Monday, May 31, 2021

The Mahoning Drive-In Theater's screening of DAWN OF THE DEAD was.... disappointing

Built in 1947 and welcoming visitors since 1948, The Mahoning Drive-in has become legendary in the last few years since it decided it couldn't afford to convert to digital and it would struggle forward as a retro drive-in and only running 35mm films. Everyone thought it wouldn't work but the  move was a success and the theater has carved out a niche showing various series ( say the recent Zombie Fest which is in its 7th year) and having special events (Joe Bob Briggs will be there for several days in July). And while the theater won't put it forward, they have been successful enough that they now have a digital projector.

My brother Joe and I have been aware of the theater for a while now but we just didn't get there until this past week when they ran a 4K restoration of the original DAWN OF THE DEAD.  DAWN is Joe's favorite film. He has loved the film ever since we saw it at the Westbury Drive-in on the original opening night. With stars Gaylen  Ross and Scott H Reiniger being there we had to go.

The theater is an absolutely huge screen  on the edge of a field in the middle of a rural area, There is a snack bar/projection booth in the middle of the field looking like it was randomly dropped in the middle of a field.  Forward of the front row is a small shack that I believe is where the digital projector is. You feel more like you are on a farm than in a theater. It makes for a one a kind viewing experience that makes it feel like being at a fiends house.

When we arrived we parked on the front row to one side and then went off to look around. 

Ms Ross and Mr Reiniger were signing at a tent next to the snack bar. The lines to meet them were very long all evening as people went up to get signatures and photos. They and the people meeting them were very nice.

Joe and I watched people cycle through the signing lines for a while  and then wandered off hoping it would die down and we could slip in and get an autograph. (it never did). We bought some raffle tickets then went to the snack bar for  a dinner of burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and mozzarella sticks. We spent the rest of the evening talk between us and the gentleman next to us who looked like our Uncle Alan but had driven up from Florida for the weekend.

Before the film they ran a reel of 35mm George Romero zombie film trailers. They ran trailers for all the films in the series except for that nights films. They also ran the trailers for Tom Savini's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and Zack Snyder's remake of DAWN.

And then it was show time....and it was just okay. While DAWN remains a classic the presentation was less than optimal.

Even in adjusting the picture it didn't seem bright

I don't know why but the projector bulb used for the projection of  DAWN OF THE DEAD was woefully dim. It was so bad during the first half of the film that many darker  sequences were almost devoid of detail. 

How devoid? When the zombie bites the woman in the hall way and you see the flesh rip away, but it was invisible in shadow. When the one legged priest comes out of the room with the dead we couldn't see that his leg was a crutch. Any daylight sequences looked like they were shot at night. 

It was so bad  that much of Joe's conversation was focused on the technical issues of just how off the illumination was.(He was going into great detail about how off it was and what the correct ratio of projector light to ambient light should be) It bothered him so badly that he got out of the car and walked around the drive in to see if it was simply a problem with the angle of where our car was, It was not,

Yes in the second half the image magically improved, but it still was not bright. It was almost as a bright as the trailer reel which seemed a bit dim itself (though in fairness the sun still hadn't fully set). 

Both Joe and I were disappointed. Admittedly part of the reason for our disappointment is the result of seeing the April Ghouls at the Riverside Drive-in about four weeks earlier. There, the images were sharp and bright, even in a rain storm. (With rain predicted for the next three nights of Zombie Fest I don't want to think about what the images looked like.)

Would be go to the Mahoning again? Yes. But it would depend on the movie, and it would depend if it was listing as digital. I don't want to risk seeing a digital film at the theater.

I should point out that one some level I don't know how many people cared. I have no clue how many were there to see the movies and how many are there to just hang out. A large number of filmgoers seemed to know each other and be there more for a social outing than the film. In many ways this seemed to be more a party than a film screening. Being some one who love film as a social event I am all for it. However this time out I was there for the film and it was disappointing.

Caveat (2020) hits Shudder June 3


A  down on his luck man, suffering from amnesia, is offered a job by a rich friend.  All he has to do is watch is spend a few days watching his niece. She has mental issues, she isn't dangerous but she needs to be watched until someone more permanent can be found. It sounds like an easy job, but as he travels to the job he finds that there are caveats. The first the home is on an island. The second he is going to have to wear a harness attached to a chain that will allow him to go anywhere in the house, except the young woman's room.

I really loved this film and I'm really pissed that I can't really talk about what happens. Yea I can tell you how it starts, but I can't tell you anything after that. The reason is that we are dealing with a film that is all about changing reality. Our hero has no memory and isn't certain of a lot. His charge has mental issues so we can't be certain of what she says...and then there are the real reasons behind everything...

This is one of the creepiest films I'm seen in a long time. It all feels wrong, in the best way. Hell it has one of the creepiest stuffed animals you'll ever see. 

What I love is that is the film never resorts to blood and gore for shock effects.. Who needs gore when you have mood.... CAVEAT has mood to burn. This is a film that sets a disturbing tone and then carries it forward. Few film manage to create such a sense of place and of dread. Its so tactile you'll want to scrape it off your body. 

You need to see this film. You need to experience it and have your skin crawl.

CAVEAT hits Shudder June 3 nd is highly recommended.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Nightcap 5/30/21 The Brooklyn Film Festival starts this week, Movie Rules, NCIS season finales

In what is almost certainly the last Nightcap until after Tribeca some random pieces.
The Brooklyn Film Festival starts this week. It's a hybrid of in person and virtual screenings. 

Normally I would cover a number of films but that won't be the case this year. The shifting nature of life and commitments are keeping me to only a couple of titles That is not an indication about the films or the festival - both are great- it only means that I don't have the time to do it right.

Do yourself a favor and get tickets to something- anything- it will be time well spent.


Going back through some old posts I discovered a couple rules concerning movies

Not long after I started Unseen and when I was attending my first film at my first Tribeca I came up with THE BURIED LAND RULE which was if you are watching a questionable film and you think the only way a film can be made better is to have someone "walk into a minefield" it will never happen so just get up and go home.  It's so named for a film that had a great first 15 minutes then went off the rails before I kept hoping someone would walk into the minefields that littered the landscape. 

Mondocurry's manga/anime test was devised when he reviewed ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM at Fantasia. He had argued that the reason manga/anime adaptions tend not to work when made into live action films is that they never transcend their origins. The films remain primarily of interest to fans of the source because:

1: They are made with the fan base in mind and don't explain enough for the non-fan to get it
2. The films remain episodic in structure and don't become one unified tale.
If a manga/anime film is to work you have to be able to walk off the street and be able to follow it. Additionally the film has to feel like its one story not a series of chapters with fade out every couple of minutes.


The  season ending of NCIS: LA was sweet. It was so nice that everyone was on the show. It was even nicer that there was no tragedies and upheavals. With all the pain and suffering they have had at the end of the last few seasons it was nice that it was happy.

The end of NCIS: New Orleans was bittersweet. I think the series just hit its stride and it's over. While the last few episodes seem contrived as they raced to finish a plot line that would have extended into next season, it was still good.. I could argue this maybe the best bunch of agents. It was also a very sad with Pride's mom in terminal stages of her illness and the probable death of Sasha Broussard. I really wish this had continued.

