Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Horror and Genre films

 Last year I broke all the end of the year lists down by genre or subgenre, however this year I’m being lazy and I’m only going to discuss  the Horror and Science Fiction films and Festivals as separate genre. There are other great films but these are the films I’m recommending


The stand out HORROR films:

ARTIC VOID-Investigators are going to town up North where weird things are happening. This is a an example where a really good horror film is wrecked by the promotional material  which gives it all away and explains what is going on. If you can avoid the promotional material this is solid little film.

JETHICA- two friends reconnect, unfortunately there is something strange going on. This is a killer supernatural tale that isn’t scary so much as just great.

LEGIONS-  demonic horror film that takes things into unexpected places. Finding films like this is why Fantaspoa is such a great film.

CATCHING SPIRITS- awesome supernatural dance short about a girl who can capture spirits.

TRUSTING HANDS- seemingly nothing film about a woman and relaxation tape is one of the most disturbing films of the year. This is truly the magic of the movies.

NIGHT SIREN- Not the expected horror film. Yea it has to do with witches but the monsters are people. This transcends genre to be one of the great films of any sort this year (I’m putting it here because it will get eyes on the film more than any other list- this should be on the best of the year list)

FIXATIONS- mind twisting film requires that you stay with it. It’s a film that seems unremarkable until it suddenly makes perfect terrifying sense. This had me talking to the screen


The stand out SCIENCE FICTION films:

SAMARITAN- yes the Stallone film. Move away from the expectations and the clunkiness of some of the plotting and this reveals itself to be a killer superhero film.

VESPER is about a post-apocalyptic world where the environment is dead and the rich live in self-contained communities. This is not where we’ve been before but a world you will want to revisit.

LINOLEUM off kilter story of a man’s life and you really just have to go with this because it’s just Wow


The GENRE FESTS

A few quick word on the great genre festivals I love to cover every year. (I am not including fests like Sundance, New York Asian or Tribeca that have a section for genre films but whole festivals devoted to horror Scifi and other fun things.

Fantasia is the king of the festivals. I blame Ted Geoghegan for getting me hooked.  Years ago he sent me an email saying I should be covering the festival and it’s been downhill ever since.  Full of the best films from across the globe this is the place to see the BIG international films that will be important. I know some people will argue that Fantastic Fest is THE place, but that fest is simply too small to come close to what Fantasia does. Fantasia screens hundred of films and they are all worth a look. If you want to see the films that matter this is the place to go.

While I’m toting the horn of Mr Geoghegan I have to say that the last few years he has allowed me to get a taste of the fantastic Fantaspoa. This dark festival in Brazil is truly amazing. Every year it programs some of the craziest films that you don’t see anywhere else. It is an absolute bloody delight. I just wish more of the treasures ended up in the US

Closer to home is the Brooklyn Horror Fest. This small little gem of a fest has been growing exponentially every year. Because it falls when I’m broken by the New York Film Festival I tend just taste the fest remotely while other Unseen reporters go to the festival. It’s a wonderful clearing house of the important films of the year still on the festival circuit.

The two best festivals of any sort that I will literally drop everything for and cover are both in Canada.

Blood in the Snow is a glorious annual event that programs a week of cinematic madness every year. The last few years they have co-programmed with The Super Channel so people at home can enjoy some of the madness. I remember wading in the first year and wondering why the hell more people weren’t covering it. These are some of the best films you’ll see all year, and more to the point they are often the BIG films people will be talking about down the road. Many times over the last few years I have been asked by people to cover a film only to tell them I saw it at BITS. It’s a delight. And even if you don’t like something you’ll at least know why it was programmed.

And the best (genre) fest I’ve run across is still Frank Apache’s Cabane a Sang. This ever growing festival is quite simply the best programmed festival of any sort I’ve ever run across. (I am very serious about that) Out of the hundreds of films I’ve seen at the fest there have been maybe two that I didn’t like. Seriously Frank and his programmers know what’s good and they give it to their audiences. There is always something to enjoy about their films, scares, blood, thought provoking ideas, action, really stupid but funny humor. If you watch the films in the order they present them you will have a great time. I mention their ordering because not only do they program great films they put them together so perfectly so as to complement each other. Too many festivals forget that but not Cabane, they make sure you see the best films in the best order. It maybe the best festival of any sort on the planet, period. Yes there are other bigger fests, but as a whole Cabane  is the festival I walk out of every year not quibbling and being completely satisfied.

4 Oscar Long List Shorts -GOODNIGHT HENRY, RIGHT WORDS, THE OUT and TOO ROUGH

 GOODNIGHT HENRY
A trade deal with France is put into jeopardy when a British official dies before it can be signed.

Funny confection reveals how deals are some times done- with some underhanded dealing and misdirection.

RIGHT WORDS
A young man is pressured into asking out his secret love and it's filmed by his friends on social media

Seemingly run  of the mill short turns in the final stretch into something that actually should be expanded into a feature. Once this finds its footing it's clear this should have been a feature since there is more to say and explore with these characters

THE OUT
As a recovering addict is getting to spend time with his daughter for the first time since getting out of prison, an old mate comes calling.

This is a super short, that yet again, would be a super feature film. There is so much here, thanks to one of the best casts that I've seen in any film this year.

TOO ROUGH
Waking up after a night of partying, a gay man has to get his boyfriend past his homophobic family. 

This is well acted film with a script that simply tries to cram in way too many ideas into 15 minutes.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Film Finds 2022

FILM FINDS are those films that come damn close to the best of the year but just miss the cut BUT are so freaking good not to remember at the end of the year.(And more than a few should be on the best of the year, except that I wavered)

This is my list:

DELICIOUS- a meal for the soul about cooking during the days of the French Revolution

IMPERFECT-moments in this documentary on a handicapped production of Chicago rocked me (you feel the rage in the Cell Block Tango)

SUMMIT OF THE GODS- why we do what we do with the story of mountain climbing. Glorious

GROSSMAN-portrait of David Grossman is a meditation all parts of life

LOVE TASTING- Stunning filmmaking in a tale about the final days of some kids in school. This is why you need to look beyond the big features

SILENT WORLD-being deaf during the apocalypse is more terrifying then you realize

MAIKA- this shouldn't work but does family film about a young girl from space looking for a friend.

HOW IS THAT FOR A MONDAY is a caper film that is so much more that wonderfully doesn't give us the same old world view

MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM- nostalgia for the NYC music scene before the turn of the millennium

I AM WHAT I AM mind blowing animated film from China about a young man finding his place in the world was one of the great surprises of the film year

BLIND MAN WHO DIDN'T WANT TO SEE THE TITANIC is the story of a nearly blind man trying to get across town to see his girlfriend whom he’s never met in person. Shot so we see the world from his POV this is filmmaking of the highest order

HYPOCHONDRIAC is a descent into madness.

WE FEED PEOPLE the story of a chef and his organization who feed people after disasters. It is a film full of hope and life

HOLD YOUR FIRE the story of a robbery and police siege gone sideways

MONTAUK 77 a ride share that turns into heist film that turns into something else. An inde film that I didn’t think I would like became a film I can’t forget

DIO DREAMERS NEVER DIE is as good a music bio as they come. A whole life documentary that rocks.

