Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lauren Humphries-Brooks ponder's Tribeca's Closing Night film The bomb (2016)

This year, the Tribeca Film Festival’s major theme was militarization and nuclear weapons. Documentaries about drone warfare (National Bird), nuclear accidents (Command and Control), and police militarization (Do Not Resist) featured heavily, prompting at least this writer to assume that we’re all going to die in an accidental nuclear holocaust, probably superintended by Scientologists (My Scientology Movie). The entire festival closed out with the centerpiece film the bomb, a multimedia art installation in the form of a 55-minute film about nuclear warfare and proliferation.

Projected in the round at Gotham Hall, the bomb places the audience in the center of 360 degrees of massive movie screens, while the band The Acid provides the soundtrack. The film takes the form of a loose and surreal examination of the world history of the Atomic Bomb, its construction, its beauty, and its awful destructive power. Beginning with terrifyingly rousing images of world militaries, the film plunges into the construction of weapons, using test footage from the first nuclear tests to news broadcasts from the contemporary period. There are clips from public service films from the 1950s and 60s, highlighting Cold War paranoia and reminding us that the public was convinced we could survive a nuclear explosion by ducking under school desks. While America’s nuclear arsenal is in the forefront (we did create the first Atomic Bomb, after all), the bomb casts some attention on Russia and China, as well as less armed nations. We’re reminded that there are enough nuclear weapons still existent (15,000 across the globe) to destroy the world nine times over.

The most powerful sections of the film involve the terrible beauty of nuclear explosions –it’s quite an experience to stand surrounded by mushroom clouds capable of annihilating whole sections of the planet. the bomb further highlights the beauty of atomic weaponry, its clean lines and complex mechanisms cast in loving, almost sexual detail, even as the audience is made aware of their destructive power. There is something seductive in such weapons, something in the sheer power, concentrated and controlled, ready to detonate at the press of a button. Such proximity to death writ large possesses an element of suspense, of tension – and the bomb reminds us that we’re sitting right on top of it.

the bomb might have reasonably given a bit more time to the effects of a nuclear attack – there’s certainly more footage and still images from the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that, while horrifying, might have driven home the film’s point with greater power. It is one thing to be faced with the explosive power of a weapon, which has in itself a certain beauty (and is something that we’ve all seen reproduced so much in Hollywood the real thing loses some weight), and quite another to see the human toll that nuclear attacks take. Any argument for the elimination of nuclear weapons cannot be merely content in sleek terror – we have to see the ugly reality as well.

And this is the problem with the bomb – it is an art installation, aesthetic and aesthetically pleasing, too absorbed in its own structure. It is too pretty, too artistic, to be truly powerful. There needed to be an element of the mess, of the violence, of palpable terror unmitigated by beauty. The film grows absorbed in its own seductive nature, fascinated by the weapons it abhors.

And it does abhor them. The premiere screening of the bomb was preceded by a panel discussion “What do we talk about when we talk about the bomb,” attended by Eric Schlosser, Michael Douglas, co-director/creator of the bomb Smitri Keshari, and Emma Belcher, Director of the International Peace and Security Program at the MacArthur Foundation. The panel discussed the contemporary rise of the no-nukes movement and the power that cinema has to affect change. They made it clear that the bomb was an attempt to draw younger participants to the no-nukes movement by highlighting the visceral dangers of nuclear weapons. It’s a reminder that nuclear weapons still exist, and are still the most profound threat the world faces.

But the bomb, for all its laudable intentions, is a drop in the cinematic ocean, one that does not really have the capacity to enact the real change that is needed. While it makes a passionate argument for the immersive power of cinema, the bomb is inaccessible to the people it needs most to convince. It is accessible only to the select few able to obtain tickets and stand, holding glasses of Hendricks, with their eyes cast skyward for the better part of an hour. We are standing on the precipice, and the bomb still keeps us looking skywards.

Ariela spends sometime with GEEZER (2016) Tribeca 2016

Geezer is the story of a man who was once a punk rock singer and is now a husband and father of two. His 40th birthday is approaching and he has a midlife crisis of sorts. He's conflicted between wanting to party and wanting to be responsible.

He rents an expensive hotel room but at the same time, his inlaws are in town and his daughter has a talent show. Will he stay and party or will he be responsible?

This was a fun film and I definitely enjoyed it. It's not a super deep film but it's worth seeing. Billie Joe Armstrong plays the lead and does a great job! I wonder if the film was inspired by his life at all since I know he's a dad and isn't performing much these days.

After the film Billie Joe took the stage, with drummer Tre Cool (Mike wasn't able to make it) performed. They played 2 songs from the film (Billie Joe wrote new music for the movie), then played one and a half Green Day songs. Joan Jett came out (she had a cameo in the film) and played Bad Reputation. It was a lot of fun!
Photos copyright Ariela Rubin

Tiger Raid (2016) Tribeca 2016

Two mercenaries in Iraq head into the desert on a mission. The plan is supposed to be a simple kidnapping turns complicated as secrets are kicked  into the open...

Billed as an action packed film by the Tribeca PR material this is, outside of two sequences deadly static. Essentially three people in a room, the film painfully shows it's stage origins by having nothing much happen for 90 minutes. This might have worked on stage but blown wildly out of proportion on the big screen its deadly.

The sad thing is that  not only does the film look good, the blackened eyes of the two soldier creates a haunting effect and the landscape is stunning, but the cast is truly amazing. Sofia Boutella is wonderful as the woman kidnapped while Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony turn in star making performances as the soldiers. Gleeson is scary good and may eclipse his famous father (hell give me a film where they go head to head).

The problem is nothing happens. They guys drive to the house, take the hostage and then talk. Even though the location shifts at one point it comes across more as desperation by the director to fabricate action. Its a bad move since it adds nothing to the story.

After the screening there was a great deal of talk about why the film was set in Iraq. The film could have been set anywhere at any time. There is nothing in the tale that requires it to be a war story, it could be just a gangster story. It hadn't occurred to me, but the feeling is dead on. Why is this set  in  Iraq?

More importantly why am I being asked to see this since any points its trying to make are obvious and over early leaving the film no where to go.

Fantastic performances aside I'm disappointed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

In Brief: Courted (2015) Tribeca 2016

COURTED is an absolute gem. Probably the biggest happy surprise of Tribeca this is a must see -especially since I don't know when this will show up at a theater near you.

In France a stern judge finds that a woman with whom he has a a connection is picked for the jury of a case he is presiding over. A strict jurist he isn't liked by many people, though he is respected, his life is in flux since he is getting a divorce and is living in a hotel. The juror in question is a lovely lady to whom he was attracted.  Quietly asking for a drink he hopes to connect once more..

In no way a mystery or thriller this is just a great drama about two souls circling each other. The fact that the characters  are are real and that the emotions expressed are relateable make this an absolute joy.

I'm not afraid to say that the end of the film had me getting misty.

I can't say enough good about the film. I hadn't intended on seeing it but when a friend suggested that another film might be bad, I went to see this instead and ended up seeing one of my favorite films at Tribeca.

Track this one down and keep your eye out for it because it will utterly delight you.

Here Alone (2016) Tribeca 2016

You've been here before-hell Tribeca was here last year with the SURVIVALIST which is almost the exact same film as this except this has zombie stand ins.

To be honest not only have you been here you've seen similar tales 900 times before. If you like post apocalyptic zombie like stories you've seen this, except here not a hell of a lot happens.

The plot has a woman living alone in the woods after a viral outbreak has caused society to collapse after the the infected turn violent and blood lust filled. Think of them as zombies. Into her life comes a girl and her step father and the group kind of forms a family...for a while.

