Thursday, February 9, 2023

Liz WHittemore of Reel News Daily on on ATTACHMENT (2022)


New   couple Maja and Leah battle terror and tradition when they move back into the same house as Leah’s Hasidic mother, Chana. Jewish mysticism takes center stage in this unique entry for Tribeca 2022 Midnight section. Is Chana an overprotective parent, or is something more sinister happening? Enter writer-director Gabriel Bier Gislason‘s Attachment. 

The writing is perfectly genius, as it disguises the mystery within the secretive nature of the religion. I watch a lot of horror, and Attachment had me on the ropes. I had no idea where this script would land. The language barrier raises the stakes, as important revelations become lost in translation, literally. Performances are spectacular and nuanced. The emotional journeys are lush. Their pasts slowly revealed create a genuine and curious bond. I could not take my eyes off the screen while watching Attachment, fearing I’d miss the smallest detail. Audiences will be hypnotized. 

For more Liz WHittemore magic check out her regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY

Take Me Home (2023) Santa Barbara Film Festival 2023

 


Young woman with cognitive issues calls her sister when their mother is non-responsive.

This short film is a killer drama about the problem of not being able to be communicate when things happen. Never feeling forced or contrived this is a film that feels as though it was ripped from life. Indeed Jeena Yi, Director Liz Sargent's sister has the very problems we see on screen.

This is a small gem of the film. It is a film that has gotten better in the days since I saw it. It's so good that I honestly want more time with these characters. I would love to see this expanded, or if not I would love to see something else with them.

Finding films like this are the reason that I love to wade into short film collections.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Stellar (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023

STELLAR is a beautiful art film that wants to say a great many things but is too distant to really add up to much.

The film is the story of two people who meet in a dive bar. It’s full of beautiful images, meaning full words and silences that are dripping with weight. It’s a beautifully acted film.

The problem is that the film desperately wants to say something with every word, every image and sound and as a result it kind of stumbles all over itself. The film really doesn’t have that much to say. Yes its romance that has moments of great power, but at the same time it has just as many moments that just sort of hang there. I have the feeling that I’m supposed to be leaning in and getting something wonderful that just isn’t there. 

This would have been a killer short.

At the same time I should probably say that this film was probably not made for me. I know that there is probably an audience who loves this sort of a thing blown up to feature length.

For me this was a miss, for you, well that’s for you to decide
.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Corner Office (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


A Kafkaesque story about a corporate worker bee who prides himself on productivity and efficiency discovers an office no one else seems to notice. Jon Hamm plays Orson, a man who feels misunderstood and underestimated. As he isolates himself from his co-workers due to his holier-than-thou inner monologue, which Hamm provides with his iconic tone of voice, he finds respite in a wood-paneled, impeccably decorated, midcentury modern office space. Just down the hall, between the elevator and the restroom, lies a door to that room. Orson’s visits to the office slowly increase. The problem is that when he does, everyone around him sees something altogether different. They see Orson staring off into space, never moving, as if in a trance.

The audience must decern whether Orson is quite well. Ted Kupper‘s adaptation of Jonas Karlsson‘s short story allows us to go on the emotional journey from Hamm’s standpoint. I use the term “emotional” loosely, as Orson is almost robotic and socially inept. Hamm gives a performance that will undoubtedly be buzzing through awards season. It’s a departure from his sexy manwhore persona from Mad Men, even if Orson’s coveted space would have been Don Draper’s wet dream. It’s no coincidence that the building is a monstrous and overbearing piece of architecture that literally disappears into the clouds and that the company name is “The Authority.” We’re not exactly sure what Orson’s job title is, but when inspiration hits him inside “The room,” he impresses the higher-ups, including the never-seen “EVP.”

Despite the praise, Orson’s co-workers and bosses cannot emotionally manage his request to work in the room. The film begs the larger question about neurodivergence in the world. On a personal note, as a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, Corner Office can connect with audiences for innumerable reasons, whether intended or not. Corner Office is a unique entry into the mental health conversation. The script strings the audience along until the very end. It was, without hesitation, one of my favorite films from Tribeca 2022.

For more from Liz check out her home at REEL NEWS DAILY

Cinema Sabaya (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


Cinema Sabaya is a charming film.

Based on director Orit Fouks Rotem ‘s experience running a seminar for video production with both Arab and Israeli women, the film charts the coming together of ten women from different backgrounds and age groups looking to learn to make films.  While things are rocky at the start, some of the woman want to know why the seminar is in Hebrew and not in Arabic as well, things quickly come together as the women find that they have a great deal in common.

This is a wonderful film. Despite being almost exclusively set inside the room where the classes are taking place it never feels claustrophobic. Frankly it wasn’t until I was looking up something in connection to the film did I realize that the film had one set. I say this because watching the film I never notice. I was much too lost in watching what was happening on screen. To me this was just like hanging out with some really interesting people for a coffee.

Actually the best thing I can say is that for a good chunk of the film I forgot I was watching a narrative and thought it was a documentary.

I can’t recommend this film enough.

See it when it plays Santa Barbara International Jewish Film Festival.

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue plays Ovid. TV starting today

 


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

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

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

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

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

Starring Jerry As Himself (2023) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023



This is a documentary narrative hybrid about Jerry Hsu who tells us the story of what happened after he was recruited by the Chinese police.

The less you know about the arc of this story the better it's going to play for you. I say that because this is a beautiful puzzle box of a film. This is a film about what happened to Jerry, his life, his family and the making of the film.  Its a film that is full layers and as the film goes on doors are opened and the layers of the story are peeled away.  

It's a hell of a ride...and a bracing cautionary tale that you need to see.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

John Leguizamo Live at Rikers (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


John Leguizamo goes to New York City's Riker's Island prison to perform Ghetto Klown for the inmates and talk to them as well.

Feeling more like a proof of concept film then a fully formed film, the film tries to be both a record of Legizamo's performances and one of his talk with inmates. The result is a film that kind of feels half finished and it leaves us wanting more. 

