Sunday, March 26, 2023

Dozens of Norths (2021)


Kōji Yamamura‘s DOZENS OF NORTHS is a masterpiece that is several decades from when it should have come out. This glorious animated film should have come out in the 1970’s and 80’s when it’s dream like imagery would have made it a midnight movie favorite. Yea back then it was Rocky Horror, Eraserhead, Pink Flamingos and others like Fantastic Planet. Now imagine Eraserhead spawning with Fantastic Planet and you have a vague idea of what this is.

The film is a visualization of the journal of a man who visited various norths. However because time has addled his mind the various norths are jumbled and the film is trip through his broken memory.

While the images above and below give you an idea of what the film looks like it doesn’t really give you any clue what its like to watch this.  This is a trip into another universe. I was awestruck by the images and left staring when the film was done.

What had I just seen?

I don’t know but god damn I wanted to see it again as big as possible.

Seeing DOZENS OF NORTHS was one of the cinematic experience of the last few years.


Track this down and see it.


There are a couple of tricks to watching these films.

Watch V first then 1. Try and watch them together. Also remember that the films are send ups of long running series from the 1980’s and 90’s.

The idea behind the films was that V was the only surviving film in a series that spun off from a 1980’s horror film about a serial killer who survived his execution and then sought to get revenge.  The film is a note perfect comedy horror film in the style of  series like Friday the 13th or Slumber Party Massacre. Watching it it feels like coin into the middle of series. After the filmmakers finished the film they went back and made what the first film would have been if had actually existed.

I liked these films, but to be perfectly honest these are not films to sit at home and watch. The two THIRD SATURDAY films should be seen in a theater with like mined people who get the jokes and the references. Sitting at home watching this for the review my thoughts constantly shifted to how much greater this would have been being able to listen to everyone around me react and comment on the film. Sure I could have invited friends over, but at the same time a living room full of people is not the same as being in a darkened theater.

If you are a horror movie fan these films are recommended, If you are at a festival or some place where they are playing together with a real live audience they are a must.

Saturday, March 25, 2023


After the death of her father a young woman starts to investigate her mother’s new boyfriend, but she makes a mistake and connects with a serial killer with the same name.

Pursued is a good but unremarkable throw back to similar films from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Hitting a lot of the expected notes the film expertly tells a story we’ve seen before. While it’s entertaining, the film suffers because in addition to riffing on the films of the 80’s and 90’s it is a bit slackly paced.  If you removed 15 minutes this would be a lean mean killing machine.

I feel bad for seeming to pick on the film but the truth is there is a lot of good stuff here, particularly the lead performances, that make me wish this was a bit tighter.

Worth a look for horror fans.

Spaghetti Junction (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival

The title of the film refers to the nick name of a section of Atlanta Georgia.

The film is the story of a  teen girl whose life was recently upset by losing her leg in an accident. It’s a complication that has made being an awkward teen with a social butterfly and a sometimes difficult father even more challenging. When she investigates a glowing light outside her window she finds that a young man from another dimension has become stranded in our world.

Good but kind of all over the place film doesn’t seem to know what it really wants to be. Is this a heartfelt coming of age film or a science fiction tale? The pieces are good but they never fully mesh since the film never really gives itself into being one thing. The result is a coming of age tale that is genuinely good (the performances are excellent) if a bit to slow, and a science fiction tale that only builds up momentum in the final sections of the film.

Don’t take my words as indicating that the film is in anyway bad, but rather that it’s a diamond in the rough where things two excellent pieces  don’t quite mesh. We  can see the seams.

That said for a patient and forgiving audience this film is worth a look because the two pieces reveal that director Kirby McClure is going to be doing some great things down the road.

Crawlspace (2022)


It’s not really relevant but I was directed to CRAWLSPACE by C. Ernst Harth who stars in the film. We were discussing films that didn’t didn’t get talked about enough in 2022 when he mentioned the film. He was reluctant to do so because he was in it, but I didn’t care because I love it when people effectively press a film into my hands and say “you need to see this”.  More so when the love a filmmaker is there not because they are part of the project, but because they absolutely love it.

Crawlspace is the story of a plumber who is sent to a remote cabin to deal with a plumbing issue.  As he is working in the crawlspace with his headphones on, some bad guys drag a in a hostage and  begin to interrogate him. The plumber is oblivious to it all until  he gets splashed with blood  from above. Its at this point he realizes he’s trapped in a bad spot with no way to get out.

Get some popcorn and a drink or two and sit down and watch because this film is a great deal of fun.

Is it high art? Oh hell no but it is frequently funny and always suspenseful. It’s a film where we are dragged along hoping and fearing what is going to happen next. What an absolute joy.

I completely understand why Harth loves this film. It is an absolute blast and a half.

What I love about the film is you can feel the love with which the film was made. Everyone knew they weren’t making an Oscar winning film but they didn’t care because they knew they were making a film that was going to entertain generations of people who want to chill out on a Saturday night. Basically the exact sort of film I love to discover because assures me I have another film I can curl up with.

Highly recommended

Moon Garden (2022) Boston Underground 2023

Moon Garden is a masterpiece.

The story of a little girl who goes to dark magical place after falling down a flight of stairs is pure movie magic. It has wonders the likes of which you have never seen.

The film is a purely visceral trip, the result of largely being the story of the mind space the little girl finds herself as she lays in a coma. Any notion of a plot falls away in favor of recounting what the child is experiencing. Because she is young the reference are emotional and more visceral than they might be for an adult. The result is a fantasy that is in many ways more intense than the vast majority of horror films you’ll run across. The images and events are dredged up from the darkness of a child’s frightened soul.

I love this film.  I can’t wait to see it again when I can see it on a big screen when I won’t be able to look away and have to take it all in.

Highly recommended.

This maybe one of the most magical films you’ll see this year

Friday, March 24, 2023

Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out (2022) Make Believe Seattle

When a high school girl moves with her parents to a new town in the middle of nowhere she makes the acquaintance of one her fellow students, a young man who believes his parents were abducted by aliens ten years before.

Looking and behaving like a 1990's attempt at riffing a Spielberg film, ALIENS ABDUCTED is better than 95% of the Spielberg riffs that were cranked out in the 80's and 90's in an effort to catch the wave that was ET, GOONIES, GREMLINS and related Amblin films. Funny for the right reasons it is certain to put your smile on your face. 

While the film hits all of the expected plot points and thematic notes ALIENS ABDUCTED still manages us to suck us in and drag us along. This is a film you will fall for, though if you are like me you will spend the first 15 or 20 minutes groaning at how cliche it is until the cast of characters win you over and you just go with it.

