Saturday, January 29, 2022

GoodAfternoon Sweet Dream (2022) Slamdance 2022


Bang Seung Hyeon' GOODAFTERNOON SWEET DREAM is a series of conversations beteen a girl named Ye Won and her frieends.

Shot in black and white in a series of single takes the film looks and feels like a Hong Sang Soo film. Its a discussion of the lives and feelings of the characters where everything happens verbally.

And that's all I'm going to say. It's not that the film is good or bad, rather this is not my cup of tea. There is a reason I tend not to review Hong Sang Soo films which is my reaction to them is not the reaction of other audience members. While the film most certainly not bad, the film never connected ith me on a personal level in the same way that Sang Soo's films don't connect to me.

That said, if you are a fan of Hong Sang Soo, you may wish to give GOODAFTERNOON SWEET DREAM a try

Killing the Eunuch KHAN (2021) Slamdance 2021


I'm not going to lie, Killing the Eunuch KHAN is narratively a mess. It has a great deal going on and after the first section I'm not sure it holds together. That said this is one of the most visually arresting films in years. It is a masterclass in the se of space and camera movements. Its such a kick in the pants visually that it is one of the must see films of Slamdance 2022.

I'm not sure what the really is plot is. The promo material says something about a serial killer using his victims to get victims and it also mentions the plot of the first section which is about a father and his two daughtrs who get caught in a bombing during the Iran Iraq War. After that some other things happen but I'm not as clear as tohow it all ties together. What the film really is is an allegory about the horrors of war, of how men in high places are killing us. Its clear that director Abed Abest has somethings to say as the river of blood in the first part of the film colors everything.

I will be forever haunted by the images in this film.Abest has created images that are now burned into my soul including the image of the river of blood filling a bomb crater. The camera movements, the use of color and the use of space all produce a visceral effect that is truly disturbing.

While I am truly in love with the craft f the film and while I can complain that the film may not hold it's narrative together, the film still packs a punch. There is a deeply visceral quality to everything that works behind our eyes in order to leave us deeply disturbed.  When I finished the film I thought I was going to sit don and toss off a few lines about the images and such but as I walked into the kitchen to get a drink I found myself disturbed. There was something about the way the film played out that left me feeling uneasy. Something about it kicked me in the chest.

I need to revisit this film referably on a really big screen where I can't look away.

Killing the Eunuch KHAN is a stunner on it's own terms and is recomended.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Severing (2022) Slamdance 2022


Mark Pellington's THE SEVERING is a 70 minute gut punch.  A dance film for those that like disturbing things it is a film I wish I had seen on a big screen where it's images wold have been all encompasing and inescapable.

The film is a series of dances usually by a single dancer moving to an electronic soundtrack. Its like watching some one convulse from a nightmare for an hour. There were things where I wondered how they did that only to realize that it was all the twisting body of one woman. I know that ay sound like a no duh statement, but at the same time in an age where everything is computer altered its atypical to see something as troubling as some of these images that isn't computer enhanced.

While I readily admit the film probably a little bit too long I still wouldn't cut a thing even if I knew how you can trim a dance.

Before you go vaulting into this film be aware there is a chance this may not work for you. The style of the dance has been likened to Pina Bausch who I know isn't for everyone. This is people who who want to connect with the darker side and be troubled by things other than blood and guts.

Highly recommended for those who like the experimental, dance or off Hollywood.

Be Right Back (2022) Slamdance 2022

 


A stranger wanders into a group of people living in an abandoned vacation area deep in the forest. When the food disappears things get weird.

I'm not going to lie, BE RIGHT BACK completely eluded me. While I was intrigued enough by what was going on that I watched the film from start to finish, when I got to the end I honestly had no real idea what I had just witnessed.

The reason for this is that everything is just sort of off a couple of degrees from normal. People do normal things but there are odd twists, say a man staring into a window at a woman playing scabble, unending charades and a weird choice early on with some triumphant music that ends when the stranger goes to the bathroom in the woods.

I suppose I could be reading too much into all of this, but at the same time, maybe not. This film like a puzzle waiting to give up its secrets.

Definitely worth a look for the curious, I expect BE RIGHT BACK to be playing many festivals after this.

Poppy(2022) Slamdance 2022


 Libby Hunsdale is Poppy, a young woman with Downs Syndrome who wants to be a mechanic.

This is hands down of the best films at Slamdance and one one of my favorite films of 2022. Its a glorious celebration of the human spirit. Its a film that will make you feel good for all the right reasons.

The reason this film works is entirely Libby Hunsdale. She is so loveable that you want to reach into the screen and give her a hug. You completely understand how she charms the pants off everyone she meets. This is a star making role of the highest order. She is so good that I hope that casting directors see beyond the Down Syndrome and cast her in other roles. Seriously she will fit into pretty much any sort of role.

I absolutely loved this film. It made me feel good. I made my face ache from smiling non-stop for 97 minutes. That's all you need to know because...wow.

My sole complaint about the film is that Slamdance has placed it in the Unstoppable section when it really should be just with the regular features. I say this because some people might not see it if they think it's in a special section.

Ultimately all you need to know is this film is a joy and a must see.

Highly recommended

Sylvie of the Sunshine State (2022) Slamdance 2022


Sasha Levinson films her second grade daughter, Slyvie,  during the intial covid lockdown.  We watch as mother and daughter navigate school, work, a fragmented family, an emergency and a wired existence

I am uncertain how to review this film. In many ways I'm way too close to this film to try to be objective. I say that because Sylvie reminds me very much like my niece. As a result watching the film I had the feeling that this was like spending time with my niece when she was that age. 

I suppose that is a rave of sorts since Levinson has made a film that is very much like life. 

The problem for me at least is I don't know if I need to be watching a film that mirrors when I can go and see my niece and get a hg in the process.