The problem here is that while the film uses the performance to counterpoint what is being discussed in the meeting with the inmates, the truth is the more interesting stuff is the talks with the inmates. At a time where Riker's Island is self destructing due to neglect to the point its appearing in the papers almost every day, the more interesting bits are stories of the guys locked up there. I wanted to hear more from them and less from Leguizamo, not because there is anything wrong with the performance but because this was the one time these guys could say their piece. I wanted to see more of them.

As an addendum I saw the film again today as part of the shorts block and I realized  the film is much better on a big screen. Seeing the film where we are focused on the film made it so much better. That said this really does need to be expanded into a feature film.

Category Woman (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


This is a look at women in the sports world and how they have to meet an ever sliding standard of what it means to be a woman. It started when some women were thought to be men in disguise. This lead to women having to be paraded before judges to make sure they really were woman. They next were forced to submit to genetic tests however there are abnormal genetic markers that blur the coding. Most recently the various governing bodies required a checking of testosterone levels however some women have high levels of the hormone. As the governing bodies try to be "fair", women are suffering since they can't compete in their chosen sport or are being forced to undergo unnecessary surgery to conform to what the various bodies want.

This film will make you angry. This is an examination of the insane things people with no clue are doing to keep their sports even level. The trouble is it's wrong on so many levels since it is forcing some arbitrary definition of what a woman is based on outmoded ideas. As one of the women says, their backward thinking is causing the lives of the athletes to explode, giving them no recourse. 

Not only is it all sexist, after all men have not subjected  this nonsense to this degree, it all looks, and is, incredibly racist since many of the women being targets are women of color from Africa, India and not European countries. Clearly the fact that the women are not European ideal is a sin.

While I was aware of some what was going on I wasn't aware of how wide spread the craziness is and of how damaging the "rules" are. By the middle of the film I was truly pissed off and wanted to beat someone up for the stupidity of it all.

This is a super film and is highly recommended.

I'm sorry I can't say more-I'm too pissed off not to scream.

Brief thoughts on Vampus Horror Tales (2021)


Creepy gravedigger who insists on being called Vampus tells several gruesome tales.

Humor mixes nicely with horror in this black and white horror film. 

Echoing the Amicus films of the 70's except with an added dose of humor, this film entertains from start to finish.To be certain some of the humor is a bit broader than it should have been, but it's okay, the knowing attitude is just something you go so you laugh as you shiver.

A small gem that should develop a cult following down the road.

Last Deal (2022)


Pot dealer who was once the best grower in California, decides to make one more score before it's legalized in the state. However the guys he's making the deal with want to double cross him, leading to a long battle to make it right.

Less a thriller than a character study THE LAST DEAL works because Anthony Molinari is so good in the lead. We fall into the film because he pulls us in. He's just this regular guy trying to make a buck. He isn't hardened criminal or excon or usual main character in a film like this. He just wants to make a buck and go home. Its a refreshing change from the typical formula characters we see in films like this. 

While this may not rattle the pillars of heaven it entertained the hell out of me which is enough

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on AMERICAN DREAMER (2023) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023

 With AMERICAN DREAMER playing SBIFF here is Liz Whittemore's review from last year's Tribeca


There’s something about Peter Dinklage that makes him a brilliant leading man. Tribeca 2022 film American Dreamer is another example of his ability to captivate on screen. In Paul Dektor‘s feature directorial debut, Dinklage plays adjunct social economics professor and lecturer Dr. Phil Loder. As he speaks eloquently to his students, we witness a sly Indian Jones hommage from the front row. Perusing real estate porn, as so many of us do regularly, Phil is serious about finding his slice of heaven and stability in his career. Chasing tenure and respect, he stumbles across a deal in the classifieds that seems too good to be true. With the assistance of his smarmy real estate agent, played to perfection by Matt Dillon, Phil purchases an enormous estate. But there is a catch. His contract contains a “live-in” clause for the previous owner. 

Phil has sold his soul to a woman named Astrid. Thought to be on her deathbed, unpredictable circumstances lead Phil to hire a private detective (Danny Glover) while navigating a complicated relationship with Astrid and her skeptical daughter Maggie. The script dives into the mythic “American Dream” and what the concept means to each of us. Screenwriter Theodore Melfi allows MacLaine and Dinklage to do their proverbial thing. I was hypnotized by the ease of their scenes together. 

Shirley MacLaine brings her truest form with sass and spitfire. Her ability to make you smirk and piss you off is a gift. She’s a legend, and Dinklage keeps pace at every turn. Peter Dinklage has mastered the art of charming his costars and the audience. After watching him in Cyrano, his sex symbol status became solidified. In American Dream, Melfi and Dektor allow him to woo in only the way Peter can woo. Picturing him as a man that constantly has women in the palm of his hand is sheer perfection. His comic timing is unmatched. The magic permeates throughout his fully fleshed-out portrayal of a flawed man.

American Dreamer wins with a great score and soundtrack, stunning locations, funny fantasy sequences, and some clever transitions in the form of novel chapters. I had no idea where this plot was going, and damnit, that’s rare. It is easy to say that it is one of my Top 3 films from the festival this year. I cannot wait for larger audiences to experience this beguiling comedy when it inevitably gets distribution. You’re gonna love it.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Return to Seoul (2022) Santa Barbara 2023


This is the sort of cinematic gem I go to the New York Film Festival to discover. This was one of the last films I saw at the fest an it was one of the best.

The film is about a young Korean woman who was given up for adoption as baby and raised by a couple in France. Over the course of the film she returns to Korea over several years attempting to reach out to her birth parents.

This in cinematic magic of the highest order. Its a film where everything comes together to make a film that makes you go wow and then want to shuttle off to a cafe and discuss it with whom ever you just saw it with.

Possessing a genuine narrative complexity that pushes the film into the realm of reality, this is a film you will think about for days afterward. I saw two films after this and my thoughts kept coming back to this film. I loved that the film is so real that we don't care that the film ends with lots and lots of unanswered questions- but it's not being lazy rather its purely the fact we are seeing moments in time.

And then there is the use of music, which includes a jaw dropping dance scenes that reveals so much without a single word.

WOW and WOW.

This is filmmaking and storytelling of the highest order.

Highly recommended

Our Father The Devil (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


Marie is a chef at a retirement community who recognizes a new priest as being the bad man behind something that happened to her back in home country. As the priest becomes part of the community she has to find away to deal with the horrors of her past.

