Archives for November 2012

ILC’s Take on the Sundance 2013 Slate

I swear that one day I will get out to Park City Utah, but alas it will not be in two months time. In the meantime, the best that I can do is chill in my living room and wistfully take a look at the Sundance Class of 2013; there is a lot of information so I decided to highlight those titles on the list that piqued my interest; here for the full press release.

 

US DRAMATIC COMPETITION

(16 Features in Competition)

Touchy Feely

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine. ILC’s Take: I am curious about this one.

Austenland / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Jerusha Hess, Screenwriters: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale) — Thirtysomething, single Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. On a trip to an English resort, her fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman become more real than she ever imagined. Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, James Callis. ILC’s Take: Anything with “Austen” in the title is worth a look-see.

Kill Your Darlings / U.S.A. (Director: John Krokidas, Screenwriters: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas) — An untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that led to the birth of an entire generation – their Beat revolution. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHann, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen. ILC’s Take: I love beatniks – in a slightly ironic way, but this looks like a good historical piece.

Touchy Feely / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.” Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais. ILC’s Take: Anything with Allison Janney in it is worth watching.

 

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION


The world premieres of 16 American documentary films.

Gideon’s Army

American Promise / U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons. ILC’s Take: Not sure what to say about this but it looks good.

Gideon’s Army / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up. ILC’s Take: I saw a sneak preview of this during a Ford Foundation event recently and my interest is heightened.

Inequality for All / U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Kornbluth) — In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy. ILC’s Take: I am an undercover political animal and love these types of exposés.

Twenty Feet From Stardom / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville) — Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight.  Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead – until now. DAY ONE FILM ILC’s TakeThe unsung heroes (pun intended) get some shine. Gotta love it.

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION


Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Crystal Fairy

Crystal Fairy / Chile (Director and screenwriter: Sebastián Silva) — Jamie invites a stranger to join a road trip to Chile. The woman’s free and esoteric nature clashes with Jamie’s acidic, self-absorbed personality as they head into the desert for a Mescaline-fueled psychedelic trip. Cast: Michael Cera, Gabby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM ILC’s Take: Sounds a little trippy, but it may work.

 

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION


Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmakers working today.

Google and the World Brain

Fire in the Blood / India (Director: Dylan Mohan Gray) — In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Western governments and pharmaceutical companies blocked low-cost antiretroviral drugs from reaching AIDS-stricken Africa, causing 10 million or more unnecessary deaths. An improbable group of people decided to fight back. North American Premiere ILC’s TakeThis is news to me and should an interesting watch.

Google and the World Brain / Spain, United Kingdom (Director: Ben Lewis) — In the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet, Google has been scanning the world’s books for 10 years. They said the intention was to build a giant digital library, but that involved scanning millions of copyrighted works. World Premiere ILC’s Take: It’s google, man!

 

NEXT <=>


Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity proves the films selected in this section will inform a “greater” next wave in American cinema.

Blue Caprice

Blue Caprice / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriters: R.F.I Porto, Alexandre Moors) — An abandoned boy is lured to America and drawn into the shadow of a dangerous father figure in this film inspired by the real life events that led to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Cassandra Freeman, Leo Fitzpatrick. ILC’s Take: I personally remember being scared witless by this story – at the height of the tension, I had planned a trip down to the greater DC area.

Milkshake / U.S.A. (Director: David Andalman, Screenwriters: David Andalman, Mariko Munro) — In mid-1990’s America, we follow the tragic sex life of Jolie Jolson, a wannabe thug (and great-great-grandson of legendary vaudevillian Al Jolson) in suburban DC as he strives to become something he can never be – black. Cast: Tyler Ross, Shareeka Epps, Georgia Ford, Eshan Bay, Leo Fitzpatrick, Danny Burstein. ILC’s Take: Interesting …

 

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

SYNPOSIS (via Wikipedia):

Based on the book Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong published in 1951, Don’t Bother to Knock features Marilyn Monroe as a disturbed babysitter watching a child at the same New York hotel where a pilot, played by Richard Widmark, is staying. Her strange behavior makes him increasingly aware that she is the last person the parents should have entrusted with their daughter.