Lastly Season 18 of NCIS has ended and I’m kind of yawning.

Its not that I don’t care about the characters, I do, rather I think the writing  this season has been awful. None of it feels natural.

The whole plot line involving Fornell’s daughter and drugs never worked because of how it was put into the series. Additionally the turns of the whole plot line felt manipulated, its as if they decided to kill her off and then marched to that. It’s like when they killed off Clayton because they didn’t know what to do with him.

While there was foreshadowing of the Bishop turn the rushing through getting her out of the way in the last episode was way too rushed.

And as for the Gibbs story line, things felt off before but it’s clear they had no f-ing clue as to what to do with him once they put him on suspension. While it was interesting to see him with Pam Dawber it always felt contrived as if it was a victory lap that they didn’t know how to take.  

The blowing up of the boat  and the swimming off of Gibbs was a mixed blessing- no I didn’t want to see him go, but if you’re going to kill him kill him. I’m not so sure about the whole serial killer bugging them twist.

And as for the new girl- One episode isn’t enough to know. Her popping in for the last episode didn't seal the deal

I’ll watch next year- though I think it may have jumped the shark.

For Lucio (2021) Open Roads 2021


Portrait of singer Lucio Dalla focusing on his rise to fame in the mid 1960's on through the 1970's.

This is an okay biography of a singer I only had a passing familiarity with via the recordings played by Italian relatives. Its a film that mixes a good number of period interviews and footage of Dalla with a couple of interviews with two key people who knew him. The result is a mixed bag that keeps us at arms length. 

The problem is that by keeping the interview pool tiny what we know is limited. Yes we see a great deal but we aren't told all that much with the result being that we simply don't really get any sense of Dalla the man. I was disappointed

While I loved the music and ended up  with some CD's of his music, I think I could have gotten more information abut the man from the liner notes from a CD collection of Dalla's music.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Big Bear Film Summit 2021 announces film lineup and honoree for June fest in the mountains


The 2nd Annual Big Bear Film Summit Announces Film Lineup for Hybrid Film Festival (June 11-June 27) 

Lane Michael Stanley’s ADDICT NAMED HAL is the Opening Night selection and Sri Charan’s HALF & HALF makes its World Premiere.

Casting Director Mary Jo Slater will receive the Big Bear Film Summit Lifetime Achievement Award

 Los Angeles, CA (May 27, 2020) — The 2nd Annual Big Bear Film Summit (June 11-27) announced the film lineup for this year’s hybrid presentation with the theme of “A New Hope”, which lead into the festival’s highly anticipated in-person screenings at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center (39707 Big Bear Blvd.) the weekend of June 25-27. Lane Michael Stanley’s Addict Named Hal will be the film festival’s first in-theater Opening Night Selection, and BBFS will make its first in-person Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to legendary Casting Director Mary Jo Slater headlining the Filmmaker Awards at Big Bear Bar and Grill (42164 Moonridge Rd.) to close out the film festival.

Created to encourage artistic production in and around Big Bear Lake, California, the Big Bear Film Summit is eagerly looking forward to the opportunity to present a “physical” film festival, following its virtual debut last year. Despite the fact that the inspiration for the film festival was to re-introduce the Big Bear Lake area to filmmakers as a location shoot draw, the success of that initial virtual outing did lure at least four film productions to shoot in the area.

“We could not be more excited to finally be able to welcome filmmakers, film artists, and industry veterans to the beautiful locale of Big Bear Lake to enjoy and discover great films, have discussions about their work and about the art of filmmaking in this amazing setting. Last year was a wonderful warm up for what we have planned this year, but ultimately, it was just that: a warm up,” said BBFS Executive Director Michael P. Hanson.

BBFS CEO Gabriel Horn, added, “So many people – not just filmmakers and others in the film industry – have a new hope right now as we work our way back from the pandemic, so we thought it would be a great theme for this year’s edition of the Big Bear Film Summit. However, a constant is the quality of the films we have selected for BBFS. Only this year we will have the great pleasure of hosting our attending filmmakers and film fans against the backdrop of this gorgeous and historically Hollywood-friendly area.”

Made possible in great extent thanks to Visit Big Bear, Big Bear Film Summit will feature film competition categories including: U.S. Narrative and Documentary Features and Shorts, International Narrative and Documentary Features and Shorts, Experimental and Animated Shorts, Student Shorts, Music Videos, and a Screenplay Competition.

 Kicking things off with Big Bear Film Summit’s Green Carpet Entrances will be the Opening Night selection of Lane Michael Stanley’s critically acclaimed Addict Named Hal. Following the film’s debut at the Santa Barbara FF, the film follows the difficult coming-of-age of a girl as her drinking has landed her at a halfway house. After connecting with the other residents, she decides to give recovery a try. While those new relationships open the door to her facing the reality of her problem, her addiction might now be putting everyone in the house in danger. Promising young filmmaker Lane Michael Stanley is expected to attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A.

Responsible for discovering countless actors and actresses that are now considered household names, legendary casting director Mary Jo Slater will receive the inaugural Big Bear Film Summit Lifetime Achievement Award during the Filmmaker Awards presentation on Sunday, June 27. With over 100 movie credits to her name, Slater won an Emmy Award for her work on Miracle on 42nd Street, as well as receiving multiple nominations for The Tudors (2007), The Starter Wife (2007), Elvis (2005), and Traffic (2004). Slater will participate in a brief “Conversation on Film” during her award presentation on Sunday, June 27.

 Additional highlights among the narrative features include the world premiere of Sri Charan’s Half and Half. The inventive, dialogue free film follows the bond created between a homeless man with musical talent and an abused wife over a grocery store’s sweepstakes contest. Charlotte Wincott’s The Issue with Elvis also presents an unlikely pairing. A retired botanist who lives in a cabin in the mountains in West Virginia happens upon a runaway boy who is living in a broken-down school bus on the grounds of an abandoned amusement park. The man struggles with the dilemma between wanting to help the boy by providing a temporary, safe place to live, and feeling the moral obligation to return him to his rightful home. Dorie Barton’s Welcome to the Show is a thought-provoking drama where four college buddies go down a rabbit hole of mistrust and confusion after they make the fateful decision to accept an invitation to participate in a mysterious theatre piece. Dorie Barton and producer Scott Taylor will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A.

On the documentary front, highlights include; Jeremy Norrie’s Alpine Zoos and You which focuses on the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which, after 60 years, preps for a move to a new facility; Chris Hite and Dennis Ford’s Firestorm '77 The True Story of the Honda Canyon Fire     which escalated due to a conflict between the people fighting the fire and the military, who impeded that effort due to a desire to protect military secrets. The film won a Central Coast Filmmaking Award at this year’s San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Cassie Hay and Amy Winston’s   Queens of Pain is a crowd pleasing portrait of the athletes of Gotham Girls Roller Derby League in New York City, and Sabrina Van Tassel’s The State of Texas vs. Melissa explores the experience Melissa Lucio has gone through as the first Hispanic woman to be sentenced to death in the state of Texas. 

In addition to the film screenings and events presented both in-person and virtually, the Big Bear Film Summit will also bring back its screenwriting competition, as the film festival builds on its efforts to promote new filmmakers and call attention to new talent. 