BAD AXE one of the best docs of the year is a look at one family racism and America. Rightly in the running for an Oscar

CODE OF SILENCE haunts me. The story of a woman looking for what happened in the past is as good an empowerment film as they come.

LIFT the power of dance to change lives

SANSON AND ME how the system destroys good people is revealed through letters and recreations

LOWDNES COUNTY AND THE RISE OF BLACK POWER staggering film about how one small county’s black population asking to vote changed the world forever. It will rock your world

NO BEARS Jafar Panahi’s latest film will rock you as his story of a filmmaker trying to make a film collides with a village full of hate

BUFFY SAINT MARIE is a film I didn’t expect to like turns out to be one of the most revealing and wonderful viewing experiences of the year

MY SISTERS WEDDING a very funny film that proves, in a weird way, Kenneth R Frank should be making dramas because his scripts walk the fine line between comedy and tragedy and never fall off.

TOP GUN MAVERICK I didn’t think I would like this, but this is a damn fine film

RMN With the 19 minute single take being a best of the year event this look at racism in Romania and everywhere else

MR ORGAN possibly the scariest film of the  year is true story of a guy who likes to screw with people until the break

CONFESS FLETCH the best film version of Jeffrey Mac Donald’s novels deserves many sequels  since Jon Hamm makes the role his own.

FAST AND FEEL LOVE love and friendship in the cup stacking community is a glorious hug for those of us on the fringe

MAIGRET Gerard Depardieu is a perfect fit with the famed French detective  in an adaption of a novel deep in the series

OFF BEAT COPS Hiroshi Abe kills it in the story of a super cop demoted to the police band. Its off beat in the best sort of way- and demands a sequel

GIRL FROM THE OTHER SIDE magnificent animated film about a girl and her protector.

FREEDOM ON FIRE a painful look at the evil that Russia has done to Ukraine. One of the best films on the conflict

OFFICIAL COMPETITION Penelope Cruz is a director who is prepping for her new film with two completely different actors. They should have released this closer to the end of the year so it had a shot at Oscar nominations

COLD WAR KITCHEN the magnificent story of a chef training men in prison to cook and changing their lives for the better.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Disappointments and Least of 2022

We begin the year end wrap up with a look at the most disappointing and least (worst) things to happen all year in the world of film 

Before I get to the film the worst thing that happened was the death of friend and fellow writer Gerald Wright. He was great man and his loss was incalculable. He will be missed.  

THE MOST DISAPPOINTING FILMS OF 2022

FROM WHERE THEY STOOD – This look at a series of photographs that were taken in a concentration camp during the Second World War is good, but any power is lost with its over length. Why is this two hours?

FINAL CUT-Why remake a classic a horror film and stay close enough to the original that you are forced to compare them? This is proof of why the director of Oscar winning THE ARTIST never hit again.

CROWS ARE WHITE is a look at an atypical monk loss ground because the man at the center is really annoying.

BLACK PHONE much heralded horror film left me scratching my head since the story makes no sense what so ever. (and don’t get me started with it not feeling like the 1970’s)

YEAR BETWEEN Alex Heller’s nightmare of a film about a nightmare character never gets the horrified tone right and it annoys more than shocks.

IDINA MENZEL: WHICH WAY TO THE STAGE is self-serving puff piece about the singer as she tours and heads toward a concert at Madison Square Garden. It’s a film that kind of cooks things to make Menzel seem even more special.

MASTER GARDNER is Paul Schrader’s over inflated story of a man and the women in his life. Full of self-importance that only the director sees it crashes and burns. It’s got moments but mostly it needs a rewrite

I did not have high hopes for BLACK ADAM because I knew using a character most people don't know would require a lot of exposition, but I didn't expect something so inert. This film is as slow as the slow motion it favors for action films. Using a mostly uninteresting characters and cliches (the Justice Society excepted-they deserve a better movie) this film spins its wheels with a tale of no stakes and even fewer moments of excitement. Yes the film made me yelp with delight with a Hawkman line, but the film is other wise semi interesting images with no soul and worse no fun. I was at least hoping for bad but fun.

While I am all for people taking films as they come, the lack of trigger warnings for a couple of films at some of my favorite festivals has to be called out because sometimes you need to warn your audience. Fantasia should have warned its audience going in that the animated film OPAL was not for the young or old, it should not have been in an early slot so parents would take their kids.. It was a very adult film about a father raping his daughter repeatedly.  Some animated films are not child friendly. 

I know the film maker and the PR firm of  BLAZE where behind Tribeca not issuing a warning about the deeply disturbing and graphic rape that starts the film. I was repeatedly told not to mention it in my review by the PR  people but having friends who were sexually assaulted I mentioned it any way. As it is many reviews  of the film mentioned it because they too were rattled by it.

LEAST (WORST) FILMS OF 2022

HONEYCOMB- first bad film of 2022 is a badly acted, I can't believe someone thought this was well written.

GAY HAIRCUT is a terrible film about a haircut

IT IS IN US ALL- this film about a man becoming involved with a younger man he literally crashes into. Low key and smoldering, it makes no sense unless you read the directors notes on the film.

BITCH ASS is a horrible horror film about a man who likes to play games and tricks people into his house so he can play with them until they die. Just awful.

355 has a cast to die for that is lost in a badly edited action film that generates no excitement or sense.

ABJECT yet another couple go away to save their marriage tale that goes nowhere

ARMAGEDDON TIME another cast is lost in a film that seems like it was based on a bad sitcoms idea of life.

L'ODGE D'OR surreal look at life adds up to nothing and goes no where

ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS exists only to push buttons. What can you say about a film where the happy ending has the hero and his woman getting together to produce a baby he can rape? I'd be offended except it's just the filmmakers doing something just to get noticed and having to stoop below ground level to do so.

HUMAN FLOWERS OF FLESH paint drying is more exciting than this film which takes pride in being the slowest film in the slow cinema subgenre (They actually use that line in their promotional material on FestivalScope.)

RAZZENNEST is a fake art film being riffed ala Mystery Science Theater 3000 as if it were a DVD extra. Why make a bad film to riff? More to the point why make fun of riffing. Not only pointless but badly done.

IT IS NIGHT IN AMERICA is a dull look at animals wandering into civilization via zoomed grainy night vision images

SQUEAL not really good story of man who ends up captured by a family and forced to live with the pigs. Yea, no.

ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS is a home movie turned wildly over long and dull children’s film about kids getting lost at sea and having non adventures. This exists only to pay for the filmmakers family vacation.

COUNTRY GOLD is a dreadful mocumentary/riff about a Garth Brooks like singer coming up and having dinner with George Jones and stuff. It has a couple of moments but mostly it has nothing .

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows Opens Friday at the Quad

Here is a look at the all of the films in this years Animation Show of Shows. This review is made up of reviews that previously written for when the films played other festivals and include one of the best animators in the world Shaun Clark talking about THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES which he talked about in 2020 in answer to question of  "what was the film that made him happiest?" during the first months of Covid.

Do note the reviews are all of differing lengths because the original reviews ran in differing pieces  of varying length

 


RAIN
People on a roof begin leaping off – and have to be rescued by  a superhero. It’s a very cool film  with a dark under side, namely how we as humans insist on doing really dangerous and stupid things over and over again.

BEYOND NOH
3,475, masks are animated to create a record of masks around the world and across time. It begins with Noh masks from Japan but then spins off into Pokemon masks, Batman masks, surgical masks, plague masks, gas masks, bondage masks and tribal masks...

This is an absolute magnificent  piece of cinema both as animation and of documentary. Through the the rapid cutting, almost too rapid (I want to go through frame by frame), we get a sense of the role of masks in human existence. Clearly they mean something much more than just a way of dressing up.

 In a weird way the masks become a kind of religious experience where we watch as all of humanity tries to touch god... or something. If it's not spiritual it is definitely visceral as the oh this is nice, becomes funny with Pokemon and then slips into something greater as the weight of the varieties washes over us. 

This is a magnificent film best in big and in the dark. It also should play in museums where it four minute run time gets the point of the importance of masks across much faster than ten halls of artifacts in the Native Peoples wing.

Highly recommended.

 EMPTY PLACES
The title says it all. This is haunting

Animator Shaun Clark on the MAN WHO PLANTED TREES
The film I have chosen is 'The Man Who Planted Trees' directed by Frédéric Back based on Jean Giono's short story. The film was made in 1987 using coloured pencils on frosted cell to bring the drawings to life. I first saw this film in the early 90’s when I became interested in animation and shared the film this year with somebody as it reminded me of her father who plants acorns in the mountains every year. Watching the film again during the summer of the pandemic helped shine some light into the darkness. It is a story about recovery from tragic events, determination and commitment to make the world a better place.

AVERAGE HAPPINESS
Stunning visuals spring from a talk on happiness data

Beseder (Good and Better)
Bill Plympton esque film with riffs on the work of famous artists  exploring the notion of human emotion.

Zoizoglyphe
Hypnotic  short of  abstract figures forming various groups and moving across the screen. This is a wicked film that must be seen on  a big screen in the dark with big sound for full effect. This is a film that is going to play very differently at home.  If you need an excuse to see this collection at the festival this is the film to seal the deal.

AURORA
The course of love loss and new love as told via a little girl and the horses in her life. Sweet.

YES-PEOPLE
A slice of life of the people living in an apartment block.  This is a film about how we all can live very close to each other yet never interact with each other. It’s a telling comment on how most of us live every day.

TIES
Magnificently animated film looking at the ties that bind our lives together and how pulling on one thread causes everything to collapse.

SANDMAN The Series


Neil Gaiman’s classic comic series comes to television  after decades of failed attempts. With changes here and there, notably with some gender swapping of some characters, the show arrived on Netflix more or less intact….

And that is the exact problem. In marching through the first few story arcs the film doesn’t really take many chances.  Because it is attempting to put the comic on to film, it isn’t bold and daring in it’s telling. Looking exactly like a British TV series it doesn’t stand out for any reason other than it’s source. Yes the two “surprise” one shot stories break the mold and stand up magnificently, but they can do that since they are stand alone and don’t have to tie into the series as a whole.

This is really a by the numbers TV series based upon a ground breaking and world altering comic series. My personal thought was that the series should have been animated, with each arc being in the style of a different animator or artist since one of the reasons that the comic series was so ground breaking was that the art was just as big a part of the story as the words since they set a headspace where it all took place. The problem with the series is it all looks like so many other series. Yes the series finds time to pull key images from the comic, but  mostly it looks like everything we know, which is a damn shame for a story that changed how we see the world.

And lest you think I’m kidding about the world altering part understand the universe was radically altered by Sandman because it changed generations of people who altered the way they saw the world after reading the comic. Trust me, the appearance of Sandman changed the world in the same way that elections, wars, and technological break throughs do.

I really wish that Gaiman and his writers hadn’t bent to pressure to keep things intact and had taken the basic stories and not thought about breaking new ground and making us rethink how TV tells a story.  Why couldn’t he have told the tale the same way he did the comic which was break the mold.  I shrugged when Dream tries to take the Corinthian back to the dreaming only to find himself pulled to the mansion. It was done so in a by the numbers shots with  dialog that was stilted and pure exposition. It was then that I knew the series was kind of doomed, at least for the first season, since there would be no bold choices.

While the series isn’t bad, it’s really not special. It’s a series that feels like it exists because “if we don’t do it some one else will break it”. I really wish that Gaiman and crew had done it because they had a new way of telling the story as opposed to making it sure another version doesn’t kill their cash cow.

Full disclosure I have never been a  super fan of the comic source. I found it good but I never found it the life changing experience so many people in my life did.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

End of year catch up THE ADOLPH EICHMANN TRIAL; MY FATHER'S DRAGON, THIRTEEN THE MUSICAL and GHISLAINE MAXWELL: FILTHY RICH


THE ADOLPH EICHMANN TRIAL
Good but way too low key look at the trial of Nazi mastermind Adolph Eichman after his return to Israel. There is nothing wrong with film, rather it simply isn’t compelling enough to hold our interest. While I know the exciting part of the tale was the discovery and removal of  Eichmann to Israel, with the trial seeming to be anti climatic, the film should have imparted some reason for us to watch.


MY FATHER'S DRAGON
The first misstep from Cartoon Saloon, is based on a 1948 novel. The film follows Elmer as he moves to the city with his mother. He ends up going to an island and rescuing a dragon... and I really don't know. I don't completely understand what happens, it seems more like random events than a narrative. I never really understood why we are being told the story. Nominally its a coming of age story, however the life in the city part of the story disappears at a certain point and we go off on the trip to an island. I really don't get it. Then again this film was not made for me. (Then again I don't know who it was made for on any level)


GHISLAINE MAXWELL: FILTHY RICH
Netflix documentary on the woman who was the lover and partner of Jeffrey Epstein.
Okay documentary tells us everything we need to know about Maxwell and her life. As a portrait of the woman at the center of the tragedy it's quite good. But other than filling in the details of Maxwell's life, we are kind of at an arms length. Yes it connects to the crimes, but it still keeps us distant. Personally I liked the STARZ series much better


THIRTEEN THE MUSICAL
Jason Robert Brown's musical is turned from a work for the stage to one for the screen with fair results. It's the story of a boy who moves from New York to the mid-west of America after his parents divorce on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah. We watch as he tries to make friends and fit in, will he survive and will he have friends in the end? Rewritten with new songs added and a bunch of songs (really freaking good songs) were cut, the result is okay at best. Looking more like a schlocky kids film rather than the work of one of the best theater composers, the film never engages. Sure the original stage musical isn't perfect, but it is compelling...and it had great songs.... many of which they cut. A miss.

Monday, December 26, 2022

TURN EVERY PAGE – THE ADVENTURES OF ROBERT CARO AND ROBERT GOTTLIEB opens Friday at the Film Forum

 


If you love reading and writing this film is for you.  Lizzie Gottlieb, daughter of Robert makes a film documenting the relation ship between her father and writer Robert Caro as they race to finish the final volume of Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson before time and tide stop them.

Actually the film is not just on the men and the Johnson book but about the lives of both men over the course of 50 plus years. Along the way we get a picture of life and literature over those years as well as what it’s like to write and edit books. It’s a cut throat business where even the use of a semicolon can end up in a major blow out.  The film is also a bunch of very intelligent people talking about intelligent things in a very witty manner.

What an absolute delight.