After seeing this film a couple of time, I have come to the following conclusion: this should have been a signal to audiences and the public at large that Monroe’s rather terrifying portrayal was a bit close to home. For my money, she was quite believable as a mentally fragile woman on the verge of a pure psychotic break – then again maybe it is just a bit of hindsight.

A bit of trivia: Don’t Bother to Knock marked the film debut of Anne Bancroft.

Check out other overlooked films on Todd’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Congratulations to the Winners! (BeneathEarth Film Festival)

This year I had the honor (again) of looking at up and coming filmmakers’ work on display as part of the annual Beneath The Earth Film Festival. The Class of 2012 was an eclectic mix of films that ranged from near-feature length to digital shorts from all around the world.

I am pleased to say the two films that garnered the top prizes this year were among my favorite of the lot:

BEST FILM (as selected by the Grand Jury): Ditching School to Whistle

SUMMARY: In April 2012, filmmaker Ien Chi set out to enter an international whistling competition and make a short documentary film about it. This is what resulted.

I really like the premise of this film; in my notes, I indicated that what worked for me about this film was the fact that it presented a topic that I would not have otherwise given much attention. And the skill of the filmmaker made it such that I was entertained by what I saw on screen.

 

AUDIENCE AWARD (as selected by the general public): The Double

SUMMARY: In Japanese colonial era of Taiwan, the rain season bore twins destined to be abandoned. Ameko has been in illness isolation since childhood. While Yu has nightmares every night. Their mother died early and Father is always away from home. Rippling waves stir memories of youth. A heavy fog gradually disperses, revealing the end of a dream and a flower called ‘the double’.

To me, this film was simply sublime. It was very atmospheric and had a lovely soundtrack to accompany what we saw on screen. This film is Taiwanese director Yu-Tong Weng’s graduation project.

 

OTHER CATEGORY WINNERS:

Best Story: Ditching School to Whistle
Best Editing: Refuge
Best Cinematography: Extranjero
Best Soundtrack: The Double
Best Acting: Refuge

 

If you are interested in catching these (or any of the other films in competition) you have until the end of the month; simply go to: http://beneathearth.com/watch/

Congratulations to ALL the filmmakers with a special shout out to the winning filmmakers!

Until next year …

Hitchcock (2012)

Earlier this week, I entered the screening of Hitchcock with the highest of expectations, given my given love of the director’s body of work. Ninety minutes after seeing the film, I arrived at the following conclusion – in spite of an interesting premise and my enjoyment of several key elements of the film, ultimately was a hodgepodge of comedy, suspense, psycho-drama and, at the center of it all, the personal and professional lives of husband-wife-collaborators Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville (Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, respectively).

Based on a the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello and directed by Sacha Gervasi, the movie starts with a rather startling opening sequence, made lighter by the presence of Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) giving a direct to camera monologue in the style of his television show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Immediately there is a shift to the premier of the 1959 classic North by Northwest. Hitch was in a pickle – he was looking for the next story; circumstances brought the true-crime book Psycho to his attention.

As Hitch becomes deeply immersed in the world of Psycho, the audience is given a glimpse into Hitch’s well-documented obsession with the “cool blondes” and the impact it had on his marriage. This collision of his personal neurosis and an increasing fixation on Ed Gein (the inspiration for the Norman Bates character) leads to slightly creepy yet at the same time misplaced sequences when Hitch is working out some of his darkest thoughts with the serial killer.

As I previously stated, the actual “story” of the behind-the-scenes of Hitch’s 1960 horror classic, Psycho is basically the b-story. But even in that regard, it is a well-developed sub-plot involving the making of the film.

Anthony Hopkins yet again proves that in spite of not looking like The Master of Suspense, he is able to (in great part this time through the magic of movie makeup) totally embody a character – whether fictional or real-life – almost without fault. The cadence in his voice was spot on. Equal kudos to Helen Mirren, who delivers a solid performance. She gives weight to the woman behind the man, a woman who may be unknown to many audiences but who in her introduction for many audience members to the woman behind the genius who was a genius and creative force in her own right.

A welcomed pleasure for me was the work of the supporting cast – especially from Jessica Biel (Vera Miles) and Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh). When I first heard of this project and saw the casting news, I had some reservations about how this would work – but it did. There were additional noted turns by James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkins) and Toni Collette as Hitch’s personal secretary.

