Sunday, April 30, 2006

midday sunday

We're in the middle of the day between screenings and all I get is coffee and donuts. I would much rather have a tuna sandwitch

Tribeca 12: The 50th film....

I've done a count and have gone through fifty features since I started three weeks ago. That's some sort of personal best for a festival. That's why I didn't put anything up yesterday...not that there's anyone out there looking....

Burke and Wills (Australia) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed by
Matthew Zeremes and Oliver Torr

For the record, it’s important to explain that “Burke and Wills” is Australian for “Lewis and Clark.” In other words, the two filmmakers who made this piece of crap decided to give it a title that was either somewhat deceptive, promising an epic that isn’t there, or being cheeky in a particularly lame way. I think it’s the latter because that describes the entire film.

Burke(Oliver Torr) rents a house somewhere in Sydney, and sublets out a room to Wills(Matthew Zeremes). Now Wills has a girlfriend named Elinor(Elizabeth Richmond) and is a bit outgoing. He’s also, one hell of a bore.

So after Wills moves in, nothing happens, then nothing happens some more, then Wills breaks up with his girlfriend, then more nothing. Then Burke’s grandmother dies, then some more nothing.

Near the end, something happens, but by the time it does, we’re already fast asleep and can’t really appreciate it. The last couple of acts (they are separated by chapter headings) are meant to be shocking, but it’s perhaps that the rest of the film is sooooo banal.

This is a complete waste of celluloid, Fortunately, it’ll never see the light of day again, do don’t worry.

Mee Shee: The Water Giant (Canada, U.S.A) - North American Premiere.

Directed by
John Henderson

When you have a film specifically made for babies, you can get away with a heck of a lot more plot holes than you would in a film made for older audiences. A simple story that doesn’t talk down to the wee ones is all that is necessary, and the special effects should be good too. That’s where the Jim Henson creature shop comes in, but more on that later.

Sean Cambell(Bruce Greenwood) is a heroic rescue submariner, flying around the world with his minisub and trusty assistant Neilds(Joe Pingue) saving people and important artifacts from the bottom of the sea. But does his six-year-old son Mac(Daniel Magder) appreciate that? Not on your life!!!

So when a vacation to Sea World is suddenly aborted when a helecopter is shot down over the Great Slave Lake in Northern Canada, Sean and Neilds are on the job, and they decide to take little Mac along, Mac’s mom having been killed offstage sometime before. So they head off to the Great White North, where Mac is told by the landlady(Phyllida Law), about the legend of Mee Shee, the great lake’s own monster, who few have seen and allegedly lives in a cave somewhere.

Given a bike Mac drives around the area, and here he falls into a hole, goes through a rollercoaster-like tunnel into the lake, and gets saved by the monster, who, being made by the Jim Henson company to look friendly, reminds one of a giant manatee.

Of course there’s danger, as evil competitors of the oil company our hero works for has sent to stock villians(Joel Tobeck and Charles Mesure) to sabotage Dad’s mission. In what might be an original idea that seems to have gone nowhere, this is at first blamed on Greenpeace, who in real life do do such things. But this is for little children and we can’t have that sort of thing, especially for a Canadian production.

The film follows a cookie-cutter plot after some cute innovations, and the jokes work. What annoys the grownups is the fact that the government of Canada is nowhere to be seen except for Laura (Luanne Gordon), of the Canadian environment ministry, but she doesn’t have a radio to call the cops with.

Wait until it comes out on the Disney Channel or Nick.

The TV Set (USA) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Jake Kasdan

Write what you know. Except for science fiction or cheesy romance , that’s the first rule of fiction. Jake Kasdan has been in and around show business all his life [his father Lawrence is a big shot honcho] and he’s done TV, including a pilot that never was picked up. So he knows what he’s talking about.

Kasdan’s doppelganger is Mike(David Duchovny) a writer with a vision. He’s doing a thing called “The Winslow Chronicles” about the adventures of guy recovering from his brother’s suicide. The script’s gotten past gate, so to speak, and it’s actually going to be produced. This is exiting news indeed, but there are other factors involved that are going destroy the pure vision Mike originally had.

Lenny(Sigourney Weaver) is the number two person in the network, and she wants as much input on the series that Mike has, but doesn’t want him to actually think that. Her number two is Richard(Ioan Gruffudd), who’s marriage is in trouble because his wife hates LA. Slightly different visions lead to conflicts, and since Lenny is paying the bills, Mike generally loses.

Not for want of trying. He and his assistant Alice(Judy Greer) try to force the hands of the powers that be by getting a bad actor named
Zach Harper(Fran Kranz) to go against the person he wants for the job, so Zach gets it instead, of course. This sort of thing happens for the entire film and by the time it gets picked up, it’s completely different than what was originally pitched.

This is the writer’s protest against the suits who destroy creativity in the TV business. If the writers had been left alone with their vision would the world be a better place? Dunno. But the film is funny, and everyone in the film is fighting on the same side for truth, justice and the American way. Writing for TV is compromise anyway, so nobody should really have all that much to complain about. This is inside baseball and is only going to be popular with the people in the biz.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tribeca 11: miscellaneous

Since we've got five screenings today, we're going to stop doing it in catagories and just put stuff up.....

Mee Shee: The Water Giant (Canada, U.S.A) - North American Premiere. A Screenmedia Release.

Directed by
John Henderson

When you have a film specifically made for babies, you can get away with a heck of a lot more plot holes than you would in a film made for older audiences. A simple story that doesn’t talk down to the wee ones is all that is necessary, and the special effects should be good too. That’s where the Jim Henson creature shop comes in, but more on that later.

Sean Cambell(Bruce Greenwood) is a heroic rescue submariner, flying around the world with his minisub and trusty assistant Neilds(Joe Pingue) saving people and important artifacts from the bottom of the sea. But does his six-year-old son Mac(Daniel Magder) appreciate that? Not on your life!!!

So when a vacation to Sea World is suddenly aborted when a helecopter is shot down over the Great Slave Lake in Northern Canada, Sean and Neilds are on the job, and they decide to take little Mac along, Mac’s mom having been killed offstage sometime before. So they head off to the Great White North, where Mac is told by the landlady(Phyllida Law), about the legend of Mee Shee, the great lake’s own monster, who few have seen and allegedly lives in a cave somewhere.

Given a bike Mac drives around the area, and here he falls into a hole, goes through a rollercoaster-like tunnel into the lake, and gets saved by the monster, who, being made by the Jim Henson company to look friendly, reminds one of a giant manatee.

Of course there’s danger, as evil competitors of the oil company our hero works for has sent to stock villians(Joel Tobeck and Charles Mesure) to sabotage Dad’s mission. In what might be an original idea that seems to have gone nowhere, this is at first blamed on Greenpeace, who in real life do do such things. But this is for little children and we can’t have that sort of thing, especially for a Canadian production.

The film follows a cookie-cutter plot after some cute innovations, and the jokes work. What annoys the grownups is the fact that the government of Canada is nowhere to be seen except for Laura (Luanne Gordon), of the Canadian environment ministry, but she doesn’t have a radio to call the cops with.

Wait until it comes out on the Disney Channel or Nick.

Crime Novel (Romanzo Criminale)

Written and Directed
by Michele Placido

The mafia in Italy isn’t as smart as the mafia here in the ‘States. We’ve got an epic here, and it seems that if you’re mean enough you can pretty much roll over the Italian mob in Rome with just a flick of the finger.

Ice(Kim Rossi Stuart), Black(Riccardo Scamarcio), Lebanese (Pierfrancesco Favino) and the Dandy(Claudio Santamaria) have been friends since they were little kids. They’re loyal to each other and to no one else, as they hit the big time by kidnapping a minor noble. They kill him before getting the ransom, but after getting the money Lebanese gets the brilliant idea to invest the money in wholesale cocaine instead of fancy cars and cheap women.

So with a bribe here and a stabbing there, they quickly take over the rackets in the eternal city. But Capt. Scialoja(Stefano Accorsi) is on their trail, which should be scary for them, but the Italian Intelligence service is on the side of the crooks. This is a story taking decades, so when the Red Brigades kidnaps and murders a former prime minister, our boys are enlisted to help find him, but they fail. That’s Italy for you.

Then there’s the women, the Dandy is in love with Patrizia(Anna Mouglalis), the best whore in Rome, and to show this he buys her a cathouse of her own, but unbeknownst to him, she’s also sleeping with the good Capitain. Ice is in love with the innocent and cultured
Roberta(Jasmine Trinca), who hasn’t a clue what a royal shit she’s screwing. This is a long film, so there’s lots of soap opera to fill the spaces between the shootings and stabbings.

For a film of this magnitude and scope, this is surprisingly boring. We don’t really care a rat’s ass about any of these people, even though Stewart is quite good looking.

Don’t bother.

The Groomsmen (U.S.A.).

Written and Directed
by Edward Burns

Paulie(Ed Burns) and Sue(Brittany Murphy) are finally getting married, and it’s about time, what with her being six months pregnant and all. So Paulie, has wants to get his best buddies together for the big event.

Getting his brother Jimbo (Donal Logue), cousin Mike(Jay Mohr) and old pal Dez (Matthew Lillard) was easy, they all live on City Island, but TC(John Leguizamo) has disappeared years before and finding him was lots of work. But found he was and as the movie starts, he’s waiting at the train station.

