Thursday, April 29, 2010

IFF Ranking

*sigh* It's all over. It was fun while it lasted...

Actually, I learned something fascinating last night. The film that played, Micmacs, is a Sony Pictures Classics film and apparently they've never been able to get an SPC film before. I had no idea that festivals had to develop relationships with studios to get films for a fest, or that the movies you are seeing are likely coming from the same handful of studios. One would think that a studio would want as wide an exposure for an upcoming release to build word of mouth in our viral age, but I guess that there are so many fests, they don't bother until they know the reputation of one or have a relationship with the booking/program managers. Isn't that crazy? Anyways, hopefully this means some more Sony films next year! I love their stuff.

So, in order, which do I think you should take the time to go seek out?

Winter's Bone Hands down - it's wildly brilliant. Sort of a neo-noir set in the Ozarks. Great performances. Limited release June 11.
Wisdom Teeth (short) Don Hertzfeldt. Go. Seek. Laugh. (his site says news of a wider release is coming soon. Here is a comic about it.)
Perrier's Bounty I know I'm biased. It's an Irish gangster flick with Cillian Murphy. I was always going to love it. But I thought it was fun and I'd recommend checking it out. May 14/21 release I think?
Cell 211 This was the other great discovery of the fest for me. A Goya-award winning prison thriller. Incredibly well done. If you liked Oz you should check this out.
Athena (short) So cute - so great. David Thewlis is awesome. I really don't want to describe it, because I don't want to give anything away. But you should definitely see it if you get the chance.
Monkeywrench (short) I really didn't think I'd like this one, given the plot, but the story is fantastic and the timing is perfect. It's about an environmental activist and a logger. (I can't find a site for it)
The Killer Inside Me I still don't get the whole Sundance uproar. And apparently the Tribeca crowd felt as we did. If you enjoyed American Psycho or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, this is in a similar vein. Limited release June 18.
Micmacs Whimsical and very inventive. I found Amelie a bit cloying, but this one was just fun. Limited release May 28.
Junko's Shamisen (short) Sin City meets Kabuki (or is it Noh? It would be nice if I actually remembered something from my theater class in college.) Anyways, I really enjoyed this one. (Site here)
Sebastian's Voodoo (short) I wish it were longer, but I love the set up and the animation on this one. HEY LOOK YOU CAN SEE THE WHOLE THING RIGHT HERE!
Marwencol This film is about a man who suffered a brutal beating and developed his own therapy by creating model world of WWII Belgium in his backyard. A totally fascinating portrait, and very well told. More info here.
Tiny Furniture A quarter life crisis film that's actually very observant and affecting, without wallowing in self-pity.
Varmints (short) A little bit hit-you-over-the-head with a "be good to the environment" message, but it's well animated and has some very beautiful sequences. (site)
Anne Perry: Interiors I ended up liking this more than I expected. She talked far more about her prison sentence and what led up to the murder than I thought she would. She never describes the actual murder or, disappointingly, what it is like to write murder mysteries as someone who knows first-hand what murder is like. I'd love to know why she picked that genre for her career. But it's a well-shot portrait of both the author and the family that surrounds her.
One Square Mile of Earth (short) Amusing. Very much like Creature Comforts, with a more mature vibe and stylish animation. (you can watch this in parts starting here)
October Country A really interesting look at a family in upstate New York. The subjects address their circumstances with surprising insight and honesty, even if they aren't always able to find a way to change them. Through their lives, the film touches on a number of facets of modern American life, but resists generalizing any grand conclusions.
Down Terrace As an experimental film (it was filmed in 8 days) it holds together fairly well. It's definitely a different spin on the crime genre; the criminals are mostly shlubs who don't really know what's going on half the time (possibly from using too much of their own product?). Worth checking out.
The Extra Man I posted a short review the day after this came out. It's okay. I think once a trailer comes out (I haven't seen one yet), you'll probably be able to judge whether it is your cup of tea. July release.
Out in That Deep Blue Sea (short) A middle aged real estate agent deals with life. Nothing special, but it held my attention.
Cracks An artistic teacher/mentor at a girl's boarding school in 1930s England deals with the arrival of a Spanish student. I wanted more from this one. And by that, I mean I wish it were edited down better - it would have had more impact. The middle stretches on for too long once you already know where the story is going. However, I did really enjoy Eva Green's performance and the setting.

Really, don't ever waste your time (I guess I should be thankful they are all short):
One Last Cigarette (short)
Voice on the line (short)
Invisible Loneliness (short)

4/30 update: The IndieWire wrap up on the fest

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

IFF Boston

Running tally. I like the way they do it on First Showing, so....