Seriously, in an age where we are flooded with meaningless documentaries about empty headed pop stars who are only good at self-promotion or documentaries that are more flash than substance. TURN EVERY PAGE is a refreshing change of pace. I suspect that some people won’t like the heady talk but then again they probably aren’t the sort of people who would like either the books Caro writes (The Power Broker) or the one Gottlieb edits (Catch 22, Beloved, Midnight Cowboy…)

This film is a delight for anyone who likes ideas. Its a film for people who want to think and not just be distracted.

One of my favorite films of Tribeca and 2022.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Revenge of Dr X aka Venus Fly Trap aka Revenge of the Venus Fly Trap (1970)

This review has been sliding through the Unseen to be posted pile for literally years until it perfectly lined up with Christmas.

This may or may not have been written by Ed Wood Jr. I say that because some sources over the years have said that isn't the case while others have said it is. The Alpha Video release, under the title REVENGE OF THE VENUS FLY TRAP in newly minted opening credits specifically states something that has never been specifically stated anywhere that I've ever seen. Personally I don't know if this is Wood's work, owing to the fact that this is just so damn loopy that I'm not sure he would have come up with it.

The plot has a military scientist taking time off as he nears a mental break down. For whatever reason he decides to crossbreed a man and a venus fly trap with the resulting monster being just one of the weirder things ever out there.

It wasn't until relatively recently that I actually found a copy of this film. Long rumored but not really seen this was a film I found I was trying to track down because it just sounded so damn wacky. When it finally turned up, in a multifilm DVD pack I wasn't disappointed. This is pure insanity that demands to be seen and made fun of (RiffTrax has done just that).

Full of weird dialog, all over the place performances and a what were they thinking monster. RETURN OF  DR X is just a bad movie lovers dream. One of the truly great so bad it's good films this film is funny for all the wrong reasons. Its a film where you wonder how it was that adults had anything to do with this. It is a film I put on when i need to remind myself of the stupid things people who should know better do occasionally.

An absolute must for bad film lovers. For everyone else get your friends and get ready to pick on a classic.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

2022 Short takes: Amsterdam and Black Adam


AMSTERDAM
David O Russell's messy unfunny comedy thriller about a bunch of people who get caught up in an effort to over throw the government. With a cast to die for there had to be something here at the script stage, however what is on the screen is a mess comedy I had to start a second time to figure out what in the holy hell I was watching. Big, loud, and on its own plane of existence it has it’s own ideas of humor that are alien to this world.


BLACK ADAM
Warner's makes a film about a superhero that most people don't know to middling results. Adam started as a bad guy in the Captain Marvel universe and then drifted in  semi good territory.  The cast the Rock as the man and thought they'd have a hit. The trouble is they constructed a wise ass film where everything gets bogged down by exposition. On top of that Adam is saddled with antagonists who, while personal favorites, belong in another movie.  Then again Adam is so god like that it isn't fun to watch him battle people who can't best him.
Not bad, but ultimately a waste.

4 Oscar Long List Shorts: NAKAM, NIGHT RIDE , DANA and SPOTLESS

 NAKAM
A teenage boy is sent to kill a several SS officers, however to do so might end up killing a friend.

A solid drama based on a small story from the Second World War.  This is one to search out.

NIGHT RIDE
A woman takes a commuter rail trail for a ride and has an adventure.

A sweet little film about a woman who takes an impulsive step and gets in over her head. This is really good.

SPOTLESS
A young girl has to deal with per period
Solid film concerning the issues poor women have with dealing with the cost of products to deal with their period.

DANA
A woman who is sexually assaulted begins to hunt rapists.
Good genre film  about revenge.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Sea Beast (2022)


I’m at a loss at how this film flew under the radar. Then again I realize that the film is on Netflix which means that it’s theatrical prospects were small. This is a visually stunning film of high adventure of the sort they don’t make any more.

The plot of the film has a bunch of sea faring monster hunters  hunting a giant red sea beast.  They are doing so at the behest of the royal family who have been at war with the monsters for generations. When a stowaway is found on the ship things become complicated. 

Stunning visuals and animation make you wonder why this wasn’t made as a live action film until you realize that in todays world most of it would have been animated anyway since it would have been the only way to do most of the sequences. The designs of everything is eye popping and there is no way they could have done it with out spending a mint of the sets alone.

While I am in awe of much of the film, I’m not certain there is enough here to sustain a two hour feature film.  Yes the set pieces are breath taking, but there is a point some where toward the middle of the film where the film kind of  stops dead as they take too much time to state the obvious that  the monsters are not really dangerous unless you piss them off.  And while I applaud the lesson that war is bullshit and exists only to keep the ruling class in power  the film takes way too long to get there.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Stutz (2022)

 


Jonah Hill sits down and talks to his therapist Phil Stutz for 90 minutes.

This film came out of Hill’s falling in love with his therapist and his methods to help people feel better by giving them actual tools they can use to feel better.

How you react to the film is going to be determined by how you react to the spare presentation of the material. The film is simply Stutz and Hill sitting facing each other and talking, with a few additional shots here and there. If you are good with that the odds are you will at least be intrigued by what you see and hear.

I was intrigued by Stutz and his methods but not so much Hill. He is a bit too in love with his subject and as a result the film felt like a giant infomercial trying to hawk Stutz’s practice. While there is nothing wrong with that, except I kept waiting for some disembodied voice to ask for me to “act now, Operators are standing by”.

Truthfully given the chance I would like to work with Stutz in person, I just don’t need to have Jonah Hill act as an intermediary

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Corsage (2022) opens Friday

 


Vicky Krieps gives  an award worthy  performance as Empress Elisabeth of  Austria during a period in 1878 when she struggles to deal with the restrictions of he social place.

First things first, this is not historically accurate. Intentional anachronistic items aside this is not what happened in real life. I mention that up front because I wanted to see how close this was to what happened only to find it’s nowhere near reality and that this is the same character that Romy Schneider played in the Sissy films.

Director Marie Kreutzer isn’t history but is interested in looking at what it’s like to be a woman in an “important” role and yet being completely ignored.  Actually it’s a film about what it’s like to be a woman who is being diminished just because you are a woman. It’s a trippy account of what do you do when you have more money and power than is healthy and nothing to do. This is a tale of the idle rich who  doesn’t  want to be idle.

I honestly don’t know what the film is ultimately getting at. The ideas and themes seem to be just outside of my putting them together. At the same time I was completely enraptured by the film. Even as the film gets more and more surreal as Elisabeth feel more and more out of sorts I was getting more and more invested. It all just made perfect sense. (Trust me you just have to see this and just go with it)

This is a really good and very compelling film

Recommended

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

NO BEARS (2022) Opens Friday at the Film Forum


Jafar Panahi travels to a border town in order to direct a  movie remotely. The actors and film crew are across the border and are taking directions via Zoom.  As Panahi struggles to get the film finished be becomes involved with two sets of lovers, two of the actors, and two people in the village where he is staying. Both pairs want to flee to somewhere safe, something that might not be possible

Panahi is not loved by the Iranian government. As this film was hitting the festival circuit the director was being put into prison. Prior to that they had tried to restrict his ability to make films but he managed to work around the obstructions. The result has been a unique series of films where the filmmaker is the subject and the films transcends the notion of autobiographical cinema.