Of course, everyone in the group has problems, and that’s the main focus of the film, how to deal with the problems of everyday life when you don’t know what you really want and are beginning to get on in years.

What this is, is a typical film about nothing, which is what Burns likes to do best. Everyone gets to work through their problem except Dez, whos managed to figure everything out. There are parts of it which are interesting, and the acting is for the most part really good, after all this is the young has-been brigade of former teen stars and this proves that they haven’t lost any of their mojo.

Worth a look when it lands on cable.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hollywood family films.

In addition to the vast number of Indies and foreign films, there are a number of genuine, actual Hollywood movies shown at the festival. The three here are called "family entertainment" as they don't say shit, fuck, piss, tits or cocksucker even once.

Keeping Up With The Steins

Directed by
Scott Marshall

The Bar Mitzvah (Hebrew for “first blessing), is one of the most important ceremonies in the Jewish religion. In olden times, the 13-year-old boy, would come up to read the torah at the synagogue for the first time. Then he would be given a party prior to being kicked out of the house and forced to get a job.

Except for the last part, the tradition continues to this very day, and the party is one thing that everyone remembers. The jokes about how ostentations and vulgar the bar mitzvah parties can be have been going around since kicking the son out of the house was a real part of the whole meshegaas.

Benjamin Fiedler(Daryl Sabara), the privileged son of a Hollywood super-agent, is almost thirteen and thus is scheduled to take part in the rite. When we meet him, he’s attending the party of his friend
Zachary Stein(Carter Jenkins), who’s parents had it on a cruise ship with a Titanic theme. Vulger it is. Ben’s parents(Jami Gertz and Jeremy Piven), not to be outdone, are preparing for a hyper-expensive to-do of their own.

Imagine “Father of the Bride III” from the point of view of the bride.

Ben’s parents have issues, but the real one is between Ben’s dad and grandfather. Decades before, Irwin Fiedler(Garry Marshall) had left his wife Rose (Doris Roberts) and son Adam, and Adam had never forgiven him. Reconciliation between father and son being a mitzvah in and of itself, Ben decides to invite Irwin and his girlfriend
Sandy “Sacred Feather” Frost(Darryl Hannah), a new age vegan type, and unknown to his parents, changes the date so they would show up a week early.

This is one of those “true meaning of Christmas” type plots, where everyone lives happily ever after, and as such it works. The jokes, are for the most part good, and so is the acting. For those of us who are members of the tribe this will bring back memories, whether or not they’re good or bad depends on the viewer, but bring them back they will. For gentiles, this is a good insight into the Jewish mind, whatever the heck that is.

Worth the bucks.


Directed by
Barry Sonnenfeld

Film critics generally hate comedies. Family comedies especially. That’s because ever since “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” back in the early 1960s, if not further, it’s been pretty much the same plot: In order to get from here to there, every disaster that can happen will happen. It’s inevitable. Been there done that.

Now the reason that critics hate these films is not only that they’ve been done before [why can’t they just rent a good old Shirly Temple movie…oh yeah, they’re racist] a hundred times, but because the critics have seen…them…a…hundred…times.

This doesn’t mean that they can’t be done right anymore. They can.
In this version, corporate type Bob Munro(Robin Williams) is taking his wife Jamie (Cheryl Hines) and kids Carl (Josh Hutcherson) and Cassie(Jojo Levesque) to a corporate swaree, and the friend that Cassie brought along attacks Bob's boss Todd(Will Arnett) for ruining the children of America with his soft drinks, sloshing them all over his new suit. Hardeeharhar.

Due to an emergency, Todd has decided to NOT fire Bill and tells him to cancel that Hawaii vacation that they were going on the next week and head out to Colorado to make a presentation.

This being the American upper-middle class family, we need family bonding!!! So We’ve got the title vehicle, which, as expected, doesn’t work properly.

Just because the thing’s been done before doesn’t mean that much of the shtick isn’t funny. The porta-potty disposal joke actually works, and the helpful, but rather corney Gornicke family(Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth and some kids) from whom the Munros try so very hard to escape, are actually a decent foil for them.

All in all, it’s good not great, and is worth the bucks to take the kids, after all, it’s a family comedy, and there are always going to be families….

Goal! The Dream Begins

Directed by
Danny Cannon

One thing we learn in this picture is that Mexico gives sells passports quickly, cheaply and with no questions asked. Apparently, you don’t even need a birth certificate!

Otherwise how would an illegal alien like Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) be able to get all the way to London, England from LA so fast? If there wasn’t some sort of magic involved, then how would there be so many bizarre coincidences?

One of the bad things we’ve got is the politics. The film begins with
young Santiago(Kuno Becker) crossing the border illegally with this father(Tony Plana), who apparently hates soccer. Cut to ten years later, where Santi, is living with his dad, his grandmother (Miriam Colon) and baby brother Hernan(Tony Plan). They’re not doing too well, although they live in a nice house and make more than the minimum wage….Now dad knows that since the whole family, except for little Hernan, are illegal, they can’t get all that far in the world of work. He has to rake leaves and work as a busboy in a Chinese resturant, where he’s discriminated against.

But he still has soccer, where he plays in a local league against college teams. It’s here he’s discovered by one Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), a former soccer star himself and also a former scout for Newscastle United. From here we go directly to fairy tale land.

First off, the scout he’s with decided not to go see our hero, but hang out with bodacious babes on the beach. So Foy calls up NU owner Erik Dornhelm(Marcel Iures) at three in the morning GMT, and gets the latter to let Santi try out.

Thing is: Dad is dead set against it, and goes as far as to steal Santi’s life savings to buy a truck and start his own business. This leads to a real rift, and it’s the only thing that’s the least bit real on an emotional level. Then Grandma buys a ticket via Mexico city to London, Santi gets his magic passport and off we go to Newcastle.

The rest of the film is a bit of a cheat. Santi makes mistakes, but someone, somewhere, be it Foy, superstar Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola) or love interest and nurse Roz(Anna Friel), someone always comes to save our hero’s butt. They have to have a happy ending, right. The father/son conflict isn’t sorted out in the way you might expect, but that’s the only thing. The rest is by the book.

Still, it’s a cute film.

The Test

I tried to get from one venue to another in time for the next screening, it's just about impossible unless they're at least an hour apart. Bummer.

It's the morning...are you up?

I'm just wondering if there's anyone actually out there, the statistics show that while we're actually getting readers, most of them accidently click on and go right off. So if you are reading this leave a comment, okay? Just don't leave obnoxious advertisements like: "I'm so glad you've got a blog on homeowners insurance, here's my sex site!" Here's a review left over from yesterday:

My Dad is 100 Years Old

Directed by
Guy Maddin

Isabella Rossellini is famous for being a B-list actress and being the daughter of, Ingrid Bergman who left her husband for Roberto Rossellini soon sometime in the 1940s. We tend to forget the relationship between father and daughter in light of the famous divorce and other stuff, but Isabella and Guy Maddin have gotten together to produce a birthday card for the late director.

In this short valentine, Isabella plays the parts of a number of directors who knew Roberto, who’s played by a prosthetic belly, and they discuss the meaning of his films and his famous lifestyle. It’s very informative and oh so sweet. A very cute film indeed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tribeca 10: Euro politics: the Docs.

Unless there are elections or major riots, the politics of Western Europe are generally ignored, which is a pity, that bunch over there makes us appreciate the morons we have over here all the more.....

Viva Zapatero!
(Italy) - New York Premiere.

a documentary written and
directed by Sabina Guzzanti

Imagine if the Bush administration ordered Comedy Central to fire Jon Stewart, and then all of a sudden every major newspaper in the country began to attack the “Daily Show” for not being respectful enough to George and Dick. Satire having to be sweet and all….

Well that actually happened to comedienne Sabina Guzzanti, and as one might expect, she’s ticked off big time.

In 2003, the premier of her satirical TV show “RAIot” [the network’s called RAI, get it?] went after the premier of the country, one Silvio Berlusconi, who owns the media. I’m not kidding, he really owns the media. He was ticked off and Sabina was outta there. So were some of the top journalists in Italy, and Freedom House, which keeps track of that sort of thing, is about to kick Italy out of the free world and reclassify it.

In order to get revenge and pubiicize her cause, she goes on pretty much every TV station in Western Europe, doing schtick and interviews for this very doc. She also managed to get all sorts of sketches from satirical shows from Britian, France and the Netherlands, and those are really vicious.

This film is both funny and horrifying. It reminds us how fragile our freedoms are and how important humor can be. This is a must…oh yeah, you may be wondering who the heck Zapatero is, he’s the prime minister of Spain. Why his name is in the title is unclear.

The Case of the Grinning Cat

Written and Directed
by Chris Marker

This isn’t exactly a documentary, this is more of an illustrated essay. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, a graffiti artist started painting pictures of a certain cartoon cat all over the city of Paris. Who created this new mascot of the city of light? Why did it get so popular?

Maker, who’s been doing this sort of thing for years and years, tries to find out. This is gonna be fun.

So what we have is a lighthearted tour of Gay (in the original definition) Paree during the first half of the ‘00z, starting with a flash-mob just after the 9/11 attacks. Above the crowd is that cartoon cat, painted on a building, and soon, there are smiling cats painted everywhere. Who originated this? Marker either doesn’t know or isn’t telling, but he goes on a search, and wherever he goes, the cat precedes him. In the Metro, the sewers, buildings large and small, even the occasional tree.

The cat turns up in the midst of the 2002 presidential election, where the left was so split that the self-proclaimed fascist candidate came in second. Then came the Iraq war, the cat was at the demonstrations. Then there were more marches prostesting pretty much everything, Where was the cat?

On TV, on the web, you name it, someone was putting that sucker on pretty much everything, with all unsigned with the exception of a © mark, but who owns the copyright?

Doesn’t matter, really. Long live the chat.

Tribeca 9: Eurotrashpop, or is it Europoptrash?

Okay, folks, celebrity culture is as big in Europe as it is here in the 'States. Here we have two examples of the thirst for fame, fortune and access to same. It all seems like it is here, but that's globalization for ya. They had it first....

Beauty And The Bastard (Tyttö sinä olet tähti) (Finland) - North American Premiere.

Directed by
Dome Karukoski

An interesting phenomenon is how happy people are when the government film commissions of some European countries decide to fund a Hollywood-style film. If an even halfway decent film of that ilk starring local talent in the local language will be a real hit.

This is that sort of film, halfway, but not full-way, decent. Had this been an American film, it would be considered a throw-away romance that would be gone inside of two weeks, with maybe a short afterlife on DVD or cable.

Nelli(Pamela Tola) is a recent college graduate studying for her medical school entrance exam. But she doesn’t actually want to be a doctor, she wants to be Shakira or Britiney!

So in an act of desperation, she accosts a big-shot Helsinki record producer (Mikko Kouki) who gives her a ten second audition in an elevator and tells her to come back when she’s got a demo. When she asks where she could make one, he pawns her off on Hip-hop
DJ Sune(Samuli Vauramo), who just quit in a huff in the scene before. This is a typical romantic introduction scene. They hate each other on sight. They meet again at a club, and he agrees to produce the demo. Sune’s bandmates Kondis(Joonas Saartamo) and Mr. Daddy(Eero Milonoff) bet him that he can’t get her into bed, and he takes it.

What he doesn’t know is that Nelli has a fiancée named Mikko(Jussi Nikkilä). He thinks he’s her brother. Standard complications with the usual twists, we have nothing original here. Not that we really need that sort of thing, this is a romantic comedy after all, and the intended audience isn’t as cynical as it is here sometimes.

Everybody lives happily ever after except poor Mikko, but that’s romantic comedy for you!!! It’s a nothing movie, but it’s the Finn’s very own, and don’t they deserve a little glitz?

Backstage (France) – U.S. Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Emmanuelle Bercot

People blame America for celebrity culture, but it’s a universal phenomenon. Emmanuelle Bercot and Jérôme Tonnerre know this and that the French are just as star struck as we here in the US, and thought that this might be a good way to explore a releationship.

Lucie(Isild Le Besco) is a bored teenager living out in the boonies. It’s her birthday and her mom(Edith Le Merdy) decides to get a special surprise for it. She’s contacted the producer of a TV reality show, and he got Lucie’s heroine, the famous singer Lauren Waks (Emmanuelle Seigner), to film a music video in Lucie’s back yard.

Lucie, of course, freaks out big time.

But soon after, knowing that her idol has left her a note that she’d like to meet her again, and feeling that she’s blown the biggest chance of her life, she hitches all the way to Paris and after waiting in front of the hotel with the other deranged fans before sneaking in and getting first past the bodyguard(Jean-Paul Walle Wa Wana), before wangling an audience the diva. Lauren’s secretary-minder Juliette (Noemie Lvovsky) and her business manager(Valery Zeitoun) are at first mildly supportive (it’s only five minutes) but Lauren has for some reason decided to hire Lucie as her pet go’fer.

Thus begins a semi-lesbian platonic love affair, where both diva and fan feed off each other’s neuroses and develop a bizarre codependency. Lauren is pining for her ex Daniel (Samuel Benchetrit), and Lucie, who’s met him while packing up the soon to be abandoned apartment, immediately begins a relationship with him, that’s for Lauren’s benefit, of course.

This is the story of two sick people trying to stay that way. The film has a mesmerizing quality about it, but the fact is is that it’s ruined by the music, which is terrible. The acting is good, so much so that we can suspend disbelief and go with the absurdity of the whole thing.

Tribeca: The intermission

We're almost two days into the official festival and the big thing is that I've discovered that all romances have the same damn plot. Each and every one is about the celebration of adultery and usually some damn fool gets dumped who shouldn't. They made a movie about that which was here last year called The Baxter.

More on this later.

Tribeca VIII: The empire formerly known as British

The British Empire isn't exactly dead, but has been transformed into something else, there are lots of films that take place in the days of empire or afterwards, since Blighty, except for parts of Glascow and London, and it's former colonies are exotic as exotic can be. Here are two of them...

Return to Rajapur (U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Nanda Anand

Adultery is a staple of romance novels. Writers and filmmakers love when marriages fall apart, especially when there’s death and destruction about. Destroy the marriage and then kill off the cuckolded husband, just so “true” love can triumph between the heroine and hero. It’s been done a zillion times.

Exotic locations are also de rigeur in this sort of film, so with auteur Nanda Anand being of Hindu decent, India would do just fine. You can’t get more exotic than that.

We start in the present day, where Samantha Hartley(Kelli Garner) is traveling to the 1100-year-old town of Jaisalmer, on the edge of the Thai desert somewhere near the Pakistani border. She’s on a mission, and that is to solve a mystery, what happened to her father before she was born. Or is it her father?

She wants to stay in the former Maharaja’s palace, but that shouldn’t have been possible, as Amar (Bhanu Goswami), the driver [and defrocked prince] notes, it hadn’t been used as a hotel in years. But, they’re trying to get a grant to defray the costs of renovation, and are expecting an American student to help write the grant proposal. So Sam decides to pretend to be the student. Implausibility number one, but it gets her inside the building.

Flash back to 1982 and the B story. Jeremy(Justin Theroux) and Sara Reardon(Lynn Collins), who are obviously Sam’s parents are on their honeymoon, and are going to spend some time at the palace while Jeremy does commuting to the big city of Jaipour for business.

The son of the former Maharaja is they young and sexy Jai Singh (Manoj Bajpai), who starts taking a liking to Sarah, while Jeremy is revealed to be a bit of an ass. Paint-by-numbers romance if there ever was one. All the clichés are there in their glory, including the dying-in-childbirth offstage. Medicine was advanced enough back in 1982 so rich people would have that problem…jeez!

The writing, happily, isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, and the acting is quite good. If you’re into “harlequin romances” you’ll definitely like this. But it’s generally a fan-only type thing.

Wah-Wah (U.K.)

Written and Directed
by Richard E. Grant

What does the title of this film mean? It’s a jokey reference to the upper-crust British colonialist slang that was used back in the late early 1970s when this thing takes place. They may as well called this film “Yackity-yack.”

The terrible title aside, this isn’t all that bad a film. This is an exercise in autobiography, and filmmaker Richard E. Grant grew up in a culture long gone, that of the British Empire.

Grant’s pseudonym for himself is Ralph Compton, and we first meet him at age 12 where he’s played by Zachary Fox, just as his parents(Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson) marriage is falling apart. Mom’s been boinking a local diplomat and has decided to shack up with him. Ralph and his dad Harry are both devastated, and soon our hero has himself shipped off to a boarding school somewhere, where he’s transformed into Nicholas Hoult during the middle of a cricket match. It’s always interesting how they try to do that sort of thing and this is one of the better transitions.

On his return, Ralph discovers that his dad is not only a roaring drunk, but is now divorced and married to an American named
Ruby(Emily Watson), who turns out to be an extremely lovable extrovert. Mom comes back, and Swaziland, which is the colony where this all takes place, is going to get its independence and as the empire crumbles, the colonials play a waiting game, getting ready an amateur theatrical performance for Princess Margaret and sleeping around. Decadence as metaphor for decadence, how original.

The acting is really good, as Grant has lots of friends in the business and was able to get a delightful supporting cast. While there is tragedy here, everyone ends up living happily ever after. It’s cute, not great, but cute.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The first official press screening

The first official press screening was for a thing called The Peace Tree. This was a propaganda film for babies explaining how "tolerence" for other religions should be practiced. It was so poor that I walked out. I was th only one to do so because I was the only one there!!!!

That's right folks, the first official press screening of the festival had only one person attending. This doesn't bode well for the rest of the fest.

Tribeca VII: Family Films, part one


Written and Directed
by Charles Sturridge

Remember, this is a kid's film. Sure this is pure unadulterated schmaltz. It's supposed to be. After all, Eric Knight's original 1938 novel was schmaltzy, the first movie version, which introduced Elizabeth Taylor to the world, was also, and the 756,342 remakes, redos, TV shows and gawd knows what else, also are. It's the nature of the beast.

What matters here is if the film is done well, which it is. The plot follows that of the original book. We're in Yorkshire, England, where little Joe Carraclough(Jonathan Mason) is living with his working-class parents(Samantha Morton and John Lynch) and not doing very well at school. Things are happy anyway, until Dad is laid off at the mine and they're forced to sell their eponymous collie to the crotchety-yet-lovable Duke of Rudling(Peter O'Toole), who wants it for his cute-yet-formidable granddaughter Cilla(Hester Odgers).