That said this is a really good film about a mother and daughter and if you would like to see what it is like to be a single mom in the age of covid this film is very recommended

Iron Family (2022) Slamdance 2022


Jazmine Faries,is a 32-year old young woman with Downs Syndrome who writes and stars in plays that she wrote.

Wonderful portrait of a young woman and her life. This is not a typical this is what life is like for someone with a disability, rather it is the best of all things, a portrait of a kick ass young woman who you just want to know. Its a film that makes a case that we shouldn't be seeing people with disabilities as something other than just regular folk. By simply being and pushing forward Jazmine ends up bringing together all sorts of people. 

The reason that the film works is simply that we just watching Jazmine and her family as if she as just another person. Yea she has Downs, but at the same time she isn't going to let that stop her she is just going to go straight a head doing what she does.

What an absolute delight.

Recommended

Selahy (My Weapon) (2021) Slamdance 2022

 


A young deaf Yemeni girl loves to shoot with her video camera and spend tie with her dad. She doesn't unferstand the dangers of war.

Excellent look at the cost of war and how children, and especially those with special need get caught up in the fighting.

Beautifully made on every level, the film's only flaw is that we know that we can sense that there is going to be heartbreak in the end. That said I would love to see a feature expansion of the film if for no other reason than we really don't hear about the cost of war on those with disabilities like being deaf.

Recommended.

Brighton 4th (2021)


With BRIGHTON 4TH opening today here is a repost of my Tribeca review from last year

Kakhi travels from his home in the Republic of Georgia to visit his son in Brighton Beach. He thinks that he is studying medicine, however he soon discovers that he is working as a mover and is thousands of dollars in debt to a gangster. Kakhi then sets about to try and get his son out of trouble.

A small quiet gem is one of the unexpected finds of this year's Tribeca. I went into the film not knowing what it was about and was only watching it because I could. I came out with a gem of a film I can recommend for anyone tired of typical stories. hell it does something I normally hate but  it maks it work perfectly. (No I can't tell you what it is)

What makes this film work are the characters. Everyone is flawed, however everyone is ultimately likable. We generally like everyone and we want to give them a hug when they do something stupid even though we also want to smack the crap out of them. For better or worse these people are probably closer to our real selves than we would like to imagine.

This is a perfect festival film, a great little movie you might have missed if it wasn't for the programmers.

Highly recommended

Slamdance 2022 scifi shorts: BUGS AND SLUGS and SILENT WORLD


THE BUGS AND THE SLUGS
This is the story of a human by who falls in love with a troll on an alien planet.

This is a nice, and amusing, story about finding love and one's place in the world. I really don't knw what else to say beyond that other than it is very much worth  look at Slamdance.


SILENT WORLD
One of the best Slamdance films concerns a world where deadly clouds are drifting across England. A deaf man struggles to stay alive since he is unable to hear the warnings.

This is a magnificent film. Not only is it a beautiully made science fiction tale but it beautifully and forcefully illustrates the trouble with being deaf in a hearing world. This film is a mini-masterpiece that I would love to see expanded

Highly recommended

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Imperfect (2021) Slamdance 2022


Imperfect is a winner.This is a magical film that often kicks some serious ass.


The film is the story of a production of the show Chicago using only disabled actors. We follow along as the performers prepare for the performance, deal with life and play to sellout crowds.

The reason Imperfect works is that directors Brian Malone and Regan Linton never take their eyes off the people. This isn’t about the play about the people with the result that the film packs a punch. I say this because watching the performance clips, particularly at the end are full of emotion. Seeing and hearing a smattering of The Cellblock Tango where the murderesses express their rage at the people who did them wrong takes on a different feeling as we equate the actresses lives with the words in the song. It kicked me in the chest as the rage of wronged and margianlized characters crashed into the women portraying them the look on their faces as they sang "he had it coming" banging out the time seemed cathartic

This is a stunner. It’s a great film  not only for people who love the theater but also for those who love great films.

Recommended

Love Tasting (2021) Slamdance 2022

 


A couple of weeks and a couple of viewings on I still don’t know what I think of Love Tasting. My over riding thought was WOW. Beyond that reaction has been to just stare at the screen in awe.

Director Dawid Nickel has made a masterpiece that is alive and real with a tactile feel that has left me wondering how this can be a narrative when it feel like a documentary.

The film follows a group of teens over a week before the end of school. We are with them as they hang out, go to church, dance, smoke, pair up and deal with what life throws at them. 

I have no idea where to begin talking about this film.

The cast is across the board fantastic. It never feels like anyone is acting. No matter what is going on they sell it. Even when things become intimate they are totally oblivious to the camera. The best thing I can say is that this group of kids might very well make up the greatest ensemble cast that I have ever run across. I mean I keep watching the film hoping to find some sign of them breaking character but everyone is so invested.

The plot, while occasionally melodramatic, feels real. The first time through I had stop the film to check the Slamdance site to make sure this was a narrative. The way everything spins out feels dead nuts right. The conversations feel right. The interactions feel like what should be happening.

Forgive me for not being more specific but this is a film you need to just ride along with and discover on its own terms. Doing so will make the emotion hit you harder. By the time things were wrapping up I was getting emotional with everyone’s journey and I know not having a clue how it was going to play out made it deeper.

The film is shot in such a way that it feels alive. There is style to burn. I have to appalaud Dawid Nickel for making a film that technically is magical and sucks us in and makes it look flashy while at the same time driving the narrative forward.

I also need to mention the music. The score, which is largely part of the film is perfect. Its perfectly chosen to set the mood and drive things along. One of the times through the film I sat and watched it just to listen to the score.

And yet despite knowing how good the film is I honestly don’t know what I feel about it. I don’t know if I like it. That may sound weird, but I don’t know if I can like a slice of life like this. Additionally while I was moved by the arcs of the characters I still don’t think I like everyone. I’m still wrestling with the film and my feelings despite seeing the film several times from start to finish and in pieces.  That to me is the mark of a great film.

