Thursday, September 30, 2021

Sound Unseen 2021 Lineup - Austin and Minneapolis In Person


Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival announces lineup for 22nd edition which will screen in-person in both Minnesota and Texas for the first time (October 27-29, November 10-14) 

Bobbi Jo Hart’s Fanny: The Right to Rock, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s October Country: Live Score,  and 15th Anniversary screening of Todd Rohal’s The Guatemalan Handshake get Austin spotlight            

Alison Klayman’s Jagged is the Opening Night Selection,and Emily Branham’s Being BeBe Is the Closing Night selection in Minneapolis

 Austin, TX/Minneapolis, MN (September 30, 2021) – The Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival (October 27-29 in Austin, November 10-14 in Minneapolis) announced the film lineup for this year’s 22nd edition of the popular film festival. Sound Unseen will build on last year’s virtual presentation in both Minnesota and Texas, by adding in-person screenings in Austin to the return to theaters and music performances at the film festival’s longtime home base of Minneapolis as well. Virtual Screenings will begin Wed. November 10 and will end Wed. November 17. Most films will become available the next day following their Minnesota in-person screening. Some films will be geo-blocked to Minnesota only, while others will be geo-blocked in Minnesota and Texas. For more information on virtual screenings check out

 Austin screenings will include; Bobbi Jo Hart’s Fanny: The Right to Rock; Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s October Country: Live Score; and a 15th Anniversary screening of Todd Rohal’s The Guatemalan Handshake. In Minneapolis, Alison Klayman’s Jagged will be the Opening Night Selection, and Emily Branham’s Being BeBe will be the Closing Night selection.

 Sound Unseen’s Program Director Rich Gill said, “Last year was a year of innovation inspired by the restraints placed us, like most film festivals due to the pandemic. Rather than retreating, we actually opened up our reach to the audiences that love the melding of music and film by branching out into Texas and all of Minnesota virtually. This year, we’ll keep our virtual approach in those states as we happily return to theaters in Minneapolis and theaters in Austin, as well. It will be exciting to add Sound Unseen’s in-person footprint to that music and film-rich city.”

Screening at Austin Film Society Cinema (6259 Middle Fiskville Rd) October 27-29 will be Bobbi Jo Hart’s Fanny: The Right to Rock, which looks at the rise and influence of the seminal 70s all-women rock band with guitarist Patti Quatro attending and participating in a Q&A following the screening; Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s October Country: Live Score, a deeply personal portrait of an American family struggling for stability while haunted by the ghosts of war, teen pregnancy, foster care, and child abuse; and a 15th Anniversary screening of Todd Rohal’s underground, indie cult classic The Guatemalan Handshake (2006) which throws several quirky and odd characters together via a series of events that lead up to a massive demolition derby. A Q&A moderated by filmmaker Jeff Nichols (Loving, Midnight Special, Mud) with Todd Rohal.

 Alison Klayman’s Jagged will be the Opening Night selection for Sound Unseen, screening at The Parkway Theater (4814 Chicago Ave.) on Wednesday, November 10) with director Alison Klayman and Producer M. Jaye Callahan present for opening night. The film follows the reinvention of Alanis Morissette’s music and career via her groundbreaking album “Jagged Little Pill.” And how her success changed the game for women singer/songwriters. Emily Branham’s Being BeBe is this year’s Closing Night selection and will receive a very special presentation at the Walker Art Center (725 Vineland Pl.) on Saturday, November 13 with both Branham, Producer Marc Smolowitz and BeBe Zahara in attendance. The film focuses on Marshall Ngwa (a.k.a. renowned drag performer BeBe Zahara Benet), who came to the United States escaping the homophobia he experienced in Cameroon with dreams of a better life, and became the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2009. Being Bebe follows Marshall’s remarkable immigrant journey from the earliest days of his amateur drag performance career in Minneapolis, circa 2006, to his emergence as one of the leading artists in the movement to celebrate and advance Queer Black Excellence during the 2020s. Being Bebe is co-presented with the Walker Art Center and FilmNorth.

Other highlights among the in-person screenings in Minneapolis include the world premiere of Balin Schneider’s Out Of Time: The Material Issue Story, which looks at the tragic story of the power pop trio on the cusp of superstardom cut short by front man Jim Ellison’s suicide. Listening to Kenny G is the latest from award-winning documentarian Penny Lane about the best-selling instrumentalist of all time, and arguably the most famous living jazz musician which promises to challenge your preconceptions about music. The documentary filmmaking team of P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes’ latest is My Name Is Lopez about 60s music icon Trini Lopez who overcame all odds to become one of the first Latino rock stars. Ori Segev and Noah Dixon’s Poser utilizes a meta-approach with underground music artists in Columbus, Ohio to form a haunting thriller about a fan and podcaster’s obsession with being a part of the scene itself. Sound Unseen will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hal Ashby’s cult classic Harold and Maude (1971) about the emotional and romantic bond between a death-obsessed young man (Bud Cort) from a wealthy family and a devil-may-care, bohemian octogenarian (Ruth Gordon).

 Music performances will take place at The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge (3010 Minnehaha Ave.).  On November 11, Low Rats, Lot Lizard, and James Eugene Russell, all of whom were subjects in the film, I Really Get Into It, will perform. On November 12, High TV, Ruan Sutter and special guests from Witness Underground will be featured. On November 13, performances by Black Widows and Honey Dick will celebrate the screening of Skating Polly.

 Sponsors for this year’s festival includes, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Moxy Minneapolis Uptown hotel, Extreme Noise Records and community partners include Walker Art Center, The Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis, FilmNorth, Austin Asian American Film Festival, OUTsider, KUTX 98.9, Austin Film Society, Trylon Cinema, Bryant Lake Bowl, The Parkway Theater, The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge, The Women’s Club of Minneapolis, Racket and Uptown VFW.

 For more information about Sound Unseen, as well as how to purchase virtual passes and tickets, go to:

The 2021 Sound Unseen Film Festival official selections:


Artis—Naples Announces Official Selections for The 2021 Naples International Film Festival (October 21-24)


NIFF will celebrate the Art of the Short Film with an Opening Night presentation of shorts and will close with Back to the Future accompanied live by the Naples Philharmonic

 Jonathan Keijser’s Peace by Chocolate, Christopher Kahunahana’s Waikiki and Lissette Feliciano’s

Women Is Losers compete for the Narrative Feature Juried Prize, with Christopher Chambers’ A Fire Within, Bernadette Wegenstein’s The Conductor and Justin Monroe’s Holy Frit  vying for the Documentary Feature Juried Prize

Naples, FL (September 30, 2021) – Artis—Naples announced today the film lineup for the 13th annual Naples International Film Festival (NIFF) to be held October 21-24, 2021, featuring a return to in-person screenings. A central theme of this year’s edition of NIFF will be a celebration of the art of making the short film, including the first time the festival has showcased a specially curated shorts program for its Opening Night Film experience. The film festival will close with a special presentation of Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future featuring a live performance of John Williams’ classic score by the Naples Philharmonic, conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly.

On Friday and Saturday night, Artis—Naples will present “Screenings Under the Stars” in Norris Garden on Artis─Naples’ Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson Cultural Campus, with two films that are part of this year’s juried competition. The documentary feature Holy Frit will screen on Friday night, and the narrative feature Women Is Losers will screen on Saturday night.

The festival will include 67 films (12 narrative features, 11 documentary features, 44 short films) from 20 countries. All screenings will be in-person, marking a return to Hayes Hall, Daniels Pavilion, Norris Garden and Silverspot Cinema. The highest priority of Artis—Naples is the health and safety of patrons, staff, filmmakers and the community at large. In order to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone, Artis─Naples COVID protocols will be observed for all NIFF events. Current safety protocol details can be found here.

Artis─Naples CEO and President Kathleen van Bergen said, “We are so pleased to return to theaters as well as viewing films together, and we very much look forward to welcoming filmmakers back safely to our cinema-loving community here in Naples and Southwest Florida. The Naples International Film Festival is an important part of our multidisciplinary cultural offerings each season, and we are thrilled to be able to share these films.

“This year’s edition of the Naples International Film Festival will have another outstanding lineup of incredible films from all over the world, including a variety of dynamic and thought-provoking short films that we are delighted to highlight on opening night and throughout the program,” said Festival Producer Shannon Franklin. “We pride ourselves on having something for everyone and can’t wait to enjoy all of these films on the big screen together with our wonderful Naples audiences.”