This time out Panahi has made one of his most affecting films. Forget his personal situation, this story of life in a small town and in a repressive country will leave you shattered at the end. Panahi is juggling a lot of balls in the air and manages to manipulate them perfectly. First we have his situation which is basically hiding out in a small town to make a movie he shouldn't be making. In showing us what it takes to make his film we see how the small minds of the village express an openness that really isn't. there This ties into the story of one of the couples, a doomed romance Panahi captures in a photo, that everyone wants to see, but which he deletes and denies having. It seems the young woman has been promised since birth to someone she doesn't love and that someone needs proof to hurt the girls true love.  At the same time the lead couple in Pahani's film are making a film based on their lives and their efforts to flee to the West. However the need for official documents complicate things. All of the threads end in darkness for the characters and soul searching for the audience.

I love Panahi's films. I make every effort to see every one I can because he always speaks a truth that needs to be heard. I also find that how he is forced to make films ends up making films that are much more real than if were making just a straight narrative.  They are so much more interesting because we have to think about how he did what is up on the screen. His are films that are alive and in the moment.

I was rocked by this film. I did not expect the turns, and yet every one is perfectly placed.

One of the best films I saw at this years New York Film Festival, it is a must for anyone who loves humanity.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Haulout (2022) is a must see


HAULOUT should be the winner of the cinematography Oscar for the year. The images in this 30 minute short will haunt your dreams.

The film is a look at a lone researcher who is watching the effect of the melting ice on the walrus population.

It is a magnificent and sad look at the destruction being wrought by mankind on the world.

It is one of the best films of 2022 of any length.

The film can be found below thanks to The New Yorker.


Living (2022) opens Friday


The only reason I wastched LIVING was because I wanted to see Bill Nighy kick it out of the park. I say this because I refuse to watch the source for the film, Akira Kurasoa's IKIRU ever again because it crushes me. Knowing the original I knew what I was in for and I still dove in.

LIVING is the tale of  an English official who discovers that he has six months to live...and realizes that he has never really done that. Spurred on by a young lady in his office he sets his sights on pushing through a project to build a playground.

If you ever were going to hope to come close to the original classic film you really had to set the film in post war England where things were still officious and rigid. The world that Nighy exists in is stifling and dead. There are rules just because and for no other reason, such as waiting a certain amount of time before following a superior. Nighy clearly has been crushed by decades in the trenches of the dead. As a result we feel his return to life  in the second half.

The problem for me with the film is it is wildly over produced. You can feel director Oliver Hermanus' hand in every detail. While I understand the need for the film to reflect the rigid nature of Nighy's existence the film never lets go. We always feel everything being perfectly stage managed to perfection. Even the soaring and heartbreakingly sad final shot is too perfect for words. I never felt I wasn't being manipulated to the nth degree. Yes, it creates one of the best looking, best directed  films in years but I never was fully connected because it was too fucking perfect.

Of course the real show here is Bill Nighy. He sells it all. We believe that life has crushed him, and yet we still feel his humanity and dignity, and we delight in his much too late found joy-even as it crushes us utterly. I would love to put Nighy in the Oscar mix for next year but I am fearful the film may disappear by then. Still we can hope.

Worth  look for anyone who loves meticulous English dramas or magnificent performance

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Nightcap 12/16/22 Thoughts at years end: The next few weeks, the Warner/DCU mess, awards and not wanting to see the big year end films


It’s the end of the year and I haven’t done a Nightcap in a while so I’m going to ramble about a few things.

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The next four weeks will be catch up reviews, reposts of films being released the year end lists and a few new releases

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The Unseen Film Awards votes are amazing the hell out of me. I’m asking for the under discussed films of the year and so far I’ve only gotten one duplicate.

It’s going to be a hell of a list when it’s done.

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Looking at the nonsense happening with DC and I have the feeling that Warner Brothers DCU films are doomed.

I have no idea what the hell Discovery is doing but they have driven the bus off a cliff. This reminds me of when the conglomerates bought movie studios in the 60’s and 70’s and started to make weird choices…but worse.

The DC films were odd to begin with and now they are just doomed.  They have no clue. It was bad enough when they were cutting up the films of directors to make the films Better (worse) but now they are just shooting themselves in their various body parts repeatedly.

They lured Henry Cavil back to play Superman and then promptly fire him. It's now being said to have been a ploy by The Rock to some how gain control but no matter what it's a mess (and a bigger mess if the Rock story is true)

They bring in James Gunn whose work on one DC film and one series was good but niche in that he has his own sense of humor that over rides everything now running the studio. This was and is a really bad idea because Gunn is a good but limited filmmaker in that not everyone likes his style all the time.

They are essentially pulling the plug on the Aquaman series so you can move the actor into another franchise of niche character who has limited mass appeal.(I like Lobo but there is only so much you can do with him. I mean he's a parody of Superman who got loose)

They dumped Wonder Woman because the film released during the pandemic tanked (admittedly it was a turdball.

And they are looking to reboot everything again. I'm tired of all the reboots and talk of reboots.

They canceled Batgirl when its almost done so they could write off the cost and yet release other films that tank worse. (And I've heard 93rd hand that the film wasn't great but it was enjoyable and would have made them money)

They put out a Black Adam film and then scratched their head when it under perform ed seemingly unaware that outside of having the Rock in it pretty much everyone in the world has no idea who the character is... and completely fine with it being a mess of a film. 

And on top of that they are truly excited about The Flash film which is headed by an actor in all sorts of bad legal trouble and who will probably be in prison and unable to ever film a sequel. Not that they will do a sequel since they are rebooting everything anyway. But in their eyes they're going to have a hit with it. (Which is odd since this was the film to start their own multiverse- which they are now abandoning)

Currently they have three actors all playing Batman at the same time and are looking to bring them all together. 

Warners is doomed

DCU is doomed.

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As it stands now January looks to have official coverage of The New York Jewish Film Festival, Slamdance and Animation First. I will be running some Sundance coverage though how much is still up in the air since I have not heard back on my late request for press credentials.

We will also be doing things with Reel News Daily. The details will come as soon as Liz and I sit down and hammer them out.

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Looking at my year end lists and all the other lists coming out from critics and critics associations and I’m truly convinced that that a lot of them are useless. The fact that so many critics are tied to publications that want the writers to only cover the big films and big festivals makes the lists useless since they are pre-selecting what the choices are going to be since they aren’t looking at the small films or those not getting a big US push.

I know this is a no duh, but it’s hitting home more this year when I’m asking for under seen films for the Unseen Film Awards and I’m not getting the same films over and over again. Everyone is giving films off the beaten path…. many of which they are saying are the best of the year, they have to vote for critics associations where these great films would never be considered.

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I can't get myself out to see most of the award destined films. A small part of it is simply that I know the damn things will be streaming in a week and a half after release. A large part of it I just don't care.  I really don't care about most of them.

Yea I do want to see BABYLON but I love bloated 1920's Hollywood films, but out side of that, say AVATAR, EMPIRE OF LIGHT, THE WHALE, WHITE NOISE and FABLEMANS I really don't care.

Strangely I'm finding I really have no interest in FABLEMANS because I don't care about Spielberg. Yes he was important growing up, but looking back at various directors recently I found that for the most part his films were always more exciting before I saw them then after. I find him to be a great director of the Hollywood machine with his films being more well crafted objects then things than move me.

Frankly his best films are the atypical ones, that break the mold of what he does. To me the best films he did were EMPIRE OF THE SUN and AI. EMPIRE because it is totally outside of his wheelhouse and AI because up until we go past the Blue Fairy scene the film upends all the notions of his previous films.

Sadly I no longer care about Spielberg or his films any more.  And blame Unseen Films for that since I am seeing way too many new cinematic visions that I can't look backward any more.

Forgive me. 

There is longer essay in that.

On Further Review:Rethinking four films EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, MORBIUS, RIPD: RISE OF THE DAMNED and RRR


EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE
Put upon woman finds she is the only one who can save the multiverse from a dark force looking to destroy it.

One of the most talked about films of the year and an almost certainty for a Best Picture nomination kind of disappointed me. Far more complicated than it has to be the film felt, like it was doing things purely for effect rather than to drive the story.  While I freely admit that my unhappiness in watching the film might be from the fact that my cable service crashed half way into the film and I had to go back, I still admit that I still can’t get past just liking the film.

That said the performances are first rate, and makes me wonder why the hell did we allow Jamie Lee Curtis be wasted for the last 45 year?


MORBIUS
The butt of numerous internet jokes, one of which has basement dwelling trolls rating it highly to mess with the movie going audiences,  Morbius is being hailed as the turkey of the year.

It is not.

Having finally seen the film, I would be hard pressed to call it the worst film of the year. While the film is most certainly a complete mess, the film is clearly scarred and doesn’t deserve the hate.  Blame the studio who had no idea what to do with the minor MCU character of a “living” vampire and had the script written by equally clueless scribes (it's not their fault even Marvel writers have never managed to do anything with him). Add in numerous reshoots and re-edits and you are left with a film that barely hangs together, despite having some killer stand alone sequences.

While not a complete disaster it is best viewed a film of interesting pieces rather than a complete feature.


RIPD: RISE OF THE DAMNED
While I like the original RIPD film, I am kind of at a loss as to why a “bad” film and money loser would get a belated prequel. Who thought this was a good idea? And how did they get Jeffrey Donovan to be in it?

Set in the American West in the classic cowboy days Donovan plays a sheriff killed and brought back as a RIPD as an agent teamed with a female barbarian. They look like two African American sisters to the world despite being themselves inside. They are looking to stop a dark force harvesting souls.

While the plot is been there and done that with a side of clunky thrown in, the film is an okay western horror comedy that works because of the cast. Donovan is a delight and he carries the film.

Is this a good film? Not really but it is an okay time passer on a slow night.


RRR (take two)
While I will argue that the S. S. Rajamouli  deserves to be in the running for Best Director at this year’s Oscars, I find that on a second viewing, I am not really enamored of the film as a whole. Yes it’s got killer set pieces, but watching the film a second time I found I was giggling at the silliness of it all and wishing some the bromance, and some of the run time, was cut back.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Reid Ramsey on NOCEBO (2022) Brooklyn Horror Festival 2022

 


Nocebo Review

Dir. Lorcan Finnegan

On paper, Nocebo should be a wonderful time at the movies. Eva Green and Mark Strong? Check. A mystical movie with a strong message? Check. A disguised revenge thriller? Check. In practice, Lorca Finnegan’s slow-burn thriller overwhelmingly dull movie with a premise that doesn’t reveal itself until too far into the runtime to be effective.

Nocebo follows Christine (Eva Green), a fashion designer who is trying to put her life back together as she recovers from an unknown illness. When Diana (Chai Fonacier), a Filipino caretaker, unexpectedly arrives at her home, Christine assumes she must’ve just forgotten that she hired her (forgetfulness has been a symptom of her illness). Diana eventually wins over everyone in the house, except for Christine’s husband, Felix (Mark Strong), who is extremely skeptical of the situation. As the movie unfolds, it becomes more and more obvious that this living situation is untenable. 

While Nocebo is well-shot — with some really nice practical effects — the story spreads itself far too thin to encompass the many themes the filmmakers wanted to hammer home. The movie is about a lot: family, sweatshops and working conditions, folk healing, collective guilt, race, and more. It’s attempt to comment on so many facets of the world is admirable, but doesn’t make for all that interesting of a horror movie. In the end, too, they make everything so specific to our main characters that there is seemingly no take away for the audience regarding any of these concepts. Eventually these ideas circling the movie feel mostly like a prop used to tell a revenge thriller. 

Short takes on 4 2022 Oscar short film long list films : ENJOY,IVALU, RED SUITCASE and THE LONE WOLF

 ENJOY
A man deals with not being able to express his mental state.

Hamish Patel is really good in role show casing how hard it is for men to speak up.

IVALU
Achingly beautiful and moving story of a young girl trying to find out what happened to her sister. No one seems to care, however she does.  This is a killer little film about love and loss.

RED SUITCASE
A young woman arrives in Luxembourg with a red suitcase and a desire to be free.

A lovely little film.

THE LONE WOLF
A radio show host gets an unwanted call.

A solid entry in the radio personality and the voice on the other end with secrets genre.

Definitely worth a look.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Reid Ramsey on THE WEIRD KIDZ (2022) Brooklyn Horror Festival 2022


The Weird Kidz

Dir. Zach Passero

Every single frame of Zach Passero’s hand-drawn The Weird Kidz is an elaborate labor of love. But don’t misconstrue that, nothing at all about The Weird Kidz is laborious for the viewer. Passero spent eight years animating his hilarious coming-of-age horror flick that follows a group of preteens who go on a camping trip with one of their older brothers and his girlfriend. As they’re settling into their mysterious campground, they learn of a local mythic creature called the Night Child that comes out to haunt campers in this particular state park.

While it superficially has the setup of a slasher flick — and becomes much more of a conspiratorial horror movie — The Weird Kidz feels much more like Richard Linklater was tasked with creating an animated horror movie, and it absolutely delivers. The raunchy comedy and unflinching gore may be what is most noticeable, but at its heart, Passero is able to distill sincere wisdom about sibling relationships via his main character, Dug (Tess Passero), and his older brother Wyatt (Ellar Coltrane). This pair starts out as the typical teenage brother duo — nerdy younger brother and “cooler” older brother, although in this case cooler only means has a girlfriend. Over the course of the movie and the traumatic moments within, though, they deepen their understanding of one another and grow closer. 

As is often the case for horror movies, the trauma that takes place unveils a lot about the characters, but here, as humanity and empathy are stripped away right before their eyes, they realize not only how much they care for their friends but also how much they care for each other. Zach Passero’s labor of love is a film everyone should absolutely seek out.

Slumberland (2022)


After a long time away from Netflix SLUMBERLAND got me back the service. Being a huge fan of Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, I had to see this version.

Outside of some character names and a setting in Slumberland the film has nothing to do with the original comic. This time out the  film concerns a young girl named Nemo who lives in a lighthouse with her dad. When he is killed in a storm, Nemo is sent to live with her uncle in the city. Finding herself going to Slumberland in her dreams she meet the giant Flip (Jason Mamoa), she learns that if she gets to the land of Nightmares she can get a pearl that will grant her any wish, in this case see her dad again.

While the over all plot isn’t anything new, SLUMBERLAND has some great things going for it. There are some killer set pieces (the dancing leaves), wonderful repeating motifs (the various dreamers, especially the kid driving the truck) and a killer performance from Jason Mamoa. Say what you will Mamoa is just so much fun as the crazed Flip. It maybe my favorite of his roles. The film also has Pig, who is a stuffed pig  that is such a delight in his small role it’s actually criminal. Who ever was animating Pig was clearly having fun and the result is some charming throw aways that add so much to the film.