Lassie, that Einstein of canines, doesn't like the situation very much, especially since the Duke has given Lassie's care over to the evil Eddie Hynes (Steve Pemberton), who runs his kennels. But he's not match for Lassie, who can dig tunnels and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

After she's escaped several times to return to the Carraclough's tiny apartment, The Duke and Cilla take the bitch up to Scotland, five hundred miles to the north. Lassie escapes yet again, and begins the epic journey where she testifies in court, outwits Glascow dog catchers, testifies in court, and helps an itinerant dwarf(Peter Dinklage) with his puppet theater and fending off ignorant muggers. Lassie can do anything except maybe fly a plane, but then again we knew that from the beginning…at least those of us who are old enough to remember the various TV shows or were forced to read the book in grade school do.

With the exception of a brief appearance by a CGI Loch Ness monster, this is moviemaking of the old school, and is worth taking the little ones to before they get too cynical.

One Last Thing…

Directed by
Alex Steyermark

Drama-dy is hard to do, especially when we've got one of those made-for-TV tearjerker ones which are too cute by half. Barry Stringfellow's script manages to do it successfully, and not bad for a first time screenwriter.

Dylan Jameison(Michael Angarano) in the final stages of some sort of cancer. He's applied to the “United Wish Givers” society for one last good time, and on the day he's to have his wish announced, he's realized he's made a mistake, he doesn't really want to go fishing with football star Jason O'Malley(Johnny Messner), he wants a rollicking weekend with supermodel Nikki Sinclair(Sunny Mabrey).

This, of course, mortifies both his mother Karen(Cynthia Nixon) and the foundation. But Nikki's agent Arlene(Gina Gershon) thinks that a visit would make for good publicity for one of the most troublesome models in the fashion biz, and a brief visit is quickly arranged. It doesn't go all that well, because she keeps dreaming about the boyfriend she dumped and who then killed himself.

Through a typical movie-of-the-week style plot twist, our hero and his two best friends(Matt Bush and Gideon Glick) head off to New York to basically stalk Nikki and see what the city is all about. Being teenagers, the friends behave wackilly. Nothing really wrong with that. The whole thing has a spiritual dimension that kind'a works under the circumstances, especially with Buddhist shopkeeper from
Brooklyn explaining reincarnation and Dylan's visions of his dead father(an uncredited Ethan Hawke) all over the place. The ending is sweet, and there's no real happy ending, which under the circumstances is also rather good.

Since the thing is coming out on DVD three weeks after the theatrical release, wait and rent it.

The Heart of the Game

Directed by
Ward Serrill

One thing about documentaries is that the filmmakers don't always know how the film is going to end. When Ward Serril began working on the film seven years ago, it was supposed to be about a guy named Bill Resler, who was a tax attorney teaching tax law at a university who decided to moonlight as a coach for a girl's basketball team, and to a small extent it still is, but then, a couple of years after Serrill started filming, something happened.

What that was was the arrival of Darnellia Russell, an extremely talented freshman who basically takes over the plot. She's not one of those perky poor heroines who's only flaw is her economic background. Since this is a documentary rather than one of those “inspired by a true story” fluffers, she has a number of problems which are her own damn fault.

There are also other girls who have problems, and since Daranellia wasn't the focus of the film for the first few years of the project, we get to see what those were as well. We also see the team's archrivals as well, and they're pretty inspirational was well.

But the focus of the film becomes Darnellia and her problems, which turns into a court case and a fight with the governing body of the Washington state high school basketball league, who wind up looking like a bunch of intolerant fools.

This is one of the best docs of this sort I've seen since “Murderball,” and one could probably see a dramatization sometime in the next few years. In the meantime, see it now.

Akeelah and the Bee

Written and Directed
by Doug Atchison

Too cute by half, that's the whole film in a nutshell. Of course the plot is exactly what you'd expect it to be as this is an inspirational kiddy flick. Call me jaded, but one would expect that a film with this cast would deserve a better script.

So, we've got cute-as-a-button little Akeelah(Keke Palmer), an underachiever living in the ghetto in LA, who's English teacher knows that she is a possible genius if only she puts her mind to it. Her love of words is great and she can whip pretty much everyone's butt in Scrabble®. So the principal of her run-down sorry-ass school, Mr. Welch(Curtis Armstrong), decides to force her to get into the school's first Scripps® Spelling Bee. The obvious happens.

Here's where the film begins to fall apart. Akeela's mom Tanya (Angela Bassett) hates her. Not HATES her, but there's a tension that doesn't ring true, here. Mom doesn't want her to achieve in school, so Akeela has to study behind her back. When Mr. Welch gets the eminent and erudite academic Dr. Larabee(Laurence Fishburne) to tutor her over the summer.

When Fishburne and Palmer are working together the film is magic, they have chemistry together and the acting is both subtle and moving. Same thing when she's with the other “brainiacs” she begins to hang out with in Beverly hills.

But we get back to the insane relationship with the mother which ruins the whole movie. There's a scene during the state finals where the mother tries to destroy Akeela's chances. Not only doesn't ring true, but it's absurd as hell. It's one of THE wasted scenes in the entire history of cinema, destroying whatever credibility that follows and lets the writer-director sleepwalk through the rest of the film in a particularly formulistic way.

From that point on, it's not only stupid, it's dim-witted, brainless and obtuse to the point of being insulting to the audience.

This film is, quite simply, a gilded turd. Geez!

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Brooklyn international film festival

The Brooklyn film festival is calling itself Enigma 9, why is an enigma. Now back to tribeca....

Tribeca VI: The opening night

Considering that the Tribeca film festival was founded as a response to the horrific attacks of 9/11/01, it's perfectly understandable that the first major cinematic tribute to the heroes of that day open it. Since there are no real movie starts in the film, the red carpet gala at the Zigfield tonight is going to be somewhat subdued.

Also, I'm not that much into celebrity watching and I'm generally not invited to the parties anyway.

However, as you've undoubtably already noticed, I'm going to be at as many screenings as his humanly possible.

Here's the review for:

United 93

Written and Directed
by Paul Greengrass

People are saying that this is too early to relive the events of Sept. 11, 2001. After all, the wound is still very deep and the war that was started by the attacks is still going on, but on the other hand, we’ve already had lots and lots of takes on the attacks, including at least two TV movies and dozens of books and documentary films, including one that made over a hundred million dollars at the box office. So there’s really nothing to complain about, at least on that account.

So what are we to make of the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” of World War III?

Well, this is docudrama at it’s best. Done in real time, we see the hijackers(Louis Alsamari, Jamie Harding, Omar Berdouni and Khalid Abdalla) praying in their hotel rooms while everybody else goes on about their business. Except for SNL vet Denny Dillon and David Rasche, as passengers on the ill-fated flight, there’s no one who can actually claim to be anything close to being a movie star, and in fact auteur Paul Greengrass actually got FAA operations manager Ben Sliney and a number of other people to play themselves. Not that it helped any, but it didn’t detract either. There are so many parts here, that except for the hijacker who actually is flying the plane(Abdalla), everyone is just a face in the crowd, and considering the events of that day, that’s the way it should have been…

The best thing about the film is the tension. Like, say, “Titanic,” we know how the thing is going to end before we get in, the plane crashes in Pennsylvania, but since the film just doesn’t take place on the plane, but in the control towers in New York and New Jersey, the FAA headquarters in Virginia and the Military air lanes monitoring station in upstate New York, we get the full blown confusion and horror as the crisis gets bigger and more horrific.

This is an exceptionally fine film, and is going to be as close as we’re ever going to get when it comes to recreating the events of 9/11. There’s no politics here, just memory. It’s going to be seen eventually, and when the public is ready, it’ll be considered a classic.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tribeca V: Foreign language flicks part one

The Promise

Directed by
Chen Kaige

Mythological films area hit-and-miss affair. A lot of myths don't make all that much sense evenwithout the cultural hoo-ha which tends to make things even worse. Now Iread somewhere that this film was based on a genuine ancient myth and elsewherethat it wasn't, but the whole thing is so weird that it still might be.

Thefilm takes place in the age of myth “when the world was young and gods andhumans lived together.” We meet young Qingcheng(Guan Xiaotong), a young ragamuffinlooting a battlefield of food and clothing. She's captured by young Wuhuan(ShiLei), who agrees to let her out of the trap she's fallen into if she agreesto be his slave forever. She agrees, and as soon as he lets her out, shebonks him on the head and runs off, taking the food with her.

Nowto us modern westerners, little Q did the right thing, as promises made underduress, like being caught in a trap, aren't legally or morally binding, especiallyone like that, but to the ancient Chinese, this was a horrible faux pas.

As Q is walking on the stones crossing a lake, she's confronted by
GoddessManshen (Hong Chen), who rewards her by not only informing her of her mothersdeath, but offering her a life of wealth and riches, the only condition beingthat she's going to lose all her lovers. Q readily agrees.

Cut to20 years later, we're in the middle of the war between the army of the kingdom[of what, we're not told], and the evil duke of the north, who it turns outis a grown up Wuhuan(Nicholas Tse), his opponent is the great General Guangming(HiroyukiSanada), master of the crimson armor [which was the title of the film fora while], who's tactic is to steal an army of slaves [okay, bought, but thedealer(Qian Bo) is immediately conscripted as part of the gang], and havethem run over by a massive hoard of stampeding bulls.

The tactic works,but only because one of the slaves, Kunlun(Jang Dong-Kun) is a superherowith the power of lighting speed. This impresses the General, who offersto make him his personal slave. Since Kunlun doesn't know any better, heagrees.

Then Wuhaun sends a supernatural assassin named Snow Wolf(LiuYe) to kill the great General, but is defeated by Kunlun, who dons the crimsonarmor at his master's order and goes off to save the king(Cheng Qian) fromWuhaun's army. But the army is enthralled by the grown up Qingcheng (CeciliaCheung) striptease, and that confuses Kunlun, who kills his majesty in orderto save Q, who's hanging by her fingernails from the roof.

The mistakenidentity romantic comedy plot is combined by the Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey®one and we've got a relatively perverse romantic quadrangle.

Thisisn't nearly as good as it claims to be. The plot is hackneyed, the actingis good, but not great, the CGI is mediocre, and the fighting-while-suspended-by-wireschoreography is kind of boring. This is purported to be the most expensivemovie ever made in China, but it doesn't look it. Unless you're really intochopsocky, don't bother.

Brasilia 18% (Brazil) - International Premiere.

Written and Directed by
Nelson Pereira dos Santos

This might be called “The Case of the Hallucinating detective.”
Isn'ta detective, he's a coroner, called by the Brazillian government from hispractice in LA in order to identify a body that might be a a famous missingperson that would make it a lurid murder case.

We meet Dr. Olavo Bilac(Carlos Alberto Ricelli) on the plane, which is about to land at Brasilia's airport,and here he starts to hallucinate visions of his dead wife Laura(Bruna Lombardi),who as this film is Brazillian, is stark naked. He's met at the airport byhis sister(Laura Lustosa) and the head coroner(), and he's taken to see thecorpse, and is informed that the DNA doesn't match that of the victim, EugeniaCâmara(Karine Carvalho), who may or may not be actually dead.

Butthe powers that be want Eugenia dead and want the body to be declared hersin order to cover up the scandal, which, Eugenia, who is both a major moviestar and a fearless government investigator, had been threatening to be madepublic. The guy accused, Augusto(Michel Melamed), subscribes to this theory,but Congresswoman Georgesand Romero(Malu Mader) is willing to give up hervirtue to Olavo in order to convince our hero otherwise.

Unfortunatelyfor him, Eugenia telepathically contacts our hero and he's convinced she'salive. The whole thing is silly as hell, but in Brazil, there's lots of corruption,so who knows? However, the supernatural element really takes away from thepolitical corruption angle. It could have been better, obviously, but it'sstill a lot of fun in spots.

Men at Work (Kargaran Mashgoul-e Karand) (Iran)

Written and Directed
by Mani Haghighi

Comedycomes as much from situation as from character, and that's why it's so popularon television. One doesn't expect such things from Iran, where the governmentis not known for it's sense of humor, or even tolerating it in others.

Butthis is Mani Haghighi, the Woody Allen of Persia, who's previous films havebeen banned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and still managesto get his stuff financed. Good for him!

There's no real politicsor blasphemy here as we meet four rich friends returning from a skiing tripin the mountains surrounding Teheran stop for a pee break and come upon alarge monolith, which they vow to vandalize and overthrow.

In otherwords they decide to move an immovable object, and the rest of the worldcomes to watch them in this absurd and impossible task, well, not the world,actually, but wives, girlfriends, strangers and the occasional old man witha donkey show up and either try to help or critique the project, which becomes more and more difficult to achieve.

We discover bits and pieces ofthe lives of the original four as they plow ahead with their quest. The jokes work, and the acting is great. This is farce at it's finest.

The Mist in the Palm Trees (La Niebla en las Palmeras) (Spain) - International Premiere.

written and directed by
Carlos Molinero and Lola Salvador

Avant-gardefilmmaking is one of the hardest of genres to do. The reason is that mostof the tricks have been done already and almost always done better. In general these so-called “experiments” are horrid. There's no entertainment valueusually, and what you get is boring acts of masturbation that gives the audiencea headache.

Only very rarely does a film of this type appeal to anaudience of normal people, and those are the ones that the snooty are mostlikely to reject and thus never see the light of day at even film festivals.This is almost unique in that this is actually GOOD.

Lola Salvador'sfather was mythical to her. Both her parents died when she was very young,but her father, who died in the second world war, was special. He was a physicistwho may have been asked by both sides to work on their nuclear bomb programs.

Sowhat she and co-conspirator did was to construct a narrative as to what happenedto him, using old photographs, home movie footage, and stuff she found invarious vaults and waste dumps to create a dreamscape of a soul caught inlimbo, slowly losing it's grip on the life it once lead.

Also, there'shome video footage from the 1980s and '90s, where Ms. Salvador goes to Havana,Cuba, where she grew up, and Spain, France and Germany to search for theremains of her father's life.

They also add things like title cards,to make parts of the film flow like an old silent film. The effect is striking.That the stock footage and home movies are rotting away is for once a positivething, as gives an impression of memory and consciousness fading into nothingness.It's far more beautiful than it has a right to be.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tribeca IV: Docs about the middle east, part one

Dear Father, Quiet, We're Shooting... (Avi Hayakar, Sheket yorim...)
(Israel) - North American Premiere.

A documentery Written and Directed by
David Benchetrit and Senyora Bar David

The greatness of a country is how it treats dissent. Making a film about “conscientious objectors” in and actually showing it in that country is evidence that the filmmakers are living in a democracy.

David Benchetrit is a Moroccan refugee who never really fit into the country he fled to in order to escape the extreme bigotry of the Arab world. He was briefly in the Army in and refused to defend his adopted country in the 1973 war, that was the one where Syria and Egypt nearly won and then would have been able to attempt genocide.

This anti-Semitic hypocrite became a filmmaker in order to produce propaganda, and over the years became pretty good. The Israeli government hates is guts, as one might imagine, and he was beaten up by military police when caught trying to look through classified documents in the ministry of Defense's archives back in 2004. He was looking for evidence of “war crimes” of course. 99% of (including Denmark and Canada) countries wouldn't have even let him in the building.

Most of the film concentrates on the 1982-2000 Lebanese Civil war and the Israeli intervention thereof. There is no doubt that the whole thing was badly bungled, and the interviews of the with the people who spent time in jail for refusing to serve or deserting from their posts (again, would Canada or Denmark give these people medals for that kind of thing), give clear evidence of that, but there's no context. Benchetrit makes it seem that Lebanon was peacefully minding it's own business when the evil Prime Minister Begin decided to invade just for the fun of it.

True this film was meant for Israeli eyes and most of the population knows their own history rather well. While it's interesting, the film is worse than useless when trying to understand the situation in the Middle East.

The Play (Oyun) (Turkey) - North American Premiere.

Directed by
Pelin Esmer

In Arslankoy, a mountain village in southern Turkey. some women decided take their constant complaining up a notch and put on a play dramatizing the problems they have in order to do something about it. So Ummuye, Behiye, Ummu, Fatma K., Cennet, Saniye, Fatma F., Zeynep and Nesim go to the local high school and ask the principal, a certain Mr. Huseyin, to help them produce it.

He agrees, and obviously he contacted Pelin Esmer to film the whole thing, and for the most part the women in question have not only their conciesnesses raised, but have a real blast as well.

The film is nothing much, but everyone seems to have a good time, and it's an interesting glimpse into the lives of women in a very different culture than our own.

Encounter Point (U.S.A., Israel) - World Premiere.

a documentary written and directed
by Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha

Good intentions are sometimes just are not enough. The peace movement in Israel/Palestine is of course on the side of the angels, and the Bereaved Families Forum certainly is that. Robi Damelin's son was killed by a sniper and is now running what's basically a self help group.

Sami Al Jundi, a retired Palestinian terrorist (he was jailed when the bomb his pals and he were making exploded prematurely) and has founded an organization called Seeds of Peace

We follow them, Shlomo Zagman, Israeli (former settler and founder of the Movement for Realistic Religious Zionism), and Ali Aboawwad, a Palestinian and currently co-director of the Bereaved Families Forum) as they go about trying to promote reconcilliation.

The stories are heartbreaking but it's not anything we haven't heard before, and considering what has happened in the months since this film was completed, there's less cause for hope than ever.

After all, nobody in the film seems to get what's going on.

The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (USA, Iraq) - North American Premiere. A LifeSize Entertainment Release.

Directed by
Andrew Berends

One of the problems with this film is that there's a bit of murkiness about exactly what happened during the inciting incident. Was Ra'ad actually killed in response to something or did the Americans just do it for fun as the director implies?

This is the real question that follows Andrew Berends' rather schizophrenic propaganda documentary. The film concentrates on Ra'ad's survivors, mostly young Ibrahim, who has to take over the family business. Ra'ad was a portrait photographer and had a shop, but Ibrahim isn't very good at it, and soon the shop is going under. And he can't provide for his mother and two sisters, who are constantly depressed and weeping. One can sympathize.

Berends pretends to be “even handed” interviewing some American soldiers, but for the most part, the Americans are portrayed as unhuman machines, unthinking and unknowing.

There is a lot of footage of political rallies, and we see Muqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the Shiites and a supporter of the elected interim goverment giving speeches and Ibrahim and his friends dancing in the streets and chanting “Allah akbar” and the like. We also see the Sunnis shooting at a Shiite procession, or at least that's what it appears to be. It's possible Berends wants us to think it's another gratuitous American attack on people who are denouncing Saddam.

Denouncing Saddam? It's strange because it's apparent that Barends is to some extent PRO Saddam in his leanings.

Doesn't matter, even at an hour and a half, the thing seems really long. While Ibrahim and his family are very sympathetic, they're not exactly interesting.

Tribeca III: the first batch of indies

Choking Man (USA) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Steve Barron

Ah, a sitcom about the mentally ill. Very strange indeed.

Steve Barron, who at one time used to be in the big time,[ he directed “Coneheads,” “Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles” and a whole bunch of those hallmark fantasy series for television, ] has decided to bid Hollywood adeau and do something cheap and personal.

Jorge (Octavio Gómez Berríos) is “morbidly” shy. He works as a dishwasher at the Olympic diner in Queens. When he goes home in the evening, his alter ego, the imaginary “Choking Man” (Paolo Andino) critiques his day for him as Jorge cowers in the background.

One day, Rick (Mandy Patinkin) hires a new waitress named Amy (Eugenia Yuan). She's one of those bubbly people who has a sunny disposition, and everybody at the Olympic falls, if not in love with her, at least in like.

Jorge would like to make a move, but as was said before, is morbidly shy, but the fry-cook, Jerry (Aaron Paul) is not. He's one of those obnoxious guys who in most films gets his comeuppance, but this isn't one of these. Things go slowly.

There is clearly an ambivalence on the part of the auteur about the love triangle. This is because, there are intimations of a violence that never takes place, and weird animated sequences that may or may not advance the plot. If it was all in the perspective of Jorge, then it might have worked, but we get a few subplots which have nothing to do with Jorge, including the courtship between Amy and Jerry. He's a bit of a jerk, but mostly he's a nice guy. Where's the fun in that. The ending is one of those where a breakthrough is made, but not the one we were expected.

This is not entirely worthless, but it's not as lyrical as we might want from a thing like this. Sad.

Mentor (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Directed by
David Carl Lang

Sex in achedemia, now that's a new concept!!! This has been done to death, but then again good, old fashioned melodrama can always be entertaining, especially if done just right. This comes close.

We go time tripping back and forth between the middle 1990s Carter Baines(Matt Davis) is a grad student taking a writing seminar with famous novelist Sanford Pollard(Rutger Hauer), and 2005, where Carter is a professor and Pollard has just died.

Starting with a confrontation in 1995, we find out that Carter's written a novel about the previous summer and that Sanford has bribed him with a cushy job at another university. Then we go forward to the second timeframe where Carter has to put up with his comic relief colleague Howard(Matt Servitto) and the student Carter's currently schtupping(Lynn Chen) when he gets the news.

So we follow the journey to the funeral on the one hand, and his romances with fellow student Marilyn(Susan Misner) and more importantly, Sanford's research assistant Julia(Dagmara Dominczyk) on the other. Thus we have a ménage-a-quart which is both intellectual and sexual, and while there's no hint of homosexuality anywhere, we've got lots of sexual tension between the three principles [Marilyn drops out of the group rather quickly-only to reappear at the funeral]. Other than the romantic relationship between Julia and Carter, and a maguffin that changes everything.

While the acting for the most part is rather good, Davis appears completely out of his league, as Haur, Dominczyk and even Servitto wipe the floor with him for the entire film. It's pitiful. William Whitehurst's screenplay, on the other hand works, and we're interested in what happens between point D and point G after we get to point D from point A.

Not bad for a cheap indie, not bad at all.

Kiss Me Again (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed by
William Tyler Smith

Normality is the enemy at faux NYU, home of PC. Julian(Jeremy London) is a neo-communist professor of history there and is in a spot of trouble. He's just burned an American flag in front of his class and not everyone there thinks that this is a wonderful thing. This is the subplot. Neo-commies are considered normal in this version of the universe, and it forms the backdrop for s nasty little soap opera.

Julian is married to Chalice(Katheryn Winnick), and they live in the Alphabet city neighborhood with Chal's former best friend Malika (Elisa Donovan), a tattooed bisexual slut of a photographer who's hated Julian ever since she met him. Jealously, natch.

While our hero is discussing the ramifications of his political statement with friends Michael(Darrell Hammond) and Szabo(Fred Armisen), he comes across Elena(Mirelly Taylor), a Spanish post graduate who he met while he was in Europe before his marriage.

A kiss is stolen in Washington Square park, but, as is always the case, Milika is doing a photo shoot and…you get the idea.

So feeling guilty and not having done anything beyond a chaste kiss, Julian decides to convince Chal to start experimenting with sexuality, a threesome is just the thing to keep a marriage fresh. So, he contrives to get Elena to be the third person.

The far-left politics as normal situation aside, this film is actually extremely predictable. Everything that happens is telegraphed at the very beginning, and it all goes exactly as one might expect.

The acting is fine, We haven't seen Hammond in much of anything in ages, and it seems he's losing his hair.

This'll only be out a couple of weeks before going to cable.

Kettle of Fish (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Claudia Meyers

There is one truly great scene in this here movie and I'm not too sure if sitting through the awful-to-mediocre crap that precedes and follows it is actually worth the trouble.

Mel(Matthew Modine) a professional saxophonist and lifelong bachelor who's getting on in years and is wondering if he's going to settle down or not, so he decides to move in with his latest girlfriend(Ewa Da Cruz), who he really doesn't like, but hey, you know…so he decides to sublet his apartment for a short time to see if things work out, and the first person to come in is Ginger(Gina Gershon) a fetching biologist who's studying the sex lives of frogs.

But on the way to a job working a wedding, our hero falls in love with the bride(Gloria Reuben) and is determined to destroy her newly minted marriage and run away with her, something his best friend and band-mate Sean(Eddie Kaye Thomas) thinks is a horrible idea. It is, and it's almost a cliché, what can you do?

The acting is fine, and it's cute in parts, but Mel is such a horrible person that we don't actually know whether to root for him and hope he gets the crap beat out of him. This is a romantic comedy, and since Meyers isn't a total wuss as a writer, we get that one glorious scene were he metaphorically does indeed get what's coming to him. Unfortunately it goes back to being a bad cliché for the rest of the film and the ending, while expected, is really dumb.

Don't waste your time.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tribeca II: Domestic documenteries

The Cats of Mirikitani (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Directed by
Linda Hattendorf

Jimmy Mirikitani is an old coot who was homeless in the spring of 2001. Linda Hattendorf decided to adopt him and get him back in the system where he could have a house and a home.

He is also an artist who, as the title of the film implies, likes to draw pictures of cats. But primarily, he's a surviver of the Japanese internment camps that were set up during World War II.

He's still justifiably bitter about it. While he isn't talking about or painting about the camps, he's watching TV or walking around outside talking to either Hattendorf or some social worker.

The film isn't all that interesting, as Mirikitani isn't. He might have been made so had Hattendorf tried, but this is nothing more than a glorified home movie, and the journeys of an itinerant artist could have been so much moreso.

A waste of celluloid and potential.

The Hip Hop Project
AKA Word.Life

Directed by
Matt Ruskin

The better part of a decade ago, a Bahamian immigrant and would-be rap star named Chris "Kharma Kazi" Rolle came into the offices of ArtStart, a charity serving impoverished kids with an idea, why not get a bunch of teenagers from the 'hood and teach them how to make it in the music business? They liked the idea, and decided to have the whole process filmed.

This, and an album, is the result.

What Ruskin did was, basically, to follow about five of the nine kids who were working their dream, as well as Rolle, and show what went down.

The kids had it hard, but they all seemed nice enough, and they got lots better as the years went by and they got out of high school and went on to bigger things. It's a nice documentery and worth a look.

A Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus (U.S.A.)

A documentary directed
by Randy Olson

Faith is a powerful thing. Decades and decades after the theory of evolution was proved beyond the shadow of a doubt there are a bunch of religious people who believe the bible trumps a century and a half of scientific research. Apparently, over half the population of the US doesn't believe that the world is billions of years old.

So why are we in this situation? Biologist/filmmaker Randy Olson and his mommy go off to find out.

The center of the controversy is in Kansas where a bunch of really cute and friendly fanatics who control the state school board have been trying to ram “Intelligent design,” the new name for creationism, down the throats of innocent schoolchildren.

So what Olson and Mom do is interview as many people involved in the alleged controversy as is possible, from the lawyers who actually get paid to advocate this, to scientists from Harvard and the University of Kansas, to members of the school boards of the Sunflower state and Dover, Pennsylvania, which was publicly humiliated by the publicity surrounding it's adoption of the ID-curriculum.

While the ID people are clearly wrong and scientists right, the former are portrayed as nicer people and scientists bad at popular communication. That's half the ballgame right there.

The interstitial animation is rather good, and Olsen actually tries to be fair to both sides, which is an almost impossible task.

This is, in fact, one of the better documentaries of the year and should be seen by as many people as possible.

The Sci-Fi Boys (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

a documentary written and
directed by Paul Davids

Great men sometimes wax poetic about their influences, and this is what that is, a cinematic valentine to Forrest J. Ackerman's “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” the most influential fanzine in the history of cinema.

The film is a cut-and-paste job. Paul Davids has gotten the rights to a whole bunch of interviews with such luminaries as Peter Jackson, John Landis, Stephen Sommers and Steven Spielberg, He also managed to get the rights to a number of the childhood amateur efforts by some of the top special effects artists in cinema.