This might have worked if the film had stayed with the woman alone in the forest but the inclusion of the zombies just starts this going on a road we've all seen before. For a while it still works thanks to a refusal to see the monsters until the end- but then they show up and the film gets silly.

If the slow pacing and feeling we've seen this before wasn't bad enough, the film deteriorates from logic problems more and more as it goes on. The biggest problem comes from the constant raiding of the same house  for food over and over again. Why the same house? More importantly why does it have chain link around it and why are the beasts there? We could take it further and dismantle the climatic scene but that would be telling you too much- but lets just say it makes no sense- none.

Glacially paced this film will try your patience. There were all sorts of technical problems during the screening as if the projector was rejecting the film.

You can skip this one because you've seen it all before.

Tickling Giants (2016) Tribeca 2016

For me the idea of free speech is an important thing. Being able to tell our leaders to eat shit and die is vital to a free society. Its why seeing people such as Donald Trump calling on his followers to silence the opposition is terrifying. The world has become stupidly reflexive  to the point that no one can take a joke. Everyone takes offense at everything. People have forgotten that while we have many rights, we do not have a right not to be offended. If we aren't allowed to make fun of things, and of offending those in power then we have lost a basic human right. Being able to do so helps prevent the authoritarian bond because it brings the demagogue and tyrants down to earth.

For the time being, the Unites States is still a free society. We can still speak our minds and make jokes (as long as we are not on a college campus or Trump rally). In theory we can still more or less say what we mean. If we say something, we are not, ipso facto, going to die. However where Bassem Youssef is concern the wrong joke could get him killed.

TICKLING GIANTS is one of the best films at Tribeca. Its at the top of the heap as to the recent run of films about humor and free speech. It gets to the top because where other films deal with the ideas in the abstract this look at Bassem Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt is what happens when you make fun of dictators.

Youssef is not a comedian by trade, he was and is a surgeon. However then the Arab Spring happened he and a friend started doing an internet program in the style of Jon Stewart. As the government changed Youssef was offered a weekly TV series doing what he had been doing on line. His show was so popular that over 30 million people tuned in each night (Stewart's peak nightly viewership was only 2 million). As the political climate changed yet again Youssef found himself in deep trouble as the network dropped him and there were serious calls for his assassination.

Charting the run of Youssef's show from internet hit to TV hit to political target with death threats TICKLING GIANTS shows us very clearly what could happen if we lose the right to speak up. A wonderful brother to CAN WE TAKE A JOKE? which looked at humor and censorship, GIANTS reveals what will happen when censorship come knocking, fear and death. This is not abstract ideas or people arguing in the streets, this is people with bombs and guns trying to silence the opposition. Its terrifying. It is this real world practicality that lifts the film over some other similar docs.

GIANTS is also very funny thanks to Youssef's refusal to stop making jokes about things. Yes he gets serious but he always seems to find a joke in there somewhere. Life may get dangerous but the jokes just keep on coming.

TICKLING GIANTS moved me. Here is a stunning portrait of a man who refuses to back down and shut up. Youssef's inability to buckle puts him high in the pantheon of those who fought for our human right to speak our minds. While Youssef has avoided the price that Lenny Bruce paid (so far) there is still a heavy price that he is paying.

This is one of the best films of 2016 and and an absolute must see. You must see what a the lessening of free speech will bring.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

14 Minutes from Earth (2016) Tribeca 2016

14 MINUTES FROM EARTH the story of Google executive Alan Eustace's record breaking free fall from 25 miles up. We watch as how Eustace assembles his team, builds the equipment needed to do the jump and the executes the feat.

This is a great tale of human research and adventure. Its one that will get your blood pumping and and your pulse racing once it all goes down.

The trouble is that the film is hurt by a cinematic style that makes it look like any one of the testosterone fueled History Channel or Discovery Channel shows that have lousy narration and pump everything up with effects and booming music. You know the ones that create false suspense by showing you a weirdly edited moment where something goes wrong just before you go to commercial and then when you go back the suspenseful thing is found to be a non starter? Its that sort of thing that happens a couple of times in 14 MINUTES and it wrecks the genuine suspense of the event. Of course it's not entirely surprising since the directors work for the National Geographic Channel which itself is full of shows that do the same thing.

The other problem is that the whole thing seems  much too slick. Put part of the blame on the narration which can be so purple, and condescending, especially at the start, that the film seems like a sales reel or a 15 minute TV segment bumped up to 85 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, I like the film a great deal, but I wanted something that doesn't feel like so much stuff that's on TV.

A Q&A followed the Tribeca screening with Eustace and directors Jerry Kolber, Adam “Tex” Davis and it was funny charming and more akin to what the film should have been. The talk went into how things were filmed (go pros, and the reduction of the film crew from 7or 8 down to two or three-the film crew was bigger than the tech crew at the start),  changes that were made to the suit (the placement of switches and such changed), did Google fund the jump (no but they gave Eustace all the time he needed to do it) and did Eustace's wife make good on her threat to beat him up (no). There was lots of joviality as every one joked and kibitzed bringing out details the film left out.

I like the film but I loved the Q&A

(Serious Question- was I the only one in the theater who bought his own ticket and didn't know someone connected to the film or the jump?)

Pistol Shrimps (2016) Tribeca 2016

PISTOL SHRIMPS maybe the funniest film at Tribeca. Its a laugh out loud film that is going to find an audience simply because it's so damn funny

The story of a group of women, many actresses and writers in LA, who started a women's basketball league. They originally just wanted to play in a league but when they couldn't find one they started their own and it went from six teams to now well over twenty four.

An utterly charming and I have to say it again very funny film about sports and the need to compete and make friends. The games have become a major focal point in all the women's lives to the extent that all of the women in the league have switched their Facebook profile pictures to them in basketball attire. With in the confines of the league the women are finding a place to be themselves and not talk about life in Hollywood.

I was hesitant to give myself over but the women all won me to their side. It doesn't hurt that all of the women are charming and that they all possess wicked sense of humor. Nothing is sacred and they let loose with a steady stream of one liners that had me doubled over in laughter. Things get even funnier when we are introduced the the Shrimp's play by play announcers who kind of announce the games and kind of free form comedy.

This is a must see was one of the best films at Tribeca.

HIGHLY recommended.

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS (2016) Tribeca 2016

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS is the newest Ricky Gervais film and it's laugh out loud funny. It's my favorite Gervis film I think largely because it's the one that has the least mean edge to it.

The plot has Gervais and Eric Bana as two radio reporters who are supposed to go to Ecuador to cover a possible rebellion but Gervais accidentally throws away their tickets and passports. Hold up in an apartment across from their offices the pair manufacture reports, which causes even more trouble by turns, especially after they claim to be kidnapped.

High art it isn't but it is funny. If you want to know how funny I thought the film was just ask anyone who was at the press and industry screening where my roars of laughter was noted to me for the next two days.

 While most of the jokes are a bit low brow, the film has an intelligence to it that I think most people are over looking. There is this interesting thread about why do some people get together and others don't. Gervais and his wife in the film clearly like each other  but they don't have anything in common. She married him not for him but because she thought it would be exciting, something that she only finds when she becomes the media focal point for the kidnapping.

I love that the film takes the piss out of the news media. We chuckle at how Gervais and Bana get away with not being in country and filing reports but that's what the news does. Locally when ever a big storm comes the TV news people always go to the same street to report because they know they will get the best shots there. I've been told that there is a spot in Tampa where all the news sets up for great images of crashing waves during a hurricane- the only place in the only place city where it happens. in SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Benjamin Brat's TV reporter never leaves his hotel, always filming from a spot 50 feet from its entrance. If we are smart we will be very skeptical of what we see and hear.

