Friday, March 31, 2017

BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL Announces 20th Anniversary Edition Presented by Stella Artois

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, March 30, 2017 - Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), the first international, competitive film festival in New York, has closed submissions for its milestone 20th anniversary edition. BFF received a total of 2,650 films from 120 countries and will select roughly 130 film premieres to be announced in May. The films are divided in six categories: Feature Narrative, Feature Doc, Short Narrative, Short Doc, Experimental and Animation.

BFF’s selection criteria, a 20-year-old set of rules, constitutes the true festival’s trademark. Participating films cannot be older than two years. Films are selected from the submissions only. All the selected films are shown twice. All the selected films participate in the competition. And the smallest film can win the top festival award: The Grand Chameleon.

The festival will run from June 2 through June 11 at our two main venues: Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg and Windmill Studios NYC in Greenpoint. Additional programming will be presented on June 5 and 6 at Syndicated in Bushwick and on June 9 at UnionDocs in Williamsburg. On June 3, BFF will present its 13th annual kidsfilmfest at Made in NY Media Center by IFP in Dumbo. And on June 10, the 6th annual Exchange program will be hosted by Kickstarter in Greenpoint.

BFF Executive Director Marco Ursino said of the 2017 edition, “BFF is 20 years old and it’s a real celebration to share our own film experience with Brooklyn and the world! Since inception, BFF has reviewed more than 30,000 projects and showed in competition more than 2,000 films. We want to honor the indie filmmaker, creativity, resourcefulness and determination, and to celebrate our audience and Brooklyn’s amazing popularity. The 20th BFF is going to be extroverted and fun. More screenings and venues than ever before and a few special events where the audience, the filmmakers, the industry and the media will be able to connect and share. This year’s festival is without a doubt the most ambitious project to date and I can’t think of a better partner than Stella Artois to create situations that are both fun and productive. Stella Artois has been supporting the indie film industry for a very long time and their experience is certainly going to enhance our networking efforts. We are particularly excited to share in part Stella’s commitment to water.org and their charitable Clean Water campaign.”

About Stella Artois
Stella Artois® is part of a Belgian brewing tradition dating back to 1366. It is the No. 1 Belgian beer in the world and is present in over 95 countries. Stella Artois® is a bottom filtered, blonde pilsner. It is thirst quenching with a malty middle and crisp finish delivering a full flavor and a hint of bitterness. Stella Artois® is best enjoyed served between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius and should be served in the unique Stella Artois® Chalice according to the 9-Step Pouring Ritual to guarantee a perfect experience of this gold standard lager. Visit www.stellaartois.com for more information.

BFF’s list of sponsors for 2017 also includes WNET, Eurochannel, G-Star Raw, Panavision, AbelCine, and for the 6th year, the truly innovative TBWA/CHIAT/DAY that will create our promotional campaign. As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, BFF is supported, in part, by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

In each of the six film categories, BFF’s judges will select Best Film, Spirit Award and Audience Award winners. From all the six categories combined, BFF will award one of each of the following: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Composer, Best Editor, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenplay Writer, Best Producer and Best New Director. Through the resources of our sponsors, BFF will assign to the winning filmmakers over $60,000 in prizes (products, services, and cash).

About the programmers
BFF’s Feature Narrative programmer is Emilia Ferreira. She’s been making films since the age of 14. After her Journalism and Mass Communications studies in Brazil and the US, she started her career as a photographer and art director. The Feature Documentary programmer is Julie Bridgham, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She directed and produced “The Sari Soldiers,” for which she received the Nestor Almendros Prize for courage and commitment in human rights filmmaking, and both a Sundance and IFP Documentary Fellowship. Natalie Gee, a multiple short film producer leads BFF’s Short Narrative category. Brandon Harrison, a graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television is the Short Documentary programmer. Melanie Abramov, a BFF Alumni and director from Brooklyn, is the Experimental category programmer. She received her BFA from Parsons School of Design and later founded her production company, Dame Productions, which lends a necessary and provocative voice to women in media. Julia Cowle, BFF’s Animation programmer, is an independent filmmaker, illustrator, animator, and comedy writer.

About the Exchange
For the sixth consecutive year, on June 10 from 11am-5pm at Kickstarter in Greenpoint, the festival will continue its BFF Exchange, aimed ultimately at connecting filmmakers with film distributors. BFF Exchange will feature a pitch session, panels and a Happy Hour.

About KFF
On Saturday, June 3 from 1pm-3pm at Made in NY Media Center by IFP, BFF will present the 13th annual kidsfilmfest, which aims to discover, expose and promote the youngest generation of filmmakers. The film program is tailored for children of all ages (films are rated "G"), and consists of numerous animated shorts, documentaries and live-action films. A Q&A with the filmmakers and a filmmaker's workshop will follow the program.

About BFF
The organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival have been staging International, competitive film events since 1998. BFF's mission is to provide a public forum in Brooklyn in order to advance public interest in films and the independent production of films, to draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema, to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking, and to promote artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure. BFF, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

For more info about the festival please visit www.brooklynfilmfestival.org.
For more info about kidsfilmfest, visit www.kidsfilmfest.org.

Oscilloscope is giving 100 toy kittens

Ceyda Torun's supremely delightful KEDi is poised to cross $2,000,000 at the box office this weekend! To thank those who have supported the film throughout its tremendous run in theaters, Oscilloscope is giving 100 lucky fans who comment about the film on Facebook their very own cute cuddly kitten, just like in the film! All they have to do is reply to O-Scope's post with “I < 3 # Kedifilm"
Then State why they deserve a new kitty.
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Facebook post

Twitter post

For more information about the film and current screening locations, please visit http://kedi.oscilloscope.net/.

Rob Zombie's 31 (2016)

After several projects, including  collapsed  or were pushed aside including a biography of Groucho Marx Rob Zombie retreated back into the horror realm with 31, a well made film with a script that simply isn't there.

The plot of the film has a group of carnival workers being kidnapped and forced to play a game called 31 on Halloween. If they can survive for 12 hours in some sort of vast complex while hunted by clown like nazis then they can go free.

That's it, that the plot. There is nothing else here.

Well done scenes of mayhem all nicely staged without any sort of real reason to see them. There is no linking material other than a slender thread with the result that we just don't care. More importantly it just doesn't feel finished.

What the film feels like was Zombie brought a bunch of his friends together, many are Zombie regulars, and they made stuff as they went along. They probably assume that they'd work out how to link it all up but they never did.

To be honest the bits on their own terms aren't bad. The flop that you kind of assume the carnival people will be the bad guys but are instead victims works nicely. The problem is nothing hangs together.

The absolute best tings in the film are the opening and closing with a white faced nut job- the first where he torments a chained up minister. Its a glorious piece that has a great deal of promise- which is never realized until the final sequence of the lone survivor stumbling down a road as the white faced nut drives up in a black van. The sequence scored to Aerosmith's dream on is a masterpiece- which regrettably most people will never see since most people will have turned the film off long before.

WHile ROb Zombie is great director who ends up with uneven films- here I have to side with the nay sayers and wonder what the hell he is doing.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Blackcoat’s Daughter: February Chills Your Soul

What school has its semester break in February? It sounds like particularly poor planning for a boarding school in the snowy Northeast. Indeed, the staff assumes two of their students’ parents have been waylaid by the weather, but we suspect something much more sinister is afoot in Osgood Perkin’s The Blackcoat’s Daughter  (a.k.a. February), which A24 and DirecTV will release in theaters and On-Demand March 31, 2017.

Lucy the upperclassman deliberately gave her parents incorrect information to allow herself more time to deal with what she suspects is an unwanted pregnancy. In contrast, young Kat was eagerly anticipating the arrival of her parents, but she fears her nightmarish visions of an icy car crash have come true. Something very bad will happen during their long lonely night at Bramford, which will continue to reverberate nine years later.

In that later timeline, Joan Marsh is trying to reach Bramford as quickly as possible, even though she is conspicuously unprepared for the harsh winter weather. Presumably, she is quite fortunate to get picked up by Bill and Linda, but they too have a troubling backstory. Apparently, she reminds him of their late daughter, a Bramford student who was brutally murdered. Obviously, the trauma left them permanently damaged, but they might also be somewhat cracked. Eventually, all the relationships become clear as Perkins cuts between storylines.