If there is anything wrong with the film its in the final minutes when the film's effects go intentionally retro and it somehow loses the  magic as things stop being "real" and become a movie.

That said the film will make you feel warm and fuzzy and as such is recommended.

Code of the Assassins (2022) is on HI YA! and on DVD and Blu Ray Tuesday


CODE OF ASSASSINS is the latest from director Danny Lee (14 Blades, Dragon Blade, Black Mask, Three Kingdoms). It’s a spectacular computer enhanced tale of a young assassin.

The story is the tale of an assassin who is a member of the brotherhood of assassins. He was taken in years earlier after his father made a map to a vast fortune and was killed for his efforts. The map disappeared and no some years later the map is said to have been resurfaced. As everyone scrambles for the map our hero is set up to take a fall. It seems someone is shooting to not only get the map but also take down the brotherhood.  Armed with his withs and the fantastic mechanical hand he was given years earlier he has to fight to remain alive ad save is brothers.

Overly convoluted tale is the pretext for lots and lots of enhanced CGI action. This is a film with so many characters fleetingly introduced that I was lost early. As much as I appreciate --- and his crew trying to tell a big story there is simply too much going on in too many locations and too many characters for this ever to fully emotionally resonate.

One the other hand the action here is truly spectacular and I found I was talking to the screen about most of the action sequence. Sure it’s all computer enhanced, but I really didn’t care since what we were seeing was so damn cool. I wish I had seen this big, and perhaps in 3D.

If you love action and don’t mind a messy plot line CODE OF ASSASSINS is recommended.

Rhino (2021)

The rise and fall of a gangster in Ukraine in the wild and crazy days of the 1990's. Unable to get anywhere he takes a job an an enforcer for the criminal elements, however the longer he is in the life the darker things get and the more damaged he becomes.

Bleak and black tale if life in the former Soviet Union. Based on a friend of the director, it's a tale of people who exist largely just to cause pain and take what they want. It's a  scary portrait of a life and time I would not like to see for myself. It's a film that reveals the mindset of a society that warped by the brutal Soviet regime and its disappearance. There is a sadness to it all because there seems to really be no hope.

This is a good portrait of a young man in a bad situation. You pretty' much know this isn't going to end well, the question is how bad is it going to get. I'm not going to tell you how bad it gets but I will say this is a violent  and bloody tale that may just curl your toes. While we don't get to know our hero to the depths of his very soul, as we would in other films,it's okay because I don't think he knows the depths himself.

While the film falters in that we know how this is going to go, this is still a wild crime drama and a must see for fans of the genre

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Five Devils (2022) opens this week in New York, plays MAKE BELIEVE SEATTLE this weekend and the Overlook FIlm Festival next week

Young Vicky has a supernatural sense of smell. She can smell anything. She makes jars full of smalls that bring back memory. When her aunt returns to town it sets the already tense relationship between her parents on edge. Things become complicated when her aunt brings with her something that sends Vicky back in time to around the time all of the tension started.

Intriguing science fiction or magical realism tinged tale is mostly a kick in the pants. Setting up all sorts of intriguing plot threads we end up hooked early as we want to know what is going on and where this is going.  For most of its running time FIVE DEVILS is its own wonderful beast brough to life by a killer cast (Adèle Exarchopoulos, Moustapha Mbengue, Swala Emati and in a star making debut Sally Dramé) who make it all perfectly believable. More importantly while the films wrestles with the big themes of homophobia and racism, the film never loses sight of the human tale and the emotion between the complicated triangle of adults is never lost.

If the film has any real flaw it’s that it doesn’t quite stick the landing. It’s nothing terrible  but in a film largely unlike  anything else we’ve seen the film suddenly becomes a tad predictable. I would have loved a conclusion that wasn’t one that I had kind of eyed a few minutes from the end.

Quibbles about the ending aside this is a film you’ll want to see, especially for young Ms Drame.

Mr Organ (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival 2023 Overlook Film Festival 2023 MAKE BELIEVE SEATTLE 2023


Mr Organ will chill you to the core. The film is the story of grand manipulator and son of a bitch who lives to fuck over people. He’s a man who is described as being so evil that if he went to hell Satan would go to Heaven just to get away from him.

The film is the story of filmmaker David Farrier interactions with Michael Organ. He is a manipulator, con man and sick bastard who loves to destroy people mentally. Farrier ran into Organ when he was booting cars that parked in a private car park after hours and then it went from there. If you saw Farrier's earlier TICKLED you know that any story he has to tell doesn’t go remotely as expected and that’s the case here. The twists and turns will knot your stomach as Organ digs deeper and deeper intoFarrier's life in order to ruin it because he can.

This film scared me more than any horror film of the last five years because what happened here could happen anywhere. There are dozens of Michael Organ’s out there looking to get sick thrills out of people’s pain.

If you notice that I’m not telling you anything about what happens and that’s intentional. I want you to see the film as I did, knowing as little as possible. I want you to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut as this just goes weirder and weirder.

This is a real life nightmare.

I can’t recommend this enough.

If you are up for it this is a must see.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Sadness and Joy in the Life of Giraffes (2019)

THE SADNESS AND JOY IN THE LIFE OF THE GIRAFFES is nominally the report an rather tall young girl gives to her class. It is also the story of the young lady as she goes on an adventure with a foul mouthed teddy bear in order to get the Discovery Channel. It’s a wild and unexpected ride.

The film is a labor of love for writer Tiago Rodrigues who has turned his play into a trip across the city. It’s a very funny one that had me smiling from ear to ear. The dialog is incredibly clever to the point that you don’t really mind that it has been crafted to be impossibly perfect. However considering that one of the main characters is a guy in a bear suit you end up forgiving a great deal in the name of it all being entertaining.

I loved this film a great deal. It made me smile and think… and smile.


Nightsiren (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival 2023

A woman returns home after many years after the death of her mother. The towns folk don’t know what to make of her and are wary of her after she takes up residence in the abandoned home of the local witch.

Nominally this is supposed to be a film about witches and things that go bump in the night. The reality is that this is less horror film than a look at superstition and how our pasts affect us and the choices we made.  This is more a drama with a supernatural tinge and we are so much better for it.

NIGHTSIRENS is one of the great surprises of the 2022 film year. It’s a “genre” film that really isn’t, even if it hits all the marks. It’s a wonderful character study of a young woman haunted by her past. It is also a killer thriller from literally the first minute when something happens that makes you sit up and go “hello”. It was at that moment I had to see where the film was going because it was clear that nothing was off the table.

