Sunday, February 28, 2021

Nightcap 2/28/21 Flying Saucers Are Real and government horse hockey

I've been putting on news reports and books on tape to help me  fall asleep. Some things help me fall asleep better than others.

One of the things that put me out is Donald Keyhoe's The Flying Saucer's Are Real. Written in the early days of the UFO wave originally as an article in True Magazine, Keyhoe essentially destroys the government case against there being anything going on. Keyhoe's method is simply to use the various government press releases against itself as well as deal with the largely forgotten case of Captain Thomas Mantell.

Thomas Mantell was a pilot who was killed when his plane crashed while he was chasing a huge flying disc. The disc was seen by hundreds of people, however no one knows exactly what happened since Mantell went into a cloud and then plummeted to earth. Rumors flew that his body was riddled with bullets, that he was destroyed by a ray, that he had simply blacked out by climbing too high. The government initially said it was all a mistake sine he was chasing Venus. The trouble was was it was almost  too dim to actually see and very small. Several years later they realized the mistake and changed their story. That may have calmed the public but his death didn't sit well with military people who knew or knew of Mantell and they knew he was a good enough pilot that that he was chasing almost certainly chasing something. As Keyhoe said several people said they thought UFOs were a joke until Mantell was killed.

The reason I'm bringing this up, beyond the fact that the book is a hell of a read and the Librivox recording of it is fantastic.(It can be found here or here), is that in this day and age of fake news and changing stories, Donald Keyhoe's story of trying to find the truth about what is going on is one we need to see. Keyhoe wades into the fray and searches for the truth with open eyes and a burning desire to find out what lies beyond the bullshit. 

What I find interesting about the book, which is almost 70 years old is that the battle for truth hasn't changed. I originally read Keyhoe's book decades ago when I was first interested in UFOs. It was a classic and required reading.  I only picked it up as an audio recording because I wanted to hear something that I knew and wouldn't be taxing. Somewhere along the way I suddenly realized how the lessons Keyhoe was presenting, beyond the UFOs , was really relevant for today. 

If you want proof consider that today we have politicians both Republican and Democrat who are trying to change the stories that they themselves are telling. The GOP is trying to turn the recent insurrection into something different than what it was and their stories are changing. Meanwhile our new President is already dropping his promises or now saying that what he meant was something other than he said. No is really taking everyone to task because everyone in the media has an agenda because that agenda is what gets them viewers. 

The quest for viewership and the money made from advertising is killing truth, breaking apart families and destroying the country. We need to hold these people accountable by showing them their words and making them own up to them. 

If not we are doomed.

Read Keyhoes book or listen to the audio recording and watch how chasing the truth nudges us toward a better reality.


Rendez-Vous With French Cinema and the New York International Children's Film Festival start this week. I will have curtain raisers for both in the next couple of days

Black Holes: The Edge Of All We Know (2021) its on VOD on March 2


A look at efforts to take a picture of a black hole. Along the way we find out that black holes are much more than things that just swallow everything.

This is a solid documentary that will get your brain going. Say what you will, black holes are much more complex than you can imagine, with the discovery that they are actually seeming to radiate random particles out into space. My mind way kind of blown wit some of the recent discoveries.

Moving at a brisk pace the film plays like one of the best Smithsonian or Discovery Channel docs but without the mindless actor recreations that are the current rage. I had a grand time watching this and I kept wondering why aren't there more meaty docs like this coming down th pike.

Great fun as well as highly informative BLACK HOLES is recommended.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

A brief look at THE WAR AND PEACE OF TIM O'BRIEN (2020) which hits VOD Tuesday


A look at writer Tim O'Brien as he works on a book for his young children. The book is the result of O'Brien realizing that in his 70's he will not be there for his kids who are only just approaching their teen age years.

Good with great moments portrait of a great writer. This is a look at the man looking back at his life and taking stock of the life he has now that gives us  good sense of the man.

While this is wonderful portrait of the man today, I'm not sure it really works as look at O'Brien's whole life. Yes we get glimpse of earlier works and but its all seen through the now and the man he is today. This was all well and good for me since I had read some of his books but at the same time I never really felt that I got a sense of his whole life.

While never bad it never fully soars to the level of several fleeting moments. Worse because the film is so focused on now and the ticking clock to finish his book the film feels link of repetitive and as though we could trim 20 minutes without losing anything. (How many times is he going to talk about the shortness of his time on earth anyway?)

Still, for fans, its a must see.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Monkey Bars (2021)

Jacqueline Xerri's MONKEY BARS surprised the hell out of me.  It gloriously didn't do what I expected and more importantly made me want to see where the story went next.

The plot has three fourteen year old girls meeting some older boys and agreeing to hang out by some monkey bars. 

And that's all I'll say not because there is anything bad, rather because I want to to be surprised. I want you to feel the same sense of a life lived that I experienced. I also want you to ask yourself what happens next.

I like what Jacqueline Xerri has done. Actually I liked it so much that I want to see what she does next. I want to see if she can make the sense of life remain for a full feature rather than 15 minutes. I also want her to tell me what happens next.

MONKEY BARS is currently on the festival circuit

Thursday, February 25, 2021


The Opening Night Film of Slamdance 2019 was the portrait of the late great Warren Miller who not only changed sports filmmaking but was responsible for the rise in skiing across America.

Using the last interview Miller gave before his death in 2018 as the backbone, SKI BUM is the life of Miller from start to finish. Along the way we witness his discovery of skiing as well as his fascination with making ski films- which he schlepped across the country on barnstorming tours every winter. It is filled with interviews with friends, family and admirers who add details and explain how Miller changed the  world.

If you've never seen any on Miller's films you should make an effort to see this because it will give you a really good idea as to why he had such a big fan base and how he influenced everyone who came after him. Filled with seemingly endless ski footage, some of which hasn't been really seen in years because some of Miller's earlier films are hard to come by, SKI BUM will make you ooo and ah for much of it's 90+ minutes. The footage is simply that stunning, even if you've seen some of it before. (The ability to stand up to repeated viewings is what made Miller's films so special.)