On Thursday, October 21, the Opening Night shorts program at Hayes Hall (5833 Pelican Bay Blvd) will feature: Anton Dyakov’s Russian short Boxbalet, about a fortuitous meeting between a delicate ballerina and a rough, surly boxer; Annie St-Pierre’s Canadian short Like the Ones I Used to Know, about a Christmas filled with tension and anticipation in 1983; Cheri Gaulke’s short documentary Miss Alma Thomas: A Life in Color, about Alma W. Thomas, a Black woman artist who broke color barriers on and off the canvas; Dava Whisenant’s comedy Photo Op, about the perils of trusting a stranger with your phone; and Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s British short Roy, about a reclusive widower who accidentally calls an adult hotline worker.

Hayes Hall will also be the location for the special presentation of Zemeckis’ classic crowd pleaser Back to the Future (1985) on Sunday, October 24. The Naples Philharmonic, led by Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly, will perform Alan Silvestri’s classic score live with the film.

Films in the Naples International Film Festival’s competition categories will be vying for more than $10,000 in prizes, including the Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best Short as well as the Focus on the Arts Award, given to a Narrative or Documentary film with an emphasis on one or more of the visual or performing arts. For the third year in a row, there will also be juried awards in the Narrative and Documentary features categories.

The Narrative Features Juried Competition slate includes the Florida Premiere of Jonathan Keijser’s Peace by Chocolate, about a young Syrian refugee who struggles to settle into small- town life in Nova Scotia, Canada, after his family’s chocolate factory is destroyed during the war. Christopher Kahunahana’s Waikiki is a cinematic allegory of love and loss, where a hula dancer fights for survival—and her sanity—in the shadows of Waikiki, and Lissette Feliciano’s award- winning Women Is Losers tells the story of bright and talented Catholic schoolgirl Celina Guerrera in the ’60s, who survives a difficult home life by following the rules, until an act of indiscretion creates a series of devastating consequences.

The three titles making up NIFF’s Documentary Features Juried Competition include the East Coast Premiere of Christopher Chambers’ A Fire Within, about three Ethiopian women who flee to the U.S. after surviving torture in their home country only to discover that the man responsible for their torture now lives in America and works at the same hotel as one of them. Bernadette Wegenstein’s The Conductor takes audiences into the heart of classical music and into the soul of one of its top artists, internationally renowned conductor Marin Alsop. Justin Monroe’s Holy Frit focuses on talented yet unknown L.A. artist Tim Carey, who bluffs his way into winning the commission to create the largest stained-glass window of its kind. The problem is: He doesn’t know how to make it. However, he might just be saved after he finds a famous glass maestro by the name of Narcissus Quagliata.

Additional highlights among the narrative feature selections include the North American Premiere of Martin Copping’s Australian drama, The Dunes, in which a renowned journalist returns to his beachside hometown to investigate the disappearance of the tenant in his childhood home. Three films making their Florida premieres are Roshan Sethi’s romantic comedy 7 Days, about an Indian couple—set up on a date by their traditional Indian parents—who are forced to live together for a week, which in turn forces them to learn some things about each other; Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe’s The Beta Test, about a soon-to-be married Hollywood agent whose life is turned upside down after accepting a mysterious invitation for an anonymous sexual encounter with a secret admirer; and Josef Kubota Wladyka’s Catch the Fair One, about a Native American boxer struggling to pick up the pieces of her life while staying in a women’s shelter, until she takes on the human trafficking network responsible for abducting her younger sister two years ago.

Additional documentary feature highlights include the East Coast Premiere of Robin Hauser’s $avvy, which investigates women and money, questioning why women often take a backseat to managing their finances. Two films making their Florida premieres include Douglas Tirola’s Bernstein’s Wall, a portrait of famed composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; and Scott Gawlik’s Set! which focuses on a group of highly competitive table setters as they vie for the Best of Show ribbon at “The Olympics of table setting.”

Themes for the curated short film programs include Growing Pains, Family Affair, True Stories, Discoveries, Around the World, Florida Films and the Student Filmmaker Showcase.

Through a special collaboration with Avow, a local non-profit that provides hospice, palliative care and grief support, the Naples International Film Festival will also showcase a special world premiere screening of Renee Stoll and Joel Collazo’s Avow Presents: Life Lessons Learned in the Military on Saturday, October 23 in Daniels Pavilion. The film features stories and interviews with several Southwest Florida’s military veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines. Though the veterans come from different backgrounds and served in different situations as part of different generations, the film shows the commonality of their experiences and the lessons that have stayed with each of them to this day.

In addition to the remarkable film lineup, there will also be two Panel Discussions at Silverspot Cinema moderated by renowned book and film critic Elaine Newton. On Friday, October 22 Newton and five filmmakers will discuss The Importance of Independent Film, while on Saturday, October 23, Newton will lead a conversation about Artists Through the Lens that will focus on films that examine the lives and works of visual and performing artists.

Tickets for all screenings and activities at Silverspot Cinema and Daniels Pavilion go on sale September 30. Tickets for the Opening Night Film and Party, the Closing Night Awards Ceremony, Film and Wrap Party and Back to the Future in Concert are currently on sale. For more information, visit

Festival Presenting Sponsors are Dr. Richard Lublin and Christine Stahl, with generous support also provided by the Collier County Tourist Development Council. Special thanks also to Rebecca Lambert and Jonathan Sonne, Bobbi and David Drobis, Entech, Stan and Sarann Kraushaar and media sponsors Gulfshore Life and Naples Daily News. 

The 2021 Naples International Film Festival (NIFF) official selections:

Velvet Underground (2021) NYFF 2021

Todd Haynes takes a look at the legendary rock group the Velvet Underground in a film that is going to play best for fans.

Beginning with a biographical sketch of a pre-Velvet Lou Reed and then moving onward through the story, this film  introduces us to all the surviving members of the band as well as people who were in the Andy Warhol's Factory at the time (Mary Warnov, Amy Taubin) who give us a glimpse into what happened.

Well, a little bit of what happened. I say that because outside of setting up the early days of Lou Reed and John Cale, the film is kind of lacking in a hell of a lot of details. I mean we really don't get to know any of the other band members at all. Even details about Cale and Reed's lives after a certain point are not there. There is no sense of when any of this is happening. Hat exactly was the run of the band? The tension in the group is glossed over as so much is left unsaid. Truthfully we know more about Reed hanging out in gay bars than we know about other probably more important things.

This is a documentary about an influential force in the history of (all) music where we never are told how influential the group ended up being. The Velvet Underground ultimately changed what followed them but we don't see any of it.

Ultimately this is a celebration of the group by a huge fan who knows way more than we do, but doesn't realize it. 

Despite my severe reservations, I was moved by the film, purely because of nostlgia. I was reduced to a teary mess when Sweet Jane started playing because at that exact moment I was thinking about my late friend Lou Macaluso, who was huge Reed and Underground fan. My thought was how much more he would have loved this than me just as his favorite Reed penned song started. I was wrecked there after.

However by that time, despite being entertained, I  had just kind of given up and just listened to the music- this film has a killer sound track (see it in a theater with a great sound system)

In the end I like the film but I don't love it. As I said above this is going to play best or fans who don't need to know all the facts of the group.

Short NYFF reviews ALL ABOUT MY SISTERS and Haruhara-san’s Recorder



Filmmaker Wang Qiong interviews her sisters and films their lives. In an epic three hour look into the lives of several women in China.  This is a good but long film  that I in all honesty had to break up into several parts. I liked that the film opened my facets of life in China I had not considered.

Worth a look for the patient.

Haruhara-san’s Recorder

Impressionistic portrait of the life of a woman in Japan. Great looking film is going to work best for those who like deliberate measured films that you have to work with.

I loved the look of the film but I never connected to it emotionally.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


TALE OF KING CRAB has haunted me from the first frame. It is a gorgeous film that reminds me of the films that helped me fall madly and passionately in love with world cinema. Directors Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis have created a masterpiece that will stay with you for a long time.

The film is based on a story the directors heard when they were making their documentary IL SOLENGO. That film was the story of the resident of a small Italian village told by the villagers. It’s a film that echoes in the opening moments of King Crab when a bunch of villagers are sitting around shooting the breeze when one of them tells the story of Luciano. He was a man from the village who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. He wanted to live his own way and ran into all sorts of problems. For example he got into a battle of wills concerning a closed gate that a local prince wants locked for no good reason. Events eventually push him to travel across the Atlantic to try and find a treasure in the Americas.

