Sunday, May 31, 2020

STACKS (2020) is a funny film

A short caper film for the age of Covid 19.

I will not say any more than I have since it's short enough you should just watch it.

Tomassao (2019) hits VOD on June 2

Abel Ferrara returns to narrative filmmaking with TOMASSO starring his frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe as an artist with a younger wife and young daughter living in Rome in a tale the echoes the directors own life.

Dafoe is the reason to see this film. Giving a power house performance where he is not only physically burning down the house but showing life behind those eyes, he should be an early front runner for an Oscar in what is at times one of his best performances. Dafoe is front and center for the whole film and makes it clear why he likes to work with director Ferrara - he gives him roles that force him to use every fiber of his being.

As for Ferrara himself I'm not too sure what he is up to or what he had in mind.

The problem is that after a section of familial drama where life happens Ferrara begins mucking about. Tension rises as Dafoe's marriage begins to fracture. This sends Dafoe into a tailspin and...well he ends up on a cross. Honestly I don't know. I really don't.  The problem is in the plotting which after a while there stops being a narrative flow and things just happen. You can feel Ferrara moving his pieces around because he has an idea for a great scene. Don't get me wrong what is on screen is great- the problem is nothing connects, how do we get where we are going and why did it happen? It is not always clear. It's almost like he cut out the scenes that explain things. I am still not certain why there is problems between Dafoe and his wife.

Don't get me wrong I am a huge Ferrara fan. I have been since Ms 45 and Driller Killer. I love that he dares to try things. I love that sometimes things only work in parts because we get to have these wonderful pieces. I adore that he is a director who says to hell with the critics or studios I' going to make my art. However at the same time I have to admit that sometimes he doesn't miss the mark but the whole barn.

He missed the barn this time. Yea, Dafoe is great and there are whole sequences I love to pieces, but the film as a whole doesn't hang together. Though in his favor the way it ends up is more a near miss than a major one, which is why this is so frustrating it is so close to being there that you can't help but focus on why it hasn't come together to be a truly great film (I mean there is greatness in it)

Should you see it? If you are a Ferarra fan absolutely. If you want to see a performance that Oscar will ignore but shouldn't, yes. If you want to see a film with great pieces and moments that id trying to do something atypical and not quite making it work certainly. On the other hand if you want a film that works from start to finish and is perfect look elsewhere.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule # 55 Pooka Lives! [2020] ★★★

The Pooka franchise is like the Purge series in that one must first accept their wildly outrageous premises at face value before they can be enjoyed. The idea of a government-sponsored murder holiday is just as inherently preposterous as believing that children would actually love something as horrific as the Pooka dolls, an unholy cross between a teddy bear and Wes Craven’s Ghostface. Combine that with their eerie red eyes, their habit of repeating back random words they hear in a deep voice, and their maddeningly sinister jingle and you have something about as appealing to kids as the Annabelle doll. But the cognitive disconnect between their mass appeal and their appearance was perfect for Nacho Vigalondo’s Pooka! which premiered in 2018 as an episode of Hulu’s Into the Dark web anthology series. The doll’s terrifying design was the first and most striking indication that something was wrong in the life of its protagonist, a traumatized actor and obviously unreliable narrator.

But now Alejandro Brugués’ sequel Pooka Lives! has arrived, and since this film doesn’t take place exclusively in the mind of its hero it must be assumed that it’s occurring in the “real” world and that millions of “real” children love the damned thing. If one can’t get past that premise—and indeed, who could blame them?—they would do better to pass on the film entirely, for it takes Pooka’s popularity as given fact, not imagined fantasy. Mercifully though, Brugués abandons the original film’s bleak tone and aura of tragedy for more straight-forward comedy horror. If Pooka! was the atmospheric, high-concept Alien of the franchise, then Pooka Lives! is its over-the-top Aliens, raising the stakes, raising the body count, and raising the number of unstoppable enemies.

The film follows a group of thirty-something friends whose “Pooka Challenge” accidentally goes viral and somehow begins physically manifesting slimmed down versions of the toy to slaughter those they deem “naughty.” How? Well, witches and Tibetan mysticism are mentioned in passing, but in practice the causes are unimportant—what matters is that the killer Pookas serve as a metaphor for internet cancel culture and urban legends. It’s an interesting concept, but one that ultimately doesn’t live up to its potential as the film relies too heavily on hit-or-miss comedic relief. But as an sporadically light-hearted ensemble comedy thriller, one could certainly do worse.

Brief thoughts on Snatchers (2020) Brooklyn 2020

Snatchers is the the story of of a bunch of friends living in Brooklyn who come together to fight off an alien invasion which started in a Mennonite community.

How you react to the film will depend entirely how you react to the humor. Broadly painted and aimed at hitting every Brooklyn cliche (done with affection) and obvious gag, the film film is not for all tastes. It was not to my taste and I had a hard time getting to the end.

The problem for me was that despite having a sturdy plot the targets are a little too obvious. While the jokes aren't bad as such they aren't strong enough to keep you watching for 85 minutes. This could have been a great short, but honestly there isn't enough here to support an hour and a half

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Sherlock Holmes: THE SCARLET CLAW

Saturday, May 30, 2020

CANE FIRE (2020) Hot Docs 2020

The directors grandfather
Anthony Banua-Simon's CANE FIRE is damn near close to a perfect film. Everything it needs to be a truly great film is there, except for the editing. As much as I like all of the pieces, I really wish someone other than the director had put the pieces together.

CANE FIRE is the story of  how the island of Kauai is portrayed in the movies...and it's the story of director  Banua-Simon's family on the island... and the history of Hawaii... and the history of labor relations and strife... and an effort to find the lost film that had his grandfather in it... and the relationship of the whites to all the ethnic people that lived on or were brought to the island to work... and how tourism and Hollywood warped history... and how no one can really live in Hawaii unless they are really rich....and three or four other thing which I have forgotten but which are covered in detail.

Trust me, it's  all there, beautifully told but done so in a way that pings around exactly like the previous paragraph, except that it keeps looping back through things.  The result is a really informative film that doesn't seem to know what it is about. Actually it knows what it's about it just wants takes long time to get there and it wants to throw in a lot of other stuff along the way. It's kind of like looking at lose pictures instead of one in an album where everything is in the best order possible.

Rarely has any film frustrated me so much.

In reality as much as I am bitching about CANE FIRE being a mess I am forgetting to say that the film on its own terms is good. It isn't nearly as great as it should be but it is good. It raises a lot of questions that need to be looked into. It is a film that forces you to think about what Hollywood and tourism do, as well as consider the battle to earn a decent living.

I like CANE FIRE but I wanted to love it.  To that end I am going to recommend the film at Hot Docs, but with a warning that it does bounce around.