Love tasting is filmmaking at the highest level and is highly recommended

FERROEQUINOLOGY (2022) Slamdance 2022


The conductor sings his songs again
The passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

The City of New Orleans  by Steve Goodman

FERROEQUINOLOGY (the term means the study of trains) is a film that is going to suffer from not being seen on a big screen. This is a film full of amazing sights that deserve to be seen as big as possible. 

This is the story of two men who love trains. Andrew Cross who chases freight trains across Nevada. McNair Evans rides Amtrack trains and documents the trips and the people taking them as he criss crosses America.

One part love story of train and one part love story of people FERROEQUINOLOGY is a special film. Its a beautiful film both visually, it was shot in gorgeous black and white, and emotionally. You get lost in the images and in the stories of the men and the people they meet. It's a wonderful trip into another place and in a sense another time.

I fell into FERROEQUINOLOGY. I sat there and drifted off and cleared my mind. I've done this several times now since I was sent the film before Christmas so I've had time to return to the film and just be. As long-time readers of Unseen Films know any time I return to a film and mention it in the review the film is something special.

FERROEQUINOLOGY is special and a very recommended film at Slamdance

Underdog (2021) Slamdance 2022


UNDERDOG is the story of Vermont Farmer Doug Butler. He is a man whose life is rapidly imploding as the bills are out pacing his ability to pay them off. Butler is always upbeat and always looking toward a brighter future. He is also looking to compete in the oldest dog sled race in America in Fairbanks Alaska. With his farm’s future in jeopardy Butler loads up his dogs and heads off to try his hand at racing.

This is a good portrait of a man just taking life as it comes. He is desperately trying to show a brave face but there are times we know that that much of his life is slipping away and that there is little he can do to stop it. Everyone wants their money and Butler can’t make it fast enough to pay off everyone with their hand out. It a sad portrait of our times, and we feel it more because we really like Butler and wish him well.

I should be honest and say that while the dog racing is thread through the film, most of the film is not focused on it, it only becomes the real focus in the last third. Its an interesting turn in a much too familiar tale of small farmers getting squashed.

To be honest I don’t know what I think of this film. While I very much like Butler, I’m not certain that there is enough here to make a feature. A huge problem is Butler is so low key and so easily rolls with the punches that there really isn’t enough conflict to make this absolutely compelling.  This is low key to the point of no key.  While none of it is bad, I mean I watched it three times, I simply don’t know why this is a feature film. Outside of showing us a really nice guy and the sled dog racing bit, there isn’t a great deal here. I suspect if this was reshaped to focus more on the racing this would have been a more compelling film.

Reservations aside this is worth a look if it sounds interesting to you

Sundance Capsule Review Round Up: FRAMING AGNES, WATCHER, LUCY AND DESI, BRAINWASHED SEX-CAMERA-POWER, MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM and AM I OKAY


FRAMING AGNES
This is an exploration of Agnes a trandgender woman from the 1960s, who participated in gender studies. Its a mix of fact and fiction aiming to put Agnes and what she means to the trans community and the world into context and current .  And I'm going to leave things there. Not because the film is bad, rather because the film doesn't speak to me. I know I am not its intended audience and as such there is nothing for me to say except, its very good.


WATCHER
A woman moves to Romania with her husband. She feels she's being watched. There is is a serial killer running through the city. Are they related? Doesn't anyone have curtains? Okay thriller never generates much suspense because we have been here before and it feels very staged. Yes the final couple of minutes have a couple of "oh crap" turns but its too little too late. 



LUCY AND DESI
A love letter to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez that charts the course of their lives. Full of clips and stories it will delight fans. And the ending will kick the hell out of fan and non-fan alike. I'm leaving it there because people with more love for the duo will have better things to say than I ever could.


BRAINWASHED SEX-CAMERA-POWER
This look at the objectivication of women in cinema is an illustrated lecture by the film's director Nina Menkes based upon her book Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Cinema. I am not going to say more than I saw it and if the subject interests you please see it. I'm leaving it there because my issues with the film will no doubt be misconstrude as issues with the subject matter and I am not going to get into any battles.


AM I OKAY
The relationship of two women is upset when one of the friends confesses that she likes women.This sets off repurcussions that play out in all their  lives. This sweet comedy is enjoyable for what  it is which is an over written comedy that never feels real.  I enjoyed the hell out of it but ten minutes out I kinf of had it slip from my mind, hence this capsule

MEET ME IN


MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM
Awesome beyond the words I have in the  middle of a festival look at the music scene in NYC  around 2000. Its a stunner. See it (and read Liz Whittemore's review here)

A House Made of Splinters (2022) Sundance 2022


This is the story of a home for children that houses children as a decision is being made about their destination. Some kids have been dumped by their parents who won’t or can’t take care of them. Others have been dropped their by the police or other officials where they will sit until a court makes a determination about where to send them. Will they go back to their parents. a relative or foster home, or will they be shunted into an orphanage and become wards of the state.

The film focuses on the lives of three of the children as well as the social workers who runs the place. As the kids come and go the social workers remain as fixture and a guiding force helping the kids get along, and  change their behavior. Because we like everyone on screen we fall into the film and we hope for the best for all the kids and their care takers.

What makes the film so powerful is the fact that the filmmakers seem to have been given the run of the place. That’s probably not the case but it seems like it since we see the kids be kids in ways that most other films not show us.

I really liked this film a great deal. To me it was one the better films at Sundance. It’s a film that is good enough that I am looking forward to seeing it again when I am away from the festival crush and I can simply see it and take it in on it’s own wonderful terms.

Recommended.

Midwives (2022) Sundance 2022


MIDWIVES is one of the great films at Sundance. 

The film is the story of two midwives, one Buddhist and one Muslim, in Myanmar who work together to give their community health care and deliver babies despite the fact that the Myanmar government is trying to ethnically cleanse the country of Muslims. 

It’s a deeply moving film full of humanity that makes it clear that there is no real difference between people other than the lebels we stupidly put upon ourselves. This is a film that will make you run a spectrum emotions as you see how the acts of good people can make a difference even as bad people commit crimes. I was moved.