This is grand filmmaking of the highest order. This is a film that made me think of the finest Italian cinema of the last 60 years. I’m talking of the works of  the  Taviani Brothers. ​Ermanno Olmi, ​Luchino Visconti, Bernardo Bertolucci and others. The look and feel of the Italian countryside is mythic and epic. Its also tactile. You can feel, smell and taste the places we are seeing.  This film is very often the definition of writing with light since the composition of the image deepens and enhances the action and characters the way whole paragraphs put us into the head space in a novel. The spaces the characters in habit, speaks volumes about their inner terrain.  As I was watching the final sections of the film, the rocks and the ocean matched -Luciano‘s heart.

This film is a kind of great cinematic novel.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t do a deep dive discussion of the film but I am still processing the film. I received the film about 24 hours before it played the New York Film Festival. In order to try and be timely with the review I put the film on figuring I might be able to bang something out quickly…and then the first images hit the screen and I fell into to the Italian countryside and I haven’t quite come back yet. I keep finding myself turning over the events and so I’m bouncing between locations in my head.

I am stunned. I didn’t think anyone was making films like this anymore.

My only question regarding the film is why is this in the Currents section of the New York Film Festival and not the Main Slate or Spotlight. Currents, which tends to be about more experimental films, is a place many people won’t venture. This is a fantastic old school epic. This is the sort of film that will win over new generations to the wonders of world cinema

TALE OF KING CRAB is a must see. More so if you can see it on a big screen- which frankly is the best way to see it.

Mister Sister (2021) Winter Film Awards 2021


A down on his luck young man stumbles from Minneapolis to New York after a bad break up. Falling in with a drag queen he finds his luck changing. He begins acting as an MC in a drag club under the name Mister Sister, and begins a romance with a single mother.

This is a one of a kind film in the best sort of way. This look at people living and surviving in New York feels more like a documentary than a feature. While I know there was some sort of script involved, I suspect everything was tweaked based upon the wonderful cast. Everyone has to be playing a version of themselves. I say this because no screenwriter could ever get away with this wild and crazy collection of people. Additionally the way everyone looks is the way people look in real life and not movie life.

This is a jagged and raw film that will make you smile and tear up and feel real feelings. As I said this is a film  that more or less feels like it’s a feel good story dropped into the the lives of real people. It’s a film that welcomes you with wide open arms and gives you a hug  whether or not you want it. I say that because I was hesitant to see this film. I avoided it at one festival  and only jumped at the Winter Film Awards screening because I saw it was playing other festivals. Once I was a couple of minutes in I fell into it and had a great time.

What a joy.

Recommended. This is good time with great people.

Old Henry (2021) opens Friday


Tim Blake Nelson deserves an Oscar, or at least a nomination, for his portrayal of a farmer who ends up in the middle of a siege when he and his son take in a wounded man with a satchel full of money.

And that's all I can say about the film. I have been asked not to talk too much about the plot because it has a lot of twists and terms.

This is a great film. Its an action filled western that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You will need to know how this all plays out as you wince the violence.

The real story here is Tim Blake Nelson. Who knew that the perpetual character actor could be the biggest kick ass action hero of the year? Not only does he  effortlessly take on an army of bad guys but he manages to portray one of the great cinema dads.  This is a career making performance that should change the course of the multi-hyphenate's career.  This is a performance the cinema gods need to smile on and get it into the view of the Awards makers.

It really is a great film- maybe one of the year's best.

(though there maybe one twist too many)

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

PRISM (2021) NYFF 2021

This is look at how racism is inherently part of the film industry since all of the technical calibrations are based on white skin.

In many ways similar to CODED BIAS about how facial recognition software has been trained to see white faces but not those of people of color. As important as the film’s discussion  is it didn’t click with me as deeply as CODED. It’s purely a matter of the presentation, which for a good portion of its running time is a record of a zoom roundtable. There is nothing wrong with that, and the information presented is vital to our discussions of race, but for me I tend to stop watching Zoom panels and just listen. Call me an old fogie, but I would have liked more of the demonstrations.

Definitely worth a look.



Hallucinatory and fragmentary story of the a vet who is discovered in the desert digging a grave for his wife. What happened is left for the viewer to piece together as we bounce through various POV and places in time.

I am not certain what I think of this film. A puzzle box od sorts, with lots of ideas rolling around in it’s head, I feel it maybe too fragmented to fully work. I’m not sure it pulls everything together the way it wants to. I know not having everything is part of the nature of the film but at the same time it hits a gray area where things are neither explained enough nor obtuse enough to go with it.

Worth a look for the curious but all others can probably pass.

Coming Home in the Dark (2021)


A family goes on a  trip into the wilds of New Zealand. There they are met by to men who have evil in their hearts.

Bleak, black, kind of hopeless hate machine is a thrilling ride that works for much of it's running time until a couple of turns makes you realize that the film exists purely to show off the considerable skill of director James Ashcroft and that there is nothing really behind it except skill and delight in showing cruelty and proving he's capable of playing with the big guys.

Don't get me wrong this is a good film on it's own terms, but at a certain point, the film stops making narrative sense.  If you need the point I lost it it was the stop at the gas station where suddenly the turns really felt like Ashcroft was just being ugly to be ugly. While life can be like that, the long string of events before and after that made it clear that it wasn't necessary other than to be a florish. (And yes I'm being vague because I d0n't want to ruin it for you since its worth a look if you like this sort of thing)

This was also the point where I realized that there really isn't anything special here. We've been here before any number of times. The hows and whys eventually fell off the table as I started to realize that the whole scheme makes very little sense, at least as told here.

I was disappointed.

If you want to see a potential new force in cinema  or like cinematic cruelty give it a shot.

THE ROUND UP (1967) NYFF2021

 One of Bela Tarr’s favorite directors Miklós Jancsó tells the story of the attempt to round up rebels and get information on the leaders after the 1848 rebellion.  It’s a moody black and white film that feels akin to Tarr’s work but instead of long static shots we get a constantly prowling camera. 

This is a beautifully constructed film that slowly drags us into the events and makes us want to lean in and see what is going on.

To be honest this film was not on my list of films to cover at the festival, I ha no real idea what it was. However the opportunity fell into my lap and I took. As a result THE ROUND UP is going to end up as one of the great finds not only of the New York Film Festival but also the year.

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Daddy's Wallet (2021)

I owe Matthew Levine a big apology. I was given his film DADDY'S WALLET a while ago but I was in the middle of a bunch of festivals. I held of watching it because I wanted to give it my fullest attention.  Once I saw it I told Mr Levine it would be a little longer because I needed to find the words to express my love of the film.

It has gone on longer than I wanted so here is the review....

DADDY'S WALLET is the story of a young woman having an affair with a much older man. They both love each other, but he is married and she is the same age as his daughter. She wants to marry him, he want to marry her but he doesn't want to get a divorce.

While the film looks  flashy, the drama and performances are raw. This is film that knows that life is not neat. Any choice anyone makes is going to have consequences. The question is what can you live with? In what amounts to a romantic triangle no one is going to win nor be happy. 

One of the reasons I like Matthew Levine's films is that he understands that life isn't neat. His previous film MISS FREELANCE is a soul crusher that amazes with its truth. This is something similar.

Highly recommended- DADDY's WALLET cements Matthew Levine as a filmmaker whose work you need to search out- and who needs to make features.

An Approximation of their Barbarous Manners (2021) plays September 29th at Mostra internazionale del cinema di Genova

Bruce Glover goes missing from a film set shortly before his latest film is set to begin shooting.

This short is kind of hard to describe. I mean I can tell you the details of what happens on the set as the film crew gets ready to shoot and then runs into problems but the effect of the film, the slowly shifting turns are impossible to describe, They are more things you need to experience more than see. I say this because the cumulative effect is much stronger than the pieces. Its really good and I can't wait to see it again

What I do have to say is that the film's opening piece, an audition tape of Glover's gave me a new respect for the man. I always saw him as this character actor who played weird roles, but watching the opening bit I was caught off guard and I realized just how good an actor he is. Even if the film isn't as good as it is I would recommend it for that short bit.

Definitely worth a look- preferably on an evening of film related films (say HOPPER/WELLES).

For details on the Mostra internazionale del cinema di Genova screening go here

Benedetta (2021) live and in person at NYFF 2021

Paul Verhoeven's BENEDETTA brought out a bunch of over reacting Catholics to protest the film before anyone had a chance to see it. They said the Rosary and played bagpipes and were generally ignored by everyone (video here). They seemed to think the film was going to damn us all to hell for it's mere existence.  I didn't mind since the day before I was told, in all seriousness, that short sleeves and jeans were not worn in heaven and I was therefore damned to hell.