Fo information on how to screen the film as part of Hot Docs Virtual Fest go here

The excellent YESTERYEAR is available for you to see

A Clear Shot (2020) hits VOD June 2

Based on the Good Guys electronic store seige in 1991 A CLEAR SHOT tells the story of four Vietnamese youths who take over an electronics store and take 40 hostages. Mario Van Peebles plays the hostage negotiator trying to get everyone out.

A CLEAR SHOT is a good time passer. It is a reasonably well done thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for its running time. To be certain the film has budgetary issues which makes some of the scenes look a tad anemic, but it over does it with heart and a forward momentum that makes you want to see what happens next.

If there is is any real problem it comes from star Mario Van Peebles. Normally a solid actor who raises to the occasion, here he seems to be phoning the performance in. While he is never bad he just never gives more than the absolute minimum for the role.  To be honest he is perfectly fine, but his lack of enthusiasm kind of undercuts his role in the climax.

Still A CLEAR SHOT entertains, which in this age of covid isolation makes it worth a VOD rental especially if you tire of big budget trash.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Capsule #54: A Report on the Party and the Guests [1966] ★★★½

Perhaps the most famous movie scheduled for competition at the ill-fated 1968 Cannes Film Festival was Miloš Forman’s absurdist parable The Firemen’s Ball. Remembered as a touchstone of the Czechoslovak New Wave, it skewered the country’s Communist authorities with a highly allegorical story of a small town volunteer fire department trying and failing to throw an annual ball, raffle, and beauty pageant. But curiously, it wasn’t the only Czech film in competition that year that hid withering criticisms of authoritarian regimes within surrealist allegory. The other was Jan Němec’s A Report on the Party and the Guests, a film which countered Forman’s smirking cynicism with defiant anger.

The film centers on seven urban socialites picnicking in the countryside. In the middle of their revels, they’re shanghaied by a group of thugs who force them to stand in a circle drawn in the dirt and be interrogated by a cruel, mentally unbalanced man-child named Rudolf (Jan Klusák). When one of the seven gets fed up and steps outside the circle he’s swiftly captured and beaten. Properly chastened, the group is rescued by an unnamed host (Ivan Vyskočil) who shepherds them to his daughter’s wedding party at a nearby lake which is also serving as his birthday celebration. Once there, the seven vacationers endure even more bizarre behavior as the host’s violent mood swings cause him to snap at imagined slights. Eventually the seven notice that one of their party has fled, and when the host leads the other guests off into the woods to hunt him down with dogs they try their best to ignore their former friend’s fate.

Němec was extremely careful to avoid any overt political finger-pointing, and as such the film contains almost no one-to-one symbolism. (The closest he came was casting Vyskočil—who looked suspiciously like Lenin—as the host. The Rudolf character who’s revealed to be the host’s adopted son could also stand in for any number of spoiled Communist scions like Vasily Stalin.) Nevertheless, the film was banned by Czechoslovak authorities and Němec forced to flee the country. Unlike Forman, Němec was never able to translate his talents into Hollywood success, so his reputation—and his films—never reached the same heights as his fellow Czech. And though Report doesn’t match the comedic brilliance and audaciousness of The Firemen’s Ball, it remains an important piece of Communist-era Czechoslovak filmmaking.

Valhalla Rising (2009) hits Blu-Ray Tuesday

With VALHALLA RISING hitting BluRay on Tuesday I am reposting my review from 2011

I've heard this described as a tone poem and I think that's the best way to do so. Its a near dialog-less mediation on man, god, good evil and the afterlife or its just a brutal story of a viking prisoner who escapes his captors only to take up with a band of Christians heading for the Holy Land, however the forces of nature have another plan for them and they end up in what appears to be the New World.

Graphically violent this is a film that works best when it connects with you on a subconscious and visceral level. I find that I don't intellectually get the film or perhaps even like the film, but on a basic instinct beyond words I'm drawn to this films story. I like that it operates on a plane that movies don't usually touch, that of the gut or the pure instinct.

Its a beautiful film that reminds me of Bergman, Tarkovsky and other great masters, but at the same time this is a film that is completely its own unique animal.

I know some people don't like it. I know some say it doesn't make sense and that its reaching for something it never achieves, and to be perfectly honest I can relate to that. But at the same time the film works for me in a way I can't explain.Honestly I can tell you why the film isn't good, but at the same time the film kicks me to the curb and makes me feel something that is beyond good and bad.

Worth a look for anyone who wants a head trip film and doesn't mind graphic violence and spilling viscera.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Sherlock Holmes: HOUSE OF FEAR

Friday, May 29, 2020

Brief thoughts on Uncivilized (2020) Brooklyn 2020

Director Michael Lees returns home to Dominica to live in the jungle and off the land for six months. He is looking for something but he isn't sure what. Not long after he goes into the jungle hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm hits the island and devastated the country. He then uses what he has learned to help rebuild.

Odd mix of films crash together to form a film I'm not quite certain of. The film starts off as a navel gazing search to find one's self. It then veres off into an intriguing discussion about society when Lee talks to a man who has been living off the land for decades. The film then swerves into a pseudo-Discovery Channel  film like Naked And Afraid as we watch Lee learn to live off the land. Then the storm hits and the film becomes and interesting look at the aftermath.

I don't know what I think of the film. I certainly love pieces of it but I don't know if the films all over nature really works. I suspect that if the storm didn't happen the film probably would not have made it to Brooklyn since the before stuff is, largely, nothing we haven't seen before.  The post storm stuff at least takes us into largely unexpected directions, at least as far as the first half of the film is concerned.

There is enough here to make a viewing for the curious worth seeing but I'm not going to give a blanket recommendation.

Joe Bendel on Abe (2019) which hits DVD on Tuesday

If only they had more fusion cuisine at Taba, maybe then there would be peace in the Middle East. Or perhaps not. A thirteen-year-old aspiring chef in Brooklyn tries to bring his mixed Israeli-Palestinian family together with food, but their divisions might be too deep for his culinary efforts to heal, despite some help from Brazil in Fernando Grostein Andrade’s Abe, which hits VOD on Friday.

Abe prefers “Abe,” but his family calls him Abraham, Avraham, Avi, or Ibrahim, depending on which side is doing the talking. His mother and her parents are Jewish Israeli, his paternal grandparents are Palestinian Muslims, and his father is a “plague on both your houses” atheist. As you might guess, family gatherings are super awkward. Frankly, they bicker so much, they never enjoy Abe’s cooking.

For a thirteen-year-old, Abe is pretty good at the basics (or so he thinks), but he needs a bit of coaching when it comes to more ambitious creations. Chico Catuaba is the chef he has in mind to mentor him. The Bahia native once had his own restaurant, but now sells his unique brand of Brazilian-Jamaican fusion cuisine in his pop-up kitchens throughout Brooklyn. Initially, Catuaba is suspicious of Abe and the potential child labor legal problems he might bring, but the young teen’s sincerity wins him over. However, he will make sure Abe pays his dues first, before giving him real kitchen responsibilities.