While the film does make fun of Gervsis and Bana's friends who help them and who believe they have been kidnapped, despite they themselves playing the kidnappers. the film is making a very serious point in that people really do believe what they see and hear despite the fact that they know better. Reality TV really isn't and despite our knowing that we still believe it.

I love this film on so many levels.

An absolute joy. Highly recommended.

(Coming to Netflix tomorrow)

Nerdland (2016) Tribeca 2016

The first and very possibly last feature film from Titmouse the studio behind any number of good Cartoon Network shows is a largely unfunny vile mess that manages to be incredibly unpleasant (intentionally so) to the point  you wonder why you are watching it.

Centering on a screenwriter and an actor wanna be who will do anything to become famous for being famous NERDLAND thrashes around as if the worst parts of BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD collided with the vilest parts of SOUTH PARK and then amped it all up into something nasty. The film is stupid people going around trying to get on TV by any means necessary including faking a rescue of some one, being beaten up by the police, murder or knowing someone on TV. Though voiced by Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt no one on screen is anyone you'd want to hang with

The one thing is the film manages to be is unpleasant You like no one, people do terrible things to each other and it all takes place in places you wouldn't want to see. For example Paul Rudd's character doesn't just rip his pants, he rips his under ware so we see his anus, not once but twice (in the press notes the director said he made the film so he could do a film where the punch line was showing a puckered anus). I disconnected the first time and never really reconnected not that I ever was connected.People are grotesque forms of people. Everyone is freakish. And in the background they take great pains to show dogs that shit and people that vomit.

The one thing that people will be talking about is DVD called V-X. A compilation of every violent act in movies. Its supposed to be no filler just nastiness. The boys watch it hoping it will turn them into murderers. We see part of the disc and its a minute or so of really graphic violence set to J-Pop. Its deeply disturbing. I know some of the stuff in the sequence comes from real films and other bits I'm not sure. Its a sequence that provoked a reaction in the critics screening which was for the most part rather silent.

And I could forgive pretty much everything wrong with the film if it was funny, but it's not . After the film a whole bunch of us headed to the subway and the one thing everyone noticed was the largely lack of laughter. Yes some jokes hit, but mostly every one sat stone faced.

Odd moment aside this is a not very good film and one of the least films at Tribeca. I suspect that this film will be showing up somewhere but I suggest you avoid it unless you are drunk, stoned or a sociopath.

Burden (2016) Tribeca 2016 repost

BURDEN is a great portrait of artist Chris Burden who gained infamy by being shot as piece of art.

The film is wonderful overview of Burden's life and career that explores his early confrontational style and how that all changed once he set up his big shop in California.

If you only know his early work the film will surprise the hell out of you as you discover how good an artist he really was and why he did what he did. I was enthralled once we got past the performance pieces.

Interestingly there were lots of walk outs in the early part of the film as if people thought it was all confrontation. You have to stay past the craziness since that isn't what the film or the artist is really about. Once the performance art goes away and the film becomes something greater. I spoke with several critics at Tribeca over the course of the festival all of whom were ready to bail on the film only to have the film flip and become one of the truly great films at the festival.

One of the best surprises at Tribeca. (I should mention that the film is even more interesting if you see THE FAMILY FANG since Burden is mentioned in the film and his performance pieces are clear influences on the elder Fangs)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Those People (2015) opens Friday in NYC and LA

The good little drama THOSE PEOPLE hits theaters Friday in New York and LA. I saw the film back in January at the New York Jewish Film festival. Here's the review

Coming of age tale set among the rich one percenters of Manhattan has an up and coming artist trying to find his way in the world and and in love as he finds his affections split between his boyhood friend whose father is in jail for Bernie Madoff like crimes and a slightly older concert pianist.

Great looking and well acted tale is going to play better for anyone who likes TV shows and movies about the ultra rich. My tolerance for watching poor little rich people whine and moan about their lots in life has always been rather low. I don't care about them or their problems... or rather I don't care for the trapping we see in popular entertainment since a portion of the films always seems to be concerned with the conspicuous consumption taking away from the human drama. that is the case here to some degree, however once you get past the glitz and the formal attire the story of Charlie and his course through life is rather entertaining.

I'm in a weird place because I'm not really sure what to say beyond that. I mean I really liked the film and I'm glad the fact that covering NYJFF forced my hand in seeing it, but at the same time I really wish that the film wasn't as beautiful to look at as it is. I wish the slickness was gone and that it was a tad rougher around the edges so that there would have been a hand hold to bring it closer to one's heart. As it is it's a good little film, worth a shot for those so inclined.

Tribeca 2016 Quotes

As I did last year here are a bunch of lines of dialog or narration from Tribeca films that stayed with me.

Everyone vomits, it's a party- ALL THIS PANIC

Ifw we only remember the good things about the ones we love, what do we lose?- MEMORIES OF THE PENITENT HEART

All Teddy Bears are nihilists - ADULT LIFE LESSONS

"Can you not text and drive, my life is in your hands."
"You're assuming I'm not trying to kill you"
-ADULT LIFE LESSONS

Mom, why is life so full of pain and regret- LIFE, ANIMATED

Paintings are like nose jobs.- EVERYONE KNOWS...ELIZABETH MURRAY

You couldn't possibly know what's strange for this town -THE FIXER

"You ust can't go around shooting, where do you think we are?"
"America"
-THE LONER

Honey is vomit- BUGS

It's not rocket science, it's straight forward...there's no rhyme or reason. - NY Times Morgue attendant describing how easy it is to find things in OBIT

Art has no value unless two or three people want it - MAURIZIO CATTELAN ...I'LL BE RIGHT BACK

We have art so we don't die of truth- MAURIZIO CATTELLAN...I'LL BE RIGHT BACK

No Matter how many battles you've been in you can always learn from someone else-WIN!

This looks like me if I was going to brutally repress some people- Jon Stewart in TICKLING GIANTS

The funniest joke ever is the one told at a funeral-TICKLING GIANTS

After Morsi, Egypt could have been lead by martians and been happy- TICKLING GIANTS

Scientists say we are made of atoms but a little bird told me we are made of stories- SHADOW WORLD

Politicians are like prostitutes only more expensive- SHADOW WORLD

I look for the crown but know the guillotine is in sight- JEREMIAH TOWER

If you did bad things but don't remember them are they still part of you? - LAVENDER

I'm just having a bad life but it will be over soon- POOR BOY

I'm making an action movie of my life called Double Dragon Fuck Off and Die - POOR BOY

Fred is dead because I didn't like his nipples- MY BLIND BROTHER

There are those who play music, those who dance to it and those rare few who can do both -MR CHURCH

New York would be great except for all the New Yorkers here- CURMUDGEONS

"Did you love grandma?"
"Sure I did she was a good mother and a fun drunk"- CURMUDGEONS

All This Panic (2016) Tribeca 2016 or the review that almost made me walk away from film writing forever

My feelings for this film have gotten me into trouble. My attitude that the film could have should have been better than it is got me into a fight because someone connected to the film wanted to know why I had to express my feeling in such a snarky manner (They asked and I expressed it a bit too forcefully and too clearly). The argument shook me because it forced me to rethink what I write and why. Why was I being snarky about the film and is it fair? I started to rethink everything I write. 

It shook me so much that I considered walking away from Unseen Films completely.  I ended up taking several days away  from the site and only reluctantly come back after I got some positive feed back about other reviews I've done.  I put the draft review of this film aside and considered not reviewing it.