The correct response should have been to have at least one of their number go see it to see if it was blasphemous, but they were too busy shouting Hail Marys and asking for reparations (I don't know for what.)

The film concerns the true(ish) story of a nun named Benedetta during the time of the plague. She talks to the Virgin Mary, has vision of Jesus and is trying to get closer to God. Things begin to go sideways when she asks that a young woman seeking shelter from an abusive father is allowed to join the order. As the pair become friends and then lovers, the visions amp up as Benedetta develops stigmata and has more visions. The local head of the church sees an opportunity for advancement and then things go sideways.

There is no getting around it Verhoeven's film is all over the place. At times a comedy, it is by turns sexy, cynical and profoundly spiritual. Its as if the director was going to try and have everything all at once. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Verhoeven clearly has no use for the Church, since its clear that everyone is out for a buck. From the Abbess hitting up families for dowries to the head of the church looking to expand his horizons everyone is running a con. They ant cash and they want to be in control Perhaps even Benedetta. 

The question that hangs over much of the film is is Benedetta scamming or is she the real deal. No one is certain despite the blood and the seeming possession of the young woman by a pissed off Jesus. Verhoeven tries to hedge, but despite the cynical nature ultimately you realize that what is going on is some sort of manifestation from God. That makes this a rather unexpected and strangely profound act of faith. Though the truth it reveals is not fully accepted Catholic doctrine even if it is probably deeply Christian.

Spiritually I was kind of moved. I didn't expect how this went which delighted me since it's strangely hopeful. It is, ultimately, an expression of God's love will win out if you believe and accept the pain

However as much as I would love to say the film is great it is not. As I said above Verhoeven has made a film that is all over the place. First and foremost he never get the tone right. Comedy gives way to horror to drama to a polemic to comedy and on and on. You can never grasp it and get lost in it.

The plotting is also a mess. Benedetta's character suddenly changes at a certain point from a frightened young woman to a seemingly optimistic ladder climber. She is suddenly a force of personality just because. It doesn't feel natural and  it makes how we view events artificially colored. There are a couple other turns that are the hand of the director moving things around around rather than events playing out. Clearly Verhoeven doesn't care since he is going for effect but it makes it hard to accept some turns that could never happen in the real world.

Truthfully I don't know what I think of the film, even several hours after seeing it. As I said to Alec Kubas Meyer who went with me to the screening, my feelings are all over the place. This is a film you need to wrestle with, and not take on face value.

Is it worth seeing?

Yes absolutely. As long as you know it's wildly uneven in presentation its worth seeing since the ideas and themes it explores are worth discussing, even if some members of the church don't think so.
Protesters out side Alice Tully Hall


A RIVER RUNS, TURNS, ERASES, REPLACES is either going to enthrall you or bore you to tears. Its a series of static shots of various places in Wuhan (cityscapes ruins, work sites the river, fields, the ocean) with just the sounds of the city. Three or four times we see the words from letter to departed loved ones killed by covid. I loved some of it. I nodded off several times. Early in the film a siren goes off for several minutes and the film ends with a loud rock song (put in place no doubt to wake the audience)
You're on your own.

OUTSIDE NOISE is nominally about Daniella who has returned to Berlin from New York and has insomnia. She is with her friend Mia. They hang out, occasionally talk, before heading to Vienna where they meet another friend. There is some random navel gazing one of the women throws a sandwich at an ex who walks by. 

This is supposed to be some sort of look at being a man in your 30's. I would call it inert and a perfect remedy for sleeplessness. One of the dullest, most pointless, not to mention pretentious films of 2021. For those in need of sleep only. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The most over hyped film of the year is TITANE (2021) NYFF 2021

TITANE has to be the most over hyped and over praised film of 2021. A crowd wowing film that has won multiple awards, including top prize at Cannes, this is a film that has made cinephiles and cineastes orgasmic with joy with its button pushing nonsense. It’s a that has delighted the critics with the seriousness of the performances and the discussion of allegory. It’s a film that I was told was causing people to pass out at every screening.

Um… no.

While I like the film, I don’t love it. It’s a overly serious film that is best described as what would happen if John Waters made an Ed Wood film and then shipped it to Europe without telling anyone it was a joke and they remade it and sent it back. I mean the plot of the film has a young woman name Alexia  who is a serial killer being raped by a car, getting pregnant and then masquerading as the missing son of a fireman.  Its played mostly straight to the point I had to fight the urge to scream out “you have got to be fucking kidding” at the NYFF press conference several times.

Basically this is  a mostly humorless, and unpleasant film that has graphic violence, an attempted abortion, a groan inducing breaking of a nose , brain surgery and other nastiness. Some of it has a humorous edge (our heroine realizing she is going to have to kill a whole house of people), but most of  this  is a rather dour and seemingly angling for a point.

I have no idea what the point is. I don’t think there is one other than what the overly intellectual choose to give it because it helps them enjoy a piece of trash cinema/

I would argue that the film doesn’t have a point or meaning because it doesn’t follow through on so much. Ideas of Alexi being a serial killer fighting against the man disappears when you realize she just is killing anyone who annoys her.  Why is the fireman’s son missing when the film implies he died in a fire? It kind of muddies how we deal with grief and loss, not because it isn’t there but because the film bobbles the details of what happened.  The film does that a lot- it gives us one story or one thematic element that collapses because of the details or omissions of the plot.  Honestly we have to forgive too much and bring in from the outside too many details for most of the plot and the themes to really work and have resonance.  This isn’t a case of the audience working with a director but rather it’s a case where the audience has to fix the form the director gave us to have the whole thing work. The film only works if we magically give the broken form life.

I like the fact that this is basically a schlock grade Z film, but all the fun of the inherently dumb plot line is sucked out of it by the serious shifts in tones.  This is fun, its just nasty and off putting for no good reason. Watching the film I kept thinking that Quentin Dupieux could have done a better job. I mean while I may not love all his films I’m always game for how he can walk the line between serious and silly.

Do I even need to mention how derivative the film is? Bits reminded me of the Julie Christie headed THE DEMON SEED, any number of serial killer hiding out and finding grace films, a whole slate of 1950’s scifi films of experiments gone wrong films.

I think the film would have worked better for me if the main characters were a bit more likable. Yes we kind of feel pity for them, but at the same time we don’t like them. My attitude concerning the accident that puts a plate in Alexia‘s head was not “oh my god” but “good the little shit deserves it. “ The fireman is just a pitifully sad man. I never felt anything for him except sadness.

And the illogic of automotive rape aside the film has huge gaps in logic at every turn. Plot threads are dropped, things just happen (the captain’s son is just allowed to be a fireman) and a baby belly three times the size of our heroine is strapped completely flat without breaking the baby or the mothers internal organs. This isn’t a film with a narrative flow, but a plot that is lead around by the director by a ring through it’s nose.

This is an ugly film that is going to be forgotten in a couple of years as the novelty and transgression of it’s moment are forgotten.

For those who want to see an over hyped over blown grade Z schlock drive in film this is a must. For all others take a pass.

For me I will think about what John Waters could have done in the 1970’s in 16mm B&W with Divine and Edith Massey and Tab Hunter.

Futura (2021) NYFF 2021


Right before covid hit and then through the next year directors Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, Alice Rohrwacher traveled across Italy to ask the young people- those almost adults in the work force- about their views of the future.  The resulting film is a portrait of the young of Italy – and the way covid changed people.

Good but wildly over long discussion of the state of a country. The problem with the film is that for all the discussion of the future there is very little variety. Many of the kids look similar and their desires for the future are hopeful (jobs, family, ect), The answers are largely that there is no hope for Italy and they if they want to get ahead they will have to leave. Only the kids who migrated to Italy see it as a place they can have a future. While there is some variety, a discussion of the evils of social media and another on the way kids no longer are learning the past, most this is simply kids saying they want a future but they know it has to be else where over and over again.

This would have been great at half it’s length.

Not really recommended.

Ahed's Knee (2021) NYFF 2021

A couple of years ago Nadav Lapid had his film SYNONYMS at the New York Film Festival.  The reaction to the film was to confound the people I spoke with. Some people loved it and other people hated it. The film was the subject for discussion for  a while before it kind of disappeared. This year Lapid returns with AHED's KNEE and  it is in some ways even more frustrating.

The film follows a director  who takes time from a personal project about a Palestinian protester he is working on to screen one of his films in a small desert community. He hangs out with a friend and the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Culture for Libraries who arranged the screening. But life is crashing in on him with issues with his mother and a requirement to sign a document that his film is really about a safe subject and agreeing not to talk abut proscribed topics.

