Monday, September 23, 2019

Everybody Flies (2019) Raindance 2019

When you fly you are stuck in a metal tube thousands of feet above the earth. While we are safe from the thin air and low temperatures in the pressurized cabins, we have nowhere to go if something goes wrong. If, for example, there is a problem with the air we can not open a window or step outside. We have to ride it out until the plane lands. What is really scary is that the air we breath is sucked into the cabin comes in through the engines and isn’t filtered. If there is something wrong with the engine, if say the engine oil is leaking, it gets blown into the cabin. While the oil itself is bad enough, the real danger is it contains Tricresyl Phosphate which is deadly. It causes cancer, nerve damage as well as a very long list of other crippling illnesses. Frighteningly it frequently is blown into the cabin of planes where it causes passengers to get temporarily sick and members of the flight crew, who have repeated exposure, to have to retire due to repeated exposure.

If you fly regularly EVERYBODY FLIES will scare the living shit out of you. Even if you don’t fly it will make you think twice about doing it. The fact that there is something scarier than cigarette smoke in the cabin is perfectly chilling. While I have never flown, after seeing this film I kind of never want to.

Director, presenter and former Airline Captain Tristan Loraine, and co-director with Beth Moran have made one hell of a documentary. It brings to light a problem that possibly could cripple or kill anyone who travels by air.  Its also a gripping thriller that lays its cards on the table at the start to grab us and then ratchets things up as you repeatedly ask why no one is really doing anything about this.

I really don't know what to say other than EVERYBODY FLIES is a stunner. What it puts before us is so vitally important that any quibble one might have are not worth mentioning.

A must see.

Everybody Flies will premiere at Raindance Film Festival on Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 6:45pm.
A second screening will be held on Wednesday 25th September 2019 at 1:45pm at Vue Cinema Piccadilly, London.
For Tickets and more information go here.

Always in Season (2019)

In theaters in New York now and opening in LA and other theaters Friday ALWAYS IN SEASON is a shattering look at lynching in America and stands a good chance at getting Oscar short listed.

Jacqueline Olive’s film is nominally focused on the case of Lennon Lacey a 17 year old African American  who was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina in 2014. While his death was ruled a suicide there are indications that it may not have been, from his not really having a reason to the fact his grave was desecrated. While the FBI did get involved they found the evidence hopelessly tainted. The result is a a great feeling of unease for many in the community.and in particular  In order to explain why Olive masterfully explores the history of lynching, and the 1946 Moore's Ford Lynchings in Georgia when four people were pulled from their car by a mob and killed, horribly. Olive uses a re-enactment of the killings to explore people's thoughts and feelings to lynching and all things related to it.

Watching the film I was left stunned. Even in this age of Presidentially fueled racial hatred ALWAYS IN SEASON was a stark reminder of just how deep hatred runs and how evil even supposedly good men and women can be. In reading on the film, (I was so stunned watching the film I didn't take notes and put into such a dark place I didn't want to revisit the film to get the information I wanted to have) that the one thing that many people writing on it called it infuriating and noted how it makes you angry. I agree, there is much to be angry about. But also there is a profound sadness that despite claims to be good, many of us really aren't.

ALWAYS IN SEASON floored me. Watching it it left me struggling to find words. There was a sense that no matter what I had to say was meaningless because most of you are just going to glance at my words and move on, which is wrong. What I felt I needed to do was find away to just make you see the film. Yea my words may be nice, but they are no match for the power and importance of Jacqueline Olive's film. It is a vitally important missive about the state of America that we all must see.

Do yourself and your fellow human beings a favor and take the time and see this film

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Last Callback is getting screenings at Gig Harbor and The Valley film festivals this week

Someone please give Jason Kartalian the money to do a feature comedy. I say this partly because I want to see what he does with a comedic feature, and partly because I am tired of laughing so hard at his shorts that I almost choke to death from having the popcorn go down the wrong pipe.  If he’s going to kill me he should just do it all at once instead of by small, very, very funny degrees.

Jason’s latest attempt at homicide comes in the form of his short THE LAST CALLBACK. The film is the final auditions of two actresses for the role of a crack addicted serial killer prostitute and what follows.

A stunning comedic tour de force for Tasha Tacosa and Rachel Riley, who were the titled giant women in Jason’s documentary and glorious love letter to filmmaking GIANT WOMEN, MICROBUDGET, this film just lets the women go crazy and show what they can do. Watching them go from a straight on reading of the proposed role into what they think the directors want, on to the mania of ripping their competition is a joy. More importantly the shifting nature of their performances reveals them to be so much better than the role they are being offered. I completely understand why Jason would want to make a film with the pair at the center, because they are really funny and work incredibly well together. (Jason, please a buddy film for them)

What delights me about Jason’s short comedies is that he understands how to pace a film. When you see any of his comedy shorts, such as SUBCULTURE or this watch how he builds the comedy. Starting with a premise, say dueling auditions, he builds and inflates the situation, (the women become more and more over the top). He raises the stakes further with a twist, and then twists it again…. And by the end we’re doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down our face.

So few people do that anymore. Most people think a funny line or a non sequitur is the way to go, but Jason understands that building a situation creates greater laugh. It is the way comedians like Keeton, Chaplin, or Jacques Tati built their comedy.

Jason Kartalian is a genius. He is one of my favorite filmmakers and his film THE LAST CALLBACK is a masterpiece.

The Gig Harbor screening is at the Galaxy Uptown Luxury+ Theatre -
Last Callback times are Friday Sept 27, 5;25pm Screen 3
And Saturday, Sept 28, 8:40pm Screen 1

The Valley Film Festival screenings is Friday September 27 at 6pm at the Laemmle NoHo7

Saturday, September 21, 2019

HARDBALL THE GIRLS OF SUMMER (2019) hits home video September 24th

HARDBALL THE GIRLS OF SUMMER is an excellent documentary that is nominally about the US Women’s National Baseball Team as they battle for the World Cup in South Korea. It is also an exploration of the weird relationship that women have had with the sport as well as with various women who have played the game or wanted to but never could because it was a “men’s sport”.

The relationship women have had with baseball has been strange. Despite their having a mad passion for the game (I have a great aunt who was a fanatic and would start fights at both Yankee Stadium and Ebbits Field), they were largely not allowed to play the game for scientific reasons that made zero sense. Even today after women have made strides in football, boxing and mixed martial arts many men still see women as too dainty to play. Of course it’s utter bullshit and if you need proof all one need to is look at the women in the film to realize that there are a lot of women playing the game who could kick most major leaguers asses.

I really liked this film a great deal. While I could nitpick that it didn’t jump back and forth between some the threads as much as it does, it is still a winning piece of filmmaking. This is just a wonderful film that not only functions at bringing the story of women and baseball to light, but also entertains the hell out of the audience. This is a great time with great people with the result that we come to love all the women in it. Actually and most importantly it makes a solid case that there is absolutely no reason that Major League Ball should seriously consider letting women play on the big stage.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves the game or just wants to see a film that is going to make them smile. The film hits various home video platforms September 24

Friday, September 20, 2019

Tazza: One Eyed Jack

Gamblers who rely on luck are just plain gamblers. Gamblers who employ “skill” consider themselves “swindlers.” Somewhere in between, you will find “Tazzas,” the legendary gamblers of Korea’s underworld. A poker-playing college student gets burned by a notorious Tazza, but a less frightening Tazza will recruit him for a potentially lucrative caper—and perhaps a chance for pay back in Kwon Oh-kwang’s Tazza: One Eyed Jack, which opens today in New York.

Do Il-chool is more comfortable at a card table reading people and calculating odds than taking notes in a lecture hall. Unfortunately, his luck runs out when he meets a femme fatale known as Madonna. It turns out she is the deceitful accomplice of the infamous Tazza known as “Demon,” or “Ma-gwi.” She throws Do so far off his game, he winds up deeply indebted to loan sharks.

Fortuitously, the Zen-like Tazza, “One Eyed Jack,” comes along at an opportune moment, to pay off his debts and enlist his services for a big-time swindle. The mark will be Mool Young-gam, an arrogant real estate mogul involved in some seriously shady dealings. Mool also can’t resist a not so friendly game of cards. Do and “Director Kwon” will worm their way into his confidence posing as his poker mercenaries, while Kkachi the swindler and Young-mi, the “actress,” will bait him masquerading as an obnoxious nouveau riche couple in the market for a weekend home, with One Eyed Jack pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Based on the third volume of the Tazza graphic novel series, One Eyed Jacks is considerably darker and more violent than the previous Tazza film, The Hidden Card. However, it is still fully stocked with twisty-turvy Runyonesque deceptions and betrayals. The con is most definitely on and on and on.

Park Jung-min is certainly adequate enough taking over for T.O.P. as the latest young new cardsharp in town. In fact, he is considerably steelier, which is a good thing. However, films like this never belong to the leading man. Instead, it is the colorful supporting casts that make or break them.

In this case, Ryoo Seung-bum radiates coolness and rock-solidly anchors the film as One Eyed Jack. Lim Ji-yeon and Lee Kwang-soo definitely lay it on pretty thickly, but they are still amusing as the bickering scammer tandem, Young-mi and Kkachi. Yoon Je-moon chews the scenery quite devilishly as Demon, but Woo Hyeon out-chews him as the slimy, rat-like Mool. However, Choi Yu-hwa is problematically passive and weirdly distant as Madonna. There is not much narrative connection to the previous Tazza films, but Joo Jin-mo technically returns in the tough luck prologue, briefly reprising the role of Jjakgwi.

Tazza: One Eyed runs well over two hours, but it never feels that long. Kwon keeps the fat out and maintain a high-octane speed. It is tougher than the previous film, but it is still fun. The tone is not unlike Rounders, but it deals out far more criminal-thriller business. Recommended for fans of gambling and caper movies, Tazza: One Eyed Jack opens today (9/20) in New York, at the AMC 34th Street.

Big Tony Leung’s Midnight Diner

This chef has had almost as many media lives as the heroine of the often-remade Miss Granny. He debuted in Yaro Abe’s manga and has subsequently come to life in multiple Japanese TV series and movies, as well as Korean and Chinese television series. His work is tasty, his wisdom is sage, and his late-night hours are convenient for his restless clientele. This time, “Big Tony” Leung Ka Fai takes his turn behind the grill as “The Master” (or “The Chef,” translations vary) and behind the camera as the director of Midnight Diner, which opens today in New York.

Originally, the Master’s cozy eatery was nestled away in a Shinjuku back alley, but Leung moves it to Shanghai. The hours are still the same: midnight to 7:00 AM, or whenever the Master feels like opening up for customers who look like they are in need of comfort food. He has several regulars, including his Alon, his adopted brother with anger management issues, and his old crony, Uncle Zhong. Plus, three scatterbrained millennials nearly always stop by.

However, most of the drama focuses customers, who are irregular regulars, like the dopey boxer, who only comes to the diner to retrieve his mischievous mother (and partake of the stir-fry clams). With the help of the Master and his mother (which he never requested), the big lug might have a puncher’s chance romancing the pretty single-mother nurse living in the neighborhood with her wheelchair-bound daughter.

We also meet a lovelorn brand marketing specialist, and a poor, scuffling singer-songwriter, whose stories have varying degrees of bittersweet tragedy. Yet, the tale of two country naïfs, whose bumpy romance cracks under the pressure of mega-urban life is probably the centerpiece of the film.

It is all very nice, but the concept probably works better as a series, allowing characters to more easily enter, exit, and intermingle without the pressure of reaching a quick resolution. Nevertheless, the good-looking cast is certainly pleasant to spend time with. The diner itself is also quite a warm and inviting setting (it still looks very Japanese, but whatever).

Unfortunately, the film has been clouded by controversy completely outside its scope. Reportedly, Leung’s Diner has been on the shelf for two years awaiting the go-ahead for release on the Mainland, which was suspiciously granted shortly after the actor appeared at a rally for the Hong Kong police—even though they have been recorded on video violently attacking pro-democracy protestors, with absolutely no provocation or justification. Sure, Midnight Diner is an agreeable film, but it is not worth selling one’s soul over. (Coincidentally, the film depicts Alon as a cop, whose rage drives him to physically abuse innocent citizens.)

Big Tony, you’re breaking our hearts, especially since you seem so warm and down-to-earth as the Master. It is a side of Leung we rarely see on-screen, while Zhang Li lends the film surprising grit and human frailty as the disturbed Alon. Jiao Junyan is also quite poignant as Snow, the ill-fated singer. Zhang Yishang and Vision Wei are both quite charismatic as the young provincial couple, but their tale of underdog love rent asunder by life is pretty familiar stuff.

As a work of cinema considered with strict critical formalism, Leung’s Midnight Diner constitutes a number of engaging performances (particularly Leung’s own) and some lushly shot cooking scenes. That can be enough for an enjoyable night at the movies, but Eric Khoo’s similarly themed Ramen Shop is a deeper, richer film. However, those who are closely following the Hong Kong protests will probably prefer to get their Midnight Diner fixes from the Japanese series (one of which is available on Netflix and another is on Prime). Recommended for loyal Leung fans, Midnight Diner opens today (9/20) in New York, at the AMC 34th Street.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Scatter shot sequel to Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND has Alice returning to Wonderland and trying to go back in time in order to save the Mad Hatter's family.

Glorious to look at film  is both bigger than what went be fore and smaller. While the sets are decidedly more epic the cast of character seems to have narrowed with a few of the carry overs reduced to little more than cameos.

The plot, such as it is, is a confusing mess that has Alice stealing the Chronosphere in order to go back in time. The trouble is that things get messy and where the earlier film had a sense that we are in a place where anything can happen, here we have a sense that anything can happen because the writers need it to go that way never mind if they have to rewrite the rules. This makes for a story that you kind of give up on about half through simply because things are just happening.

Its not bad but it isn't anything special. The truth be told, while I will look at the film again-it will be to look at it since the visuals are wonderful. And while I was hoping for a sequel when the first film ended when the end credits rolled on this story I was thrilled that everything seemed to be tied up with no sequel possibilities.

Now that it is on home video it definitely worth a look for fans of the first film but I think the film is going to be welcomed more by people who love the visuals.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Auggie (2019) opens Friday

Richard Kind is wonderful in AUGGIE the story of a retired man who is given a set of glasses that give him the ability to see a virtual friend. The trouble is as he loses his way in retirement, the result of shifting family dynamics he begins to lose himself into the virtual world.

I'm mixed on AUGGIE. The problem is the narrative covers a great deal of ground that similar virtual reality films have covered before so this doesn't feel new, especially if you are a scifi fan. While it brings in more recent twists from the real world where everyone is tied to their cellphone and refuses to go entirely as expected there still is a strong sense of deja vu.

I will say that the reason to ignore the deja vu and see the film is Richard Kind. Long one of Hollywood's great actors he has rarely been given a chance to shine and really show what he can do. This is the showcase he really deserves and the chance to watch him go through his paces kept me watching even when I wasn't fully engaged with the plot.

While never bad the film never fully soars, except for Kind who is simply marvelous and heartbreaking in all the right ways. If you are forgiving and want to see what will be one of the under appreciated performances of 2019 give AUGGIE a shot.

Nate Hood on LA VIDA EN COMÚN (2019) Camden International Film Festival 2019

Ezequiel Yanco’s La vida en común is not a film for the faint of heart. A documentary about two young Ranquel boys hunting for a cattle-eating puma in northern Argentina, it contains several graphic scenes of killing and butchery. The very first shot of the film sees a wild boar captured, held down, and throat-cut, the camera holding on its gushing neck wound as its legs twitch and flail. We see scenes like these and understand that this is the brutal reality for these economically oppressed, racially stigmatized people who must hunt to survive.

And indeed this film is primarily interested with ushering viewers into the interior world of its subjects. But unfortunately, if La vida en común is not a film for the squeamish, it’s also not a film for those who enjoy good documentaries. As an aesthetic statement the film is marvelous in how it observes indigenous life in the dusty hillsides of the La Pampa Province; originally a people of nomadic hunters, the Ranquel were forced onto reservations in the late nineteenth century and it’s clear that even centuries later they still haven’t fully adapted to a sedentary lifestyle. The subjects only truly come to life when they’re hunting or driving or moving—contrast this to the deadening scenes of them learning Spanish in a schoolhouse.

But the film insists on having a plot, namely that of a coming of age story concerning its two subjects Uriel (11) and Isaías (13). For them, the hunting of the puma is a rite of passage and a metaphor for their looming adolescences. But instead of observing and letting the film express its story organically, Yanco stages things like a fiction film with sequences that obviously necessitated careful blocking and lighting such as one scene of alternating closeup shots of the boys and a newly arrived girl in their community staring at each other, blushing, and looking away. One can’t help but think of the early docudramas of Robert J. Flaherty like Nanook of the North (1922) where sequences involving indigenous peoples were deliberately planned and staged. But Flaherty films seldom entered the world of metaphor—if we saw a staged scene on an Inuit man building an igloo, it represented just that, the building of an igloo. But Yanco is trying to make a statement about manhood and maturity that feels betrayed with his obtrusive documentary techniques.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fantasia Film Festival - Riot Girls Review

It’s 1995 and school’s out forever. No more futures, no more rules. A mysterious disease has wiped out the adult population in Potter’s Bluff, and it’s the East side VS the Titans. Nat’s brother Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois, The New Romantic) gets captured by the Titans while out on a mission. It’s up to Nat (Madison Iseman, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle) and her best friend Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski, Percy Jackson Franchise) to save him.
Riot Girls has a pretty traditional plot. The rich kids VS the poor kids. This is a story we’ve seen time and time again throughout various decades. What makes this film rise above the rest is the writing, acting, character development, and the soundtrack. Most films that emulate a specific time period rely on music that was very popular in their respective decades. Instead of choosing more obvious choices like Green Day or No Doubt, they chose bands like Joan Jett, and L7. L7 is a female fronted grunge band that were part of the 90’s riot grrrl movement. Other Riot Grrrl bands include Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Babes In Toyland.
This film takes many different genres and smashes them together to make its own perfectly balanced hybrid. You’ve got the grrrl power movement, jocks with enlarged egos, gnarly death scenes, perfect comedic timing, and an unexpectedly bright ambiance. Riot Girls is such a refreshing film. It’s thoughtful but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s something so raw and powerful about this film that it instantly makes you side with the underdog.
I give Riot Girls a 10/10. There’s nothing I would change about this film. The pacing and dialogue is fantastic. If you like teen dramas mixed with a killer soundtrack and some ultra violence I think you’ll enjoy this film. Riot Girls was featured at 2019’s Fantasia International Film Festival and is now playing in select theaters across North America.

The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

This elite squad is a lot like the Dirty Dozen, but there are only four of them. Fortunately, Don Lee counts for at least eight guys—eight really big guys. The old team of convicts is reconstituted to capture several far worse criminals in Son Yong-ho’s The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos, the feature sequel to the hit Korean TV show, which opens this Friday in New York.