To purchase passes, tickets, and find additional information, please go to:

Big Bear Film Summit 2021 Official Film Selections


Brief thoughts on ASSANDIRA 2020 Open Roads 2021


In the aftermath of a terrible fire at his son's farm, Costantino tries to explain how it all happened and the complex relationships that caused it.

This heavy drama is a look at Sardinia and the changing face of Europe. It is based upon a novel written by an anthropologist who studied the islands customs and is one of the islands greatest novelists. It is a film that is beautifully made and seriously acted.  It is a film with a great deal to say.

Unfortunately it it is a film trying too hard to be about something. From the opening sequence of the aftermath of the fire with its perfectly framed images and voice over narration the film lets us know that we are in art house territory. I don't have anything against the art house but I have always chaffed against any film that feels less like life and more like artifice.

This isn't to say ASSANDIRA is bad, it's not. Its a film that has a compelling story that made me sit unmoving because I wanted to see how it came out. The problem is I was never fully engaged and felt like I was at arms length the whole time.

Worth a look for those who are interested.

Friday, May 28, 2021

JB on Mr Jones (2020) which is playing the NY Polish Film Festival 2021

In times of crisis, some reporters set a valiant standard of professionalism, while others cravenly betray their commitment to the truth and free expression. Do not count on the journalistic establishment to accurately identify the former or the latter. Today, Walter Duranty is widely recognized as a willing stooge, who knowingly covered up Stalin’s genocidal crimes. Yet, the Pulitzer board refuses to rescind his Pulitzer Prize and his old employer, the New York Times has declined to return it. Gareth Jones exposed the Ukrainian Holodomor, the deliberate, systemic starvation of millions of Ukrainian—the very story Duranty tried to hide from the world. Agnieszka Holland (who was imprisoned in Czechoslovakia and exiled from her native Poland) tells the Welsh journalist’s tragic-heroic story in Mr. Jones.

Initially, Jones did not come to Moscow to dig up dirt on the Communist system. The plan was to secure an interview with Stalin, in hopes of convincing the dictator to open a second front against the newly ascendant Hitler (alas, Germany and the USSR would sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact four years after the events of this film). However, when Jones arrives in Moscow, he finds his (fictionalized) good friend Paul Kleb (a transparent reference to Paul Klebnikov, the Forbes journalist suspiciously murdered while investigating Putin) has been killed by petty street crime (in the workers’ paradise), according to Duranty, through whom the Soviets grant or withhold western journalists’ access.

The last time Jones spoke to Kleb, he mentioned a potentially explosive scoop. In short order, Duranty’s German colleague Ada Brooks confirms the open secret of widespread Ukrainian famine, but she counsels Jones to go along, to get along. Instead, he risks his life and liberty to investigate the Ukrainian genocide first-hand.

Mr. Jones is very much a historical expose, in the tradition of Holland’s masterwork, The Burning Bush, but in many ways, it also functions as a gripping thriller. Viewers can almost literally feel the eyes of the early surveillance state on them as Jones secretly pursues the truth. At times, Holland and production designer Gregorz Piatkowski make 1930s Moscow literally resemble the dystopia of 1984. Clearly, this is deliberate, since Holland flashforwards to George Orwell writing Animal Farm (inspired by Jones’ reports) as a recurring motif.

James Norton is well-cast as Jones, convincingly conveying his initial naiveté and idealism, as well as his profound revulsion and righteous outrage. Yet, the real horror comes from Peter Sarsgaard’s chillingly calculated Duranty. You will be hard-pressed to find a more unsettling film villain—and he is scrupulously based on a real-life (Pulitzer Prize-winning) figure. Sargaard’s performance and Holland’s depiction of the Holodomor largely overshadow much of the film, but as Brooks, Vanessa Kirby still has some memorable moments, late in the third act.

Screenwriter Andrea Chalupa (who wrote and directed the excellent short documentary, Stalin’s Secret Genocide) shrewdly shapes the well-constructed narrative. This is a tense, suspenseful, and surprisingly literate film. It also blasts out a much-needed cannon-shot of truth. Even to this day, Russian nationalists and Putinists still deny the truth of the Holodomor and the journalistic establishment continues to sweep Duranty’s duplicity under the rug. Yet, Holland and Chalupa do not merely expose journalistic malpractice. They really cut to the heart of the matter when a skeletal Ukrainian woman explains to Jones: “They are killing us. Millions gone. Men came and thought they could replace the natural laws.” (It is not clear from the closing credits who plays her, but her brief work is devastating.)

Mr. Jones vividly illustrates the potential dangers to democracy when journalists start with their ideological conclusions and tailor their reports accordingly. Indeed, the contempt Duranty and Brooks express for the notion of objectivity sounds eerily similar to what we are hearing today. Perhaps Holland is not entirely objective herself, but her direct observation and lived-experience of the Soviet Socialist era informs her filmmaking in very personal and relevant ways. This is a powerful film that leaves viewers in a state of deep disquiet. Very highly recommended, 

Prospect (2018) Special Edition DVD releases May 28

A father and daughter drop down off a space ship in orbit around a green moon in order to score some alien gems before the ship leaves forever. Things become complicated when they are confronted by another prospector and the hostile environment.

Expanding their short writers and directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl have made a good little film that is going to confuse those wanting a full on space opera . This is truly a western set in space. Take off the space suits and drop everyone in the America west and this would be a western where Jimmy Stewart would be at home. The science fiction trappings are just that trappings. This is a western that is a blood relative to the more serious films that Stewart, Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck were making in the late 50's and early 60's. It is actually a film that deserves the serious moniker of a space western more than the Hammer misfire MOON ZERO TWO.

Deliberately paced, PROSPECT takes its time spinning out it's tale setting up the characters and the world the film operates in. It is clear that the directors know the world and the technology that is in their film and unlike most other science fiction films there are no annoying questions where we have to go "but what about..." We are in a fully realized world. (and lived in there are signs of people and life where there needs to be- like smudges on a window)

PROSPECT as a whole film is a solid little tale. While there is no doubt the film can be a little slow and the film shows signs of fatigue from the expansion, it is still a really good western that keeps it all real and believable. What I liked about the film was 20 minutes in I wanted to see the film again simply because Caldwell and Earl's mixing up of genres as resulted in a film that played with my expectations. I thought I knew what the film was going to be and it ended up being something else.

Beginning it's theatrical run next Friday and expanding over the net couple of weeks PROSPECT is a film that is worth searching out, especially if you are tired of big brainless Hollywood science fiction films or miss old school westerns but don't mind a clever variation on the theme or as setting a a bit farther to the west than any other film.

PROSPECT plays at the Ithaca Fantastik tomorrow and hits theaters and Digital platforms next Friday

Punta Sacra (2020) Open Roads 2021

Portrait of Ostia, south of Rome. Over the years a loose enclave sprung up, however the real estate vale has gone up and the government officials want to move everyone out, however the residents don't want to go. Director Francesca Mazzoleni embedded in the community and presents a portrait of a close knit community desperately trying to hold back the world.