This is one of the quiet gems of Tribeca. Everyone I spoke with coming out of the press screening was rocked by the film. The reaction was so strong I had to take steps in order make sure I saw the film. Having seen the film I completely understand the reaction of everyone who saw it. I also know why the film was the Audience Award Winner.

Beautifully crafted on every level, the film puts it's audience in a death grip because it takes takes the time to set everything up. We are invested in characters well before the priest shows up. When we see how Marie reacts we react as well. We react more as we watch how the events play out. I wasn't ready for it and it made me want to climb up onto my seat. 

This film is a stunner. I don't know what to say. While many people at Tribeca were talking about Black Phone and the horror films as scary little films, those films have nothing on the suspense of OUR FATHER THE DEVIL creates because this is the horror of real life.

Highly recommended

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on The Prank (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


The ever joking Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily ponders THE PRANK

We all had that teacher in high school that we loathed, either because they were a terrible teacher or just plain evil. In The Prank, two students sick of an AP Physics teacher terrorizing the school come up with a scheme to frame her for murder. Can Ben and Tanner shift the power dynamic? More importantly, how will Mrs. Wheeler react?

Ben is your typical overachiever, while his best friend Tanner is a slacker. Funny thing, neither is what they appear to be. Tanner is a hacker genius. When the infamous teacher from our nightmares, Mrs. Wheeler, discovers someone has cheated on her Physics midterm, she threatens to fail everyone. Fed up with the power she holds, Ben and Tanner make a plan to take her down. A handful of ridiculous memes and embarrassingly fake “evidence” spirals out of control. But that’s just the beginning of The Prank.

Connor Kalopsis plays Ben with visceral anxiety in his attempt at a scholarship. His quiet confidence is a solid foil for co-star Ramona Young. I would be remiss to mention Meredith Salinger as his Mom. She’s quickwitted and down-to-earth and would have loved to see more of here. She’s a charmer.

Ramona Young as Tanner is a spitfire. With excitable energy, she bounces off of Kalopsis without ever getting campy. Their chemistry is akin to any series regulars on The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Kate Flannery plays the lunch lady with a sass that deserves a standing ovation. The scenes between her and Young, while short, are undeniably memorable.

Rita Moreno brings this Goosebumps-friendly film to life with her iconic character-building abilities. Her comic timing is legendary. Her presence onscreen and onstage is massive. She nails every beat of Mrs. Wheeler. Playing against Kalopsis and Young, her ability to outwit her scene partners is unmatched. Moreno captures the familiar sternness that made us shake in our boots when we were younger. Her acid-tongued delivery of screenwriters Becca Flinn-White & Zak White’s dialogue is chef’s kiss. You’ll love to hate her.

The Prank takes advantage of the classic rumor mill, updating it through social media. Without spoiling the film, the fallout that makes this film special. It was a surprising selection for SXSW22 but in a good way. The Prank is the most fun teen-centric comedy at this year’s festival. Stick around for the credits.

For more from Liz and Reel News Daily go here.

Ariela Rubin on Butterfly in the Sky (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023

With BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY playing the Santa Barbara International Film Festival here is Ariela Rubin's review from last year's Tribeca 

Butterfly in the Sky is a documentary about the history of Reading Rainbow. The directors, Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb made the film because they grew up loving the show and were shocked that a documentary hadn't already been made about it.

For those who aren't familiar: Reading Rainbow was a show on PBS from 1983-2006 with LeVar Burton as the host. It starred children(who weren't actors) as they read children's books. The show was made to encourage kids to read.

I grew up watching the show. It was a part of my childhood and while I couldn't (prior to watching this) remember specifics anymore about the show, the theme song is one some of my friends and I randomly will still sing.

For me, this film was very nostalgic to watch, I absolutely loved it! I loved learning the history, some of the challenges, and learning how impactful having a show with a black host meant for black children.  I think anyone would enjoy this documentary. It's a feel good one, and we all need more of that! 

I went to the premiere which was attended by many of the people involved in the show so there was a lot of applause and excitement in the theater. There was a Q&A after which was very enjoyable. They discussed the experience of the directors when they first spoke to LeVar Burton, if LeVar was ever scared with any of the things he had to do on the show (be close to an active volcano, ride a horse, fly in a small plane etc) [the answer was no. he found it all exciting and was always up for the adventure], that LeVar couldn't imagine not doing Reading Rainbow even when he got cast in Star Trek, and more.

It was a lovely movie. Highly recommended! "Take a look, it's in a book, a reading rainbow."

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023 Shorts I HAVE NO TEARS AND I MUST CRY, CHRISTOPHER AT SEA, TROY, IVALU and RED SUITCASE

I saw a number of shorts playing SBIFF at previous festivals and here are the reposts:


I am not certain what to say about I HAVE NO TEARS… This story of a man and a woman who go into meet with an  immigration official about the woman staying in the United States. It is a capsule of what happens during the brief meeting and what happens on either side of it.

As it stand it s a beautifully acted, great looking film that perfectly captures a moment.

And that is the problem with the film, this Is a moment in time. While we are moved by what happens, there is clearly more to the story. The lives of everyone on screen bleed off the screen since the film is very much alive. However the film leaves us wanting to know more. What happens next? What happened going into this? We can make assumptions but I liked the characters enough I want to know what happened.

As good as the film is it left me unsatisfied.

Quibble aside this is worth a look

CHRISTOPHER AT SEA is a super short film about a man going to sea and what he finds there. Its a visual delight and deserving of better coverage than I can give it. Actually its so good you should just see it.

TROY
A couple has a noisy neighbor who has a lot of very loud sex. Will the couple survive?

This is a good short that produces laughs and knowing nods. At the same time  I kind of wish this film had been a bit longer. The film at times feels a little too fast moving and I think it would have shone a bit brighter had we had a few extra minutes with the characters and situations

At the same time I’m quibbling. This is worth a look.

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.