I love this film.

What I love about this film is that it has a great deal going on. Its film that has a great deal on its mind. It’s a look at life in a backwoods town, a look at a the male female dynamic, a look at motherhood (and the loss of it), at superstition, and how we view all of that.  Several weeks on and numerous discussions I’m still turning the film over in my mind and still trying to sell the film to anyone who is willing to  listen to me talk about its wonders.

This film is a must.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stand By for Failure: A Negativland Documentary (2023) Boston Underground Film Festival


If you know the group of people known as Negativland then you know that their albums  and videos consist of a collage method of construction. They pull things all together from a wide variety of places that they weave together to kind of form a new whole. Some times if fails but a lot more times it soars which is why the Over The Edge radio show has been running for decades in California. (Though my understanding its now repeats)

I discovered them decades ago when they were featured in books and magazines on Fringe subjects and then really noticed them where some of their work, a single called U2 in particular,  got them sued by a certain rock group who thought they were infringing on them. It was a clear example that Bono and the boys never heard the piece, and not understanding that they  were doing,  what not leaving them alone would ever do, which is give them an international attention.  People sought them out just to see what the fuss was.

In the early days of the internet I started listening off an on to the Over The Edge Radio show they did every week a for 3 to 6 hours before drifting away. Though recently I fell back into OTE and I listen to episodes almost every night. SO when I saw Boston Underground was running a new documentary on them I had to see it.

If you don’t know the group this film is going to seem to be all over the place. If you do know them the film is going to be the perfect portrait. The film is a collage of old video and audio pieces mixed with new ones. It’s up to date covering the death of some of the founding members. It’s a film that has a through line, lots of seeming digressions that all come together in the end.  I absolutely loved the film.  If perhaps I didn’t get to really know all of the guys in the band, that’s okay because what’s here is choice.

Sonically this film blew me away. Containing one of the most aggressive audio tracks I’ve ever run across the audio seemed to be dancing around my laptop as I was watching the film, and I say that since the sound was coming out of the tiny speakers built in- I shouldn’t have felt like I was in a Dolby theater.

This film is an absolute trip. It is a beautiful tribute to a bunch of friends who spent the better part of the last five decades making mischief and making their audiences think. Its a film, like their "music" and their radio show that you have to experience rather than read about- so go see it.

While the nature of the film and the group at its center isn’t for everyone, for those who are open minded and willing to take a ride, this is going to be something glorious.

The Lost King (2022)

This is the story of how Philippa Langly put the pieces together and figured out where the body of Richard III lay in rest and him exhumed and re buried with the pomp and circumstance deserving of a king.

This is a great story given an okay presentation. The reason to see this film is the always wonderful Sally Hawkins who is utterly charming as Phillippa. She holds our attention as the film simply drives head long in telling its story.

The problem here is either Steve Coogan’s script which is much too brief to cover the subject or the editing which reduced the story down way too much. Yes the film tells us everything we need to know about what happened but it strips everyone on screen to being simply fonts of information. No one interacts, everyone simply says something to move the plot along. Actually the only character development is between Phillipa and the specter of Richard. Everyone else is not developed except for what the actors can get across in their brief time on screen. Its so odd that I’m left to wonder if the film had an hour or so removed.

Despite the lack of characters, I liked the film. Anything Sally Hawkins is in is instantly worth seeing and there is enough to the story that when Richard is finally uncovered I got misty.

While not the great film it should have been THE LOST KING is still a good one thanks to Hawkins and a hell of a tale and as such its worth a look

Monday, March 20, 2023

What the Hell Happened To Blood Sweat AndTears (2023)


This is the story of the group Blood Sweat and Tears (BS&T) and their State Department sponsored trip behind the Iron Curtain to Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland.

BS&T was originally formed by Al Kooper who wanted to bring horns fully into rock music.  While the first album was a critical success it didn’t sell and Kooper left the group and was replace by David Clayton Thomas whose personality and vocals made the band one of the biggest in the world. As part of Nixon’s efforts to cool the Cold War the band was sent to Eastern Europe to play music. The tour would be filmed and released as a documentary.  The tour did not go as expected with walk out in Yugoslavia and the police turning dogs on the crazed audience in Romania.

BS&T changed rock as we know it as they made the use of horns and other instruments part of the rock band for more than just a song. You could play rock and have big band arrangements.

This is a crazy tale  about a moment in time for one of rock’s most influential bands. It’s a look at what happened and how the trip ended up changing their trajectory (some people called them sell outs). It’s a tale with unexpected twists and turns that don’t end until the final fade out.

While I enjoyed the hell out of the film, I think the material could be better organized. For example we are 40 minutes into the film before we get a history of the band. AndI know it’s a nine piece band, but we never get any sense of the members as people at all. The film also doesn’t say much about the group beyond the end of the trip and the “collapse” of the full documentary.

Quibbles aside this is a hell of a story and if you love classic rock or history this film is a must see.

REFUGE releases Friday

At the opening of Refuge the film looks like it’s going to follow the typical tale of a white supremacist and a member of a group he professes to hate becoming friends. It’s the sort of thing that we’ve seen in numerous films over the years. It looks like  it’s going to follow the typical track. However the film begins to bend relatively early on as we get to know Chris Buckley and Heaval Kelli.  We really like the two gentlemen. We can see them as friends. Actually what begins the film bending is the story of Clarkston a small city in Georgia not far from where Buckley lives.  This is a where Kelli lives. The city has been welcoming refugees and immigrants for decades and as a result it has grown and prospered into a place where everyone is welcome. It’s ground zero for the story since it is through visits to the town that Buckley begins to change his mind.

This is a super little film. While the film doesn’t chart any new ground, it does give us a great deal of hope since the film shows us clearly what can happen if we don’t choose hate.  That the film works as well as it does it thanks to  Buckley and Kelli as well as Mama Amina who charms our pants off. We see what not going into darkness will bring us. Literally choosing love, Buckley‘s wife tells him change or she would divorce him and take their kids, can change our lives for the better.

What a wonderful film.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Nightcap 3/19/23 Angry- A PR person crosses the line, small films need shout outs, Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean anything and more

I'm pissed right now. 

Granted, this isn't my fight, but I'm still pissed off because over the years I've had people try this on me.

While I know there is a lot of talk about how critics shouldn't be mean in their reviews, recently a certain PR person savaged a friend both personally and professionally for being "mean: and "the only negative" review of a film they were handling. The PR person told the outlet that if they didn't take the review down they wouldn't work with them again and then work to see that they have their credentials pulled from a festival.