For much of SKI BUM the film is like hanging out with a good old friend who is telling you great stories about the good old days. It is great tales about a great guy telling stories about the things he loves.

Unfortunately there is a point about half way in where there are sections where things really aren't as interesting as what went before. Some of it seems repetitious and some of the talk about Miller's film business or differences in the way the films are made today isn't as interesting as what had gone before. Its not fatal but it does kind of take a little bit of the sheen off the film.

Regardless this film is a must especially if you are a fan of Miller's films or if you've never seen them.

Almost certain to have both a long festival life and long commercial run SKI BUM: THE WARREN MILLER STORY is recommended.

18th & GRAND: THE OLYMPIC AUDITORIUM STORY (2021) Slamdance 2021


The closing night film of Slamdance is one of the best of the fest. A portrait of the legendary Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and Aileen Eaton, the woman who ran it, its transcends its subject to be a portrait of the city it was located and the times it existed.

A more or less straight forward tale of the Olympic over the decades the film on the face of it doesn’t look like it’s going to rattle the pillars of heaven, but in between the discussion of boxing, wrestling, roller derby and concerts the film opens up into the changing  nature of society.  We get a look at what sparked the zoot suit riots, at how the weekly boxing programs saved the sport when it was seen as something that was fixed, how it created the persona of Muhammad Ali as well as other little tidbits.

Frankly what makes the film so powerful is not the main through tale but all of the little tidbits that we learn along the way. This is a portrait of the ever changing face of Los Angeles and America. Yes the city and country was divided by color and racial lines but everyone went to the Olympic. Some times they were fine and some times they fought, but it was always interesting.

I adore this film. I not only learned a great deal but I was entertained. The stories told by the people who fought or performed there as well as those who filled the seats are entertaining as all get out.  They are so good that the film made me sad that my dad wasn’t around to watch this with. He would have had some great stories to add to the mix.

Highly recommended

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Til Kingdom Come (2020) opens Friday

Deeply troubling look at the alliance between evangelical Christians in the US and groups in Israel linked to the Israeli government. As the Israelis take money for settlements and such in the name of Jewish/Christian brotherhood, the Israelis push for the evangelical agenda in Washington. 

This film made me uneasy. It's not that Christians and Jews shouldn't get along, but more that the end games they are working for are kind of polar opposites. The Israelis want a strong country and the evangelicals want the second coming which means the end of Israel and the conversion or death of the Jewish people (a fact that is pointed out in the film). Outside of supposedly getting their agenda carried out by any means necessary they are really working with people working against them. I know everyone sees it but no one really talks about it, which makes a late in the game talk between an evangelical and a priest in Israel highlighting the differences rather uncomfortable.

I'm truly not certain what I think of all of this. I am deeply bothered by it, largely because I think at some point this can't end well. I'm also a bit saddened by it since the film begins with a pastor talking about how people in Applicachia are looked down upon and then the film does look down upon them and their end days view of the world. We kind of see them taken advantage of by people who want things from them being a vote or money.

There is much to unpack and think about, and frankly I need to see the film again because there is great deal that the film is trying to say.

If you want a heady discussion of religion and political agendas this film is for you.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

My Name is Pedro (2020) hits VOD and DVD today

Solid portrait of Pedro Pedro Santana who’s unconventional approach to education was so successful on a small scale that he kept getting bumped higher and higher up the chain of command where his ideas met more and more resistance despite being successful.

Definitely worth a look, especially if you care about the future and the education of children. Ths nice little film makes it clear that perhaps we all need to be looking outside the well established box for answers since the kids who cross in front of Santana clearly are achieving more than those still inside the box.

Worth a look.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Brief thoughts on RAGE (2021)

 A violent home invasion lease the husband in a coma and his wife traumatized. hen he awakes he discovers that one f the attackers is still out and about and it set in motion a revenge plot.

This is a good complicated thriller that will hold your attention. In all seriousness the synopsis above doesn't do justice to the twists and turns that are found inside this film. Big bonus points for not being something you can guess ten minutes in.

Unfortunately the film has one big flaw and that is a run time that is close to two and a half hours. While I appreciate the complexity of the film I ran out of steam about half way in This is not to say the film is bad only that there is a lot to it and I had to stop it and walk away for a bit.

That said I did like it and can easily recommend it to anyone liking thrillers

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Nightcap 2/21/21- Do the movies reflect life?, ALIEN PLANET is looking for funding

This is a piece I've been working on for a long time. It kept morphing.  It concerns how we see the world as a result of the movies. I'm not sure its wholly finished but for now this is where it is.

The death of Kim Ki-duk and the discovery, for me, of his abuse of several women made me sit up and realize that while I love films from Korea the society they tend to project, at least in the films I see, is really cruel. Its so cruel and nasty that I wasn't surprised at what happened. It's a reaction that bothered me because I shouldn't have thought it was a foregone conclusion.

I should point out that Ki-duk's films are ugly affairs. People abuse each other in everyway possible. Yes. he used it to get to some greater truth, but at the same time it was brutal. Its s brutal that while I would watch one of his films I never wanted to be in one of his films. That there was so much ugliness in his films is what made me not be surprised at the charges against him.

But he isn't the only director to show the cruelty- one need go no further than Chan-wook Park and his Vengeance films (hello OLDBOY) or Jee-woon Kim and his I SAW THE DEVIL or even Bong Joon Ho's Oscar winning PARASITE to know that many Korean directors see the world as a cruel and ugly place. 

But it extends beyond the big directors. If you watch Korean film for a while you begin to notice little things, like slaps, hits, belittling, and other efforts to become the alpha and go up the pecking order. It seems no matter what film you see there is always at least one  person playing a power game. I remember watching a comedy a few years ago and I suddenly realized that the same power games that I was seeing in the crime films was operating there as well and all I could think was "what sort of a place is South Korea?"

The thing that bothers me about this portrayal of South Korea is that it makes me hesitant to go to the county. I keep wondering what would I be getting myself into. The cinematic portrayal of power games and abuse of people bothers me more because I have several friends who have gone and loved their time there.  More importantly I know several people who are from Korea and they are some of the coolest people around. Hell, Choi Min-sik, an actor who has portrayed some of the nastiest gangsters ever to be put on film was one of the nicest people I've ever run across.

But whether the cruelty is real or not, the cinematic conditioning in my head  speaks volumes about how the movies make us think other countries or people are a certain way. I mean why do people hate the US in some parts of the world, its because of how they see that we portray them. In the past it was the portrayal of Asian as a "Yellow Peril".  Hollywood in recent years has made all Arabs out to be terrorists. Even the portrayal of ourselves as cocky cowboys who blow things up hits people the wrong way.

Sadly no one in any of the studios across the globe are really thinking about how the negative (or even positive) things we see in films are shaping how people see their countries. For better or worse movies and TV are the way that people remember things for better or worse. Its a scary thought because it may not be the way  we want to be seen.  I know I shouldn't be thinking that the cruelty of some films makes me think cruelty is to be expected.

While I know that studios and producers should just focus on making good films and good stories they should also keep an eye on the message they are sending out in the world since what they are saying will have an effect.

Why do the filmmakers seek to frame the things in their stories with certain portrayals? Is it a lazy short hand? I suspect it is. 

However at the same time we must consider that as much as it bothers some segments of the audiences, producers wouldn't do it if most audiences didn't want the portrayals on the screen. They aren't looking for "reality" but instead want to see their own prejudices reflected back at them. Most studios want knee jerk reactions so they can get enough emotion flowing that people want to buy a ticket. 

And to daisy chain this back I have to ask - were these views there all along or did the movies create them.

Sadly I think that the feelings were there. One need only see the rise of minor celebrity and disgraced former president Donald Trump riding the wave of hatred and bigoty into the White House to realize that often what the films portray is just a reflection.

Happily though if filmmakers choose to they can change how people see the world, the question is are they going to be willing to do that for the good of everyone or will they only seek profits by reflecting hatred?


I've decided against getting a press pass for SXSW.  The decision was made because, I can't handle another big festival right now. I simply will not do it justice after over 70 films at both Slamdance and Sundance.  As it is New York International Children's Film Fest, Rendez-Vous With French Cinema and Oxford are coming in March as well.

I can not do a big fest unless my heart is 100% in it.

That said I will be having a small amount of coverage of the festival


The film ALIEN PLANET is looking for backers.

The official synopsis:

Alien Planet is a sci-fi adventure film with a meaningful story that mirrors struggles found within humanity. There is one big difference between this film and other science fiction movies, which is that Alien Planet has no humans. It is packed with practical effects makeup, monster suits, and puppets.

In this story, two different alien species are out of water. They must travel to a dangerous world in order to find the key to rejuvenating their planets with sustainable drinking water. Can they put their differences aside in order to survive this hostile new planet? And will they figure out a way to save both of their dying worlds? Danger lurks around every corner as the extinction of their civilizations loom ever closer.

If you want more information or want to back it here is the place to go


Where is the rest of this?

Wonderfully twisted tale of an Israeli bother and sister looking for their younger brother, missing after a nuclear holocaust. This is a delight an wrong and wickedly funny.

Recommended it will make you fear cows more.

Musical series about a woman who is happiest being a rogue taxidermist. 

I liked this and I'm curious how this would go beyond this one episode. I'm not sure how long it will go but I'm curious.

Story of a young woman in high school trying to get into med school with the help of her martial arts master science teacher.

A good idea kind of gets lost in the quirks. The look of the film and the way things play out seem to be there more get noticed than to help the story. They area bit too noticeable for my tastes, but I like the characters enough to see how later episodes take things.

Saturday, February 20, 2021



A man with no limbs working in a carnival side show meets up with people from the Buterfly Circus and decides to travel with them.
Good little drama, perhaps tries a bit too hard to be deep and meaningful (the whole caterpillar/butterfly motif) however it still manages to warm the heart.

Four women relate the problems with the US healthcare system by revealing how costly the things they need are and how little is actually covered by insurance or the system itself. This film needs to be expanded into a feature so it can piss off more people and result in change.

Jumbo (2020) is in virtual cinemas and home video March 16

JUMBO is the name a young woman gives the new ride at the amusement park where she works. She works to night shift and spend the after hours cleaning. At some point she notices that the ride is trying to signal her with its lights. She goes over to it and soon a romance blossoms.

I have been chasing JUMBO for a year. Last year at Sundance it was a film that a large number of my friends were talking madly about. This was "one of the best films of the year" and I had to see it because I love off kilter films. Because the Covid nonsense wrecked  the release and festival schedules I seemed to miss it at every turn. However with the film hitting virtual cinemas I have finally caught with it.

In all honestly, I love the cast. I love the script. I love the filmmaking and I really like the movie.... the trouble is I never bought the central premise. For better or worse its the one thing the film never really does is make us believe. There doesn't seem to be any reason, there is no AH HA moment suddenly they come together and they are in love. Its kind of a given. Normally according to Raymond Chandler an artist can ask us to believe one impossible thing without the story collapsing. The trouble is that doesn't work when it's the central premise of your film. You have to believe  from start to finiah. That doesn't happen here.

Honestly I have been mulling this point over in my head for the week since I saw the film. What would have made it work? To my mind the only way would have been if the romance happened off screen. If we didn't see it happen then we could have filled in the details, but here there simply isn't enough meat for it to work.

That said, assuming you can just say to heck with it and go along, this is a great film. I love the characters and the interactions. I love the visual sense of the film and I am looking forward to what Zoe Wittock does next because she definitely has the stuff to make a great film next time.

Unseen Films turns it up to 11


Neither Unseen nor Bully or Shelly are going anywhere except into the other room for cake


Today we have turned 11.

11 years of movies and madness.

More importantly 11 years of great friends - some I write with, some I write for and some are filmmakers whose work I admire. 

The last 11 years have been a wild ride that has taken myself and my friends from our living room and into film festivals across the globe. We have seen our words go from ones quietly thrown into the dark with the hope someone sees them to become words that people read on screens across the globe in film trailers, while others have ended up hung on the wall on posters.

After having done this 10 times before there is very little left other than to once again say THANK YOU to all of you for coming along on this crazy trip. Its been nuts and as it stands now I have no idea when this madness is going to end (the site has been tentatively programed into mid November). More madness is coming so if you like what we are doing keep reading.

And now time to ask who wants cake?

Friday, February 19, 2021



Why is this in episodes? This is a one joke short film about three people trapped in hibernation pods on a spaceship decades out from their destination.  I honestly don't know where it can go from here.

A celebration of pierogis turns weird in this charming film about a Polish staple food.

A 4 seconds long film you'll end up playing a couple of times because after all Life is short.

Funny take down of white liberal thought

Magnificent essay film about how the changing of the way we think and interact is altering the world for the worse.

A Black Rift Begins To Yawn (2021) Slamdance 2021


Two scientists pick up where their colleague left off. Supposedly he had taped a weird sound coming from space.  As they begin to investigate they find their sense of time, reality and self deeply disturbed.

I hate it when the title of a film clues you in to how the film is . The key word here is yawn., this film is a snoozer. Full of long almost static shots where nothing much happens. You'll get the idea in the opening minutes as the camera first focuses on the landscape and then it goes to people just standing on a porch... for a long time. Later we get long passages where the characters read the notebooks out loud. I drifted off.

What kills me is this film looks good. It has the look and feel of a number of inde horror and science fiction films from the late 1970's and 80's that I grew up on. The ideas are actually really good, and in another film it would have been killer. The trouble is this film is inert and and it doesn't do anything other than look good.

I can't recommend this film.

Paranormal Prison (2021)

Paranormal Prison is an okay, at best, found footage horror film about a paranormal TV show investigating the ghosts or a historic prison before it is torn down and replaced by condos. The show is desperate to have a viral video to boost their viewership since they are on the verge of shutting down.

Sadly this film never generates any chills. Blame it on a combination of a cast that all looks to be way too young for their roles and a shooting style that never mirrors what we see from similar real TV shows or YouTubers, we are never invested enough to believe anything that is happening on the screen. We never buy any of it with the result there are no scares. 

While the film never generates any chills there is a slight sense of mystery as the group attempts to find out who the ghosts are and why they are haunting the prison. Its not the most pressing of threads but it is enough to keep you watching this breezy 70 minute distraction.

A minor okay, at best, film it is best for only for horror film or found footage  completeists

Thursday, February 18, 2021

FEELING THROUGH (2020) Slamdance 2021

A young man looking for a place to crash meets and helps a blind and deaf man on the street and helps him to get to his destination. 

FEELING THROUGH is a very good film on it's own terms. It is moving and touching. It is well made and well acted. It will make you feel good.

Since the film is being pushed for an Oscar, it's on the Short List, I have to address if it is indeed Oscar worthy. The answer is maybe. While better than the several of the Short Listed films I don't know if it is the best. I know that Slamdance wise it's one of the better films, but I still think films like CO-OP and especially SINGLE are much better in the Unstoppable short section.

Worth a look

Sin (2019) Hits Virtual Theaters Friday.


Andre Konchalovskiy's look at Michelangelo is a messy affair . A look at the man trapped between the shifting political power f the families controlling the papacy, the film doesn't always seem to know what it is shooting for. 

Give Konchalovskiy points for giving us a complex Michelangelo, but his attempt at revealing the mental and physical minefield that scarred the great artist isn't always satisfying. The problem is that in order to tell the story the way he wants it told he leans into things being more visceral rather than clear. We can feel Michelangelo confusion at all of the things going on around him as well as the inner demons welling up inside him but things aren't always clear. More than once I felt like I was missing some detail that would put it all together. There were times when I felt some bit or other was lost.

I do love the fact that Konchalovskiy gives his film a lived in quality. Things aren't Hollywood perfect, its dank and imperfect. Places feel lived in Some costumes are ill fitting. There is a sense of life outside of the image.

Cheers to Alberto Testoni as Michelangelo. His is a great performance that stands apart from every other cinematic portrait I've seen. His is a tortured individual wrestling with himself, the world and finally God. He is a man bent and twisted by  life and his work. The result is a performance that is all out there and deeply affecting.

While I found the film uneven, I still recommend it. There are moments of great power in the film, additionally Testoni's performance is a great one, possibly one of the best you'll see all year, and it is one that is worth your time to witness.

No Trace (2021) Slamdance 2021

This is the story  of dystopian world and a woman who travels across the land via a railcar.

This is a dark and brooding tale where not a great deal is explained. Told with beautiful black and white cinematography where the size and orientation of the images changes. There are long wordless passages where we are left to ponder what it all means.

While this is a beautiful film, one I wish I had seen n a big screen, it is also one that many people are going to walk away from. You have to be willing to go with the enigma of it all and be willing to deal with the long "meaningful" silences. 

For me this was a tough slog. While it looks great it is way too enigmatic. Enigmatic isn't in and of itself bad but for it to work you need to give the audience enough threads hang on to. We need to have a sense of a world on the screen. We need to feel we can step into the world and understand it.

Sadly there aren't enough threads here. We have a few bits but details are lacking. We never connect. We never are part of it. While  director Simon Lavoie has made a beautiful film. he has also made a film that we are always outside of. 

A miss.



A WRITER’S ODYSSEY is a mess. It is visually spectacular and possesses some kick ass action sequences but the story is a mess.

The plot as something to do with all sorts of lives linked by a novel. One man who is trying to find his daughter is dreaming it, another man who is unconnected to him is writing it, a third man who runs a multinational country is affected by what happens to a certain character in the story. There are other characters who have super powers. The film bounces between the real world and that of the novel. Everyone is waiting for the end of the story because, if nothing else the one man may actually find his missing daughter.

If that sounds tentative that's because I'm not really certain of how it all fits together. The fantasy stuff  actually has a through line of a hero trying to avenge the death of his family at the hands of a man trying to become a god. Its a plot line that more or less follows classic plotting. The trouble is the real world stuff never really makes a lot of sense. The rules keep changing and things seem to happen just to get the plot to go. Worst of all the ending doesn't pay off in actuality, but rather things are implied thus removing the emotional crescendo to a 130 minute trip.

If you are going to try A WRITER'S ODYSSEY, and I suggest you do, kind of let the real world stuff wash over you and stick with the fantasy stuff. Full of wickedly cool action set pieces and magnificent monsters it's such an eyeful I wish I had been able to see on a big screen. To be certain the effects are uneven but the film's heart is in the right place with the result you will go with it anywhere.

A WRITER'S ODYSSEY is currently in select theaters and Drive-ins 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019)


I suspect that a certain amount of uncertainty on the part of publicity people to know which audience to sell this film to has kept DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER off American shores for almost two years. No matter it hits VOD on Friday and is worth your time.

Based on Joff Winterhart's award winning graphic novel the film charts the course of a mother and  son in England after the son's planned trip to the United States t stay with his dad is canceled. Mom is a fiftyish librarian who is slightly socially awkward and her son is a 15 year old wanna be metal musician with only one friend. They have very little in common despite living in the same house.

From a marketing stand point I kind of feel for the studios. Here is a film that is actually about both it's characters as real people, that while humorous, is never cruel and always real. This is a small gem about people we like and know trying to get a long and find a common ground. It isn't big and bold, splashy or smart ass, its more like life but with more smiles.

Going into the film I didn't know what to think of the film. I had watched the trailer but I couldn't get a real sense of what the film was. It didn't seem to be fitting into the prejudicial slots that we all have about material. It wasn't until I was about a third of the way into the film that I fully gave myself over to it and just let it do what it was going to do that I understood what a gem this is.

I really liked DAYS. I liked the characters and the humor. I loved that the film was not what I expected. I loved that it did it's own thing. I also loved that the film genuinely liked the characters inside it. Too often films and their makers don't really like the people they are showing us and the result is we can't like the film that is asking us to root for them.

This is a small gem and is recommended

Mafia Inc (2020) hits Virtual Cinema, VOD & Digital


I'm trying to figure out how the hell this epic crime drama is off most people's radar. The continent spanning tale is based on a true story, which according to somethings I read on the film, as altered because to tell it anything close to straight and with the real names would have resulted in bad things happening. I have no idea if its true but I'd like to think it's true.

I'm going to briefly, and very incompletely, tell you what the plot is.  This is the story of two families. One is the Paterno family, the head of the Montreal mafia. They are working on any number of schemes including getting funding for a bridge from Sicily to Italy. The other family is the Gamach family. They have been the tailors for the Paternos and the mob for generations. However Vince has left the fold and gone to work for the Paternos. Willing to do what it takes to get things done he devises a horrifting way to ship drugs into the country.  As Vince rises up the ranks friction is created all around and nothing is going to end well.

This is one of the best crime films in a long time. A huge cast sells the tale  in such a way that you fall into the film and are sucked along. Feeling much shorter than it two hour twenty three minutes this is a film that covers lots of ground (at least three continents), has huge cast and a detailed plot (way more is going on than I explained above) yet never ever manages to make you wonder if you missed anything. It was so nice not to feel like I should stop and replay something.

To be honest the best thing about this film is that I wanted to call all my mafia movie loving friends and relatives and tell them they had to see this. Comparable in an extremely favorable way to the GODFATHERS and Scorsese's mob films this is the sort of crime epic that is wonderfully it's own thing. It carves out a crime story like what Hollywood has done but is different.

A word of warning, while not overly graphic the film is violent and ugly. There are several set pieces that will leave you talking to the screen.

This is an absolute winner and a film you are going to want to revisit.



Digital experiential film that begins as a discussion of a dog and goes to all sorts of interesting places. I have no idea what it means but I had a good time taking the trip

Split screen documentary about director Yihan Lin's time in a hotel during quarantine after returning to China. One side is her existence in the room the other is a view out her window or of the virtual animals she conjured up. Worth a look.

A dark and troubling look at the world today and how we are marching toward destruction.

A woman with one arm goes on a date with a man with one hand
A great romance and an exploration of the human condition. A wonderful surprise. I love these characters. I want to see what happens next. Can we get a a feature version? One of my favorite films of Slamdance and the year.

Thoughts on The Sleeping Negro (2021) Slamdance 2021

I suspect I am going to be crashing into this film for years to come. In all seriousness I suspect that I will be wrestling with THE SLEEPING NEGRO from this point on. I've already been wrestling with it off and on in the two weeks or so since I first saw it.

The film is the story of an angry black man (writer director Skinner Myers) who is adrift in his life. He is angry at the world and pained by what it is doing to him and making him do. Society sees him as a menace. His boss wants him to cook the books to close a big deal. His girlfriend isn't as loving as he thought. He struggles to retain his humanity even as life fills him with rage. What is he suppose to do?

My initial reaction to the film was to step away. This is a very confrontational film. It is a pained scream into the dark about life and the way it treats African Americans. I wasn't certain what I thought of the film, and because this is a confrontational world I decided not to review the film since I was afraid that someone would take offense at whatever I said about the film. 

However over time and as of the result of a discussion with a friend about Slamdance films where I gushed about all of the the good things the film was doing on a visceral level, I realized that I had to give the film another go and to write it up.  