Liz Whittemore on Seriously Red (2022)


This is Liz Whittemore's SXSW review from last year of SERIOUSLY RED which opens Friday

This infectious homage to tribute performers focuses on a quirky redheaded young woman whose passion in life has been the songs and personality of Miss Dolly Parton. While she’s has a patterned history of screwing up, Red is a bold, kind-hearted spirit determined to make it as a Dolly impersonator. As her star rises, so does her self-esteem, affecting her personal life, for better or worse. 

Flashy sequins and blonde wings aside, deep down, the film is about self-actualization. The things we try and disguise from others and ourselves. When I was younger, someone asked me why I performed. “Is it because you’re hiding behind those characters?” First, I was offended. Then I thought about it. It was the perfect opportunity to try on someone new. But, Seriously Red is also about having the bravery to do what you love. 

Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Celeste Barber, Daniel Webber, and Thomas Campbell give superb performances. Seriously Red lives and breathes in screenwriter and star Krew Boylan. She brings unbridled nuance to Red. Comedy timing from the gods, slapstick chops, and a voice for days, Boylan owns every scene. You can’t take your eyes off of her.

The energy never fades, with glorious musical numbers (live and choreographed fantasy sequences.) This film will resonate with an audience wider than Dolly fans. While we revel in the legend’s words throughout the script, the themes stand undoubtedly on their own. Seriously Red will make you smile from ear to ear.

For more of Liz and Reel News Daily go here.

26.2 TO LIFE (2022) and THE 50 (2022) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


THE 50
Excellent look at how the California penal system decided to help fight over crowding by training inmates to be come substance abuse counselors. The plan was that the inmates might be able to help those in  need find away to stay out of prison.

This is great film. This is a wonderful tale of hope and redemption as we get to see the men work to help each other and themselves. It's a wonderful look at how the world can be changed if we only look at things differently.

How good is the film? After the screening I received and email from friend who works in a related field and he wanted to make sure that I saw the film. Additionally he mentioned that he was so impressed by what he saw in the film he was going to be changing his hiring practices to look to bring in counselors with similar backgrounds because their experience is a help. Honestly I can't give a bigger recommendation than that.

Highly recommended  


26.2 TO LIFE 
A look at the San Quentin 1000 Mile runners club. The club trains inmates to run in a marathon. The race is held in the yard of the prison and involves over a hundred circles. Through the discipline required to run  the men find there lives have been changed as they realize that ultimately they can do anything they set their minds to.

I know this film film hits all of the expected marks, but at the same time the film is deeply moving. Say what you will I got misty at the end. I fell in with the men in the film and I was cheering them by the end. Actually I was enjoying the film so much I was seriously considering  going to the public DOC NYC screening just so I could meet them in person.

What a wonderful story of hope.

Recommended.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023 starts this week


Beginning February 8 and running until the 18th the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is going to be flooding Southern California with cinematic goodness. If you are near by you need to make the time and go.

Over the past few years I covered a few films here and there. This year I'm wading in as much as a guy can from the East Coast can. Actually I'm coming into the festival with a good number of films already under my belt and based on those and the bunch of films I've been  able to screen in advance I can tell you the slate this year rocks. There are a seemingly endless supply of films that are going to delight you.

Please excuse the lack of a long winded curtain raiser but I got lost in my film watching and I haven't had a chance to come up with a proper discussion. This year the films are doing the talking. I would however like to say a couple of quick things.

Normally I do a list of links of films we've covered before, however this time I'm going to repost the reviews of 22 films in 17 pieces over the next four days. I'm doing this because the festival is showing so many good films you need to be made aware of them, and because putting them in links doesn't seem to get people to take the notice they should. Full reviews get films noticed and since the fest has so many good films I'm reposting.

While the festival doesn't have an embargo on coverage a lot of the films do so with the reviews of any film that I didn't see previously I'm erring and posting coverage after the first screening.

As always there is a list  of must sees and this is the one for Santa Barbara:

GO ON BE BRAVE- excellent film about a woman trying to do one marathon in every state before MS takes her. You will be moved.
THE RIGHT TO READ-Vitally important, and damn good film about the right for people to learn to read and the battle for the correct way to teach it.
CATEGORY WOMAN-This story of how sports are penalizing women with high testosterone lev will piss you off.
RETURN TO SEOUL- awesome about a young woman tying to deal with where she comes from
OUR FATHER THE DEVIL-I saw this thriller back at Tribeca last year and it's haunted me ever since.
BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY -Glorious film about Reading Rainbow and how it changed the world.
SOUL OF THE OCEAN-Must be seen big look at life in the ocean.
VIKING-barely science fiction tale about a group of astronauts stationed on earth and paralleling a trip to Mars. Like the best science fiction films it says great deal about life.
DESPERATE SOULS, DARK CITY AND THE LEGEND OF URBAN COWBOY is one of the best film on film docs I've seen. Not only does it tell us about the film but also the times it erupted from.
KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONGS is a portrait of Charles Fox. You may not know his name but if I sang  one his songs you'd sing right along 
AMERICAN OUTLAWS true life crime drama about three siblings on the run is a gritty film with a cynical edge
KNOW YOUR PLACE 15 year old young man is tasked with getting suitcase across Seattle. This film premiered last year and has been quietly going through festivals...and I'm wondering how this is not on anyone's radar? This is a film of quiet understated power.

And with that back to the darkened theater and back to writing. Reviews start tomorrow and run through the festival.

FOr tickets and more information go here

Expedition Content plays Ovid.TV Starting Tuesday


 This is a film that is made up of audio recordings made by Michael Rockefeller in 1961 when he was part an expedition to Dutch New Guinea sent to study the Hubula people. (This was the same expedition from which Rockefeller would famously disappear.) The film is almost entirely composed of a simple black screen while we listen to the audio. (there are some text passages and roughly 2 minutes of film footage)

True cinema of the mind as we listen to to the sounds of life in the Hubula village as well as to some discussions between the anthropologists themselves. It's a trippy experience, especially if you can watch this is a darkened room and let the sounds wash over you. If you can you will drift off to another place and time.  In all honesty I would love to be able to see what the people watching this film see in their heads.

I really liked this film a great deal  not just because of what it revealed but also because it made me ponder what cinema and documentary cinema was.

If I might be allowed to quibble about a couple of small moments, I found some of the on screen text out of place. I'm not sure why there is a reference to Michael's father's sending in the police to Attica prison as part of a list of connections of the Rockefeller's to New Guinea. Additionally some of the later passages are explaining the politics of governing of the area seem equally out of place since they didn't seem to have a bearing on what we had been listening to.

Recommended for the adventurous and open minded.

For more information and tickets go here

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Pale Blue Eye (2022)


Christian Bale plays a man hired by the commanders at West Point to investigate the death of a cadet. It looks like a suicide but it quickly becomes clear something else is going on, since the dead man's heart had been removed. Working to keep a lid on things lest the newly formed institution be destroyed by scandal Bale hooks up with cadet Edgar Allen Poe to get to the bottom of it.

I loved 3/4ths of this film I was absolutely enthralled for most of the running time. However as the film moved toward the end I suddenly realized that the denouncement wasn't really going to be satisfactory. Don't get me wrong, it works, but the details of why kind of disappoints, not because it couldn't be, rather it's because the details which  made it work in the novel are lost in the film. Basically the small references that seemed like throwaways but built up to something are missing in the film. A second viewing may prove me wrong, but I don't think so.

As it is this is a very good mystery with an emotional kick.

Recommended.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Arthur Malediction (2022)

The poster makes this look like a horror film. Its a snooze fest instead

Luc Besson acts as writer and producer to return to the world of his Arthur and the Invisibles (Minimoy) film and TV series with less than successful results.

The film has Alex ,a super fan of the Minmoy films, going with his friends to the house where the films were shot and bad things happen.

Jumbled and confusing film that exists in its own meta-universe this film had me scratching my head as it tried to be part of the Minimoy universe and something outside it. It also tries to be for kids and not, and tries to be a thriller and not. 

At this point I would make a joke about it trying to be a good film but it's really not a good film.

This complete mess of a film truly boggles the mind. It begins and then restarts several times in different places. It has plot holes you could drift a continent through. It insists on being part of a series for no real reason. It has no tension.

What kills me is the first half or so of the film feels like it was made up on the spot. Conversations go nowhere as the film feels like it is filling time to make it to feature length. Eventually things angle toward somewhere something is going to happen and when it does you really don't care.

I think part of the problem with the film is this is some sort of family project for Besson. Watching the opening credits too many people have the same last name, as if Besson had put his entire extended family on the payroll.

What an absolute waste of my time...don't waste yours.

Blind Man Who DId Not Want To See The Titanic (2022)

One of the great finds at 2022 this is the story of Jaakko a  blind movie fan who has a long distance relationship with a disabled woman he has never met in person. Because he is also in a wheelchair Jaakko 's mobility is limited so they have been unable to workout meeting. When circumstances take a turn Jaakko decides he has to make the trek to his lady love.

Beautiful romance turns thriller as we worry how this is all going to go. Things are made tenser thanks to director Teemu Nikki shoting the film to simulate blindness. Anything outside of our focus is blurry we can't really see around Jaakko,  Its a genuine claustophobia that heightens everything.

What makes this film work are the people. Eveyone is wonderful. Actually  Petri Poikolainen as Jaakko is magnificent. This is an Oscar wrthy performance. Its stunning. Poikolainen is so good that I want to see him in more films,  he's so good that he makes it clear that we need to hire mre people with disabilities. (Poikolainen is blind and has MS)

Highly recommended. This is one of the great finds of the year

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Red Threads (2023) Slamdance 2023

 Red Threads was an award winner at Slamdance and I can see why, it’s a trippy film that pulls you in and makes you want to see where it’s going to end up.

An “experimental” film by definition it is really a perfectly told visual trip into the mind of director Yuchi Ma. It's  an examination of memory, life in two countries and how we organize the world. It’s a collision of dumplings, video games and travel. It is not as odd as you might think.

I really liked the film. Actually, my thought while watching the film was this was at the wrong festival, and that this should be screening at the New York Film Festival in their side bar of genre bending films.

Definitely worth a look.

Michael H DIrector plays Ovid.TV starting today

Haneke and translator at NYFF 2012
Glorified DVD box set extra begins with Michael Haneke filming the Oscar winning Amour before going backwards through most of his films before returning once more to Amour.

Made by the man who has filmed Haneke making most of his films, this movie is a collection of some of that footage mixed with interviews with the man and some of the people who work with him. Its a portrait of the artist by a fan that will only be of interest to people who are equally rapturous about the subject and his films.

As I've said on numerous occasions I find most of Haneke's films lazy variations on the same dark theme about how life is cruel dark and unfair. I also find his style provocative instead of inventive. I am not a fan and I'm always amazed when people speak so rapturously about his films, since to my mind he's master of the obvious. I went into the film hoping to find a reason to revisit the films that have, with the exception of Amour, failed to thrill me. Sadly I found none.

To me the interview portions of the film are awfully repetitive since each was filmed after each production and have him saying the same things over and over again: that he will not explain or analyze his films, that he likes to be direct even if it isn't pleasant and that life isn't fair and he wants to show it and the suffering it  brings. I kind of wish that Haneke had simply sat down to one interview now and talked about all his films in one go. Some people in the audience loved it, I on the other hand wanted to hit fast forward since Haneke inflates himself in each interview so he comes off pompous.

The cool part of this film are the making of sequences. Watching Haneke direct is a blast and while he comes off as a man very much in control, the pomposity of the interviews is missing. It's clear he's a man who loves his job. I loved these sequences since we really get to see something we don't see every day.

Ultimately this is a film only for hardcore Haneke fans. Unless you know his movies you'll have no idea what they are talking about or what any of the things we see being filmed are.  Worse only a fan will sit still while the same points are made about film and his films. It's not a bad film as such but running over 90 minutes this is a too long extra that belongs in a box set of the directors films and not at a film festival.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Austin Belzer of Austin B Media is interviewing every on from Slamdance (and someone from Sundance) Part 3 MASOCT, CISCO KID, SWEETHEART DEAL and from Sundance MURDER IN BIGHORN

 Austin Belzer of Austin B Media is still at it. He's still cranking out interviews from Slamdance (and Sundance)


AND FROM SUNDANCE


For more from Austin go to his regular home at Austin B Media

Let It Be Morning (2022) Opens Friday


Eran Kolirin's new film LET IT BE MORNING is a gut punch of a movie. The turns in the film left me exhausted.