I m absolutely torn about this film. The central thread of the director trying to come to terms with life and the state of Israel is absolutely brilliant. I loved the discussions and the characters. Frankly is it wasn't for the things I will get to in a moment I would consider this one of the best films of the year. However as good as most of this film is Lapid does some incredibly bad things that make me want to lock him in a closet.

The problems with the film begin with the frequent use of a camera style that shifts in and out of POV with in a single shot. We'll be looking at  something and then the camera whips away to look at something else and whips back and then away and on and on. I know it's suppose to make the film feel subjective, but it never works. The camera movement is never close to hw some one looks. The movements feel like they are being made by a camera on rig.

Lapid also has these moments of fancy that mostly don't work. The shift to a night time city street while walking in the desert is fine and works in context but something like the dance bit to Lovely Day is what the f.... At other times the camera does these weird gyration that make no sense, such as when it stops and starts while our hero is walking in the desert and actually bumps into the stopped camera man. Its a show bit that makes zero sense.

Lapid's use of knowing humor isn't always on target. Things occasionally spin out for a humorous moment that really shouldn't be there. 

I don't know if Lapid is behind it but I am wondering why about a half an hour in there is a song in Hebrew that isn't subtitled. Its clear that it is suppose to mean something but the print I saw it wasn't subtitled in English so any meaning is lost.

Honestly Lapid has some interesting things to say but he undercuts all of them because he insists on making us aware of  his hand. The result is that by the time the film ends and there should be an emotion catharsis we feel manipulated  and disconnected to what we are seeing. We see the manipulation more than we feel the emotional truth.

I have no idea if I should recommend this because I don't know what I feel about it.

Belle (2021) NYFF 2021

Mamoru Hosoda's BELLE is his messiest film narratively. There are really problems with how things play out. That said the film absolutely reduced me me to a sobbing mess at times. Intellectually I am not a fan, emotionally I want to disappear into it and never come back.

The plot involves a young girl named Suzu who signs up with an on-line world called "U". The program creates an avatar for you in the world. Hidden behind her avatar Belle, Suzu begins to sing, something she has not been able to do since her mother died. Becoming a superstar she is drama to a super fighter called Beast. As the film goes on Suzu has to navigate the real world and the on-line.

The look of the film is stunning. Its one of the few recent films I have seen that MUST be seen on a big screen. I say this because much of the on line  world is so jam packed with details you can only see it all on a big screen. Trust me seeing this really big will blow you mind.

The music, especially the songs, is Some of the best I've ever heard in a film. The music carries a great deal of weight and drive the emotion. The marriage of song and image crushed me to the point of tears. The best thing I can say is it is as good as anything that Yoko Kano has ever written.(Kano is the greatest writer of cinema songs in my book)

The problem with the film is that the narrative  is too complicated. There is way too much  going on and things are not always explained. Really for the first time in his career Hosoda is asking us to just go with him and not ask questions. But as magnificent as the film is when its firing, somethings can't be over looked, and questions remain.

It begins with the computer world "U". Its not really thought out. It just sort of is there. What is it exactly? We really don't know. We don't know the rules. There is talk of being able to make money fleetingly, but it never really comes into play. We don't know how it works since there are ear pod like things, but there is also the use of typical screens. There is talk of  people being able to do things, say fighting but there is no sense of what that is.

A number of plot threads are tangled. Within the whole Suzu real world story where so much is hinted at but not explained. We have the "U" plot line of Belle becoming a superstar suddenly its not really explained. The the Beauty and the Beast plot line isn't seamlessly integrated (despite bringing us to tears). Themes of loss, child abuse,  what its like to be a teen, friendship , families and a dozen other things are all there but dealt with in various degrees of success. 

Walking out of the NYFF screening I told Hubert Vigilla that as much as I love the film I can rip it apart because there are so many problems.

And despite the problems I loved this film. 

The film is beautiful beyond words.  There are moments that are truly wondrous. 

Sequences move you. The song sequences are pure emotion. Only an insane man would dare take on Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast, but some how Hosoda's take is even more glorious than the original. 

There are little bits of animated acting that are as good as real actors. Watch the facial expressions of Beast when he hugs Belle. at the end of the "dance". Another glorious piece in the train station confession scene. Yes its a bit goody but it is so on point you will want to scream "YES!" reaptedly

The film's portrait of love and longing is magnificent. We feel everyone's longing, Couple it with the songs and music and you have a deeply moving film... that is flipped becase you realize in the end this is not a love story but a quest for self and human connection.

On a technical level this is one of the most amazing animated films I've ever seen. Until you see this on a big screen and see the depth and detail of all the images in both the on line and real world you will not see a film that is one of the great films of the last few decades, if not ever.

I know the film is flawed but what worked distracted me and I ended up a big huge ball of mush. I cried multiple times because I could see what the film as going for and went with it, because the emotional truth the film was portraying was greater than any flaw.  

Frankly I don't care what this film does wrong when it makes me feel this good.

If you can accept this film for what it is, you will have a new favorite film that will make you feel glorious.

Highly recommended.

Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song (1971) NYFF 2021

 I did a short piece on Melvin Van Peeble’s classic film in 2014 for Fantasia. I am going to repost it here for this years New York Film Festival where a new restoration is playing because I want to see it again, preferably on the big screen, before I  write up a longer piece.

Melvin Van Peebles' earth shaking "blacksploitation" film (his was one of, if not the first film in the cycle) about a man on the run changed filmmaking in ways that are still being felt. Van Peebles, one of the most intelligent and amazing men I've ever met gave the world a real black man and not some Hollywood's idea of one. Its a film that was made by an artist who wanted to get his vision on the screen and did so, thus changing the world which tried to follow his lead. A historically important film, it is also a damn fine thriller and for that reason it must be seen.

The Badger (2021) Winter Film Awards 2021


This is a strange film.

A divorced woman who is about to get married a second time has her son kidnapped. As she struggles to get the ransom she finds she has to reconnect with her ex-husband.

Where this is going and an entire subplot about her house being cleared of termites by a man with a badger is what makes this an odd film.  Its so odd  that I kept watching the film not because I necessarily liked it, rather because I had to see where it was going. Tonally the film is all over the place, and it’s outcome left me shaking me head.

Its not a bad film, rather it’s a film that has its own off kilter world view and its going to stick with it.

If you want to see a one of a kind film, I highly recommended it. All others proceed with caution.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021) NYFF 2021


Painfully obvious social commentary follows a teacher riding the wake of having a sex video uploaded to the internet and the trouble is cases in her life.

Completely boring film could easily be trimmed  to a fraction of its running time as sequences go on endlessly. For example the a large chunk of the first hour of the film is the teacher walking  while the camera kind of follows her and occasionally drifts off to look at things that have no connection to anything. There is no reason for it since it doesn't move anything forward.

The film is an utterly useless exercise in social commentary about things such as hypocrisy that are much too easy targets. Repeatedly I just shook my head and wondered why they weren't being daring?

I guess the daring went  out the window when the they decided to open the film with graphic sex. Yes we see the sex tape and its suitably ridiculous. While I have nothing against graphic sex in films I do require a reason to have it there. Why do we need to see the  penetration and the oral sex? No clue. In films like THEY CALL HER ONE EYE graphic sex is there for effect. Here there is no reason other than the fact that the film so uncommunicative at times that if we didn't see it we wouldn't know what got everyone's panties in a bunch. Honestly in a better written film you wouldn't have had to show it, and turned it to making it into being a big nothing.

Honestly this is a film that will only get rented or bought by people wanting graphic sex but won't log into a porn site and need to fool themselves the film is art. It's also a film that will only get programmed by people who think this is cutting edge and daring. Worse the film is so useless that the only thing anyone will remember is the sex, if they remember the film at all.

This is one of the dumbest and most over rated films I've seen at a New York Film Festival in thirty years of going.

Very Brief Word onThe Souvenir Part II (2021) NYFF 2021

 Joanna Hogg continues her autobiographical tale of  Julie who is trying to finish her graduate film project while at the same time dealing with the events of the first film.

I don't have a great deal to say about the film. I just enjoyed watching it and don't have much to say about it.  That's not a knock, more it's a kind of a rave. I just want th film to be without pulling it apart. That may not be the best thing for you, but its the best I can do.

What I can say is that the film is better than the first part, and best of all you don't need to know all the details of that film to enjoy this one. I say that because I have little memory of the first film and didn't feel I missed out on anything.


Kathaputali – The Puppet (2021) Winter Film Awards 2021


This horror film from Asia is a story of palace intrigue and a prince who is forced to spend time in a haunted palace

Horror film Nepal is a good film that requires a bit of patience.  I say this because some of the dialog scenes feel more like tableaus rather than an event that is happening right before our eyes. It’s not bad  but it results in a slightly mannered effect that is at odds with the horror.

The horror stuff here is really good. There are several sequences here that produced real chills. How good is the horror stuff here? There is a stock shot of a demon hovering over a sleeping person that we see in way too many films. The way it was done here  made me gasp. It wasn’t anything overt, it just was a perfect shot that inferred some that wasn’t right. More it felt more real than what we have been getting out of Hollywood. I was really impressed.  More importantly I was frightened.

Definitely worth a look for horror fans

A Savanah Haunting (2021) Winter Film Awards

A family from California moves into a new fixer upper home. They are trying to get over the death of their daughter by drowning. However weird things begin to happening and it soon becomes clear that what is happening in the house is something much darker.

Good little horror film is kick. It may hit a lot of the expected notes, but once the film gets going and the darkness is really released the film takes off. I was watching the final run to the end and was feeling a little creepy. What can I say the black eyes always wig me out.

In all seriousness I see a good number of small scale haunted house films every year, and while most of them manage a scar or to few are as shivery as A SAVANAH HAUNTING.

Definitely worth a look when it plays the Winter Film Awards.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) NYFF 2021


Joel Coen  takes on the Bard of Avon's Scottish play with wildly mixed results.

Shot in black and white and the Academy ratio this is a throw back to the golden days of Hollywood, German expressionism, Carl Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and the theater, the film looks great. In actuality this film is almost certain to be nominated for numerous technical Oscars. Coen and his team have created a visual world that delights the eye at every turn. There are eye popping images all through out the film, anything with the witches, the cauldron scene, and the glorious shot of the death of Macbeth. Its a delight.

The performances are largely top notch. Denzel Washington is amazing in the lead. His madness makes me hoping that he wades into King Lear soon. The real discovery here is Kathryn Hunter as the Three Witches. Its a haunting performance that ill almost certainly bring her awards gold, including an Oscar because despite everything else going on she is the one actor you will remember above all others.

And as for the rest of the film, its all a series of problems almost all of them Joel Coen's fault.

At the post press screening at the New York Film Festival Coen spoke about designing the film so that the film constantly reminds us that the film is based on a play. He sought to meld the play as written with cinema. The trouble is the result is a film that is kind of dead.  Using long frequent close ups, like Dreyer did in JOAN OF ARC, he films the characters speaking to the camera/audience.. It's an interesting idea but with the tight aspect ratio mixed with the lack of movement in the frame results in a the cinematic equivalent of having a character stepping forward and declaratively speaking their lines. Its a mode of stage acting that has been made fun of for decades (and resulted in my walking out on Christopher Plummer doing King Lear) because it's silly. Coen said that he wanted  to shoot the characters speaking to the camera, especially with the soliloquies, because he said most times they are done as voice overs and he didn't like that. Perhaps it doesn't work in some cases but filmmakers like Kenneth Branagh make them gripping living cinema. This is inert.

This close up way of doing things results in a wildly off kilter performance by Frances McDormand. She doesn't act her role but performs her role as if it's a showy one woman show of her greatest roles. I found much of it laughable and was biting tongue. She is in a grand stilted stage production while the rest of the cast seems to be in a real cinema world.  I don't blame her entirely, since her husband's choice of framing the action essentially has her (and the rest of the cast) acting in a vacuum.

 The  framing of the action is a major flaw with the whole film. The close ups could be okay, but pretty much every other shot is a tableaux making everything static. The few actors in any scene are posed in artificial locations. Since he keeps the number of actors on screen small all the times the tableaus result in no one being connected to each other. As I said everyone is acting in a vacuum, or a large scale Zoom call. These are isolated people not humans interacting with each other.(Look at the scene where Macbeth is woken up to be told he has been promoted. It's separate shots assembled with no one sharing the same space unless thy are standing next to each other). This means we never really know who these people are and what their relationship is.

It's a situation made worse by his rewriting and tweaking the source material. There are deletions in the text that eliminates a lot of the exposition.  Its not always clear who everyone is. I say this not as a Macbeth newbie but as some one who has loved the play for four decades. I've seen too many productions to count and a good number of film versions but  despite being able to talk about the plot at length, I was frequently lost. Its not the cross cutting or the rearranging, it's  simply that where in a good production you can tell who everyone is, Coen has removed small bits that only allow you to know who is who if you know who says what line. He has killed any sense of who anyone is other than Macbeth and his Lady. He also reimagines the role of some characters such as Ross, who now becomes a kind of deus ex machina, moving some events forward (such his role at the end)

I can not imagine how lost someone who doesn't know the play will feel if this is the first version they encounter. Its everything that is wrong with most bad stagings of the play.

Coen's spatial problems continue  within the physical space of where things happen. Characters walk around the castle randomly, often goin into the same set that is supposed to be a different location. Lady Macbeth wanders around doing "out out foul spot" in places that don't match other shots- and or a jutting cliff that just appears outside the castle. Yes, you can do that on stage, but you can't do it in film unless you construct it differently and lay a groundwork. Yes, Coen is going for effect but the effect is confusion. A continuing thought was "Wait where am I?"

Coen also grossly misreads Macbeth's character. Instead of a slowly corrupted good man, he's portrayed as a guy instantly ready to kill the king. Where did that come from? I understand you want him to be ambitious, but homicidal from the get go? That seems to be a rewrite of the early part of the play. What Coen doesn't seem to understand is that by making Macbeth ready to kill he lessens Lady Macbeth. She is some how diminished and less of a monster. Actually he makes the character completely unnecessary. She is supposed to be a catalyst to push him over the edge, but that's all gone. Why have her in the play at all then? The whole plan is staged as if Macbeth as planning it from the start (the letter). It removes the notion of real tragedy because he's a monster (Richard 3 eat your heart out) 

This feels like its a film made by a filmmaker who read Wikipedia and a few theories about the play and went with that

While I know this film delighted many at the New York Film Festival, this is a film that will never really leave the art house. Yes the cast will get it seen but I doubt outside of a handful of Shakespeare fans, few will ever return to or recommend this beautiful misfire.

Visuals aside this is the worst screen adaption I've run across, and there are some misguided film versions out there.


How you react to this film will be determined by how you react to the conceit of the film. In this case it's that the film is a series of long takes where people literally standing in field yelling at each other. No one moves. They simply stand there and yell at each other about Antoine's misdeeds. I was amused by the obtuse nature of some of the conversations but there simply isn't enough here to sustain 75 minutes. Blame the point and shoot nature of the filmmaking. Yea its clever for a bit but it gets tiring really fast.

Vincent Messen's experimental portrait of Omar Blondin Diop’s life  is a mix of documentary, docufiction, a discussion of form, a discussion of Godard (who put Diop in some films) and a look at politics, which was what killed Diop.

I liked this film. I liked the interview footage most of all. There is a real emotional connection that the rest of the film doesn't have. Forgive me, but when you mix deep thoughts with emotion, emotion almost always wins out since film, despite what this film or Godard may say, is at its best an emotional medium.

Definitely worth a look.

A Wicked Eden (2021) Winter Film Awards (2021)


This is a portrait of Goddess Alexandra Snow who along with her friends  has created a positive place specializing in BDSM and kink on the internet. It’s a portrait of the woman and her empire that makes it clear that there is nothing wrong with any of it, rather it’s a liberating experience for all those involved.

This is a really good film. It’s a lovely look at the world of Snow. It’s a film that will open the eyes of many people who see the film who have no doubt will have a vanilla look at the scene or only know the kinky side of things from the 50 Shades franchise.

Having seen a number of similar films over the years I can honestly say that this is one of the best I’ve run across. It helps that this is not just a story about a woman in it for the money but one who is doing something that she really loves. It’s a love that bleeds off the screen.

I don’t know what else to say. Talking about t a film like this is difficult on a general readership website. Not because there is anything wrong with the subject but more because I don’t want to start a discussion that will upset some one who drifts in unaware. To that end I’m simply going to say that this film is worth a look for anyone interested in the subject.

Friday, September 24, 2021

More Than Miyagi (2021) Winter Film Awards


Excellent biography of Pat Morita, best known for playing Mr. Miyagi in the KARATE KID movies. Morita had started out doing stand up comedy and then branched off into acting, coming to prominence as Arnold on Happy Days. However like many comedians his life was far from non-stop laughs.

Lovingly told by the friends and family who knew him this is a film full of laughs and a few tears. Its a joyous celebration of a man who was way more than just his best known role. If you didn't know Morita before you certainly will by the end.

