Archives for May 2013

Cinema Under The Stars (and on Rooftops)!

Whether you are on the East or West Coast, or anywhere outside and/or in between, this is a wonderful time of year to go outdoors and enjoy the balmy summer nights. For purposes of this blog, I will focus on two events on the East Coast since I live here 🙂

 

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (http://www.bryantpark.org/plan-your-visit/filmfestival.html)

One tradition that I continue to pass up year after year is the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. This year I have made a solemn vow to myself that I WILL attend the screening. Be sure to check out the link above to see what is on show starting June 17th (Tootsie). ILC’s Personal Picks: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (6/24), Frenz(7/1),  Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte (7/17), The Women (8/12).

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Rooftop Films Summer Series (http://rooftopfilms.com/2013/schedule/)

Another NYC event is the Rooftop Film Festival –

Now in its 16th year, Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

In 2012, Rooftop screened more than 30 feature films, almost all of which are New York, U.S. or World Premieres. In recent years, Rooftop screened films outdoors in Los Angeles, Toronto, Philadelphia, Sweden, Texas, Pittsburgh, Camden (Maine) and others.

Each screening is preceded by a live musical performance and concludes with an post-screening party. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending their opening night event, a screening of Frances Ha.

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Here are some other fun ways to watch films outdoors in the Greater NYC area:

 

What are your favorite summer related cinematic activities? Share your thoughts in the Comments section. I particularly would love to hear what folks in other cities have as outdoor cinematic options!

42 (2013)

There is something about baseball that translates so well to the silver screen – especially when it is a story well told. Sure, as I have gotten older, my interest in the national pastime as a spectator sport has been supplanted by the tennis and international football (soccer), but when it comes to sports on film, I would say nothing beats a good, nostalgic baseball tale.

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Last week, I attended a special screening of the Jackie Robinson biopic 42.

For even the most casual of sports fan, the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier transcends the realm of sports history and is now woven into the fabric of the larger American story. But for the sake of context, it may help to go into a little more detail –

42 chronicles Robinson’s (played here by newcomer Chadwick Boseman) early years as he works his way from the Negro Leagues, to the minors and finally spans his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The film also examines Robinson’s relationship with his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie), his Dodgers teammates and Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford).

What resonated for me was watching a man who understood what his presence meant at this particular place and time in history; the burden he shouldered with an almost unconscionable, dare I say, “superhuman” amount of resolve is something I could not even imagine.

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I have read where some suggest that the sentimentality spin and old fashioned structure of the film will not work for everyone. My retort? Au, contraire! I think given the setting and central story being told, this style of the film is just right.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the performances – across the board, they were good. I would like to serve special notice to Chadwick Boseman filling the shoes of a legend.

So you may be wondering what made this screening special? Well, in attendance was no other than fellow Mount Vernon-ite and Robinson teammate Ralph Branca, who participated in a post-screening question and answer session in which he talked about growing up in Mount Vernon, NY and his remembrances of playing with and being in the locker room with Jackie Robinson.

This story (and all that surrounds it) holds a special place in my heart – it is yet another cinematic reference that brings to mind my beloved dad. Raised along the eastern seaboard in cities like Baltimore and New York, he spent his formative years Brooklyn, attending Boys High School and being a die hard Dodgers fan. Even when the Dodgers “betrayed” their fans and fled to the greener pastures of Chavez Ravine (Los Angeles, CA), pops continued to follow the team from a distance. As a teacher and lover of African American history Jackie Robinson’s story had immeasurable impact (I imagine) on his life and that was passed on to us.

Have you seen it? Let me know what you think by posting your comments below.

Tribeca 2013 Revisited – All About the Docs

This one definitely falls into the category of better late than never

I could not let any more time without giving a narrative assessment of my time at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival. For a diarist’s take on my first day at TFF, I draw your attention to my coverage as part of the LAMB’s One Day, One Blogger @Tribeca event.

But I did not want you all to think that was all; aside from my preview picks, I caught a series of thought provoking feature-length documentaries.

Consciously or not, this year was all about the documentaries. This was not necessarily by design but due to scheduling, etc. it just worked out that way and honestly it made for a wonderful experience (please see previous post for my narrative picks). All synopses are from the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival Film Guide.

 

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013)

ELAINE STRITCH: Shoot Me

  • Directed By: Chiemi Karasawa

Broadway legend Elaine Stritch remains in the spotlight at eighty-seven years old. Join the uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winner both on and off stage in this revealing documentary. With interviews from Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Hal Prince and others, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me blends rare archival footage and intimate cinema vérité to reach beyond Stritch’s brassy exterior, revealing a multi-dimensional portrait of a complex woman and an inspiring artist.

ILC’s Take: Even if you do not know anything about this legendary stage performer (Fore shame! By the way, this is a must see documentary for a glimpse into a remarkable life lived to its fullest).

 

I’ve Got Somethin’ to Tell You (2013)

I GOT SOMETHIN? TO TELL YOU

  • Directed By: Whoopi Goldberg

Having broken racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering comic talent, the late Moms Mabley has long been an icon in the comedy world. Now Whoopi Goldberg takes a deep dive into Mabley’s legacy via recently unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage and the words of numerous celebrated comedians. A true passion project for Goldberg, I Got Somethin’ to Tell You shows Mabley’s historical significance and profound influence as a performer vastly ahead of her time.

ILC’s Take: A very captivating look at a woman who might have gone unnoticed to the annuls of history. After watching this documentary, there is no mistaking the impact she continues to have on contemporary comedians of all genders, ages and ethnicities nearly forty years after her passing.

 

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

LET THE FIRE BURN

  • Directed By: Jason Osder

Jason Osder makes an impressive feature film debut through his unbiased and thorough account of the incidents leading up to and during the 1985 standoff between the extremist African-American organization MOVE and Philadelphia authorities. The dramatic clash claimed eleven lives and literally and figuratively devastated an entire community. Let the Fire Burn is a real-life Wild West story absent the luxury of identifying its heroes by the color of their hats.

ILC’s Take: I wanted to like this film more than I ended up. As a former resident of the City of Brotherly Love, I was fascinated by a part of the city’s history I was previously unaware of. Unfortunately, I found bits of the execution a bit lacking. While the story certainly tells itself courtesy of  the plethora of archive footage available, I would have also liked to see some contemporary interviews/footage interwoven into the narrative.

 

Teenage (2013)

TEENAGE

  • Directed By: Matt Wolf

Teenagers did not exist before the 20th century. Not until the early 1950s did the term gain widespread recognition, but with Teenage, Matt Wolf offers compelling evidence that “teenagers” had a tumultuous effect on the previous half-decade. Narrated by actors Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer and Jessie Usher, this fascinating documentary repositions the historical origin of teenagers and shows why those years are more than just a stepping-stone to adulthood.

ILC’s Take: I loved this film and the narration that went along with it. Basically I could listen to Ben Whishaw read the telephone directory. In fact I liked it so much the time just flew by … it felt like the house lights had just dimmed and then BAM – CREDITS! One of my summer plans is to get the book on which the doc is based.

Of all the feature documentaries I saw during the festival this is the one I recommend above the others as a wonderful piece of social history.

 

Do any of these interest you readers? Hit me in the Comments section.

Columbia University Film Festival: A Recap

I love that as part of my life as a film blogger I can shed some love on film-related goings-on that may not get the same level of exposure as other film events. This holds especially true in a city like New York where everywhere you turn there is some big (or not so big) “cine-event” taking place.

Thus was the case earlier this month (May 9th to be exact) when I had the pleasure of attending the Awards Night for the 2013 Columbia University Film Festival.  This event is the culmination of the efforts made by MFA students in the Arts Film Program at Columbia University and which is a showcase of their thesis short films, feature screenplays and teleplays. Before the concluding events on Thursday, the shorts were exhibited in a series of programming blocks at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Awards Night was held at the historic Paris Theatre in midtown Manhattan, where we were treated to a screening of all of the 2013 Jury Selects:

Above the Sea
A Grand Canal
Gloom
Keep the Change
Socks and Bonds
Total Freak

While I could not stay for the entire event, I was able to catch Above the Sea, Gloom and Socks and Bonds. I was particularly moved by the drama and emotions evoked in Above the Sea (Written/Directed by Keola Racela) and Gloom (Written/Directed by David Figueroa García).

PERFIDIA_StillStill from Gloom

AbovetheSea_StillStill from Above the Sea

Folks in the LA area will have the opportunity to screen the films next week (June 4-6) at the Linwood Dunn Theater housed in the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study.

Another part of the Awards Night festivities was the presentation of the annual Sarris Award to filmmaker Adam Davidson. Named after the noted film historian and author Andrew Sarris (1928-2012), since 2002, the Sarris Award honors artistic excellence as exemplified by distinguished alumni of Columbia’s film program. Previous recipients of this prize include James Mangold, Kathryn Bigelow, Kimberly Peirce and Lisa Cholodenko.

Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees!

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* A special thanks to Rick Dikeman for arranging my attendance to the event.

Frances Ha (2013)

Sure we find out the meaning of the title by the end of the film (Frances Ha) but what leads up to that final scene is a surprisingly charmer of a film.

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As Frances, Greta Gerwig portrays a disoriented Vassar grad attempting to lead a stable life in the city. At first she inhabits a bubble of ignorance alongside her pal Sophie (Mickey Sumner), an equally spirited young woman with whom Frances runs amuck in the city. When complications arise to challenge that relationship, Frances enters into an alternately sad and hilarious cycle of denial that gives the movie a rich dimension of pathos. (Source: Rooftop Films).

Shot beautifully in black and white and co-written by the director (Noah Baumbach) and his star, the dialogue is witty, fresh and flows naturally.  The situations Frances  finds herself in are truly hilarious and I found myself guffawing on several occasions. I think that what resonated so much is that the film does not take themselves too seriously but rather is turning a self-deprecating lens on itself.

Frances Ha marks my first Mr. Baumbach experience. Prior to this screening, what I did know about his body of work, is that it often takes a rather melancholic tone. So you can imagine my surprise when I found this film so upbeat and hopeful at the close.

This however is NOT my first Greta Gerwig film … she is an engaging screen presence who seems ideally suited for these independently-spirited light comedies centering on twenty / thirty – something NYC dwellers.

I have already referenced the lovely black and white cinematography, but what is equally lovely is WHAT is being shot. I do not know if there is ever a way to make NYC and surrounding areas look so pretty.

I_Love_New_York #THATISALL

Check out the trailer below:

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* I caught this film as a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at the Rooftop Film Festival (I will be doing a feature piece later on in the week).

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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As I mentioned in an earlier post upon seeing the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness, I was a bit concerned that the film would be too earnest for its own good. The trailer came off as dark and menacing. Not that these elements in of themselves are enough to turn me away from the movie theater doors, I was fearful that the sequel would lose some of the charm and whimsy that made the first movie a wonderful surprise.

I have no idea why I doubted JJ Abrams’ ability to make a sequel that is equal parts entertaining, funny and dramatic. In summary, Star Trek Into Darkness did NOT disappoint.

The action starts off with the USS Enterprise going on a mission that does not go quite as expected; the result being the demotion of our fearless/reckless Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine). At the same time, there appears to be an imminent threat to the Star Fleet and it resources. The suspect is an enigmatic figure, one Jon Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). His actions set into motion circumstances that place the newly re-appointed Captain Kirk and his crew on a mission that has many twists and turns.

At the center of all the amazing action sequences and set pieces continues to be the relationships – principally the one between Kirk and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). While Kirk is all emotion, Spock seems to fight against his human nature for his own self-preservation, as he tells Kirk and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) in a very moving sequence. What you are left with is an intriguing picture of a friendship forged from the most unlikely duo. Even though most of us are familiar with the Kirk/Spock relationship from the TV series, Abrams’ take is so very touching.

Now to the principal villain. I do not want to spoil ANYTHING (I actually was blissfully ignorant as to who was what in the film), but the main villain that everyone is aware of is the always delightful to watch Benedict Cumberbatch. Let’s face it – that man has a face marked for villainy, especially of the urbane variety. That said what is haunting is the cold way in which he delivers his brutality.

Yeah I know I mentioned in my Iron Man 3 interview I bellyached about the IMAX 3D experience, so chances were I would not want to relive that experience a second time. But call me a glutton for punishment I went ahead and paid for the privilege. To add to my enjoyment for the evening, this was not a bad 3D experience. So while I may not 100% sold on 3D for cinema-going yet, it does seem like for those who are willing to part with a few extra dollars, you may want to part with it here.