As long as the film is in Slumberland I loved this. I mean, the real world stuff is too by the numbers to not be ho hum and one twist we saw coming (and despite that I did get misty) but at the same time this is a film with its heart in the right place.

While not likely to thrill Little Nemo purists, its still an entertaining riff on the material and worth a look. 

Going All The Way:The Director's Edit (1997/2022)

 


In 1997 Mark Pellington made a film of Mark Wakefield’s novel with a cast that included Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan, Rachel Weisz, Jill Clayburgh and Lesley Ann Warren.  It’s a film about two vets returning home from the Korean War and having to navigate friendship, love and society in the staid days of the 1950’s.  The film was released to some acclaim.  During the early days of the Covid lockdown Pellington happened upon a copy of the original directors cut of the film, running around three hours and intrigued by what he saw there he started to re-edit the film.  Liking what he saw he showed the film around and Oscilloscope decided to release the film.

If I ever saw the original cut of the film, it would have been around the time of the original release. Since I have no memory of doing so I am not going to compare the two versions other than to say that the original cut ran 103 minutes and this new one runs 126 and contains a reported 50 minutes of new footage. Basically Pellington has replaced half of the film with new material.

This new cut  is good but I’m not sure if it is the sort of thing that we needed a nee version of. While I liked the film enough that I am willing to see the original version, it is not a film I am likely to revisit. Yes it’s of interest for the cast but the film just sort of is.

In turning the film over In my head the problem with the film is it is too tied to the novel. We have a narrator who gives us details about things we wouldn’t know otherwise. Additionally there is a kind of formality to it. This is a film that is very much a “film” and not something that is alive. The scenes seem too formal and staged. We aren’t watching life but a theatrical representation of it. It’s not that say the dialog is bad, it’s not, rather it’s no one speaks quite like that.  The result is that the film never connects to us on an emotional level, only on a distant “this is literature, it’s good for us” sot of a way.

Ultimately this isn't bad but its really just of interest for the cast.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Lion Vs The Little People (2022)


Being promoted by having a single screening  with a limited number of seat so it's the smallest release in UK history, LION VS LITTLE PEOPLE is a film I will be wrestling with for a long time. This is a brilliant faux documentary that says a great deal about a lot of things but has an intentional uneven tone that kind of undercuts the serious points it's making.

The film is a recounting of an "Internet Myth" about an alleged fight between a lion and 40 little people. Before we get to the fight and its aftermath we follow the story of the documentarian takes as he unravels the story which follows a super rich mogul who parleys a media empire into a sports betting super fortune and real life gladiatorial fights.

Bookended by statements about the way Little People are portrayed in the media, the film is at times a solid look at what people of a smaller stature have to endure, especially if they are actors. You completely understand how the actors could have ended up in a situation like this. This film is a brilliant look at how society pigeon holes various groups.

Actually the film has a great deal to say about a lot of things. It lays out a perfectly believable tale about how someone with money can run rough shod over people, rising to his own level of incompetence. It';s also a damning look at the baser  nature of humanity as the bread and circus of real life combat escalates into ugliness. Its also a pointed take down of thing on the internet.

When the film is not throwing out out of place jokes this film is actually one of the best films I've seen in 2022. As a faux documentary that uses the form to examine society it is so spot on that if you didn't know better you would swear it was all real, thanks in large part to performances that sell everything we are seeing. It may not be real but it is damn close and we are better for it.

The problem with the film is that director Raphael Warner periodically throws out a line that breaks the mood and wrecks the tone. Making jokes about one characters suicide being a reaction to his wife's femininity isn't really funny and completely out of place. There are several  jokes like that crash not only because they are bad but also because they don't fit. they hurt a pointed satire that, with out them, is one of the best films of 2022. Thinking about it I don't know if Warner was aware of what a good film he was making  because if he did I don't think he'd have undercut himself as he does.

Despite what you think going in this film (mostly) rocks. Its a thoughtful film that will make you think about a lot of serious subjects (acceptance, out of control rich people, internet nastiness) we are dealing with on a daily basis and don't seriously ponder enough.

Recommended.

Reid Ramsey on Mother,May I? (2022) Brooklyn Horror Festival 2022


Mother, May I?

Directed by Laurence Vancinelli

Cosplaying therapy to overcome ruts within a relationship and help your partner move on from their trauma doesn’t exactly sound like the most horrifying plot of a horror movie, but Mother, May I? from director Laurence Vancinelli uses that basic idea to propel his psychological thriller into full-blown horror. Emmett and Anya have made the trip to Emmett’s childhood home in the process of selling the house following his mother’s death. Their plan is to stay there for multiple days as they get it fixed up and line up the sale. Vancinelli, though, makes it clear pretty early that Emmett’s relationship to his mother and this house has more than just the typical familial complications, and Anya occupies the role of therapist in their relationship due to her own parental trauma. 

Anya, whose parent was a therapist, uses whatever techniques she chooses to try to help Emmett overcome his own past, and it appears that prior to coming to this house, this dynamic had been generally successful in their relationship. It turns out, though, that the space his mother occupied for decades is too much for either of them as Anya starts to dress, speak, and behave literally like Emmett’s mother at all times. 

Vancinelli’s film is most successful in its quietly horrific moments. The times where Anya acts or moves in such a way that goes beyond what she would've known of Emmett’s mother are utterly haunting. As Mother, May I? tiptoes the line between domestic drama and ghost story, it becomes impossible to imagine how this relationship could ever recover, and the viewer is left wondering what violence is destined to be unleashed in this environment. Mother, May I? was one of the truly singular experiences of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and stands as one of the best genre movies of the year.

What We Left Behind (2020) plays Ovid.TV December 16


One of the best films at 2020's DOC NYC explores the unfinished films left behind by the communist regimes that occupied Afghanistan from the late 1970's to 1991. 

A mix of found footage with interviews with the men and women who worked on them the film is not only a peak into what appears to be grossly under covered Afghan film industry but also a peak into the country's history- a history that we in American have no clue about since all we think is Taliban and warfare.

An absolute must see.

MOMMY OR DADDY (2022)


MOMMY OR DADDY is a look at the child custody situation in Japan. To say that it is messed up is beyond words. Divorcing parents frequently grab their children and don’t allow the kids to see the other parent. Courts will then side with the parent with custody. This frequently cuts the one parent off from the child and causes alienation. The reasoning is nothing logical, simply it is the way they always did it. More specifically the film is a look at Rie 'Rita' Shishikura, one mother who wants to try and reconnect with her son. We get to know her and the people she meets along the hard road.

This is an eye opening look at how another country treats parents and children. It’s a film that will leave you shaking your head wondering how a seemingly enlightened country can keep a parent from their child and vice versa. It’s clear from the people we meet that kids being torn from their parents does damage to the children which some are trying to help lessen.

Worth a look.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

LITTLE NICHOLAS:HAPPY AS CAN BE (2022)


Animated gem of a film is the dual story of the creation and creators of the Little Nicholas comic strip and the adventures of their character as well. Sweet little animated film begins with the creation of the Little Nicholas comic strip and then moves into the adventures of the little guy and his friends.