I loved this film. I always loved Pat Morita. I remember him from his early TV performances on the various talk shows doing stand up. I remember being delighted when he started showing up as an actor. For me this is a film that filled in a lot of details about some one I loved.

I don't know what to say beyond that. his is just a great film. See it when it plays The Winter Film Awards.

Bergman's Island (2021) NYFF 2021

Mia Hansen-Løve’s BERMAN'S ISLAND fell off the table for me when we got to the epilog. It was at that point where Hansen-Løve mucked about reality, because it seems like, her protagonist, she didn't have a clue about how to end her film.

The film is nominally about Tony and Chris. They are married filmmakers who are staying at Ingmar Bergman's home while attending a screening of one of Tony's films and working on new projects.  As they explore Bergman's world, Chris has some adventures and runs into writer's block about the end of her film. She then tells Tony the story, which is also set on the island and involves a sputtering romance. We watch as it plays out... and then the Epilog flops everything.

I was with the film for most of the running time. I know that had I been a major Bergman fan most of this would play ten times better but I was amused  at what was going one. I also didn't mind that the characters in Chris' story were better drawn than Chris and Tony. It was an interesting romance.

What I didn't like was the epilog which punctures another wall of reality to give us an ending that reflects Tony and Chris more into the film Chris is suddenly making. Its a rip that we are just asked to go with and it doesn't really work because it resets the table in such a way that there are way too many unanswered questions- or perhaps loose threads that have to be ignored. It only makes sense internally because Hansen-Løve says it does...and in this case it's not an answer. (or to appropriate one character in the film- A trilogy isn't a trilogy just because Bergman said it was)

The end came and I wasn't moved.

Worth a look for those who can not think and just go with it or Ingmar Bergman fans.

Marq Evans talks CLAYDREAMS and THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR and other movies

I discovered Marq Evan when I saw his film THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR about DJ Marco Collins who was the guy who broke Nirvana, Beck Garbage and Weezer. It appeared to be a typical bio but Evans turned in such a way that it was something special. It was a film I showed/recommended to friends who grew up living and dying by the radio. Everyone fell in love with it.

Then his next film CLAYDREAM about animator was announced for this year's Tribeca and I saw his name attached and I knew I not only had to see it but I also I had to talk to him. The interview during Tribeca didn't work but we still manages to connect. The result is one of my favorite interviews I've ever Done. Mr Evans was just a great person to talk to and if I didn't have to go back to the day job I could have spoken to him all day.

Now I should have run this review a couple of weeks ago but the Port Jefferson Documentary series is running CLAYDREAM and Mr Evans is talking and I figured the best way to get you all to go see the film and the talk was to read this one because it will give you an idea of what you are in for- A really good time.

I want to thank  Marq Evans for taking the time to do this.  I can't wait until your next film.

And if you are on Long Island make the time and go to Port Jefferson and see CLAYDREAM

Hey, Steve. How you doing?

Steve: I'm all right. You, you able to talk now?

Marq: Yeah, sure.

Steve: If you don't mind, I'm going to not just ask you questions about, CLAYDREAM but also THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR because I loved that. When I found out that you had done the Will Vinton film, it became even more of a priority to see it and to talk to you.

Marq: Oh, that's very cool. I appreciate that.

Steve: One of the things I loved about THE GLMOUR AND THE SQUALOR was the way you did it  came across differently than every other documentary I've seen. Actually both of your films are unique.  The two films are are their own animals, but there's a definite voice. There's a definite reason for everything, and I absolutely love that.

Marq: I really appreciate you saying that. I mean, there's so many decisions with every little second of a film. That's true for all filmmakers, but it's nice to hear you say that the decisions are paying off.

I think there are similarities, certainly, between the two films, although they're made quite differently. With CLAYDREAM other than the interviews, we didn't shoot a ton. We didn't have to because we had so much of Will's work and so much behind-the-scenes works. With THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR, there wasn't a lot of footage that existed. So, not just the interviews, the recreation, the B roll, we shot most of that movie. As far as structurally and how we went about the edit, there's definitely a lot of similarities.

Steve: I'm curious about the origins of both films. How did you come to make THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR? How did you come to make the Will Vinton film? They are completely different. One's a DJ most people never have heard of. The other one is somebody, everybody has seen his work.

Marq: Yeah, what's interesting about Will, though, and I've certainly come to realize this even more since the movie premiered and reading what some people have said about it, most people I don't think are familiar with Wills name. Certainly, they've seen something of his -- whether it's the Raisin's, the M&M's, or the Mark Twain MYSTERIOUS STRANGER -- when they were kids. But I was a little bit surprised to realize how unknown he is as a name.

As far as how they both came together, THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR started when I was listening to the radio station that he used to be on, which was 107.7 The End in Seattle. And this is back in like 2011, 13 years ago, I guess now [inaudible 03:06] for the idea. I don't normally listen to radio much, but I happened to be somewhere out of range of serious [inaudible 03:16] or anything. I had the radio on, and that was the one station that was coming through in a thick snowstorm. And I had to go to the grocery store to get the groceries to stock up before the storm, and this radio show was on. They were celebrating their 20-year anniversary of the radio station The End, and they were counting down the 107 songs of all time. In between the songs they would have these, but the radio DJs come back and tell their best stories from their time, you know, in Seattle working with The End. Every time Marko came on, I was really wanting his voice to kind of wrap through the radio. The stories that he told, and the access that he had with all these rock stars was really just fascinating to me. At the time I think I had just seen -- or it had just come out – MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the Woody Allen movie where Owen Wilson is in Paris. At the time, we get sucked into the 1920s, and it reminded me a bit about that of like going back in time, in this case just to the 1990s, about all these rock stars there in Seattle at the exact same time, and there's Marko in the radio station kind of being right in the middle of it. It started with that radio show that I heard, and then I thought this could be a good idea for a film.

Originally, I started thinking I might write it as a script, but as I started doing research I came across a great article in the Seattle Weekly by a guy called Chris Cornell, who turned out to be a good friend of my next-door neighbor --but I didn't know him at the time. He had just written this feature article about Marko's rise and fall and re-invention. That was a big piece. When I read that, I thought, "Maybe I should do this as a documentary." Anyway, that's how that all started. I reached out to Marco, and, you know, he was interested. But it probably took months before he finally came on board and decided that he would do it.

And it was a little bit similar with Will Vinton for CLAYDREAM.  In this case I'd read an article. I can't remember what the publication was, but it was a blog-type thing. And then I did the same thing. It outlined his rise and fall. And I was familiar with Will's work. I did know the name, I knew the mustache, but I didn't know much about the story. When I read this article, it felt like a movie the way that this article was written.

I had just put out GLAMOUR or maybe it wasn't even done yet. I was finishing GLAMOUR, so I was looking for the next project. When I came across this article, I thought this could be it.

I see the two similarities there are the nostalgia for me. I grew up listening to the music that Marco helped break, the grunge scene in the '90s. Right about that same time, you've got the California Raisins and all those characters. Both of those stories hit me at this coming-of-age time in my life, so that meant something.

Did the same thing with Will, reached out to him. [laughs] We got together right away, but it was the same thing where he wasn't really that interested or didn't know if he wanted to do it. It probably took another five, six months with him as well before he came around and decided to go for it. For Will, as soon as he decided he was in, he was all in, access whenever. I would spend hours and hours and hours in his basement. He would help a lot of the time, going through old archives. A lot of that had to be digitized. It was all analog in boxes, whether it was photos, things on old data tapes, or whatever it may be. That's the origin of both of those films.

Steve: I like your truthfulness in the films, one of the things I like about both GLAMOUR and CLAYDREAM, is that you didn't make straight happy films. You show the bad side, the good side. Did, did, did either Marco or Will want you not to deal with some of the failures?

Marq: I would say they differed in whereas Marco, from day one, was like, "We've got to show the darkness." He understood that. He was a big movie buff himself. He knew that in order to make an interesting movie, there has to be drama. There has to be conflict, and he had plenty of that in his life. He was totally game. That said, it took a while for us to get there with him. I think he was and felt like he was being really open and vulnerable. Then when the editor and I were looking to cut, it wasn't quite there. It wasn't quite coming across, so it took a while. There was a final interview where he really let it all out, and that was important for the film. He just needed to go even deeper than maybe he thought he possibly could. He was totally understood and up for it from the beginning, but we just had to get him to go further.

