Saturday, September 26, 2020

John Waters Programs SALO and CLIMAX as Art Movie Hell at the Drive-In for The New York Film Festival

The New York Film Festival not only had John Waters do the poster for the festival they asked him to program a drive in pairing from hell. It's going to play in a drive in the Bronx (details here) and it full of art house exploitation films. Its a pairing that is not for all audiences, or even most audiences. What follows is a repost of my review of Pasolini's SALO from 2013. And my thoughts on Gaspar Noe's CLIMAX which I recently caught up with on Amazon Prime

SALO
Everyone fixates on the steamed chocolate but Pasolini’s film is more than that. Yes it’s a difficult catalog of cruelty but there is something more to it. If you want to be sure of it consider that the film is still be talked about forty years on. Yes on some level the film can be compared to women in prison film, but outside of the exploitation crowd who seriously discusses those? Well yes some of us do, but they don’t cross over to a wider audience.

Pasolini’s film is based on a book by the Marquis de Sade but reset into the 120 day period toward the end of the Second World War when Mussolini was out of power and the Salo government ruled the country. It tells the story of the a group of rulers who go insane and indulge their every twisted whim until the populace revolt and kill them.

As I said at the start the film is a catalog of increasing nasty set pieces of abuse. The film is alternately boring and horrifying. I’ve seen the film any number of times and I’ve been troubled by it each time. On some level the film can be easily dismissed much like films like say the Ilsa films starring Dyane Thorne. Some of the political posturing is trite and the violence is over the top and aimed to simply shock, but at the same time Pasolini is working on a deeper level. He is making us complicit in the events on screen. We may not be taking part but we are witnessing and the longer we stay the more complicit we are. It’s as if Pasolini is trying to find out how long will we watch these terrible things. Apparently as long as he shows them to us.

He is also giving a warning that while people will, for a while kowtow to those in power this is a point where they will hit back.

I don’t particularly like the film, I don’t know if you can, and I think we should probably worry about anyone who does. It is a film I admire a great deal.

I first saw the film because I had to see if the film was a horrifying as I first heard. In a weird way I was disappointed (and to be honest, I still am). Sure there were atrocities on screen but outside of that the film really is boring. I finished the film and pretty much dismissed it as an art film of the most pretentious sort. Then something happened, I started to revisit the film now and again, and eventually picked up the Criterion edition. It’s not that I particularly like the film, rather the film makes me to think and ponder things. I’m engaged with the film on more than the visceral or emotional level, it’s a film that gets my mind going. I’ll come across something and it will trigger something that will make me want to take another run by the film.

The film is not for all audiences, or even the majority of audiences, but for those who can handle dark graphic places and don’t mind pretentious art films mixed with Grand Guigol blood and poo I think you might want to give the film a go. I have no idea what you’ll think, however many years on I’m still trying to figure out what I think, but its worth a shot.

CLIMAX
Gaspar Now continues his slide into boredom with a film with more pretentious bullshit then anythig substantive.

The plot has a bunch of dancers going to an abandoned school (or a couple of room there in). After they dance for about an hour the LSD that was in their wine kicks in and everyone goes crazy.

A pure form over content mess is full of deliberately staged sequences, dull overhead shots and lots of dancing. It's a film where Noe is hiding the emptiness of his plot and themes with "look ma ain't I great" wizardry. Yea some of the shots are cool and the music kicks serious ass but the rest of this is really boring. 

Why are we watching this? I don't know. I only think I was there because the director said it important to be there. I think he is wrong. There is nothing here, worse anything that Noe had to say he had said before and better.

Forgive me but Noe has been in a slide since he burst on the  stage. I STAND ALONE was a wake up call. IRREVERSIBLE is arguably his best film. His segment in REDISTRICTED is stupid. ENTER THE VOID is an intriguing idea that just goes on way too long. LOVE is dull porno that exists just for bad 3D sex and now  CLIMAX which is useless.

Noe is of very little interest to me now. He is like the pretentious artists I used to come in contact with when my brother was part of various artists associations. These are the people who would do things like spray painting a beer cooler with a can of paint and then sell it to stupid people for  several hundred dollars because they needed rent money and knew they had suckers on the line. Noe is the artist and anyone giving him money or paying to watch his film are suckers.

Not worth your time or money- even for free.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus Films: weird





Friday, September 25, 2020

NIGHTSTREAM ANNOUNCES FULL PROGRAM

 The Collaborative Virtual Festival From Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, North Bend, Overlook, and Popcorn Frights 

Festival to run October 8-11th, with select films available until the 14th

World Premiere of Sarah Paulson Led Thriller RUN to Open, Quentin Dupieux’s MANDIBLES to Close, as well as Featured Conversations with CANDYMAN director Nia DaCosta, Mary Harron on the 20th Anniversary of AMERICAN PSYCHO, and Dinner With The Masters Of Horror Hosted by Festival Honoree Mick Garris Alongside Iconic Guests Headlining Impressive Events Slate

Highlights include the World Premiere of Ryûhei Kitamura’s THE DOORMAN starring Ruby Rose, a spotlight on Indonesian Horror feat. the Intl. Premiere of Timo Tjahjanto’s MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO, and events hosted by Peaches Christ, A QUIET PLACE’s Beck/Woods, and directing duo Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson

http://nightstream.org/

September 24, 2020 // -- NIGHTSTREAM is thrilled to unveil its program of films and special events set to take place virtually next month. Formed as a banner uniting five US genre festivals — Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, North Bend, Overlook, and Popcorn Frights — who have all been affected by COVID-19, the initiative was first announced last month and will have scheduled programming from October 8-11th, with films available to view on the Eventive platform until the 14th. 

The virtual festival will open with the world premiere of Hulu’s hotly-anticipated thriller RUN, starring Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) and Kiera Allen and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who helmed the breakout Sundance hit SEARCHING and close with the North American Premiere of MANDIBLES, the latest from Quentin Dupieux, the French filmmaker responsible for singular features such as RUBBER and DEERSKIN. The four-day festival includes a line-up of feature films selected by all five festival programming teams, alongside eighteen distinct short blocks and an impressive slate of events, panels, and masterclasses headlined by conversations with filmmakers Nia DaCosta on CANDYMAN and Mary Harron for the 20th anniversary of AMERICAN PSYCHO, as well as Beck/Woods, the screenwriting team behind A QUIET PLACE. Celebrated horror filmmaker Mick Garris will be recognized as festival honoree and host a very special Dinner With The Masters Of Horror event with guests that include Joe Dante, Mike Flanagan, John Landis, Ernest Dickerson, and more.

All proceeds from NIGHTSTREAM will be shared with the filmmakers and artists involved, donated to charities and businesses locally owned and operated in each festival’s home city, and help the founding festivals recoup losses incurred by COVID-19.

The festival will feature seven World Premieres, nine North American Premieres, and seven U.S. Premieres, alongside 164 short films and a spotlight on Indonesian Horror with a companion panel hosted by Sam Zimmerman, director of programming for Shudder. Highlights include the world premiere of Ryûhei Kitamura’s THE DOORMAN starring Ruby Rose, who will appear for a post screening Q&A, as well as the world premieres of Jesse Blanchard’s FRANK & ZED, Nicholas Payne Santos’ IT CUTS DEEP, Devereux Milburn’s HONEYDEW, Jake Mahaffy’s REUNION and Terence Krey’s AN UNQUIET GRAVE.

NIGHTSTREAM will bring the spirit of festivals to your screen with its exciting off-film programming, including a one-time-only event hosted by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, the directing duo behind beloved genre hits THE ENDLESS and SPRING, who will share an intimate and engaging look at their never-before-seen early work, joined by special guest Issa Lopez (TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID). The fest will also feature iconic drag performer and horror expert Peaches Christ who will offer a deep-dive into campy horror history, in addition to hosting a glamorously blood-drenched festival party. Plus, every night will have a unique happy-hour social in Evening Rituals Presented by IFC Midnight, with a parade of hosts that include Elijah Wood beaming in virtually from their homes, and with a new delicious cocktail to share.

Access to film screenings will be geo-locked to the US with ticket bundles on sale on the website ($65 for 5 features or short film programs and $99 with 10 features or short film programs, both bundles come with unlimited access to events and panels, while event-only badges will be made available worldwide ($25) and a virtual festival social hub will be freely accessible to all. To order a badge, visit: https://nightstream.eventive.org/passes/buy 

FEATURE FILMS

Indie Memphis Announces Preliminary Slate for the 2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival, October 21st-29th Online and Outdoors

 (September 25, 2020 | Memphis, TN) Indie Memphis Film Festival, presented by Duncan-Williams, Inc., is pleased to announce the full slate of films for its 2020 incarnation, spanning from October 21st - October 29th, 2020. Adjusting to the changing landscape, this year’s festival will be “Online and Outdoors” as film lovers from all over the world will participate in the virtual screenings and events. The 2020 festival will screen over 230 feature films, shorts, and music videos, with most screenings followed by filmmaker Q&As. Memphis audiences will also enjoy in-person screenings at the Drive-In and outdoor lawns.

This year’s festival will give focus to BIPOC and women filmmakers. This year, especially, there is a focus on politics, but with a myriad of approaches to what that means and how someone can engage. There are films about aging, weed legalization, electoral politics, activism, unhoused LGBQT+ youth,  and more. In this difficult moment, the festival seeks to reflect the community and the world, with a wide range of filmmakers tackling themes that matter to their communities. 

More talks and events will be announced in weeks to come, including Indie Talks and new events for the digital edition of the festival. Festival Artistic Director Miriam Bale says, “We hope to bring people together, in person and online, and provide inspiration and an outlet. In order to counter Screen Burnout, we’ll be offering a series of what we call ‘Groundings’ throughout the digital festival, including a meditative film called ‘A Still Place’ by festival alumnus Christopher Yogi.”

This year also marks the final year that Executive Director Ryan Watt will be at the festival. Watt says of stepping down from his role, "This year is a truly unique festival experience to keep our audience safe and entertained while online and outdoors. My sixth and final festival at the helm is bittersweet, I'll be soaking in every bit of the incredible program our team has assembled."

The festival also features many film premieres including the World Premiere of Trimiko Melancon’s documentary What Do You Have to Lose?, which explores the history of race in America and the U.S. Premiere of Anthony Banua-Simon’s documentary Cane Fire, which examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. This year’s Opening Night film will be Memphis-born Lynne Sachs’ celebrated documentary A Film About a Father Who, comprised of 35 years of footage that Sachs’ captured of her father as she attempts to uncover his secretive past.

In addition, the festival features a host of festival favorites including Mario Furloni and Kate McLean’s Freeland, starring Krisha Fairchild (Krisha) as an aging pot farmer facing extinction and Emma Seligman’s culture clash comedy Shiva Baby. The Retrospective section will include a new restoration of Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk in Laura Dern’s breakout role, and classic titles such as Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz starring Diana Ross and the Richard Pryor comedy Car Wash, in tribute to filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who died earlier this year and wrote both films. 

Passes to the public are available on the Indie Memphis website here and new programming additions will be announced in the coming weeks leading up to the festival!  

2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival Slate

Films Are Alphabetical by Section

Mangrove (2020) NYFF 2020


MANGROVE is Steve McQueen's portrait of Frank Crichlow who opened The Mangrove cafe in Notting Hill in London. The police didn't like a black owner business and constantly raided it and harassed the owner and it's patrons for no reason other than their skin color.  When a rally was held in support of the cafe  and against the police, the cops waded in and arrests were made. The 9 people put on trial...

For the second time at this year's New York Film Festival Steve McQueen hits one out of the ballpark with a true story that is still echoing today. Very much a film of the moment MANGROVE says volumes about the state of the world today. If you don't see the parallels then there is something seriously wrong with you. 

Unlike many of his earlier films McQueen allows the emotion to flow through the film to fantastic effect. Where in many of his films McQueen kept us at a distance, here like in this film's sister LOVERS ROCK the director used a real feeling for the people on screen  to draw us in and connect with. The result is this becomes a film we love and want to watch again instead of just respect and give lip service to (I mean do you really want to watch SHAME again?)

I love that we see the human toll of the trial. For example we watch how Crichlow waivers in continuing his fight. At another point  we watch as a normally loving couple fight about taking care of their child and we see the nerves fraying. 

If there is anything remotely amiss with the film  it is a kind of limitation with the medium. In compressing the constant raids down to rapid series of events the horrific police are made slightly cartoonish. The evil that these men represent is not a cartoon and McQueen never intends it to be, however because we only see it in a concentrated form so it could seem slightly overdone. Make no mistake racism of this sort if far from cartoony and much more insidious

Regardless of my quibble MANGROVE is a great film. Even if it wasn't of the moment it's a hell of a film on it's own terms and an absolute must.

NYFF 2020 Shorts: Section 4: THERE ARE WORLDS THEY HAVE NOT TOLD YOU OF

 Section 4: THERE ARE WORLDS THEY HAVE NOT TOLD YOU OF is a wonderful collection of short films. Where most of the other sections I've run across attempt to create a sense of place or a head space these films actually succeed by using a seeming science fiction or fantasy bend to things and making it so we slip into things more easily. Hands down the best group so far and it is highly recommended.


LABOR OF LOVE has stroboscopic images colliding with a narrative that takes us somewhere else other than here. I suspect the trippy flashing images create a unique headspace. (If flashing images effect you stay away)


LOOK THEN BELOW is by Ben Rivers. I am not a huge fan of Rivers however this science fiction tale drops us into another world we are ready to explore from the first frame.


FIGURE MINUS FACT's mixing of sound and image didn't really work for me. It all seemed too random.


WHILE CURSED BY SPECTERS at first didn't work for me and then suddenly is clicked with its images  of emptiness married to to the sound of life just off the frame. It's a heady exercise that is a small gem.


IN THE AIR TONIGHT is a reimagining of the Phil Collins song into a story about Collins. Its a goofy doodle that some how works because we really can't believe  it's working.

LX 2048 (2020)

In a dystopian future a father with a heart condition has to fight to stay alive and the clone that is set to take his place

Okay science fiction drama about virtual reality and the future of mankind. It is a mix of a lot of ideas that never quite blend together, largely because the world never feels integrated. It feels like pieces and not a whole It also kind of feels a bit cheap as if the choices were made to hide a low budget.

While the plot is never bad it never really feels like it has it's own point of view. Much like the physical world it has a lot of ideas that feel like they were borrowed from other films. Perhaps this might have worked in a slightly shorter film, but LX 2048's run time of just under two hours is a bit much. There are lulls that test our patience.

While never really bad, it never really rises above just being ok. With the result that I can only suggest this might be worth trying for dystopian scifi fans. All others need not apply

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film 25 unsolved mysteries in almost four hours

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Night Of The Kings (2020) NYFF 2020

 


Night of Kings is the first of the New York Main Slate Films that feels like it belongs on the Main Slate. An arresting tale that puts New Yorkers (and audiences) in a place they never had been before. It engages us on various levels and makes us go WOW at the sheer audacity of what we are seeing.  While it may not be perfect it is a cinematic meal that knocks our socks off.

The premise has a young man being brought to a prison. He is raw meat and the prison is essentially the wild west where the guards let the  prisoners govern themselves. The head man inside is dying and he knows his days are numbered. He has plans for the young man who he declares is the new “Roman” or storyteller.  The young man will have to entertain everyone.  What the Roman isn’t told, at least not right away, is that if he ends his story before morning they prisoners will kill him. Desperate to stay alive he begins to spin out the tale of his friend Zama, a notorious crime lord who was just killed.

What follows is pure magic. This is a tale about stories and survival and life that spins out in so many different ways. This is a film that uses every type of storytelling device it can muster to suck us in and drag us along. Because the film essentially blends stories, recreations and reality with song and dance (the prisoners will spontaneous move or chant in response to the tale)  I’m guessing this is going to be something that ends up on the stage.  I was amazed at every turn.

While I don’t think the film is perfect, I think it get s a bit too mystical toward the end, I still think this is a glorious piece of filmmaking. This is the sort of film that I go to the movies for…and in truth this is the sort of film that I go specifically to the New York Film Festival for.  Getting to see earthshaking, eye opening films like Night of Kings is why NYFF remain relevant and why it is a festival I return to every year.

Highly recommended.

The Human Voice (2020) NYFF 2020


The Human Voice should be called Tour de Tilda because it’s a 30 minute masterclass in acting by Tilda Swinton.  Kenji Fujishima says that i was wrong and that it should also be called Tour de Almodóvar because of his technical virtuosity- and he is dead on point , but I am going to stay with the alliteration of Tour de Tilda.

The film is an adaption of Jean Cocteau’s  play of the same name about a woman on the phone with her lover who is leaving her for another woman. Largely set in a apartment created on a sound stage we watch as Swinton waits for her lover’s call…and then we watch as she tries to extend the call.  It is a film of rolling emotions that anyone who has ever been in love and dumped can relate to.

Almodóvar has made a true work of art. The look of everything is perfect. The camera moves and shifts into and out of “reality are as masterful as you will ever see.  Look for this film to be in the hunt for an Oscar.

Speaking of Oscar- Swinton’s performance is such that I’m guessing were it a feature it too would be in the Oscar hunt. It’s real and raw and moving and very very funny in the right mixture.

I had a blast.

One of the treasures of the NYFF.

STUMP THE GUESSER and THERE ARE NOT 36 WAYS OF SHOWING A MAN GETTING ON A HORSE (2020) NYFF 2020

 


STUMP THE GUESSER 

The latest Guy Maddin film is a collaboration with Evan Johnson and Gaen Johnson and concerns a carnival guesser who has things go sideways. Its a strange Massin movie that is strange out there and more than a little disturbing (Disprove heredity and marry my sister). If you're a Maddin fan you are going to eat this up.


THERE ARE NOT THIRTY SIX WAYS OF SHOWING A MAN GETTING ON A HORSE

Two part film is a mixed bag. The first half of the film is a collection of clips from Raoul Walsh films connected by various themes such as getting on a horse. The second part is an essay about  film professor trying to remember information for a lecture.

Mixed bag film has an over long first half  that tempers our reaction to the second. Because the endless clips of the first half has us searching for some sort of connection and point (I'm not sure there really is despite being told there is) it takes a little bit for us to fall into the second's intriguing tale. Watching the second spin out I was intrigued by the seeming shaggy dog tale that links up memory, numbers and how we connect up things that aren't always meant to be connected. 

Worth a look more for the second half than the first (especially at NYFF where you get the Guy Maddin film)

Stay At Home Fest Bonus: Lady in The Morgue

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The best film festival I covered this year- Cabane A Sang has a TV Show

 Yesterday I found out that Cabane A Sang has a TV show highlighting the best horror shorts. Knowing Frank and the festival programmers this is going to be must watch TV. Details below.



MONTREAL, 22nd of September 2020 /Cabane a Sang/ - Starting on the 30th of September, La Cabane a Sang will air on french Canadian horror TV station FRISSONS TV. La Cabane a Sang, a spin-off of the Montreal based film festival by the same name, is hosted by Frank Appache and his loyal sidekick Martin Richard, curating a variety of short horror films and genre satires. Each uniquely themed episode will offer interviews with the creators of the films being showcased. You can expect locally-based films from around Quebec, as well as Canada, the USA, and a multitude of other countries. The adrenaline-fueled show will be sure to feed the viewer's nostalgia with its 90s late-night television vibes.

To view the trailer, please click here

About Frank Appache

Independent filmmaker and director for nearly 10 years, Frank Appache has discovered film making thanks to a work reinsertion program. Since then, his films have traveled the globe while some of his comedy skits have been featured on American television. He is also a regular at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Passionate about all genre cinema released on VHS format, Frank plays particular attention to the over the top sensationalism of the 70s exploitation cinema, the aesthetics of 80s horror cinema, and 90s television. These influences can be felt both visually and narratively through his work.

About Frissons TV

FRISSONS TV is a specialized Francophone channel with content entirely dedicated to genre cinema where vampires, werewolves, zombies, alien invasion, monsters, serial killers, demons, and killer creatures come together for an uninterrupted 24/7 programming, sure to please any horror hound.

The channel is available to subscribers of Bell, Videotron, Shaw, Cogeco, and several independent distributors in Quebec and the rest of Canada. FRISSONS TV can be included in your current package at no additional cost. The channel is also offered a la carte. For more details, visit the channel's website at www.frissonstv.com/sabonner

Full Lineup Announced! - 43rd Asian American International Film Festival

 SEPTEMBER 22, 2020, NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Presented by Asian CineVision, the 43rd Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF43) is announcing their full lineup, which in addition to the previously announced feature films includes 14 short film blocks and over 16 workshops, masterclasses, and special events. Tickets can be purchased or reserved at https://www.aaiff.org/

Every day of the festival will feature over 3 hours of live-streamed panels, Q&As, and performances, all accessible as pay-as-you-wish programs. Highlights include a conversation with director Andrew Ahn and the cast of DRIVEWAYS, and a Filipino Filmmaker Roundtable to kick-off Filipino American History Month. The festival also introduces a two-part conversational series on the urgent issue of anti-racism in storytelling - Anti-Racism: Storytelling in Education and Awareness and Online Activism Campaigns. The complete lineup of events is available at https://www.aaiff.org/events/. 

Two special events celebrating the various forms of storytelling make a return this year. Music Night Out interweaves musical performances and our official music video selection to highlight the collaboration of API musicians and filmmakers, while Comedy Night offers performances by top API stand-up and sketch comedians.

JURORS 

Our nine jury prize award winners will be determined by a lineup of leading industry professionals, including actor/producer Sung Kang (FAST AND FURIOUS), actress Rosalind Chao (STAR TREK, MULAN), director/writer Jeff Chan (PLUS ONE), producer Karin Chien (dGenerate Films), filmmaker Bao Nguyen (BE WATER), filmmaker PJ Raval (CALL HER GANDA), editor Faroukh Virani (HUNTERS), actress and host Sherry Cola (GOOD TROUBLE), actor/producer Vinny Chhibber (THE RED LINE), Third World Newsreel Executive Director and filmmaker JT Takagi (AMERICAN MASTERS), Bravo Digital Media EVP Lisa Hsia, director/producer Smriti Mundhra (INDIAN MATCHMAKING), Universal Kids coordinatorSam Cheung, screenwriter Jay Vaida (THE HARDY BOYS), producer Cecilia Mejia (YELLOW ROSE), filmmaker/visual artist Maggie Jung, Goldthread Editor Gavin Huang, actor/YouTuber Mike Bow (THE MAZE RUNNER), writer/director Kevin Lau (WESTWORLD), actor Chase Tang (JUPITER’S LEGACY), CAPE Executive Director Michelle Sugihara, musician Bohan Phoenix, rapper and activist Jason Chu, director Marie Jamora (FAMILY STYLE), and The Song Collective. 

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS 

72 HOUR SHOOTOUT TOP TEN SELECTION 

Directed by Asian American Film Lab - U.S., South Korea - English 

The 72 Hour Film Shootout is a worldwide competition in which filmmakers have 72 hours to write, shoot, and edit a short film. The projects in the Top Ten Selection are based on the theme “Going Viral” and the mystery prop “Toilet Paper.”

CUNY SHORTS SHOWCASE 

NEWFEST’S NEW YORK LGBTQ FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL FILM LINE-UP

NEWFEST’S NEW YORK LGBTQ FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL FILM LINE-UP FOR 32nd ANNUAL EDITION - RUNNING OCTOBER 16-27, 2020The festival will showcase New York, US and World Premieres of more than 120 films and episodic series from 29 countries

Highlights include:

Opening Night: NYC premiere of Francis Lee’s AMMONITE, with Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet presenting Lee with the inaugural World Queer Visionary Award

Closing Night: NYC virtual premiere of Faraz Shariat’s 2020 Teddy Award-winning film NO HARD FEELINGS  

Special sneak preview of Academy Award-winner Alan Ball’s UNCLE FRANK

Spotlight screenings of celebrated French auteur François Ozon’s romantic drama SUMMER OF 85, as well as THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON, RURANGI, SHIVA BABY, KELET, AHEAD OF THE CURVE and KEITH HARING: STREET ART BOY 

World premiere screening of NORA HIGHLAND, shot entirely during the pandemic

Festival Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKlJ9cc-orQ

NEW YORK, NY (September 23, 2020) - NewFest, New York’s leading LGBTQ film and media organization and one of the world's most respected LGBTQ film festivals, has announced its full line-up for The New York LGBTQ Film Festival’s 32nd year. The festival will kick off with the New York City premiere of Francis Lee’s highly anticipated AMMONITE starring Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet and Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. Winslet will also present Lee with the festival’s inaugural World Queer Visionary Award ahead of the special drive-in screening, taking place at the Queens Drive-In at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The festival will close with the virtual New York premiere of Faraz Shariat’s Teddy Award-winner NO HARD FEELINGS. The announcement was made today by NewFest’s Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy. 

The 32nd edition of The New York LGBTQ Film Festival will take place October 16-27, 2020, with more than 120 new films accessible to ticket holders nationwide via NewFest’s on-demand platform. Individual tickets and all-access passes are on sale now at newfest.org.

The first-ever virtual edition of NewFest will include a robust lineup of panels and conversations surrounding LGBTQ+ topics, in addition to its regular programming of new features and short film premieres, and will incorporate virtual live events as well as select drive-in screenings. Introductions to the films will be shot in front of historic LGBTQ sites, community organizations and queer-owned businesses throughout New York City. 

“With the Presidential election right around the corner and a Supreme Court seat now open, it is more urgent than ever that queer stories be told and celebrated,” said Executive Director David Hatkoff. “We have created an 11-day event that will meet and speak to this moment, delivering a thought-provoking, inspiring and joyful look at the LGBTQ community and the unique challenges it faces, while also paying homage to the incredible queer legacy that exists in NYC. We can’t wait for audiences around the country to view these incredible films, and hopefully be inspired to raise their own voices in pride and protest on November 3rd and beyond.”

“Featuring the newest work from leading international auteurs, Academy Award winners, and emerging LGBTQ filmmakers premiering their work for the first time, this year’s line-up channels themes that inform our community and society at large while confronting the edges of democracy and celebrating our strong history of LGBTQ ancestry that broke barriers before,” said Director of Programming Nick McCarthy. “By highlighting portraits of hometown heroes and unsung global icons, celebrating the clear fact that All Black Lives Matter, standing up for the visibility of our LGBTQ siblings around the world, and encouraging intergenerational dialogue within our community, our 32nd annual program will raise human spirits by uplifting our diversity of voices.”

The full program for the festival’s 32nd edition includes three drive-in screenings, 24 narrative features in competition, 14 documentary features in competition, three full-season episodics, one global episodic showcase, and 10 shorts program screenings, including a specially-curated shorts program for LGBTQ-identified high school students in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. 

Among the 41 features playing the festival, all are New York City premieres, with one world premiere (NORA HIGHLAND), one international premiere (THE FLASHPOINT), two US premieres (ALWAYS AMBER and DATING AMBER) and one sneak preview (UNCLE FRANK).

This year at NewFest, 63% of films are directed by women and non-binary filmmakers, and 76% of content is about and/or by underrepresented voices (women, people of color, trans, bi and differently abled).

Highlights announced today by the festival include a special sneak drive-in preview of Academy Award winner Alan Ball’s road trip comedy UNCLE FRANK, which follows a teenage girl and her gay uncle who take a road trip back to their hometown. The film, which had its world premiere at Sundance this year, stars Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi and Steve Zahn.

Each night of the Festival will feature a Spotlight film. Spotlight Films include french auteur François Ozon’s drama SUMMER OF 85, a sexy summer romance about two teenage boys who meet on the coast of Normandy, and New Zealand filmmaker Max Currie’s RURANGI, in which a trans activist returns to his hometown to reconnect with his roots and estranged father. Other Spotlight films include topical time-loop drama THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON, New Zealand trans drama RURANGI, recent Toronto (TIFF 2020) favorite SHIVA BABY, hometown hero doc KEITH HARING: STREET ART BOY, stunning supermodel portrait KELET and celebratory lesbian documentary AHEAD OF THE CURVE. NewFest will not screen a Spotlight film on the evening of Thursday October 22 to encourage viewership of the Presidential debate. 

Additional highlights include the International Premiere of THE FLASHPOINT, a galvanizing documentary that examines political polarization and the rise of right-wing homophobia in Poland through public art and the symbolic meaning of the rainbow, and a special one-night virtual screening event for NORA HIGHLAND, a feature based on the play with the same name, shot entirely on computers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The screening of NORA HIGHLAND, which explores the casting process surrounding an iconic and seminal gay character in a new Broadway revival, will be followed by a Q&A with director Ryan Spahn and actor Michael Urie. 

The Festival will also host a special 25th Legacy Anniversary screening for Kino Lorber’s BLOODSISTERS: LEATHER, DYKES, AND SADOMASOCHISM, the iconic documentary about the San Francisco leather scene, which had its New York Premiere at NewFest back in 1995. 

 Individual tickets for virtual films ($12 regular, $10 for members) and drive-in tickets (starting at $45 per car) are now on sale for purchase on www.newfest.org, with all-access virtual passes starting at $95. For more information, to purchase tickets/passes, or to become a member, go to www.newfest.org.

NewFest is presented by WarnerMedia, and would like to thank Signature Sponsors Hyundai and Ogilvy; Premier Sponsors Amazon Studios and Netflix; Major Sponsor Gilead; and Supporting Sponsors Amida Care, Comcast NBCUniversal, Wolfe Video, and Barefoot Wine.

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.

The full 2020 lineup selections are as follows:

Push (2019) opens Friday


Push will make you physically ill. An exploration of the housing markets across the globe it shows how the real estate market is causing a crisis in housing by making it nigh impossible for anyone to either own a home or even rent an apartment. The film looks at why this has happened, what is doing to society and how it can be stopped.