Then a week or so after coming back I took a look at the review and realized that what I wrote is how I feel. In the intervening time I had tried to rewrite the piece but found that I was couching my words too much. Worse I wasn't saying what I felt had to be said. I went back and looked at the original review and found  the reason I said what I did was not out of trying to hurt but because I am so incredibly frustrated that the film isn't the film it should be. Yes I am snarky at times but I can't find the words without taking the tone. (I should also point out that the review was written over a hard pressed 24 hour period during which time I talked about nothing else, and did little else including taking time from my day job to write copious notes about what to say and how to say it. This film has haunted me  in one form or another since I saw it- I really do feel that the material here could be one of the best films of the year if someone else tweaked it)

Additionally it should be noted that my attitude is the result of  a large percentage of films at this years festival having the same problem, namely not getting everything we need to know on the screen. Too many filmmakers this year in trying to assume their audience is intelligent enough to follow what is going on have made the assumption that we know as much about their subjects as they do, which isn't hasn't been the case. Of the first  8 films I saw at Tribeca only 1, the 8th one didn't mess things up. ALL THIS PANIC was the 7th and the worst offender- if only because it's potentially the best of the bunch and it gets it the most wrong.

What follows is more or less the review that I wrote over a month ago. It's the one that version of got me into trouble with someone connected to the film.

In answer to the question of is this how I feel about the film right now? I really don't know. This review has cost me way too much psychically and emotionally that I really don't know. Its how I felt in the 24 hours after I saw the film, which is all I can say about the film. It is the only review I can give the film now because my thoughts about the film are too mixed up with the bullshit away from it.

Lastly I want to say that I seriously considered re-seeing the film and then re-reviewing it, but I couldn't justify it. The reason I can't is that I won't see the film with fresh eyes. I know what happens which will influence things, additionally I've read the press notes which reveal a great deal more than is in the film and put the time frame into perspective- the lack of the clear passage of time is a big problem with the film.

So here at last is the review that broke me

Incredibly messy and unfocused film that's akin to watching someone's home movies edited by blender, ALL THIS PANIC follows the lives of seven young women as they finish high school and take differing paths into the real world.

To be honest this could have and should have been one of the best coming of age docs ever made. We are there with the girls as they talk frankly about school, drugs, drink, sex and life. Its kind f all there except for the fact that the film is so badly edited that I threw up my hands, literally, and grunted at the screen.

The problem with the film comes from two places. First the film is following seven girls. Its way too many. In a film running 80 minutes that gives us at best ten minutes with each girl, but that's not the case since the film really focuses on brainy Lena and her friend Ginger as they finish high shool and one goes to college and the other tries to act. Most of the other girls get the short end of the stick to the point that they just sort of pop in to show they are still around.

The other problem is the film is incredibly unfocused. The film covers three years but we have no sense of time or place because there is no effort to tell us when anything is happening. Yes we can watch the seasons change and  hair styles come and go but in reality I had no idea when any of it was happening.

Worse still the lives of the girls don't arc so much as stop and start. Its as if the film crew dropped in on random days of the year and just shot whatever was happening. I can hear them going "Fuck it I got nothing to do today I'll go see what Ginger is doing." Almost nothing connects to anything else except by the fact that its part of these girls lives.  Its a major shame since its clear the girls trust the filmmakers enough to open up- but they don't do anything with it.

I think that the filmmaker's claim that the film is a kind of cinematic portraiture is bullshit. One doesn't make a portrait of some one of random times over three years- one makes portraiture over three years unless one doesn't have enough material.

Had the filmmakers dropped some of the girls and really focused on say Lena and Ginger this film might have been sooo much better. Actually any of the girls would have been great- not all of them.

I have to say that I'm amused that the parents in the film were shocked that they couldn't allow their high school kids to drink and get stoned at unsupervised parties without child protective serves coming to call. Aren't they aware that its against the law? Actually I'm curious if the film can be used as evidence against them for misdeeds.

In the films favor the film gets better as it goes on and gets more focused, but to be honest by that time the damage is done.

I freely admit that I maybe the wrong audience for the film but at the same time I doubt that unless you're a teenager this film is not going to thrill you.

POOR BOY (2016) Tribeca 206 Repost

Okay I need to say two things. Sam Juliano, a good friend, absolutely hated POOR BOY. I think he said it was the worst film he ever saw at Tribeca. On the other hand Lesley Coffin had asked me if I had seen it. I said no, and she said that she was curious what I would make of it. It was a really messed up film that you either loved or hated. There is no middle ground.

My reaction to the film is unique. I can honestly say that I loved the audacity of the film. I loved that it tried to do something more and different. Its a film that is unlike any other film at Tribeca (and after 65 films I can say that with certainty). Its a film that is a complete and utter mess, a car wreck of a film that you can't stop watching and can't walk out of. Its a film that should be called What the Fuck? because that's what you will murmur repeatedly during it.

A good number of people walked out, I wanted to go but I had to see where in the hell it was going to go. No aliens don't land but it wouldn't be out of place if it did.

The nominal plot has two brothers trying to get money to buy the boat they live on (it's located in the middle of the desert) so the come up with the idea that one of them will make pregnant and then marry a Native American girl so they can get the dowry to use for the boat. And into this weird story all sorts of things wander... I can't explain it because your brains will explode.

As a mind cleanse and somethng off the beaten path I enjoyed it but I can not under any circumstances recommend it to anyone. Well maybe to those of you who want films from another dimension, but all others stay away.

And don't assume its a bad film, its neither good nor bad, its something else entirely.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SHADOW WORLD (2016) Tribeca 2016

SHADOW WORLD is about how war is now being run purely for profit. The film seeks to unravel the connection which has politicians acting as high priced call girls being used to make money for themselves and the arms dealers

This is an occasionally troubling look at the way things are being done now. The film names names in the corruption and it will anger you. Unless you have been completely blind to the ways of the world you'll have had a hint of the stuff this film reveals but I don't know if you'll have known all the details.

Unfortunately the film seems to be much too literate for its own good and it assumes you have background on some of the scandals mentioned and assumes that you have a working knowledge of the last century of war and war profiteering. While I applaud director Johan Grimonprez assuming he's having a well informed audience, he makes the mistake of realizing most people are not going to be as well informed as he is so the film is hobbled at the start by not having enough explanation for the most people.

Talk of the First World War  at the start comes out of nowhere and never connects to anything else, other than to say that there was war profiteering. The next segment on the BAE scandal (where England sold the Saudi's weapons because Reagan didn't want to piss off the Israelis) comes in three beats too soon and you're left wanting to know how we got from the trenches of France in 1914 to Thatcher's England 70 years later? I don't have a clue because there is no context.

The trouble here is not the interviews and facts but the organization which breaks away from true documentary telling and instead drops this into the realm of docu-essay. This isn't surprising coming from Grimonperez, who loves to subvert our expectations, but it also subverts our ability to really take it all in. Like his earlier films especially DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, you go along with what he is doing for a while but he never fully connects everything up the way it should, There never is a grand "ah ha!" moment. There were just lots of notes to hit up Google so you can get try to link of the bits that have just washed over you.

To be honest I've seen this film two times and I still don't remotely get the film. I understand what he's doing. I mean I know what he's aiming at, I love the segments and its take no prisoner attitude, but to be completely honest I have no clue as to why he added all the dream talk about our lives being made up of stories, the old footage or anything else that isn't straight on modern reporting. Or even why he focuses wholly on the modern scandals when the First World War stuff implies he's casting a wider net then just modern corruption.