This is wildly over over the line and complete and utter bullshit. 

Reviews are opinion and everyone has the right to their own. If the reviewer didn't like the film too bad, you can't make someone like a film. 

The PR person lost the argument when they said the review was the only negative review as if that means something. It means nothing only that someone person didn't like the film. (And if it was the only bad review why care? The weight of the good reviews will win out.)

Having read the review in question it wasn't mean, it simply stated what the reviewer didn't like about the film (which was a great deal). 

The PR person claimed that publishing the review was out of line and the reviewer should have declined to review  if they didn't like the film. No, out of line was was attempting to blackmail the outlet into removing the review by having their credentials pulled and withholding other films. 

I have been doing film coverage for over 13 years now and I have never gotten an offer that said "Could you please cover this film... but only write something if you have nice to say." All the offers were for coverage, good bad or indifferent. Reviews are supposed to be honest opinions not something written at gun point or from one point.

If you send out a film, or put anything out for people to see, you run the risk of not getting a good reaction. It's a roll of the dice. I know I've been savaged for some of the things I've written. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You do not threaten anyone to pull a bad review. Ultimately it will backfire since in the end the films you handle will not get coverage from any outlets.  This is mafia tactics and who wants to put up with that crap? 

As numerous PR people have said any coverage is good, particularly since so many films simply do not get any coverage. If a filmmaker wants a good review they must make a good film, but filmmakers and PR people have to understand that sometimes people just don't like a film. 

Honestly, I'm considering not working with that PR person because I am so disgusted.


This wasn't an isolated incident.


Speaking of films not getting coverage...

I want to know what my fellow film writers are doing regarding coverage of inde films and shorts. 

I asked this because while doing a couple of recent film fests I got emails filmmakers and PR people were shocked when I asked for art to run with the review. I noticed it because I got 3 or 4 shocked emails during my coverage of Santa Barbara, and a couple more since then.

Apparently some filmmakers didn't think I would actually cover the films.  But unless I truly don't have anything to say or there was a technical issue I cover whatever I ask for.

I know it isn't always possible for other writers because editors at some outlets don't want coverage of small films or shorts because they think they won't get clicks (they will when people know your outlet covers them) but please, please, please do make an effort to cover the small films you run across. The filmmakers busted their asses to make the film and word needs to get out.

I'm very serious about this. getting any sort of coverage is vital. If one person/outlet can cover a film very often that can get more people to cover the film since one noticed  it so other people will want to take a look. Filmmakers have told me repeatedly that if I can get something up they can get into festivals and more reviews. 

Too many filmmakers that no one or very few people will look at their films and then say something. Trust me, thinking you have no audience hurts. See these small gems and talk about them.

And even if you can't review it, and you see it say something to the filmmaker, or on social media so they know they have been seen


A reminder- just because some of us aren't on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean we aren't worth having us cover your film. We are. 

This is in reaction to being told multiple times this week (and few more in the weeks before) that I would not be getting screeners because the studio/producer only wanted  RT accredited sites to cover a film.

Actually this is something not directed at the PR people as such since the people telling me "no" were people I have been dealing with for years, so they know I'm good, and I know the orders were not from them. This is more directed at the producers. 

RT is a false indicator of quality and worthiness. 

Yes I would like to be on it but truthfully my interest in being accredited is purely related to the "you can't cover you aren't on the site" problem.

(And for the record RT will not accredit me because Unseen is my site and you can not be accredited for your own site. Which is why some of the other writers here can have their work put up at RT)


I have seen the BAFTA/Oscar winning IRISH GOODBYE and while it's good I think the other films its up against for the Oscar are better.

I also saw the Oscar shortlisted, but not nominated BAZIGAGA and that too was very good.

Apologies to the filmmakers for both but despite my best effort over the last few weeks I have no words  for a review.


If the studios want to keep theaters in business they have to do something so the theaters don't have to charge 10 bucks for a popcorn and 8 bucks for a soda. The prices are out of control. 


Coverage is coming of Boston Underground, Overlook, New Directors New Films and other fests. Plus look for a bunch of new releases.


Lastly people have asked me if I really like the films I rave about. 

Yes I do.

I write what I feel. And while I will try to find something good in something bad, if I like something, I say so. If you need proof go to lunch with me and ask me about some of films I like.  I won't shut up, so much so my lunch will be cold and you will be done.

The Lake (2022)

What happens when you mash Korean monster film THE HOST with GORGO (or GAPPA or…) and films where victims connect with killers and filter it through the Thai film industry? THE LAKE is a good idea.

Wild and crazy, and at times all over the place, THE LAKE is the story of giant monsters coming out of lake and causing all sorts of problems after an egg is found by a little girl. It also raises questions about the destruction of the environment and how its coming back to haunt us...assuming you want to look for something deeper than monsters eat people.

What can I say, but the monsters come early and stay to the closing credits. As a monster fan I love that we didn't have to wait to get to the good stuff. This is a film of amazing set pieces and uneven linking material. Basically it's an old school monster film and a delight.

This is a film where over 60% was achieved with practical effects, including man in suits, making it a delightful giant monster movie. It's so well done I wasn't always sure what was done practical and what was computer generated.

Yes the film riffs on other better films, but at the same time the film is stealing from the best and coloring the mayhem in it’s own unique way. You really won't care, just smile at the nods.

I had an absolute blast. Honestly I was having such a great time I was pissed that I missed the film when it played very briefly in theaters.

High Art? Are you kidding?

Entertaining? Absolutely. This is the perfect film to keep us happy until the next Godzilla project hits.

For details on where to see THE LAKE go here



Knowing her time is short Mrs Wu has her granddaughter and friends spring her from the nursing home for a wild ride up the California coast, her daughter in hot pursuit. Its a grand game to repair the fractures in the family before time runs out.

Good drama hits all the right notes in an entertaining way. To be honest the film doesn't hit break any new ground, but it doesn't have to since what is here is good enough.

Definitely worth a look

Late thoughts on the revamped LIRR schedules

This isn’t movie related but a screw up this big has to be mentioned

Recently the Long Island Rail Road announced a new schedule to take into account the opening of train service to Grand Central Station  on the east side of Manhattan. The idea is to make it easier for every one to get there because “so many people” use it.  