I don’t know what to say but this film had me staring at the screen talking to no one I particular. Living in a town where the real estate firms are constantly trying to drive the market higher (A house in your town just sold for millions, why not sell your home for millions too?) I am watching what is happening first hand. I’ve seen the families being driven out and the death of communities (most of my home town’s business district is owned/occupied by the local bank because they are the only one who can pay the rents). I’ve witnessed the creation of dead zones as mega ritzy apartments have been built where no one lives because no one can afford the rent. Seeing it on screen my heart was broken.

This is a great film that lays it all out and probably make you angry enough to try and do something.

Highly recommended.

Brief thoughts on We Are One (2020) hits virtual theaters Friday


Excellent documentary looks at the world wide marches against the Iraq War that took place on February 13th 2003. The film explains how the war happened, why and what happened afterward.

Full of great talking heads, many of whom are unexpected (John LaCarre, Danny Glover and Mark Rylance) this film gives us a fantastic look back when we were not yet mired in seemingly never ending wars. One of the  great things is that the film simply lays everything out in a way that engages us and makes us know why the marches happened and how they changed the world. In all honesty the way this film explains things is to be applauded, more so considering the number of films I've seen recently that simply can't lay the proper groundwork to make us truly understand.

This is a great film and a must see

The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror (1967/2020)

“Something Started Must Be Finished”

Begun and abandoned in 1967 by Raul Ruiz it was picked up and finished five decades later by other hands after the great director died. The result is a time capsule new film that feels like one made when it started.

The film concerns the story of a professor whose life goes strange after his wife commits suicide and his dreams seem intrude on reality.

Looking and feeling like an inde film from the late 1960’s (say Night of the Living Dead anyone?) the film is very much a product of it’s time. Watching it was kind of like comfort food in that I haven’t seen many films like this in a long while.

Taking the film on it’s own terms it’s an interesting doodle. I don’t know why Ruiz abandoned the film. Forgive me for not running that down, it didn’t seem important to me. What it feel like is a cinematic napkin sketch from a great artist. It feels like it’s a bunch of things that he was playing with rather than a finished film. You can feel how bits ended up in other places.

For fans of a Ruiz the film is a must. For everyone else it’s worth a look, especially if you like films with a bend toward the art house.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films: Ed Wood Double Feature

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Time (2020) NYFF 2020

 


Twenty one years ago Fox Rich dropped her husband off to commit a robbery. He was caught and sentenced to 60 years with out the possibility of parole. Over the next to plus decades Fox fought to get him released.

This is a really good documentary. Blending footage shot by Fox for her husband documenting her and their children's lives, with new material directo Garrett Bradley has fashioned an amazing film. A lovely and loving portrait of one woman and her struggle to free the person she loves this is a film that will move you on many different levels.

What I love about the film is that it brings home the problems with sentencing  people to insanely long terms.  We see the cost levied by those terms on people who had nothing to do with the crime. Should this family be forced to have a to survive with out it's patriarch for six decades? No. Its a sobering and humanizing story.

Best of all this film that hung with me. Days after seeing the film it is still haunting me.

Recommended.

TIME is playing the NYFF and hits theaters October 9th before hitting Amazon Prime

Her Socialst Smile (2020) NYFF 2020

This is an examination of Helen Keller and her thoughts on socialist matters. It focuses largely on the speeches she gave on the subject.

This is a more a pointer than a full on review. I’m doing this because how you react to the film is going to be tied entirely to the presentation. The presentation is a combination of narration and some related images combined with a great deal of the text of Keller’s speeches put on screen for us to read. The text is mostly white text on a black background.

Personally I am intrigued with the film and it’s subject, but I’m not a fan of the presentation. I honestly turned the film off about half way in thinking that this is something I need to revisit another time- though what I really am hoping for is a better presentation of the subject.

If you feel like reading a film for 90 minutes this is worth a shot, all others are going to find this to be a noble miss.

In The Mood For Love (2000) NYFF 2020

Wong Kar Wai's visually stunning romance follows two people as they grow closer and closer as they hash out whether their spouses are having an affair.

Forget it, the film doesn't do what you expect. It doesn't act like you expect, its a film that is ultimately unique and unto itself...its a love story where the lovers really never do anything but talk.

I really like this film. It was my first trip into the realm of Wong Kar Wai and it came at the insistence of Eden who really liked the film. She was right to insist that I see the film since its a film that really helped me break down my expectations about what films should do. I should mention that I had to try to watch this film for the first time on DVD and was annoyed by it's refusal to do anything other than what it was doing.Why aren't these people getting together, why is the film framed the way it is , why is there an occasional insistence on form over content? I didn't know and was fighting it at every turn. Then I talked to Eden who told be to let all my expectations go and just watch the film. Let it be and I would be surprised.

I did and I was.

In it's way this is one of the most romantic films you'll ever see. Why is it that the unrequited or unacted upon romances are the sexiest? My guess would be is that you get to have all of the slow burn and chances to show interest with out all of the smarmy kissy kissy stuff.

For me this is one of those movies where I keep thinking this is the sort of emotion I'd want to feel in my relationship. Its a damn near perfect romance.

In the special features of the Criterion DVD are several deleted scenes, one of which is a sequence which was set many years after the fact where our two near lovers meet again. Its a great sequence, but when it's done you'll be very happy that they left it out of the film. It's not that the sequence is bad, its quite good, it's just that the sequence radically alters everything that happened before and makes a great film an okay one.

As it stands now this is a great film. If you want a real romance with real people give this film a shot, it will amaze you.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus FIlm: Swords and and Sandals Double Feature

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announces the lineup of films, honorees, and special events for this year’s Virtual/Drive-In hybrid edition of the film festival (October 9-17)

 Mary Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT is the Opening Night selection, Laura Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES is the Centerpiece and Julia Reichart and Steve Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT gets the Closing Night nod

HSDFF Career Achievement honors will be presented to Alex Gibney and Dawn Porter, while Diana Quon and Iyabo Boyd will receive the festival’s Impact Awards

Hot Springs, AR (September 18, 2020) – The critically acclaimed Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced the complete lineup of films, honorees, and special events for its 29th edition, a virtual/drive-in presentation taking place October 9-17. Screenings will be led by drive-in screenings of Mary Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT on Opening Night, Laura Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES with the Centerpiece slot, and Julia Reichart and Steve Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT on Closing Night. HSDFF will present a total of 110 films (40 feature-length, and 60 shorts) representing 30 countries. 

“Now more than ever it is important that HSDFF is a place where everyone feels welcome, where we honor our tradition of gathering around documentaries, and where storytellers take centerstage,” says Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival’s Director of Programming, Jessie Fairbanks. “We are thrilled to present some of the strongest titles of 2020 to the Hot Springs audience. I am especially pleased to present a program where filmmakers of color represent 47% of our feature films and over 50% of the total films presented are directed by women. We are also proud to showcase several regional titles, elevating local directors and the idiosyncratic culture of the South. The films in our 2020 program will inspire viewers, challenge perceptions, and illuminate the urgent realities of this turbulent year,” says Fairbanks. 

The 2020 HSDFF Career Achievement Award will be presented to legendary filmmakers Alex Gibney and Dawn Porter. The 2020 HSDFF Impact Award will be presented to Iyabo Boyd, (Filmmaker and Founder of the collective Brown Girls Doc Mafia) and Oscar nominated producer, Diane Quon. 

The opportunity to present our festival on a both a virtual platform and with drive-in screenings creates an opportunity to reach more viewers right in their living rooms, along with a fun throwback necessitated by these times where audiences can enjoy movies in their cars,” says HSDFF Executive Director, Karina Nagin. “We are delighted to showcase one of our most exciting programs ever, while honoring an all-star lineup of award recipients who have given us great films and have contributed to the filmmaking community by nurturing emerging talent. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how important it is to look beyond ourselves and invest in our community by lending a helpful hand,” says Nagin. 