While I can argue with some of the artistic choices writer director Skinner Myers made in putting the film together I can't argue with the emotional punch the film delivers. This is a film that hits you in the gut and forces you to engage with it on emotional and intellectual levels. Whether you like the film or hate it this is a film you have to take head on because it not only has a lot to say but it is also a film that has a lot to make you feel, really feel, much of it conflicting. It is a film that will make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

Yes, the film is a pained scream about race and the politics attached to it as well, Yes the film attempts to make audiences, regardless of racial background, feel the anger Myers' character is feeling but he also forces us to feel the brokenness of the emotions beyond anger. Myers' never wants us to forget or stop feeling that the rage is coming from a place of pain and of humanity. Through it all Myers is struggling to be a person and not fly off the handle despite what is happening to him. He swallows the pain. It's a towering performance of small gestures, shifted body weight and eye movements that keeps things real and in the moment, as if he is reacting to a situation he has just come upon and not written out. I only realized how good it was on a second viewing because it looks like Myers isn't doing anything.  The result  of it all is he and we are never allowed to simply give ourselves over to a cathartic explosion that would release the emotions. Myers instead tethers it to other emotions such as confusion, uncertainty and sadness. His character is also painfully aware of what the people around him are feeling and what exploding in a situation would do. We never fully get a release  of the anger because it is never one emotion but many. Nothing is black and white or gray, but multi-colored. 

Because Myers keeps it so amazingly complex his film becomes something greater than if this was just a blind scream into the void. Myers has created a character who is much more like us than any one in any other similar film because he is always coloring what he and we are feeling to make it more like real life. It is the complexity that is what makes this film a glorious challenge to get a handle on. More so than most filmmakers making films about race and related subjects Skinner Myers understands that life, unlike the movies, in not just one thing. Everything is bundled up together. We can not simply be one thing because we are many all at once. By presenting his character as feeling many things in key moments we are forced to really ponder what the film is trying to show us. It transcends what a typical Hollywood portrayal would be and becomes a living film.

For me seeing the film the first time I didn't know how to handle the complexity of what I was seeing. Its not a simple "well it isn't Hollywood therefore I'm confused." Rather this was a "This film is not going to sugar coat anything or dumb it down. It is going to show the complexity of real life". No one, not even the great masters, did that. Or no one did until Skinner Myers.

I am in awe of the emotional punch this film produces. As I said I have been haunted by this film for weeks  turning it over in my head and in conversations. I can't let the film go no matter how hard I try.

Do I think you will like the film? I don't know. Frankly I don't know how I feel about it. However as a living, breathing vital discussion of race and related matters the film is something that you have to see. This is a film that will produce a reaction, for good or bad. Not only will it will make you feel, it will make you think about things in ways you probably haven't done so before. When a film does that, when it produces a reaction as strongly as this one does, it is the not only a great work of art but the calling card of a great filmmaker.

MAN UNDER TABLE or: I’m Writing a Movie (2021) Slamdance 2021


Guy is trying to write a movie but keeps getting pulled into other projects or away from writing

Off kilter, self-depreciating and very mannered Man Under Table is either a film you either click with or you don’t. It’s a film that is very hard trying to be something quirky and whether that works for you is something I can’t guess.

For me it was a struggle from the get go. The instant that I saw two guys staring at each other in respirators in a mens room  just breathing at each other I kind of stepped back. The fact that Guy was so high strung and needed to be medicated didn’t win the film any points either. I know it’s a reaction to the world around him but then again no one is nuts as our hero.

And that’s a big problem for me with any film, you can’t give me someone I totally hate from the first frame. If there isn’t something I connect to I turn off. I hated Guy and found his fumblings increasingly stupid. I wanted to smack the living shit out of him.

The rest of the film is actually quite good, unfortunately we are focused on the worst part.

Some people may like the mannered comedy, I didn't

Slamdance Capsules: WHITE HORSE and URGES


Aman with an accordion has an encounter with a horse

Seemingly painted animated film is a visual delight. Full of blues and whites that blur and come together.

A small gem.

A candy colored exploration of our urges and the things that delight us. 

This is a wonderful two minute whirlwind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Portrait of a gay gang member and former hitman in an El Salvadorian prison. 

This is a very good film that reveals what it means to be gay in another country and in a incredibly macho and toxic place such as the prison.


While speaking with an evangelical exorcist the director attempts to come to terms with her past.

An intriguing idea doesn't fully come together. The problem is this is too much exorcist and found footage which results in a film that doesn't feel fully formed.

Based on the Exquisite corpse game this film is a series of short films randomly connected by the first and last word or each segment. The result is a wickedly wonderful head trip film. Its a glorious non sequitur of film that surprises as a result unexpected turns.

Highly recommended

Brief thoughts on A Family (2020) Slamdance 2021


A lonely man hires actors to reenact scenes from family life so that he can record them.

Off kilter comedy drama maybe too dry and knowing for some people. Very measured and very much of a certain feel this kind of feels like an Eastern European attempt at a Charlie Kaufman film. Its all low key and dry.

While I normally don't care for this sort of thing I found myself connecting to the action on screen. In an age where physical contact is frowned upon the desire to have a family and interact with people really hit home.

This is a small gem. Definitely worth a look during the Slamdance Film Fest

Sundance Capsules- DEA and HURRAH, WE ARE STILL ALIVE


Put together by numerous women, this is the story of an Indonesian woman who wants to go to Hong Kong in order to become a domestic worker. The result is an almost documentary like film that will open your what the women who want to better their lives have to go though.

This is a moving film that will make you think.


A commune of filmmakers awaits the return of their director, however over time one wonders if he is gone or still there.

Good but perhaps a bit too controlled film, never manages to shake the off the sense we are being manipulated. As a result I never connected with the film and while I can admire the film on a technical level it never  I never did more than like it.

Brief word on Alice Fades Away (2021) which hits VOD today


A young woman flees into the country. She is taken in by a family and made one of their own. Unfortunately a bad man from er past comes calling.