And now for a few things that were not as effective for me. I have already mentioned the dialogue between Hitch and the Ed Gein of his mind was a little unsettling for me (maybe I am just a scaredy cat). In addition, the “direct to camera Hitch” presentations were a bit misplaced for me.

Script wise, I felt the dialogue had too many hints of exposition and information whose context would only be known with the benefit of hindsight. I cannot imagine any of the characters capable of delivering some of the words naturally in real life. However, let me play Devil’s Advocate to my own argument – I suppose this is due to screenwriter John McLaughlin creating dialogue based on the information from the source material – information that likely has the factual and reference points. That said, it just did not translate well as on-screen dialogue for me.

Another thing that did not sit well with me is the handling of the central relationship between Hitchcock and Reville. The fact that a tertiary character (in the form of Whitfield Cook, portrayed by Danny Huston) was inserted to form a potential romantic rivalry seemed unnecessary. I think just looking that the two people and not placing an emphasis on an “interloper” would have been more than enough.

Perhaps I am a little too close to the subject matter and am just being really picky. That said, let me take a step back and think about it for a moment; the question ultimately is do I think that a non-Hitchcock obsessive would enjoy this film? And unfortunately, the best answer I can come up with is maybe.

Good Evening.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dinah Shore Celebrates Thanksgiving at The Hollywood Canteen, 1943

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: I Love You Again (1940)

The 1940 feature, I Love You Again, despite its formulaic set up, is proof positive that William Powell and Myrna Loy were indeed a match made in cinematic heaven. Lacking the snappy repartie and dialogue of the film series they were best known for (The Thin Man) a large portion of credit must also go to the director, W.S. VanDyke, who also was behind the camera for this film.

In this film, Powell plays a businessman, Larry Wilson, who, after a boating accident, suffers a blow to the head. He then realizes that he really isn’t this Larry person, but is actually a professional swindler by the name of George Cary. Instead of immediately coming clean about his identity, he decides to keep up the pretense for the sake of taking all the people who know him as Wilson for a ride. Among his intended victims are his/Larry’s wife Kay (Loy), who is actually in the process of divorcing Larry. Being that this is a rom-com and all, the plot does not go according to plan and George finds himself increasingly endeared by Kay.

What Will YOU Be Watching This Weekend?

Happy Friday everyone!

There are literally a ton of films that I would like to watch this weekend. In a perfect world, my weekend plans would include catching a triple bill of The Central Park Five (pass by theater showing it EVERY DAY), Anna Karenina (doesn’t this look lush?) and Lincoln (which I have slowly warmed to).

Instead I will be hunkering down and finishing up my Grand Jury duty with the Beneath The Earth Film Online Film Festival). Join me in watching some of the films by visiting the official website at: http://beneathearth.com/watch/

 

Also in theaters:

  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part II

  • Silver Linings Playbook

 

So, what are your weekend entertainment plans?

I Promise … (UPDATED)

… this will  be my last Skyfall post. Alas it could not be helped; I could not let it pass without posting the rather cool opening titles sequence (sans the actual credits):

WELL IT LOOKS LIKE THE VIDEO WAS TAKEN DOWN [SORRY :(]

If you have not seen this film, what do you think? Heck, if you saw the film, what do you think when you were in the theater?

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Ladies in Lavender (2005)

Written and directed by Charles Dance, Ladies in Lavender is set in 1936, and tells the tale of two aging spinster sisters (Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench) whose peaceable Cornwall existence is disrupted when they take a young Polish violinist (Daniel Brühl) into their care (Source: TCMdB).

I will readily admit that this film is not for every especially given its somewhat pedantic pace; but exercise a little patience. The acting is so well delivered that it made up for any moments of drifting “boredom” (for lack of a better word).

The film also features a stellar supporting cast:

  • Anjelica Huston
  • Michael Gambon
  • Miriam Margoyles
  • Natascha McElhone
  • David Warner

Check out the trailer here:

 

Happy Birthday Grace!

In honor of Grace Kelly’s 83rd birthday, here are a few clips featuring Kelly from two of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films – To Catch a Thief and Rear Window: