINA HUSTLE will piss you off. A look at the scams various brokerage house and Chinese nationals are running on the American and worldwide financial markets is frightening since it is creating a situation that is bankrupting millions and while making other fabulously wealthy.

Simply put what is happening is Chinese companies are merging with dead shell companies in the US so they can be traded on the US stock markets. The companies are then pushed by brokers using the promise of getting in on the “great Chinese Market” as a sure bet. The companies value sky rockets and everyone gets rich…

…except most of the companies are shit and not as advertised. Since few people are checking the financials beyond what is on paper the fraud isn’t found out for years, if ever. Those that are checking are threatened with violence or are tossed into jails. The Chinese government is protecting their own. More importantly Chinese law allows them to fuck over non-Chinese without fear of jail time.

It's so bad that some people are trying to root out the bad companies and destroy them through short selling (betting a company will collapse).

Don’t worry if you don’t think you'll understand it all before you go in because THE CHINA HUSTLE will explain it to you so clearly you’ll want to call congress and force them to act.

Beginning by saying that there are no good guys in the story THE CHINA HUSTLE runs through the story a brisk clear pace. It starts with an explanation that there is a belief that China is a great untapped market the film then goes on to explain how low level banks and brokers are creating Franken-companies by mixing crappy Chinese companies with America shell companies. It then moves on to how no one was really looking at the companies, until someone suddenly did and began to realize nothing was kosher with the whole situation. We then see how very few people care because there is too much money to be made shoveling shit.

What is amazing is that pretty much no has any remorse at the crap they spewed out. They were/are making cash and that was all. More amazing is that the guys who are trying to bring the crap companies down are doing so because there is money to be made. As they said at the top there are no real good guys.

I am really pissed off.  When the film was over I wanted to beat some one up. I wanted to call my congressperson and give them holy hell to make them stop this from happening.

One of the most important films of the year, you must see this. You must see it because it will help you understand how over inflated and fake the stock market is.

THE CHINA HUSTLE opens Friday and should be on the top of your must see list.

THE ALIENIST: Episode 10: Castle in the Sky

Kreizler comes to terms with his demons
The final episode is here. All is revealed with the villains of the piece getting theirs and the team growing and moving on (and no that isn't a spoiler because you know how it has to end).

My thoughts are brief tonight- largely because you should just watch the episode. And largely I have little to say beyond saying I want to dive in and go again.

To be honest the episode isn't perfect. The episode has the same flaws that the novel did in bringing the mystery to a close. Its bumpy, but I expected that. The wrap up past that was excellent and emotional. The post mystery bits are top flight and moved me. I really want to see the sequel Angel of Darkness come next with this cast.

This was awesome from start to finish and just damn wonderful. If you haven't been watching do so. If you have you're in for a treat

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mexman (2018) Boston Underground Film Festival

Josh Polon's portrait of filmmaker German Alonso is a bittersweet  look at a filmmaker with a unique talent who decides to roll the dice and make a feature film based on his student film. Where it goes is the film.

German Alonso is a man of great creativity. Working in a variety of mediums he has a creative drive and intuition that is almost unmatched. He is a man who can over come lack of skill by a brilliant counter move. The trouble is he also is easily side tracked, especially by his other great obsession,  with the result that his drive to make his film isn't what is expected.

Bittersweet and really not what you expect portrait of a filmmaker is a must see for anyone looking to make films. Not so much because it's a rousing portrait of  triumph but more a sobering look at what might happen. I know I'm being vague but to explain everything that happens in the film simply isn't all that easy. This a film that is a ride to the end and not a series of easily explained highlights. You really need to see the film and go all the way to the end.

A word of warning the film isn't what you expect. I knew some of hat happened but seeing it play out surprised me. Just give yourself over to it and go.

Recommended when the film plays later today at The Boston Underground Film Festival.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) Boston Underground Film Festival 2018

I am at a loss as to how TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is  playing smaller festivals such as Boston Underground and not in the bigger fests like New York or Tribeca or any of the other huge festivals. The fact that films by Guillermo del Toro are lauded there but gems from filmmakers like Issa López, who has made a film that is probably more powerful than most of del Toro's films, is just wrong.

TIGER follows young Estrella whose mother has been carried off by the drug cartels in Mexico. She is left to fend for herself and falls in with a band of boys who have similar stories. They work together to get food and stay safe. They  tell each other fairy tales to pass the time. However fate has other plans for the group and they are soon on a collision course with the cartels.

Realistic, but with supernatural overtones, Estrella sees ghosts and a traveling line of blood, this is a real world fairy tale. I should add that this is not a Disney sort of fairy tale but something more akin to the original Grimm's tales where truly bad things happen.

Shocking yet deeply human and moving. TIGERS is a film that is light years above and beyond most other "genre" films out there in that it gets the blend of real and fantastic elements exactly right. Nothing is over done or unbelievable. We buy everything that happens, even the fantastic stuff because we believe in the characters.

At the same time the film is very much a fairy tale with monsters, ghosts, magic, wishes, princes,a princess and any number of fairy tale tropes wandering through the film. However the film is so well done that you'll never think of it as a fairy tale, rather simply as a solid drama.

This film is amazing and get better the more you ponder it.

Highly recommended.

This is a must at the  Boston Underground Film Festival.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sadako vs. Kayako (2016) aka Ring vs Grudge

Like Freddy and Jason or any other big franchise cross overs the ghosts from THE RING and THE GRUDGE collide in a film that works in fits and starts and is better than you have heard.

The plot has a college professor saying the only urban legend he thinks could be real is the evil tape that summons Sadako from THE RING. He offers to pay anyone who ever runs across it. Two of his students do when they get a VCR with the tape still in it when they buy one to make a DVD copy of a wedding VHS tape. Cursed after seeing the video, the girls desperately contact the professor who too gets cursed ...and in an effort to possibly survive the curse a medium tell them to go to the house haunted by Kayako from THE GRUDGE.

Its a bunch of scary sequences, all in the GRUDGE  house, wrapped in some merely adequate exposition that ends in the title fight. The result is a film that works in bits and pieces but never comes together since logic has to be turned into a pretzel to make it all work.

It kind of does and it kind of doesn't with the result its a film that never really satisfies. Its never really bad but at the same time it never comes together.

Is it worth a look? For horror fans. Certainly if you've seen the 12 or 13 films in each series (yes between Hollywood and Japan there are than many films) you'll want to see this. All others you're on your own.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What We Started (2018)

A look at the world of dance music that is framed via a dual biography of veteran DJ Carl Cox who has been spinning for decades and 18 year old  Martin Garrix who has just broken through and is now head lining various festivals.

How you feel about WHAT WE STARTED is going to be determined by how into the music you are. It is a good but basic overview of the history of the music, from pre-disco days on through the modern era,  the film stall because there is a lack of context that makes the film drift away. Lots of names are mentioned over the course of the film but there is an assumption we know who everyone is and what certain clubs and festivals are.. Yes  the whole history of the genre is here but it is in a kind of vacuum. As some one who likes the music but has no real sense of the history a great deal was lost because I had no idea what they were talking about.

Another problem is that the dual stories of Cox and Garrix, while interesting and enlightening, but they are simply not enough to support 100 minutes of screen time. Yes they are both likable,  but there just isn't enough here to be the focus of a feature.

Not having enough here is also the biggest problem with the film visually. Largely a mix of talking heads and  sequences watching people dance and DJs spin there is a point where it simply stops being interesting. The lack of compelling visuals is some thing other dance music docs have encountered  but the ones I saw always managed to hide it in other ways such as one on the Electric Daisy Carnival showing us a lot of flash from the festival or another on DJ Steve Aoki  focusing on his life outside of spinning. Here we are very much focused on the people and while its intellectually interesting, it probably could have been an audio documentary.

What does make the film interesting is the music.  Its a wall to wall mix of various beats. Watching the film with headphones I found I was constantly in motion as the music moved my head and body.

While not a bad film this is just not a really interesting one.

WHAT WE STARTED premiered at ULTRA Music Festival last night and is now in theaters.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Revenge (2018) plays Saturday the Boston Underground Film Festival

JB saw REVENGE when it played at Sundance. With the film playing this weekend at Boston Underground I'm reposting his review.

This country wouldn’t be so violent, if we could just keep out the French. That seems to be the clear take-away from this new vengeance horror-thriller. The director happens to be French too, but she is also a woman—an inescapable fact that gives her a different perspective on the brutality of the New French Extremity movement and the grindhouse tradition of the rape-revenge thriller. Jen, the party girl, is in for a hard time, but she will give back even more than she gets in Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, which screens during this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival.

Jen does not mind that her French lover Richard is married—and neither does he. The important thing is he has money and the right kind of looks to be with her. It is maybe implied that he and his frog hunting buddies work for some sort of merc contractor, but details are kept deliberately vague. Regardless, Richard, Stanley, and Dimitri certainly seem to be comfortable with guns. The latter two were supposed to arrive after Jen had already left the isolated desert vacation home, but Jen is a good sport when they show up early. Unfortunately, Stanley takes her flirtiness as sufficient grounds to rape her during Richard’s absence. When he returns, he is quite disappointed by the state of affairs, but when Jen rebuffs his hush money he decides to kill her instead.

Usually, getting pushed off a cliff and impaled on a jagged tree trunk is enough to kill most people, but not Jen. Despite her hard-partying ways, she instinctively adapts to the hunter-prey cat-and-mouse game. She also discovers the healing power of peyote. Frankly, her epic cauterizing scene has some logical potholes (kids, do not try this at home), but you have to give the film an “A” for effort. However, Revenge really locks in during Jen’s big showdown with Richard, back at the ranch. Let’s just say Fargeat fully capitalizes on the sticky, slippery nature of blood (when it flows and pools).

It is a simple title, but that is what Revenge is all about. Matilda Lutz handles Jen’s transformation from sex kitten to spiritual vengeance warrior as convincingly as anyone could. Kevin Janssens does a similarly credible job with Richard’s evolution from loverboy to stone cold man-hunter. Vincent Colombe basically makes us hate Stanley more and more, taking him from callous attacker to sniveling cowards, but he is certainly effective.


So, where can we build a wall to keep the French out? As this grindhouse subgenre goes, Revenge is about as brutal as it gets, while still preserving the cathartic satisfaction of the payback. Granted, it is a small body of work to judge from, but Revenge still represents a radical departure from Fargeat’s previous work, the relationship-driven science fiction short film, Reality+. Nevertheless, she clearly knows what she is doing. Along with cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert, she clearly evokes the look and spirit of “classic” exploitation cinema. Even more intense than Cravioto’s Bound to Vengeance (a.k.a. Reversal), Revenge is recommended for hearty viewers who can handle its graphic extremes, when it screens Saturday at the 2018 Boston Underground Film Festival.