Loving and lovely look at life being lived. This is a love letter to a group of people who love their homes and don't want to leave. This isn't a documentary with a point as such, it is not telling you a story with a beginning middle and end, rather it is simply time with a bunch of good people. This is the cinematic equivalent to wandering into Ostia and just talking to the people you meet there.

Its good time with good people.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Supernova (2019) NY PolishFilm Festival 2021


I decided to see SUPERNOVA because Liz Whittemore had a strong reaction to it. She had been rocked by the film and when I got a chance I decided to take a look and see what all the shouting was about.

The plot of the film has a young woman fleeing her drunken lout of a husband. She has taken her kids and run off down the road.  He staggers after her but she still heads off. Anguished he staggers about for a few minutes before a car stops to ask directions. He tries to get in so he can chase down the woman he loves, however the man speeds off.  As the man collapses we hear the sound of a tragedy as the car runs over the woman and children. What follows is a portrait of how one tragedy affects a community.

A gut wrenching 80 minutes, SUPERNOVA will have you staring at the screen with its portrait of real life. Authorities try to save lives, people gawk, others get angry and the driver attempts to get out of trouble.  We aren’t watching characters but people we know. If you’ve ever seen a car accident this is very similar to how things play out.

In its way it is less a film than a portrait of society. Yes there is story but what is of interest, at least to me is the interaction of  all of the people. How do they react when this tragedy touches them, some people have no connection except being inconvenienced, some are related to the victims, others are pressed into service by a government official trying to save his ass. It’s a cross section of society in a small point of pressure.

This is a film that will haunt you. It’s a film that will make you think, not just about what is happening but also about how we would react in similar circumstances.

I was rocked.

SUPERNOVA is a small gem and is recommended

Julia Scotti Funny That Way (2020) hits VOD June 1

Incredibly lovely and loving portrait of comedian Julia Scotti, who was born as Rick. Rick had successful career as a stand up comic  but realized he still wasn't happy. Then  in her later 40's she realized what  was wrong with her life and decided to change from being Rick and become her true self, Julia.

JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY came across my desk at exactly the wrong time. My father had passed a short time before, I was declining covering films left and right and really wasn't in the mood to see anything. For some reason I clicked on the link for the trailer and it made me smile. There was something warm and sweet about the film and about Julia which perked me up so I agreed to take a look at the film.

What an absolute joy. What an absolutely magnificent portrait of one woman trying to find her happiness and bringing everyone along with her. To be honest the road was hard, marriages broke up, Scotti was estranged from her children for years and things happened, but in the end it seems, that she has found a place  where she can be happy.

The  film opens with Julia talking about how her story doesn't really matter, but it really does. Julia's story matters because in watching her go from Rick to Julia we see a beautiful story of how, if we are lucky, we too can change ourselves and our worlds for the better by following our hearts. Watching the old video and film of Rick you can see how he was shlumphy and self deprecating. You can see the sadness behind his eyes. On the other hand watching Julia now, interacting with people and performing you can see how much better she is being herself. The sadness is gone, as is the self-eviscerating  humor and it is replaced with smiles and jokes that have a warmth to them. Say what you will Julia is so much funnier.

What I love about the film is it leaves me wanting more. Not just more of the story, but it makes me want to track Julia down and just hang out with her. I want some of her joy of life to come my way. I want to go to a diner and shoot the breeze and catch up on old times- despite never having met her before. That the film does this is a testament to not only Julia but director Susan Sandler who has made not so much a film  but a personal introduction via bear hug. It's as if she has invited us over for lunch with someone one we "just had to meet" because she knew we'd be great friends. She was right and after watching the film I feel as though I now have a great friend whom I've never met.

I absolutely love this film and it's subject to pieces.

Highly recommended on the level of this is going to be "one of your most cherished films of the year" level, JULIA SCOTTI is  hitting VOD on June 1

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Lake Travis Film Festival announces full lineup of films and events for June in-person fest

 Lake Travis Film Festival’s lineup will take off on June 10th with “Space Out” Opening Night Showcase  featuring Sevgi Hirschhäuser’s Toprak and Matt Richmond’s  Brauhaus: A German-American Fairytale and include a special workshop appearance by screenwriter J.V. Hart 

Scott Wiper’s The Big Ugly is the Closing Night selection

Bee Cave/Lakeway, TX (May 26, 2021) – The Lake Travis Film Festival’s 2nd edition is set to open in two weeks (June 10-13). The experiential festival celebrating independent cinema in beautiful Hill Country, just west of Austin, will kick off with an ambitious “Space Out” Opening Night Showcase with Sevgi Hirschhäuser’s Toprak, Matt Richmond’s Brauhaus: A German-American Fairytale, multiple short film programs and a special screenwriting workshop with noted screenwriter/producer J. V. Hart (Hook, Contact, Bram Stoker’s Dracula).

The four-day in-person film festival will present a film lineup with a decidedly international flavor that will showcase films featuring a wide assortment of genres, styles, and topics. LTFF also will firmly confirm itself as an event dedicated to female filmmakers, young filmmaker showcases, a music video showcase, a special animation presentation, and more screenings, fun events, and after parties in various popup locations throughout the cities of Bee Cave and Lakeway, Texas. 

Lake Travis Film Festival Founder and Executive Director, Kat Albert, said, “Like the rest of the country, our community has been isolated for a year, and we want our event to give people a safe space to leave their homes and experience a little bit of normalcy. Filmmakers have been isolated too and they have missed the joy and satisfaction of seeing their films screened in front of live audiences. We were fortunate to have seemingly dodged the pandemic’s course to a great extent from our debut last year to this year’s second edition, but that also makes us want to return in the best way we can both for our filmmakers and our film fans.”

Opening Night will kick things off with an eclectic group of features and shorts led by off a “Space Out Showcase” slate of short films loosely revolving around NASA and outer space. The trio of films include; Zachary Scott’s Space Case, which features a compelling story about a social outcast who must choose between conformity or space travel; Veerle De Wilde’s Spaceboy, which tells the story of two brothers who share their passion for space while the time is ticking on their time together; and Ann Michell’s Tracy’s Vision, a touching story of an extraordinary scientist with congenital eye disease who excels in his NASA position, reinforcing the value of a diverse workforce. 

Following the “Space Out Showcase” intro, will be Sevgi Hirschhäuser’s Toprak. The Turkish drama      which focuses on a teenager struggling with with his uncle and grandmother in a remote Turkish village. While the religious uncle is satisfied to live his life in poverty, the teenager wants to break free, leave for the city and attend university. However, when his grandmother falls sick, they will both have to make decisions that will change their lives forever. Also featured on Opening Night will be Matt Richmond’s documentary Brauhaus: A German-American Fairytale. The film looks at the closing of a beloved family-run restaurant and how a Chicago neighborhood copes with the impending emotional final days.

Adding to the Opening Night highlights, the Lake Travis Film Festival will also host a screenwriting workshop with Hugo and Saturn Award-winning screenwriter J. V. Hart at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Lakeway (1943 Medical Drive). Drawing on his career stretching over four decades with writing and producing credits including Hook, Contact, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Muppet Treasure Island, and August Rush, Hart will discuss The Hart Chart, a story mapping tool he has created for writers. Attendance to the special event will be open to Badge Holders and Non-Badge Holders via a separate ticket available through Eventbrite. Tickets will be limited, and are on a first come basis. Breakfast, lunch, and source materials from Hart are included in the ticket price.

Closing Night will start with the Filmmaker Awards announcement and then wrap things up with Scott Wiper’s The Big Ugly. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Vinnie Jones, Leven Rambin, and Ron Perlman in a knock down, drag out B-movie fueled drama about a business deal between London mob bosses and a West Virginia oilman laundering dirty money going from bad to worse.

 Two narrative features highlight the international thread running through LTFF this year. Ilir Pristine’s moody Canadian drama Florrie is about a woman who, while juggling 3 men in her life, is confronted by her complicated past and now feels the pressure to commit to just one man. Alex Gavin’s The Turn of the Screw is a mind-bending New Zealand drama     adapted from the classic Henry James novel. Set in an empty theatre over the course of one evening, an actress finds that she is a last minute replacement for another actress at the dress rehearsal of a stage production of “The Turn of the Screw,” set in 1890.

In its second year, the Lake Travis Film Festival has already begun making a name for itself with its documentary programming. Highlights include; Alice Elliott’s Emmy Award-winning film, Miracle on 42nd Street, which looks at the Manhattan Plaza apartment complex which was legendary for housing such famous actors and singers like Alicia Keys, Terrance Howard, Donald Faison, Larry David, Samuel L Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito and Angela Lansbury; Kaye Cleave and James Daggett’s Australian production Catherine's Kindergarten follows a mother’s momentous journey to a Nepalese mountain village to open a school in memory of her deceased daughter; Richard Wicksteed’s SanDance! A Journey to the Heart of San Culture is a South African film exploring the dance culture of Africa’s San First Peoples, as San dancers prepare to perform at Botswana’s Kuru Dance Festival; Nils R Cowan’s Spawning Grounds follows the effort by scientists, landowners, elected officials and Tribal leaders, to save a rare native salmon in one of America's only Urban Wildlife Refuges; and Nico Perrino, Aaron Reese, and Chris Maltby’s Mighty Ira focuses on American Civil Liberties Union leader, Ira Glasser as he reflects on his life at the forefront of defending the rights of all Americans, from civil rights leaders to neo-Nazis.

 Another highlight of this year’s Lake Travis Film Festival will be a special animation presentation of curated shorts by Brooklyn-based animator, Emmett Goodman. Viewing will be free and open to the public on the Great Lawn at the Hill Country Galleria (12700 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave, TX). Guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs and to grab libations from Vista Brewery.

With an eye toward discovering new talent, LTFF has selected 35 feature-length scripts and 21 short film scripts for this year’s competition. The screenplays cover a wide array of genres from drama and comedy to horror and sci-fi. Screenplays will all be highlighted at the festival starting on Thursday, June 10 with the winners announced, along with the film categories at Star Hill Ranch (15000 Hamilton Pool Road, Bee Cave, TX) on Sunday, June 13. 

2021 Lake Travis Film Festival Official Selections


Kill It And Leave This Town (2021) NY Polish Film Festival 2021

I honestly don’t know what I think of KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN.  It’s a bleak animated slice of hell that was in the works for over a decade.  A series of vignettes or sequences nominally set in communist Poland but really it’s a dystopian suburb of hell it tells the story of people trying to get by in terrible circumstances. It’s an unpleasant experience thanks to the tone and the visual style.

I love the animation. Looking like ball point drawings from someone’s note book come to life, it is jagged and alive. We are in an unfiltered world of the subconscious where our darker sides lurk. It makes for unique viewing. Few films look like this and none that I’ve ever seen have been features.

I was bothered by it all. And while I didn’t want to watch what was happening I couldn’t look away, he mix of unique art and the trip to the dark side of human existence kept me watching.

To be honest I don’t know what you are going to think of this film. I’m still wrestling with it days after seeing it. I’m torn about telling you more just letting it hit you in the face. I’m siding with just letting it smack you because I don’t want you to brace for the body blows.

This is not for all audiences, but for anyone who wants to see a film on the dark side, or a film that is unlike any other KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN is a must.

Skull: The Mask (202O) Hits Shudder May 27


An ancient ceremonial mask that  makes the wearer a vessel for a god of vengeance is found and purchased by a collector. Her girlfriend performs a ritual with it and awakens the god with tragic results. With the mask out in the world the bodies begin piling up. Its up to a police woman to try and stop the killing.

While far from perfect one can't help but like SKULL's go for it attitude. Despite being low budget the film simply is much too earnest for anyone who likes blood soaked films not to like it. I love that the film makes no excuses and just goes, asking us to just go along on it's journey. I was so charmed by it's love of what it was doing  I didn't care there were occasional bumps along the way. 

I will be perfectly up front  and say that one of the reasons I like this film is the rough around the edges quality to it. I am so tired of even the no budget films trying to hide their flaws and look perfect. Perfection in horror isn't a good thing because it's often so slick there is nothing to catch you intestines on. SKULL has moments that get you in the gut because its not perfect.

One of the big plusses for me was the film's insistence on using practical effects. Say what you will about the unevenness of some it, the fact that the filmmakers took the time to make limbs, tentacles and gallons of blood that the actors could actually interact with warmed the cockles of my heart. I know CGI is king and it can look real but much too often, especially in lower budget films the effects are wrecked when the effects people  can't even have the actor's eyes line up with their effects.

SKULL is the best sort of horror film, one you want to watch with friends with popcorn and a drink of choice. Its a film you want to hunker down with and talk to about its flaws and joys. Its also a film where when you get to the end you might, just might, be wondering if the sequel will be as much fun,

SKULL THE MASK hits Shudder on the 27th and is worth a look.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

FLC announces Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux, June 11 – August 26


Film at Lincoln Center announces BIG SCREEN SUMMER NYFF58 REDUX celebrating the city’s long-awaited return to the cinema with 33 highlights from the 58th New York Film Festival, June 11 – August 26

Includes nine theatrical premiere runs, kicking off with Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock from the Small Axe anthology

New York, NY (May 25, 2021) – Film at Lincoln Center announces Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux (June 11 – August 26), celebrating the city’s long-awaited return to the cinema with a season of highlights from the 58th New York Film Festival that demand to be seen on the big screen. 

Last fall, NYFF was forced to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, with screenings taking place virtually and at drive-in theaters. Now that in-theater screenings are again possible in New York City, FLC is bringing back much of the NYFF58 lineup to be screened and seen as these films were meant to be. This summer, join FLC in the air-conditioned darkness of the Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center to see 33 titles from NYFF58 writ large in a special series of encore screenings.

The series kicks off with a special theatrical premiere of Steve McQueen’s acclaimed anthology, Small Axe—comprising five films that each tell a story about London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s—including a run of NYFF58 Opening Night selection Lovers Rock. To coincide with the run, FLC will present a new recorded conversation between McQueen and Director of Programming for FLC and NYFF, Dennis Lim. 

Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux also features eight additional theatrical premiere runs, including, from the Revivals section, new restorations of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai, Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk, and Jia Zhangke’s Xiao Wu; from Currents, Anders Edström and C.W. Winter’s eight-hour hybrid epic The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin), John Gianvito’s Her Socialist Smile, and Luis López Carrasco’s The Year of the Discovery alongside his 2014 feature El futuro; and from Spotlight, David Dufresne’s The Monopoly of Violence, a powerful indictment of police brutality against France’s Yellow Vest movement, and Orson Welles’s newly unearthed Hopper/Welles.

Additional highlights include Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance on 35mm, Heinz Emigholz’s Streetscapes [Dialogue] alongside his two related works from last year’s Currents section (The Last City and The Lobby), double features of Terence Dixon’s Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris and William Klein’s Muhammad Ali, the Greatest; and much more. The complete series schedule is available below; select filmmaker introductions will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Three more NYFF58 titles will open as new releases concurrently with the series: Hong Sangsoo’s The Woman Who Ran (opening July 9), Tsai Ming-liang’s Days (August 13), and Matías Piñeiro’s Isabella (August 27).

Organized by Florence Almozini, Dennis Lim, and Dan Sullivan.

Big Screen Summer: NYFF58 Redux is Sponsored by MUBI, a curated streaming service and proud supporter of Film at Lincoln Center.

Tickets for this summer-long program will be available for purchase on a rolling basis, with a block of June screenings going on sale on June 3 at noon for FLC members and June 4 at noon for the general public. Members save $5 on all single tickets—and additional special summer deals will be announced soon! To access membership benefits, click here. For on-sale dates, pricing, and other information, keep an eye on

Health and safety policies for all in-theater screenings remain in effect. The comprehensive list of FLC’s current guidelines can be found here.


Corpus Christi (2019) NY Polish Film Festival

Polish entry for the Oscars CORPUS CHRISTI packs a punch. The film is the story of a young man who has a spiritual  awakening while in prison and travels across the country when getting out. A lie suddenly has a small town believing that he is a newly ordained priest sent to their parish. As his heartfelt sermons attract more followers and begin to heal the town, his charade is in danger of being discovered.

Moving and heartfelt CORPUS CHRISTI is a stunner. A beautiful meditation on belief as well on life and how to live it the film sucks us in and drags us along. Full of wonderful characters director Jan Komasa and writer Mateusz Pacewicz give us people we can relate to as they spin out their tale. This is vital since in pondering the various themes running though the story, especially the notion of who gets to speak for god, we must  relate to the characters on the screen for it to have weight. The characters must be here on earth, sitting in in the seats around us and not on just be cardboard figures on the screen. Komasa and Pacewicz give us that in spades and we are so much better for it.

I will not speculate on the film's chance for Oscar gold other than to say if there is justice it will be in the mix. However, I will add that if Bartosz Bielenia is not in the running for a Best Actor statue then something is seriously wrong. Bielenia gives us his all and the result is a film of extreme intensity and life.  We not only see what he is going through but feel it because he forcibly grabs us by the throat and pulls us along making us feel every thing that he does so in the end we are just as bloody as he is. It is not just one of the great performances of 2019 but probably of the last decade as well.

CORPUS CHRISTI is a great film and a must see. I don't know what else to say beyond that.

317th Platoon (1965) hits Ovid.TV May 28

It is rare that you see a film that has a reputation as being “one of the best” of anything, which, when you finally see it is as good as you’ve heard. More times than not that isn’t the case, sure it will be good, maybe even great, but if you say something is the BEST you’re almost looking for a fight.

I had heard that THE 317th PLATOON was either one of the best films on the war in Indochina (aka Vietnam) if not the best. It is a film Oliver Stone raved about and which was held in a scared  reverence by the few people I know who've seen it. However despite the reputation it was nigh impossible to see in English. I’ve been trying to run down a watchable copy with good subtitles for years and have been thwarted at every turn. I could see bits or really bad versions but not the whole thing. And then I received an email saying that Rialto had picked up the Studio Canal restoration and asking if I wanted to go to a press screening.

Hell yea.

So on a sunny July day, in a small theater at the Metrograph in New York City with several other hardy souls I finally saw THE 317th PLATOON.

The verdict? It is as good as its reputation - It is one of the best war films you’ll ever see.

The film is the story of the titled platoon in the waning days of France’s involvement in Indochina. As the battles that would result in the end of French control in Southeast Asia are occurring, the men of the 317th platoon are told to abandon their post (in Laos) and travel to Dien Bien Phu where in theory they will be safe. Heading out they rapidly run into problems when what they think is a small group of the enemy proves to be larger when engaged. As they continue to try to make their way to safety their numbers dwindle and their safe haven looks to be on the verge of falling.

Don’t go into the film looking for epic battles and fire fights. While there is some, this film is more a look at men in battle. How do the men react as the shit hits the fan and hope seems to be fading? We find out and more. This isn’t Hollywood, this is war as it was fought-writer director Pierre Schoendoerffer was not only in country during the time the events shown would have taken place but he was captured at the fall of Dien Bien Phu and spent several months as a prisoner.

Looking like news reports of the war the film feels like we are in the jungles of Indochina. Actually since the film was shot in Cambodia we really are in the places where this might have happened. And while other films have been shot in South East Asia I don’t think any other film feels like this one. It’s not just because of the location but because what we are shown is not being filtered through nostalgia or memory but is instead being revealed through straight reporting on a war that was still happening a couple hundred miles away. Watching this film you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if something like APOCALYPSE NOW had been shot, as had been intended, in country during the war.

I am in awe of the film.

I love that the film does away with the notion of good and bad. There is no black and white. It is simply two sides at war. While we side with the fleeing French, it’s only because we get to know them. We travel with them so they are not like the shadowy warriors they are fighting. And if you think about it the Viet Minh are not shown to be bad since the discussion about leaving the wounded never based on fear of what would happened to the wounded, rather simply the notion of no one gets left behind.

The mood is carefully modulated. There are no real peaks and valleys of emotion, just endless oppressive resignation and dread. The men know they are in shit and they just go with it. This is war, while there are bumps as things get hot, the fear never leaves. There is never a release because even when the fighting is done you can’t be certain that you are still safe. You never know if in a quiet moment if there will be an attack. And even in a quiet night, where the men can sleep, death visits. We feel the tension of uncertainty and then we feel the soul killing nothingness of knowing it’s just going to be varying levels of bad.

I’ve never felt that way in a war film before. I’ve never felt, okay. People die and things happened, and then we go on to the next bad thing. The audience, like the men on screen, go into a collective shock.

This film is among the best war films ever made and probably in the top three films on the war on Indochina, if not the top film. I can’t recommend it enough. It is a film that needs to be seen and discussed.

While could say more about the film, I’m going to leave it there. Not because I don’t have more to say, but more that everyone who is reading this needs to go see the film to get a taste of the film’s truths. You need to discover the film for yourself and not listen to me prattle on about it. See it and ponder it and then discuss it with anyone else you run across.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN (2021) NY Polish Film Festival 2021

I was not planning on seeing any films in  New York Polish Film Festival because I simply was too busy to do so. Then I got an email from Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily insisting that I had to see NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Liz does not flood me with must sees, and when she does I take notice because when she come knocking it's usually for something wonderful.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is something wonderful.

A mystical young man, literally seven years older than the Chernobyl explosion appears in a Polish gated community and begins to help take away their pain.