The film is the story of Sami a Palestinian born Israeli who returns home for a wedding.  On his way out of town he finds that the town has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world due to a blockade. The Israelis are not letting anyone out and are not being clear as to why. As he struggles to get out Sami also has to contend with the life and family he left behind.

A beautifully made film, LET IT BE MORNING moved me. Despite nominally being about a situation I know little about, I was moved by Sami’s plight. I could relate a bit too well to the situation of being a person who has compartmentalized his life and can’t deal with things bleeding over. As a person who is finding the boxes of his life breaking apart I saw bits of my life up there.

At the same time as we are getting the personal we are also getting the political story of a town cut off from the outside world on a whim. As the film makes clear the whole situation is crazy…and heartbreaking, as we see several times in the film.

And you will forgive me for not going into greater detail as to what happens, but much of the film's power is found in taking the ride. I liked not knowing how Sami was going to react or knowing what turns the blockade was going to take. If you are smart you will simply go in as blind as possible and let events move you as an unexpected earthquake would.

This is a gem and is recommended.

LET IT BE MORNING opens Friday at the Quad in New York and in LA at the Laemmle Royal

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Grand Bolero (2022)


Gabriele Fabbro has made his first feature film and the film world should be shaking in its boots. What will he do for an encore? Looking more like a film from the great Italian filmmakers from the 1960's or 70's Fabbro has fashioned a Gothic chamber piece that is firing on all cylinders from the first frame to the last.

The plot is simple. A young mute woman gets a job at a church in order to ride out the lockdown and learn how to restore organs. Her teacher, a cranky middle-aged woman wants no part of it, but her boss insists.  When the young woman is discovered to have great musical talent, her boss begins to melt and then things get messy....

A truly amazing achievement on every level GRAND BOLERO rocks the pillars of heaven from the start. Perfectly painted images set an emotional tone that is matched by the first-rate cast. Oscar missed out in nominating Lidia Vitale for best actress. It is exactly the sort of emotional role that Oscar normally eats up, and which audiences take to their hearts. This may end up being a touchstone role for her, with it being the role everyone talks about.

The film reminded me of any number of great Italian films of the past but dressed up as something new. While I could take the easy way out and compare the film to any number of gaillos as a means of shorthand, it would be wrong to do so. Fabbro has fashioned something greater. This is a psychological dance that transcends any genre to be something more. It may feel like a thriller but the truth is the film is a portrait of desire and the souls of the characters. This is a film that sets up new designations of what a film is.

I am floored.

While I know Fabbro has made a large number of short films I don't think I've ever seen as masterful a first feature. It is a film made with such an assured hand that you would swear he's been doing it for years. This is a film feature directors build toward not start from. The first features of the masters of cinema were not as assured as this film.  And truth be told no matter who made this film I would have still been amazed only I would have been asking why I hadn't heard of him before.

GRAND BOLERO is an absolute must...especially if you want to see the first feature work of a director who just might end up rewriting cinema history.

GRAND BOLERO is currently streaming on Amazon


ALive (2022)


Low key English zombie film has a young woman and her brother trying to survive during the outbreak of a mysterious disease which turns out is really a zombie plague.

Running closer to films like Schwarzenegger’s MAGGIE, or Sabu’s MISS ZOMBIE, ALIVE is all about the people. Yes the film has some violence, however it is not full of blood and guts and gore. Also while the film has suspense , it really isn’t a full on horror film since it focuses on how the characters interact and the terrible things people do more than the zombies. It’s more a thriller with horror overtones.

I liked ALIVE. In an age where 95% of the zombie films are all riffs on the same handful of plots over and again, it’s nice to see a film that goes in another direction.

Worth a look.

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Locksmith (2023)


I went into seeing THE LOCKSMITH with no expectations. The cast is good. The trailer looked like it was more than a pay check job. And on top of it all I figured I could use something to clean the palette from Sundance and Slamdance. I figured if nothing else it would be something mindless.

Was I shocked when the film turned out to be one of the best B crime thrillers in a very long time.

Ryan Phillippe stars as Miller a young safe cracker who gets sent up and sent to prison by a dirty cop. Ten years later Miller gets out of prison and is helped by his friend played by Ving Rhames. All Miller wants to do is connect with his daughter, and maybe his ex-girlfriend who is now a cop herself. However things become complicated as now grown up girl he used to know wants him to pull a job for her. Also the dirty cop is still around and he wants Miller gone or under his control.

Tense crime drama is one of the best of the ex-con gets out of prison genre of the last few years. Extremely well crafted and boasting a cast to die for THE LOCKSMITH grabs our attention. While the film does use some of the expected tropes, it only uses them as starting points, sending the narrative off in less traveled ways. You aren't going to know where this is going.

I loved this film a great deal.  It's good enough that half way through I wish my dad was still alive so I could share it with him. He loved good thrillers like this and he would have been delighted by it.

Highly recommended.

Grand Master of Kung Fu (2022) hits digital January 31 and is on Hi YAH! now


During the occupation of China by Japan a Chinese martial artist has a battle with the head of the Japanese forces.

Fast moving action film is incredibly jingoistic. This is a film that is very much about making a large loud point about foreign intervention into China and how the quiet Chinese will kick the ass of anyone who tries to invade. As a piece of big and loud propaganda the film is a bust since it's too strident to be taken seriously. (Actually this is one of the least propaganda films I've seen from the country)

As an action film this film is breezy and mindless fun. Intending on making no inroads in stories, character the film simply functions as a 75 minute series of fights.  Well done with lots of wire work they carry the film along as the politics slows things down. 

Is this the greatest thing since sliced bread? Not even close  but the film hits the right notes and the action is good so I had a good time.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Human Rights Watch Film Festival San Diego is February 2- 9


This week the San Diego stop of the Human Rights Film Festival is happening via Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) . A mix of in person and streaming  screenings the festival is highlighting the infringement of basic human rights in stories from around the global 

I love the festival and I have been covering the New York version of the festival for over a decade and other iterations as they were offered. To me this is a vital festival and I always make an effort to cover it where and when I can...even to the point of agreeing to cover this version while in the middle of Sundance and Slamdance.