This is not a documentary but a head scratching art piece masquerading as a documentary. Or perhaps  it's someone trying to made an Adam Curtis film but not having a clue as to how to do it. Curtis does this sort of thing with the greatest of ease and we can follow along. Here we can't.

As it stands now this is an okay film with great pieces where the pieces don't really link up. Worth a shot for those interested but not recommended for anyone not willing to work with it.

DJ Z-Trip SAFETY LAST! at Tribeca Film Festival 2016

DJ Z-Trip spinning onstage during the 'Safety Last!' screening during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
For those unfamiliar with DJ and producer Z-Trip, he is an innovative turntablist who released the legendary album Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 along with DJ P in 1999 which helped popularize the mashup which is a song that seamlessly blends two or more prerecorded songs.  DJ Z-Trip was also featured in the Doug Pray 2001 documentary SCRATCH which put a spotlight on the hip hop DJ and the turntablism phenomenon.

Last year at Tribeca, Z-Trip provided the soundtrack to the Harold Lloyd 1928 silent film, SPEEDY. This year, Z-Trip was asked to return and provide the soundtrack to another Harold Llyod classic, SAFETY LAST! and once again it was all done live in front of an enthusiastic audience not knowing what was going to blast out of the speakers.

The romantic comedy opens with Harold Lloyd leaving his mother and his girlfriend, Mildred for the big city to make some money so that eventually they could get married.  Harold gets a job in a department store as a clerk but convinces Mildred that he is a manager.  A surprise visit by Mildred sends Harold's masquerading misadventures spiraling out of control.  Harold asks his friend to participate in a zany publicity stunt involving scaling the outside of a 12-story building to draw more customers to the department store.  Plans backfire and Harold ends up making the climb which features a classic sequence that find our fearless hero hanging by a clock high above the city.


The film has stood the test of time and is still a fun and hilarious movie to watch with an audience.  Throw in Z-Trip and his turntables to supply the soundtrack and you take it all to a different level.  Warming up before the screening with a furious remix of  Metallica's "One" was an early indication that the screening was going to be buck wild.  During a train sequence, Z-Trip dropped an Ozzy Osbourne snippet and Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours."  "Man In The Box" by Alice In Chains was featured in a scene where Lloyd is trapped in a speeding box truck.  Perfectly timed "slide whistles" and video game sound effects from Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. brought out the chuckles. Z-Trip snuck in a a tribute to Phife Dawg, a well-loved MC who recently passed away,  with "Can I Kick It?" by A Tribe Called Quest. There are too many songs and references to name but towards the end there is a perfectly placed theme song to the 80's show "Greatest American Hero" which complimented the jaw-dropping derring-do on the big screen.

Check out the video below for a Q&A with DJ Z-Trip which took place after the screening.

King Cobra (2016) Tribeca 2016

KING COBRA is a head scratcher. The true story of a murder in the gay porn industry, the film feels unfocused and pointless.

The film starts with a fresh "18" year old going to the home of Christian Slater who plays a gay porn producer for Cobra films. The kid quickly becomes a star and becomes the hottest name in porn.  Meanwhile we watch as James Franco and his lover try to make a living in the industry under the Viper name. As the fortunes rises and fall Slater's star has a falling out and when he refuses to let him jump ship he reveals that he was underage when he started. This sends things spiraling out as greed and jealousy results in murder.

The one question I was left after seeing this film was why are we being told this story? I'm not sure since the film focuses on so many people that by the time it ends we're not sure what we are supposed to feel. Worse the film focuses primarily on the Slater character while the more interesting one is the James Franco one.

What exactly are we supposed to get out of the film? I don't know since while there is copious amounts of sex it's not very good, nor graphic, and makes you wonder if the film would have been more interesting if it had been hardcore.

Looking like a cheap porn film made by one of the characters the imagery looks like trash which makes the whole film harder to like despite some excellent acting by several of the supporting players. Seriously the film looks like its a step above a home movie which while making the film feel sleazy doesn't make it any more compelling to watch.

I'm still trying to work out why this is in the Midnight section,  since it'snot really a genre film and the violence and crime only comes in at the end.

One of the least films at Tribeca

Turner Classics teams with Criterion to make a streaming service

As a rule I don't post press releases unless it's for a film festival or something really really important. This is really really important:

Turner to Launch New Streaming Movie Service:
FilmStruck

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and the Criterion Collection Collaborate to Develop Turner's First Domestic Direct-To-Consumer Streaming Product, Launching in Fall 2016

FilmStruck Video Preview: filmstruck.com

Global media company Turner is launching the company's first direct-to-consumer product in the U.S., called FilmStruck. This brand new subscription video on-demand service for film aficionados, developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, will feature a comprehensive and constantly refreshed library of films comprised of an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films. FilmStruck will also be the new exclusive streaming home for the critically acclaimed and award-winning Criterion Collection, which will include the Criterion Channel, a new premium service programmed and curated by the Criterion team. FilmStruck will allow viewers to watch movies anywhere and anytime on the device of their choice, in a completely ad-free environment, and is slated to launch in fall 2016.

FilmStruck's impressive library will feature a deep roster of films from such celebrated indie studios as Janus Films, Flicker Alley, Icarus, Kino, Milestone and Zeitgeist, along with movies from Hollywood's major movie studios including Warner Bros. Among the hundreds of critically acclaimed and award-winning titles to be featured on FilmStruck are Seven Samurai, A Hard Day's Night, A Room With A View, Blood Simple, My Life As A Dog, Mad Max, Breaker Morant and The Player.

FilmStruck is the latest move in Turner's overall strategy to innovate beyond the traditional television ecosystem by providing rich viewing experiences that drive engagementacross all platforms. Today's news follows a string of groundbreaking announcements for the company, such as the formation of ELEAGUE, Turner's new eSports league created in partnership with WME | IMG and set to launch this summer; Turner's recent investment in Mashable, which includes access to both content and valuable consumer data; Turner and CBS's wide-ranging, multiplatform contract extension for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship; and the launch of CNN's Great Big Story, which combines video storytelling custom-built for social distribution with integrated advertising.

"At Turner, we are dedicated to engaging fans wherever they are, and we're investing aggressively in content, new capabilities and new businesses to achieve that goal," said John Martin, chairman and CEO of Turner. "FilmStruck is a terrific example of our strategy to meet consumer demand for great content across all screens. It's tailor-made for the diehard movie enthusiasts who craves a deep, intimate experience with independent, foreign, and arthouse films. And it takes advantage of TCM's powerful curation capabilities, as well as its proven track record in building a long-term relationship with passionate film fans."

"TCM is leading Turner's strategic move into the direct-to-consumer business with a truly differentiated and distinct streaming product that adds tremendous value to our portfolio," said Coleman Breland, president of TCM and Turner Content Distribution. "Together with our partners at the Criterion Collection, we are creating a must-have, premium film brand that will draw from the most celebrated movie libraries in the world."

"Criterion is teaming up with TCM to launch an arthouse film lovers' dream streaming service," said Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection. "Working with TCM's programming team, we'll present a broad, constantly changing cross-section of Criterion titles on FilmStruck, a platform designed from the start to present films with the kind of robust supplemental features that Criterion is known for. The addition of the premium Criterion Channel will offer subscribers the most comprehensive Criterion experience ever available anywhere, including a steady stream of exclusive original content and archival discoveries, plus continual access to more than 1,000 films from the Janus Films library, many unavailable on disc or anywhere else. We're very excited to be joining forces with TCM to make FilmStruck the streaming service serious movie fans have been waiting for."