Good little drama  isn't anything we haven't seen before (the plot is similar to any number of other films), however it is entertaining. Beautifully acted  the performances suck us in and make us want to hang in there until the end because we care about the characters. That may sound like much but in an age when we multitask and barely pay attention ALICE FADES AWAY makes us watch and care

Worth a look.

The 2021 Oxford Film Festival announces film lineup for 18th edition (March 24-28, April 1-30)

 Ambitious hybrid fest will screen more than 150 films in an open-air outdoor theater, drive-ins, and a full month of virtual screenings

 Oxford, MS (February 15, 2021) – The 2021 Oxford Film Festival (March 24-28, April 1-30) announced the lineup of official selections for the 18th annual edition of the popular film festival which will be a hybrid presentation including an open-air outdoor theater, drive-ins, and a full month of virtual screenings. The premiere-rich schedule will showcase 158 films, including 33 features (15 narrative and 18 documentary), 115 short films (narrative, documentary, LGBTQIA+, ambition and experimental, student, and Mississippi-based productions), 19 music videos, and 11 projected art works, as well as 5 scripts selected for audience vote to win $1000 and mentorship by producer John Norris (Ma, Get On Up).

On March 24-28, screenings will be held all in the Oxord Commons area in two specially designed open-air circus tents, Malco Outdoor Cinema and a special drive-in at the Oxford High School. From April 1-30, Virtual Cinema screenings will be offered via Eventive globally.

 The Oxford Film Festival is taking the lead in procedures, measures, and protocols to prioritize the safety of its staff, attending filmmakers and film fans, but also understand the need to allay any fears or concerns the community might have with attending an event like the film festival. 

“As we continue to prepare for next month’s film festival, we want to be very clear about the aggressive steps we are taking in order to make our film festival safe so our patrons can begin to get back to enjoying the movie going experience in the company of other people again,” said Executive Director Melanie Addington. “Therefore, we are being very careful with a measured approach utilizing the open-air theater we have designed specifically for this purpose - with safety always first, so we all can enjoy one of the best group of films we have ever had this year. We have spent the past year safely providing films via drive-in and will include that experience in this year’s festival. We will monitor COVID and weather concerns and will make changes as needed closer to the event.” 

Joining the previously announced Spotlight films including Anne Rapp’s documentary Horton Foote: The Road to Home, and Olivia Peace’s wry coming-of-age comedy Tahara, are Special Screenings including a 35th Anniversary of Mississippi native Jim Henson’s classic favorite, Labyrinth. The David Bowie, Jennifer Connolly starrer about a teenage girls challenge to save her little brother from the Goblin King will only be available for in-person attendees.

 Vanessa Roth’s Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses, about veterans of WWII describing their experiences in the war and showing the parallels to challenges we face today is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Oxford and will be presented with a panel of documentary filmmakers discussing use of archival footage at the physical festival. 

Regarding the Narrative features in Oxford’s lineup this year, programmer Greta Hagen-Richardson, said, “The events of the past year have required that filmmakers and festivals alike find creative and innovative avenues for storytelling. With a Narrative Feature lineup composed almost exclusively of filmmaker submissions, we spent the year truly embracing our role as a Discovery festival. Our filmmakers have taken limited resources and made exciting, fresh, and compelling work for our audience. The unique perspectives presented speak to who we are as a community in a time when circumstances have forced us to exist separately.”

 Among the films selected for the Narrative Competition include the previously announced Dramarama, directed by Jonathan Wysocki, Megan Petersen and Hannah Black’s Drought, and I-Fan Wang’s Get the Hell Out. Joining those films in competition are; Michael Lovan’s Murder Bury Win, about three friends who have created a unique board game; Jake Mahaffy’s Reunion, (and Memphis producer Adam Hohenberg) a terrifying tale about a pregnant woman’s experiences after returning to her recently deceased grandparents' family home to spend time with her estranged mother; and Lisette Feliciano’s Women is Losers, a 60s tale which follows a young catholic school girl’s efforts to survive her difficult home life. 

“Oxford’s legendary eclectic culture is reflected in this year’s documentary feature selection providing films for any audience member, in-person or online, said Director of Programming, Donna Kosloskie. “Highlighting LGBTQIA+, and Music and Mississippi stories, the lineup also touches on issues of social justice, community and the power of creativity. An array of internationally renowned festival films and regional premieres round out this collection of progressive, nonfiction storytelling ensuring that the visions and voices on display are just as bold as Oxford itself.”

 Among the films selected for the Documentary Competition include; David Delaney Mayer’s The Castle on Red Mountain about sculptor Robert Mihaly who, after 10 years, is returning to finish his biggest project to date: a whimsical 70-foot-high castle; Nathan Clarke’s The Passing On, which follows an undertaker’s efforts to pass along the legacy of Black funeral homes in San Antonio; and Cassie Hay and Amy Winston’s Queens of Pain, which follows the women of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League; and Rebecca Richman Cohen’s Weed & Wine, which looks at the compar­isons and contradictions between France’s revered winemaking traditions and the the legal cannabis industry.

 Also available only in person is Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield’s Without Getting Killed or Caught, which tells the true story of legendary songwriter Guy Clark, who wrote songs while balancing a complicated relationship marriage with his wife, Suzanna, and his friend, singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.

 Highlights among the expanded LGBTQIA+ program at the Oxford Film festival this year are; Lisa Donato’s festival favorite, Gossamer Folds, about a young boy with an unhappy home life seeks solace in an unexpected friendship with a transgender woman who lives next door; Eytan Fox’s Sublet, about a New York Times writer who goes to Tel Aviv to write an article on the heels of a personal tragedy.; Luchina Fisher’s Mama Gloria, about Chicago’s Black transgender icon Gloria Allen; and Aisling Chin-yee and Chase Koynt’s No Ordinary Man, which looks at the legacy of Billy Tipton, a 20th Century American jazz musician and trans icon.