This is a film for lovers of the genre only, and I'm not exactly sure whether or not it's for them. It's nice to see a bunch of famous men reminisce about the magazine and it's cute to see the animation done by highly talented children back in the late 1950s and early '60s, but exactly what purpose does this film serve?

None really, which is why this film will never actually be seen again outside of a few festivals and conventions.

Al Franken: God Spoke

A film by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus

Al Franken is a grade-C celebrity who's decided to change his career from comedian and SNL writer to political hack and pundit.

I'm not saying that he's bad at it. He's just as good as many of the right-wing blatherers, heaven knows, and the lefties need a coherent counterweight to the likes of Shaun Hannity and Rush Limbagh heaven knows, and his books are actually quite readable.

So about three years ago, he was first to join up with the new “Air America” radio network, and got to go to the two political conventions.

The film begins in a really stupid way with Franken claiming to be on a mission from God and dressing up as Moses to emphasize the point. This isn't a good way to begin, but it gets better.

We get clips from “Saturday Night Live,” his book tours and stand up acts, most of which is really funny, especially when he does his Stuart Smiley act with Al and Tipper Gore soon after the 2000 election. He also manages to rhetorically beat the crap out of Ann Coulter, who deserves that sort of thing at least once a day.

Where it's weak is when we're backstage and he's just walking around acting peeved, but that sort of “reality” stuff is always kind of boring. When he's on, he's hot, and when he's not, he's not.

Which is why when he goes to the two national conventions the film is so schizophrenic. When he does a radio show with Sean Hannity, he's great, and when he's at a party talking to Henry Kissinger or is being taunted by Republican bigwigs while he's making a phone call, he's rather pathetic.

Of course the film ends on a downer note, as Bush was reelected, and we don't really know if he's going to carry out his threat to run for the Senate in Minnesota, but it's good enough to be a fundraiser for the Democrats. Eh.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Directed by
Stanley Nelson

Do you remember where the term “drinking the kool-aide” came from? If you're of a certain age, you'd know. It came from the biggest mass suicide in modern history: Jonestown, Guyana November 18, 1978. Every now and again, we have to be reminded about such things.

Over nine hundred people were coerced into killing themselves on that day, and Nelson and his assistant Marcia Smith have used formerly forgotten footage and interviews with both former cultists and relations of them and false messiah Jim Jones to tell the story of an extremely intelligent lunatic and his otherwise sane followers.

Going back to his youth in the suburbs of Indianapolis in the 1930s, we follow Jones from his alienation from his family and friends and his becoming a Pentecostal preacher teaching racial tolerance and his moving to California and how he managed to grow his flock.

It also shows that he was a charlatan, and how gullible everyone was. Even major politicians fell for it, including San Francisco mayor George Moscone, who gave Jones a major city job.

But, of course, the film rightfully focuses on Jones' utopian community in South America, his becoming a megalomaniac, and the events leading to the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan.

The sad and shocking story of the rise and fall of the People's Temple is one which should be told again and again, just to warn people of what might happen because someone could try it again.

Tribeca I: The obligitory Ramones documentery

Every year at the Tribeca festival there's at least one documentery on the Ramones. Now I like the Ramones and have since they were in their prime. Maybe next year they'll have "Rock and Roll High School" as a revival a the family the meantime:

Too Tough to Die (U.S.A.) - World Premiere.

Directed By
Mandy Stein

In the summer of 2004, Johnny Ramone realized he was dying, so he decided to throw himself a wake. This was a rather good idea, and he and Rob Zombie got together, rented out the legendary Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles, and sent out a call for volunteers.

The result was a concert blowout concert featuring the likes of Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins [who we discover uses hair dye], Peter Yorn, some of the replacement Ramones, and a whole bunch of others I don't exactly remember cover the original punker's greatest hits.

In between the music, and sometimes interrupting it at the wrong places, director Mady Stein interviews friends and family reminiscing about Johnny and how wonderful the Ramones really were. One thing remains clear throughout the film. The only people who actually could do the Ramones right were the Ramones themselves. If you want to see what the fuss was all about there have been plenty of films on the subject and a rental would be worth the money.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tribeca film festival: history and logistics

It’s been five years now. The Tribeca Film Festival is opens with a film which reminds everyone why there’s one in the first place. Not that we really need to be, but it was there, and to be perfectly frank, the thing needs a boost.

While it’s been growing ever since the first one opened at the Regal Cinemas at Battery Park City’s mall in May of 2002. The goal of the project has been met with mixed results. The hole in the ground that was being emptied of debreas on day one of the first festival is still there. The huge multiplex that housed it is now mostly shoe and drug stores, and while business in the downtown area has recovered it’s not nearly as good as it should have been this far down the road.

One of the problems was that the various venues were hard to get to. There was the west side highway to cross, and the subway was a goodly distance from most of the venues, many of which were damn far from one another and it was almost impossible to get from one screening to another by foot. There was a free bus, but that was rather erratic in scheduling and for the most part was worse than useless. If one screening was at the Regal, and the next one you wanted to get to was at the Tribeca Cinema at Canal and Varrick, there was no way in hell you could get there in time besides taking an expensive taxicab. The tickets were expensive, and missing one was a real bitch.

The ancillary events were okay. There’s a street fair again this year, but the grand live concert in Battery Park that was the glory of the first three festivals is gone. The panels are all over the place, and in downtown that means it’s hard to get from any of the theaters to where they are, which was a real pain for the entire history of the festival.

This year, the festival outgrows Tribeca and moves uptown. This leads to even more problems without a weekly subway pass. There are screenings on the west side just west of Penn station and waay up on 68th street and Broadway, which makes the logistics even worse. While the subway is actually pretty easy, it’s not all that consistent, and one can spend quite a while waiting at the station.

The films themselves aren’t always the best. True at one film last year got an oscar nomination, and some others received acclaim, there’s very few of them and in general there’s almost no buzz aside from a number of Hollywood films who’ve had a print lent to the festival a day or two before release. I mean who would want to pay extra in order to see “RV” a day early? But for the most part, people are going to go for the stuff they’ll never have a chance to see again, and there’s plenty of that. Two hundred and seventy something films all in all.

The best thing to do is get a weeklong Metrocard® and make sure you remember the subway or bus routes.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Plan

Well, we've got a week of pre-festival screenings left (more, if you as the festival starts on a tuesday), and I'm going to start putting them up for syndication and the edification of those five or six of you who actually are reading this for other than sending me spam on Saturday.

As to that, do you really think I will go to any of those sites? there are a very few real comments and I appreciate those.

So let's see what happens. I"ve already seen about seventeen films and will do another ten or twelve between now and friday. That should be enough to do decent coverage even if I go on vacation during the real one, which I won't.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Tribeca film festival starts in two weeks

They've already started the pre-festival screenings.

Also, you can tell that a film is awful if the audience is laughing it's guts out and the film is a romantic melodrams.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Gen Art concluded


Directed by
Steve Anderson

After the success of “The Aristocrats” it was inevitable that someone would do a documentary detailing the fascinating history of everyone’s favorite expletive. [I remember a poll from somewhere and shit is a distant second]. A linguistic romp, if ever there was one! So what do we know about the history and uses of that ever popular word? Why do some people fear it’s very use even as an adjective?

Anderson interviews many people from both sides of the controversy, and there actually is one, after all, Howard Stern didn’t even use it, and he got his company fined by the FCC for millions!

We’ve got the likes of Bill Maher, Kevin Smith, Alanis Morissette, Drew Carey, Ice-T, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Jeremy, Sam Donaldson and Pat Boone (!) discussing why fuck is either such a wonderful word or why it should be completely banned from all discourse.

In addition to the interviews, which are skillfully edited in order to simulate conversations between people who showed up on different days, we’ve got clips from a bunch of various films and cable TV shows, which date back all the way to Lenny Bruce’s penultimate performance in 1965 and George Carlin’s legendary 1978 first HBO special to puppets simulating fucking in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Team America: World Police” from a couple of years ago.

The FCC takes a beating, as everybody, including President Bush himself uses the term [we’ve got the video tape] and the word is so ubiquitous in American, if not ALL English-speaking societies, that it shouldn’t have any shock value anymore.

Also, Bill Plympton animates some demonstrations of how the word is used, as well as chapter headings, all of which are really cute. Obviously this film is going to be rated NC-17, to protect children who have already used the term hundreds of times a month, from hurting their dear little ears with the horrid profanity.

It’s definitely worth the bucks.

At the Beach

Written and Directed
by Andrew Lloyd

Horror has been a major staple of the cinema like forever. The depiction of fear has been varied, and what works best in the genre has been debated endlessly. One way to depict it is by misdirection, in which almost nothing is actually shown and everything is showed askance. It’s more creepy that way.

Little Max (Raum-Aron) and his parents(Marlene O'Haire and Joel Nagle) are driving to the beach house on Long Island for a summer vacation when their car accidentally runs over a poor schnook(Ethan Baum) walking in the middle of the road. There’s blood on the car, but the victim is nowhere to be seen.

They leave the scene of the accident, call the police anonymously, and then when Max goes to bed, his imagination goes wild, imagining that the victim has turned into Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees, thirsting for revenge. This is reminiscent of “The Blair Witch Project” and the kid is really good. Lloyd has a future in the horror game for sure.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Written and directed
by Scott Glosserman

One thing that I would never think of describing a slasher film as is “cute.” Yet that is exactly what describes this one. This is very cute indeed. It’s nice to see something actually new under the sun.