Additional information is available on the FilmStruck website at www.filmstruck.com.
Connect with FilmStruck

Website: www.filmstruck.com
Facebook: facebook.com/filmstruck
Twitter: twitter.com/filmstruck
Tumblr: filmstruck.tumblr.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/filmstruck

Tribeca Screening Library Capsule notes: CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN, MAGNUS, PARENTS, UNTOUCHABLE, and CALIFORNIA

CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN (2016)
A woman gives birth to a child with cleft palate. Feeling that she is to blame for the defect the woman struggles as to what to do with the child and her life. Great looking and well made film is going to split audiences with it's overly earnest approach. The film has a tone which can feel extremely preachy thanks in part to an over ripe and overly pervasive score which amps up every emotion five or ten times where it should be. I was with the film at the start, but I quickly tired of its tone. It simply didn't work for me something that was hit home by the ending which felt artificial.  Your mileage may vary (I have a good friend, Sam Juliano, who thinks this is the best film of the festival)

PARENTS (2016)
When their son moves out his parents sell the family home and move into the apartment where they fell in love. Through dry humor and a decidedly Nordic outlook this film examines the changing nature of love and ponders if the reason we first fell in love will always be there. I kind of want to tap out regarding this film because while I intellectually know this is a good film, I also know that 80 films into the festival this film was not getting a fair shake from me. Definitely worth seeing, a real review will have to wait until I see the film again down the road.

CALIFORNIA (2016)
Teenaged girl growing up in 1980's Brazil longs to go to California to meet up with her cool uncle. When the uncle returns looking to tie up some loose ends her plans are thrown into a disarray. This is a nice little coming of age drama. Some times that's all one can say about a film

UNTOUCHABLE (2016)
Ariela already did a full review of this troubling film and I just wanted to add that this is a film that really needs to be seen since it reveals many of the problems with the ridiculous ways we are fighting sex offenders. One of the more troubling films at Tribeca this year

MAGNUS (2016)
A look at Magnus Carlsen the world chess champion. I know the film was a huge favorite among many of my friends but I found I was rather bored by the film. Its an overly fawning film that never had me connect to the young champion.

Curmudgeons (2016) Tribeca 2016

CURMUDGEONS may very well be Danny DeVito's best film. This 16 minute short which World Premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival is funny and touching in all the right ways. Its a perfect capsule of a story that makes you want to see what happens after the film ends but leaves knowing that to say any more would wreck the carefully crafted story.

I can't really tell you what the plot is beyond saying that a young woman goes to visit her grandfather in an assisted living facility. Grandpa be moans  how after 80 years he's finally found the love of his life but that they are now being forcibly separated.

A foul mouthed charmer, CURMUDGEONS is look at the lives of some cranky people  who are just trying to find some sunshine in their declining years. Its a film that's filled with the sort of New Yorkers one is apt to find in some places in New York and Brooklyn. These are people I know and in a couple of cases the sort of people I love (perish the thought).

I think that the reason this film is DeVito's best is that unlike many of his other films there isn't the level of cruelty that hovers around in his features. DeVito's features frequently have people tormenting each other just because and it has always kept me distant from them. While there is some rude remarks thrown at the various characters, no one is really hurt by any of it because thats the way the characters are, Additionally its very clear that the rudeness is a way of venting deep hurt.

This is a super little film. It is one of the best films to have played at Tribeca and a must see.

Strike a Pose (2016) Tribeca 2016

Centered on the lives of the male dancers who toured with Madonna on her Blonde Ambition tour back in 1990, STRIKE A POSE attempts to look at what happened when the tour ended. Sadly the film is poorly organized to the point that despite pulling it together in the final 20 minutes you'll be walking out disappointed.

First things first, if you are looking for more than fleeting snippets from the tour and the TRUTH OR DARE film that went behind the scenes look elsewhere. There is only enough material here that could be used under the fair use doctrine. Its obviously the result of the dancers suing Madonna over TRUTH OR DARE. There was no way that the film could ever get the rights to footage with so much bad blood over the matter.

The film is squarely focused on the seven male dancers who were Madonna's who relate what life was like on the tour and what happened to them afterward as a result. We see how the connection to Madonna made them minor celebrities and how that sent them into unexpected and sometimes dark places. The film also touches on how, as a result of being in the film the men were seen by many gay teens as a symbol of hope. The film ends with a reunion of the men after 25 years.

The problem with the film is that outside of the final twenty minutes the film jumps through time and space seemingly at random to the point no story is told completely and things are suddenly mentioned  (one of the dancer's addiction to heroin) as if we had been told that earlier.

I can't say enough bad things about the editing of the first hour. Its horrible and it largely takes what should have been a deeply moving film and tossed it out onto a trash heap. Its either the result of not having enough footage to tell the whole story or there was someone who was way too close to the story editing the film.

After the first hour the men come together for a dinner that is deeply moving despite being undercut by the previous hour which reduced the men to simplistic notions. I got misty a couple of times in this final section, but at the same time I was so disappointed that the rest of the film wasn't as good as this piece. Its so good you can feel all the stuff that should have gone before but didn't. It made me wonder what was left out because in these 20 minutes the men are sharp and on point.

The final 20 minutes saves the film from being one of the worst films of 2016 to make it one of the biggest disappointments.

Please someone take the raw footage and recut this film

LAVENDER (2016) Tribeca 2016 Repost

Its billed as a story about a woman trying to regain her memory after car accident. It sounded like a great thriller, but I knew something was up when Mike Gingold of Fangoria magazine showed up. He covered genre films at Tribeca and if he was in the house it meant that the film was going to be more horror than thriller.

The film is a supernatural tale about a woman whose family was killed in a terrible massacre years earlier. Now grown up with a daughter of her own she has the car accident and ends up going to her childhood home to try and remember. There are ghosts....and one bit of casting which ends up telegraphing the ending way in advance (you don't put a star in that role unless hes important).

To be honest LAVENDER is a nice little ghost story with just a touch of suspense and no real scares. Its an enjoyable little horror film with a lousy title that is simply part of a lyric of a song. I liked the film but wish it had been promoted correctly since I know several people who would have eaten it up had they known what it was.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Montclair Film Festival starts Friday

The Montclair Film Festival is a gem. Its a festival that was kick ass from day one, thanks in part to one of the founders Thom Powers, who is quite simply one of the best festival programmers working today.

Montclair's programming is a combination of one of a kind events mixed with a solid selection of premieres and the best of other festivals. Its so good that  if one lives near Montclair one can pretty much skip most of the New York festivals because all the good stuff will show up here.

The selections are so well chosen that I would have no trouble telling you to just see whatever hits your fancy. Even if it's a film I'm not in love with I completely understand why it was programmed.

Its the sort of festival that has me trying to see if I can get to Montclair despite being completely worn out by the past four weeks covering Tribeca.

I love this festival. Its just really cool.

In order to help you pick a movie, or six, I've provided links to 19 of the films we've seen previously.

ABOUT TIME
ACTOR MARTINEZ
ALWAYS SHINE
BETTING ON ZERO
CONTEMPORARY COLOR (this is a link to a capsule review I did at Tribeca. A longer rave for the film will be coming shortly as soon as Chocko finishes it up)
DO NOT RESIST
FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (this was the favorite film of most people I know who saw it at Tribeca)
LIFE ANIMATED
MAGGIES PLAN
MEDDLER
MISS SHARON JONES!
NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH
PHANTOM BOY
SUNSET SONG (This is a capsule. I was restricted to that by Film Comment Selects until the film comes out in May)
SYL JONSON: ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS (Another capsule revie- I was specifically told not to review the film despite this being one of the best films at DOC NYC)
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE - There is no review at Unseen for this film. Chocko had seen this at a press screening for DOC NYC and came out of it raving about how moving it was. He insisted that it go into our pre-fest list of must sees.
WEINER

The Festival starts Friday and runs through the following weekend. Go see something.