One film is screening in person and the others are screening on line. Three of the streaming films will have one line Zoom Q&As at the listed time.

MOPA's page for the festival is here

Human Right's Watch page for the festival is here.

All of the films are good. All the films should be seen


CLARISSA'S BATTLE
(Only screening in Person on 2/2. Q&A and reception to follow)
A look at the battle being fought by Clarissa Doutherd in order to bring child care to her community and communities around her. We watch as Clarissa  gathers her troops and begins to get support for the government funded child care that everyone should be able to get.

This is a solid portrait of a woman and her cause. It is a wonderful blueprint for other people to use not only to do something similar for their own communities but also for other battles that need to be waged.

Worth a look.

These films screen remotely with a Q&A to follow at the listed time


AND STILL I SING
 (Zoom Q&A 2/7 at 5PM Pacific Time)
A look at Afghan singers Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madadgar as they are mentored by superstarAryanna Sayeed to compete on the Afghan version of American Idol. However things become dire when the Taliban begin to retake the country.

Politics meet entertainment as three woman seek to show the world that there is more to Afghanistan than religious zealousness. This is a moving story of three woman struggling to do the thing they love and to bring hope to the people of their country.

While events will clue you as to how this is going to go, the film is still worth seeing because of the three amazing women at the center. You will be moved.



#IAMVANESSGUILLEN (Zoom Q&A 2/8 at 5PM Pacific Time)
Deeply moving look at sexual harrassment and violence in the American military in the wake of the disappearance and murder of Vanessa Gullien at Fort Hood. Fellow soldier Karina Lopez who was also assaulted at the base went public with her story with the titled has tag and helped to fan the flames of a possible change.

You will get pissed off as the depth of the military's refusal to do anything is revealed. Thing are really bad as the military simply tries to cover things up instead of stopping the problem. While the film shows us that things are perhaps moving toward change, it also makes clear the damage that has been done over the years,

A vital and important film


U√ĚRA: The Rising Forest
 (Zoom Q&A 2/9 at 5PM Pacific Time)
Portrait of indigenous trans artist Uyra as she travels through the amazon.

This is a one of a kind film, one part travelogue, one part bio and one part work of art, about a one of a kind person. Highlighting the state of LGBT individuals in Brazil the film also amplifies the experiences of the indigenous population.

Dreamy trippy film, this film worked best for me visually. I loved the strange images the Uyra conjured up for the camera. 

The following films are available to screen at any time during the festival. There will be no Q&As for them. (These reviews ran as coverage at previous festivals)

CATEGORY WOMAN


This is a look at World Champion runner Caster Semenya who, due to biology of birth has naturally high androgen levels which athletic governing bodies suddenly claim are not allowed since it gives her an unfair advantage. Forced to change her biology if she wants to compete the film examines what it means to be a woman.

There have been been several news stories and documentaries on Semenya and the problem of people claiming the hormone levels some how makes her not a woman and this one is the best.

This film  made angry since it's clear that  a bunch of guys who don't understand biology are making stupid pronouncements. How did these boos get put in charge of anything?  Cutting to the chase this is a great and an important film that lays everything out in ways that make the athletic bodies look like fools.

The film is a must.

DELIKADO


Delikado is  hell of a film. The film is the story  of the people on the island of Palawan in the Philippines who are fighting to keep their rain forest intact. One of the last rain forests in the world that hasn’t been severely compromised by the action of mankind the jungle is coveted by the rich and powerful. Who work to take to control of the land and resources by any means necessary.  Feeding into the madness is the former President Duterte’s criminal war on drugs, a reign of terror in disguise, where official and unofficial hit squads killed or brutalized anyone that they deemed part of the drug trade.

Lush and beautiful landscapes are counterbalanced by the evil that men do as activists and local officials are forced to fight the main government and interlopers. It’s a story which will make you angry.

The film is a portrait of three people Bobby Chen head of the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI) which goes into the jungle to stop the illegal destruction of the rain forest. Efren "Tata" Balladeres, a one time government agent, turned activist and Nieves Rosento, mayor of one of the towns on the island. She is loved by her constituents and wants to keep the jungle intact. However her opponent is backed by the Philippines psychotic President Duterte and has been labeled as being in league with the drug dealers which makes her a target for the hit squads.

Structured like a thriller the film shows us the dangers of protecting the jungle and the land from the forces seeking to exploit the land for the profit of a few.  And there is danger since one of the people we are following dies during the course of the film. While you will watch the film for the suspense, the reality is you should see the film because it will make you understand just how the environment is under attack and how big business and big money doesn’t care who dies so they get money.

This is a great film and highly recommended

Be prepared to get angry.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (2023) Sundance 2023


This is a gorgeously shot documentary simply records a group of women in a sauna as they talk about their lives and the world. 

This is a deliberately paced film that is exactly like hanging out with the women. Shot in such a way that we never see the faces of any of them, the women seem to open up in ways that women only open up to  other women. Being a guy I felt like I was intruding on a private conversation.

This is a super film that should be getting a lot of appearances on the festival circuit so make an effort and see it.

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Fantastic Machine (2023) Sundance 2023

 


Memory preservation, emotional resonance, exploration, and exposure of truth, FANTASTIC MACHINE explores the history of capturing the first image to the deliberate curation of media content through the ages.

The swiftness of the manipulation of images shocked me. From the beginning, the film is ruthless in its takedown of perceived truth. It is what we don’t see changes everything. Fantastic Machine has outtakes from a 2017 ISIS propaganda video, Eurovision’s use of the green screen in their scoring reports, how-to YouTube videos, and viral video reactions. At one point, I exclaimed, “What The Fuck,” louder than I intended.

The power of curated messaging in politics is something we know well. The film features a breathtaking 1993 interview with a filmmaker that changed the face of WW2 and modern-day filmmakers. In 1934, The Nazi Party hired Leni Reifenstahl to show the movement as powerful and attractive. She speaks about the entertainment factor, how a two-hour speech must be compressed to five minutes with a beginning, middle, and thrilling middle, despite the subject. As I witnessed the pride in her technical work, my mouth was agape. Juxtapose those images with the Sidney Bernstein footage from the final day of the war in 1945. Charged with proving the atrocities of war ever existed, Bernstein brings humanity, suffering, and truth. In the end, it is a product. In most cases, it is void of morality.