Highly recommended this film deserves more and better words than I can manage- though if these words can get you to see it it will have been enough.


The Conductor (2021) opens today


 Marin Alsop broke the glass ceiling in regard to who can be a conductor of a symphony orchestra. Despite being told  she couldn’t be one because she was a girl she persisted and eventually became a student of the great Leonard Bernstein.

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel THE CONDUCTOR delights. It’s a film full of not only a deep love and respect for its subject but also a deep love and respect for music and conducting. It’s a film that you fall in love with because it is so in love with everything it is showing us.

I loved this film. I loved listening to Alsop tell her story. I loved watching her spread he love of music by teaching kids about music. Basically I was delighted at every turn.

I know this isn’t a deep meaningful review, but I don’t think this is the type of film that needs one. This is a big bear hug of a movie  that as a music and film lover that you slip into and are carried along.

It’s a glorious portrait of a woman you’ll want to hang out with and talk to for hours.

This film is a joy and highly recommended.

One of the unexpected gems of 2021

PIGGY (2022) Sundance 2022


Laura Galán will probably be come an interntional star after people see PIGGY because she give the role everything and then some. Truthfully if Oscar noticed films like this she would be a front runner, but the Academy never does, so her Oscar will not doubt come for some other, lesser performance.

I probably should say this but PIGGY made me laugh (probably for the wrong reasons). This tale of Sara, a heavy girl who ends up tied to the crimes of a serial killer, struck me as exceedingly funny. The reason for my chuckling was that everything was so over done. For me it played like an uncomfortable comedy where lots of bad things happened and lot of blood flowed. 

While I admire Laura Galán's work, I have to wonder if writer Carlotta Pereda likes the character. She abuses the shit out of Sara and has her running around in such away that she always seems to be on the verge of being completely naked both physically and emotionally. It never struck as believeable because she is always pushed to the brink and never given a respite, even for a second. What's worse the ending, which I guess is supposed to be cathartic just didn't make sense.

Then again much of this film doesn't make sense, with so much of the film seemed aimed to provoke a reaction either in the audience or the characters, with the result that some of the turns had me scratching my head-beginning with why in the hell the killer would leave a body underwater where everyone goes swiming- I mean it was clearly going to be discovered ASAP.

Yes,the film provkes a reaction, but I don't know if it does more than that. The plot doesn't make much sense and as a portrait of bullying it's so over the top and so incredibly cruel to its own character, that on it's own terms the film ends up being something that shouldn't be preaching.

Worth a look for Laura Galán's performance, I'm not too sure of the rest.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

32 Sounds (2022) Sundance 2022


Sam Green and JD Samson take us on an exploration of why sound is so important to us, using 32 sounds to illustrate their points.

When you see 32 SOUNDS wear headphones. I can’t imagine a sound system, short of a very high end one, that will give you the real special sense headphones does. I say this as someone who watched the theatrical/home version twice and I found the headphones made the film so much better.

I don’t know what to say about this film other than see it.  I’m not saying that as ploy not to write it up but because the film is not really a film but an experience. It’s a journey you take that takes you from point A to Z with a hell of a lot of stops in between. The joy and wonder of the film is taking the trip, watching how the sounds and the stories around them build on each other. It’s a cinematic companion to the work of the theater group Complicite which use sounds and image to tell you a story that takes things to another level.

I had a blast watching it smiling and laughing as I went-which confused the people around me  since they couldn’t understand why I was verbalizing when they couldn’t hear anything.

This film is a stunner and it’s a hell of a lot of fun

See it.

I should also point out that there are two versions of this film- a theatrical/ home version of the film  and one that will tour with live sound. A version of the live version was done on line. I missed the Sundance show, but having seen live performances by Green I’m looking forward to seeing the film in person

Additionally there is a live performance on line on January 27 at 130pm Eastern time. Check the website for details

I'm still processing DESCENDANT (2022) Sundance 2022


This is the story of the search  for the slave ship Clotilda. It was the last know ship to transport slaves to America. It was sailed into Mobile Alabama and up the river where it was offloaded and then burned.  The Africatown residents in Mobile, Alabama, are the descendants of the slaves on the ship and have fought to keep their tale alive.

This is going to be brief, because several days after seeing DESCENDANT I am still trying to parse it all out. I say tht because this is a really dense film. Containing more information than four or five other docs this is a film that covers the story of the Clotilda, the surivors, Zora Neal Hurston (she wrote about the story), the racism that that kept the story hidden, life in Africatown, the search for the ship, the discovery, the feelings of the descendants of all the people involved, the notion of reperations, plus the battle for the families to control the story. Any one of those threads could have been a film itself but its all here. More importantly its presented well enough that we havea great deal to chew on. 

I absolutely loved this film. It feels more like a really good book than your typical documentary.

Highly recommended DESCENDANT is a must.

The Territory (2022) Sundance 2022


Get ready to get pissed off as we watch how the indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people are slowly being squeezed out and hunted by people looking to get themselves some land to farm. Spurred on by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's hateful rhetoric people invade the protected territory and destroy the rain forest. 

Its a sad thing to witness because many of the people coming to tke over the land think the Uru-eu-wau-wau just live off the land and don't create anything. They think they should go get  life. Its tlling that these same people note how much cooler it is in the jungle than on the farm land they covert, but they stillwant to have farm land. Its also sad that all of the small guys causing the destuction  in the invasion will in all likelihood end up taken over by big farming companies.

Half way into this film I was so  pissed off I had to pause the film and calm down.. The stupidity of the people trying to take all the land is monumental. They can see the problems with trying to turn the jungle into farms but they don't understand it. I was well aware of the trubles but this film gave it a very real face.

This film is a stunner. Its a film that will clearly show you what is being lost to the world by the destruction of the forest, not just the human cost but the envirmental one as well.