Big bad Park Woong-cheol has been given a two-day furlough to mourn the death of his best friend, one of the last old school, socially responsible clan bosses. As luck would have it, he will be available to return to the crooks-catching-crooks task force that has been called back into service to catch the high-profile criminals who just escaped in the Fugitive-style opening action sequence.

Sadly, Lt. Yoo Mi-young, one of their badge-holding comrades from the TV series, was badly injured in the attack, so it is personal for Park. At least their old commander, Captain Oh Goo-tak is back in charge, but the ailing copper is not long for this world. Naturally, there will be some tensions with the new recruits: Ko Yoo-sung, an overzealous cop and “Jessica” Kwak No-soon, a confidence trickster. However, they will all be on the same page when they realize one of their targets is the serial killer who seduced and murdered Kwak’s sister. Yet, there is probably even more pressure to re-capture No Sang-sik, a high-ranking mob boss, who had promised to reveal his secrets to Lt. Yoo.

After the initial escape, Reign of Chaos gets a little bogged down in exposition, but then it cranks it up again and never slows down. Frankly, this is a perfect vehicle for Don Lee (a.k.a. Ma Dong-seok), who is quickly becoming the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the modern era. His imposing physique cannot be missed (even by a blind man on valium), but it is his earnestness and “aw shucks” charm that really pop off the screen. He performs feats of strength and bashes more bad dudes (we can’t call them “bad guys”) than viewers can easily count without a hand-clicker, always in a way that is upbeat and entertaining.

Kim Sang-joong is a perfect counter-balance, playing Cap. Oh with world-weary gravitas. Just one look at his wrinkled brow can cause sympathy headaches. Kim A-joong also has fun vamping it up opposite Lee’s burly but Boy Scout-ish Park. Park Won Sang also has some nice moments as the cynical but honest copper, Jo Dong-sul. They all form quite a colorful ensemble who rather overshadow Chang Ki-yong, who is quite competent as the hot-headed Ko, but he just can’t compete with Lee and company.

Son stages some bigtime explosive action scenes and fully capitalizes on Lee’s skills and larger-than-life presence. In the process, he and screenwriter Han Jung-hoon manage to tell a reasonably complex crime story with two or three dozen significantly developed characters, as a nice bonus. This is a prime example of why South Korea is starting to eclipse Hong Kong as the world capitol of action filmmaking (sad old Hollywood is hardly even a factor anymore). Highly recommended for action fans, The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos opens this Friday (9/20) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Nate Hood on Seer and the Unseen (2019) Camden Film Festival 2019

You may not believe in elves, but Ragnhildur “Ragga” Jónsdóttir does. Like hundreds of thousands of her fellow Icelanders, she believes in the existence of huldufólk (“hidden people”), invisible nature spirits that inhabit rocks, trees, streams, and mountains just like the kami in Japanese Shinto. Since the first Vikings arrived in Iceland in the ninth century, the huldufólk have been central figures in their culture and folklore—it’s said the first documented law in their nation’s history required ship captains to remove dragon figureheads from their ships when coming into port so they wouldn’t frighten them. Ragga is among the most revered “seers” in Iceland, one of the select few believed capable of seeing and communicating with them. She’s hired to investigate construction sites to make sure they aren’t disturbing their otherworldly inhabitants; in one early scene she explains to the bemused yet patient owner of a bed and breakfast near a tourist-infested geyser that his intended expansion is next door to a colony of huldufólk living in a cluster of birch trees. She seems at first glance a gentle old woman, earnest, magnanimous, completely harmless. At least until she puts herself directly into the government’s crosshairs by announcing an imminent highway construction project through the Gálgahraun Lava Field will go straight through one of their most sacred villages. Almost overnight she becomes an icon among Icelandic environmentalists who want to stop the destruction of the ancient lava field. But can she handle the pressure?

Sara Dosa’s The Seer and the Unseen is the portrait of one woman’s battle to preserve her beliefs and homeland from the ravages of capitalism run wild. At least it should’ve been. Overlong and unfocused, the film attempts too many things at once, veering wildly from lectures about the Icelandic economy and the reckless “Viking investors” whose antics exacerbated the 2008 financial crisis to glorified home movies of Ragga puttering around her home with her family. These latter are at least tolerable due to their depiction of how folk beliefs are transmitted through the generations, but when the serious topics of climate change and economic corruption show up they feel thematically out of place. It grows into a film of visceral psychological violence, unflinchingly showing the abuse of protestors by police and the destruction of the environment by construction workers.

This film needed tighter focus, a clearer purpose, and about fifteen minutes shaved off.

Rating: 5/10

MOMO The Missouri Monster (2019) hits DVD and VOD Friday

MOMO The Missouri Monster is a fun film. A mix of the bigfoot/Boggy Creek creatures on the loos films from the 1970 and the monster hunter shows that proliferate cable TV the film is just a great popcorn movie.

The film is framed as an episode of a monster hunter TV that has discovered the only known print of an unreleased horror film about MOMO, the man beast that terrorized Louisiana Missouri in the early 1970’s. The film was made in response to the success of The Legend of Boggy Creek but for various reasons was never released. It is intercut with modern interviews where the shows host talks about the events that inspired what happens in the film.

I really like MOMO a great deal. It is both a scary monster on the lose pseudo- doc and an amusing send up of the monster films of old. The film gets the modern sections dead nuts right and there are some genuine chills in those sections of the film where the story of the beast is related straight faced. It’s chilling.

While the throwback sections are entertaining there are two problems with them that keep them from having the fullest effect. First they are don’t quite match the films its aping. Yea the look is right, but as one who had gone through a good number of the films in the weeks leading up to being offered Momo, the film makes the cardinal sin of not playing it straight. The actors, who play the modern sections of the film deadly seriously, play the 1970’s section with a nod and wink, camping it up ever so slightly, taking the edge off not only the period section but the film as a whole. Rewatch Boggy Creek or Legend of Black Lake or any thing else and you quickly realize that even if the performances were bad, the actors were playing it straight. The other problem with the film is that actors appear in both sections. While this is no doubt due to budget issues, it weakens the film because what should be a straightforward film is instead kind of knowingly humorous because, as I stated above, they are not playing it straight in the old film.

But my quibbles are ultimately small. I had a blast watching Momo, so much so that when I was done I was emailing friends and family to tell them that the film existed and that they should see it. You should get some popcorn and see it too.

