Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Best of 2019 Part 2- Best of the Best

And at long last here are the Best of the Best films of the year. They are  not in any particular order since they are all great.

I have to start with three actresses whose performances transcended  pretty much all others this year.

Svetlana Barnandid in ANNA shows herself to be an actress who might be the first person who I've ever seen who could challenge Gena Rowlands on screen and not be bested. It is a staggering achievement and I want to see more from her.

Maddy Murphy in MISS FREELANCE rocks your world. A woman who manages her life in certain way - and we realize the extent to which is is trying to fool herself- and it is soul crushing.

Until I saw Avigale Kovaric in REDEMPTION and RED COW I had no idea who she was. But seeing her in 2 films in one festival, acting completely differently in each, I realized just how good she was- and was left to wonder why in the hell she hasn't been grabbed by Hollywood.

The visuals of WHEN MAN RETURNS, a documentary about a man and his dog in the frozen north, are as haunting as anything I've seen. If  docs were up for cinematography awards it would be game set and match.

AD ASTRA's visual effects are some of the best ever put on screen. They are a staggering achievement

And now the full films- again in no particular order-

GREAT LAMP- the first great film I saw in 2019. A film made because the director either had to make a film or die. The result is a film that is so full of life that will haunt you forever.

SHAKESPEARE IN TOKYO Young man with Downs Syndrome slips away from his brother and has a glorious adventure. A magnificent reminder that most people with supposed disabilities are not as disabled as we foolishly think.

ERNIE AND JOE CRISIS COPS- the story of two cops who are changing the way police are handling those with mental health issues. It is a film that opens the door to a sea change in the way the police do their jobs. It is a film that gets better each time you see it. And I was lucky enough to meet the men in person.

VIDEO STORE COMMERCIAL- short and sweet horror film about a commercial that goes wrong is as good as any horror films can be

SHE NEVER DIED-Olunike Adeliyi Oscar worthy performance highlights a film about an eternal woman and the demons she is forced to fight. It transcends being just a horror or action film to be a deadly serious mediation on eternity.

HE DREAMS OF GIANTS/MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE- The film about the decades long quest  to make a film and the finished film  make for a stunning pair that has so many ideas in them that you could discuss them both for weeks and weeks.

LOVE LETTERS FROM EVEREST- An animated true life love story that will revive your love of mankind.

FOR SAMA- hands down the best film on the war in Syria and one of the rare times I've seen a film that was even better than it was promised to be.

GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH- quite possibly my favorite film of the year, definitely the best of Tribeca, this story of a the San Francisco Gay Men's Choir touring Trump's south will make you cry from the humanity of it all.

PAIN AND GLORY- Antonio Banderas ages gracefully in a film about love loss and growing older. It is a film that put me beyond words that will live in my heart forever.

THE TRAITOR- One of the best mafia movies ever made is the true story of made man who just wanted to be left alone, but found himself a target of greedy mafiosa for no rational reason- and how he fought back.

THIS IS NOT A MOVIE- Portrait of journalist Robert Fisk is a warning about our times and why the news cycle is so messed up. Its a stunning portrait of on man who goes and sees and reports as well as starting point for long discussions on a variety of subjects such as the state of reporting.

UNHOLY 'MOLE- a vile, foul, screamingly funny short film from a filmmaker who needs to be watched closely ...for many reasons.

GIRL IN THE HALLWAY- Crushing film about a girl who lives in a hallway and the bad end she has and the guilt left behind.

MINE 9- claustrophobic nightmare of trapped miners will keep you on the edge of your seats. One of the best thrillers in years.

JUDAS COLLAR- Heart breaking, based on true story, of the story of camels used to hunt other camels. It's a magnificent film from a filmmaker who needs to be given a feature film.

ASK DR RUTH- portrait of the sex educator will make you smile from ear to ear and cry. A masterpiece.

HOW TO BE ALONE- a woman deals with being alone at night. Its very funny- and very not.

WANDERING EARTH- Batshit crazy science fiction epic that Netflix has buried despite it being one of the biggest moneymakers world wide this year. Better than pretty much every action film from Hollywood-it just goes and goes and goes until we are exhausted.

THE FAREWELL- Life and death in a family as everyone come together to say good bye- without telling grandma she is dying. This is real life made movie magic

THE TWO POPES- two great actors talk about life death, god and the universe and change us for the better. Several weeks on I am still glowing from its magic

KLAUS- the last thing we need is another Santa Claus origin story- except when it is this absolute charmer.

GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS- the greatest giant monster film that my six year old self ever saw- it is everything I ever wanted and more.

OUR TIME MACHINE portrait of the artist Maleonn and a special performance piece he puts together. Its meditation of fathers and sons and a whole lot more reduced me to tears.

ACCEPT THE CALL- One man tries to find out how his son became a religious extremist- and thus reveals a complexity to the subject that no one in the media or in fiction is coming close to truly explaining or understanding.

MISS FREELANCE- Yea I mentioned this above but the film itself is great beyond Maddy Murphy's performance and needs to be noted as such.

I AM A RAIN DOG- A hit man with a crisis of conscious. Its not what you expect and as a result absolutely haunting.

CRAWL- a crawl space, a hurricane,two people and two alligators make for the greatest popcorn film of the year and what is destined to be a classic.

KIDS- Animated masterpiece about "kids on a playground" who are running around, shifting, exerting pressure and things on each other. Seeing it on a big screen was a physical experience unlike anything I saw all year.