One of the best films at Sundance it is highly recommended

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily raves about Brian and Charles (2022) Sundance 2022

 


Liz Whittemore was the one that clued me in on the wonderful BRIAN AND CHARLES. Its a great film and because you shouldn't just take my word on I'm reunning Liz's Reel News Daily review here

Brian is an eccentric inventor of creative, if not completely useless, things. After accidentally inventing a robot, he experiences the gambit emotions, the likes of which both he and the audience are not prepared for.

You have to wonder how much of the dialogue is improvised based upon David Earl‘s genius timing and rhythm. You will fall in love with this character. Earl creates a man that’s loveable, kind, and hilarious. You laugh out loud at moments that perhaps should not be funny. Ultimately, it’s Brian’s earnest care and wonder for Charles that hits you in the heart.

Chris Hayward as Charles is absolutely darling. As he is a newly created being, he possesses the whole of knowledge and yet has the social-emotional intelligence of a toddler. His unpredictable nature makes the chemistry with Earl pure magic.

The awkward juxtaposition of Charles’ massively disproportionate body with Brian makes for quite the visual gag at any given moment. Bravo to Earl and Hayward for this one-of-a-kind screenplay. The mockumentary structure adds an extra element of levity. If you’re not grinning from ear to ear, I suggest you get your head checked. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the biggest hits out of Sundance 2022. Brian and Charles is bursting with charm.

To read more of Liz's reviews go to her home bade of Reel News Daily

Something in the Dirt (2022) Sundance 2022


Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson return with a film where they are everything in front of and behind the camera. Its a wild psuedo documentary (of sorts) about two guys who try to get to the bottom of the weird things going on in on of their apartments. 

This may very well be Moorhead and Bensons best film. It's certanly as messy as their other films and in some ways it hold's together better than their other films. Its a film full of heady ideas, some brilliant and some crack pt. Its the sort of like hanging out late at night and talking with friends about all sorts of crazy stuff. I was  hooked because I really wanted to see where this was going and as a conspiracy/pranormal junkie from way back it as wickedly ccool how they wove all sorts of crazy things together into the story.

If thre is any real flaw it's that the running is about 120 minutes. Thats a lot of time to watch to guys talk about the mysteries of the universe and go in all sorts of weird directions, especially when most of the film is in one room. For what ever reason the film the film runs out of steam about three quarters of the way in.  Its not that the narrative collapses, it's just that there is so is so much here that we grow weary without a pause.

Exhustion aside I liked SOMETHING IN THE DIRT.

Aside note: In order to help fight piracy Sundance changed things up and made it so the film had to be watched a certain way on certain platforms. While I like the effort,  I hpe that next time Sundance works out the kinks since I know several people could not log in. I also had issues with the picture early on, and then I had the film lock up  toward the end. 

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on two of Sundance's best shorts WASHA an LONG LINE OF LADIES

The always wonderful Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily  Began her coverage of Sundance with reviews of a couple of great shorts. In order to get more eyes on the shorts I've stolen the reviews from Reel News and ruunning them here.


LONG LINE OF LADIES
A journey of tradition and self-discovery, Long Line of Ladies is a Sundance 2022 short film that allows us to peek behind the curtain of a once lost ceremony in the Karuk tribe.

The openness of the Karuk culture and the lack of toxic masculinity are so refreshing to witness. The entire community comes together to support each young lady as an individual. They are gentle and ceaselessly encouraging. The deep connection to traditions and nature is mirrored in the ceremony. After fasting, a young lady is blindfolded on a journey through the woods for 4 days, then emerges to perform a dance. The meaning and emotion behind it made my heart swell. It symbolizes her journey into womanhood so perfectly. This intimate portrait of cultural tradition will live with me for a long time. As a mother of a little girl that will soon be five, Long Line of Ladies inspires me to seek out a way to honor what has mostly been deemed an embarrassing or awkward transition. It makes me want to do better for the next generation.


WASHA
Circumstance drowning out his authenticity, Mohammad takes a risk at his construction job in the short film Warsha. Handheld and tight cinematography force the viewer into the vibrating chaos. But it’s the wide shots that astound in their scale and shared panic and awe. You will not see where this short is going.

Khansa plays Mohammad with a captivating vulnerability. Warsha introduces the entire world to Khansa, a multi-disciplinary artist redefining masculinity in the Middle East. I had chills watching his transformation. What brilliant casting. Writer-director Dania Bdeir has given Sundance audiences a short film that defies gender stereotypes. Its celebratory nature will leave you breathless.

To read more of Liz's writing go to Reel News Daily

Girl Picture (2022) Sundance 2022


Girl Picture is a good film. Its also not something I fully connected to. Forgive me I’m a old fart of a guy and sometimes I see a film and realize that this film wasn’t made for me.

Taking place over three Fridays the film concerns two female friends. One of them is looking just to get laid and is chasing various guys, while the other falls into a relationship with a figure skater. As one chases feeling good the other chases her heart’s desire.

Well-made and well-acted GIRL PICTURE is a portrait of the lives of the young ladies at the fore front. It’s a film that beautifully portrays the long for love and experience that we all feel. In all honesty there is a white hot heat coming off the screen that most other films never manages to generate. I was held captive by the emotion.

And yet I never fully committed. Perhaps I’m too far removed from the lives of these young ladies to connect to them or perhaps it was something else, outside of the emotion of the romance I remained outside of the film.

That said there is enough here to make GIRL PICTURE worth a shot, especially if you are a young lady close to the ages of these young women.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Maika (2022) Sundance 2022


Once more Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily returns to talk up the family film MAIKA

A grieving boy comes face to face with an alien girl trying to find her way home. Their adventures will bring unadulterated joy to Sundance 2022 audiences. Maika‘s cinematography is eye-popping. The production team dressed the sets and the actors in ways that hypnotized me. It’s the perfect eye candy for kids and parents alike.