Recommended for monster fans I suggest you get some popcorn and take the plunge.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ariela Rubin on THE GAME CHANGERS (2019)

The Game Changers is a documentary that profiles athletes who are vegan. The documentary mainly revolves around James Wilks, a former UFC fighter, who now trains people in the military. He gets a knee injury, and decides to research what he can do to speed up his recovery. His path turns towards veganism. He actually finds research that shows that the bones of Roman gladiators were mostly vegetarian. On Wilks journey we meet vegan super athletes like Olympic cyclist Dotsie Baush, Scott Jurek, who ran the Appalachian Trail faster than anyone, and German strongman, Patrik Baboumian. We meet athletes who say they got stronger and faster after switching to a vegan diet. Game Changers also has doctors on screen explaining vegan protein myths and how not eating meat for even a day can change your blood (for the better). Arnold Schwarzenegger is even in it, and he explains how meat consumption was really pushed on him in his bodybuilding days. He has since switched to a mostly vegan diet. He says his cholesterol is now lower than it ever has been in his life.

I really enjoyed this documentary. I found that it really was educational, and explained things well. It was very thorough. There was a lot of research done, and they used easy concepts to understand. It was also entertaining. I do hope and feel that as the title suggests that it will be a game changer. I think it will have a lot of impact on current and future athletes, as well as your regular gym goer, or anyone trying to be healthier. A must see.

The Game Changers plays a country wide single screening tonight, then opens Friday in New York and the following week in LA

NewFest Announces Opening, Closing and US Centerpiece Selections for 2019 Edition



New York, NY (Monday, September 16) - NewFest, one of the world's most venerable and respected LGBTQ film festivals, has announced today that they will kick off the festival’s 31st edition with the New York premiere of Mike Doyle’s Manhattan-set ensemble rom-com SELL BY, featuring an eclectic cast including Scott Evans (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”), Kate Walsh (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), Academy Award-nominee and Emmy Award-winner Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Buteau (Netflix’s “Tales of the City”) and Augustus Prew (HIGH-RISE), and will close the festival with the New York premiere of Rodrigo Bellott’s award-winning film TU ME MANQUES, which was recently announced as Bolivia’s Best International Feature Film selection for the 2019 Academy Awards. NewFest, New York’s leading top LGBTQ film festival, will take place from October 23rd to 29th, 2019. The announcement was made by NewFest’s Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy.

Hatkoff and McCarthy also revealed today that the festival’s U.S. Centerpiece will be the New York premiere of the stylized period-piece drama TO THE STARS from director Martha Stephen (co-director of the award-winning drama LAND HO!), starring Kara Hayward (MOONRISE KINGDOM), Malin Akerman (Showtime’s “Billions”), Jordana Spiro (Netflix’s “Ozark”) and Emmy Award-winner Tony Hale (HBO’s “Veep”).

“As we were reminded during this year’s World Pride and 50th anniversary of Stonewall, New York City is and always has been the epicenter of queer life and queer liberation,” said NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff. “We are thrilled to bookend New York’s 31st annual LGBTQ Film Festival, our biggest and boldest yet, with two magnificent films set in our vibrant, diverse, international city.”

Speaking on the selections, NewFest Director of Programming Nick McCarthy said, “these three outstanding works of LGBTQ cinema showcase a range of genres and tones while uniformly featuring dynamic ensembles and strong directorial vision; from contemporary New York City to ‘60s Heartland America and back to our grand city, these vital stories explore and celebrate the power of art, identity, visibility, and--above all--finding one’s community. We can’t wait for New York audiences to gather and experience them on the big screen together.”

NewFest’s Opening Night selection SELL BY is a romantic comedy that follows a group of friends who individually and with each other’s support try to navigate their complicated relationships in New York City. Nobody said love was easy. Adam (Scott Evans) and Marklin (Augustus Prew) seem to have the world in the palm of their hands, but their love life could use improvement. Marklin’s rise as a social media influencer, and Adam’s struggle to switch from ghost painting to creating his own work, has caused a rift between them. As their five-year relationship grows colder, they must decide whether to go all in or explore other options. Meanwhile, Cammy (Michelle Buteau) is failing to find her way in the world of online dating, and Haley (Zoe Chao) has to fend off an almost-legal student who’s hot for teacher.

"SELL BY is a quintessential New York romantic comedy, about the ups, downs, ins and outs of navigating love and life in the city,” says Director Mike Doyle. “It's a real honor to not only open NewFest, one of the best showcases for LGBTQ film, but to have our New York premiere here as well. It feels like a real homecoming.”

NewFest’s Closing Night selection, the award-winning drama TU ME MANQUES, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at Outfest this year and is Bolivia’s selection for Best International Feature Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. TU ME MANQUES is Director/Writer/Producer Rodrigo Bellott’s film adaptation of his 2015 play which was originally meant to stage for one night but was extended for an unprecedented four months due to popular demand. The film is an emotional exploration of three men’s struggles to reconcile identity and heritage. Following his son Gabriel’s death, Jorge travels from conservative Bolivia to New York City to confront Gabriel’s boyfriend Sebastian. While the two battle over Jorge’s inability to accept his son, Sebastian channels his grief into a bold new play in honor of his lost love, in which Gabriel’s inner turmoil is transformed into an eye-popping gay fantasia.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have our New York Premiere at NewFest and even more honored to be the Closing Night Film”, says Director/Producer Rodrigo Bellott. “This is a film about a young closeted gay man who immigrates from his conservative, oppressive and homophobic home country and finds love and acceptance to be free amidst the colorful multiethnic sexual diversity of New York City. New York offers the possibility to be unique, authentic and different - and is where I, as a gay Bolivian immigrant, found identity, love, and friendship - where i’ve slowly mended my broken heart and turned the experience into art.”

NewFest’s U.S. Centerpiece Film, TO THE STARS, follows a bespectacled and reclusive teen, Iris, who endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates in a god-fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma. Iris finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school who hones in on Iris’s untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie’s mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself.

"I'm elated to bring TO THE STARS to New York City, and I can't help but long for our queer characters from 1961 rural America to be real and alive today to experience Newfest," says Director Martha Stephens. 

This year’s festival will run October 23rd - 29th, and take place at SVA Theatre, Cinépolis Chelsea, and The LGBT Community Center.