Yes, we have been kind of sort of here before, but at the same time we have not been here like this. Charming, mannered, at times joyous and always mysterious NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is film that takes the idea of an outsider changing a community and gives it new life. Its a film where we kind of know where its going and yet we don't. We delight when it does what we expect and are even more delighted when it does something different. 

I smiled from start to finish. Frankly I loved the film so much that I wanted another go through the film rather than go back to the films I said I was going to cover.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN plays at May 26th at the NY Polish Film Festival.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Hamtramck, USA is on the WORLD Channel May 25

Just a pointer that the very good documentary HAMTRAMCK ,US is on the WORLD Channel May 25th.

The film is about the mayoral race in Hamtramck Michigan, America's first city to have a Muslim majority. Karen Majewski realizes that there is a very good chance she is going to be the last Polish mayor in 100 years. This is a moving film with some great characters that and wonderful calm sense of the changing of society.

In an age where the far right wants to have white America circle the wagons this is an important look at the real America.

Shepherd The Story Of A Jewish Dog (2021) opens Friday

As the Nazis rise in Germany a Jewish family's pet dog gives birth to a litter of puppies. They give all of them away except one. The puppy and the young son bond. When the Nuremberg Laws prevent Jews from having pets the dog is taken away and ends up in with the military. Will the boy and his pet meet again?

This bittersweet film is a nice little historical drama. It's a film that quietly pulls us in, making us think that this is a going to be so dark a film, it almost feels like a family film, before slowly turning darker by degrees. By the time we realize where this is going, we are hooked and can't escape. We care too much not to see how this is going to come out.

I really liked this film. Honestly as the film shifted to the second half I was surprised at how much I was really enjoying the film. I liked that while we might guess where this may end up, we never really don't know quite how this is going to go. It doesn't hit all the expected notes which keeps everything fresh and compelling. 

This is a solid little film. Its an unexpected gem that is worth your time and money.

Swimming Out Until The Sea Turns Blue (2020)


Jia Zhangke returns to documentary filmmaking with a look at the changing cultural landscape of  hos home Shanxi province. He frames it through a look at the legacy of writer Ma Feng through the observations of fellow writers Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua, and Liang Hong as well as the people who have loved through the last 80 years in Shanxi.

I am very mixed on Swimming… part of the problem is that I simply don’t have a good enough grasp of history and Chinese literature in order to feel I am fully understanding what I was seeing. There is a lot of reference to things that are simply out of my realm of experience. While I would normally complain that a filmmaker didn’t explain enough for all audiences, this film was not only never really intended for me (I’ve seen enough Zhangke films to know this is frequently an issue), but it is also part of a trilogy of films on the arts in China. I should have brought myself up to speed, so that is wholly on me

At the same time I’m also all over the place about the presentation. Zhangke has made a film of 18 chapters which don’t always flow together. They do fit together, especially when you look back at them in retrospect,  but the connections are bumpy. Some pieces are a brilliant tidbits (Ma Feng’s daughter talking about his life is very cool, as is the then and now) but other pieces seem to be less so. I never felt full engaged since the shifting gears jolted me.

To be honest I intellectually get what the film is doing but emotionally I remain distant.  For someone who admires Zhangke’s films because they always produce an emotional reaction watching Swimming and not feeling anything was concerning. It’s also disappointing.

Worth a look for Zhangke fans, all others unfamiliar with the director or the subject its optional.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Nightcap 5/23/21- covid's effect on what I feel about films, New York Polish Film Festival and Human Rights Watch FIlm Festival start this week and a favorite director as a new film

 I’m getting into a long discussions with a couple of friends about the movies I’m recommending. Some of the friends are delighted at some of the gems I’m sending their way and some of the friends are upset because what I’m saying is good isn’t blowing up their skirts. I was thinking about this and I realize that what I am seeing and how I’m reacting has been effected by covid.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the what and how of  film releases have changed. Some films have been pulled as filmmakers want a brick and mortar release. Most films are getting some kind of VOD release. Drive ins are going gangbusters in a lot of areas. There is a weird whiplash to it as somethings are being released to “virtual theaters” with tie ins to actual theaters, while others are just going to normal VOD platforms.

Frankly I have no idea of the whys and wherefores of any of it and I don't think anyone else does either.

What I do know is that what I am seeing has been changing, especially in the last few weeks where the shift away from strictly streaming to theaters or theaters and streaming has altered plans.  There is a sense that some films are being held a little bit to see which way the wind blows. Release dates are changing.  And that isn’t taking into consideration the changing nature of, not to mention the scheduling of the festivals which has altered the flow of what I’m seeing.

I that what I'm being offered is being altered since some of the firms I deal with have been shifting around, with people ending up in new places or simply disappearing. I'm seeing a lot of new names and faces and not seeing a lot of old ones.

What I’m seeing, especially in the last few weeks has been a real mixed bag. Some of it has been good, some bad. Some of the festival selections feel like they were made because they had limited choices. Some of the films being released to VOD make me feel that they are there to just fill slots- which means that some of what I’m seeing is there just to fill slots.

On the plus side I have discovered some great films like Last Right, Trigger Point and The Great Leap.  On the negative side I’ve been challenged about some of my choices with some friends taking me to task about some of the films I’ve liked.  I recently had a discussion about some of the more off beat films I’ve been enjoying. One friend has wondered what drugs I was on when I watched some of the more esoteric films, like Great Leap.

None. I was not on anything. However the fact that a lot of the films I’ve been running across the last few weeks have been really bland and by the numbers has effected the way that I am responding. I know this happens all the time, but to be perfectly honest since the start of 2021 it’s been more pronounced. There have been so many similar comedies and dramas hitting my inbox that anything out of the ordinary is getting a few bonus points. Worse even the good films are tough to write about, hence the shorter reviews. 

The discussion of what I am liking and what I’m not took a weird turn when an acquaintance who only does a film or two a week questioned why I was powering through so many questionable films. Why wasn’t I being more selective. The answer, beyond needing to feed the "film a day" beast, is simply I tend to find the real gems by trying a wide variety of films.

While I have always loved the inde films, I find that cut off from the big budget Hollywood films I am losing my taste for them. Yes I love the spectacle of things like GODZILLA VS KONG, but I’m becoming less forgiving with their flaws.

On the other hand I’m also becoming less forgiving toward inde films if they track close to the Hollywood model. I love that most inde films are more creative than the studio produced stuff and I am becoming cranky when things are not as creative as I would have liked. On the other hand I suspect that once more Hollywood pabulum is back in my diet I’ll be back to forgiving.

Actually what is killing me is the lack of interaction with the film world and my friends.  Because everything is being watched at home and because no one is on the same schedule,  no one is watching anything "together".  We are all on different schedules and it makes it hard to discuss films.  I may see something great but other people may not have had a chance to see it. When they do I may have moved on.  The mad passionate discussions are lacking.  The closest I’ve had to a typical cinema life for me was during Sundance when everyone was watching things in close order. I’m hoping this returns with Tribeca since it appears the screening process will be close to Sundance’s. 

In a way the real thing that Covid has done is crush my enthusiasm for covering film. It has become a daily battle to watch, to write and to deal with the changes. There have been so many shifts to releases, to festivals and to the industry over the last year that it isn’t surprising that a good number of people I know have gotten off the bucking bronco. 