Our three youngest leads, Phu Trong, Diep Anh Chu, and Tin Tin are darling. These kids are out of this world fantastic. Their relationships are the purest and most honest I’ve seen in ages. You’ll double over in fits of giggles at Hung and Maika’s first interaction, while unexpected sidekick Beo takes the comedy to the next level. 

Maika has a familiar arc with all the finesse of E.T. and the charming goofiness of Little Rascals. Maika stands out with the emotional pull of grief and unconditional love. Add in some family-friendly subplot hijinks, all wrapped in a hilarious and sweet package, and you’ve got yourself a hit. With a whimsical score, every aspect of this film is enchanting. I laughed and cried a lot. Dub this in every language because its messaging is undeniably universal. It is a magnificent addition to Sundance 2022. Maika’s future is written in the stars.

For more of Liz's reviews head over Reel News Daily

THE COW WHO SANG A SONG INTO THE FUTURE (2022) Sundance 2022


A mother takes her kids back to the dairy far she grew up on after her father claims he saw her dead mother outside a cellphone shop. Her mother had died years before so she thinks something is wrong. The truth is that the mother has crawled out of a river walked toward home. 

This is a magical realism infused film nominally about man's destruction of the planet. The village by the farm is up in arms because the pulp plant is killing the fish in the river the town depends upon. There are also some ther strange things afoot such as the animls seeming to sing.

This rambling film never generates much interest because things take a bit too long to get going. I sat their wondering when things would come together but by the time they did I was largely disinterested.  I kept wishing that everything in the film was pushed aside and we simply focused entirely on the main character's trans daughter quest for acceptance. 

This was a miss for me.

MY OLD SCHOOL (2022) Sundance 2022


This is the story of "Brandon Lee" who in 1993 went to a crumbling prep school and became the tost of the school until it was discovered that he was actually 30 and trying to get his way into being accepted into medical school. Director Jono McLeod was one of his classmates and via interviews with them and lip synced performanance by Alan Cumming as Lee he attempts to get to the bottom of it all.

Odd mix of animation and live action tells a hell of a hell of a story that kind of  leaves you scratching your head at the end. Yea, its a crazy story and it should be told but at the same time there really isn't enough here to support a feature. There is no dark revelations  or conflict. There is no real cautionary tale, I mean, hell, everyone likes "Brandon", even if they think he is a bit daft. There are just the stories of what happened and at a certain point that stops being enough. There is no reason for this to be almost two hours. At a certain point this was like a dinner guest who is really interesting but wouldn't shut up.

Worth a look for the curious but you may want to wait for streaming.

RIFKINS'S FESTIVAL (2020)


RIFKINS'S FESTIVAL was bitter sweet for me. It is this could be the last film Woody Allen will make, his years long battle concerning what happened with his daughter finally making it nigh impossible for him to find financing for his projects (though apparently he has a new film in the works). Never mind that his last few films have been terrible, with A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK being an absolute disaster unconnected to reality. It is also a film that had Woody had a collaborator might have actually been a return of form.

The plot of the film has Wallace Shawn playing Rifkin, a one time film professor now frustrated novelist. He heads to the San Sebastian Film Festival with his wife Gina Gershon, who is doing the PR for a French actor with whom he suspects she is having an affair. While there he strikes up a friendship with a married therapist.

Playing like a summing up of Woody’s career the film has riffs and references to not only Woody’s earlier films but film itself. Rifkin is constantly seeing the world as if it was scenes from various films (for example Christoph Waltz shows up as Death in a riff on the Seventh Seal.). Its an odd mix of forms and styles with Woody’s early funny comedy crashing into  some of his mid-period more serio-comedies.  It some times works and sometimes doesn’t, more often than not the result of clashing styles, say a goofy joke in a more realistic moment.

The real problem here is in the writing. Woody has crafted some good sequences and monologues that are in need of shaping. Bits run on too long. Speeches need trimming. As I said above the tone with in scenes sometimes shifts uncomfortably.

While I was watching the film I was kind of shocked that the film actually feels like a Woody film from about 15 years ago. It’s a film that actually kind of (almost) works. There are these flashes of brilliance that made Allen’s films the toast of Hollywood for decades. Granted they are encapsulated in a film that is wildly imperfect, but it isn’t the absolute train wreck of his last few projects.  My biggest take away was that if someone took the script and gave it a once over you’d actually have a good film.

While the film isn’t perfect (Its clear Woody hasn’t been at a festival in years)it isn’t a complete waste. It’s the first Allen project in many years where I didn’t wonder how it got made.

Is t worth seeing?

For Woody Allen fans, yes. It’s a nice palette cleanse after the last few films. For me a life long fan of Woody it was nice to see that Woody hadn’t completely fallen off the table.  More importantly in a film that will probably be his last hurrah it’s a nice summing up. It’s a nice end to a career. If nothing else it has Woody fading out while standing on his feet instead of on his knees

2nd Chance (2022) Sundance 2022


Portrait of Richard Davis who created the modern bulletproof vest and his company Second Chance. Davis is a man of contradictions with his actions putting just as many people in danger as he saved.

The legend is that Davis turnd to making bulletproof vests after several robberies and his pizza businesses went belly up. Developing a product that could stop a bullet and be light weight he sealed the deal by shooting himself repeatedly. However things turned dark as his crazier nature got him int trouble.

I don't particularly like Davis but I hav to admire his ability to keep going. Things happen and somehow he has largely been able to rise above the shit storm he creates. I was totally hooked by his tale and stared at the screen more intently than many other big titles at Sundance.  This is one of those films where you can't believe what you are seeing. Gtanted he got away with a lot of stuff because he was the big man in town but still...

You have to see this. Its a wild and crazy story that will keep you wondering how this guy isn't broke and in jail.

A must,

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Nanny (2022) Sundance 2022


Aisha is a young mother from Senegal. She is working a a nanny for a couple in Manhattan as she puts enough money together to bring her son over. As time get close for his arrival strange things begin happening.