Ticket redemption for Festival Passholders begins at 12PM EST on Friday, September 20th. There will be a Member Pre-Sale for tickets on Tuesday, September 24th. Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday, September 27th. For more information, to purchase a festival pass, or to become a member, go to

NewFest is presented by HBO, and would like to thank the following sponsors: Hyundai (Signature Sponsor), Beam Suntory (Premier Sponsor), Room & Board (Premier Sponsor); Ace Hotel New York, Norwegian Airlines, and Amida Care (Official Sponsors); and Comcast NBCUniversal, T-Mobile, and Twitter (Supporting Sponsors).

NewFest is grateful to the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the New York City Council, and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) for their generous support of our programs.

Opening Night Film & Party

Tokyo Ghoul S

You can accuse ghoul of many things, but not cannibalism—because they eat people, not other ghouls. Yet, what about a half-ghoul, half-human, like Ken Kaneki? The notorious ghoul known as “The Gourmet” is convinced Kaneki is not just edible—he will be absolutely delicious. The man-eating ghouls of Sui Ishida’s manga are hungrier than ever in Takuya Kawasaki & Kazuhiko Hiramaki’s live-action sequel, Tokyo Ghoul S, which screens nationwide today, Wednesday, and Friday, courtesy of Funimation.

Thanks to an involuntary organ donation from his late ghoul friend, Kaneki became a human-ghoul hybrid in the first Tokyo Ghoul. He has yet to fully embrace his ghoulishness, especially the eating human flesh part, but he has found belonging in the Anteiki coffee shop that caters to ghouls (coffee being the only human food they can stomach, because it is rich and delicious).

Shu Tsukiyama is exactly the kind of ghoul they prefer not to serve. Viewers first meet him in the bloody prologue. Kaneki’s co-worker Toka Kirishima, a petulant high school student and lethal projectile-wielding ghoul, boots him out on his ear, but not before he gets a whiff of Kaneki. Convinced the human-hybrid will be a rare delicacy, Tsukiyama lays plans to ensnare and feast on him, starting with a charm offensive.

The first live-action Tokyo Ghoul was a lot like the X-Men, but with ghouls not-so secretly living among humans in place of mutants. However, “S” more fully lives up to the horror implications of ghouls eating people. Tsukiyama is a classic horror movie villain, played with scenery-chewing relish by Shota Matsuda. In contrast, one of Kaneki main adversaries from the first film returns in a sickly and more empathetic state this time around.

Masataka Kubota still plays Kaneki like a wide-eyed and largely freaked-out sad sack, but he laos nicely conveys signs the character is starting to mature and grow into his new life. Maika Yamamoto shows off all kinds of action chops as the hard-charging Kirishima. However, it is Shunya Shiraishi and Mai Kiryu who really give the film heart in their poignant scenes as the formerly sinister ghoul Nishiki Nishio and his human lover, Kimi Nishino. As a bonus for Japanese pop-culture junkies, Canadian-Japanese model Maggie appears in the prologue as the bi-racial model, “Margaret.”

The special effects, gory make-up, and whirling-and-swirling action direction are all first-rate. The main characters are wearing well too, which is fortunate, since the mid-credits stinger clearly implies there is more to come. S also draws delves more deeply iinto the particularities of its ghoul world. That should help differentiate it from other manga-to-film franchises, like Ajin: Demi-Human, which largely paralleled the first Toyko Ghoul throughout its opening installment. Recommended for fans of the manga series and dark fantastical action in general, Tokyo Ghoul S screens tonight (9/16), Wednesday (9/18), and Friday (9/20), in theaters across the country, including the Village East in New York (where it will actually screen 9/16, 9/18, and 9/19).

EL PADRE MÉDICO (2019) Camden 2019

Portrait of Padre Ferdinand Bendoraitis, who was once considered second in saintliness to Mother Teresa. Bendoraitis ministered to the poor of Brazil and was said to have miraculous healing powers. However attempts to sort out his past turned up dead ends and questionable events.(I think)

One of my must see films became one of the biggest disappointments as what appears to be a truly intriguing story is completely garbled in the telling. Complicating matters more is the fact that in trying to sort out what the story is most of the things I could find only mention his saintliness. To be perfectly honest I had no idea what the heck was going on in this story which has a lot of people talking well of the man some talking suspiciously something about naked pictures, some other misdeeds and the question of who he was really. Full of people who don't always talk on point the film wanders all over the place like a man speaking his stream of consciousness.

I wanted to walk away but I wanted to see if this film pulled it together. It never did and I genuinely have no clue about Bendoraitis other than he was a priest in the Amazon and stuff happened. I won't speculate on the stuff good or bad.

A complete and total mess.

Send Me To The Clouds (2019) opens Friday

SEND ME TO THE CLOUDS is one of the best looking and thoughtful films I’ve seen in 2019. It’s stunningly gorgeous film that wraps lush and awesome (in the truest meaning of the word) around a heady discussion of what it means to be a woman today. While the film is specifically set in China, the film raises the stakes and makes itself greater by formulating the questions so that they resonate in the world at large.

The film follows Sheng Nan a photographer who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Having her world upset at the age of 29 she has to figure out what comes next. Needing to get some money together to pay for the treatment and wanting to experience the world’s sensations before the treatment wrecks her body, she sets off to figure out what comes next.

I should say at the start that watching the film I was struck by the feeling that as much as I liked the film, and I like it a great deal, I would be even more over the moon had I been a woman. I say this because the film’s exploration of how a woman is supposed to handle a world that wants so many contradictory things from them is one most modern women face. How do you face a world skewed toward men? You are supposed to be a wife and mother if that isn’t really on the trajectory you’ve chosen? What if the disease you have makes you unacceptable to finding a mate? Do you want one? Being a guy I could only intellectually connect with some of the issues being raised.

Ultimately it doesn’t really make a difference. While I couldn’t relate on the deepest of levels I could still ponder the issues. I could also connect to the journey of self-discovery Sheng Nan takes. This is the sort of journey that many people take when they are faced with something life changing. The need to reassess and reevaluate where we belong and what we want is universal.

I also could fall madly in love with the images. In a year where there have been a good number of great looking films that you’d want to just have play on you wall as a living painting, SEND ME TO THE CLOUDS is near the top. It’s images will make you sigh audibly. I was going “wow” repeatedly.

This is a great film.

Highly recommended SEND ME TO THE CLOUDS opens in LA Friday before opening in theaters across America in the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Hottest August (2019) Camden International Film Festival 2019

From street corners to beaches to anywhere people go, director Brett Story traveled around New York  in August 2017 and interviewed people about their lives and the state of the world.