The Extra Man - liked it
Perrier's Bounty - loved it
Cracks - didn't like it
Winter's Bone - loved it (loved, loved, loved it)
Down Terrace
- liked it
s Package (narrative)
  • Voice on the line - didn't like it
  • One Last Cigarette - didn't like it
  • Out in That Deep Blue Sea - liked it
  • Monkeywrench - loved it
  • Athena - loved it
October Country - liked it
Cell 211 - loved it
Anne Perry: Interiors - liked it
The Killer Inside Me - loved it
Tiny Furniture - liked it
Shorts Package (animation)
  • Invisible Loneliness - hated it
  • Junko's Shamisen - loved it
  • One Square Mile of Earth - liked it
  • Varmints - liked it
  • Sebastian's Voodoo - loved it
  • Wisdom Teeth - loved it. LOVED IT.
Marwencol - liked it
Micmacs - liked it

A note on my imperfect ranking system; if you asked me what I thought of both The Extra Man and Cracks, I'd say, "Meh. It was okay. 3 stars." But since I went into The Extra Man with low expectations, and cracks with high ones, one ended up as liked and one as didn't like. Disappointment or being pleasantly surprised sort of skews things...

I think after tonight (Micmacs!) I'll rank the films in order. Because overkill is a good thing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Top 100 - part 3

(part 1 and part 2)

Fourth Tier – the 'definitely adding to my DVD collection' selection

Across the Universe (2007) I love Julie Taymor's style. Here, she tells a story of the 60s through Beatles music, which works well given their extensive catalog. Overall, a very good cast, including the stellar Dana Fuchs, who is surely the reincarnation of Janis Joplin. If a couple of the numbers don't quite hit true, there are many more imaginative, touching and wonderful ones.

Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight certainly got more attention for its indigo-toned nihilism and tapping into the national mood. And while that is a beautifully shot movie, and certainly riveting to watch, it doesn’t actually make much sense. I prefer this Batman. I’ll take Katy Holmes as Rachel Dawes in exchange for Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow.

Brick (2006) A neo-noir set in high school. It's a beautiful, audacious film and the central conceit holds well (even if I didn't catch all the Dashiell Hammett dialogue the first time around). The high school setting works perfectly for the archetypal characters and paints the classic 'teen' film in a whole new light.

Damned United (2009) Less a sports movie than a biopic, the film follows Brian Clough, the football coach who led Derby to a League championship and later took the job as head coach of Leeds, which lasted only 44 days. Michael Sheen may be the most chameleon actor around, and his scenes with Timothy Spall (as his assistant coach) are a joy to watch.

Gone Baby Gone (2007) My favorite Denis Lehane adaptation. Directed by Boston native Ben Affleck, and starring his supremely talented brother Casey, I think Gone Baby Gone does the best job of the recent wave of Boston-set dramas in portraying both the feel of Boston and the hold it has over native residents. Amy Ryan turns in a stunning performance and the story's moral quandaries resonate long after the film ends.

I heart Huckabees (2004) My friend Emily has a theory that to determine whether or not you are compatible with someone, rather than looking at mac vs pc, or cat vs. dog, you should use this film. I have never laughed harder in a theater in my life.

In the Loop (2009) I was almost afraid to laugh during this one for fear of missing the next line. A blazingly quick-witted, completely vicious satire of UK and US politicians going to war. Peter Capaldi revels in one of the best characters of the year; a nasty, bullying, Alastair Campbell-esque press chief whose expletive-laden tirades are things of… well, if not beauty, then wonderment.

King Kong (2005) Peter Jackson does a marvelous job of updating the classic, recreating its epic feel with stunning visuals. The unusual casting (Adrien Brody, Jack Black and Colin Hanks) generally works, Naomi Watts is terrific and Andy Serkis and WETA made Kong a believable, relatable character.

Lost in Translation (2003) A moody, dreamy look at people who find companionship far from home. Less a travelogue than a character study, the film is instantly relatable to any who've struggled for definition in the company of strangers.

Mirrormask (2005) Dave McKean's art, Neil Gaiman's story telling, and the Jim Henson Company's production come together for this wonderful, sumptuous tale. The story itself is simple enough; a young girl dealing with family troubles at home finds herself in a fantasy land where she must prove herself (shades of Alice in Wonderland or Pan's Labyrinth). The visuals, however, are completely stunning and enchanting.

Prestige (2006) A twisty-turny mystery thriller. It is an atmospheric, haunting period piece of dueling Edwardian magicians who challenge each other to greater and more dangerous heights professionally and personally. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are fantastic, and even if you guess some of the plot twists before the reveal, I doubt you'll get them all.

Rescue Dawn (2007) Werner Herzog's take on the great escape genre. The true story of Dieter Dengler, a German-American pilot who was shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam war. Christian Bale is fantastic and completely immerses himself in this POW tale of a man's struggle to stay alive, and sane, in the depths of the war. He should've won the Oscar.

Shattered Glass (2003) Based upon a fascinating true story, this film is about Stephen Glass, who quickly rose to preeminence as one of Washington's hottest young journalists before his career came crashing down. In addition to being a fascinating character study (both of Glass and of his manager, played by Peter Sarsgaard), it's also an interesting look at journalistic ethics and it came out during a particularly turbulent time for journalism in America.

Snow Angels (2008) A searing juxtaposition of two relationships; one that is just starting out and another that continues to fall apart. A remarkably strong ensemble cast gives the story its emotional depth. The director, David Gordon Green, manages to sustain the tension of the dramatic arc while shooting the frozen Pennsylvania landscape in a style reminiscent of Terrence Malick. Incredibly moving.

Sunshine (2007) A small band of astronauts are on a long mission to send a bomb into the heart of the sun, which is dying. The first mission failed, and now they are the last hope to save the solar system. The cast is incredible and the direction is fantastic. The film does a good job of exploring the tensions that would arise in such small quarters over a long period of time and the stresses of trying to carry on the mission as things begin to go wrong. The last third of the film becomes a slightly rote thriller, but the rest of the film is stunning enough to make up for those flaws. Finally, it should be noted that this film is visually stunning - the light of the sun is practically another character.

Sweeney Todd (2007) Tim Burton takes his cast of players and thrusts them into the pitch black Sondheim musical of murder and cannibalism. Easily one of his best films, here Burton finds both the dark humor and tragedy of the tale, while adding his own touches. More than any other production I've seen (and with a starting point this good, they've all been excellent) this one captures the act of humans being turned into meat. It's absolutely gruesome, but also the most affecting and faithful to the story.

Thirteen (2003) This will hardly sound like an endorsement, but this film is absolutely incredible and I never want to watch it, ever again. It is a completely wrenching, scarily accurate portrayal of what girls are like at that age (even if they don't get up to exactly the same things the protagonists do). I seem to remember reading at the time that Nikki Reed, who portrays Evie, was consulted on the screenplay, which probably contributes to the film's realism and effectiveness.

Whale Rider (2003) The story of a young Maori girl who strives for acceptance and her place among her tribe. Anchored by a fantastic performance by Keisha Castle-Hughes, the film shows off New Zealand's natural beauty and examines the struggle of a tribal community's halting struggles to advance their traditions.

Winged Migration (2003) A beautifully filmed look at birds and their journeys across the globe. The direction does an incredible job of instilling a sense of flight in the viewer. It isn't strictly linear, or even heavily narrated. Instead, it immerses you in the world of birds and instills a sense of awe for their lives and struggles.

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002) While this is partly on here for being a great road trip/ friendship movie, it's also worth noting that it's success helped pave the way for many more Latin films to find distribution here in the US. The story of two best friends on the verge of adulthood and a tempting older woman traveling to find an elusive beach, it starts off as a simple travelogue and becomes a thought-provoking journey of self discovery. I really can't find a way to make that sound less cliche, but the movie is much deeper and well worth watching.

The Extra Man

I wanted to post a few thoughts on last night's IFF Boston screening. First off, I can't remember the last time I went into a film knowing nothing about it. Which was a little bizarre, a bit of a nice change of pace, and possibly why I wasn't completely into it (more on that in a minute).

I think being in last night's audience was the best way to see the film. They were boisterous and appreciative. Had I seen the film on DVD, I might have reviewed it as "didn't like it", but being surrounded by so many people laughing has a way of improving something.

The film is about a young man (Paul Dano) who moves to New York and moves in with an eccentric older gentleman (Kevin Kline). They are both writers and the elder one survives by being an escort, or extra man, to the grand dames of the city. Pretty much every character in the movie is eccentric in some way, and how much you like the film will depend on how amusing you find them. There isn't really much of a plot. It's more of a series of vignettes plucked from the book. (Apparently, the book is somewhat autobiographical, which I discovered at the Q&A and which made the film more interesting in retrospect).

I think if I had gone into the film thinking that it was P.G. Wodehouse-esque (Wodehouse-light?) I might have enjoyed it more. There were certainly a number of times I was laughing, but I was never really enthralled. As a case in point, John C. Reilly pops up at one point with some intereting mannerisms. It was fun to see with a cinephile crowd because everyone was laughing at John C. Reilly playing off of his former, seriously artsy roles. But if you're thinking about the actor, then you aren't entirely engaged with the story. There's also some really terrible voice-over narration. It gets explained about half-way through the film, but it is pretty off-putting.

Overall, I thought it was meh. Kevin Kline was good. It just would have been nice to feel like the movie went somewhere, rather than being a collection of short stories.

I will say, though, that Kevin Kline was terrific and very charming during the Q&A afterward. And it was a lot of fun to get to see him in person.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Round em up move em out

I have no idea why, but this is stuck in my head.

Turns out Festival Genius has been picked up be another company, so it will continue for a while to come. Which is great - even though I stared at the calendar for waaay too long, the genius picked out an even better schedule than the one I came up with for myself.

Gen Y's Coming of Age film is....

Dude, Michael Sheen!

And there is a new m15m. Yay!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IFF Boston

The schedule is up!! And thank god festival genius is running! Looks like I'll make it to all of my must-sees, and a few others that look interesting and that I have some free time for. Can't make the Convention, which I feel like I just heard something about. But maybe I'm confusing it with Edward Norton's Obama doc?

Not making it to many docs in general, but what are you going to do when Erasing David is up against the Freebie, October County is opposite I am Love or Taqwacore is at the same time as Perrier's Bounty?

However, barring unforseen catastrophes, it looks like I'll be hitting up 17 films in 8 days. Hee. Ha ha. MWAHAHAHA.....

Also also: Did I not just say this?

Monday, April 5, 2010

3-D v. 2-D

So... the 3-D on Clash of the Titans sucks. Apparently. You couldn't pay me to see it in 3-D. I actually wouldn't mind seeing it in 2-D (giant fucking scorpions! Release the giant fucking scorpions!) BUT - I am adamantly opposed to this half-assed conversion of blockbusters at the last minute to pull in extra money from 3-D screenings. Should you see Avatar or Coraline in 3-D? Absolutely. Those were filmed with special 3-D cameras and set up to be filmed in 3-D. Alice in Wonderland? No way. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? NO. Post-production 3-D. How to Train Your Dragon? Yes - made for 3-D. A converted Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Well, you get the idea.

Michael Bay has said he is refusing to do Transformers 3 in 3-D. I never thought I'd say this, but mad props to him. (Now, could you make better movies in 2-D?) When studios insist on poor, last-second 3-D conversion, they are only hurting themselves. Audiences will eventually stop shelling out for such awful product and using 3-D as a legitimate film-making tool will halt.

More: Clash of the Titans director thinks it looks like crap

The debate rages on

The NYTimes take

Ah, hope

The real problem here is that it gets to the point where the movie-goer has to research their films to figure out the best format in which to see something. This applies not only to 3-D, but to IMAX as well. Something like the Dark Knight which had sequences shot specifically for IMAX should be seen on an IMAX screen, but if it's just the regular movie projected slightly larger? Why shell out more when it won't be much different from your local multiplex. One article I read actually suggested that any film converted to 3-D should be labeled as "converted" on marketing materials or else it would run the risk of false advertising.

On a separate note (well, he mentions commerce winning out over creativity or artistic vision): the hilarious review of Attack of the Clones. More pizza rolls!

An interesting look at Inception (non-spoilerish)

Oh, good. Another time-waster.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Odds and ends

Breaking Upwards is being released and getting good reviews. Seriously?? Ugh.

Saw Red, White and Blue at the Underground Film Fest. Really good, and really disturbing. I suppose it would be called a horror film, but it isn't supernatural in any way. It's flawed people in bad situations doing nasty things to each other. It's far more character-driven than most horror films and it's really well done. But I do have to point out that I don't remember the last time I saw violence so graphic and realistic on screen that I couldn't watch it. But it's still a really beautiful film. Odd juxtaposition, I know, but it's well worth checking out. Noah Taylor is fantastic. I've liked him in supporting roles for years and I need to check out some of his other work.

There's an interview with the director here (scroll down).

iWire has an interesting article on the first quarter of indie releases. It's nothing like last year, but there's a strong crop of releases. 16 have already crossed 1 million, and I'm sure the next 3 will as well. I am glad to see that Imaginarium did a bit better than I thought it had and that the Oscar shorts program is going strong. Can't wait to see the Ghost Writer, A Prophet and the Runaways...

A Cannes wish list. I want to see Black Swan (Aronofsky), maybe Fair Game (I like Doug Liman, but Valerie Plame?), the Fighter (David O. Russell), Kaboom, Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell), the Rum Diary, the Tempest (ALREADY - Taymor), Three (Twyker), Tree of Life (Malick), the Way Back (Weir), and What's Wrong with Virginia (Dustin Lance Black).

iW also has an article on IFF Boston.

Right - I'm going to try to get a lot done today so that I can go out and catch one of those indies. :)