GALA DRIVE-IN SCREENINGS

Previously announced, HSDFF will screen it’s three “gala” selections at a pop-up drive-in located at Hot Springs Mall (4501 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR). Produced in partnership with Visit Hot Springs, The Hot Springs Mall, Low Key Arts, and KUHS, the drive-in film presentations will follow a successful drive-in screening that HSDFF offered last May. “Despite all the curveballs the pandemic threw at us this year, we are proud to continue our long-standing tradition of creating a festive environment to showcase incredible films, says Artistic Director, Jen Gerber. “Our drive-in gala events will provide a safe place for our community to unite around the shared belief that film has the power to connect people and transform our world. While the festival looks a little different this year, our legacy remains firmly intact as a cultural institution within this region,” says Gerber. Each screening will be accompanied by live music and concessions provided by local food trucks and vendors – with social distancing, and all safety measures strictly enforced. 

Friday, October 9 will feature the Opening Night presentation of Wharton’s JIMMY CARTER, ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT. The film focuses on the surprisingly significant role that music played throughout Carter’s life and in his work, including the vital support he and his campaign received from popular artists to give him a crucial boost during the Democratic primaries. HSDFF’s Centerpiece presentation of Gabbert’s OTTOLENGHI AND THE CAKES OF VERSAILLES will take place on Tuesday, October 13. The visually stunning masterpiece documents the collaboration between world renowned chef Yotan Ottolnghi (Jerusalem Plenty) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as five visionary pastry makers endeavor to construct an extravagant food gala. The Closing Night screening will take place on Friday, October 16 with the presentation of Reichart and Bognar’s 9-TO-5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT. The film looks at the group of fearless women who employed outrageous humor to attract the press and shame their bosses into change. The movement, taking the name “9 to 5”, became a national sensation and inspired Dolly Parton’s iconic song and the hit film that followed.

HSDFF Career Achievement Award honoree Alex Gibney is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose body of work spans four decades, including TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (2007), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (2005), for which he received a nomination in the same category. He is the founder of Jigsaw Productions, an award-winning production company with a prolific slate of projects. Gibney has proven to be an unstoppable force whose films have helped push documentaries into the cultural zeitgeist. HSDFF will be screening his latest, CRAZY NOT INSANE, which examines the research by forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis who investigated the psychology of murderers. Additionally, a special retrospective of his work, CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER (2010), ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, FINDING FELA! (2014), GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY & THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015), NO STONE UNTURNED (2017), and TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE will be screened throughout the festival.   

HSDFF’s second Career Achievement Award honoree, Dawn Porter is an award-winning documentarian renowned for her powerful social justice films. She is a tireless advocate for collaboration in documentary production and is known for her willingness to mentor filmmakers, while helming several projects herself. She is currently directing and executive producing an Apple TV multi-part documentary series with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, which focuses on both mental illness and mental well-being. HSDFF will screen her recent film, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE as part of the celebration of her work. Both Gibney and Porter will participate in special conversations on their careers. 

Two more powerhouse women will be the recipients of the 2020 HSDFF Impact Award. Iyabo Boyd is an industry maven whose organization, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, supports 4000 women and non-binary people of color in every phase of filmmaking. A successful filmmaker herself (producer on ME TIME, and SUN BELT EXPRESS), Iyabo continuously gives back to the filmmaking community, providing connections and platforms to BGDM members and colleagues. Diane Quon has followed a prolific career at NBC and Paramount Pictures, with independent productions which included Academy Award nominated MINDING THE GAP (2018), which she produced with Bing Liu. With a focus on emerging filmmakers, Diane brings her extensive skills to nascent projects, ensuring unknown stories shine.

While it continues its respected tradition of screening some of the best documentaries on the film festival circuit, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will also present the world premieres of three feature films. Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss’ MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY focuses on an oftentimes overlooked aspect of the country’s immigration issues, the remains of missing people. The documentary profiles two families as they try to find their loved ones in Brooks County, Texas. Also making its world premiere will be Nathan Willis’ RAP SQUAD. The film profiles Arkansas students at Helena West-Helena’s Central High School who turn to hip-hop and spoken word as an outlet for their civic frustration and a means to heal their local community.

Larry Foley’s INDIANS, OUTLAWS, MARSHALS AND THE HANGIN’ JUDGE looks at gun violence, racial strife, police brutality and American Indian rights through the eyes of a charismatic federal judge in the 19th Century who sentenced scores of felons.

Additional highlights include an updated cut of Diedre Fishel's WOMEN IN BLUE, which follows three female police officers in Minneapolis and their efforts to transform the police department there. The updated version will include recent events following the murder of George Floyd. Daniel Lombroso’s WHITE NOISE, produced by The Atlantic, is an exposé of the alt-right movement that intimately profiles three infamous personalities—Richard B. Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and Lauren Southern. The film displays hypocrisy and dysfunction within the movement and alt-right ideology seeping into American mainstream politics. Jessica Earnshaw’s JACINTA, a Tribeca Film Festival Albert Maysles Award winner, follows a young woman in and out of prison as she attempts to break free from an inherited cycle of addiction, incarceration, and crime. Alice Gu’s THE DONUT KING has won awards at multiple film festivals including SXSW, Bentonville, and Sun Valley. The film tells an engrossing story of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy, who reshaped the Donut Industry as we know it. 

HSDFF will also present a sneak peek/work-in-progress screening of Lucas Sabean and Peter Hutchison’s DEVIL PUT THE COAL IN THE GROUND, a meditation on the suffering and devastation brought on by the coal industry and its decline. 

Tickets and passes will be on-sale September 22nd, 2020. For more information on purchasing and additional details on the Hot Springs Documentary Film festival, please visit: hsdfi.org.

 The 2020 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival official selections:

 

The Riverside Drive-in's Fall 2020 Drive-in Super Monster-rama


 As sign of the apocalypse I went with my brother to the Riverside Drive-in in Vandergrift  near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for their fall Drive-in Super Monster-rama. What this means is that they run four classic drive-in style films with trailers, commercials and intermission clocks in the style of old time-ins. 

Going involved a seven dive hour car ride from Long Island to the far western side of Pennsylvania.  There is nothing wrong with it, but it cut short the first night since by the time we arrived we had just enough time to  check into the hotel, drop our stuff, clean up and head off to the drive in which was a half an hour away from the hotel.


The hotel was literally at the Monroeville Mall which many of you know was the location where Dawn of the Dead was filmed.


To be honest we didn't absolutely have to rush to the drive in as early as we did but we wanted to get there early enough to get a good spot, get the lay of the land and get dinner. The food at the theater was supposed to be great and it was. We ate there both nights meals that included burgers, fries, vegetable beef soup, Chilly Dillys, popcorn and other goodies. We did not have the pizza, which looked awesome or the monstrously huge funnel cakes, but we had most other things. (Diet? What diet?)


There were tables of DVDs, magazines and collectables  set up in and outside the snackbar. We picked up some pins, t-shirts and magazines as well as kibitzed with anyone we ran into.


The first night's selection were the Blood Island films.  The order that the fest ran them was to run the "first" film, TERROR IS A MAN last. And it's understandable since I'm guessing it's the least interesting of the quartet. (It's actually only connected since it is just set on the island)


I made it through BRIDES OF BLOOD and MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND before nudging Joe awake, he fell asleep early in MAD DOCTOR, and saying let's head off. The problem was not only were we tired, but there is so much good stuff before and between the movies that everything goes runs long...not that there is a real scheduled start time. We were heading off after 12 and we were shot.