Perkins is the son of Anthony Perkins, the original Norman Bates, and he definitely upholds the standards of the family business. Blackcoat is an extraordinarily disciplined horror film that cranks up the tension through the power of suggestion and uncertainty rather than messy special effects. In a more just world, Blackcoat would be a shoe-in for an Academy Award for its profoundly unsettling ambient sound design and that ghostly “Deedle, deedle, Blackcoat’s daughter, what was in the holy water” song would at least be one of the ceremony’s musical numbers, regardless whether it is Oscar-eligible. The spartan deserted prep school setting is also eerie as all get out.

Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts are creepy as heck as Kat and Marsh. However, it is James Remar and Lauren Holly who really kick the film up several notches as Bill and Linda. We’re talking about some stinging, push-you-into-the-back-of-your-seat work here. They also provide some helpful misdirection for a twist that really isn’t that hard to anticipate—however, its implications are deeply disturbing.

There is no doubt Perkins has a keen grasp of what makes the demonic so profoundly terrifying. He also has a practical understanding of horror movie mechanics. This is a scary movie, precisely because of its subtlety and exacting mise-en-scène. Highly recommended for smart horror fans, The Blackcoat’s Daughter opens tomorrow (3/31) in New York, at the Village East.

Live Cargo (2016)

Reaction to LIVE CARGO at last years Tribeca film festival was very mixed. Some people loved it, some hated it and most of the others were split about the film and it's changing narrative.

The plot concerns an American couple who travel to the Bahamas in order to get over a tragedy that is in danger of fracturing their relationship. As they attempt to heal they get involved with a young man who is involved in a human trafficking.

This is a beautifully shot black and white film that is very serious abut the stories it is telling. It is full of gorgeous shots and sequences every image, sound and line of dialog is full of meaning.Rarely have I encountered any art film as intense about being about something as LIVE CARGO is. Its so insistent that it is about something that I kind of wanted to slap it and tell it to take a chill pill. This film is very tightly wound.

To be quite honest I don't know what to make of this film. The not quite split narrative is nice but at the same time it never allows us to fully engage with all of the characters on an emotional level. I could tell you what I was supposed to feel from moment to moment but at the same time I never really felt it,

This is kind of an interesting misfire.

May/June Repertory and Special Events Calendar Announced

Here is a list of what is coming up at New York's Metrograph

May 18-21
Terry Zwigoff
Complete Retrospective with Zwigoff In-Person!

Terry Zwigoff never seemed to belong to the careerist, wheeler-dealer world of the Sundance indie, and that’s part of his charm. Catapulted to prominence with Crumb (1995/120 mins/35mm), his instant classic documentary of underground legend R. Crumb, Zwigoff went on to reel out a trio of blackly-comic fiction films which altogether offer a jaundiced, screamingly funny portrait the 21st century America which had paved over the old folk culture he celebrates and cherishes: Ghost World (2001/112 mins/35mm), Bad Santa (2003/91 mins/35mm) and Art School Confidential (2006/102 mins/35mm). Louie Bluie (1985/60 mins/digital) will also screen. Zwigoff will be in NY and appearing in-person for screenings; his Amazon TV pilot, Budding Prospects, just premiered.
Begins May 24
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Marlene Dietrich
19 Films!

Chanteuse and actress, archetypal Berliner and ardent American antifascist, brooding sex symbol and willful camp icon, a paragon of feminine glamor who was as comfortable in top hat and tails or gorilla suit as in a ballgown—come fall in love again with Marlene Dietrich. In seven collaborations with Josef Von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, Blonde Venus, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, The Devil Is A Woman and The Scarlet Empress), one of the great director/actress pairs of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Dietrich was never less than her inimitable, beguiling self, a prismatic personage whose many glittering facets will be on display at Metrograph. In films directed by Alfred Hichcock (Stage Fright), Orson Wells (Touch of Evil), Billy Wilder (A Foreign Affair), Fritz Lang (Rancho Notorious), Frank Borzage (Desire), and Rouben Mamoulian (The Song of Songs), Dietrich was no less iconic. Additional titles include Angel, Destry Rides Again, The Lady is Willing, and Judgement at Nuremburg. R.W. Fassbinder's Lola, inspired by Dietrich, will also screen, as well as Maximilian Schell's Marlene, a documentary about the actress. All 35mm except Marlene.
Begins May 27
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Ozu in Color
4 Films in 35mm

Often unfairly tagged as a traditionalist, Yasujirō Ozu was in fact entirely a man of his times—a keen social observer who tracked the tectonic shifts in Japanese life for more than thirty years, and an ardent cinephile who responded readily to changes in film grammar and technology. Both tendencies are on display in this program of his radiant late-career color films, from television-saturation satire Good Morning (1959/94 mins) to the tender study of changing gender roles in Equinox Flower (1958/118 mins). If there is such a thing as cinematic perfection, it looks quite a bit like this. The End of Summer (1961/103 mins) and An Autumn Afternoon (1962/113 mins) will also screen.
June 2-4
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Imported from France: Four Masterpieces in 35mm
Beau Travail, The Trial of Joan of Arc, Life of Jesus, and Série noire

Sometimes word is received that a 35mm print, unavailable in the US, will be soon arriving on these shores. Or perhaps there is a film programmers are eager to show, and must import the print. So, apropos of nothing other than not allowing a chance to project these films go by, Metrograph is thrilled to present four masterpieces of French cine: Beau Travail (Claire Denis/1999/92 mins), The Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson/1962/62 mins), The Life of Jesus (Bruno Dumont/1997/97 mins), and Série noire (Alain Corneau/1979/115 mins).
June 3-8
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Robert Bresson Part 2

To follow-up "Bresson x 6" from November, Metrograph will screen four more films from the great director: The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962/65 mins/35mm), Une Femme Douce (1969/88 mins/DCP), Diary of a Country Priest (1951/115 mins/35mm), and Mouchette (1967/78 mins/35mm).
June 15-21
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Magnum Photo at 70
Celebrating Masters of the Still and Moving Image from the
Most Prestigious Photo Organization in the World

Founded as a cooperative in Paris in 1947 by an exceptional group whose number included Robert Capa, Maria Eisner, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, to this day Magnum Photos is administered by its members, whose collected work comprises one of the most integral records of life on this planet since the Second World War. Timed to their 70th anniversary, Metrograph is honored to welcome Magnum legends including Martin Parr and Susan Meiselas to present their film work, along with films by Elliott Erwitt and many more.
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Ongoing Series

Throughout May and June

Welcome to Metrograph: S, Part II
This is the eighth installment in a year-long, alphabetically ordered series that offers films the programmers at Metrograph consider must-sees; a pinnacle of a filmmaker’s career or an overlooked, demands-reconsideration masterpiece. Titles include Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995), Sauve qui peut (la vie) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1980), The Set-Up (Robert Wise, 1949), Seven Men from Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956), The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Ivan Dixon, 1973), Smithereens (Susan Seidelman, 1982), Streetwise (Martin Bell, 1984), Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror), and more! All films in 35mm unless specified otherwise.
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Special Events
May 3

Sneak Preview: Azazel Jacobs' The Lovers

Azazel Jacobs' The Lovers is about an affair–but an affair that heats up, unforeseen, between a disenchanted, dreaming-of-divorce couple who are each already having complicated, adulterous affairs with two other people. Starring Debra Winger in her most complex role in years and Tracy Letts in a breakout performance – as the wife and husband two-timing on the lovers they are two-timing with – the film hones in on the comedic, sometimes heart-wrenching, ways that human beings express their need to be loved. Jacobs, one of the most important young American filmmakers working today (Momma's Man, Doll and Em), will appear in-person and The Lovers opens Friday, May 5. An A24 Release.
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May 13

Ian Buruma Presents The Makioka Sisters

On the occasion of the publication of Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Maids and Devils in Daylight by New Directions, writer and professor Ian Buruma will present Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters (1985/140 mins/35mm). Among the greatest Japanese films of the 1980s, Ichikawa’s wistful adaptation of Tanizaki’s novel about the four daughters of a prosperous Osaka family in decline, set in the before-the-storm year of 1938.
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May 13

Steven Soderbergh Presents Suture with Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel
New Restoration of 90s Indie Classic