The Oscar shortlisted Advocate opens Friday

Excellent portrait of Lea Tsemel, Jewish-Israeli attorney she defends Palestinians regardless of what they did that includes petty crimes or attempted suicide bombing.  The film is a mix of reflection on her career and portrait of the woman in action. We watch her championing her clients, despite knowing what they are accused of and never giving anything less than her all.

Tsemel is a joy to watch and to listen to. Watching the film I wasn't sure we needed to have another portrait of a fighter of the downtrodden and then I saw her in action and fell head over heels with her. It takes a special kind of a person to be able to talk to the family of a man accused of stabbing 11 people about a plea bargain and not say your son is screwed. There was of course no doubt he did it but her attitude in discussing it is something rare. (I know I have a day job in criminal justice and can see how bad some attorneys can be.

A stunning film that is highly recommended

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Best of 2019 Part 1

When you review well over a thousand films a year and actually watch even more than that you run across a lot of great films. I tend to see so many noteworthy films that I can not widdle it down to ten or twenty. I see enough that I could program a festival (or two) with the films that really knocked my socks off.

As I have done the last few years I've split the best of the year list into two. These are a bunch of great films and tomorrow are greater films. Regardless of which list they are on all are the best films I've seen this year.

First off I need to mention three filmmakers that I noticed who need to be noted as up and comers:

PRAYERS OF A SAINT was directed by Santho Goonewardene and while I didn't love the film there was something about the direction that makes me think Ms Goonewardene is the real deal and ready to rock the pillars of heaven. Give her a feature.

LADIES MUST DEJECT was written by young Conner Wharton. In a time when the director of Burning Cane is getting noticed for a making a film that looks good at a young age despite it not having the ring of truth, Ms Wharton, who is younger,  wrote and starred in a film that has the painful feeling of having been lived in. Its a stunning achievement regardless of age. Tell more stories.

TATTOOIST is a crazy ass short that needs to get director Michael Wong a feature. Yea its really short but at the same time it shows such mad skills I want to see what he does for two hours.

I need to note that I loved the characters in OH MERCY, a great off kilter police drama. More than most other films this year the wonderfully defined people on screen delighted me just by being.

CHASING PORTRAITS- super look at the director tying to track down where all her grandfather's paintings went after the Second World War.

MEMPHIS 69- Portrait of a concert in Memphis that may not be the most technically accomplished film but has some of the best music in any film all year. It also beautifully captures a time and a place long gone.

WOLF HOUSE- one of the greatest animated films you'll see, period. A deep dark true life portrait of a colony of people where abuse ran rampant. It will rattle you to your core with it's tale while making your jaw drop with the technical achievement.

HIDDEN CITY- Visually overwhelming experience of what lays beneath Madrid.

ONCE WERE BROTHERS- Portrait of Robbie Robertson and the Band. It is a snap shot of a time when all the planets aligned and magic was made and we ended up wit music to live our lives by.

BREAKING BREAD- Portrait of a food festival in Israel that sought to connect everyone regardless of their background. Don't see it on an empty stomach

CAUSE OF DEATH- A man discovers how his brother died was not what the official story said and the fallout from his looking to get to the truth. It will make you question everything you are ever told.

LYDIA LUNCH-THE WAR IS NEVER OVER- Glorious portrait of a glorious woman- This should be require viewing for ever little girl because she will show them not to take any shit from anyone.

MORTICIAN OF MANILA- portrait of a Mortician at ground zero of the Philippine war on "drugs". Deeply troubling in so many different ways.

I AM NOT ALONE- magnificent portrait of of one man took down a corrupt government

YOURS TRULY AI WEIWEI-portrait of WeiWei's art show highlighting the struggles of various political prisoners scores points on so many levels including showing us what the spotlight shown on their work means to the prisoners.

DUNYA'S DAY- screamingly funny short about a high maintenance woman who throws a party...and it all goes wrong.

THE GIFT-JOHNNY CASH- magnificent portrait of the music legend.

45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER- a look at how changing how a prisoner sees the world can change them for the better.

ON PRESIDENTS ORDERS- scary look at the madness in the Philippines. Its a dire warning that it can happen here

EVERYBODY FLIES-chilling look at how airplane travel will make you sick.

ALWAYS IN SEASON- heartbreaking look at racism in America

CHANGIN TIMES OF IKE WHITE- unexpected look at singer Ike White who made music with the likes of Stevie Wonder before he simply vanished. Not Searching for Sugarman but something different and more challenging

NARROWSBURG- small town hopes to become the Sundance of the east-only to have it all go banana shaped.

PROMISE AT DAWN-cinematic adaption of Romain Gary's novel is a masterpiece that has one of Charlotte Gainsborough's greatest performances.

LIFE SUPPORT- two women meet by accident in a park and they, and you, will never be the same.

ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY- dark horror film that goes in unexpected was.

MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY-portrait of comic culture that reveals it to be alive and well

RINGMASTER- what we think is a portrait of a man who makes killer onion rings morphs into something else and unexpected

YESTERDAY- What if the Beatles never existed? What if you wanted to grin from ear to ear?

BELLINGCAT: TRUTH IN A POST TRUTH WORLD- Portrait of the Bellingcat collective that uses the internet to break stories and tell truths about what is really going on in the world.

LEAVE THE BUS THROUGH THE BROKEN WINDOW- unable to cover an art show as planned the director turns the camera on himself and makes magic

MR SAM- Wonderful off kilter short about a one of a kind man in love with a corpse that needs to be turned into a feature.

REWIND- shocking yet hopeful look at a family suffering generations of abuse

HELLBOY- Mike Mignola's character returns to the big screen in a fun film that just entertains on its own terms.

RUSSIAN FIVE- Spy film disguised as a sports film is just one hell of a ride.(and its all true)

PALACE- life in a small town laid bare. A stunning small gem that will rock your world

NOTHING STAYS THE SAME- Portrait of the Salon Pub in Austin that is struggling to stay alive. In an age when big business and big real estate threaten the things that makes our town's great NOTHING... acts as warning of what may happen is it's not stopped.

MARKIE FROM MILWAUKEE- Glorious portrait of one man who tries to follow his heart and finds it colliding with his church. Something special.

17 BLOCKS- portrait of one family over time that shows us life in ways we've never seen on screen. A momentous achievement

I"M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME- portrait of one man who followed his heart and ended up making the world a better place simply by touching the lives around him.

JESUS SHOWS YOU THE HIGHWAY- one of a kind science fiction film that is simply magnificent in execution and vision

COME TO DADDY- wonderful thriller about a young man who goes home and who is confused by what he finds there-and to say more would be telling

THE DEEPER YOU DIG- family made horror film/morality tale is just amazing

PLACE OF NO WORDS- the relationship of a father and son in real life and in a story which is as glorious a film about life as you will see all year.

THE FOX AND THE BIRD- in this short a fox raises a bird and by the time the ending comes you will be sobbing

Metrograph's January/February 2020 Week-Long Engagements Calendar Announced

January 24-30
Exclusive One-Week NY Theatrical Run

First-Ever U.S. Theatrical Release and Director's Cut of
Jia Zhangke's Poignant and Poetic Portrait of Shanghai 
Shanghai’s past and present flow together in Jia Zhangke’s poetic and poignant portrait of this fast-changing port city. Restoring censored images and filling in forgotten facts, Jia provides an alternative version of 20th century China’s fraught history as reflected through life in the Yangtze city. He builds his narrative through a series of eighteen interviews with people from all walks of life—politicians’ children, ex-soldiers, criminals, and artists (including Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien)— while returning regularly to the image of his favorite lead actress, Zhao Tao, wandering through the Shanghai World Expo Park. (The film was commissioned by the World Expo, but is anything but a piece of straightforward civic boosterism.) A richly textured tapestry full of provocative juxtapositions. A Kino Lorber release.
January 31-February 5
Exclusive One-Week NY Revival Engagement

Scorsese's Love Letter to Hollywood Musicals in New 35mm Print!
A love letter to the classic Hollywood musical that scratches off the Technicolor sheen to reveal the depths of desperation hidden beneath their surfaces, Martin Scorsese’s 1940s-era genre-deconstructing extravaganza features Liza Minnelli as a nightclub singer who rises in fame as her relationship to Robert De Niro’s hotheaded jazz saxophonist falls to pieces. The deliberate artifice of the film’s soundstage-bound musical numbers—including Minnelli’s grand finale performance of the famous Kander and Ebb title song, written for the movie—contrasts jarringly with the raw nerve realism of the performances, making for a collision that’s something like MGM’s Freed Unit colliding head-on with John Cassavetes. An MGM/Park Circus release.
February 7-13
Exclusive One-Week Revival Engagement

Makoto Shinkai's Anime Blockbuster
The highest-grossing anime release of all time, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name follows a romance beset by complications quite unlike any you’ve seen in a movie before. One day, high schoolers Mitsuha, a girl living in the country, and Taki, a boy living in Tokyo, strangers to one another, suddenly and inexplicably find themselves periodically switching bodies. As if this weren’t enough of a conundrum, a tenderness begins to grow between them through the notes that they exchange in anticipation of the next swap—and all this before the comet strike, the first of many plot wrinkles in time. A modern classic, moving and melancholy yet never saccharine, bolstered by peerless character animation and RADWIMPS’ songs. A Funimation release.
February 21-27
Exclusive One-Week NY Theatrical Run

Actor Michael Imperioli to Appear In-Person!
Michael Imperioli plays Bennie Gaza, the owner of Cabaret Maxime, a nightclub specializing in burlesque and striptease, located in an old red-light district. Bennie runs his business like a family operation, struggling to balance the individual needs of his performers with those of his manic-depressive wife, but his resources are stretched to the limit when the forces overseeing the gradual gentrification of the neighborhood try to squeeze him out, not stopping at the threat of violence. A finely shaded, character-driven thriller from Portuguese filmmaker Bruno de Almeida, providing Imperioli one of his finest film roles to date.

Metrograph's January and February 2020 Repertory Calendar Announced

Opens January 10

Makoto Shinkai x 4

Still relatively early on in his career, Makoto Shinkai has established himself as perhaps the great rising hope for the future of Japanese animation, a potential inheritor to the mantle of Hayao Miyazaki, exhibiting the maestro’s same combination of popular appeal, emotional intelligence, and unmatched artistry. For twenty years now, beginning with the release of his monochrome 1999 short She and Her Cat, Shinkai has produced movies that expertly balance the spectacular and the intimate, made with an artisanal attention to the smallest detail—Shinkai often participating in nearly every aspect of the filmmaking process, including concept designs, music composition, and even voice acting. Sublime, cosmic films, made with a human touch. Titles include 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011). A members-only screening of Shinkai's latest, Weathering with You (2019), will be on Friday, January 3. A weeklong engagement of Your Name (2016) begins Friday, February 7.
Opens January 24

Hal Hartley
A Retrospective of the American Independent Giant, with Films Starring
Isabelle Huppert, Adrienne Shelly, PJ Harvey, Martin Donovan, Sarah Polley, etc.
Hartley to Appear In-Person!

Hal Hartley appeared on the scene in the “indie” movie boom of the early ‘90s, but even in these years of mainstreaming, he remained an outsider’s outsider; his independence not a temporarily convenient brand, but an entire ethos. His milieu was a blue-collar, bridge-and- tunnel New York, populated by workaday philosophers expressing themselves in a deadpan, declamatory performance style heavy on aphorism and unusual articulacy. This, combined with Hartley’s austere, geometric mise-en-scene, has invited comparisons to Robert Bresson, but his singular combination of off-kilter humor and throbbing romanticism can really only be called “Hartley-esque.” From breakthrough early works introducing stars Adrienne Shelly and Martin Donovan to latter-day masterstrokes like Ned Rifle, join us in following this remarkable artist through the different-drummer march that his career has been. Titles include The Unbelievable Truth (1989), Trust (1990), Amateur (1994), Henry Fool (1996), and more!
Opens February 1

To Hong Kong w/ ❤
(To Hong Kong with Love)
The Hong Kong protests were in the news for the better part of 2019, and the subject of widespread debate, much of it by outside observers with a vested interest in imposing their own narratives. From its days as a British colony to its present status as a Special Administrative Region in China, small Hong Kong’s fate has been largely decided by great powers, without consultation of its citizens—this including the 1997 Handover. As a corrective, To Hong Kong w/ ❤ is made up of films that show Hong Kongers speaking for themselves, pairing classic fiction films that explore the soul of the city with new documentaries that give voice to those who are out in the streets, fighting to keep their vision of that soul intact. Narrative features include Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996), Rouge (1988), Teddy Girls (1969), and Nomad (1982); documentary titles include Yellowing (2016), Lost in the Fumes (2017), Ten Years (2015), and Umbrella Diaries: The First Umbrella (2018). Co-programmed by Katherine Cheng.
Opens February 7

Valentine's Day at Metrograph
Marlene Dietrich tramping off into the desert in burning hot pursuit of her man (Morocco, 1930), Bacall purring “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” (To Have and Have Not, 1944), the plangent longing between Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska (The Age of Innocence, 1993)—these are just a few of the immortal cinematic expressions of amour in our wild ride of a Valentine’s Day series, which finds space for loves spiritual and carnal, animated and live-action, and everything in-between. A great date for a special someone, someones, or just yourself—and don’t forget, The Commissary is now taking dinner reservations for the 14th. Additional titles include Written on the Wind (1956), Casablanca (1942), Trouble in Paradise (1932), and more!
Opens February 21

Climate Crisis Parables
Guest Presenters Include Author/Activist Naomi Klein
“I don’t know what the future will bring. We have to choose despite uncertainty.”— First Reformed
Cinema has been reckoning for some time with the question of ecological collapse. In a moment when there is a real, palpable fear that time is really and truly running out, we turn to these visceral depictions of impending crisis. Climate Crisis Parables collects movies that envisage the rough road ahead, depicting humankind’s reckless restructuring of the natural environment, imagining the catastrophic results of this unchecked meddling and what might come after the fall of man.This program is comprised of all but one scripted film, in the belief that the existential threat posed to future generations can uniquely be explained and explored through speculative storytelling. These films are often grave in tone, yet ecstatic and spectacular in scope and scale, and they offer ominous cautions against the dire consequences of the damage done by the unfettered pursuit of profit. Climate change experts will introduce screenings, using these films’ fictional scenarios as entrance points to discuss real-world issues, anchoring our increasingly surreal daily reality with research and perspective, and highlighting the imperative actions that must be taken right now to reverse our path towards the brink.  Titles include The Devil, Probably (1977), Stalker (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Red Desert (1964), Interstellar (2014), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Still Life (Jia Zhangke, 2006),  Melancholia (2011), Snowpiercer (2013), and more!  In partnership with Harper’s Magazine and Extinction Rebellion Lower East Side Neighborhood Group.
Throughout January and February

Welcome To Metrograph A-Z: Round 2 
When Metrograph opened its doors over three years ago, we did so with Welcome to Metrograph: A to Z, a way to introduce moviegoers to our particular take on cinema history. It was to be our own idiosyncratic alphabet: one film per director, neither canon nor anti-canon, but rather a selection of our favorite films that serve as life-changing revelations or enduring personal passions, and ultimately films of which Metrograph exists to spread the gospel. And so, in the interest of getting reacquainted and playing some movies we love that we think you’ll love too, we’re taking it one more time from the top—with all new selections. Titles include Bad Lieutenant (1992), Les Bonnes Femmes (1960), Black Rodeo (1972), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Breaking the Waves (1996), Buffalo '66 (1998), and Le bonheur (1965).
Throughout January and February

Playtime is Metrograph’s regularly recurring weekend matinee series of studio standards, animated adventures, and foreign-language frolics, kid-friendly in content but selected because their quality has been proven plain to moviegoers of all ages. As we head into the holiday months, we’re getting into the spirit with some of our favorite seasonal standards, movies only a true Scrooge could resist. Revisit the movies you know by heart, take a chance on something you’ve never heard of—and be sure to hang around to talk about your favorite scenes over brunch in the upstairs Commissary. Titles include The Sound of Music (1965), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Gremlins (1984), Little Women (1933), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), and Where the Wild Things Are (2009). 
Throughout January and February

Late Nites at Metrograph
Welcome back to Late Nites at Metrograph, the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday series that’s rapidly become a weekend tradition, dedicated to the after-hours denizens of this insomniac town who want to wind down with a movie and a bite. This time through we’re bringing you class warfare thrillers from Kurosawa (High and Low, 1963), Welles (The Lady from Shanghai, 1947), and De Palma (Scarface, 1983); some of the baddest stunts of all time courtesy Jackie Chan (Police Story, 1985) and Zoë Bell (Death Proof, 2007); and identity-blurring psychological mind-benders by Bergman (Persona, 1966) and Teshigahara (The Face of Another, 1966). A series for connoisseurs of cocktails and nocturnal film freaks to hobnob, clink glasses, and see some of the best and most bizarre in cinema, with the Commissary serving drinks and a special late-night menu into the wee hours.
Throughout January and February

Academy at Metrograph

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Continues its
Residency at Metrograph with Upcoming Winter 2020 Programming
Two Calendar Program Highlighting the 92nd Oscars Governors Awards Honorees

Seven Beauties by Lina Wertmüller, the First Woman Ever Nominated
for the Best Director Oscar, Screens January 11
David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. and The Alphabet Screens February 22

ACADEMY AT METROGRAPH continues in January and February 2020, highlighting the recent 2019 Governors Awards honorees in a two-calendar program. Lina Wertmüller, the first woman ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar, will be honored on Saturday, January 11, with a screening of Seven Beauties (1976), which garnered four Oscar nominations. David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001), for which he was nominated for Best Director, along with his groundbreaking short film The Alphabet (1968) will screen on Saturday, February 22.

The controversial, absurd, and uproarious film that made director Lina Wertmüller the talk of film culture and garnered her the first Best Director Academy Award nomination for a woman, Seven Beauties (January 11) follows a comedy of errors that begins when Neapolitan hustler Giancarlo Giannini inadvertently murders the lover of one of his septet of homely sisters. Worse luck follows bad, and Giannini—also an Oscar nominee—lands in a concentration camp where, in order to survive, the practiced lothario must service the Nazi kapo, played unforgettably by zaftig The Honeymoon Killers star Shirley Stoler. A heady cocktail of comedy and horror.

Voted the best film of the ‘00s by Film Comment and numerous other mastheads, Mulholland Dr. (February 22) began its life as an aborted TV pilot concerning blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts, transcendent) and an amnesiac brunette (Laura Harring), then transformed into something strange, sorrowful, and maddeningly mysterious as it was expanded into a film noir-inflected feature, following the sleuthing duo into the enigmatic night club Silencio, and outlining a series of unforgettable incidents and transformations. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and terrifying by turns, while always on the razor’s edge of the inexplicable. With The Alphabet, the anxious short film that gained Philadelphia-based art student Lynch the attention of the nascent American Film Institute, and started him on his way.
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.

January 3
Members-only screening of Makoto Shinkai's latest film, Weathering with You (2019).

January 17
The world premiere of Alex Ross Perry's new short film Paul Schrader: Man in a Room, produced by the Criterion Channel, paired with Schrader's The Canyons (2013). Schrader and Perry will appear in-person. In the sixth installment of the Criterion Channel’s Meet the Filmmakers series, director Perry (Her Smell, Listen Up Philip) spends time with the iconoclastic director Paul Schrader on the set of his 2017 masterwork First Reformed and at his home, where he reflects on his legendary career, the rewards of slow cinema, and the influences that continue to shape him. The Criterion Channel will be showing a nine-film Schrader retrospective beginning in January 2020, and Paul Schrader: Man in a Room will be available after its preview at Metrograph.
January 25
A special Chinese New Year screening of Tsui Hark's The Chinese Feast (1995). 祝大家新年快樂, 萬事如意 ! (Happy Year of the Rat)!
February 9
The 92nd Academy Awards Ceremony will screen throughout Metrograph, in both theaters, the Commissary, and Lobby. Dress well and join us in our annual ballot competition. Metrograph Members Only: to reserve a table in the Commissary write to members@metrograph.com. Seating is limited.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

FIlm Finds of 2019

Every year there are discoveries. Every year we find films we never expected to and while they aren't the best, they are still gems that need to be noted at the end of the year. Most f these are a hair's breath from being on the best  of the year list.

PATRICK- the pug that is the central character of this film is utterly charming and I want to adopt him..

HOLY GHOST FIRE-This film record of Randy Wolford’s final service is deeply disturbing- its literally the final service of a Pentecostal minister who is bitten by a snake and slowly dies on screen while the congregation prays... it will challenge what you think about belief.

SLIP ROAD wonderful short film about a man who goes into the forest to make a deal with a being...and I want to know more- so will you.

GHOST LIGHT- awesome horror comedy about a theater company running into supernatural problems. A great cast has a great time and so do we in the audience.

HAPPY FACE - a story about finding a family in unexpected places is an absolute delight that I have been pushing all year.

DOLLHOUSE: THE ERADICATION OF FEMALE SUBJECTIVITY FROM AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE - it may not be the best film of the year but this film will challenge your notions of gender and misogyny in society.

WHY MUST THE SUN SET? - The best Dave McKean/ Neil Gaiman story they never told

NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS- I would have sworn that we never needed a crazy Santa film-then I saw this film.

GOLDA- incredible portrait of Golda Meier based on a long hidden interview that will change how you see her.

HEALING FROM HATE- Excellent look at former white supremacists trying to help people change and get out of the movement.

MISEDUCATION OF BINDU- unexpected coming of age film is one of a kind as the filmmakers decided to tell their story and as a result it is a joy for everyone

LEO DAVINCI- a great animated film that came out of nowhere. Its well written and great fun.

MONSTERS- three men break into a house in Morocco to rob it- or not. What is really going on is the film and it rocks the house in unexpected ways.

ASSAULT ON THE PAY TRAIN- Brazilian crime drama from the 1960's follows what happens after the robbery happens. Why isn't  this on more people's radar and why isn't it hailed as a classic of world cinema?

FULL DRESS- awesome thriller that is impossible to describe because to do so will require I tell you what its about and I can't because the ride is blast.

SEE YOU YESTERDAY- Spike Lee produced time travel film is one of the best ever in the genre because it truly deals with issues regarding messing with time.

ATLANTICS- One of a kind film concerns lost love and ghosts and it's magical

CROWN VIC- forget the fact that all the events could never take place in one night and you'll love this police drama

IN BRIGHT AXIOM- documentary about a social experiment/game  that is a hell of a ride.

IN THE ABSENCE- soul crushing documentary short about the sinking of  Korean ferry made up of phone calls, texts and video. It will probably win the Oscar.

FORD VS FERRARI- Best big Hollywood film I saw this year

SHOOTING THE MAFIA- the history of the mafia and the efforts to stop it as seen through the work and life of one photo-journalist

LIFELINE- portrait of artist Clyfford Still will alter how you see art

RAUL TABURIN - small scale gem about a bicycle builder who can't ride a bike. Utterly charming.

SKID ROW MARATHON- wonderful portrait of running club for men and women in shelters that  builds their self esteem and helps them change their lives.

THE DOG DOC  - glorious portrait of a veterinarian in upstate New York who never gives up on an animal.

FIAF Announces 2020 Animation First Festival

The Only US Festival Dedicated to French Animation
February 7 through 9
Highlights include:
• Premieres of 15 Films, including The Bears’ Famous Invasion of SicilyMarona’s Famous TaleNotre Dame de Paris, The Age of Builders, and The Prince’s Voyage
• Filmmaker Jean-François Laguionie celebrated as Guest of Honor
• Special Work-in-Progress presentations of Mars Express and Brazen
• Free screening and behind-the-scenes look at acclaimed feature, I Lost My Body
• Spotlight Panel on Women in Animation
• This year’s César-nominated films and the Best Shorts of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival highlight the finest in animation
• Free interactive exhibits illuminate worlds of virtual and augmented reality, and video games

New York, NY (December 19, 2019)—Celebrating France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) presents the 2020 Animation First Festival, showcasing the vast history, enduring ingenuity, and diversity of France’s renowned animation studios and schools. Benefitting from a burgeoning animation field poised to enter a historic awards season, this year’s schedule includes 15 premieres, award-winning features and shorts, immersive exhibits, virtual reality and video game demonstrations, insightful panels with filmmakers, and more. The Festival runs from Friday, February 7 to Sunday, February 9. Tickets are available at fiaf.org/animation.
Animation First opens with the US Premiere of The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (2019) by noted illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti on Friday, February 7. This adaptation of the beloved 1945 Italian children’s book by Dino Buzzati marks the debut feature film by Mattotti, who is known for his celebrated New Yorker covers and graphic novels.
Jean-François Laguionie honored
The Festival continues on Saturday, February 8, with the US Premiere of The Prince’s Voyage (2019), the most recent film by legendary director Jean-François Laguionie, this year’s guest of honor, as well as his Louise by the Shore (2016). Laguionie is one of the most important contemporary animation filmmakers, and he has been fittingly celebrated with awards, retrospectives, exhibitions, and restorations of his early works. On Sunday, February 9, FIAF will present a newly restored print of his debut feature Gwen and the Book of Sand (1982), and a program of his shorts including his breakthrough “Rowing Across the Atlantic,” which received a Palme d’Or at Cannes. His acclaimed The Painting (2011), will be shown in two programs geared toward young audiences (Feb. 5 and Feb. 7), and the director himself will discuss his storied career and preview excerpts of his forthcoming film Slocum (Feb. 8). In conjunction with the Festival, Laguionie will conduct masterclasses with students at the Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts.
Notable Premieres
The NY Premiere of Anca Damian’s Marona’s Fantastic Tale (2019), nominated for Best Feature at the 2019 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, is one of Sunday’s highlights. The festival will close with its annual presentation of the 2020 César-Nominated Short Animated films, showcasing France’s most notable achievements in this category over the past year.
Around town, Animation First partners with the New York Institute of Technology to present the US premiere of Notre Dame de Paris, The Age of the Builders (2019), on Monday, February 10. This timely look at the grand cathedral’s 850-year history, leading up to the tragic fire on April 16, 2019, will be followed by a Q&A with director Emmanuel Blanchard and motion-capture specialist Jean-François Szlapka.
A special presentation of the critically hailed movie The Swallows of Kabul (2019), the debut film from Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, anchors Saturday’s program. This adaptation of the eponymous novel by Yasmina Khadra was introduced to New York audiences during a Work-In-Progress presentation at the 2019 edition of Animation First.
Works-in-Progress, Behind-the-Scenes, Discussions
Building on its legacy of sharing sneak peaks of anticipated works and insider looks at noteworthy projects, Animation First will offer fascinating insights across several revealing programs. On Saturday, Benjamin Massoubre, editor of the award-winning I Lost My Body (2019), will give a behind-the-scenes presentation into the creation of this film, following a free screening of the feature. Later that day, Laguionie will present excerpts of his next film, Slocum, as part of a wide-ranging discussion, and directors Phuong Mai Nguyen and Charlotte Cambon de Lavalette will discuss the process of adapting Penelope Bagieu’s best-selling graphic novel Brazen, highlighting the lives of 30 extraordinary women.
On Sunday, Cambon de Lavalette and Nguyen will be joined by director Anca Damian, writer Anik Leray, and producer Valérie Schermann for a Women in Animation panel covering equal representation in the industry; Lorenzo Mattotti will discuss his debut feature film, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, as well as his work as an illustrator with New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly: and director Jérémie Périn (Lastman) will present clips from his debut feature film, sci-fi thriller Mars Express, along with screenwriter Laurent Sarfati and producer Didier Crest.
Interactive video games and virtual reality exhibition
Throughout the festival, visitors will be able to sample an array of new video games and virtual reality programs benefiting from France’s prolific animation industry for free in the FIAF gallery. This year’s exhibition includes the 14-minute documentary Accused #2, Walter Sisulu, which takes you inside the trial of Walter Sisulu, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, using the restored audio recordings. Also on display is the interactive virtual reality puzzle, A Fisherman’s Tale, a surrealistic adventure game, and Gloomy Eyes, a virtual reality experience, voiced by Colin Farrell.
From the Curators
“As we launch our third Animation First festival, we see this medium excel at sharing the untellable and depicting the unimaginable," said festival co-curators Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF’s Film Curator, and Catherine Lamairesse, Director of Special Projects at FIAF. "Jean-François Laguionie was a pioneer in pushing animation beyond children’s stories to the realms of philosophy. Meanwhile Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbé-Mévellec find humanity in the depths of unthinkable cruelty through the ethereal The Swallows of Kabul. And this year we see the grandeur—before tragedy hit—of Paris's most beloved monument come to life through 3D technology in Notre Dame du Paris, The Age of Builders. Each work presents its own world with a unique aesthetic and memorable characters, and we are thrilled to share them with New York audiences.”
All programs are subject to change. For the most up-to-date program information, visit fiaf.org/animation.


With Christmas over you may have a little cash burning in your pocket- to that end I’ve got three possible books that may hit the spot

The first in a series of books collecting Bob Ingersoll columns from the comic Buyer’s Guide on the law in comics.Ingersoll is an attorney and huge comic fan who was getting annoyed by how most comic writers get the law wrong. From the problems of having some one like Batman testify while masked, to putting the Flash on trial for a justifiable killing to trying to figure out how a textbook arrest could ever go south Ingersoll dismantles the misuse of the law with wit and humor. Reading the book I was roaring with laughter on almost every page since as someone who works with law enforcement I could recognize many of the mistakes made but never thought about any of thm.

To be honest you don’t need to have an interest in comics and the law to enjoy the books in the series, you simply need a love of comics and laughing because Ingersoll is a funny funny man and his insights will make you laugh even as they are making you learn something.

I can't wait to read the next volume.

Andrea McGann Keech's ‘s book on the weird monsters that are supposed to wander the world is a fast and breezy read. Taking on creatures from Loch Ness’s monster, to bigfoot, the yeti, to globsters to the Nandi Bear, the Wendigo and many others in brief and to the point chapters give the reader enough information to get them on the road to being a cryptozoologist. While the book is not the be all and end all on the creatures, there is way too much material out there on pretty much every creature covered to the point the five to ten pages on each is just a taste, it is a perfect place to start.  As some one who has love weird beasts all my life it had me cracking open my books to deeper diving on some of the beasties.

A recommended primer on weird monsters.

I can’t even begin to do Alberto Becattini's two volume look at cartoon  animals justice. A stunning look at animal in comics and animation the book has more information than you can imagine (or I ever hoped to find in one place). To be perfectly honest I was taken aback by the books which I thought were simply going to be a guide on the order of an encyclopedia listing characters and sources, instead what I found was it was a detailed discussion of the subject that is detailed and engaging. Each chapter had be popping on to the internet to deep dive on each character and subject. Frankly I have a couple dozen books on the subject but there is so much here I never knew. Wow, wow and wow. If you are a fan of cartoon animals, of cartoons in general or comics you must read these books because they will connect up things you never knew were connected and open doors you never knew needed opening.

Highly recommended.

All three books are published by Pulp Hero Press, sister company to Theme Park Press and are available at Amazon both as hard copies and e books.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Worst of the the year and disappointments of 2019

Every year there are a few films which disappoint us. There are others which outright suck. When I started Unseen the idea was never to discuss the dregs of cinema except  occasionally. However because the focus of Unseen shifted from highlighting just lost treasures to covering more recent films I've been forced to write about a lot more misses and turkeys than I used to.

Here then are my lists of the misses and turkeys I saw in 2019.

Disappointments-these films almost kinda could maybe been something
RED PENGUINS - The follow up to the director's RED ARMY is half a good film. The story of the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to sponsor the Red Army team with the aim of siphoning off the players for the NHL. However like the plan it goes off the rails somewhere along the way and ever comes back.

LOS ULTIMOS FRIKIS- A film about a heavy metal band in Cuba that strangely has very little music.

A GIRL MISSING- a nurse's life is turned upside down when a relative kidnaps one a member of the family she works for. It's a jumbled story that is icy cold

ZOMBI CHILD weird mix of coming of age  tale with a true life zombie tale goes banana shaped when it turns into the scariest horror film of the year in the last 15 minutes. WTF?

HENRY GLASSIE FIELD WORK- Portrait of the anthropologist has some stunning sections but Glassie is AWOL for most of the film. Instead we get footage of the people he is studying. Huh?

SADAKO- The restart of the Ring Franchise crashes and burns- despite having some moments

PLUCKED-The story of the theft of a Stradivarius violin is an hour too long making a compelling story a big WTF.

LOW TIDE- What should have been a great thriller misfires all over the place. Not only doesn't it know when it's set, it has so many story problems I put half my review in inviso textbecause I had to discuss it and didn't want to spoil if for those who are interested in seeing it. (And there is a good film possible with a better script)

TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH- One of my most favorite directors in the world Kiyoshi Kurosawa makes a film in order to make a trip to Central Asia. Despite having great moments and a deeply moving version of an Edith Piaf classic, this film has no reason to exist.

WASP NETWORK- Olivier Assayas takes a ten part miniseries idea and chops it to two hours. It's a mess- so much so Assayas has been recutting the film

THE DRONE- a drone is possessed - beyond bad horror film that sadly isn't even funny.

DUMBO- mean and ugly live action rethink of the classic Disney tale will scar generations

JOKER- over rated and over hyped origin for Batman's greatest foe is just bad.

LIBERTE-ugly aristocrats have sex in a forest. Long, dull and stupid it's just utterly pointless and boring.

EL PADRE MEDICO-The story Padre Ferdinand Bendoraitis who was once considered second to Mother Theresa is so badly told I have no idea about anything his life or what the filmmakers were trying to say about it.

KNIVES AND SKIN- dreadful thriller is winning all sorts of awards- but I have yet to meet anyone who actually likes it. Frankly I don't know anyone who hasn't either walked out on it or turned off a screener.

TASTE OF SKY- Portrait of a restaurant in South America rambles all over the place and just bores.

YOU DON'T NOMI- Portrait of the film SHOWGIRLS is so inside that it will only means something if you have more than a working knowledge of SHOWGIRLS.

CLEMENTINE- beyond awful film about a woman obsessed with her ex-girlfriend who breaks into her summer house where she meets another young woman while nothing happens for 90 minutes.

YOUNG AHMED- the grooming of a young terrorist has no understanding of religious extremism except from the headlines- worse it wusses out in its WTF ending.

OVER 18- A way too simplistic film on the evils of porn.

WELCOME TO MARWEN- Robert Zemekis makes a film so bad you'll want to scrape your eyeballs with steel wool dipped in acid if you simply don't simply pluck them out of your head

Friday, December 27, 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

Quentin Tarantino re-imagines the Hollywood of the 1960's in an over long over indulgent meditation of nothing. Despite being well-made it is the least film that Tarantino has made to date.

The film has a declining TV star played by Leonardo DiCaprio limping along career-wise. Refusing to go to Italy to make westerns (ala Clint Eastwood and many others) he finds his roles reduced to TV guest shots. Brad Pitt plays his stunt double who has been blackballed for fighting with Bruce Lee. DiCaprio lives next door to Roman Polanski and it all takes place in the days before the Manson murders.

Dreadful bad TV recreations mix with long rambling scenes of life, driving to the sound of exploitation radio commercials and flashbacks to make a mosaic that doesn't add up to much.  What am I supposed to get out of yet another endless cycle of Tarantino's pop culture references? I'm not certain. More so since he alters history all along the way, making any real world connections pointless. I kind of thought that there might be some sort of summation with the Mason family wandering around, but Tarantino rewrites events by having the attackers end up at the wrong house where Brad Pitt and his dog tear two of them apart and DiCaprio torches the third with a flame thrower. The alleged death of old Hollywood is revealed to something else.

Tarantino has always been self indulgent to the point of masturbation but there was always something in his films that made me say "if he he just cut out the bullshit and trim it don there'd be a good film inside". Sadly I honestly can't say this this time. There is no great whole in this film, just a few nice bits. Mostly this is just Tarantino running through his references for no really good reason.

While I will not fault anyone who likes the film for itself, there are after all some great bits here, I will wonder about anyone who suggests that Tarantino has made a deep and meaningful film, because that simply isn't the case. There is nothing here except some really good bits that don't connect thematically to any other and worse never come together in a way that justifies the extreme length. (And to be clear I don't think he's made a complete meaningful film since JACKIE BROWN- he's just gotten more self indulgent and referential.)

One of the biggest nothings of the year.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

High Life (2018)

Claire Denis' English language science fiction film concerns convicts in space being used for weird scientific experiments.

Told in a jumbled fashion to hide the fact that the central story makes no sense except to the Denis who is merely using the framework to work out some not particularly well thought out thematic ideas.  The story and themes are similar in some ways to Piotr Szulkin's GA GA GLORY TO THE HEROES which has convicts being sent into space for nefarious reasons, but where Szulkin seems to have solid reasoning for everything, Denis has a sketch of an idea and some cribbed references from other better science fiction films.

Strangely the low fi, low tech feel of the film is closer to John Carpenter's DARK STAR about a lost space ship blowing up unstable stars. Carpenters film scores over HIGH LIFE in two key ways, first it is funnier and second it better thought out. Even allowing that it came out before it, at least Carpenter's film also doesn't steal an ending from Disney's ridiculous BLACK HOLE and try to sell it to us with a straight face.