I know it was labeled as a horror film by the Sundance people but the truth is the film is not really that. Yes it may have scray moments and fantastical elements, but the truth is this is just a really good drama.

For what it's worth I was all in on NANNY for probably the first three quarters of the film. It was a beautifully acted (Anna Diop is incredible) acted drama that refused to be overt. Hell, the film film goes out of the way to subvert expectations and be what it is, which is a the story of a woman trying to navigate her life and the life of the people she works for.  I went all in because I cared about everyone on screen.

The problem is there is a point where the film get a bit messy. The weird stuff begins to pile up and there are a couple of turns that don't fully make sense.It feels that the script is moving things along faster than it should. (And apologies I can not explain because it would require a detailed plot discussion which I don't want to do because it will give too much away). I took a step back. I didn't disengage but I was a bit less invested.

I am happy to report that the film pulls it together in the end with an ending that is right. I mean I got to the final fade out and as like "ah yes that works nicely." It was good enough that I leaned back into the film.

Ultimately NANNY is a winner. If you can go in know it's not a big tim horror film but a small jewel of a drama with a supernatural flavoring you will be delighted.

Liz Whittemore on Meet Me in The Bathroom (2022) Sundance 2022


Liz Whittemre from Reel News Daily returns once again with a look at the Sundance Film MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM

I was a Freshman in college in NYC when The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches were making a name for themselves. They came about in the city pre-9/11 and the ensuing global turbulence in the following years. New York’s energy back then was a revitalized monster that has not let up since. Music and art would serve as our escape and savior and influence us forever. Based on Lizzy Goodman‘s book, directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern Sundance 2022 doc, Meet Me In The Bathroom, perfectly encompasses that rebirth.

Meet Me In The Bathroom talks about the push and pull between art and fame. The relatable anxiety of Julian Casablancas makes the film all the more charming. The Strokes, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, and The Moldy Peaches‘ nonchalance and earnest wonder at their lives will enchant you. The fame facade was just that; these artists were far more interested in music than money. It speaks to the plight of the artist in general. The darker reasons we make art. It’s a deflection and/or coping mechanism.

9/11 is still visceral for those that were here on that day. Any footage still brings cold sweats and chills from head to toe. There’s a video of these musicians walking in the ash-covered streets. The aftermath of sadness in the days and nights that followed, how we coped was through art and creation. I was a musical theatre major at the time, which means I really wanted to be a rockstar. At the time, Karen O explains, performance was our only outlet. We were not quite kids, not quite adults. Any Gen X New Yorker still has that fire 20 years later.

The editing is a whirlwind of wonderful. Their personal footage and raw confessions make Meet Me In The Bathroom a pretty riveting watch. Their bold honesty keeps you glued to your seat. (Almost) ending with one long uncut take of Karen O in “Maps” is goddam magic. It’s a real stand-out from Sundance 2022 because it just plain rocks.

To read all of liz's Sundance coverage as well as her regular excellent coverage of other films go to Reel News Daily

HATCHING (2022) Sundance 2022

 


Tinja, teenaged girl, finds an egg in the woods and hatches it- giving birth to a nightmareish doppleganger she names Alli.

This is a disturbing film from Finland that will have you wincing repeatedly as unlesant things happen. Your reaction is not going to be from the gore but from the disturbing nature of the creature as well as the decaying on the inside notion of the perfect family.

And of course this is a grand allegory for growing up and life. Its clear from the minute the perfect mother dispatches a bird that got into the house that something rotten is living in the house. Mom is a crazy and horny for th repair guy. Additionally the creature is very much another facet of Tinja with the whole arc of the creatures life calling into play the notion that Tinja is now growing up. I am going to be very curious how women react to the film and its turns.

I was both delighted and deely disturbed.

Recommended

You Won't Be Alone (2022) Sundance 2022


Described as a horror film in some Sundance material YOU WON'T BE ALONE isn't. Its a fairy tale about a a young woman who becomes a shapeshifter who takes on the form of a number of dead people. It ends where it begins.  

I liked YOU WON'T BE ALONE but I didn't love it. The film is the story of a someone learning about life and herself by walking in some eles's shoes, literally. I think it is a solid and very good film.  The cast is great with the multiple actors and actresses playing the same role blending together prefectly. Its a beautiful film to look at and has a great pastorl feel.

The problem for me was it was watching it was kind of like having a friend drive me some place I thought I hadn't been to before only to realize about half way in I knew the destination. Realizing what I was seeing altered how I saw the film. It took the wonder off the trip, despite having a blast taking it.

To me this film feels like a melding of Justin McConnell's LIFECHANGER with one of 2021's most haunting films ALL THE MOONS with a dash of La Ronde sprinkled in by way of Malick (TREE OF LIFE), Tarkovsky (ANDREI RUBLEV) ,Sergei Parajanov (SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS) and David Lowrey (A GHOST STORY). 

Its a film that feels it has been made with the best ingredients, it just didn't knock my socks off. 

Worth a look

Brief thoughts on blood (2022) Sundance 2022


 After the death of her husband Chloe travels to Japan on a photo assignment . There she reconnects with Toshi and his young daughter. 

This is a sweet little romance with a poor choice for a title (blood, Really?). Its a lovely story about nice people who find each other. Its a beautifully shot to the point that you will want to disappear into the landscape. Rarely has Japan ever felt so inviting.

I love this film a great deal. I love that it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it simply does what it does extremely well with the result being a film we want to curl up with.

If there is anything wrong with the film, aside from a poor choice of a title,  its that the romance between Chloe and Toshi is pretty much a done deal from the first frame. We know its going to happen, we just have to wait for the inevitable, however, its so well done you won't care.

Recommended 

Ariela Rubin on GIRL PICTURE (2022) Sundance 2022

 


Girl Picture is a Finish movie about three women coming of age and navigating love and sex.  Best friends, Mimmi and Rönkkö are having two different experiences with love and relationships. Then there's Emma, who is a competitive figure skating who Mimmi meets and is interested in. Meanwhile, Rönkkö feels nothing with the guys she's hooking up with and all she is hoping for is to feel something. 