Maximilien Van Aertryck narrates with a profound statement: “A lack of perspective can distort what the world looks like.” There is such a fine line between propaganda and truth. We are all too familiar with this tactic. The results of media manipulation are monumentally dangerous but immensely lucrative. Instagram is rewiring young brains in a similar manner fashion magazines impacted our self-esteem in the 90s. It, quite literally, changes brain chemistry. The editing from Mikel Cee Karlsson and writer-directors Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck is award-worthy. As the saying goes, they understood the assignment.

FANTASTIC MACHINE is ceaselessly fascinating and undeniably disturbing to experience. As a commentary on entertainment, it is both a celebration and a condemnation. Sundance 2023 audiences are in for something absolutely brilliant.

For more from Liz check out her regular home at Reel News Daily

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Liz Whittemore on A Perfect Day For Caribou (2023) Slamdance 2023


We find Herman with a tape recorder in hand, giving estranged son Nate life tips and recalling snippets of random stories from his past. When his phone rings, he finds Nat on the other end, requesting a visit. Nate arrives with his six-year-old son Ralph in tow. Three generations in the same place for the first time, Herman and Nate swap stories as they play catch-up with one another as Ralph explores the cemetery with his soccer ball. Midway through the film, Ralph goes missing. Father and son search the surrounding area far and wide, with Nate explaining this is a habit of Ralph’s. Their talk continues along the way, Herman toting a mysterious box with them and Nate chainsmoking as a coping mechanism. A Perfect Day for Caribou catches Slamdance 2023 audiences off-guard with honesty and reflection.

The film opens with Jeb Berrier and a glorious 10-plus minute monologue of stories and advice. His delivery lands somewhere between stoic and hypnotizing. It is an extraordinary turn. Charlie Plummer never ceases to amaze me with his grounded portrayals. It’s like watching a documentary. Plummer settles into Nate without missing a beat. His calming demeanor, similar to Berrier’s, grabs you instantly. Rutherford’s script allows Plummer to break free as the story progresses, and again, he nails it. There is a purity to the performance.

Cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo‘s work is beautiful. The combination of black-and-white and thoughtful framing captures your attention immediately. I adored the stationary swings. Long takes allow the audience to focus on the dialogue, heightening the emotional investment. The location is a cemetery and the surrounding open plains. Something about this choice speaks volumes on a metaphoric level. Short intercut scenes surprise and delight.

The film is a perfect fit for Slamdance 2023. Writer-director Jeff Rutherford offers an intimate portrait of attempted redemption and connection. Complete with full-circle moments, A Perfect Day for Caribou is a mesmerizing character study brimming with complexity.

For more from Liz check out her regular home at Reel News Daily

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on Who's Annie (2023) Slamdance 2023


A farcical meta delight, Slamdance 2023 episodic WHO’S ANNIE skewers the absurdity of Hollywood, but that’s only the beginning. Annie Pisapia plays herself and doesn’t. Yup. You read that correctly. This “series within a series” is wildly entertaining and wholly bizarre.

Writer-director Sophia Peer plays “herself,” a television director with awkward and quirky energy. Peer bears a striking resemblance to Rhea Pearlman. It’s a head-scratching role, and I could not look away. Sofia Dobrushin plays the “series” version of Peers. Wide-eyed and perfectly cast, Dobrushin appears both afraid and at home in coordinated chaos. I adored her. Annie Pisapia owns the screen, as her comic timing is something to behold. Her rough exterior feels part false flag, part true identity. She is so convincing it is genuinely tough to discern between Annie’s real life and the script. That is the entire point of the series, and Peer has succeeded with flying colors. Adding in Peer’s manic confidence and Dobrushin’s “yes, and” attitude, these three women exquisitely complement one another.

Because the show jumps in style, so does the cinematography. It is eye candy that never gets boring. It is pure silliness, and I’m dying for more. It’s Comedy Central meets Mad TV. There is a lot of meat on the bone for series development. Everyone has enough (or a lot) of backstory to expand upon and plenty of weirdness to start. WHO’S ANNIE is unique in this Slamdance 2023 episodic lineup.

For more from Liz check out her regular home at Reel News Daily

Friday, January 27, 2023

Baba (2023) Sundance 2023


An Iranian man tries to keep his apartment as things unravel one afternoon.

Movingly acted and beautifully shot BABA is a stunningly looking short film. It’s as good as a film can get on a technical level. Additionally Amir Zavosh rattles the pillars of heaven as a man under incredible stress. This is performance that should be up for an Oscar next year, except that Oscar acting awards doesn’t do short films.

The problem for me is that this really should have been a feature film.  Feeling more like the climax of a story than something complete. Threads are crashing in as the landlord comes knocking, a son tries to  translate w for his dad and a scammer tries to run off with a painting. There are way too many plot threads here, and while intellectually  things are resolved, emotionally we don’t have any connection. Who are these people? What is so special about the painting? We simply don’t know. I would be curious to try this again if it were turned into a feature.

Despite my reservations I’m recommending this because Zavosh is so damn good, you have to see the performance.

We Were Meant To (2023) Sundance 2023


The official synopsis of the film from the Sundance website is as follows:

“In a world where Black men have wings and their first flight is a rite of passage, Akil must defy fears, insecurities, and societal barriers while discovering his perfect launch into manhood.”

I am quoting it because my efforts to briefly explain the plot end up with me getting tongue tied as my love for the film gets crossed up with simply saying what the film is.

This film is something magical.

This is a film has a great deal to say about growing up for both men and women. I say this because women also go through something similar. 

This is perfect filmmaking. Writer director Tari Wariebi has assembled a magnificent cast and crew that sell the premise of men with wings. I also love the effects used to make us believe since they never look less then perfect. You will wonder how it was done even if you know how it was done.

How good is the film?

It moved me to tears with it’s perfect final image. Yes I suspected what it was going to be but it  didn’t matter because it was so perfectly realized.

A must see.