This film is a delight. It’s a “hand drawn” film that is certain to put a smile on your face. It’s a celebration  of a creation and the creators that is just a lot of fun. I just chuckled my way through the film from start to finish.

While the film is good fun from start to finish, I’m not going to lie and say it’s perfect. The sections of the films on creators René Goscinny, and Jean-Jacques Sempé where Nicholas isn’t involved are less compelling. Yes they are good, but the problem is its about the life of grown ups which makes them less fun that Nicholas. The Nicholas stuff is a blast and I’m so annoyed that I never ran into him before this.(I will have to track reprints down)

If you need to smile you need to see this.

While the film is on the festival circuit (it opens Animation First in NYC in January) it is opening Friday in Los Angeles in order to qualify for an Oscar and is the film is absolutely worth your time. It

Reid Ramsey on INFLUENCER (2022) Brooklyn Horror Festival 2022

 


Influencer

Directed by Kurtis David Harder

Kurtis David Harder and his crew took the opportunity with their film Influencer to travel abroad in a beautiful place, in this case Thailand, and make a fun movie. They followed the Adam Sandler comedy model, and to do so after initially being delayed due to the pandemic is commendable. Unfortunately, the movie they made, while being intermittently interesting, is no more memorable than any of the movies Adam Sandler made abroad with his friends.

Influencer follows a social media influencer named Madison who travels solo to Thailand. While on vacation there, she meets a mysterious woman named CW and to say much more about the plot specifics would be too much of a spoiler. One interesting component of Influencer is that Harder and team opted to follow Hitchcock’s Psycho conventions and are frequently attempting to turn the audience on its head in similar ways. The problem with this is that by adhering to that formula, the film is absolutely incapable of saying anything interesting or fresh about influencer culture. You may be tempted to say to me, “Well, Hitchcock didn’t attempt to say anything about bank tellers in Psycho,” and if so you may be correct, but he also didn’t name the movie Bank Teller.

Although some of the violence is well-executed and the lead performance is excellent, Influencer is far too derivative, both narratively and stylistically, to offer anything of much interest to the audience.

As I Open My Eyes hits Ovid.TV December 16

Baya Medhaffer stars as Farah, a recently graduated high school student who would rather sing then study to be a doctor. Hanging out with friends drinking and performing hidden places Farah gives her mother fits of worry as she fears something terrible will happen, something she knows from experience.

Yes we've been here before any number of times but the fresh faced Medhaffer shines and sells AS I OPEN MY EYES in ways that the script that go way beyond the script’s ability to carry things. There is something about this young woman that is so vibrantly alive that you can't help but willingly follow her where ever she goes. Michael Caine said the secret to great acting is all in the eyes and with Medhaffer we read the joy of singing and the pain of existence in her eyes. It’s through the eyes that Farah ceases to be a cinematic character but instead become a living breathing person. Say what you will about the rest of the film, but Medhaffer’s performance is a star maker and is the reason this film is a must see at Tribeca.

Outside of our young heroine this is still a very good film. The film works thanks to a the great cast, a great sense of place and some wonderful songs. It was the thought of hearing the music that was what hooked me in and it’s the songs that I’ll remember beyond the great central performance.

In reading on the film I discovered that the political realm to be something that intrigued me. Set before the various Arab Spring revolutions that swept across the region, the film takes place in Tunisia where one such revolution wiped away the ruling regime, which was then replaced by a popularly elected Arab Brotherhood. While the film was made during the halcyon after the revolution the election and the fear of repression has largely forgotten (the director had to remind everyone how to behave in cafes and on the street) , the election of the Brotherhood has many people worried if the bad old days are going to be returning. What was originally supposed to be an examination of the old days in the country and the struggle for freedom, may have become a warning of where the country maybe heading to again. Knowing that bit of information is not necessary to enjoying the film, however it is something that makes the film more intriguing.

A must see film.

GREAT BASIN (2022) plays the Quad Cinema Starting Friday


This film is a gem. It’s a great looking counter balance to the big films flooding the multiplexes and art house cinemas looking for Oscar gold.

Great Basin is nominally a look at the "loneliest road in America", a stretch of highway in Nevada. The reality is this is a 90 minute trip to another place. This is a film that puts us among the people and places of the highway. We get to know them in a way that makes us feel strangely intimate. After the film these people aren’t strangers but friends. Friends that you will want to revisit.

Helped by gorgeous cinematography that transcends what we see in most films, GREAT BASIN’s images have a tactile quality to them. Watching the film you can feel the places we are visiting as if you are there. We can smell it. There are very few films that achieve the genuine sense of “I am in this place” this film achieves. Its such a trip to another place that I am seriously considering making a trip to the Quad Cinema when the film opens Friday just so that I can truly lose myself in a trip down the road.

I am not going to say any more because you will just want to go for the ride.

I absolutely love this film. It’s a film that I stumbled upon and now is something I am looking forward to seeing repeatedly down the road.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Metropolis (2001) plays the Japan Society December 16


With METROPOLIS playing the Japan Society on Friday here is a post from 2012 that  is based upon a journal entry I made after seeing Metropolis for the first time in 2001. If you've never seen this on a big screen you MUST go see it.

I saw the animated Metropolis which is based on Osamu Tezuka's comic inspired by the Fritz Lang film.

Visually its one of those ground breaking animated films that the Disney Studio thinks they've been doing for years, but haven't been.

Visually its a masterpiece, on odd mix of cell and computer animation. It's incredible.....

Storywise...its good. not great. I wanted to jump ship after twenty minutes of visuals overwhelming the story,but I'm glad I didn't, suddenly it kicks in and well its not perfect but it has neat little things in it. Its like the characters and the city-the plot gets lost in this vast maze. I honestly don't know what to say, about it beyond that...

The use of music is beyond masterful, so much so that at one moment toward the end (Ray Charles) I suddenly found myself siting up and going, "holy shit, there's a hell of alot more going on here then I thought" I wasn't certain what it was but it was going on....

Yes, its a masterpiece, yes it takes things to the next step...I'm not certain what to make of it wholly, its better than Akira for certain...

Watching this in the theater for the first time I keep asking when, if ever will American films be as daring and as technically brillant as what the Japanese were doing. I know that part of my uncertainty was the result of simply knowing what I was going to see in advance...of course it was the next step in animation, I saw that in the trailer...

The things that are being done in Japan are light years ahead of whats being done here....

This, along with Escaflowne (which was playing down the hall when I saw Metropolis) are pushing the visual medium farther than ever before....these are films which could never be done live action, who's stories need the medium of animation to be told visually....

The movie started and my first emotion was Disney is f***d. I know I harp on Disney but they have not done anything ground breaking in years-their idea of pushing the envelope is to release a feature in Imax 3D. Atlantis was a half an attempt. Its bold daring story was hampered by the Disney need to be family friendly. Family friendly is good for the pocket book but stagnates the medium, and will kill them in the end. Why are Pixar and Dreamwork films big hits? Because they aren't Disney.

The last daring thing that Disney did was Nightmare before Christmas, but they at first distanced themselves from, lest it blow up in their faces.

As uneven as Metropolis is , its still more daring in what it does than anything Disney has done... Which is why Columbia Tristar has released it.

Kudos to them for letting us see, on a big screen a landmark in the history of animation.

Out on DVD