Lumped in with the then-contemporary “neo-noir” cycle but actually quite unlike anything else on the scene, directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s brain-twisting murder mystery in sordid black-and-white widescreen has Dennis Haysbert as the classic fall guy, stricken with amnesia after his near-identical half-brother (Vincent Towers) swaps their identities and pins a family murder on him—and this is before a plastic surgeon called Renee Descartes (Mel Harris) shows up. A cult item whose advocates include Steven Soderbergh, who will be on hand to present this new restoration with McGehee and Siegel.
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May 14

Mother's Day Movie Brunch
This Mother's Day, spend the day at Metrograph with two favorites, depending on one's capacity for laughter and tears: Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks/1983/132 mins) and Freaky Friday (Gary Nelson/1976/98 mins/35mm). A special brunch menu for the Commissary will be available.
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May 24

Charlie Ahearn Presents Wild Style
New York Hip Hop Classic in 35mm!
Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, the Cold Crush Brothers, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, Busy Bee—they’re all here and in their prime in the hip-hop movie that started it all, shot semidocumentary style in the Boogie Down Bronx, following the exploits of Zoro (Quiñones), an intrepid graffiti artist who attracts the attention of an East Village art collector. Timed to his exhibition at PPOW opening May 11, director Charlie Ahearn will appear in-person.
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June 4

Steve De Jarnatt Presents Miracle Mile
End of the World Cult Classic
Jazz musician Anthony Edwards is walking on clouds, coming off a successful first date with waitress Mare Winningham, when a voice on the other end of a ringing pay phone informs him that the U.S. has just entered into nuclear war and The End is Nigh. What follows is a frantic real-time scramble up and down Wilshire Boulevard, in hopes of making the most of what may be the last night on earth. Director Steve De Jarnatt will appear-in person.
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June 8-11

Making Rent in Bed-Stuy with Brandon Harris

On the occasion of the release of critic, professor, curator and filmmaker Brandon Harris’s first book, Making Rent in Bed-Stuy: A Memoir of Trying to Making it in New York City, Metrograph will present six films that speak to the neighborhood and the surrounding area’s rich cultural and political legacy as a black space, the lives of some of its most famous scions and as a bulwark, increasingly imperiled, for Brooklyn’s black population. Titles include Crooklyn, Nasty Baby, Bed-Stuy: Do or Die, Jay Z: Fade to Black, Shirley Chisolm: Unbossed and Unbought, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, and Making Do the Right Thing. Harris will appear in-person on opening night.
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June 18

Father's Day

Say thanks for all the movies he took you to, with these two Dad-favorites: belly laughs with Hold that Ghost (Arthur Lubin/1941/85 mins/35mm) or punching Nazis with Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg/1981/115 mins/35mm). A special menu will be available at the Commissary, announced soon, which may or may not include some junk food.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

EARTHxFilm presented by Earth Day Texas Announces Full Schedule for Festival Debut (April 20-23)

Jeff Orlowski’s CHASING CORAL will be the Opening Night selection, leading off a film festival with award-winning and notable titles like Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s FOOD EVOLUTION, Roger Williams and David Mcllvride’s RIVERBLUE, and Roger Sorkin’s TIDEWATER

First Look Features and Works in Projects include Rameen Aminzadeh’s BIGGER THAN WATER, Shannon Service and Jeff Waldman’s THE GHOST FLEET, Jamie Redford’s HAPPENING, and Beau Ethridge and Daniel Nanasi’s WHERE’S THE FOOD? (WTF?)

Dallas, TX (March 29, 2017) – EARTHxFilm, presented by Earth Day Texas (EDTx), today announced the full slate of films, presentations, and panels for the environmentally focused film festival’s debut at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas on April 20-23. Jeff Orlowski’s CHASING CORAL will be the Opening Night selection for a Gala Presentation on Thursday, April 20, complete with a Green Carpet at the Music Hall at Fair Park (909 1st Avenue). Among the 18 feature films, 33 shorts, 5 virtual reality (VR) projects, and 6 works in progress, are films exploring highly charged topics such as the state of the oceans and rivers, our food and water sources, clean energy, GMOs, sustainable farming, overwhelming plastic pollution, threats to our national security due to rising sea levels, and more.

Earth Day Texas CEO Ryan Brown said, “Creating EARTHxFilm within Earth Day Texas is an opportunity to use the power of film to greatly enhance our mission to educate the public about the reality of our planet’s environment, as well as better illustrate the possibilities going forward further inspiring people to take action in a personal way. This impressive slate of films, projects, and panels, does all of that as well as being very entertaining.”

EARTHxFilm Founder/President, Michael Cain, added, “We have been fortunate in our very first year to secure award-winning films, provocative films, and some very entertaining and exciting cinema with a focus on the environment, as well as offer up a number of first-look opportunities for our audiences to see films and projects that have the potential to make a real difference in people’s lives in the future. The caliber of filmmakers and organizations who are supporting our inaugural effort only highlights the immediacy of the issues we face and the real quest for viable solutions that films help provide.”

Orlowski’s award-winning CHASING CORAL follows the filmmaker’s devastating documentary CHASING ICE (2012) which created irrefutable, visual proof of the melting ice caps, with another startling look at the status of one of the world’s most important ecosystems. Coral reefs are the nursery for all life in the oceans, a remarkable ecosystem that sustains us. Yet with carbon emissions warming the seas, a phenomenon called “coral bleaching”—a sign of mass coral death—has been accelerating around the world, and the public has no idea of the scale or implication of the catastrophe silently raging underwater. The film serves as a clarion call to do something before it gets too late.

In addition to two previously announced high profile titles that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell’s LOOK AND SEE: A PORTRAIT OF WENDELL BERRY, Susan Froemke and John Hoffman’s RANCHER, FARMER, FISHERMAN), other notable films presented during the inaugural edition of EARTHxFilm include; Oscar nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s FOOD EVOLUTION, which looks at the controversy surrounding GMOs and food in a film narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson; Roger Williams and David Mcllvride’s RIVERBLUE, which features international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, and is narrated by Jason Priestley in a groundbreaking documentary examining the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and possible solutions to a dire situation; Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel’s award-winning SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY, which follows passionate seed keepers (including farmers, scientists, and lawyers) fighting to protect the world’s 12,000 year-old food legacy from biotech chemical companies attempting to control the majority of our seeds – and thus, the food we are allowed to eat; and Roger Sorkin’s TIDEWATER, which looks at how the U.S. military is fighting to save its highest concentration of bases from sea level rise, attempting to solve one of the greatest challenges to our national security and economic prosperity the nation has ever faced.

Free outdoor screenings include Bill Kroyer’s FERNGULLY (1992), the animated tale about the fight by the magical inhabitants of a rainforest to save their home, and David Lowery’s hit live-action updating of the Disney classic, PETE’S DRAGON. Fans of 70s kitschy horror, will get a kick out of George McCowan’s FROGS (1972), where a wealthy patriarch (Ray Milland) and his family see his birthday celebration on an island estate interrupted by killer amphibians, birds, insects, and reptiles.

EARTHxFilm will also feature a number of special screenings and works in progress highlighted by; Rameen Aminzadeh’s BIGGER THAN WATER, produced in Dallas, about the efforts of Flint, Michigan’s residents to fix their contaminated water systems that a politically negligent system created; a sneak peak of 15 minutes of Shannon Service and Jeff Waldman’s THE GHOST FLEET, with producer Jon Bowermaster in attendance, which will combine film footage and a panel discussion focusing on the connections between the decline of fishing stocks and human trafficking via the forced labor of commercial fishermen; Jamie Redford’s HAPPENING, about the filmmaker’s colorful personal journey into the dawn of the clean energy era as it creates jobs, turns profits, and makes communities stronger and healthier across the US; and Beau Ethridge and Daniel Nanasi’s WHERE’S THE FOOD? (WTF?), which will also combine key clips and footage from their film, and a panel discussion by the principals featured in the film, about the sustainable solutions to the food deserts plaguing Dallas, Texas, where 500,000 people are food insecure.