For more information and tickets go here.

I VOTED? (2016) Tribeca 2016

I VOTED? is a look at the electronic ways American's vote today. It starts with an investigation into a primary win for complete unknown in South Carolina who did no campaigning and simply got his name on the ballot. It then spins off to reveal how basically all the electronic voting machines are shit, can be hacked (and can be made to play video games) and aren't worth the money. The film essentially is saying that democracy as we know it maybe doomed if we don't do something to fix it.

The danger of electronic voting has been well known. 25 years ago James and Kenneth Collier warned us of the great danger in their book VOTESCAM which was a prophetic foreshadowing of everything we see in I VOTED?.  The Colliers basically said that paper is the only way to go, and if you aren't going to do paper only the lever machines are close to safe beyond that.  However after the chad incident in the presidential election there was a rush to get to safer methods, which people stupidly thought meant electronic,  only to end up backing into the lion's den.

Jason Grant Smith's film will terrify anyone with any lick of sense. revealing just how fucked the machines are. We watch as wrong votes are cast, the machines are hacked, infected with a virus, and generally get it wrong. We also learn that most of the machines being used in the country have no way of recounting. If it all goes wrong there is no paper trail, not even a pretend one. We have to live with the corrupted choices because there is no way to see if and where there are mistakes. Worse yet is the revelation that people operating the machines have no clue about them.

Smith blames all sorts of people, from the manufacturers who made machines that were out of date but which would give them maximum profit, to the federal government which gave out scads of money on a one time basis before they worked out how the machines should operate. Everyone spent the money bought machines before any standards had been adopted. Now the money is gone, there are no standards and it would be too costly to get rid of them.

Our only hope would be to go back to paper ballots- which the US government insists on using  around the world in the elections we monitor- is the only way to have a fair and honest election. Paper they tell the world is the only way to get a fair election (For the record US elections don't meet the high standard for honest elections that we insist for the countries we monitor)

A timely and important film this is a must see- which should have gotten more play at the festival and several more screenings beyond the single one it got.

Packed in a Trunk:The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson (2015)

I had stumbled upon PACKED IN A TRUNK when it ran several months ago on HBO. I happened to just turn on the station a couple of minutes in and saw that it was a film about art and I fell into it. This was just a really cool, really well done story. And when it was done it found a small little place in my heart and has been traveling around with me ever since. For whatever reason I never wrote up the film back then. In a weird way it was just something I was carrying around with me and didn't need to stamp it into my memory. And then I was told that the film was coming out on DVD and home video tomorrow so I jumped at the chance to write it up.

PACKED IN A TRUNK is the story of Jane Anderson who grew up with the paintings of her great aunt Edith Lake Wilkinson, a gifted artist who ended up being sent away to an asylum in 1924. Anderson became obsessed with unlocking the story of her aunt and when she first made efforts in the 1970's to find out about her she met with no success, However once the internet age started and a website was started Anderson began to find the mother-load of information as she discovered that her aunt was one of a group of artists who  influenced modern American art. (And she may have originated a style of block printing)

This is a super film.

Not only is it a great portrait of a great artist but it's also a wonderful look at the changing times. Edith was a gay woman in the early 20th century when women were marginalized and being gay could, and her case did, get her sent away to an asylum. Jane her grand niece is also a gay woman but unlike her aunt is not marginalized and she was able to marry, Tessie, the love of her life.  Its the story of  how thing are getting better and how mistakes of the past are being corrected.

Mostly though this is just a great detective story. Like the best detective stories its not only the tale of the solving of a mystery but also spending time with detectives we like. We like traveling with Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe or Alex Cross. We follow their adventures for the people at the center as much as the crime. Here we follow the unraveling of Edith's tale not just because we want to know her tale but because Jane is so engaging. We get hooked on her enthusiasm and we feel the joy she does as the locked doors are opened and the secrets are revealed.

This is a must see-highly recommended when it its home video and VOD tomorrow

In Brief:Actor Martinez (2016) Tribeca 2016

Love it or Loath it film abut an actor who decides to have filmmakers make a film about himself.

I really don't like this film. Its a multi level film full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Its a pretentious self important film that tries to deal with the various layers of film film and reality- the Martinez's real life, the film about him, the film we are watching about it all. and so on but it never really works because we are painfully aware of the manipulations.

Its a 70 minute exercise in inde navel gazing.

Worse it's the sort of pompous film that isn't the worst film to come down the pike but is exactly the sort of thing where I want to spit vitriol at because I can be clever, but which I refuse to do because the film just isn't worth the effort to spend more time than I have to tell you to avoid this forgettable and soon to be lost film.

In Brief: Prison Dogs (2016) Tribeca 2016

PRISON DOGS is about the group of men at the prison in Fishkill New York who train dogs to help returning soldiers with PTSD. The idea is that the dogs will help the soldiers gain control of their lives.

A very good look at the program which has been the subject of several TV news segments. The film scores over them by showing the men, dogs and vets over the course of three or so years as the dogs go into the program, are trained and and given over to the vets. What is important here is that we truly see the effects that the dogs have on everyone. This is a program that is truly for the betterement of everyone involved.

This was the final film I saw at Tribeca at a physical screening and it was a nice way to end the festival.

Recommended

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Maurizio Cattelan:Be Right Back (2016) Tribeca 2016

This portrait of the artist Maurizio Cattelan is one of my favorite films at Tribeca. A glorious look at the man and his work that kind of turns the tables on the audience even though we should know Better.

Cattellan is a jokester in the art world of sorts. His reputation was made by doing crazy things like hanging a sign on an empty locked gallery saying "Be Right Back" and then never appearing. Another time he stole another artist's show, boxed it up and showed it in a gallery. Eventually he moved on to sculptures and other works of art.  He even hung everyone of his works from the ceiling of the Guggenheim museum in New York.

His story is an amazing one and its told largely by someone that pretends to be Cattelan. He does so for Cattelan who doesn't like to talk about his work. He's so good at it that as you watch the film you forget that he's not the real deal. I mean he doesn't look like the man in the documentary and archival footage, but we buy it, even after it's pointed out to us.

I knew this was a great film since I went from thinking Cattelan was a hack to being amazed at what he was doing. I fell in love with his art and the ideas behind it.  The film convinced me of the man's greatness to the point I'm no convinced I never had any doubt.

I love this film. One of the best films at Tribeca and an absolute must see.

Nightcap 4/24/16 Randi's avalanche of links

I've been busy with Tribeca but that hasn't stopped Randi from sending me tons of links. Now that the fest is done I'm going to pass them on to you

The are road showing the original Star Wars Trilogy
 live action Pyrdain is coming
Gaston sing off
Don Cheadle at SXSW
Jake Gyllenhaal
Richard Linklater red carpet
SXSW playlist
Force Awakens Portfolio
P is for Puppet
Imagining ZOOTOPIA
Maru attacks the sink
NPR on The Black Panther
Netflix catalog is shrinking
Was Horace and Pete TV?
Samurai Champloo 
Wallace and Gromit 360 Story
Shakespeares folio
Captain Kangaroo's last episode
a musical marble machine
Gender in film scripts
Lena Hall sings
Lena hall Ham2Ham
The found Nessie
Godzilla
Candyman
Ida Lupino
Parliament Funkadelic
Prince Tribute at the COLOR PURPLE

PELE:BIRTH OF A LEGEND (2016) Tribeca 2016

The long in production film has been kicking around as behind the scenes troubles made it miss it's original release date by two years. It finally made it's world premiere last night and strangely we are better for it.