PR firms and studios have shifted. People have moved around. Some sources are gone or changed. Nothing as it was.  Worse It seems that since Slamdance the films are kind of drying up or release dates are changing as filmmakers and studios are aiming to get back into physical theaters. I’ve been pushing things back as a result. I find I am scrambling more to chase down films I want to cover. While I am delighted  when I find a great film this just isn’t really fun anymore. 

That said I keep going because I keep finding good things and because I’m too stupid to stop.


And  now quick word on the festivals of the week.

The New York Polish Film Festival (Info and tickets here).

The annual festival of films from Poland is back and it’s both  in person Wednesday through Saturday as well as virtual.  I’ve seen six of the films and they are all awesome. I highly recommend all of them. Go buy tickets.

Open Roads New Italian Cinema (Info and tickets here)

One of my favorite festivals of the year returns with a look at some of the best Italian films you probably never heard of. As this posts I’m just beginning to wade into the festival offerings. Where in other years where I’ve hit up most of the fest this year I’m only doing a handful. Time and tide are taking a toll. That said there will be reviews later this week once I get a chance to write up the films.

Tickets an details can be had here.(Its all virtual this year)


It’s still a couple of weeks away- but I just want to say that I've started scheduling reviews for Tribeca. I’m not certain how many films will be covered but I suspect that its going to be a large number- we saw a good chunk of the films they are showing from last years fest, plus I’ve had access to around 20 new films (so far). I can’t say more just yet but there is good stuff here.


Lastly one of my favorite directors Irina Varina has a new experimental short film.

A Rainy Day In New York (2019)

This alleged romantic comedy about some rich twenty somethings who go to New York was controversial because the cast (Timothée Chalamet, Jude Law, Elle Fanning and others) worked with Woody Allen because of all his misdeeds. Many in the cast later disavowed it, while the release was "canceled" only to have the film eventually repicked up and dumped on Amazon Prime.

As dull and unconnected to reality as Woody Allen's films have become over the last few years, A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK is the complete and total slide into awfulness. While Woody has made at least one more film, in my eyes it is effectively the end of his creative life.

Badly overacted by a cast who seems not to have been directed and using a script that has no connection to reality this is a film that boggles the mind in its awfulness. Jokes fall flat. Situations never ring true. Watching it you are left to wonder how did Woody come up with this? I'm guessing that the fact that he has been forced to stay more and more in an ivory tower surrounded by a small group of friends has made him more and more unconnected to reality.

A huge part of the problem is that Woody falls back on his pre-Annie Hall comedy which not only has dated 50 years on but only worked in the context of his contrived situations such as future America or tsarist Russia. The jokes all fall flat. Of course it doesn't help that pretty much everyone in the cast gives their worst performances of their careers. The performances aren't phoned in but play more like they were dead (Liv Schreiber is truly WTF) or in the case of Elle Fanning its as if a weird pixie has entered her body after it was goosed by a million volts of electricity. I won't get it Chalamet or Gomez who have no chemistry and give performances that will give their detractors ammunition for decades to come.

This is just a bad film.

WONDER WHEEL, Woody's previous film had moments and kind of almost worked in an awkward way, however RAINY DAY never works. It's like watching an alien make a movie about something he has no knowledge of.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Dark Hobby (2021)

 Dark Hobby is a look at the aquarium industry. More specifically it’s a look at the salt water aquarium industry which is stripping the reefs of Hawaii of the colorful fish. The trouble is that for 50 bucks and no training you can get a permit to collect fish. The trouble is that so many people are doing it the fish are disappearing and going extinct.  Worse the removal of such vast quantities of fish is destroying the echo system.

As someone who has had aquariums for much of his life, this is a shocking story.  I never realized that most fish last less than a year in their tanks and have to be replaced. (I say this because the fish that we had tended to last for years.) As pretty as the fish are I no longer see the reason to have something that is going to die so quickly.

While very much a one sided film, there really isn’t any talk about why putting the fish in a tank is a good thing, the film still makes its point if only in that it reveals how out of control the harvesting of fish is.  And it also reveals how dangerous can be  as the collectors violently try to stop the anti aquarium activists via means that are deadly.

If you care about the environment  this film is worth a look.

A ONCE AND FUTURE PEACE (2020) Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2021

This is a very good look at the course of Andy and his family as he moves through the Seattle court system via an indigenous based alternative program set up to help him get back on track. The program involves lots of talk as well as family and community based support that is geared toward making Andy find his own way back.

Very good and very heavy look at a possible alternative to just locking people up A ONCE AND FUTURE... gives us a lot to take in. Not only are we exposed to the system but we are also given a lot of information concerning everyone involved in the program. Since this is a kind of talking cure, everyone who participates so we get to know the Andy's family as well as the people running the program. Its a stunner and it gives us the heart and soul of a good number of people.

I have seen this film a couple of times now and I have been fighting with writing this review for the better part of two weeks trying to come up wit some grand to say. Unfortunately this film is such that it requires that you take the time and see the film before we can discuss it. It is, as I have seen on each of the times I have seen it, a journey. It is a journey not just for Andy and the people on the screen but for us in the audience. We have to travel along to and make up our own minds and react to what we are seeing. How we feel at the start is not how we will feel at the end. As such giving you my thoughts about the journey from the end will alter how you see it at the start. To that end I  am not going to say much more other than see this film.

A ONCE AND FUTRE PEACE is playing the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and is recommended

Friday, May 21, 2021

Army of the Dead (2021)

Hands down my least favorite Zack Snyder is way too cartoony and intentionally over the top- not to mention being too f-ing long. I really disliked this film and I hate on much of MAN OF STEEL.

The plot has a bunch of mercenaries dropping into a walled off Las Vegas in order to steal millions of dollars from the vault of one of the casinos. The catch is that the city is infested with millions of zombies.

Sketched out with only the lightest of pencils ARMY OF THE DEAD exists just to be gross and violent. The film's sole reason to exist is to have good guys fight a losing battle against the dead so that we can watch body parts and blood fly in every direction. 

The story is told with a real sense of urgency that is matched only by its complete lack of logic and reason. While the set pieces are outstanding and the effects well done there really wasn't a logical reason for anything that happened and I found myself constantly talking to the screen wanting to know why they were ding one thing as opposed to another. But we aren't suppose to ask question, we are simply supposed to ride along.

I got bored early and I stayed that way. There is no reason this film needs to clock in at almost two and a half hours other than the fact that Snyder needed someone to tell him no.

Thank god I saw this on Netflix and not in the movies.

I suggest you take a pass but I'm guessing all the horror fans will just wade in regardless,

APART (2020) Human Rights Film Festival 2021

Moving look at several women who are nearing the point where they will be able to go home and rejoin their kids. It’s a moving look that lets us see how they prepare themselves to go home and what happens when they get there. It’s a moving film that shows us the cost of putting people in jail, specifically for drug related crimes. 

Apart moved me.  I loved that the film is very matter of fact. Most films like this are very serious and focused, to the point you really don’t connect. However here the women are allowed to be human. We see them laugh and cry with the result that we come to really care for all of them.

This is a super film.