Virtual Reality (VR) will have a major presence at the film festival, with projects set for EARTHxFilm including; Jessie Hughes’s AMOR DE ABUELA – A GRANDMOTHER’S LOVE, which shows how a Guatemalan family’s life is transformed when their grandmother gains access to electricity and light; Sarah Hill’s “ARE YOU LISTENING?” Congo – Amazon, which is a multi-chapter video experience that combines immersive journalism with stories about how energy poverty is threatening lives in eastern Congo and sacred lands of the indigenous people in the Amazon; Jeff Orlowski’s CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE, a powerful extension of Orlowski’s documentary under the same title, about the quest of a group of filmmakers and ocean scientists to provide visual proof of climate change; Cascade Game Foundry SPC’s INFINITE SCUBA VR, which takes you on a virtual dive in Belize with legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle; and Sophie Ansel’s OUT OF THE BLUE, which puts the viewer within the world of a family of fishermen in Mexico as they sacrifice their livelihood to save open ocean sea life from overfishing.

Festival passes and tickets are on-sale now. For more information, please go to earthxfilm.org.


2017 EARTHxFilm Official Selections:

UNIVERSAL IN THE '70s: PART 2 at Metrograph April 6-20

The Second Part of Series Celebrating Anything-Goes Studio Filmmaking Featuring Films by Sidney Lumet, Paul Schrader, Don Siegel, and more! All 35mm!

Beginning Thursday April 6, Metrograph will present the second part of "Universal in the '70s," a celebration of anything-goes studio filmmaking. Starting with executive Ned Tanen’s storied “youth division”, no studio so completely embraced New Hollywood’s spirit of upheaval and high-wire experiment as did Universal. In this visionary decade, Universal fostered young upstarts like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, imported Miloš Forman for his U.S. debut, and gave a free hand to old pros like Hitchcock and Don Siegel (and his understudy Clint Eastwood). In these more tepid times, Universal’s track record provides a shining, necessary example of what a studio with conviction can do. Continuing where it left off in January, "Universal in the '70s: Part 2" includes films by Jerry Schatzberg, Paul Newman, Frank Perry, Clint Eastwood, Paul Schrader, John Landis, Philip Kaufman, and more!

Titles include:
The Seduction of Joe Tynan (Jerry Schatzberg/1979/108 mins)
Sometimes a Great Notion (Paul Newman/1970/114 mins)
Slaughterhouse Five (George Roy Hill/1972/104 mins)
The Beguiled (Don Siegel/1971/105 mins)
Diary of a Mad Housewife (Frank Perry/1970/104 mins)
Play Misty for Me (Clint Eastwood/1971/102 mins)
Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (Abraham Polonsky/1969/98 mins)
They Might Be Giants (Anthony Harvey/1971/98 mins)
Blue Collar (Paul Schrader/1978/114 mins)
The Sentinel (Michael Winner/1977/92 mins)
The Wiz (Sidney Lumet/1978/134 mins)
National Lampoon's Animal House (John Landis/1978/109 mins)
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Philip Kaufman/1972/91 mins)
Which Way Is Up? (Michael Schultz/1977/94 mins)

For ticket and more information go here

GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM (2016)

Beginning with the finding of the body of Linda Bishop in an empty house in New Hampshire, GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM works backwards to explore how she got there. It is a heart breaking, almost too painful to watch tale of a woman who was unable to help herself and who died alone during a freezing winter.

The story of Linda Bishop is reconstructed through interviews with friends, family, those who tried to help her and the notebooks she left behind. Bishop grew up a well loved and friendly young girl however serious mental illness crept in and she found herself institutionalized. Bishop ever the free spirit wanted to be free and when she could she left the hospital, aware that it may not be the best thing but knowing she couldn't stay. What happens will rock your world.

Almost too painful for words and incredibly sad GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM is a blow to the chest. A tale that could end up being one that anyone of us follows this was a film that made me look away several times. The fact that I could connect the story to a similarly now deceased friend made the film close to unbearable for me to see. Bishop's tale is not an isolated one.

I am broken

Despite being difficult to watch GOD KNOWS is an important and vital film. It is a film that reveals that there is much that needs to be done to help those with problems. It is a film that quietly and powerfully illustrates what some people with mental illness are going through.

Highly recommended when the film opens Friday.

WIld (2016) Kino 2017

Joe Bendel saw WILD last year at Sundance. I am reposting his review which originally ran at JB Spins to tie into this years KINO series in New York. I have seen the film and I think that this is one of the must sees at KINO this year, however having seen the film twice I still can't put adequate words together to do the film justice.

Wolves are solitary creatures, but they mate for life. Perhaps that is why Ania is attracted to them. By ‘attracted,” we mean in the most provocative way possible. The call of the wild is strangely seductive to her in Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild (trailer here), which screened during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Ania is a mousy office drone, but her blowhard boss can see just enough of the swan beneath her ugly duckling exterior to skirt the boundary of sexual harassment. Yet, Ania hardly seems to notice. She just plugs away, maintaining her emotional distance from everyone around her. One night, she locks eyes with a wolf on the edge of the woods surrounding her drab apartment building. Strangely, it is her first real connection that we know of. Soon she is leaving meat for it, hoping to win its trust. After an aborted attempt, she successfully entraps and smuggles him into an abandoned flat in her complex.

Initially, the wolf is generally not receptive to her plans. He is rather loud, hostile, and smelly, demonstrating several reasons why exotic pets are such a terrible idea. However, as their “courtship” progresses, Ania and the wolf come to an understanding. Yes, it will have a physical component. Yet, she is not just drawn to the wolf. She also finds his “lifestyle” enticing.

It is important viewers do not confuse the various films simply titled Wild. One features a beautiful actress doing awards caliber work and the other is a light-weight Reese Witherspoon vehicle. Fortunately, this is the former (though technically it is the later production). It also seems to bear comparison to Roar, the notorious Tippi Hedren film, in which the cast was regularly mauled by poorly trained lions. Human-wolf proximity is downright intimate here as well. It all gets rather alarming for safety reasons, rather than prurient concerns. However, wolf trainers Zoltan Horkai and peter Ivanyi deserve credit for the masterful control, as does lead actress Lilith Stangenberg for her nerves of steel.

Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise Stangenberg did not walk away with this year’s performance award. This is one of the darnedest empowerment arcs you will ever see, but she makes every animalistic step believable. Krebitz’s aesthetic is pretty severe and she lets the film get a slow start out of the blocks, but somehow she manages to take the potentially lurid material and make it feel dignified and cerebral.

Too bad Sundance does not have an animal handling award, because Wild would have won in a landslide (the same would have been true for White God last year). If you want to see a film about human-lupine relations and not feel guilty or embarrassed about it afterward than this is the one you have been waiting for. It is also worth seeing for the rest of us, thanks to Stangenberg’s fearless (in several ways) breakout performance, so expect to see it programmed aggressively, following its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Fukushima Mon Amour (2016) KINO 2017

This is a repost of Joe Bendel's review at JB Spins which ran during the Los Angeles German Currents series this past fall.

Technically, the former Fukushima disaster area is now considered safe for human occupation, but unlike the still off limits Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, older residents have been much more reluctant to recolonize. At least that is how it looks to the worst German expatriate clown in Japan. Much to her own surprise, she feels compelled to help Fukushima’s last geisha return to her home in Doris Dörrie’s Fukushima, Mon Amour (trailer here), which screens during the Kino Series here in New York.

Reeling from a wedding jilting, Marie has volunteered for the NGO Clowns4Help to bring some joy into the lives of elderly disaster survivors. It was not a well thought-out decision. Frankly, she is not a very good clown and probably an even worse human being. Just when she is about to slink off in disgrace, Satomi convinces the expat to drive her to her now dilapidated house in Fukushima. When Marie realizes Satomi isn’t leaving, she more or less decides to stay as well.

The tall German is relatively helpful when it comes to clearing rubble, but she eats a lot. More troubling, her misery acts like a magnet for all the local ghosts. Rather awkwardly for Satomi, this includes her late pupil Yuki, whose death remains a profound source of guilt and angst for the geisha.

Mon Amour is very definitely about the figurative and literal ghosts haunting Japan, but it also has a gently absurdist sense of humor. Frankly, giving Marie charm school lessons in the middle of the scarred wasteland really doesn’t seem so outlandish when you are caught up in the moment. After all, they have to do something to pass the time.

Kaori Momoi gives an Oscar caliber performance as Satomi. She is an ageless beauty, but also a forceful, no b.s. presence (if you doubt it, watch her steal the show in Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django). Yet, she also vividly and directly conveys all of Momoi’s pain and remorse, while delivering some surprisingly tart one-liners. She and the gawky Rosalie Thomass make an effective odd couple pairing, but it is an unequal partnership.