In discussing the film after the fact – someone brought up an interesting point to me – while the Star Trek films have been fun to watch, the ‘campy’ references to the legendary TV show run the risk of wearing thin as future installments of the franchise are released. We know that the Star Trek universe has limitless story possibilities, so this is a great time to explore those narrative opportunities. I am SO here for all of that!

Have you seen Star Trek Into Darkness? Hit up the Comments section of my post!

 

Oh Well, a Week Seems Like too Long …

… to be away from my blog!

Well the past few weeks have been rather busy indeed.

Originally, the plan was to get all of these wonderful cinematic events posted in rapid-fire style. The mind was willin but the body went into shut-down mode and was like “nah, you need some rest.”

So after a few days of some R&R (and still recovering) I hope to get back on track in the coming days with my posts on:

  • A roundup of my experience at Tribeca 2013 (Check out my Day One TFF Coverage on the LAMB – thanks Shala!)
  • My coverage of the closing events of the Columbia University Film Festival.
  • Profile of opening weekend at Rooftop Films; including a review of Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s latest, Frances Ha)
  • Additional Reviews of The English Teacher, State 194, Star Trek Into Darkness, 42 and The Great Gatsby

Stay tuned for some super-sized fun!

TCM Film Fest 2013: Recap, Part 2

This is the second of my two-part series wherein I recap my time at the 2013 TCM Film Festival.

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Day 3 – Four!

Saturday morning cartoons were a staple of my rearing and today would be no different. So again at a time that I would not typically be attending the cinema (8:30 or so to queue up) I was entertained by a series of Looney Toons shorts, featuring the one, the only Bugs Bunny, who was celebrating his 75th birthday! The shorts were introduced by Jerry Beck and Leonard Maltin.

I swiftly moved from Chinese Multiplex 1 to 4, prepared for my second Hitchcock screening, The Lady Vanishes that was introduced by Norman Lloyd (age 98), who skipped his weekly tennis game to present this (and several other) film.
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The wonderful thing about attending events like this is that they provide a rarefied opportunity for us in the present to listen to people who provide first hand accounts of people of the stature of Alfred Hitchcock, people who in seem so distant and removed from us.

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The Big Parade: I have to admit; this film was not on my radar as I made my preliminary viewing plan, but I am SO glad that I changed my mind at the last minute. Admittedly I am not a huge fan of silent cinema, but it is a format that I am gradually coming around to. So what better way to continue my silent cinema education than by watching the World Premier Digital Restoration of the WWI classic, directed by King Vidor, and introduced by film historian Kevin Brownlow. What fascinated me above all else with this movie is that it predates the silent epic Wings which until this point was my gold standard in the capturing “the war to end all wars” on film. This response to The Big Parade does not diminish in any way the impact and significance of Wings but it does help inform my further understanding of the canon of silent film. In the simplest of terms, this film was sublime.

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The Tall Target: Check out my previous blog post on this.

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What a way to round out the day! As the evening crept in, a feeling of sadness swept over me … I knew my time at the festival was drawing to a close and it made me sad 🙁 I said hellos (and goodbyes) to the wonderful array of friends I made and ventured back to my hotel to ready myself for my eastbound flight the next afternoon.

Day 4 – No movies, just taking it all in. 

But I enjoyed living vicariously living through my fellow festival goers as to their whereabouts. I did a walk-by of the Cinerama dome prior to the showing of Cinerama Holiday (really wanted to see it).
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Other films I wanted to see if given the time were:

Never in a million years did I think I would utter the phrase – how I hate to leave Los Angeles – but this weekend I did. But the time came sooner than I wanted. I spent that morning prior to departure wandering down the boulevards of legend (H’wood and Sunset) pass through a lovely farmer’s market.
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OH I did also take the time to show my #noncynicalnewyorker stripes and took way too many pictures of some of my favorite stars’ star on the Walk of Fame.
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But now as I write this, LA and Hollywood are in my rearview as I am settled and safely nestled in my East Coast domicile, ready for it to start all over again. See you in 2014!

May 2013 Highlights

In the hustle and bustle of trying to recap all of the amazing stuff that happened at the end of April, I almost forgot to look ahead to the month of May! It is still early days so here are a few of the things I am looking forward to this month.

 

Columbia University Film Festival

I will be attending the closing night event this upcoming Thursday (May 9); coverage to follow.

 

TCM Programming

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Friday Night Second Looks: Dismissed upon their original release, here are a series of films that time has been rather kind to and TCM feels are worth a second look (those marked with an asterisk are films I have already seen; bolded titles indicate those that I look forward to catching):

 

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Tough Guys: Every Tuesday in May TCM will offer up a series of films featuring men who are world-weary but still in the fight:

 

On the big screen …

Well I have already caught Iron Man 3 so what else is left in store? Here is what else I HOPE to catch during the month:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Frances Ha

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Cannes you help a sister out?

I generally do not cover in great detail a film festival that I am not attending or have knowledge of but I do like to follow (at a great distance mind you) what is happening in that little slice of heaven that is the French Riviera. One day maybe one day … until then I will have to be satisfied procuring an official poster and dreaming of this –

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TCM Film Fest 2013: Recap, Part 1

This is the first in a two-part recounting of my four days in the heart of Hollywood where I attended the fourth annual Turner Classic Movie Classic Film Festival (TCMFF for short).

Day 1 (or Nought Point Five if you will) – Arrival.

I touchdown a bit late but I touch down (#ThankGoodnessForSmallFavors) and shuttle to my hotel on Hollywood and Vine (nice!). But I did not have too much time to enjoy it – I simply drop my bags, freshen up and head straight down the Boulevard to the Roosevelt Hotel to pick up my credentials and meetup with a couple of folks. I connected with my blogging buddy Paula (@TCM_Party) in Club TCM and attend my first event  – a presser where we are introduced to the new TCM/Bonhams auction house collaboration of classic Hollywood memorabilia.

I also had the pleasure of playtesting a TCM app that is currently in development. My reward was a $5 GC that I quickly used as a credit for purchasing quite a few items in the TCM Boutique. My question is: how did they know I am a shopaholic? After spending a few minutes poolside at the Opening Night Party, I prepare myself for a double bill of classic movie goodness.

My first screening The Killing features one of my personal favorite actors, Sterling Hayden. I cannot exactly pinpoint it but I think it has something to do with his varied career as an actor and pursuer of many interests that draws me in.
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The evening came to a close with the viewing of a pre-Code gem – William Wellman’s Safe in Hell, introduced by film historian Donald Bogle and William Wellman’s son.
SAFE IN HELL, Dorothy Mackaill, 1931

After that it was an ‘interesting’ walk down Hollywood Boulevard to my hotel. Here I would like to offer a bit of advice: don’t walk it at night – hop on the Metro – it’s one stop and clean.

I pick up a slice of pizza (my first meal in LA) and promptly relax myself as I look forward to the day ahead – no time could be spared, the next day started at 9:15AM, sleep and jet lag be damned.

 

Day 2 – Three Films, One Completely New

Like I said above, I had to get up rather early, took the Metro (advice heeded) and queued up for my first film on a Friday morning. Just typing being at a film at 9 in the morning feels weird.  The way I justify it (if I HAVE to) is simple – it’s early afternoon at home. I Know Where I’m Going! is a British/Scottish gem and a film that I have always wanted to watch but never quite gotten round to. All I can say is that I am SO happy that my first experience is seeing was on the big screen. Did I mention I thought the film was absolutely LOVELY?
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As soon as the end credits rolled, I allowed myself a moment to take in the aforementioned loveliness and swiftly headed down the street to Grauman’s Egyptian to get on another line, this time to screen a repeater for me, the noir classic The Narrow Margin, introduced by one of the film’s surviving stars, Jacqueline White. It had been some time since I had last seen this film so I had forgotten a lot of the plot and subsequently many of the plot twists that I had totally forgotten about.
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My next film was also in the Egyptian. For the first of two Hitchcock films I would see over the weekend, the incomparable Notorious. Introduced by former TCM Essentials host Rose McGowan, I must say I never tire of seeing this sensual thriller.
IMG_0582It’s my iPhone wallpaper, ya’ll!

What a satisfying way to end my day.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the concluding two days of my Hollywood adventure!