The next day we were up early for breakfast and shopping before we had lunch with our cousins who we played miniature golf with. 


We arrived back at the theater early we found a line to get in and the place already packed. It seemed everyone wanted to see KING KONG VS GODZILLA on the big screen. (And it was true because a .lot of people left when the film ended). Somehow we managed to get the same spot as the night before.


Bigfoot was running amok in the parking lot.


Joe and I run into Jake and Mike and spent a lot of time talking.Joe talked photography with Jake and Mike told me about the history of the area, clueing me into a lot of stuff I never would have known. It was a blast.

The snack


bar was hopping and we didn't get to eat until the movie started. Joe stayed behind at one point to get the made to order stuff and ended up missing the Bug Bunny cartoon they ran before everything started.


Saturday night was great. We only stayed for two films because the addition of a Mr Magoo Cartoon before the first film and Three Stooges short before the second everything ran really long.  We left around 1230 just as KING KONG ESCAPES ended. We would have stayed for more but we wanted to leave early Sunday to get back home.


We had a blast and a half.  Fun movies, good food and great people made the trip not only worth it but something we have to do again next year- though the plan is to go a day early and leave a day late next year.

What a blast.

For more information go to www.riversidedrivein.com or DVD Drive-in  which is how I discovered it.

Thoughts on MLK/FBI (2020) NYFF 2020

 


Nominally a look at the FBI's monitoring of and dirty tricks against Martin Luther King during the 1960's, the film also attempts to cover other ground as well. It is a good, but unremarkable documentary that is much too scattershot and unfocused to really score many points. 

There are a couple of problems with MLK/FBI which prevent it from really going anywhere. The first problem is that despite being sold as having new material in it, we have been here before. While some pieces are slightly more detailed than in previous films or presentations, if you ave any knowledge of King and the FBI you've run into these stories. There was nothing here I really hadn't been aware of before, the only thing different was what was highlighted.

The other, much bigger problem is the film simply doesn't give s a real sense of anyone or anything. Yes we are given lots of details about what was done to King at certain times, but at the same time we don't get basic details. A lot of talk is about King's associate a Mr Levison, who was a New York attorney who helped King and had ties to the Communist Party. We hear a lot about him but we have no idea who he is. Other people around King are introduced but we are never clued in as to who they are- for example who was the man whose hose was bugged that clued the FBI in to kings affairs? We also don't know what Levison did for King other than he was trusted advisor. Additionally we get no sense of King or Hoover, there simply is an assumption you know who they are.

Worse yet for a film that is supposed to be about the FBI's treatment of King, it seems limited.  Other than bugging the phone and their watching his hotel room trysts and being frustrated hen their dirt is ignored they don't really tell us much. I would have liked to know more than Hoover hated him and bugged his phones and rooms. More was going on. I'm not selling it short but the details are so minimal you wonder why there is a film about it. I mean if you know the basics of King's life, which the film seems to assume you do, you know this already. The details are so lacking that the film keeps dropping the bits to go off to other things before coming back.

Watching the this film, one of my musts of the festival, all I cold think was "This is a NYFF Main Slate film?" Don't get me wrong, it's not bad but it is not something to be held out as exceptional at the New York Film Festival. 

I was disappointed. Despite the promotional material, there isn't much here that anyone who has seen other films on King, or read any books on him hasn't seen before.

NYFF Shorts Section 1: Remains to Be Seen

Hidden
Wading into what is marked as the first section of short films after doing two others I was struck by the notion that whoever collected the films into sections must have been on drugs. While the selection of films may link up thematically they really didn’t work together as a whole. I know it’s difficult to program films that work together but it takes a lot of work to get it right. The arrangement of the films here doesn't work with the result the films in the early films in the section are wiped from your memory once we get to the final film.

After the visually interesting but not adding up to much APPARITION there are three films that marry and repurpose images to a narrative track to explore various ideas. They are very much of a theme and while REVOLT WITHOUT IMAGES, UNTITLED SEQUENCE GAPS and THIS DAY ON'T LAST have moments they kind of blend together. I am not writing on them because the way they were programmed resulted in them being a big blur.

It’s a fact made worse when the final film, Jafar Panahi’s HIDDEN, starts and blows them away. Panahi’s small masterpiece is about the filmmaker and his family going to see a young Kurdish woman who has an incredible singing voice but is not allowed to use it. Traveling to a far off town they get the young woman to sing off camera. It’s an amazing piece of filmmaking that involves for most of it’s running time people sitting in a car talking. It’s a wonderful conversation that just makes everything truly magical. Frankly it’s a small gem and one of the early highlights of this year’s NYFF

Brief thoughts on The Artist's Wife (2020)

Lena Olin stars as the titled character. She is the long time wife of artist Bruce Dern. as the film opens Dern is beginning to show signs of dementia. Olin has to navigate the changing landscape of their relationship, and decide if she should return to the world of art, which she gave up when she married her husband.

Good drama is buoyed by the performances of the two leads. The film begins and ends with Olin and Dern and it is because of their stellar work that we keep watching.  That may sound like a knock against the rest of the film, but it's not really. It is simply that the pair is incredibly good it is hard to talk about, much less notice anything else.

If you want to see two titans of acting at the top of their game then see THE ARTIST'S WIFE when it hits theaters tomorrow.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus FIlm: League OF Frightened Men

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Hey Jake and Mike- A report on the Riverside Drive-in's All Night Super Monster-rama is coming

 


Hey Jake and Mike- 

It was great to meet you this weekend at the Drive-In Super Monster-rama show. Joe and I had a blast and getting to talk to great people like you are one of the reasons.

I will have a report on what we saw and did just as soon as I am feeling less tired and can sit don to write it all up.

Hopefully we will meet up in the spring.

-Steve



The Calming (2020) NYFF 2020


Lin is a director travels to Japan, China and Hong Kong to present her work. She meets some friends and rides a bunch of trains. 

This mannered and formal film is exactly the sort of artsy fartsy film that the New York Film Festival has programmed since it’s inception. Full of gorgeous cinematography and perfectly composed images this is a film where the deeper meaning of everything can be found in the silences, things unsaid and the loving shots of majestic landscapes rather than in anything our heroine says or does. It’s the lack of any real emotional reaction that kills the film since Lin is little more than a cypher. There is nothing more to her other than a longing for something more which is indicated by her constant staring at snow, mountains, friends. A half an hour in and I was muttering at the screen since very little had happened except lots of traveling and a few moments of meaningless small talk. 

 To be honest I am not now, or have I ever been a fan of this sort of art house film. Clearly the festival organizers are, which is why we keep getting these small beautiful rocks year after year, but at the same time outside of the festival screenings these films are kind of doomed to disappear except in the minds of a few. 

 To be completely fair and honest Song Fang’s film isn’t bad, it is much better than her previous NYFF film Memories Look At Me, however too much is unsaid, too much is in the director’s head to the point the film remains a stunningly beautiful puzzle that we glance at and then walk away from, forgetting what we’ve seen. As much as I am bitching about the film I wouldn’t call it a failure so much as noble miss. I know it is splitting hairs but had we had character who was more than a blank slate this film would have been something more than a film we’ll quickly forget.

Fauna (2020) NYFF 2020

I am going to keep this brief. It’s not that FAUNA is a bad film rather there is a flip or trick in the film and I can’t really discuss the film without going into what happens. I know some of you are screaming at your screens that I’m giving something away- but I’m not. The NYFF write up mentions something about it and how it’s done makes knowing that its there kind of irrelevant. I mean it’s not going to change how you react to the film.