In order to accommodate the roughly 30% of their riders they cut service to Penn Station by, I’m told, 50%, and they shortened trains by up to a third in order to make more trains so everyone could get where they wanted to go. They radically rewrote their schedules essentially removing some of the most used trains. In the case of my line (Oyster Bay) they put of signs saying more trains and more to Mineola where the line connects to the main one, they completely rewrote making it nigh unusable with all the trains coming in clumps too early or too late.

They completely screwed over Brooklyn (and thus lower Manhattan) by making all train service to Atlantic Terminal via shuttle you have to change to and runs whenever.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve seen in decades. The LIRR essentially fucked over their entire ridership. No one is happy

I don’t understand what they are doing or why. They are making changes but it's more like putting out fires.

The new Grand Central LIRR terminal is a long walk from anywhere. It’s not so much that the distance to the tracks are three  or more blocks from the nearest subways, rather the station is deep (it’s several stories under the lowest levels of Grand Station) so you spend a lot of time on escalators going up and down. It will take you at least ten minutes to traverse the station just to go from the subway to the trains. (And god help us if the escalators go down)

Grand Central feeds into the over crowded Green Line (4,5,6) which is a nightmare during rush hour as is or the Shuttle to Times Square. However because of the concourses location you are actually farther away from most subway lines than you are at Penn Station. 

I know it’s a good idea in principle but the LIRR shouldn’t be banking on it being the solution. Especially since unless you need to go to the upper east side Penn Station is better- as I said the other subway lines are closer. Certainly Penn station is better if you are doing Broadway, MSG or most of the big theaters.

The truth is the LIRR  screwed up not in the building of the station, but in the revamping of the whole schedule. It was done without thinking.

First they promised more  trains and there kind of are but they chopped them all down. They shortened trains to make new trains so some rush hour trains were shorted by a third thus creating trains that are packed from the get go. 

This was compounded by the revamping of the schedule. Trains from Penn station where 70% of the people want to go was reduced. Times where radically changed. Non-mainline lines were savaged. My line, which I use to go from stops on the line, went from one train every half hour to one an hour.  This means I either get to work an hour early or 15 minutes late. Going home there is only on train an hour so I have to leave work early or  get home two hours after I clock out.

This from the railroad that wants us to take it instead of driving.

I have no idea whose idea it was but the LIRR is now transfer happy. If you want to get somewhere, especially Brooklyn, you have to transfer.  Since trains are coming from Grand Central you may have to connect to the trains in Jamaica.  They are touting direct service, but the truth seems to be you have to transfer for a lot of trains.  WORSE, when last I looked, and as I was told by several conductors, the LIRR no longer wants to post what trains connect to out of Pen or Grand Central. You either have to ask or use the app to find out what train will get you to a connection in Jamaica or Woodside.

And if you want to go to Brooklyn you MUST transfer.  Why? Because Brooklyn apparently doesn’t count.

This is insane since the Barclays center was built where it in part  because of the train was there. The Atlantic Terminal station is used by any number of people I know who work in lower Manhattan because it gets them to work sooner than going into Penn and subwaying to lower Manhattan (There are less stops)

It’s clear that the schedule revamp was done by people who did no research on the railroad and its usage. How did anyone not know this was going to be a disaster. Who ever did this should be fired and whom ever approved it should be hung out to dry.

They promised more and better service but this has been a nightmare.

ADDENDUM- additions after the fact (and potentially just hearsay)
While the railroad is making incremental changes to put out the fires they are still gung ho-and they have to be because of the money they spent.

The first thing I need to say is every employee I've spoken with said write letters to the railroad and the commuter council to express your displeasure. If they get letters they will change things faster.

Next in talking to railroad employees over the last few weeks I heard tales that you may want to know.

Apparently a good chunk of the people running the railroad and everyone involved with the scheduling debacle have no railroad experience. They come from other industries, but have no concept of what a service like a railroad does. They haven't spoken with anyone they just felt their knowledge of their industries would carry over.

I've been told the schedule nightmare is the result of of number crunching and battles. The schedulers used some sort of data to rejigger everything based on something unconnected to the real world. What I was told was that the original plan was to have a different schedule for the railroads for every day of the week. Coming from other industries they wanted to craft schedules for every day. Wars broke out because what made sense to the schedulers made no practical sense it wouldn't take into account say events, weather changes and holidays.  Apparently they were talked out of it by making them see the problems it would cause.

No one is happy. 

No one. 

Last apparently there is speculation about when the whole management/scheduling staff are going to be removed. No one seriously thinks they can last to years end-except when they realize it is the LIRR and stupid tends to win out.

Saturday, March 18, 2023


Please help CHESSBOXER get made.

Albin Pepe is friend of mine is trying to get his project CHESSBOXER made and he needs some financial help to get it done the way it should be done.

I see your eyes glazing over- actually what I’m seeing you wondering what the hell the title means. I’ll explain. Chessboxing is a sport where players alternate rounds of chess and boxing. You win by getting a knockout or checkmate. Here’s the wikipage

The film is getting traction in the Chess Boxing community and one of the champion Chess Boxers. One of the champions Mat Thomas, is involved with the production and will be appearing in the film.

I know you get a lot of requests to help films but this one is worth it, It’s going to be great.

And if you want to know if Albin can do it consider that the films he’s worked on have played in festivals around the world.

Every little bit helps so please give.

Details on how and more details on the film can be found here

KUBRICK BY KUBRICK (2020) Hits VOD Tuesday

Weaving together film clips, photos, news stories, contemporary interviews and an extended interview Kubrick did for a French Magazine this is a look at the man and his films, largely through the words of the man and the people who knew him.

This is a magnificent film. A beautiful overview of the films of the master director. Its an glorious explanation of what he did and why. I thought I had heard everything about some of these films but apparently I hadn't. There is so much contained in this brief 61 minute film that when it was done I wanted to see it all over again. (Note: When I originally in 2021 the film ran 10 minutes longer. However due to a rights issue with the clips the film was shortened)

To be certain it doesn't tell us everything but it tells us enough to make us fall in love with Kubrick and the movies all over again.

One of the great recent films on film. A must see

Friday, March 17, 2023

Motherland (2023) CPX DOX

MOTHERLAND is troubling film. The film is a look at the systematic bullying that came out of the Russian/Soviet Military decades ago and which has filtered into many Eastern European societies. In the case of this film Belarus. We watch as we see the effects of the bullying on the recruits going into the army, the men who flee from it and the survivors of those that were bullied to death.

A deliberately paced film MOTHERLAND is a trip into Belarus. Its a film where things happen at their own pace and where moments that seem to be extraneous at the start end up having a kick later on. This is a finely tuned film that is very much intent in making us feel what is happening to the people and the country thanks to the vicious traditions of the military.

There is a sadness here. We watch as a mother tries to get justice for her dead son and finds that the system is stack against her. We hear the words of a soldier writing home to his mother  and witness the change from a good boy into an abuser happens. We also watch as some young men turn their backs on the torment and end up fleeing their country. Things are not for the better anywhere along the line.

Beautifully shot and possessing an amazing sense of place MOTHERLAND truly changes our world view by changing where we are in the world.  So many sequences lift us out of the theater and put us in a place where we have to confront life in a country on the other side of the world. It is an amazing achievement and if there is any justice this film should get many technical awards in addition to ones for the film as a whole.

And it should get awards for the entire film because ultimately MOTHERLAND is disturbing film. It's a film that requires us to more fully engage with the world and understand the darkness that is driving the world.

Highly recommended.

Love Life (2022) plays First Look March 19

Koji Fukada's latest is a heartbreaking film that is the definition of  bittersweet.

Charting the life of Taeko. She is married to a nice man named Jiro. When her son from a previous relationship dies tragically she turns away from her husband and tries to help the boy's father, a deaf homeless man.

If you've seen Fukada's previous films you know that you are going to be worked over emotionally. The film does that in spades for better and worse. Its a hell of a ride. It maybe be Fukada's best film, which is saying something because his films are so damn good.

What I love about this film is the use of long takes. Normally long takes are used to show things happening in real time, here Fukada uses them to stretch out the moment. Some shots run longer than normal because he will allow a moment to happen after the "action" has happened. The final shots of the film have been haunting me for weeks as a result.

I love this film. Its a film that is pure magic. It has a feel of life at the time of tragedy that we don't normally see in the movies. It feels lived. The cast, which I've seen elsewhere disappear into their roles. 

I can't recommend this film enough.

See it when it plays at First Look this weekend or when Oscilloscope releases it later in the spring.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Are You Lonesome Tonight (2021)

This moody modern Chinese film noir skirts the line of form over content but always remains compelling.

The film is a recounting of a prisoner explaining how he got locked up. It seems that late one night he ran someone over in the street. Deciding to cover it up he hides the body, but this causes complications as he becomes involved with the widow of the dead man, who is being pressured by some bad men to settle her husband's affairs. But nothing is as it seems.

An overly convoluted plot is compensated for by some expert filmmaking as the tropes of noir are used to fill in the blanks or smooth over the bits that don't make sense. Frankly I don't know if I understand it all, but I really don't care because I really enjoyed the ride. In all seriousness. this is a really cool crime drama that grabs you early and drags you to the finish. When the plot confuses the set pieces or great noirish dialog save the day.

I had a grand time, even if I'm not sure of all of the little bits.


Rodeo (2022) plays the First Look Festival 2023 tonight and hits theaters tomorrow


Impulsive and fiery young woman who loves motorcycles falls in with a group of riders who are also into robbery.

I am torn about this film. A stunning cast and a great story is completely wrecked by cinematography that is much too up close and personal. The camera work is largely hand held images and racking shots  that are either too close to the action and the faces or seemingly flailing all over the place that we never get a sense of where we are and what is happening. I don’t care how hip and happening or real and raw it’s supposed to look , the fact is we don’t see the world like its in the film We are not in everyone’s face.  We don’t see the world bouncing around, our brains smooth things out.  

It didn’t bother me  so much as pissed me off.  I wanted to see the story, I wanted to see the characters. This is one of the best ensemble casts I’ve run across in a long time but we really can’t see them acting with each other we kind of see things or just faces.

I want a do over with a better cinematographer not a guy with an iPhone and a jello arm.

Silent Love (2022) First Look Festival 2023

SILENT LOVE tells the story of a 35 year old woman who steps into raise her teenaged brother after their mother passes away.  Because she lives in a small conservative town in Poland she does not let anyone know that is currently in a relationship with another woman.

Observational documentary is a wonderful portrait of a trio of people trying to put together a family of their own. This is a film where we get to watch a bunch of friends go through their days.  I like how the film makes us feel as though we actually belong there. Too often in observational documentaries there is a sense of things happening but where everyone is aware of the camera. While there are a couple of times where this happens, most of the time this feels as though we are just in the room with friends. We belong with them.

While the trio at the center of the film experiences ups and downs, the one constant is the love everyone feels for each other. You feel the love bleed off the screen and it deepens our connection to what we are seeing.

While never big and loud, this film is far from silent. It is in fact a small powerhouse of film that will make you connect with humanity.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

MAMI WATA (2023) closes First Look Festival 2023 at MOMI

MAMI WATA is a beautiful black and white fable that needs to be seen on a big screen.

Telling the story of a village that is watched over by the goddess Mama Wata. Her wishes are determined by two women in the village. When a boy dies and a stranger appears the village begins to question the ways of the past.

Formally staged with deliberateness that you see in some of the world’s great art, MAMI WATA transcends its seeming theatrical construction and moves instead into the realm of cinematic myth. This is a fairy tale brought to life on the big screen. It goes from something seemingly simply and stagey into something breathing and alive. It is an arresting work of cinema.

All hail director CJ “Fiery” Obasi. Using high contrast black and white photography he has created a living painting. His sense of light and dark reminds me a great deal of the work of artist Frank Miller whose graphic work  like Sin City made us rethink about how light and dark can change the world. Here Obasi uses the lack of color to create a waking dream that becomes more real and more enveloping as it goes along.

I was floored, at first by the images I was seeing and later by how deeply I was moved by them.

This film is a cinematic treat

Highly recommended

R21 aka Restoring Solidarity (2022) March 18 at First Look Festival 2023 at the Museum of The Moving Image

The R 21 of the title is for the 21st film reel found in Japan. The reels of film were of film showing support for the Palestinian cause. They had been sent to Japan because many Japanese saw kinship with the Palestinians because of the way they were treated after the second world war. This film is made up of clips of from the films as well a narration calling for continued resistance.

This film is a trip. As a film nerd and (semi) trained historian this film was an absolute delight. It is a look at part of history and the history of film through a lens that almost no one has looked before. The pro-Palestinian films, many of which haven’t been seen in decades open up a way of looking at the world that is new to pretty much everyone. These are simply images that we haven’t seen before with a take on “current” events we haven’t heard or considered. Its heady trip that sent me pondering all sorts of things, mostly how set our view of the Palestinian mess hasn’t changed much in years and how perhaps it should be rethought.

I loved this film. It stands apart from most modern documentaries that we see today in that it gives us a lot to chew on, most of it we have never encountered before. It’s a film that opens up our hearts and minds and demands we sit with it and it ideas and not jump to the next thing.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Angel Applicant (2023) SXSW 2023

Writer director and subject Ken August Meyer takes us into his obsession with artist Paul Klee, who's scleroderma matched his own.

I was hooked almost instantly. I had gone into the film thinking it was going to be typical art documentary and instead I found my expectations exploded as the film became a portrait of the director, Klee, the disease, life, philosophy and universe. This is a film that transcends definition to be something so much more.

I absolutely love this film. What I love is that Meyer pulls us in from the opening frame, sits us down serves us tea and cookies and then acts like a great raconteur and explains things to us. We get to know about all sorts of subjects, but not only as cold facts, but as living breathing part of his life. Meyer explains to us what Klee means to him and why he painted the way he did. This isn't a cold recounting of facts but the story of life as its being lived. We understand where the changes came from in Klee's art. More importantly, by connecting everything up to his own struggles Meyer shows us how he views his world. A diagnosis that his lungs are the sort of lungs a 146 year old man has him celebrating his 146th birthday. It sounds  corny but its humbling and moving.

By giving us his view of the world, and of Klee Meyer opens doors for us to see the world differently. He gives us ways to connect up the various part of life. Its a grand achievement.

Highly recommended.

Monday, March 13, 2023



Fifteen minutes into MAX ROACH THE DRUM ALSO WALTZES I realized I was going to have to see the film again. The reason is this  biography of the great jazz drummer is so full of music and information that I was kind of overwhelmed. I thought I had a handle on Jazz however this film just gave so much more to ponder and enjoy.

This film is a long time in coming. It was begun before Roach had died when the filmmakers began to do interviews with Roach. Things paused when Roach died and was only recently put together., The result is a film that let’s us into the life of the man and in his music in a way that few films ever manage to do.

This is a great film. Its a must see for fans of the man himself or anyone who wants to understand more about music of all types. I say this because Roach worked in all types of music. Yes, he started in jazz but his curiosity and friends pulled him into other directions.

I was floored by this film. No just because it filled in details of Roach's life and legacy, but because in doing so I came to understand how certain types of music worked.

Forgive me for being brief,  but to truly do this film justice I would have to see it a couple more times. As I said at the top, there is simply too much here to take in and process. As such this is a truly amazing piece of filmmaking.

Highly recommended

This World is Not My Own (2023) SXSW 2023

THIS WORLD IS NOT MY OWN Portrait of artist Nellie Mae Rowe whose work was created across the 20th century and was influenced by all the events happening around her from the civil rights and political movements, war, serial killers and life in general. 

 I love this story but I’m not in love with the presentation. I found the arc of Rowe’s life absolutely fascinating. There is so much here, the life lived that went in unexpected directions that I was riveted by the tale. 

On the other hand I didn’t particularly like the presentation. There was something about some of the recreations and the structure that didn’t work for me. It felt like the film was trying too hard to make something out of a story that was fine and could stand on it’s own two feet. 

 Worth a look for the story and the art.

Deadland (2023) SXSW 2023

 Death is only a horizon. A Horizon is only the limit of our sight.

I am still working on getting a handle on DEADLAND. I’m still trying to work out what the film is and what exactly I think of it. I don’t mean that in a bad way, rather that in the two weeks since I saw the film and when it premiered at SXSW it hasn’t left me. It has instead grown in my opinion and had me thinking about the supernatural thriller genre in general.

The plot of the film as a border patrol agent finding a dying man in a river. Thinking he is dead he is shocked when he sits up in the back of his truck. Despite the man saying he wants to go to El Paso he takes him to his station house where one of his fellow agents is an EMT. Things happen soon after and the man is killed. The agents the decide to cover up his death. However he doesn’t stay dead as the group continue to see him. Things become further complicated when the agent’s long lost father appears at his house.

Possessing a bleak tone this thriller isn’t what you expect. Going in unexpected ways things are not what we think (hence my willingness to give a seemingly more detailed plot). Two weeks on I’m still not sure what it all means or how it all hangs together, however I do feel uneasy about it all. This is a film that isn’t operating on a completely intellectual level but rather on an emotional one. The unease and discomfort are operating on a purely visceral level. I say this because what happens doesn’t really make sense on a intellectual level. I don’t know why these things happen, but then again since it’s the work of someone not of this world I don’t think it has to make sense.

I know saying it doesn’t have to make sense goes against what I frequently say, but the reality is I’m against a film not making sense on it’s own terms, and out side of one thing that I can’t mention, this film actually makes sense on its own terms. Its operating in its own confined headspace and it’s claustrophobic and frightening.

I really like DEADLAND. It’s a haunting film in it’s own world two steps off from our own.

Its definitely worth a look for those who are tired of the typical by the numbers presentations of most supernatural thrillers.

Back To The Drive In (2022)

When the whole world closed down and you couldn't do anything because of social distancing Drive in Movies suddenly sprang back to life. Since people could sit in their cars and not interact the drive-ins sprang back to life. As 2020 gave way to 2021 and 2022 the bump up waned as people went elsewhere, however  drive-ins continued on with their own brand of entertainment.

This is a look at eight drive ins across America as they struggle to survive in a changing world. We watch as they struggle through covid and deal with remaining open poses. And it's not always a battle of declining viewership, but simply the changing world around them as civilization encroaches making the darkness needed to screen the films disappear.

Full disclosure this is similar to several other drive-in docs out there and if you've seen those you've seen something similar, though not about these particular theaters nor anything about the ebb and flow of the drive-in in the age of covid. That is not meant to to be a slap since BACK TO THE DRIVE IN is very good, but more by way of a warning since I went into the film having recently watched a doc on HBO Max on the same subject.

If you've never seen a doc on the current state of drive-ins this is a good place to start. I have always loved the theaters (my first trip to the movies was a drive in) and now with covid I have been going several times a year.

Definitely worth a look

Brooklyn 45 (2023)SXSW 2023 Overlook Film Festival 2023

BROOKLYN 45 is one of the best films of 2023. I say that not because I know Ted Geoghegan but because it's true. While nominally a horror film, BROOKLYN 45 is instead something greater. It is a dark sad look at the evil we do while telling ourselves we are only doing it for good reasons. It's a film where our best efforts go terribly wrong and reveal us to be broken and damaged humans/monsters. It is also one of the finest meditations on the effects of war on the human psyche, both of those in the trenches and at home, that I have ever run across in any medium.