Nanoko’s Yuki is disconcertingly beautiful and unsettling, duly following the grandly tragic tradition of Japanese movie ghosts. Honsho Hayasaka also adds healthy servings of humility and attitude as Jushoku, the sake-pounding Buddhist monk who is just starting to feel again. (FYI, it is good to know they have regularly serviced sake vending machines conveniently located throughout Japan.) Clowns with Borders founder Moshe Cohen and musician Nami Kamata merit shout-outs as well for being good sports. Essentially playing themselves, they deserve better help than Marie.

Hanno Lentz’s absolutely arresting black-and-white cinematography perfectly captures the barren, surreal-in-real-life post-3/11 landscape. This is an elegant, finely tuned film that ought to be playing at more of the  film festivals, especially given Dörrie’s considerable international reputation. Very highly recommended

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Carrie Pilby (2017)

I loved this film so much. I texted several friends right after, telling them they must see it when it comes out.

 Carrie Pilby is the story of Carrie, a 19 year old girl living in New York City with a high IQ who went to Harvard at the age of 14. She spends her time reading books and doesn’t have friends. She sees a therapist, played by Nathan Lane who gives her a list of several goals, such as make a friend, get a pet, go on a date, in hopes that doing these things will make Carrie a happier person.

 I don’t want to give away too much of this film, I think it’s better for people to just see for themselves. I found the humor to be very clever, I laughed out loud several times, and I thought the movie was sweet as well. I also cried. I loved all the actors in it. Ben Powley, who I first saw in Diary of a Teenage Girl in 2015 did a lovely job. I loved Nathan Lane as the therapist, William Mosley who plays her charming neighbor, Colin O’ Donough plays her professor. Gabriel Byrne plays her father, and Jason Ritter (John Ritter’s son) plays a man she meets from a personal ad.

I definitely recommend it.

So far, it’s my favorite film of 2017.

Carrie Pilby opens Friday

KINO Capsules-HANNA'S SLEEPING DOGS, ORIGINAL BLISS, THE VERDICT, and POWER TO CHANGE

HANNA'S SLEEPING DOGS
Decades after the end of the Second World War secrets are still being kept. When an unexploded bomb turns up the war is brought back to life including the fact that Johanna’s family are kind of outcasts - her mother and grandmother being secretly Jewish. Good drama kind of loses its way in insisting that it is about something. While the story remains compelling the air of importance hangs over the film which distracts from the story. To me the best films sneak up on you…this one doesn’t , it wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. That keeps the film just being good instead of something more.

ORIGINAL BLISS
A woman going through the motions of her life and who has lost all faith because God has seemingly abandoned her. She connects with a self help guru whom she hears on the radio and the two begin to spiral in towards each other.

Unexpected and quite moving film does not take the easy road in telling it's story of a life lived. I thought it was going to unfold in a conventional way but found that the twists and turns, not to mention the brilliant directorial storytelling choices make this one of the truly special films playing at KINO. The final section of the film is simply one of the most amazing sequences I've seen in a very long time (and I'm pissed because I can't tell you what it is other than its a sort of POV one because it would tell you where things go.

An absolute must see

THE VERDICT
Court room drama ran on German TV that ended with the audience voting guilty or not guilty. The result is gimmick film that is an interesting polemic and less a satisfying film. The plot concerns an airforce pilot brought to trial for downing a commercial aircraft that was hijacked. The planas going to be crashed into a packed soccer stadium and the only way to prevent a bigger tragedy was to shoot the plane down before hand. What is the correct choice? Food for thought but little else the film is all talk (this is all set in a court room)  and even though it only runs about 90 minutes my patience ran out about of the third of the way in.  More a curiosity than anything else.

POWER TO CHANGE
Documentary on initially focused on Edy Kraus who has the idea to use waste pellets to generate the energy needed for Germany. This then leads into a discussion of renewable energy sources and our future.

Good, if a tad flashy film is not going to break a lot of new ground for anyone who is already interested in new and sustainable energy sources, however the perspective on the subject from a German perspective makes the film worth seeing.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thoughts on TONY CONRAD:COMPLETELY IN THE PRESENT

TONY CONRAD:COMPLETELY IN THE PRESENT has left me staring at the screen wondering what the hell did I just see and why didn't I see it sooner. A portrait of the late composer, artist, teacher...mad man...the film is a wicked introduction to Conrad and his life's work.

The film is the story of Conrad from his early days traveling from Baltimore to Boston with stop overs in New York.  While waiting to change busses Conrad would take the subway down town to meet a friend who drew him into the Theatre of Eternal Music which included John Cale, Angus MacLise, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela. From there this lead to his working with Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and others. Conrad drifted into film, and other forms of art and performance.

While not for all tastes, Conrad's work tends to be single tonal, avant garde, experimental...basically non-mainstream, this is a truly mindblowing films for people who click with it. His music and performances are trancelike experiences, sometimes with projections that make them like Sigur Ros or God Speed You Black Emperors. His films, such as FLICKER are designed to produce an effect in the brain (which is why you'll want to see this is a darkened theater). I drifted on the music and image and the story of his life.

To be honest I don't have a great deal to say other than see it. While I know that the film is imperfect, for example Conrad's personal life appears and then disappears randomly, there is still something so incredibly compelling about the film. I know that there is a great deal to say about the film but I also know that I need to see the film again in the dark on a big screen with big sound.

The film plays in New York - March 31 - April 6 at the Anthology Film Archives

Film will also stream on MUBI starting April 8th, more info: at https://mubi.com

24 Weeks (2016) KINO 2017




Six months into her pregnancy well known comedian Astrid discovers that the baby she is carrying will most likely have severe handicaps. Her world rocked by the news she is forced to consider whether to keep the baby or go through with a late term abortion.

Belt yourself in it’s going to be a bumpy night as 24 Weeks brings home the questions surrounding abortion in ways most people have never considered. A heart breaking and heart rending film that raises all sorts of issues concerning what is best for the child and the family the film allows them to play out in effecting ways. I did not expect this to go as it did, nor did I expect this move me as much as it did. My first thought when the film ended was “whoa”. Not deep and meaningful but deeply heartfelt.

Forgive me I would love to discuss this film but to be honest this is one you need to experience for yourself. Anything I have to say ultimately isn’t going to matter. This is a film you need to see and discuss with other people who have just seen it. This is one of those films where I want to be in the room when the discussions happen. I can only imagine where any post screening Q&As are going to go or alternately what the discussions in the lobby are going to be like after.

This film will kick you to the curb and make you feel and think- a lot.

While not perfect, the film bends very close to be being polemic but the film seems to shy away from it because the characters and the emotion they convey keep the film away from being too intellectual. Ultimately this is a film that you feel.

Recommended. One of the most recommended films at KINO.

The Prison: Hard Time in Korea

The recidivism rate for this prison is darn near 100%, especially if you are fortunate enough to be quartered in Jung Ik-ho’s block. His men start re-offending almost right away, but their incarceration gives them an airtight alibi. It is a heck of a place for a disgraced cop to serve his sentence, but he happens to have a particular set of skills that will be of use to Jung in Na Hyun’s simply-titled The Prison, which opens this Friday in New York.

A lot of his fellow prisoners are here because of Song Yoo-gun, awkwardly including the top dog of his prison cell. He will take some harsh beatings, but he will quickly develop a survival strategy. It immediately becomes apparent the corrupt warden is not really running the show here. Jung is. He and his men live well in their cell block, where they plot outside jobs to keep the dirty money flowing. By interceding in situations where none of Jung’s other men are crazier enough to act, Song ingratiates himself with the non-aligned gangster. In fact, he quickly becomes one of Jung’s favorites, but he also has a secret you can probably guess.

Those who are familiar with the Well Go USA catalog might wonder if they are starting to repeat themselves, since Erik Matti excellent thriller On the Job starts with a similar premise, but Na Hyun takes it in a very different direction. Like just about every recent Korean thriller, Prison is preoccupied with issues of governmental corruption. Granted, Song has a dramatic backstory motivating him, but unlike Matti’s film, there is absolutely no attention given to the home front. Frankly, there is not a single woman to be seen throughout the film and only one is briefly heard over the phone (so some things about prison life are still a bummer).

On the other hand, there is plenty of cartilage-crunching action. Previously best known as the screenwriter of crowd-pleasers like Forever the Moment, Na Hyun gets his money’s worth with his directorial debut, going big with a truly explosive climax. The two lead antagonists also hold up their end, generating all kinds of hardboiled heat. Frankly, it is great fun watching the hateful-yet-respectful chemistry that develops between Kim (Gangnam Blues) Rae-won and Han (Forbidden Quest) Suk-kyu as Song and Jung, respectively. It is also great fun to watch Lee (Inside Men) Kyoung-young, a character actor who seems to specialize in crooked politicians, do his thing as correctional department head Bae (who ironically happens to be somewhat honest this time around, but is still unrepentantly arrogant).

There is no question The Prison can hang with Inside Men and the most obvious comp film, A Violent Prosecutor, but in many ways, it is grittier and less sentimental. At the risk of sounding fannish, it is exactly the kind of film that reminds us why we dig Korean action movies and thrillers. Recommended with enthusiasm, The Prison opens this Friday (3/31) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Paula (2016) KINO 2017

One of the gems of this years KINO, PAULA is a portrait of Paula Modersohn-Becker who in the span of roughly seven years produced 750 paintings and over 1000 sketches. She was the first female painter to have a museum built just for her works.

Covering the period when at 24 she was given an ultimatum by her father- get married or get a job- and taking her to her untimely death PAULA is a glorious portrait of an artist as force of nature. Paula does what she feels because she knows its right. PAula doesn't get a job, though she does eventually marry.

A mix of old school story telling with modern frankness PAULA is a refreshing reinvention of the artist bio. This is a film that feels lived in, thanks to the gorgeous cinematography and the note perfect performance by Carla Juri who seems to be possessed by Paula.

This must see film is the opening film of this years KINO and is highly recommened

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nightcap 3/26/17: Kino, Dallas and River Run Film Festivals start this week

As we disappear down the rabbit hole of the pre-fest press screenings for the Tribeca Film Festival the world outside of lower Manhattan is exploding with festivals of their own.


KINO starts Friday

When you get down to it Kino, New York’s annual look at German cinema is one of the best programmed festivals in the city. It is a killer festival that seems to be running just under most people’s radar. In the four years since the festival went independent (it ran at MOMA previously) it has run some of the best films to play New York. It’s a festival is so good I look forward to it because I know I’m going to get a whole bunch of films I can whole heartedly recommend to my friends and family.

The best thing about Kino is the films don’t stink. Yes some films are better than others but there are no real stinkers. We’ve seen 9 or 10 of the festival’s dozen films and the ones I didn’t absolutely love suffer simply because of comparison to the rest of the series.

This year the festival starts  Friday and runs through April 6th. It’s playing this year at the Sunshine Landmark on Houston Street.

If you need some recommendations before the reviews start hitting tomorrow might I suggest the following

24 Weeks- a heart rending look at a woman who has to consider a late term abortion after discovering that the child will be born with severe handicaps.

Wolf- a visceral look at a lone wolf woman who connects with a wolf and what happens. Unique one of a kind. Not for all tastes but definitely something truly special

Original Bliss- A brilliant film of a married woman who finds a soul mate in a talk show host. Its as well made as it is moving.

Paula great film about Paula Modersohn-Becker the first female painter to have a museum built just to house her works.

Go to the website-pick some films and buy tickets.

The Dallas Film Festival starts Friday and runs through the 9th of April
A super festival run by some truly wonderful people I had a blast last year covering the festival. This year Unseen’s coverage is going to be extremely spotty, life has gotten in the way.

However just because we may not run a boat load of reviews it doesn’t mean we haven’t seen stuff. Below are links to reviews of the films we’ve covered previously

BERLIN SYNDROME
CITY OF JOY (One of the best I saw in 2016)
FOREVER PURE
FRANTZ
LOST CITY OF Z
ABACUS SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
STRAD STYLE
CHEER UP
I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY
SKY ON FIRE
THE VOID

I have seen MINE which is opening during the festival. It is a good showcase for Armie Hammer who plays a vet stranded in a desert mine field. My review has to wait until the film is set to open in theaters.

For more information and tickets go here

I discovered the River Run Film Festival in WInston Salem North Carolina accidentally. Looking up some information on one of the films they are showing and discovered that it was playing at the festival. When I looked into the festival I realized that the fest is showing a great number of really good films. To be honest while I’ve posted links to the films we’ve covered there is a good number of other titles that we’ve seen but just haven’t written up.

On the basis of this year’s slate River Run looks to be one of the best programmed festivals I’ve run across in a long time. I could happily spend the whole festival rewatching stuff I’ve seen and trying stuff I haven’t.

For more information go here

For some helpful reviews look below,.

ABACUS SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
CINEMA TRAVELERS (One of the best films of 2016)
THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES (an absolute must on a big screen)
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
THOSE WHO JUMP
LOST CITY OF Z
ORNITHOLOGIST
PRISON DOGS
PULITZER AT 100
RUMBLE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD (One of the very best of 2017)
SACRED
SUPERGIRL
SWIMTEAM
VISITORS DAY
WINDOW HORSES (One of the best films of 2016)
---
Festival reviews and new releases this week.
And I'm collecting all sorts of goodies that Randi has been sending me so look for a special post before Tribeca of great short films and a the return of her links.

Beyond the Grave (2010)

BEYOND THE GRAVE is a kind of post apocalyptic Mad Max meets Night of the Living Dead meets spaghetti western meets supernatural serial killer film set in Brazil. It is wild and crazy and dream like

Sometime after the end when zombies walk, magic and the supernatural are real and the survivors are trying to continue survive. The soundtrack is provided by a crazed DJs playing song somewhere off in the world giving everything a haunted feel. Across the landscape a police office dressed all in black tries to stay alive as he hunts a supernatural serial killer who is working all sorts of bad magic.

A singular fantasy/horror/science fiction/crime film is a film that turns its very disjointed and seemingly incompatible parts into something that reminds one of what one might experience after waking at 3am with a weird TV station on. BEYOND THE GRAVE holds the audiences attention by simply forcing us to want to know where all of this strangeness is leading. Our world logic doesn't work here but whatever is being kicked up in this film certainly does. In most films there is usually a moment where I get the sense of the author moving the characters. Here everything flows.

Credit writer director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro for taking what seems to be a detrimental low budget and turning into a plus as the lack of budget crashes into the reality of shooting and the film which already has it's own warped logic becomes dream like as moments occur like watching commuter trains running in the background as hero fights villain

I think this is a film that will play best late at night. I can imagine this was programmed in the midnight slot at festivals where the audience tiredness plays into the deliberate pacing and dream like quality to make the film a shared waking dream. I can't see how this would play well in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon. This isn't a knock on the film  more a statement that some films are best seen at night with a crowd of like minded people. I say this as some one who watched the film alone at night on a laptop. Twenty minutes in I was wishing I was in a packed theater at midnight.

I liked BEYOND THE GRAVE. Recommended for those who want to see something off beat and are willing to let a film be what it is.

A Life in Waves (2017) Boston Underground Film Festival 2017

Portrait of composer, musician and electronic music pioneer Suzanne Cianni who is best known for creating the electronic music used in various TV commercials.

An almost too loving portrait of a woman who went here own way, A LIFE IN WAVES is full of all of Cianni's friends and family gushing about her and her achievements to the point that the film drifts in and out of the story of Cianni's life. By about a third of the way in I tuned out and stopped listening to everything that was being said in the film and simply listened to the music being played.

An okay film I wish this was a tad more focused

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saint Bernard (201?) Boston Underground FIlm Festival 2017

Visual effect master Gabriel Bartalos' second stab at directing a feature film is a one of a kind film. It is most definitely a unique viewing experience. Destined for a cult following this is exactly the sort of film that had it been released in the mid-1970's would have attained classic midnight movie status.

Nominally the story of Bernard, a white tux clad conductor on the run from himself, the film is a decent into insanity as Bernard and the people around him have strange things happen to them and occasionally mutate into weird beings. What it means and what is really happening is anyone's guess.

With an IMDB date of 2013, which is the date the Boston Underground press material claims was when it first hit the festival circuit, the print I saw had a copyright date of 2015. It now seems to be heading for release this year in 2017. In any year this is one messed up film.

Written directed and produced by Bartalos this is a singular vision. A wild walk on the truly brain damaged side this is a film that is best viewed at midnight ith an audience. A giant WTF!?! SAINT BERNARD is the sort of film that will never play during normal hours because a typical paying audience will flee for the exits. There is a reason why the Boston Underground FIlm Festival is running it at night- that's when a crowd most likely to be on its wavelength is going to be out and about. Its the same reason PINK FLAMINGOS and ERASERHEAD played for decades at midnight and rarely at any other time.

Personally I have no idea what in the hell this film is all about. I equally have no frigging clue if I like the film. That said I am truly glad that I saw it. It is rare that we get a chance to see a one of a kind vision- something so unique that words don't do it justice. That may sound like a backhanded compliment but it's not. I truly appreciate SAINT BERNARD as an antidote to 99.99% of other films.  This is a film that woke me back up cinematically and made me realize the wonders that are out there.

To be completely honest I don't know if the vast majority of people are going to like the film. The film is too weird, too strange too unique to find mas acceptance however I know that pretty much everyone who sees the film will know they saw something. Trust me, you can't see SAINT BERNARD and not have a reaction to it- not only a reaction but a burning desire to discuss it. Films should provoke a reaction and SAINT BERNARD does that in spades.

A must see for the truly adventurous- SAINT BERNARD plays Boston Underground at midnight tonight.

The Void (2017) Boston Underground Film Festival 2017

A wicked throw back to 1970's visceral horror with blood, cults, monsters and nastiness, THE VOID is sheer delight of the "that movie f-ed me up and I don't ever want to see it again-what time is the next showing" sort.

I have no idea how to explain the plot without revealing too much-a cop brings an injured man to a hospital that is closing and then things go south as everyone is trapped inside by robed figures...only to have things go real weird.

Dream like logic, and gore collide with practical effects and strong dose of WTF to create a film that deeply disturbed me pretty much from start to finish. I sat staring at the screen squirming in my seat afraid of where this is going. The fact that the film twisted several times in ways that make perfect sense made the film more unbearable to watch. This is one of the best horror films I've seen this year and it's nostalgic feeling made me fall deeply in love with it's blood soaked nastiness. Only an unnecessary coda remains a spot on an otherwise frightening film.

Echoing any number of films from the last 40 years THE VOID takes the best parts and refashions them into something that seems old but is entirely knew. I could guess that the film has homages to John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, George Romero, Don Coscarelli and Clive Barker and I might be right ...but I could also be wrong since the film is not full on homage or rip off but merely an echo. Ultimately the film can be said to be like other films, but ultimately it is it's own thing.

What I liked about the film was the realization that the film is full of small details that I missed the first time through. As the film was speeding into it's final third I suddenly began to realize that the film is full of small details I wasn't catching. At one point I noticed a woman and child behind one of the characters during a bit of nastiness- why they were there I'm not sure but it helped to create a weird sense of reality

One of a growing number of throw back films THE VOID stands near the top of the pack to be one hell of a scary film and one of my favorite films of 2017

THE VOID plays tonight at the Boston Underground Film Festival It open in theaters in April

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dig Two Graves (2014)

DIG TWO GRAVES is one of the most beautiful horror films you'll ever see. A visually haunting film this is one film where if you can see this on a big screen I suggest you do so. The cast including Ted Levine and Samantha Isler are equally wonderful.

As for the rest...

Jake (Samantha Isler) loves her brother dearly. When he dies in a swimming accident she is beside herself. Taking comfort in the company of her Grandfather (Ted Levine) she struggles to move on. One day while out on a walk she meet three strange men who live in a backwoods cabin. For a price they will bring her brother back from the dead.

I love the look and the feel of this film. I think it's a near perfect film on all of the technical levels. The problem for me is the plot doesn't wholly know what it wants to be. Largely a horror film DIG TWO GRAVES adds in a coming of age tale as well, While the two parts of the story worked for many people I know, it never quite jelled for me with the result that the pacing felt off and the chills are never fully realized.

This isn't to say that DIG TWO GRAVES is a bad film, it's not, rather it's more a film not quite the sum of it's excellent parts.

DIG TWO GRAVES opens Friday in theaters and on VOD

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Dark Song (2016) Boston Underground FIlm Festival 2017

Liam Gavin's A DARK SONG is going to be one of those films that splits audiences. Those who need action, blood, gore and guts are going to drift off some where about the half hour mark. Those ho can go with it's slow burn long haul approach are going to be rewarded with a film that will potentially move them and result in long sessions of debate.

The plot of the film is a simple one. A woman asks an occultist to perform a a ritual which will result in both of them getting what they want. He warns her that in order to do the ritual she must do whatever he asks of her and must be willing to to not leave the house for the six to eight months involved. She agrees but things deteriorate as she begins to change the conditions. What should be a relatively straight forward ritual becomes compromised, more so as the pair begin a battle of wills.

Slow building suspense and fear is instilled in the audience thanks to Gavin's low key approach. The dangers are not so much the things that go bump in the night so much as each other's psychological baggage.  Yes we are scared because things knock and rap on the floor boards, but also because we can't be certain what the characters to will do next. Of course as things go on the spirits seem to be be more present which complicate matters further.

This is a carefully modulated film with perfect choices from cast to music to cinematography. I can't imagine anything being better. Its a film that is going to delight anyone willing to go with it and not mind it's very intentional pace.

Very recommended when the film plays at The Boston Underground Film Festival tonight

THE LAST OF US (2016) New Directors New Films 2017


Two men make their way across a desert when they are set upon while traveling in the back of a truck one escapes eventually reaching a forest.

Mystical refugee story has no dialog is a tough nut to crack. I'm not sure if taken on it's own terms that it means much of anything. The director, in the copious press notes goes into great detail about the meaning of the film including explaining the characters, locations and actions. However since none of it is in the film, nor are the press notes likely to be read by the vast majority of the audience they should be discounted. Additionally the notes only make clear how little the director actually gets across.

As a film on it's own terms  THE LAST OF US is an okay puzzle box of a film for people who like puzzle boxes. I don't think that it adds up to anything other than pretty pictures that form a rambling story that kind of goes nowhere.  Clearly this isn't a film for me  but rather one for people who want a blank canvas they can discuss with friends and insist they are right since odds are there is enough vagueness that anything is possible.

If you are going to see this film see it big since the images are amazing- however just be prepare to wrestle with the pretentious emptiness.

For more information and tickets go here

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

As the Quad Cinemas prepare to open here is the repertory calendar for April 14-May 4

The Quad launches repertory programs First Encounters, Four Play, and biweekly double bill Two for Tuesday, announces special guests including Kenneth Lonergan and Sandra Bernhard, and revives Quad favorites with the ongoing series Quadrophilia

Four Play
April 14-May 4

Four is the magic number at the Quad: 44 years of history, four screens… with four sides each. To honor the theater’s unique footprint, we delved into film history to gather up some of cinema’s greatest four-handers, love-rectangles, fourth installments, and quadriptyches, to serve up an amuse bouche for the wide range of programming you’ll be seeing at the new Quad.

4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle
Eric Rohmer, 1987, France, 99m, 35mm

The Four Feathers
Zoltan Korda, 1939, UK, 130m, 35mm

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Vincente Minnelli, 1961, U.S., 153m, 35mm

Four Times That Night (Quante volte... quella notte)
Mario Bava, 1972, Italy, 82m, 35mm

Four Weddings and a Funeral
Mike Newell, 1993, UK, 117m, 35mm

Four’s a Crowd
Michael Curtiz, 1938, U.S., 92m, 35mm
New York premiere of new Library of Congress 35mm restoration

The Fourth Man
Paul Verhoeven, 1983, Netherlands, 102m, 35mm

The Gang of Four
Jacques Rivette, 1989, France, 160m, DCP
World premiere of new 4K restoration
Presented by Matías Piñeiro on April 26

The Lickerish Quartet
Radley Metzger, 1970, U.S., 90m, 35mm

The Merchant of Four Seasons
R.W. Fassbinder, 1971, West Germany, 89m, DCP

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Paul Schrader, 1985, USA/Japan, 121m, 35mm
With Paul Schrader in person

Phase IV
Saul Bass, 1974, U.S., 84m, DCP

Quadrophenia
Franc Roddam, 1979, UK, 120m, DCP

Rocky IV
Sylvester Stallone, 1985, U.S., 91m, 35mm

Quadrophilia
Ongoing Series begins April 14

“I saw it at the Quad!”

When the Quad Cinema debuted in 1972, Jonas Mekas wrote in his Village Voice “Movie Journal” column, “The fact that we have four movie theaters in one house [at the Quad] could eventually lead (with imaginative programming) to a screening situation with four different choices. For instance: a premiere opening of a Hollywood movie, a Hollywood ‘classic,’ a European (or South American) movie, and avant-garde (or independent) movie.”

The Quad would go on to feature precisely this breadth of curation, screening movies across all genres and eras and nationalities in first-run, second-run, and repertory. For older moviegoers, this rotating, year-round series will hopefully serve as a reminder of halcyon decades of Quad viewing, and for younger cinephiles, offer a crash course on our rich history.

City of Hope
John Sayles, 1991, U.S., 129m, DCP
With John Sayles in person

The Gang’s All Here
Busby Berkeley, 1943, U.S., 105m, 35mm IB Technicolor
The first repertory film to ever screen at the Quad. This print was struck from the original three-strip negative and rarely screened since the 1972 rerelease.

Going Places (Les Valseuses)
Bertrand Blier, 1974, France, 113m, 35mm

King Lear
Jean-Luc Godard, 1987, U.S./France, 90m, 35mm
Presented by Richard Brody

Return of the Secaucus Seven
John Sayles, 1980, U.S., 110m, 35mm
With John Sayles in person

THE 2017 HOLLYWEB FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 6th EDITION OF FESTIVAL CELEBRATING THE WORLD'S PREMIERE DIGITAL CONTENT (MARCH 30-APRIL 2)

Los Angeles, CA (March 21, 2017) – The 2017 HollyWeb Festival, sponsored by AMC Independent (March 30-April 2) has announced the full schedule of digital series, filmmaker panels, and events for this year’s edition of the festival, celebrating the world’s premiere digital content. 97 digital series will have episodes screened at AMC Universal CityWalk 19 (100 Universal City Plaza), the Universal Hilton (555 Universal Hollywood Drive), and the Fonda Theatre (6126 Hollywood Blvd.).

HollyWeb Festival Co-Director Daniel Doherty, said, “From the beginning, the HollyWeb Festival has sought to shine a light on web series creators, honor their collective vision and work, as well as create a yearly event where they can gather and meet, exchange notes, and possibly form partnerships that will lead to even more outstanding and entertaining web series.” HollyWeb Co-Director Jennifer Doherty, added, “Each year, the web series become more ambitious in terms of scope, creativity, and technical accomplishments, and this year’s incredible slate of projects has raised the bar once again.”

HollyWeb will begin on Thursday, March 30 with a series of panels, workshops, and a Keynote Presentation featuring “A Conversation with Keith Powell.” Moderated by Digital L.A.’s Kevin Winston, Powell (30 Rock, About a Boy, creator of Keith Broke His Leg) will hold forth on the state of digital series creation, television, etc. from his own unique perspective. The Opening Night Industry Mixer will be hosted by Tinhorn Flats (724 Highland Avenue)

Panels include; “Who’s Looking?” moderated by Jonathan Robbins, about Content Acquisition and Opportunities for Digital Series Creators with Comedy Pro’s Rachel Shapiro, and Kara Buckley, the Manager of Original Programming, HBO; “First Impressions: A Writing Workshop,” moderated by Marilyn Thomas, with panelists Doug Eboch (SWEET HOME ALABAMA), and Jorge Rivera (APB); “We’ll Fix It In Post: Shooting With Post Production In Mind,” with Jason Leaver (Out with Dad), veteran film composer Rob Gokee, and Sean Oakley (The Guild, Vanity).

FANTASY HOSPITAL 2 LA PICKER 4 THE LEAGUE OF S.T.E.A.M. 2
Fantasy Hospital, LA Picker, The League of S.T.E.A.M.

Highlights among the ambitious slate of 97 digital series being screened at HollyWeb, are; Fantasy Hospital , which follows the adventures of dwarfs, giants, fairies and other wizarding doctors, who can cure any magical malady from Arachpneumonia to Zombie Decay. The cast includes Emma Caulfield, Kunal Nayyar, and Wil Wheaton; LA Picker, which follows Sally (Devin Sidell), a lover of estate sales, thrift shops, and swap meets, as she builds her resale business, while a rival picker plots to sabotage her online store by giving her negative reviews; Soho Haus Rules, about a Members Only club for famous fabulous people, which features James Franco, and The League of S.T.E.A.M, which is the longest running steampunk comedy action adventure web series. Special guest stars on the series include; Doug Jones, Grant Imahara, Phil LaMarr, Chloe Dykstra, Milynn Sarley, Robin Thorsen, Lisa Foiles, and Michele Morrow.

THE AMAZING GAYL PILE 2 HIGH ROAD 3 OUT WITH DAD 4
The Amazing Gayl Pile, High Road, Out With Dad

Additional highlights include; The Amazing Gayl Pile, which follows the exploits of a home shopping club host, with guest appearances by stars like, Jon Hamm, Jack McBrayer, and Scott Thompson; the New Zealand series, High Road, about a washed up rock star whose PR miscues torment his famous sister. Guests stars include fans of the show, Greg Wise and Emma Thompson; Chat. Like. Love, about a long-distance “friendship between a quirky boy from the UK and the feisty All-American girl who caught his attention at camp. A “who’s who” of You Tube personalities guest star, including Mia Stammer, Chris Kendall, Lauren Elyse Buckley & Tom McLaren; and the LGBT hit series, Out With Dad. In its 5th season, the quirky drama about a teenage girl and her single father, at a time when she is coming of age and coming out of the closet, has solidified itself as an international sensation.

The “Blue Carpet” Closing Night Awards Ceremony will take place at the historic Fonda Theatre (6126 Hollywood Blvd.) and will be hosted by Noemi Gonzalez (“East Los High,” PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES), and Jim Mahoney (“Wilfred”).

Festival passes and tickets can be purchased at: http://www.hollywebfestival.com.

Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema starts Friday.

The Japan Society’s series Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema starts Friday.

I have to apologize to the Japan Society about my silence concerning the series but it hasn’t been intentional. The silence has been the result of not being sure how to properly cover the series do I simply write up the films or do I go see the films on the big screen. It’s a question that has haunted me since it was announced since I’ve seen all but two of the films, but none of them on the big screen.

This is a great series of films that highlights a bunch of overlooked genre films. Most of the films have been unfairly dismissed over the years. In part because the films were often seen in crappy pan and scan home video releases or messy bootlegs. I really love a number of these films and can’t understand why more people haven’t seen them. On the other hand until recently most people have not paid much attention to most Asian films.

I have not seen School in the crosshair nor Blue Christmas but I’m hoping to get to see them.

It's been ages since I've seen it but The Invisible Man is a lot of fun. I saw the film on a crappy bootleg many years ago and enjoyed myself.  

Secret of the Telegan has a vile baddie teleporting into places ,killing the men who once tried to kill him and teleporting out again. It’s definitely worth the price of admission and a box of popcorn.

H-Man is a film about a weird goo, the remnants of the crew of a hip that went through a radioactive cloud. The goo is killing people  and leaving nothing behind. In a weird way the film is more a mystery or thriller with fantasy elements then a straight on horror film and it’s a blast.

Latitude Zero is just crazy I mean bat shit crazy in the best way. Joseph Cotton plays a Captain Nemo style seafarer who travels underwater and battles the evil Cesar Romero. It’s just crazy fun. I mean how can a film that has winged stuffed lion attacking the good guys not be fun? This was a film that warped me as a child and I can’t recommend it enough.

Gamera 3 Revenge of Iris is a must see. The third film in the 1990’s attempt to restart the series the film is not your parents Gamera film. While the first film in the series was uneven the second film upped the ante with a dark seriousness no giant monster film had managed since the first Godzilla film. It was apocalyptic. This film continued the darkness and when it was over I was wondering where they would go from here. A few years later the series restarted with a film about a baby Gamera. While that film is good it didn’t live up to this film. Gamera 3 is great film. It is one of the best giant monster films I’ve seen- and until the recent Godzilla films near the top. If you’ve never seen this go see it.

The series plays through April 8th and is a must see.

For tickets and more information go here.