For Will, that was a gradual thing. I think he would have loved for the film to just be this celebration, not just him, but he wanted to celebrate all the work that was done by the studio and all of the animators, and the hundreds of people that worked on these projects. He would have loved probably if that were it. He also knows what good stories are, so that was a little bit more gradual. Just as time went on, for instance, even that footage with him and with Phil Knight, I didn't even know about that. It was about two years into the project before told me that he had that. That came from Will. I think it was part of this gradual process of trusting me and knowing, "OK, you know, we can have some of this, more of this conflict, and it's going OK. And it's going to make for the best film." If you don't have the conflict, if I just made this puff piece about Will and the work, nobody would watch this, just maybe the most diehard animation fans.

I definitely wanted to tell a true story, but as we were making it, we were thinking we wanted to do it in a cross between THE SOCAIL NETWORK, the David Fincher Facebook movie, and the Mr. Rogers documentary, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR combining those two moods.

It's like Will, at first I don't think he would have wanted it to be like that. As time went on, especially as he realized that he was getting more and more sick too. I didn't think at the beginning of this process that he ever would have thought that he would have allowed me to shoot while he's getting treatment, sitting in that chair getting cancer treatment, you know, sitting in, sitting in that chair getting cancer treatment. But I just think as the project evolved and just more and more conversations, he understood more what I was trying to do. He just became much more open to all of that.

Steve: Did he see the film before he, die-, a cut of the film before he died?

Marq: No. There was about a 15-minute edit that I showed him, I don't know if that changed that much. I'm sure it changed a lot as far as just like how, you know, shot selection and pacing and stuff like that, but he, he had at least seen kind of, what at the time, was the first 15 minutes of the movie and really was happy with it. I think you know, he, he had actually seen a movie about one of his animator friends that had just come out or was about to come out about a couple weeks earlier and he thought it was really not very good. He was like, "Oh crap," It really relieved him when I shared him this 15 minutes, and he saw everything that went into it, and at the end, he just smiled, and he said, "Well, I don't have to worry about there being anything lazy about this. This is, this is incredible, um, just all, all that's gone into it." I think felt that he was in good hands and, um, didn't have to worry about whether the film was going to negatively portray him. I think he'd be really happy with it. I wish he would have gotten to see it. I wish he would   have been a part of the Tribeca premiere and then, you know, we went out to Annecy, France. I got back just last week, and that's a place that he would always premiere his films. So, it was pretty special being out there, that hopefully, you know, take his spirit along with us.

Steve: What do his friends and family think of the film?

Marq: Uh, you know, we haven't actually spoke about it. I'm giving them a little bit more time. I guess at some point I'll have to follow up 'cause I'm sure it's just super heavy for them. You know? I've heard from some of his close friends that just how much they loved it and how much they think he would've loved it. So, that's, that's like given me comfort. I have not had the, uh, the conversation yet with the family, but definitely looking forward. Hoping that they feel that it represents him.

Steve: What is your favorite Will Vinton film?

Marq: My favorite Will Vinton film? I mean, the favorite of the shorts would probably be THE COGNITO  just because it's the standup comic with things coming out of his head. I just think it's so brilliant and creative and funny. But I also just have to go back to the Mark Twain film. You know, being the only feature film ever made out of a hundred percent clay. You know? It's all, it's all clay. The entire thing. Not a frame...Not an object or a frame. The bulk of it is. I just think from like a creative standpoint...I mean, the, the film's got its flaws, you know, mostly story related 'cause it's kind of like a bunch of different stories, and they try to tie it all together into one story, but, to me, that doesn't really matter. It's just, it's just an amazing piece of art  that I think should have had a better audience than it did and, you know. It got marketed towards kids, and it wasn't really a kid movie, but hopefully if our film has enough to, to get out there maybe that film will kind of have a bit of a new life.

Steve: Well, it's interesting you mentioned that film because  it has been starting to pop up again in on line animation discussions because a lot of people saw it as a very little kid but didn't know what it was. The images, and a lot of it just stuck with everybody. It's like everybody seems to be rediscovering it because now as older people they are rediscovering it.

Marq: There's a narrative that’s going through a lot of the darker stories that people didn't know that Twain wrote, like The Mysterious Stranger. It has a cult following, but it's not super known. And the Stranger scene kind of terrified a lot of kids when they watched it. That scene out of context has, you know, like a YouTube page, and it's got like millions of views and comments of people saying, "Oh, I remember this when a kid. When I was a kid." It scared a lot of them. Even for some of my crew members that's like the scene that they remember. They'd seen Mark Twain. They remembered The Mysterious Stranger scene that just terrified them [laughs] .And I can understand taken out the context, though when you watch the movie as a whole it definitely has a rhyme and a reason to it.

Steve:  I'm going to bounce back to GLAMOUR because something stayed with me from the film. There's a point in the film where  Marcos discussing talking to the kids sitting alone with the radio, the kids whose best friend growing up was that radio. The scene feels like it comes from some one who could be that kid who felt like the only person talking to him was the radio. Were you that sort of a kid who is alone with the best friend as the radio growing up?

Marq: Not as much with the radio 'cause I grew up in a small town in Washington, a smaller town and I didn't have  a radio stations or the DJ that I felt like were talking to me. But I know people that did. Many like my wife, who listened to Marcos show when she was growing up, and  got super excited when they found out that I was making this film. The DJ could be like almost like a best friend to people, you know. Especially that are growing up with maybe kids that, you know, feel like outsiders, or just feel, you know, lonely, don't feel like they've got, um, you know, the best friend. They've been expecting the support from their family members that they feel like they've been forgot. You know, like a stranger doesn't feel like a stranger, it literally feels like a friend talking to just them. I know Marco took that really, really seriously and I think...I've heard that from other some other DJs.

Pat O'Day, you know, was a legendary Seattle DJ in, like, '50s, '60s, '70s. He actually just recently passed away, but he had talked about that as well too. So, I think it''s not a trick but just something that great DJs have that ability to really make a connection, and it's. So, you just think about all the lives that they've been able to improve because of that ability to do that. It's pretty special and...But unfortunately, you know, I think mostly lost...

There's still some great voices that are out there, but it's never going to be this because, you know, radio was just such a unique thing, and radio will never be the same. It was like the one main thing that everyone was turning into.

Steve: I had to ask you about that because some of my friends mentioned that the radio was their friend. And then I had showed them THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR, and they were like, "That's it!" When they saw that scene, it was like, they were, they, it was like, "That's it. That's what it was like." That was, I mean, because it  just brought everything home for them. 

Marq: Cool.

Steve: Next question what is Cow by Bear?

Marq: I was friends with this Chef Bear. He's a bear that, that learned how to walk and talk and cook. He's a good friend of mine. So I kind of just help him out with his media. But he's got like a dining experience out in San Diego, in Seattle, and for a while in Savannah, Georgia.He asked me to not talk too much about that, but people should definitely check out If they're ever in San Diego, they can go get a really, really good five-course meal cooked by a Bear.

We did a couple episodes of a show that could have kept going, but it fizzled out a little bit. It was a web series.

Steve: Where are you going with CLAYDREAM next?

Marq: It's kind of interesting because, as of right this moment, it's not available anywhere in America. We had the Tribeca 10-day or whatever virtual run, so people could see it then. Then the Annecy, it was available in France, but once those things are done we're working on a sale right now. We're working on distribution. Hopefully, at some point this year it'll be available to a wide audience wherever that may be. As of, I think, yesterday, it's playing in Australia as part of the Melbourne Documentary Festival. We've got couple other festivals winding up, and we'll continue to do some festivals, but the focus is getting the distribution and figuring out a wider release for it.

Steve: That's cool. What are you doing next?

Marq: I've got a handful that are in different spots in development right now. There's a documentary that I've been making in Haiti with my brother for about 11 years now, ever since the 2010 earthquake. That's something we would like to finish. It's like a boyhood documentary where it's following this brilliant young Haitian kid. We met him when he was 12 years old. Now he's 23, living in Brooklyn. He's got this fascinating story, super interesting kid. We'd like to finish that.

Probably the two projects that are most far along that I've been working on for a while and developing and pitching, there's a true crime, murder mystery story in the '80s in Kodiak, Alaska that I got quite a bit into so far and we're pitching. And then also a series about stoicism, the Ancient Greek and Roman Empire philosophy from 2000 years ago that is really relevant today, just how, how this group of modern stoics, a lot of celebrities and a lot of athletes and business people are taking these methods from 2,000 years ago and using them to apply it to their situations today. Those are the two that are probably the furthest along, then there's a handful of other ones I've been poking around on too, but we'll just [laughs] see what goes.

Steve: Sounds good. Thank you for taking the time.