This record of the state of New Yorkers is either going to thrill you or bore you. An intriguing, if very up and down film THE HOTTEST AUGUST works best in pieces. I say this because some of the people interviewed are more interesting than others, either because of what they say or because of where they were interviewed- say the two gentlemen who are interviewed at the start (they are hanging out a window in a house).

This is a film that is impossible to really review because how you are going to react to it is going to change with each person. Besides as a film it kind of isn't something special, rather this is a film that is the start of something not the be all and end all. I spoke with someone who saw the film at BAM Cinemafest earlier this summer and their reaction to some people was completely different than mine. As a result of our discussion, which lasted for two times the length of the film, the film because something else. Ultimately this is not a film so much as a conversation starter. It is a film you need to see with people who will engage with it and do more than simply say if they liked or disliked it but really talk about what the various people have to say.

If you want to see a film, especially with friends and family who like to talk about what you've just seen, then THE HOTTEST AUGUST is highly recommended. If you just want to see a film about the state of the world in one place and time it's still worth a shot.

Camden 2019 Shorts: Shoulder Season, Enforcement Hours, The Last Miller, 6 Degrees of Freedom, Coby and Stephen Are In Love, and In The Wake

wickedly wonderful film about a dodgeball program at a YMCA in Maine. Wild crazy and just damn fun- just see it. One of my favorites of the film festival

Thought provoking and emotionally moving film about a California Hotline that people can call when either they see ICE raids or are caught up in one in order to get help. Made up entirely of recorded conversations it reveals the gamut of people who call the line with the results that we feel for the people involved. I was moved by the film to actually try and do something to help and when the film was done I looked into the sort of services that are available on this side of the country. Worth a look.

Portrait of one of the last stone millers in Columbia and the complications that have hit his profession. A stunningly beautiful film that reveals the life of a man who is practicing an all but lost art that no one wants to continue. Recommended

A stunning to look at portrait of a swimmer.This needs to be seen on the big screen where the images can over whelm you.

Biography of two senior performers and their life. This is a half an hour with two nice people.

A look at the women who still use hand looms to make cloth. Its a visually beautiful take on a dying art.

When We Dance The Music Dies (2019)

William Ragsdale returns to thrillers as a father trying to find out what happened to his daughter in When We Dance The Music Dies, a nifty little creepy confection.

Ragsdale’s daughter disappears after taking a dare from a friend that if she hits the buttons in a certain elevator in a certain order a gateway to another dimension will open up. The gateway opens and she goes missing leaving her father to try and work out what happened.

When we Dance is supposed to be based on the strange death of Elisa Lam. Lam was found dead in a water tank on top of a hotel. No one knows how she got in there. The creepy part of the story is not where she ended up but the really weird elevator ride she took before hand and which was recorded on security video. In the video she staggers into the elevator and then takes a ride in the elevator hitting random floors before wandering off. While the end isn’t the same the elevator ride to hell is.

Writer director Anthony de Lioncourt has taken the elevator and fashioned it into a creepy little confection. While the film echoes other films –‘s film works on it’s own terms thanks to a good script, good actors and an incredible series of sequences that perfectly marry sound and image to send chills up and down your spine. These stunning sequences carry the film over the occasional bump and keep the film centered and compelling.

I really like the film a great deal and if there is anything negative I have to really say about the film is that it runs just over an hour. While this would be fine for a TV series or a film from 50 or 60 years ago, where there were shorter films played with A releases. The run time is potentially going to prevent people from plunking down their cash since they aren’t going to feel they are getting a full feature. Of course they are getting a full story, but people are now sadly trained not to be certain what to make of an hour long film if it isn’t a children’s feature.

Don’t be stupid hunt this film down and give it a try. Its worth your time

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Krow's TRANSformation (2019) Raindance Film Festival 2019

I don't have a great deal to say other than Krow's TRANSformation is not only a great film but  an important one as well. For any kid or adult who doesn’t feel that they are the right gender or living the right life this, film is going to bring at the very least a ray of hope. It may bring more, perhaps it will change their lives for the better.

The film follows Krow, a young man who was born a girl, but who always thought of himself as a boy. As a teen he thought he should get in touch with his feminine side and became a well-traveled model. Realizing that he needed to become who he was really he began the process of transitioning. Along the way Krow meets Kas Baker another young man like himself and his partner both musically and in life Emily Seal (the duo provide the music for the film).

This is a warts and all look at Krow and Kas‘s lives. There is frank discussion of everything involved in the whole transitional process. We hear the stories of bullying and abuse. We see the sadness and loss of way and we see the hope at finding one’s self and supportive family of friends. The whole hard road both, good and bad, is here. As a result we come truly understand the happiness they have found.

While decidedly not for all audiences, some people sadly will balk at a film like this, but for everyone else this is a great film. And  for those who are looking to find a way to be themselves this film is going to be a game changer. This is a film that is going to spread some hope. For those who need to know that there is a light out there this film is a must see.

Krpw's TRANSformation plays the Raindance Film Festival on September 18th

The Giverny Document (2019) Camden International Film Festival 2019

THE GIVERNY DOCUMENT is an essay/poem/documentary about the state of the lives of black women. A mixture of experimental filmmaking, interview footage, a performance by Nina Simone, as well as documentary reporting it is a film that is a very personal one for director Ja'Tovia M. Gary. It is a one of a kind cinema experience.

As a white male I am not even going to attempt to say anything about this film other than I liked  it. While I am not certain that the styles and pieces all connected up for me, I will say that I loved the headspace they create and the chains of thoughts they created. There is a great power in the marriage of word and image and they take you out of where you are and place you into a place where you can consider the ideas and revelations that Ms Gary is throwing at us. The truths of the lives of the women in Harlem and the patter of Ms Simone moved me.

One of the most thoughtful films playing at the Camden international Film Festival, THE GIVERNY DOCUMENT is highly recommended.

Camden 2019 Shorts: Citizens of the Cosmos, Excess Will Save Us, Sam and the Planet Next Door, Motherland, Helga and Walled Unwalled

Citizens of Cosmos
Less documentary than essay on the manifesto of Biocosmism, written by Alexander Svyatogor. As a narrator reads from various the texts we get related images filmed in Japan and Russia. It’s a trippy experience with its own unique head space. I was kind of thrown off by the film to start because I was looking for a conventional documentary, but there is nothing really conventional about this film (and we are better for it). A wonderful visit with a different headspace.

Excess Will Save Us
The story of what happened in a small town when series of unconnected events (an argument, shots from a hunting party…) were misinterpreted as something series and authorities rushed in with tons of fire power to take care of it. This is a funny shaggy dog sort of a tale that is funny after the fact but was probably scary when it happened. I chuckled a great deal at the great story tellers spinning their tale.

Sam and the Plant Next Door
Very good portrait of a young man growing up in the shadow of a power plant. It a really good look at one kids life in the modern industrial world

Excellent portrait of some of the women who are tasked with finding and defusing the mines that still litter their country, Artsakh, after  an ethnic warar. Far from flashy and simply matter of fact this is powerful look at women doing what they must to make their country and fellow citizens safe. A wonderful love letter to unsung heroes.

Excellent portrait of Helga Testorf who was the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings. Testorf has been called the last person to be made famous by a painting. She was Wyeth’s muse for decades until word of the paintings broke and took over the art world. An excellent portrait of not only a feisty woman, but also the artistic process as we get a peak into what transpired between the pair that created such great works of art. This is a great great film on so many levels that you just need to see it.

Walled Unwalled
More performance piece than conventional documentary, this recounting of various crimes that required technology to breach walls is just a thing of beauty. On one level a beautifully narrated accounting the film transcends its simplicity by being set in recording studio where walls are moved around, images are projected and our senses are massaged in such a way as to make the resonances something greater. One of the best films at the Camden International Film Festival it is an absolute must see.

Friday, September 13, 2019


I am going to guess that many people are going to try and compare this to SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN the documentary about Rodriguez that came out a few years ago, but don't let that fool you, this is something else entirely. this is one of a kind tale  you just need to see.

The film is the story of musician Ike White who killed a man in a robbery that went wrong and ended up in prison, where he managed to make some absolutely incredible music. It was so good that reporters came to do stories on him, his songs were recorded and Stevie Wonder became an advocate for his release. What happens around and through that is the story and it isn't what you expect (it wasn't what I expected).

You will forgive me if I hold back in discussing this film, its not for lack of desire more it's the realization that as you read this the film is just World Premiering at the Camden International Film Festival and as such I don't want to spoil all of the films twists and turns for you. Sitting, staring at my computer screen when the film was done I had ponder whether I wanted to clue you into the ride or just say buy a ticket and take a ride. I'm going with the just buy the ticket approach.

And never mind the story you're going to want to see this for the music that fills it from start to finish. White was and is and incredible musician and the grooves he came up with are absolutely amazing. This is a glorious primer for his work is nothing else.

Ultimately the best thing I can say is this is a great great film and you should see it. One of the absolute must sees at the Camden International Festival you'll want to buy a ticket and see it before your friends discover it first and tell you about it.


Bombay Rose (India/UK/France/Qatar) – Gitanjali Rao
Children of the Sea (Japan) – Ayumu Watanabe***
I Lost My Body (France) – Jeremy Clapin***
Marona’s Fantastic Tale (France/Romania/Belgium) – Anca Damian***
No. 7 Cherry Lane (Hong Kong SAR China) – Yonfan***
Ride Your Wave (Japan) – Masaaki Yuasa
SHe (China) – Shengwei Zhou
The Swallows of Kabul (France) – Zabau Breitman & Elea Gobbe-Mellevec***
Weathering With You (Japan) – Makoto Shinkai***
White Snake (China) – Amp Wong & Ji Zhao***
***filmmakers attending as of press time

Frozen 2 (USA) – Behind the Scenes Presentation
Klaus (USA) – Behind the Scenes Presentation
Cencoroll Connect (Japan) – Special Screening
Ne Zha (China) – Special Screening and Panel Discussion
Son of the White Mare (Hungary) – Special Screening, New Restored Print 
Steven Universe the Movie (USA) – Special Screening
Best of Annecy: Women Director Showcase (Various) – Short Film Screening and Panel
LOS ANGELES (September 13, 2019)– ANIMATION IS FILMannounced today the preliminary line-up for its third annual edition, taking place October 18-20 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  The Festival will present a highly selective showcase of new animated feature films from Asia, Europe, South America and North America, with both juried and audience prizes. Makoto Shinkai’s hugely successful WEATHERING WITH YOU will open the festival with Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura in attendance. Closing the festival will be France’s I LOST MY BODY, with director Jeremy Clapin and producer Marc du Pontavice in attendance.Tickets are available for purchase now at
The festival will present 10 feature films in competition, vying for Grand Prize, Special Jury Prize, and Audiences Award. Additionally, the festival will present special screenings, retrospectives, short films, panel discussions, sneak peek “making of” and “behind the scenes” presentations, plus non-stop receptions and parties to round out a jam-packed three days of events and screenings.

GKIDS and AIF founder Eric Beckman said, “In partnership with Annecy, we are thrilled to present our third annual slate of amazing animated filmmaking from around the world.  The range of artistry on display this year for LA audiences is truly remarkable, from celebrated Cannes, Venice, and Annecy winners, to enormous box office megahits, to lovingly told personal stories. From self-taught, first-time filmmakers to revered masters. From expressionistic to cartoony to photo-realistic to provocatively experimental. There is stop motion, hand drawn, hand painted, 3D CGI, comedy, romance, heart-rending drama, psychological thriller, epic fantasy, and so much more that simply can’t be categorized. If anyone still suffers under the misimpression that animation is a family entertainment genre, the festival will open their eyes to the wide, practically unlimited possibilities that this potent artform is capable of.”

"The quality and diversity of the films presented at Animation Is Film this year reinforces Annecy’s satisfaction of being associated with an event that has already found its place after only 2 editions and is a genuine springboard in North America for the world’s best independent animation,"added Annecy’s CEO & Director, Mickael Marin.
ANIMATION IS FILM fills a gap in the market by establishing a world class animation festival in the US, with its home in the world capital of filmmaking.  The Festival embraces the highest aspirations of animation as a cinematic art form on par with live action filmmaking and is a vocal advocate for filmmakers who push the boundaries of their work to the fullest range of expression that the medium is capable of.  The festival is produced by GKIDS in partnership with Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Major industry and media sponsors include:  Variety, Fathom Events, Loews Hotels, All Nippon Airways, ELMA, Netflix, Shout! Factory, Paramount Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Cartoon Network, Unifrance, DreamWorks Animation Animation Magazine, Animation Scoop, Animation World Network, Cartoon Brew, Japan House LOS ANGELES, RightStuf Anime, CSULB Animation, WIA (Women In Animation), USC School of Cinematic Arts, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and CalArts.