The story follows Pele from the time he was ten years old to the point eight years later when he helped the Brazilian soccer team win the world cup when he was just 17.

The film is surprisingly compelling and may even bring a tear to your eye as it hammers home quite literally every single sports film cliche that there is multiple times. On the face of it the film is utterly ludicrous but at the same time is so in offensive it manages to get away with cinematic murder and end up being completely entertaining.

The critics I saw this with were flabbergasted that anyone could make a film so full of cliches- but at the same time most admitted that they actually liked it despite being so hackneyed.

The perfect popcorn film it's highly recommended for anyone who wants an undemanding but absolutely enjoyable film.

Tribeca Capsules: EVERYBODY KNOWS...ELIZABETH MURRAY and EL CARRO DE TOLUQUILLA

EVERYBODY KNOWS ELIZABETH MURRAY
Hour long biography of the painter is a nice over view of her life and work. More a warm remembrance then detailed look the film uses interviews with friends mixed with interviews with the woman herself to give the world a great starting point for appreciating her art and her place in the art world. This played at The Whitney Museum as a special co-presentation with the Tribeca Film Festival. It is almost certainly going to ed up on PBS here in the US.

EL CARRO DE TOLUQUILLA
Feature length Portrait of the titled singer/cowboy who is HIV positive is was one of the most hated films at Tribeca. Two friends exchanged biting words about who hated the film more and questioning why the film had to be 89 minutes long. The film is an odd mix of documentary and staged footage based on reality with the result that it plays like a weird found footage film.

Personally I liked the film a great deal up to a point, about the time when the wedding was being talked about, and I realized that the film wasn't going anywhere and didn't seem to have any sort of point. And  at that point the film stopped being enjoyable and I fought to remain awake, something one of the writers failed to do since his snoring echoed through the screening room.

Awards or no avoid this like the plague.

Ariela gives some capule reviews of Tribeca Films KICKS, DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, YOUTH IN OREGON, and BETWEEN US

KICKS
15 year old Brandon is a good kid from a poor family. He sees kids in school wearing fancy Air Jordan's and wants a pair for himself. He finds money saved from birthday cards and sells candy on the street to save up to buy a pair. He finally gets a pair and within a single day of having them, he gets jumped by one of the toughest guys in the neighborhood and gets his sneakers stolen. Crushed and bloody, he walks in his socks, to see his two best friends, determined to get his sneakers back. He convinces his 2 best friends to go along with him to a bad neighborhood to find a way to get his sneakers back.

I don't want to give away much, but I can say I really enjoyed this film and kept wondering what would happen next. There were somethings I didn't get the point of- like the astronaut we keep seeing throughout the movie, which didn't seem to add anything, or the fact that they use rap lyrics as chapters, but I must say, this was one of the best films that I saw at the festival and I definitely recommend it.

DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Henry (Jason Sudeikis) is a grieving husband after his wife (Jessica Biel) and soon to be daughter unexpectedly dies. In the morning of the day she dies, she asks him to talk to the teenage girl she keeps seeing rummaging through the garbage. He soon meets the young girl, Millie (Maisie Williams) who has issues of her own and distrusts him at first. The two soon build an unlikely friendship. Overall I found this movie to be so so and a bit slow, but it did have some good moments.

YOUTH IN OREGON
Raymond is a cranky man who lives with his wife, daughter, her husband and her daughter. Raymond living with them puts a strain on the husband who keeps suggesting assisted living homes. One day Raymond, who is sick, decides he wants to be the one to decide when he dies. He tells his family he hired a driver and is going to Oregon, where he's from, to talk to a doctor who will help end his life. His daughter, understandable freaks out and tries to stop it but to no avail. Her husband says he will go with him and talk to him out of.

The film is somewhat of a dysfunctional family movie. Great cast consisting of Frank Langella, Billy Crudup, Mary Kay Place, Josh Lucas and Christina Applegate. The film made me both laugh and cry, but I expected more from it. I expected to like it more and it's hard for me to put my finger on why I didn't like it more, but I was underwhelmed. I'd recommend catching it on Netflix though.

BETWEEN US
Between Us tells the story of long term couple Dianne and Henry. They feel pressured by their parents to get married and to buy an apartment. Their relationship seems unhealthy and dysfunctional, they both appear bored, and they both spend time with people of the opposite sex. One night they excitedly decide to get married, and the next day go to City Hall, and then everything seems to go downhill. They start questioning if they want to be together forever. They start discussing their issues- which turns into a fight and causes Henry to leave. They both have their first night without the other in a long time. How do they decide to spend it?

I was really looking forward to seeing this movie but I didn't like it at all. I felt it had potential in the beginning and then got meh. I would recommend skipping this one.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mr Church (2016) Tribeca 2016

Eddie Murphy plays Mr Church, a man who was hired to cook for a single mother and her daughter for the six months that the mother had left to live with breast cancer. However months became years and Mr Church became part of the family.

There is no getting around it  but Bruce Beresford's film wears it's heart on it's sleeve and the structure of the film follows a well worn cinematic pattern but if you can get past that MR CHURCH reveals itself to be a deeply moving film. There is great truths in the film and the film had me tearing up repeatedly during it's run time.

The there are a couple of reasons the film works so well. As I said above the has great truths lurking with in it. Watching the film's first half I was amazed at how much the film got right about being in a house with a dying matriarch. Watching the sequences play out I was reminded of the slow deterioration of my mother from a variety of factors. The declaration of Charlotte's mother that she promised to be around for her prom reminded me of conversations I had with my mother during some of the bad times. I also was moved by how the anger one feels in various situations isn't hidden.

The best thing in the film is Eddie Murphy. Yes the role is the sort of film is played as a man who can do anything, and in lesser hands the role would have been pure cliche, but Murphy, giving one of his finest performances lifts the film up to be something special. Murphy's performance is for the most part quietly contained. There is the occasional outburst, but largely Church wanders through the film as a kind of mythic savior...or would have had Murphy not imbued him with something more. There is a hidden life behind the facade that Church shows, and we see it not in the out bursts but in the activity behind the eyes. Watch the sequences when the adult Charlotte shows up unannounced at Church's door. Its clear he loves her and is willing to help her to a point but you can see the conflict going on behind his eyes. He does not want her there and wants his privacy. It's a notion that makes a on of the final scenes all the more touching.

After the Tribeca press screening I got into a discussion with some friends who didn't like the film. To them the film didn't do anything special and hit all of the expected plot points. I couldn't argue that  and I agreed, but as I have said there is a magic and realness to the small moments that make the film truly something special. It is as if screenwriter Susan McMartin, who based this on her own life, knew that for the film to have the desired effect and not be maudlin, she would have to forgo some of the complexity a less standard issue story telling would create. She structured film as a kind of eulogy for Mr Church who is being remembered by a young woman who saw him as something special, so there is no room for some of the layers a more clear eyed telling would engender.

Ultimately this is a film and story that is all about the heart and not the head. Intellectually I could rightly agree about the films flaws, but this isn't about the things we know instead its about what we feel. All of the discussions are about how we feel for each other, not about what we think. As such it makes perfect sense that this is an emotional film, a film of the heart and not the head. When you see this film, throw out reason and simply let yourself feel this film.

I unabashedly love this film with all my heart. One of the best films at Tribeca and maybe one of my favorites of 2016.