Andrade’s film boasts a lithe and lively Brazilian soundtrack, featuring co-star Seu Jorge on two tracks (“Imigrantes” and Veloso’s “Meia Lua Inteira”), Tulipa Ruiz on “Sal E Amor,” and musical supervisor Jaques Morelenbaum’s solo cello arrangements of Jobim’s “Brigas Numcas Mais” and “Samba de Uma Noto So.” It sounds fantastic and the food looks delicious, so it is easy to forgive the formulaic aspects of Lameece Issaq & Jacob Kader’s screenplay. In fact, Andrade executes the culinary coming-of-age tale with a light touch, dialing down the obvious clichés and potentially fraught politics as much as possible. Instead, he focuses on the diverse, likable ensemble of characters.

Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things is appealingly energetic and earnest as Abe. However, the perfectly cast Seu Jorge frequently steals the show as Catuaba. Anyone who has seen him perform knows he has serious charisma and a voice that could take work away from James Earl Jones, but he also wields a kitchen knife with authority. As Abe’s parents, Dagmara Dominczyk and Arian Moayed also convincingly look and sound like a loving couple, whose relationship is under strain and stress. As a bonus, the great character actor Mark Margolis adds some crusty flair as Abe’s Jewish grandfather, Benjamin.

Abe is a very nice little movie with a terrific soundtrack. The notion of refracting the Middle Eastern conflict through the microcosm of a Brooklyn family might sound like a ham-fisted, finger-wagging cinematic lecture, but Andrade mostly makes it work, by not forcing it too hard. Recommended for fans of foodie movies and Seu Jorge, Abe hits home video Tuesday.

WE ARE ONE FIlm Fest starts today

The huge world wide WE ARE ONE FILM FESTIVAL hits YouTube  today. They are running a ton of films and director talks all dropping at various points between today and June 7th. They are completely free you just have to go to  either the YouTube page or the festival page. My understanding is the videos will be up until the end of the festival once they go live. All they are asking for is a small donation.

I have been told by the festival that they are not giving the ress early access to the films and that we can just tune in like everyone else. That is not a knock, purely a statement of explanation as to why coverage is going to be in real time and not ahad of the curve. (I am perfectly fine with that because I am working on Hot Docs, Brooklyn and Human Rights Watch as this fest hits)

That said because this is a best of the fests sort of thing we have covered a bunch of the films already. You can click on the links below to see the reviews:


I also have banked reviews from the New Directors New Films that didn't happen this spring so I will be posting reviews for MONSTER GOD before June 2 and NASIR before June 6.

Based on my scanning of the slate this looks to be a great fest.

If you want to tune in---



And feel free to recommend anything you see because there is a ton of stuff and I may miss it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Brief thoughts on KINGDOM OF ARCHERS (2020) Brooklyn 2020

Wonderful portrait of the love of archery in the Kingdom of Bhutan. While archery was always part of the culture, the mad love for the sport exploded when after joining the UN in 1971, it was listed as the national sport and everyone took it to heart.

While the film can be a slightly travelogueish PR shill at times,this is largely a great exploration of one countries love of a sort and how that love has changed over the years. The result is a marvelously satisfying portrait of a country, its people and its culture.

You will forgive me if I don't say a great deal about this film because there really isn't a great deal to say. This is 90 minutes with good people. It is a trip to somewhere we have never been and the result is a marvelous viewing experience that will not only entertain but inform.

Highly recommended.

All That I Am (2020) Hot Docs 2020

Emilie's other reaches out to her asking if she wants to move back home. She feels it's time that they begin to heal the damage of the past. Emilie agrees and we watch as she tries to reconnect with her family and move forward away from the darkness that devoured here.

Okay warning up front, this is the story of sexual abuse.. Emilie was abused by her stepfather from when she was six until she was was 12 and her father was sent away.  If you don't want to go into that place then stay away.  I mention this at the fore front because the press material dances around the subject in the short synopsis and knowing how upsetting the subject is I don't want anyone to walk into this film unprepared.

If you want an excellent look at the damage done by sexual abuse look no farther. This look at one woman's battle to come out of the darkness and get her life back is as good as they come. At times painful and uncomfortable the film is ultimately hopeful in that we watch as over time Emilie fights the demons with the help of caring people around her. The fact that we dip into the darkness makes what Emilie achieves all the more happy. Of course the damage is still there. The wounds will never heal, but she is getting to the point where she can have a life outside of the inside of an apartment or house.

I was moved. I'm not going to say I liked the film since this really isn't a film about a subject one likes. What I love is that director Tone Grøttjord-Glenne smartly remains focused on Emilie. We never leave her we never look away. We simply stay with her an observe her as she leaves her foster family, returns to her mother and siblings, deals with her step-dad's release and starts a new chapter in her life. We are there for the ups and downs. We come to like her as well as respect and understand her.

This is an excellent film and highly recommended for anyone who can go into the dark place of sexual abuse.

ALL THAT I AM is screening at Hot Docs Virtual Festival. For information on this film and the festival go here.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule # 53 Min and Bill [1930] ★★½

Marie Dressler had the kind of face that’s all but vanished from today’s Hollywood, one with lumps and bumps, ridges and wrinkles in all the wrong places. Not that there aren’t unconventionally attractive actors nowadays like Adam Driver or ones who’ll happily ugly themselves up for awards season. But there’s a certain lack of performers who look like they could’ve been plucked from the drunk tank in a police station or yanked from a factory line in a nowhere town. Steve Buscemi was probably the last one before America’s cinematic ugly well dried up, and it’s all the lesser for it.

 Consider Dressler’s performance in George W. Hill’s Min and Bill (1930) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She plays Min Divot, the wizened proprietor of a dockside inn near a port. A crass, surly, churlish woman, she looks nothing less than a gargoyle as she sneers and glowers at the people around her. When she’s particularly suspicious, she lets her bottom jaw hang open, bearing her bottom teeth like a bulldog readying for an attack. It’s ugliness personified, and it’s all in the service of throwing audiences off-guard. For deep down Min is deeply loving and compassionate.

Min and Bill is a melodramatic weepy in the sacrificial mother mold, similar to Olive Higgins Prouty’s frequently adapted novel Stella Dallas. (Perhaps not coincidentally, both Min and Bill and the first cinematic version of Stella Dallas were penned by Frances Marion, one of Hollywood’s best, most prolific, and most feted early screenwriters.) The film charts her relationship with her adopted daughter Nancy Smith (Dorothy Jordan) who was dropped into her lap at six months old by her self-destructive prostitute mother Bella (Marjorie Rambeau). Min would do anything for that kid, even force her to leave her to attend a nice school so she can make something of herself. Of course Min can’t show that kind of affection openly, so she hides it in angry outbursts when she catches Nancy canoodling with no-good bozos on the docks. It’s a powerful, heart-breaking performance that belongs in a better film.

At only sixty-six minutes, it feels like there’s an entire third of the story missing. How spotty is the pacing? Well, an early boat chase largely predicting the future of action-oriented cinematic grammar feels completely out-of-place despite easily being the film’s highlight.

Erotic Fire of the Unattainable (2020) Brooklyn 2020

Written by actress Gay Walley- though the discussions were improvised - this is the story of a woman in her mid sixties as she navigates her relationships with three men and working on a 3 part novel about love that mirrors her relationships

Full of lots of literary talk both about books but also between the characters this film is very literary and high brow. We are watching very erudite people talk about their lives, thoughts and the things they find interesting. It feels like a romantic riff on My Dinner With Andre.

While there most definitely is a heart beating in the film's chest there is some distance between us and the characters. The problem is the dialog feels like it was worked on and not thought of on the moment, despite according to a final note to the film, that the disalog was improvised. Seeing that flummoxed me because the words are a little too perfect and it kept me distance. At the same time part of me wants to find the circles where people actually converse like this.

Despite not giving myself over to the film completely I am looking forward to seeing the film again, if only to memorize some of the dialog.

Stay At Home Bonus Film: 18 Scary True Scary Storys

Almost two hours of scary "true" stories to keep you up all night

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lewiston (2019) Brooklyn Film Festival 2020

This is the brief review I ran when Lewiston played the Camden International FIlm Festival last year.

Crying out for a feature film version, LEWISTON is a look at Lewiston Maine where a large influx of people from Somalia have relocated to the point that one in six people in the city is now Somali. This is a very good look at the literal black and white existence of the a small town. Highlighting all sorts of issues the film made me want to see more.

For info on the screening go here

INTO THE STORM [EN LA TORMENTA] (2020) Brooklyn 2020

One of the great tragedies of the Brooklyn Film Festival being virtual is that people won't see INTO THE STORM on a big screen. This portrait of  Jhonny, a young man from Peru finding a way out of poverty through surfing has some stunning images. It is also a hell of a film.

If you've been reading Unseen Films for any amount of times you are aware that I have a passion for great surfing films. Going all the way back to the first weeks of the site Unseen has highlighted somes great (nd not so great) surfing films. If one is playing a fest I will review it. When I saw INTO THE STORM was playing Brooklyn I jumped at the chance to see it.

Walking the line between a  portrait of a surfer and a look at the society into which he was born, the film wonderfully manages to be firing on several levels. The film never lets one thread overwhelm the other with the result we are always fully aware of the forces acting on Jhonny, especially in the middle section that concerns a drive by shooting. This isn't your typical surfer dude touring around tale but something much more complex. There are literal life and death stakes.  As a result the film moves us on a much deeper level than most other surfing films because it is more than just pretty pictures but the portrait of a young man trying to just stay alive.

Speaking of pretty pictures INTO THE STORM has some of the best images of surfing I've run across. I have no idea how they got some of the but I was blown away. I don't know of any other surfing films that look this good.  The cinematography is so incredible that you don't notice or care about the frequent use of drones.

INTO THE STORM is a great film. Easily one of the best films at the Brooklyn Film Festival it will make you think and feel and want to see it again.

There are more episodes of "This is Not a Story About..." 📻 Forgotten stories of film history by Ted Geoghegan

Film director, producer, raconteur, and international man of mystery Ted Geoghegan has turned out more episodes of his podcast THIS IS NOT A STORY ABOUT. After not talking about Disney and Bruce Lee he is back with episodes not on Bela Lugosi, MGM and  Friday The 13th

As I said in my original piece this is exactly like sitting in a room and listening to Ted hold the floor and spin out tales. And since I have been there and watched Ted talk I swear to you this is the way it is, except if you were in the room with him you could ask him questions which will have him go off on a tangent, and then give you dirty looks for messing him up.

Yea this is as good as socially responsible movie podcasting gets short of putting Ted in an hazmat suit and having him over for dinner.

You can find all the episodes at the following places

iTunes/Apple Podcasts

Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema U.S. Tour Now Available to Stream Online

New York, May 26, 2020 — Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema is proud to present a 15- film selection from the expansive retrospective, The Romanians: 30 Years of Cinema Revolution, now available to stream nationally in the U.S.. The retrospective launched to great acclaim in November at New York’s Film Forum, and is the largest series dedicated to Romanian film presented in the U.S. to date. A selection of the program was scheduled to tour in more than seven U.S. cities, beginning at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), but was put on hold due to theater closures from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in response to the unprecedented public health crisis, Making Waves is working with cultural partners across the U.S. to make the films available online to a national audience.

The streaming edition of the retrospective encompasses 15 cinematic works including seminal, award-winning films such as Luxury Hotel by Dan Pița, winner of Venice Film Festival Silver Lion; The Death of Mr Lăzărescu by Cristi Puiu, winner of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival; Videograms of a Revolution by Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujică; Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard: Best Actress-winner The Way I Spent the End of the World by Cătălin Mitulescu; CPH:DOX Amnesty Award-winner Crulic: The Path to Beyond by Anca Damian; Cannes Film Festival Golden Camera-winner Stuff and Dough by Cristi Puiu and more.

This cinematic event marks the first time many of these titles are available online, allowing these groundbreaking films to be seen by a wider audience. Select titles will also screen in Virtual Cinema format in collaboration with leading arthouse cinemas including New York’s Film Forum and the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia.

Spanning the 30 years since the revolution of 1989 and the fall of communism, this comprehensive series presents titles from the recent history of Romanian cinema. Naturally, history is the running theme in most films. In the 1990s, directors who found themselves freed from the tyranny of censorship rushed out in the open to tell stories from the recent past. In the following two decades, younger directors went back in time on their own terms and came up with a fresh perspective on the communist era. Even when they chronicled the present with incisive slices of contemporary life, the dark shadows of the past still permeated their stories like familiar ghosts. Then there is the enigma of the revolution itself, which continues to beg for closure. And, despite its apparent diversity, this vast retrospective works best as a history lesson served in the most entertaining form: movies.

Below is the full list of titles available to stream throughout 2020:

Aferim!, Radu Jude, 2015
Crulic: The Path to Beyond, Anca Damian, 2011
Dogs, Bogdan Mirică, 2016, available in the U.S. June 12
Domestic, Adrian Sitaru, 2012
Do Not Lean Out the Window, Nae Caranfil, 1993, available in the U.S. May 29
Luxury Hotel, Dan Pița, 1992, available in the U.S. June 26
Niki and Flo, Lucian Pintilie, 2003
Of Snails and Men, Tudor Giurgiu, 2012
Pororoca, Constantin Popescu, 2017
Stuff and Dough, Cristi Puiu, 2001, available in the U.S. June 5
The Death of Mr Lăzărescu, Cristi Puiu, 2005
The Great Communist Bank Robbery, Alexandru Solomon, 2004
The State of Things, Stere Gulea, 1995, available in the U.S. June 19
The Way I Spent the End of the World, Cătălin Mitulescu, 2006
Videograms of a Revolution, Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujică, 1992, available in the U.S. May 29

For access to streaming and program details visit

Corina Suteu, festival president and co-curator of Making Waves states, “We believe that now more than ever, audiences deserve access to all forms of art and cinema to put our world into perspective and to reflect on the beauty and fragility of the human condition. These Romanian films culled from the thirty year period since the fall of communism mark a cycle of creative freedom in Romanian cinema. This series is truly unique, offering a most comprehensive and compelling survey of the brilliance and intensity of talent of various generations.This retrospective ensures that their creative voices will be heard in the wider world.”

Kate MacKay, Associate Film Curator at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, states, “Thirty years after the revolution in Romania these films remain as meaningful as ever as the shadows of totalitarianism and corruption are increasingly evident everywhere and protesters take to the streets around the globe.”

The Romanians: 30 Years of Cinema Revolution is organized by the Making Waves Film Festival and Cinema Projects. Produced by Corina Șuteu and Oana Radu, and curated by Mihai Chirilov, David Schwartz (Cinema Projects) and Corina Șuteu. Produced and presented with the support of the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Dacin Sara, Romanian Filmmakers Union, the Romanian National Film Center, Blue Heron Foundation, Galeria Plan B, Mobius Gallery, Gentica Foundation, and numerous individual donors.

About the Films

The gloriously off kilter Mr Sam (209) plays the Brooklyn Film Festival

MR SAM is a weird fucking film. That is a badge of honor in away. It’s also a warning to those who don’t like strange to stay away,

The plot has eccentric Mr Sam falling in love with a dead man, and then is discovered by his best friend who reveals a secret to him. That leads to unexpected consequences.

Wonderfully off kilter Mr Sam is a film I love for its strangeness and beautiful construction and acting but I am not certain about the rest. Don’t get me wrong I like the film and it’s go for broke boldness to be what it is, but at the same time it feels the wrong sort of off. The offness comes from the film’s running time of 30 minutes, which is right in between two sweet spots. Either the film could be trimmed to be a tighter (in which case it might lose some of its charm) or it could be expanded to a feature where it could allow some of the threads and ideas to be fully explored. I’d opt for a feature version.

Until then we have a wonderfully twisted confection that should be a must for anyone who likes cinema that makes you wonder what in the holy hell have gotten myself into.

For more information on how to see this film go here

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #52 The Shooting [1966] ★★★½

For his 1966 film The Shooting, director Monte Hellman adopted a sparse aesthetic that emphasized, above all, distance. This distancing was literal in the film’s use of only a handful of characters placed within vast, empty environments of sun-baked deserts and dusty canyons. The setting might be the Old West, but it may as well be another planet completely devoid of other humans. Cinematically, Hellman accentuates this sense of distance with a rigid visual style that borders on mannered. Largely eschewing traditional Hollywood visual grammar, most of the film takes place in long and medium shots with dialogue usually occurring in two- or three-shots between characters occupying the same space. There’s relatively little shot-reverse-shot dialogue, and Hellman will sometimes disassociate said dialogue from the speakers by turning his camera on characters not involved in the conversation. This has a strange effect of straining the spatial link between the humans, the story, and the world they inhabit—in short, more distance.

Despite featuring Hollywood stars like Warren Oates and Jack Nicholson, The Shooting is defiant in its rejection of what audiences usually expect from Westerns. For one, it looks unlike most Westerns of its era: financed by Roger Corman, the film was shot for pocket change in less than three weeks with only natural lighting. In a way, its visual ruggedness predicted the washed out, rustic look of much of New Hollywood.

But most importantly, The Shooting is unique for its bizarre narrative. It focuses on two bounty hunters, the stoic Willet Gashade (Oates) and his paranoid friend Coley (Will Hutchins), who find themselves escorting a mysterious unnamed woman (Millie Perkins) across a nondescript wilderness after their mutual partner was murdered by an unseen assailant. They’re eventually joined by an unstable gunslinger named Billy Spear (Nicholson) that the woman insists on hiring as protection despite—or possibly because of—his obvious insanity.

In many ways it feels like a Western by way of Alain Resnais (and no, I didn’t cop that comparison from Jonathan Rosenbaum thankyouverymuch), particularly in how it features characters pushed and pulled in strange environments by forces beyond their comprehension. It’s easy to sense echoes here of the dreamlike, fragmented reality of Last Year at Marienbad (1961). But also like that film, it’s easy to dismiss the deliberately obfuscated characters and inexplicable plot as arthouse pretentiousness. One’s mileage depends on one’s patience for postmodernism.

The Black Emperor Of Broadway (2020) Brooklyn 2020

The story of African American actor Charles Gilpin who was chosen by Eugene O'Neill to play the lead in his play the Emperor Jones. The film highlights Gilpin's life, his battle with O'Neill about the language of the play and how he played the role for years after the triumphant Broadway run.

A low key and not flashy film, THE BLACK EMPEROR OF BROADWAY is a small gem of a film. It is a film which highlights not only the writing of a classic of the American stage, but more importantly it throws light on the man who made it possible by unleashing all the power within the words Charles Gilpin. Hile I had read of Gilpin's legendary performances, I had never really been told anything about him beyond that. This film gives us a sense of the man himself.

That the film works as well as it does is due entirely to Shaun Parkes as Gilpin.  Parkes gives an amazing performance from the opening scene where his soul is being crushed doing a minstrel show and being told he'll never get beyond that; onward through small quiet moments with his wife and on to the moments where he takes the legitimate stage and speaks with an intensity that makes you "oh my god..." It's a good enough performance that if this were a bigger film with money behind it Parkes might have a shot at an Oscar nomination. If that doesn't happen let us hope that the film gets him noticed and he can start taking leads in big budget films where he can rock the house or the pillars of heaven/

If there is any problem with the film it is that you can feel the origins as a stage play. While director Arthur Egeli and writer Ian Bowater do a good job of opening up Adrienne Earle Pender's play some of the scenes have seem to be a bit too static as if they were moved directly over from the play.

Quibbles aside, THE BLACK EMPEROR OF BROADWAY is  solid on so many levels that it is recommended when it plays the Brooklyn Film Festival.

Two scary short docs are the Stay At Home Bonus films for today

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Macabre (2020) Brooklyn 2020

After a tragic shooting, Teo, a member of a special squad of cops is sent to his home in the Brazilian jungle in order to track down a pair of men who are raping and killing women and children. He swore he would never return but if he doesn't go the locals would never cooperate. Forced to face his present as well as his past Teo struggles to solve the case.

Based on the case of the "Necrophil Brothers", MACABRE is a solid thriller. Part police procedural, part horror film and part psychological drama the film juggles a lot of balls and manages to keep them all airbourne with the result that we are on the edge of out seats until the very end.

I really liked this film a great deal. I had no idea about the case on which it it is based so I had no idea how it was going to go. The result was a nailbiter. This is also the reason I am not going to go into a great big discussion of the film because I think this will play better the less you know.

One of my favorite films at the Brooklyn Film Fest. MACABRE is highly recomended.

First We Eat (2020) Hot Docs 2020

Filmmaker Suzanne Crocker makes the decision that for one year her family will only eat food that is gown,hunted or sourced locally in and around her home in Dawson City in the Yukon.

I am not going to attempt to know if this film will work for you or not since watching it I was very aware that this is going to be a film that works for some people and not for others. How you react will depend upon how interested you are in the subject, how you connect to Crocker and how you react to the low tech means of shooting.

The film follows Crocker over the course of a little more than a year from when she springs her grand idea on the family, through their first efforts to only eat locally sourced (some of the food is not enjoyed at first), on through her making connections with her neighbors who teach her about what they can eat and how to prepare it. If you ever wanted to know how to live off the land or were interested in shows like Mountain Men on cable but found them a bit too showy, this film is for you. We are there as Crocker learns about all the things around her she can eat and how to prepare it.

Personally my interest in the film came and went. That is not an indicator or the quality of the film more that certain parts of the film were more interesting to me than others. It didn't help that  I never really clicked with Crocker as a person. And while I shouldn't say this I also had a difficult time with the DIY way the film was shot.  While I understand the hows and whys of some shots (Crocker was carrying the camera to an event or had set it up in a field to film herself gathering food) the images tended to overwhelm me with somethings being too low and too close and the lens of the Go Pros or whatever she used to shoot, making images that looked wrong to me.

As I said above, I am not going to guess how you will react to the film. Watching the film at home I had some of my siblings wander by while it was on and they stopped to watch it for a bit. They found the piece they watched involving how the meat was carved up fascinating.

FIRST WE EAT is going to play Hot Docs Virtual Film Festival at the end of the week. For details and more information on how to watch go here.

Alive plays the Brooklyn Film Fest and it's must see

Victoria has brain damage and is stuck in a wheelchair. She is a wonderful person limited by her body. She would like nothing more than to have a relationship like her caregiver Ida has with her hunky boyfriend. After talking to Ida the pair sets up a Tinder profile....

A sweet reminder that those with disabilities are human and want what we all want, namely human contact beyond the disability. It is beautifully acted and touchingly told...

...and I am not going to lie, for a good chunk of the film I thought this was simply going to hit all the expected points and then be done. I was going to be perfectly willing not to review the film as it seemed to be something that was good but not good enough or bad enough that I really had something to say. But then something happened, the film came to close, a final line was spoken and I roared with joy and I said- "okay what happens next?" With one line director Jimmy Olsson made a good film a great one and made me wonder if he could spin it out into a feature. (This is why you must try to stay to the end of all films for glorious moments like this)

I know shorts spun into features don't always work but in that final moment everything that went before sprung into such life I wanted to see where this was going next.

ALIVE is playing the Brooklyn Film Festival starting Friday. For more information on ho to see it go here.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #51 The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid [1972] ★★★

When Jesse James isn’t depicted in movies as the Old West’s answer to Robin Hood or as a generic, larger-than-life do-gooder (like that time he was played by Roy Rogers—don’t ask), the infamous outlaw is usually considered within two contexts. The first is within larger hagiographies that frame the West as the source of American legends. In these we get the romantic retellings of the Jesse James myth charting his rise and fall as a misunderstood bandit whose circumstances trapped him on the wrong side of the law. The second are revisionist reconsiderations depicting him as a cunning, sociopathic career criminal, usually focusing on his murder at the hands of Robert Ford.

But Philip Kaufman’s The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid fits into neither of these categories, choosing instead to focus on one specific incident in Jesse James’ life: the James-Younger Gang’s disastrous attempted robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota in 1876. This marked the end of James’ gang with only himself and his brother Frank escaping while the rest of their posse were killed or arrested. Kaufman treats the event as the end of the Old West era, a watershed moment where the age of cowboys and Indians gave way to civilization. Kaufman personifies these twin historical trends with his competing leads, the first being Jesse (Robert Duvall) and Frank (John Pearce), depicted as cutthroats tied to old ways and manners, eager to feed their legend as magnanimous thieves so long as it provides them with safe houses among impoverished settlers and homesteaders. On the other side is Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson), no less astute a criminal than Jesse but more attuned to the changing trends of progress around him, taking the time to scout out Northfield and marvel at its new technology like steam engines.

But the film is far from elegiac. In fact, Kaufman presents his material with a comedic breeziness at considerable odds with its grim, grimy visual aesthetic. At times it feels like Kaufman is trying to channel George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)—indeed, an extended slapstick sequence at a baseball game feels like a direct response to that film’s scene where Paul Newman does bicycle tricks to the sound of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” But Kaufman never manages to fully reconcile the comedy with the seriousness of the historical material.



10-Day Digital Festival, Produced and Organized by Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube, will Feature Programming from Festivals including Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival

Highlights Include Online Premiere of Ricky Powell featuring Natasha Lyonne and LL Cool J,
Global Premiere of Third Eye Blind’s Motorcycle Drive By, Talks Including Francis Ford Coppola with Steven Soderbergh, Song Kang-ho with Bong Joon-ho, and Jackie Chan and a DJ set by Questlove

NEW YORK, May 26, 2020 – Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube announced today the programming slate for We Are One: A Global Film Festival, which will feature over 100 films co-curated by 21 prolific festivals, hailing from 35 countries, in addition to talks, VR content and musical performances. The 10-day digital event will celebrate global voices, elevate films that have the power to create change and bring audiences from around the world together to create meaningful connections. Assembling some of the world’s most talented artists, storytellers and curators around a central effort to provide entertainment and offer relief in the form of supporting organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will run exclusively on YouTube May 29 - June 7 at

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will give audiences an opportunity to experience different cultures through an artistic lens - each official selection was handpicked for inclusion to highlight the singularities of each participating festival, while also providing a voice to filmmakers on a global stage. Many of these titles will have significant debuts at the festival, with programming consisting of over 100 films, including 13 world premieres, 31 online premieres, and five international online premieres.

A truly international festival, the programming will represent over 35 countries and will include 23 narrative and eight documentary features, 57 narrative and 15 documentary short films, 15 archived talks along with four festival exclusives and five VR programming pieces.

Notable film presentations will include Ricky Powell: The Individualist, a documentary about legendary street photographer Powell featuring interviews with Natasha Lyonne and LL Cool J; the online premiere of Eeb Allay Ooo!, a unique satire about professional “monkey repellers” and winner of the Mumbai Film Festival’s Golden Gateway Award; and the world premiere of Iron Hammer, a compelling documentary feature directed by Joan Chen about legendary Chinese Olympic volleyball star Jenny Lang Ping, a true trailblazer who forged connections across the globe. Audiences will have access to over 50 narrative and documentary shorts with exciting entries such as the world premiere of Japanese narrative short The Yalta Conference Online, created exclusively for the festival by Director Koji Fukada; the global premiere of the Third Eye Blind documentary short Motorcycle Drive By, as well as the first short pieces made by Dreamworks Animation, Bilby, Marooned and Bird Karma. Episodic programming features the world premiere of Losing Alice, an Israeli female-led neo-noir psychological TV thriller and And She Could Be Next, a two part documentary series on the experiences of women of color running for office, including Stacey Abrams and Rashida Tlaib.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will host a number of specially-curated talks, both archived from past festivals and brand new discussions, that will offer viewers a chance to revisit important moments in film. Talks will feature Francis Ford Coppola with Steven Soderbergh, Song Kang-ho and Bong Joon-ho, Guillermo del Toro, Jane Campion and Claire Denis. 360 VR selections will feature Emmy-nominated documentary Traveling While Black and Atlas V, a sci-fi narrative starring Bill Skarsgard, as well as additional titles with notable talent including John Legend, Oprah Winfrey and Lupita Nyong’o. There will also be special musical performances, including a 30 minute DJ set by Questlove.

“We are so excited to share the combined efforts of our festival partners and YouTube with the world this week,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “Together, we were able to curate a compelling slate of programming that succinctly reflects the subtle variations in style that make each festival so special. We Are One: A Global Film Festival will offer audiences an opportunity to not only celebrate the art of film, but the unique qualities that make each story we watch so memorable.”

“One of the beautiful things about films and other visual content is the ability to tell stories and bring people together, no matter where they live or where they’re from. This is a phenomenon we’ve seen at YouTube throughout the years but especially today, as people look to connect and be entertained,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. “The programming coordinated by Tribeca Enterprises for We Are One: A Global Film Festival has that magical ability to transport viewers from all around the world to a special moment in time, through the unique lens that our esteemed festival partners bring.”

The global festival will include programming curated by and unique to the identity of all participating festival partners, including: Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival.

“Cinema is not only a collective work, but also a shared experience. In these times of social distancing, the spirit of cooperation and a sense of community are needed more than ever before. Therefore, we are happy to participate in the We Are One initiative. We wish all those wonderful artists that their audiences will be able to see their work on the big screen again soon,” said the Berlinale Director Duo Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian.

"We are honored and happy to join We Are One, as a sign of friendship and solidarity for our friends of Tribeca, at the same time offering to the worldwide audience a taste of what we do in Venice in order to support new filmmakers concretely,” added Venice Film Festival Director Alberto Barbera.

True to its mission, We Are One: A Global Film Festival will seek to bring artists, creators and curators together around an international event that celebrates the exquisite art of storytelling. In doing so, it will aim to provide not only solace and entertainment for audiences during a time when it’s needed most, but also opportunities for these individuals to give back through donations to the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Leket Israel, GO Foundation and Give2Asia, among others. Audiences will be able to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts through a donate button or link on every film page.

The full festival schedule is available at


About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

About We Are One

The global festival will include programming curated by and unique to the identity of all participating festival partners, including: Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), International Film Festival Rotterdam, Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastián International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival.

All programming will be screened globally on YouTube at no cost. Audiences will be able to follow along via scheduling listed on official We Are One channels with a full festival schedule at

I Will Make You Mine hits VOD today

I WILL MAKE YOU MINE was supposed to play SXSW which was canceled. This is a rpost of the review that ran during its canceled slot at the festival

Lynn Chen's I WILL MAKE YOU MINE is the third part of the Surrogate Valentine Trilogy (following SURROGATE VALENTINE and DAYLIGHT SAVINGS). The film follows the intersecting lives of three women who all have past romantic involvements with singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura when he returns to town.

Going into the film I had not seen the first two films, however while I normally won't pick up a film that is part of a series unless I have some familiarity with the series, this film was billed as being a kind of stand alone conclusion to the first two films. Since I didn't have to see the first two films I decided to give the film a shot. I think I really should have watched the first two films before I watched I WILL MAKE YOU MINE.

While the film is okay on its own terms the problem is that there is a sense watching the film of a back story just off the screen. Yes, Chen gives us bits and pieces of what went before but at the same time I kept watching the film feeling that I should have known more. There are details about Rachel, Ericka and Yea-Ming that seem to inform what they do that I don't have any clue about. In skimming some pieces on the earlier films I had the sense I would have liked this film better if I knew what happened earlier. With out the back story I never really felt invested.

One thing I did love was the music that fills the film. I loved pretty much all the songs and even when I wasn't loving the story I was happy with the music.

Is I WILL MAKE YOU MINE worth seeing? If you've seen the earlier films most certainly. If not the choice is yours. It didn't work for me, it may for you.

I WILL MAKE YOU MINE hits theaters May 26th.

Blame these Stay At Home Fest Bonus FIlms on Jorge

Three short docs from You Tuber Blame It of Jorge

Monday, May 25, 2020

FITNESS! or a story about SWEAT (2020) Brooklyn 2020

Kana Hatakeyama is insane. I mean that in a good way, but she is completely nuts. God bless her. I say this because the twists and turns of her film FITNESS! or a story about SWEAT which is playing at the Brooklyn Film Festival, are completely unexpected.

The plot of the film has a young woman named Lili deciding to to get into shape and going to work with a personal trainer. Where that ends up or how it goes is the film. I won't ruin what happens by telling you, I'll leave you to see it. (And you should)

While Kana has been working as an actress for years, I discovered her when I saw her first directorial film okaasan (mom) two years ago. The film was a deeply moving story about a young woman and her mother. It is an incredible love letter to her mom.(And if you haven't seen it do so it can be found on NoBudge, Directors Notes, and Future of Film is Female.) At the end of my review for that film I wondered what would happen in Kana was given a feature film  and after seeing SWEAT I have to renew my wondering. Kana is the real deal. Yes this is an often goofy comedy but there are moments here that, coupled with her work in okaassan, that make me think it's only a matter of time before she is in the running for an Oscar. Look at the the sequences between Lili and Lorenzo (played by Lenny Thomas).  Yes, the set ups are simple but how Kana presents them results in a physical heat that radiates off the screen. I know part of it is the performance of the actors, but at the same time there is something more. Kana frames them in such away for maximum impact.She did the same thing in her first film and I am certain she will do it again in her next.

Thinking about it I've come to realize that Kana is best when she is working with multiple actors. The work she does here with herself and Lenny Thomas is stunning, as is the work she did with her mom in her first film.  She is a director who when working with multiple actors pulls out performances and shadings that are unexpected. I say this because the sequences here when she is alone on screen, while funny are not as good as those with Mr Thomas.

You need to see this film when it plays at Brooklyn. You need to see it not only because it is laugh out loud funny but because Kana Hatakeyama is a great director.  She is a filmmaker of incredible talent and you need to get in  on the ground floor because she is going to be huge and an Oscar winner.

Higher Love (2020) is Playing at Brooklyn Film Festival

Here is a repost of my review of HIGHER LOVE. It is one of the best films of 2020 so far.

This may have been the first truly great film I saw for Slamdance. It is a film that haunted me for days after I saw it. It is a tough tough film about what drugs are doing to society.

The focus of the film is Daryl Gant a resident of Camden New Jersey. Daryl has a good job and tries to stay out of trouble. When his girlfriend Nani gives birth to a son Daryl has to struggle to take care of the child since Nani is an addict and can very easily fall off the wagon. The film also shows us the story of Iman, a friend of the couple who was was an engineer until he started dealing and became addicted.

If you don't want to see the real cost of addiction  stay away. This is an in your face film that does not shy away from showing us the high cost of drugs on our communities and on our bodies. It also powerfully shows us in no uncertain terms the toll it takes not only on the addicts but the lives of the people who love them. As having heard the  statement "why don't they just walk away" in regard to the friends and family of the addicts, this film makes it painfully clear why that isn't always an option.

I was repulsed, troubled and deeply moved. As I watched the film I found that I kept wanting to stop the film and walk away, I didn't want to see this, I need to see this and yet I kept watching because director Hasan Oswald kept filming and thus kept insisting, rightly that I needed to. When it was done I seriously considered walking away and not writing it up simply because I didn't want to revisit the film. However despite my best efforts not to think about it, I couldn't stop. Hours after seeing the film I found I was thinking about how to attack a review. I also came home and had a discussion on line with a friend about how I couldn't shake the film and hw it might be the first great film I saw for Slamdance.

Days passed, more movies have come and gone and still HIGHER LOVE hangs with me.  I still don't want to talk about the film largely because I really don't have the words to describe it in a way that does it justice. I think that all I can say is all what needs to be said- HIGHER LOVE is a great film and is must see.

For details on the Brooklyn Film Festival screening go here

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule # 50 The Passenger [1975] ★★★★

Two white men stand on the porch of a hotel. Before them lies the desolate Sahara desert.

“Beautiful,” one sighs, “don’t you think so?”

“Beautiful? I don’t know,” his companion replies.

“So still. A kind of…waiting.”

This exchange happens early on in Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, and it sets the tone for the entirety of this strange, stripped down meditation on identity and detachment. The entire film feels like one long held breath as its characters fidget in anticipation of things they can’t foresee or understand. Like many of Antonioni’s films, it centers on ennui-stricken Westerners vanishing in strange environments. But unlike the literal vanishings of an Italian aristocrat in L’Avventura (1960) or a possible murder victim and fashion photographer in Blowup (1966), this vanishing is more metaphorical but no less consequential.

While filming a documentary on the Chadian Civil War, frustrated television journalist David Locke (Jack Nicholson) steals the identity of an English friend named Robertson (Charles Mulvehill) after discovering him dead in a hotel room. Freed from the cares and anxieties of his old life, his new one is suddenly disturbed while rooting through Robertson’s things back in Europe, discovering that he was a gunrunner supplying arms to African rebels. When Robertson’s contacts catch up with him and pay him for his next “shipment” he goes on the run from not one but two lives, pursued from the first by his wife Rachel (Jenny Runacre) and from the second by the police and secret agents. The film then becomes a doomed road movie as Locke and an unnamed architectural student he starts an affair with in Barcelona (Maria Schneider) move towards a scheduled meeting in Robertson’s appointment book. Both seem to know they’re headed towards an Appointment in Samarra, but neither can seem to put the journey off.

Much of the film depends upon Nicholson’s performance who, despite having been New Hollywood’s resident superstar for several years, appears without a glimpse of traditional star power. He seems exhausted, both physically and spiritually, his face as much a cypher as the strange twisted Gaudí towers he encounters in Barcelona or the endless sand dunes of north Africa. Luciano Tovoli’s cinematography here is justifiably the stuff of legend—whether his camera drifts through time during flashbacks or phases through gates during the voyeuristic finale, one never gets tired of simply looking at this heady yet affecting cinematic riddle.

The Slamdance award winner Vast of Night (2019) is heading to Amazon Prime

It really was a weather balloon. If you doubt it, check out the articles in The Skeptical Inquiry debunking the Roswell UFO myth. It is a good story, but it is just a story. Nevertheless, the need to believe has made New Mexico ground zero for the flying saucer faithful. Apart from the Roswell rumor-mongering, New Mexico’s wide-open deserts and low population density make fictional Cayuga, NM a suitable location for paranormal goings-on in Andrew Patterson’s The Vast of Night, the plucky microbudget winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.

Vast of Night is ostensibly an episode of a 1950s science fiction anthology show called Paradox Theater that we start watching on a vintage black-and-white vacuum tube television, before the picture morphs into the evocatively washed out color of the characters’ world. Everett is a cocky high school student who works part-time for the local AM radio station. Everyone in town probably assumes he and Fay will eventually become a couple, but for now, they just bicker too much. Tonight, he is happily helping her get the hang of the new portable tape recorder she just ordered from Montgomery Ward.

Nearly everyone in town will be at the big high school basketball game, but he will be on the air at WOTW and she will be covering the town’s telephone switchboard. When reports of strange lights in the sky start to come in, the ambiguous couple will be able to coordinate their efforts to investigate. It turns out, something downright Roswellian might be afoot, based on claims of “Billy,” a former US Air Force officer, who calls into Everett’s show.

Frankly, it is shocking how well put together Vast is, especially given its extreme budget constraints. It is definitely one of the best looking, smartest written X-Files-esque films in decades. Patterson and cinematographer Miguel Ioann Littin Menz give it an intimate vibe with their claustrophobic long takes, but they also capture a sense of the lonely emptiness of the small town when their restless camera pans from one location to another during transitional scenes. Strange Invaders, the cult favorite from 1983, would be a logical comparison title, in terms of themes and vibe, but Vast is a far superior film.

The period details and visual effects are definitely impressive, but the chemistry between Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz, as Fay and Everett, respectively, is what really elevates Vast. They are terrific together and they both absolutely knock out of the park screenwriters James Montague & Craig W. Sanger’s long, knotty passages of dialogue. They also get first class support from the rest of the ensemble, including the pitch-perfect heard-but-not-seen Bruce Davis as Billy and Gail Cronauer, who holds viewers absolutely rapt as Mabel Blanche, another eye witness of sorts.

Vast of Night is a film you really should see in a darkened theater, because it would be a shame to let the distractions of mundane life break the spell Patterson and his actors cast over the audience. Granted, the story itself is hardly groundbreaking, but Patterson’s mastery of mood, the palpable sense of place, and the work of his two co-leads are really quite special. Very highly recommended, The Vast of Night should have a long life ahead of it with genre film fans, after winning the Audience Award at last year’s Slamdance Film Festival.