Virtual only special screenings include Posy Dixon’s Keyboard Fantasies; The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, which focuses on the black trans musician following the rediscovery of his 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies and Ryan Spahn’s Nora Highland, which follows the casting process of a notable gay character in an upcoming Broadway revival. A virtual panel discussion on queer representation in movies will follow the screening of Nora Highland. 

The first ever feature for the Projections category includes the world premiere of Scott Bateman’s animated experimental feature film 5000 Space Aliens and will be presented on the Malco Commons outdoors on Friday night for free alongside other select Projections projects. Other films in the category will be exhibited the entire week of the festival at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center for free. Audience can walk up or drive by to participate. 

To buy passes or tickets or find more information, please go to:

 Tickets are now on sale for both physical and virtual screenings. Closing night screenings and panel discussions will be announced at a later date. COVID-19 restrictions and rules are listed on the website.

 2021 Oxford Film Festival’s Official Selections

Taipei Suicide Story (2021)

 One of the best films at Slamdance TAIPEI SUICIDE STORY is an absolute must see. 

This is the story of the desk clerk at a suicide hotel who meets one of the guests who hasn't left. What happens is a beautiful if heart breaking story.

I can't say enough good about this film. This is a perfectly modulated story that is beautifully acted and very real. We feel the emotions bleed off the screen. We love everyone on screen. 

Running around 45 minutes this film is a perfect example of why you make a film as long as you need to tell your story. I love this film did what it had to and got  off. The result is we have one of the best films of the year.

I was moved in all the right ways by this film. 

This is an absolute must see at Slamdance or where ever you can. 

Progressive Touch (2020) Slamdance 2021

 Three couples, two men, two women and a man and a woman, have sex/dance to the beat of dance song.

Sexually graphic (as in adults only) short is going to provoke a reaction based on how you are when in comes to depictions of sex.  Prudes clearly need not apply. On the other hand if you are open minded concerning sex this is an interesting experiment that kind of makes you wonder what sort of dance choreography we may see in the future.

The film is essentially a dance number but with sex included. I don’t know if it has any meaning as anything other than an experiment into something most of us haven’t run across before. Is it any good?

Personally its an interesting footnote. Once I was half way through I was pretty much done. I wasn’t getting anything from it. I mean that as in intellectually. I didn’t find it particularly erotic.

Worth a look for the curious but all others need not apply

Brief word on Mia Misses Her Revenge (2021) Slamdance 2021

Mia's break-up with her boyfriend is unpleasant. Wanting nothing more than to get revenge she ends up connecting with many other women.

Good little drama nicely doesn't follow the movie rules. Taking things in cinematically unexpected ways the film delights by playing things a bit closer to real. 

This is a nice little film and worth a look

Monday, February 15, 2021

Code Name: Nagasaki (2021) Slamdance 2021

Director Fredrick Hana makes films starring his friend Marius. Marius is half Swedish and half Japanese, his father having met his mother on a trip to Japan. Years after his mother abandoned the family and cut off all connection, the two men decide to try and find Marius' mother.

Wonderfully atypical documentary mixes a love of the movies, the film shifts styles, with a genuine desire to solve a mystery. Its a glorious mix that makes the film something special, not to mention something that stands out. I say that it stands out because my one thought watching the film was a sadness that I wasn't seeing it with an audience since I wanted to talk to a people abut the film.

This is a really good film and I recommend it.

Everyone Wants To Be The Next Weismann (2020) Slamdance 2021

This is a film about a man haunted by artist Richard Weismann. He was some one that art collector Martin Solo had collected but had never promoted properly and now has huge regrets over. As a result now that he is opening his private museum up to the public he is pushing his latest favorite Mu Pan.

This film is a portrait of artist Pan,  collector Solo and the art world itself. Its an exploration of how so much art is being created and ending up in private collections, museums and storage facilities and not seen by anyone. As Solo says at one part art needs to be seen and confronted not locked away.

This is a breezy hour long film that probably could have been a little longer. Say what you will this film moves a little too much like the wind with the result that I was glad I was watching this at home because I could stop the film and really look at some of the art that blew by. It also allowed me to take rewind and catch one or two things I thought I missed. (Sorry I was looking too hard at some of the spectacular art I tuned out some of the words)

As someone who gets flooded with art docs every year, and who can be picky as a result, I had a blast with this film. I love when a film opens up my eyes to work I’ve never seen before and also peels back the layers of a subject I thought I knew. EVERYBODY does that with the art world and I think I’m better for it.

This is a wonderful film. Recommended to anyone who loves art or just a great doc

Workhorse Queen (2021) Slamdance 2021

 Loving portrait of Ed Popeil who performs as Kasha Davis.  Davis was a contestant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race and it sent her career into the stratosphere.

I have a really big problem with WORKHORSE QUEEN and that is it is so good I don’t have anything to say about it.  I mean this is good time with a great person. Its kind of like going to dinner with a great raconteur and just sitting there not really eating your meal because you are just so wrapped up in listening you forget to eat. While I did sit there and have popcorn, I was so focused on the film and Davis‘ ups and downs that I didn’t take any notes. I just let the film play out smiling the whole time.

While that isn’t much a person looking for a pull quote to hang their hat on about what the film is, it is an absolute rave because it means the film did everything it was supposed to which was inform, entertain and win over my heart. What a wonderful thing.

Highly recommended

Poise (2021) Slamdance 2021

A man refuses to make a decision and time freezes causing all sorts of weirdness.

Awesome animated film has some truly thought provoking  as well as disturbing  images. I wasn’t certain why we were seeing multiple images of things and then I realized it was because of all the possibilities of something happening.

As a fan of animation art I was blown away by the way the faces were animated. There is a real style and beauty to it that really rocked my world. From aesthetic point of view.

Definitely worth a look. 

The Bin (2020) Slamdance 2021

A father of a deaf son doesn’t want him to use sign language but instead he wants him to speak instead.

The struggle of generations as to what is best for them. The father wants his son to fit in however his son wants what will work for him.

This is a very good little film about what it means to have a disability and a parent who thinks they know what is best for their children