The film takes place on December 27, 1945. The war is over, a group of friends go to the home of one of their number nominally to spend the night consoling their host about the suicide of his wife on Thanksgiving morning six weeks earlier. As the group begins to relax things turn for the spooky when a seance is suggested. Everyone is uncomfortable but they go along...until weird things begin to happen, and someone ends up dead. Things go even more wrong when they find they can't leave the room they are in.

The film sports a killer cast of usually supporting actors (Anne Ramsay, Larry Fessenden, Jeremy Holm, Ezra Buzzington, Ron E. Rains, Kristina Klebe) all lifted to leading roles. Because of the great cast the film does what any great film should do out of the box, and that is give us people we care about walking around on the screen. We kind of like everyone. They come on screen fully formed people, so we understand the choices they are making. It’s a singular achievement to have so many great actors in what are truly incredibly demanding roles.   

And these are demanding roles because we have to see the pain behind the eyes and in the soul while they are keeping up a brave face. We need to see the inner turmoil. More to the point the actors needed to play it so that when they crack emotionally, we need to feel it in our guts. And we do it feel it and it wrecks us. (Hey Academy put Anne Ramsey into the Oscar mix-it’s a gutting performance that has been haunting me for days)

Also, by not having any big stars in the film we can't second guess what's going to happen. We can't work out plot twists based on who is in what role. We just have to go for the ride.

While there are ghosts and hauntings in this film, I would not really call it a horror film.  This is a film that is about the effect of the war on good people. It’s a mirror held up to society about how we see each other and how when the war ends, we don't just stop hating. It’s a film that reveals misguided hatred can live on after we die. If you need proof that this isn't a horror film, consider that probably at least an hour of this film has nothing to do directly with scary stuff. Seriously, most of this film is about things other than the supernatural. This is a film that deals with the trauma of what happened to these people. It shows how the need to follow orders and do the “right thing” wrecked them inside as they did the most terrible things imaginable. This is an examination of the national psyche of a country at war. And it is not just about World War 2 but about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Israel, or any other conflict, regardless of who is fighting. BROOKLYN 45 is a way more than just a horror film and as such transcends simply being categorized as a horror film. When was the last time  you saw a film that dealt with hatred on the home front in a real and visceral way?

That isn't to say that the film isn't scary, it is at times. However, what the film is is incredibly tense and suspenseful. The bad things that are happening and the discussions being had are about the evil that we do to each other are in their way scarier than the ghosts. (And yea, there are some ghostly scares)

This is filmmaking of the highest order. Ted has taken what should be a single room stage play and turned it into a highly cinematic film.  It begins with changing aspect ratios. When the film starts and ends it is in Academy ratio, and then goes widescreen when the action gets to the room. And while we never leave the single set, it never feels claustrophobic or limited in scope, instead Ted gives us the world with the in the confines of a single room. The dialog brings the world inside to us. The war, the family down the block and other references open things up simply by turns of a phrase. Watching the film, I ached to see it on a big screen in a theater instead of a small monitor. 

Several years ago, I sat down with Ted to talk about the films he made and the films he was hoping to make. It was interesting talk that haunted me because there was something about what Ted was saying made me feel like he was going to be going really big places. It was clear he knew exactly what he wanted to do and more importantly what he could do with cinema. Everything he told me is here in this film. Having spoken to numerous filmmakers over the years I had never seen a filmmaker be so clear eyed about what he was doing and why.  As a result, I am not being hyperbolic when I say that BROOKLYN 45 is the place where a great filmmaker steps front and center for all to see.  Trust me, Ted will have an Oscar or two and numerous other awards very soon.

If you doubt me watch the craft of this film. Watch the shot choices, the use of sound, the shifting aspect ratio, the background details, the writing, the characters, the sense of history and place, everything that makes up this film is top of the line. Seriously half an hour into the film I wanted to see the film again just so I could start to focus on the details in the film. Hell, I wanted to walk around in the place where it was taking place because it was so perfectly realized.

I love this film. I love how it feels like an old film but is very clearly a modern creation. I mean only recently would anyone dare make a film suggesting that anyone in WW2 did anything bad or well into war crime territory. When was the last film you saw that dealt with how people couldn’t let go of hatred just because victory was declared.

And yet again I have to say that this film is great because the film is about more than just ghosts.
While I know Shudder bought the rights to the film and will be screening it, I am frightened that the audiences there will either be turned off by the talk, or fail to see just what a monumental film this is. This film should be in the Oscar mix because of what it really is doing, which unfortunately will get lost behind the ghosts.

Simply put this film is a masterpiece, It is a fucking awesome piece of cinematic art of the highest order. It’s a film destined to be looked at for decades to come.

Highly recommended. 

The Artifice Girl (2022) SXSW 2023 Overlook FIlm Fest 2023

Thoughtful and moving examination of AI and it's place in the world via the story of a computer program built to hunt child predators on line. It may very well be one of the dark horse films for the best of the year viewings.

The film begins when a government agency hauls in a tightly wound man (writer director Franklin Rich) into an interrogation room. They have questions they need answers to. They want to know what he knows about a young girl named Cherry who is trolling the pedophile chat rooms. It comes to pass that she isn't real but a creation of the young man. She is in fact the most advanced AI ever created. What follows is a discussion of all things connected to AI, consciousness and what makes us human.

THE ARTIFICE GIRL floored me. I thought this was going to be a thriller and while it is that in a way, it also revealed itself to be so much more. I honestly didn't expect the the emotion I felt when the film ended. I was so moved that I wanted to go back and see it from the start.

Told in three distinct parts the film ponders the notions of AI and humanity over time. Part one has Cherry just existing on a hard drive. Part two ponders if we should create a robot version. The third part is set fifty years later as Cherry and her dying creator have a heart to heart about all that has happened and may happen in the future. Its a heady mix of emotion and ideas that gets under your skin and gets you thinking and feeling.

Having seen the film I'm totally flummoxed as to why more people aren't talking about the film. I apparently missed the film at several festivals over the last year, and while I had  halfheartedly had it on my possible SXSW dance card it wasn't until Liz Whittemore emailed me to say I HAD to see the film, that I pushed to make it happen. I'm glad I did because this film blew me away.

While I have read some reviews that compared the film to things like Pinocchio, I think doing so is incredibly lazy. Other than a superficial similarity, the truth is THE ARTIFICE GIRL is wholly its own thing. What it does and how it does them makes for a unique viewing experience that forces us to deal with the questions it raises.

I can't recommend this film enough.