The film begins with a Fauna, her brother and her boyfriend going to her parents home in the country. Once they get there they talk and things happen… and the rest would be telling.

Honestly my reaction to the film was kind of meh for the early going, it was okay but nothing special. Then once we get to a certain point suddenly things get shaken up and what was film I was falling asleep to woke me up and had my attention. I was intrigued and wanted to watch it again just to see it knowing what the ah ha moment was at the start.

A small neat film Fauna is worth a look who look for films that are more than the same old stuff and mess with your perceptions of reality.

Oliver Sachs: His Own Life (2019)Hits Virtual Theaters Wednesday

Ric Burns portrait of the great Oliver Sachs left me both sad and happy. sad that he was gone and happy knowing that I could always revisit the film and hear him talk about his life, life in general and everything in between.

Made for American Masters and opening in theaters in May, OLIVER SACHS: HIS OWN LIFE is a true wonder and the Reelabilities Film Festival is happily previewing the film. It is a portrait of the doctor, teacher and writer largely in his own words. It is a beautiful explanation of the man, his work and all of the things he found interesting.

If you are wondering who Oliver Sachs was he was the person Robin Williams played in the film AWAKENINGS. It was Sach's book of the same name that put him into the public consciousness and the film which shot him into super stardom.

Ric Burn's film is an arc of a life,made in part, in Sach's final days and it affords him a chance to leave behind a record of who he was and what he did. It is his own final statement on what he did and why. His final monologue about his life wrecked me in a good way and it has haunted me in the weeks since I heard it, never leaving me.

I loved this film a great deal. Sue me I am an admirer of the man and this chance to go round the block one more time delighted me. I am even happier that thanks to this film I can revisit the man any time I want to. Apologies if that isn't much of a review but Oliver Sachs as someone who simply was beyond words.

Highly recommended.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus FIlm: The Westland Case

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Malmkrog (2020) NYFF 2020

I've spent a lot of time trying to sort out what to say about MALMKROG.  This is a three and a half hour historical drama where five members of the upper crust talk about god, war and philosophy. When my brother walked by when I was done with the film he asked me what I was thinking and I said mostly that I wish I had seen the film at an actual NYFF press screening with other people because I wanted to hear the whole audience snoring.

Static and incredibly dry, the film is a series of long discussions shot very often in long takes. The camera barely moves. The cast arranged in tableaus. It looks like a frozen stage play written by the driest textbook writer in the world.

I was bored.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the arguments and the discussions, this is in my bread and butter, but they are so painfully written that it's like listening to volumes of a history of philosophy arguing. this isn't people this is ideas. There is no life anywhere in this. 

And I know the hyper intellectual nature of it all is part of the idea- but not for three and a half hours. That's intolerable. You want something like MY DINNER WITH ANDRE or, closer to this film, MINDWALK. Bothe of those films discussed ideas with passion and humanity.

This is great discussions dully told.

Recommended only for those needing a long sound sleep.

RESISTERHOOD (2020) hits VOD on Tuesday

Excellent profile of a half a dozen women who decided in the wake of the current President’s ongoing bad behavior to march in support of women, minorities and repressed groups.

As America fractures more and more thanks to a president who knows he can only rule by telling blatant lies and dividing the country along deeply held hatreds, it’s nice to see a film about people not buying the bullshit. The film is a nice portrait of people who actually care about their fellow human beings. It’s a nice reminder that there are people who are out there fighting the darkness.

If there is any problem with the film it is that is coming just as there are a glut of political films. Everyone is putting out political films in the hope of winning hearts and minds. While this is a hopeful sign because it shows that there is a light in the darkness, it can make small gems like this difficult to see because either they aren’t being pushed or more likely people are too burned out by all the other films.

Do yourself a favor, even if you are burned out on political films, give this film a try. It is not only good time with good people but it will remind you that there is light amid the darkness and hope for tomorrow.

Damnation (1987) NYFF 2020

This film is one that is full of potential meaning, whether the director feels that way or not. To me this is a film where taking the film as the director intended, as a straight forward film, is not the best way to see this film. To me this is one of the few times when the creator 's work is not as he has intended but has instead become something else.

Bela Tarr's mediation on interpersonal relationships (and perhaps, the end of the world) is a simple tale of a man in a small town who is obsessed with a singer in a night club. She's married but doesn't completely deflect his advances. Where it goes is the story as the man pursues what his heart desires.

Dark brooding tale filled with Tarr's patented long takes seems to be set in another world or another time (perhaps it's an after life). It's a hypnotic trip about the nature of obsession and how we view ourselves. If you click with it and its possibilities this is a great rumination on a variety of things, if not it's a pretentious and tedious exercise.

I've read that director Bela Tarr insists that the film (as he insists about all his films) is a portrait of life "as it is" but I would be hard pressed to say that this is any sort of reality except perhaps a reality of the internal. The film's stark and beautiful black and white photography creates a world that seems forever in a mist or rain. It is a place like our own and yet different.

People speak in ways that don't seem wholly normal. Verse is quoted as is the bible. No one speaks that way. Musicians play music but how they play doesn't quite match up with the music we hear. The mine carts that we see over head seem to be moving the damned to and from this place and not ore (indeed we never see either end of the line). Tarr says there is nothing allegorical or metaphoric implied or intended but I would argue that the film doesn't function as a straight narrative. Too much is off kilter, too much fails to connect for this to be real life.

I'm not saying that the story of obsession, of a man doing what he feels he must to obtain the object of his desire doesn't work if it's taken as straight tale, it does, but at the same time the film becomes a battle with tedium. There becomes no reason for the film to run two hours, for the odd passages of dialog or the long takes. Frankly if the film is taken as the director intends it to be, then the film is a crashing bore and a failure on anything but a basic level. The film only works on some other level that isn't straight reporting, certainly the much used term 'apocalyptic' that I've read and heard connected to the film is appropriate in some sense.

Having been a creator of various things I know that sometimes the works we create change or become not what we intend. I understand that the creator of say a film is the one to ask what he intended but at the same time that doesn't mean what he intends is what is there on the screen. I think Tarr thinks he made one thing however I think he ended up with something else instead. I think as a film that is open to our own interpretation, being real world or not, the film is a masterpiece and a trip ripe with possibilities. I think as a straight tale of people locked in a straight forward battle of possession of each other it's a crashing bore filled with WTF moments. As something else, of souls elsewhere or even inside of themselves, it's a trip.

See the film, take it for what it is, or take it however you wish to take it, but see it and be carried away.

Stay AT Home Fest Bonus Films: Weird Coasters and mysterious Disney videos



Friday, September 18, 2020

The Monopoly Of Violence (2020) NYFF 2020

An examination of the use of violence against the police in France (and by extension any "free" country) mixes interviews with police, scholars, protesters and victims with footage of the protests in France.

A horrifying look at how the free societies are becoming more totalitarian is a real gut punch. The heady mix of theory and reality keeps us on edge and off balance, with the result that those watching the film will want to go out and slap some sense into our leaders....

...at least for a while.

As much as I like this film and as important as I know it is, there was a point where I just kind of shut off. Say what you will the film makes it's point and then then some, but on a certain level the film makes it's point early and then just kind of repeats itself...repeatedly.

I'm not saying that the film is bad or wrong only that the film kind of has its say fifteen minutes in and then doesn't go anywhere with it. The film stays the same from start to finish making me wonder why this needed to be 90 minutes.

Definitely an important film and a must see, don't feel bad if you feel the film is repeating itself and you trn it off.