I think Girl Picture is the first Finish movie I've ever seen. The film isn't groundbreaking, but it's pretty realistic to real life. It explores fears and confusion surrounding love and sex. Some of the conversations were a bit cringy though and I wondered if girls would really say certain things they did in real life.  I really like female coming-of-age relationship-type movies and so overall, I enjoyed it. I liked that there was some humor in it as well, and I thought all three women did a great job.

KLONDIKE (2022) Sundance 2022


A couple living near the Russian border of the Dontesk region of Ukraine are drawn into the Donbas War between Ukraine and Russia when a plane is shot down and soldiers crisscross their property.

An impassioned scream about the horrors of war KLONDIKE is a viscerally powerful anti-war film that is loaded with meaning. There is so much going on here that director Maryna Er Gorbach wants us to take in, from the allegory or a home with a wall blown into it, main characters with families with loyalties on opposing sides to the power of women to over come the pain that we can't help but feel she's stacked the deck. Nothing we on screen is without meaning with the result we kind of disconnect. Gorbach is trying way to hard and has stacked the deck  to get her point across.

And the thing is she didn't need to be so painfully obvious. The small moments, and even some of the bigger ones would have had more impact without things like a plane crash or the woman falling from the sky still strapped to her seat. We didn't need to be on the ront line for every damn event. The turns,  like the ones in the final moments, made me sit up and go "oh shit" despite Gorbach is need to put a ribbon on it. This would have been a more moving film if the scale had been kept smaller.

This isn't to say that KLONDIKE is bad, it isn't. Rather its a emotional small human story thats been inflated into a giant allegory or polemic about the evils of war that never connects to us intellectually.

Midnight Swim (2014) is being rereleased on home video today


Odd mix of documentary, found footage and psychological thriller/horror film is going to be a like it or lump it proposition.  To be completely honest I don't know what I think of the film. I do know that this film will probably click best with those who are patient and willing to go with it.

The film follows three sisters who return home after the disappearance/death of their mother. She had gone swimming in a lake near her home and never surfaced again. The three girls are there to settle their mother's affairs and to try and make sense of what happened. As they reconnect with each other and the people in the town the family fragments as weird things begin to happen.

Told in a largely POV manner, one of the girls is shooting a documentary, MIDNIGHT SWIM tries very hard to put us into the action. We are there with the girls seeing what they see. The film looks spectacular, for what it is, with all of the shots neatly composed....which is the problem. The film staggers the fine line between "documentary" and fiction film to the point it never feels real either as a fiction film or a documentary. I know the effect is used to make the film unsettling, and it is the film has boatloads of anxiety, but there really isn't a pay off.

The film is painfully low key and I know I would have been more receptive to the film had I seen the film in a theater instead of as an online screener at home. There is lots of talk, some pretty images and some weird happenings and it all unravels at a snails pace. Watching it I kept looking past the screen and fumbling with my note pad which I filled with doodles. I was interested in where it was going since I stayed to the end, but I couldn't believe it was taking so long to get there. As I said had I been in a theater I would have been more receptive, but at home I kept finding other things to do.

Is it bad? No it's not. Its looks great, generates the right sort of anxiety, it just doesn't really go anywhere scary,which was how I felt when I got to the end. It was kind of like, "oh". To me the film reminded me of a number of other found footage/POV films of recent and semi-recent vintage which kept you watching interested to various degrees but petered out at the end, THE LAST BROADCAST in particular.

The film hit VOD and theaters on Friday.

I Didn't See You There (2022) Sundance 2022


Disabled person Reid Davenport tries to make a film about how he sees the world and how it sees him. 

Nominally this should be a vital and important film since it's vital that we understand how different people with different abilities see the world. How can we understand the world if we don't get a chance to walk in someone else's shoes? And while the film is full of Davenport going out in the world and talking about how he views the world the film grinds alost instantly to a dead stop.

The reason that the film quickly falls apart as whole sequences play out with the camera looking at the ground, straight up in the sky or at an odd angle that shows us nothing. Why is the camera aimed as it is? I don't know since Davenport talks about getting a new camera that he can use himself so I'm not sure why he aims the camera as he does. I say this because Davenport is mobile and able to get around. If he is going around he is not looking at the ground and he is not staring at the sky because he can not navigate that way.

The film also doesn't really show him interacting with anyone other than his family, a friend and crew on a plane. This is fine but we really don't get any real sense of what it is like to be him. It's not enough to justify a feature length

A disappointment.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Brief thoughts on The Mission (2022) Sundance 2022


The Mission is a look at young Mormon missionaries heading to Finland to spread the good word.

In a world where Mormons are either the butt of jokes (the Broadway show Book Of Mormon) or are the subject of unpleasant news stories thanks to criminal  off shoots, its nice to see a film about some good kids who are following their beliefs.  While the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel it is a good portrait of life inside the Mormon Church that is not an extreme.

Worth a look.

THE EXILES (2022) Sundance 2022


Filmmaker Christine Choy revisits an unfinished project from 1989 when she filmed the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protest after they fled China. She visits the leaders today to see where they are. Mixed into the film is a biography of Choy herself.

Okay film is in desperate need of an editor. This is a film that bounces from pillar to post as the loud and abrasive Choy's personality in the sequences focsing on her crashes into the quiet seriousness of the protest leaders. As a result the film feels unfocused. We never get a handle on what we are supposed to focus on.

Personally most of the sequences focusing on Choy alone should be removed and instead the film should just focus on the leaders. There is some incredible material there, particularly in the later portion here they look back thirty plus years. A good chunk of the Choy material has little connection to the exile thread, This isn't to say that a film couldn't or shouldn't be made about Choy, rather it's simply to day that a film called THE EXILES should be about that and not about a crazy filmmaker.