This valentine and parody of the genre begins in the usual way, a comely young waitress named Krissy (Carlson Lauren) taking out the garbage, when the door mysteriously shuts and we see a mysterious figure in the distance. She then runs away….

Cut to an old house in the villiage of Glen Echo, where college journalism student Taylor Gentry(Angela Goethals) and her camera crew(Ben Pace and Britain Spellings) are going to do a documentary about a deranged supernatural psycho killer named Leslie Vernon, who had been killed years before by an angry mob after he killed his parents. So out comes Leslie(Nathan Baesel), looking not like an evil zombie, but a pixieish, happy fellow, who wants to be just like his heroes Freddy, Jason and Mike, who are real people in this alternate reality.

What follows is a giddy deconstruction of the slasher/horror genre, with Vernan taking Taylor and her crew to the home of his mentor (Scott Wilson), who’s wife(Bridgett Newton) makes them all a lovely dinner and we get to hear them talk shop. Being a supernatural psycho is hard work!!!! Lots of preparation has to be done on the house where the dirty deed will be done, and we have to make sure that Kelly is going to be made properly paranoid. So we go on a stalking, where Vernan’s going to make his first real appearance, and suddenly, the graininess of the filmstock changes turning from faux video to 35MM glory as Kelly is told about the legend by a librarian played by Zelda Rubinstein and all of a sudden
Doc Halloran(Robert Englund), the Ahab [the shrinks who’s been following the psycho, a stock figure in slasher flicks]. Vernan tells his mentor about it and everybody does a happy dance.

Before it turns into a real slasher flick about three quarters the way through, this film is one of the most joyous parodies that I’ve ever seen. Then it turns out that all this preparation is for a reason, and the film stock changes. This is actually a cue to start the blood and gore, and the transition works. It’s not as absolutely brilliant as the mockumentery part, but it’s actually rather good in and of itself.

This is going to be considered a classic and the filmmakers have a long and successful career ahead of them.

She She She She's A Bombshell

An animated short
by Ben Levin

There’s at least one stinker in every film festival. So, it’s best to get it over with with an animated short, and make it as painless as possible.

In this case we’ve got some people driving home from a rock concert. The two people in the front seat can’t stand the guy in the back who’s ranting and ranting about nothing much whatsoever.

The animation is mediocre, the design is as well, and the joke doesn’t work. This is entirely useless and I’m not sure how this managed to get so much play at so many festivals. Feh.

The Intervention

Directed by
Jay Duplass

Mark and Jay Duplass are going to have their first feature, which was nominated for two independent spirit awards, in theaters in the summer, but as with every other filmmaker, they’ve done a number of shorts prior to it.

Steve’s(Steve Zissis) friends “love” him, therefore they’re forcing him to admit that he’s gay. This is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s not at all funny. This is an uncomfortable mess, which is probably improv. I wouldn’t like a bunch of friends like this. Jeez….

Shut Up and Sing

Written and Directed
by Bruce Leddy

In hollywoodese, this would be described as “The Big Chill Musical.” A cute comedy, this is mostly about the midlife crisis we all go through sometime between 21 and 60.

When they were in college back in the early ‘90s, the group in question were an a cappella group and still sing on occasion. The person with the first midlife crisis we learn about is David(David Harbour), a computer techie, who doesn’t want fatherhood because he’s afraid that he’s getting old and hasn’t done all that he’s wanted to by this point in his life, a point of view his wife(Rosemarie DeWitt) isn’t too tolerant of. Meanwhile, we learn that the rest of the group isn’t doing much better, Will(Samrat Chakrabarti) is working as a gopher in the recording industry while he fails to get acting parts beyond “second terrorist on the right; Richard(Reg Rogers) is newly divorced and hasn’t gotten laid in almost five hundred days; Ted’s(Alexander Chaplin) marriage to Trish(Molly Shannon) isn’t going all that well either, and things are about to get worse when he’s fired after many years loyal service. Spooner(Chris Bowers), on the other hand, is doing really well doing whatever it is he does, and Steven(David Alan Basche) produces reality shows on the left coast.

The last member of the group, Greg(Mark Feuerstein), is going to get married in a couple of weeks and wants the gang to get back together and serenade his bride and him.

The film is a light comedy, which means nothing all that much happens. Sure there’s personal growth and everyone winds up living happily ever after, but then again, what else do we want from a trifle like this? Cute is as cute does. Not much more. Eh.

The Shirt

Written and Directed
by Drake Doremus

Made for the princely sum of five hundred bucks, this story of the quest for perfection is not one of the more brilliant efforts out there. It’s about a librarian(Tobias McKinney) who is under the delusion that by finding the perfect shirt he would have a life-changing experience. This doesn’t happen, but he does meat a clothing store clerk(Leslie Zang), with whom he begins to have a romance.

It’s kind of pointless, but the acting is okay, and at only eight minutes long you don’t have time to fall asleep, which is a good thing. This is a nice calling card, but not anything to write home about.

Live Free or Die

Written and Directed by
Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin

Nothing succeeds like success, and that helps when the inevitable crash landing takes place. Tin the case of “Seinfeld” writers Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, that was when their “The Michael Richards Show” was cancelled after only eight episodes. So what to do?

Quite simple: do a cheap independent film, of course! So they got some money together, went up to New Hampshire, and filmed this minor crime comedy.

John "Rugged" Rudgate(Aaron Stanford) is a legend in his own mind. A small time crook in “the first-in-the-nation-primary state, he makes a living by selling stolen stereo speakers out if his van and getting refunds for stuff he never bought. He also likes to take credit for crimes he didn’t commit, that way it makes him look tougher.

While hanging out with his dimwitted friend Lagrand(Paul Schneider), he gets insulted by a local bully(R.E. Rodgers), and gets revenge by poisoning his well. Little does he know that the guy has already been poisoned, and thus, our antihero freaks out, thinking he’s actually killed the guy. Mayhem, as expected, ensues and the cops(Kevin Dunn and Michael Rapaport) are in not exactly hot pursuit and Rugged winds up a legend.

The film is kind of slow, and despite Schneider’s channeling Will Ferrell for a good performance, there’s nothing really to hold our interest. It’s not worth the cost of full price, but maybe cable.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gen Art: The shorts, or at least some of them...

The Genart festival has been going on for a while now, and we're now going to get to see some films I haven't seen yet, last night we saw a documenter called Fuck, about, well, the history, entemology and glory of the word in question. But they demanded no reviews as the thing's coming out into theaters in the fall.

Pity, it's a really good film.

The films are all preceded by shorts, here are the two I've seen aleady. Tomarrow I go see "encore" screenings of two films which haven't been shown yet. That way I can see the west wing and the Supranos. Now the reviews:


Written and Directed
by Hannah Beth King

For her MFA at Columbia University, Hannah Beth King made this film about a little girl named Jane (Alexandra Lowcher) who’s being pulled in two directions, towards God on the one hand, and to adolescent sexuality on the other. She likes to swim in her grandma’s pool and her best friend Sandy (Nastassja Schmiedt)
introduces her to the wonderful world of masturbation while her grandmother Betty (Nancy Tait) prepares her for a fundimentalist baptism.

Now aside from the really good cinematography, there’s a real suspense about how the film will end, and it’s actually a surprise in a nice bit of misdirection by the director. It’s a nice calling card for all involved, and one can see why it was nominated for a student academy award.

This Morning

Directed by
Lucy Mulloy

When is a home movie not a home movie? When it’s a student Oscar-nominated short! Then it’s a documentery. Lucy Mulloy was visiting a friend, just filming the friend’s kids, when Jay's toy is broken. Jay isn’t there yet, so Mulloy lets the girls who broke the little Wolverine action figure hide it, knowing that Jay has ADD or some such thing needing pills, and is going to throw one heck of a temper tantrum. His sister Dafeney gets the blame, but Dafeney blames it on her friend, who’s now gone. The promised tantrum lasts for much of the fifteen minute film.

Now instead of sending this film to “America’s Funniest Home Videos” [mainly because it’s not the least bit funny], Mulloy gets kudos and money on the festival circuit. I at least hope she got the kid a new action figure.

Gen Art festival: The shorts, or at least some of them...

The Genart festival has been going on for a while now, and we're now going to get to see some films I haven't seen yet, last night we saw a documenter called Fuck, about, well, the history, entemology and glory of the word in question. But they demanded no reviews as the thing's coming out into theaters in the fall.

Pity, it's a really good film.

The films are all preceded by shorts, here are the two I've seen aleady. Tomarrow I go see "encore" screenings of two films which haven't been shown yet. That way I can see the west wing and the Supranos. Now the reviews:

the Wet

Written and Directed
by Hannah Beth King

For her MFA at Columbia University, Hannah Beth King made this film about a little girl named Jane (Alexandra Lowcher) who’s being pulled in two directions, towards God on the one hand, and to adolescent sexuality on the other. She likes to swim in her grandma’s pool and her best friend Sandy (Nastassja Schmiedt)
introduces her to the wonderful world of masturbation while her grandmother Betty (Nancy Tait) prepares her for a fundimentalist baptism.

Now aside from the really good cinematography, there’s a real suspense about how the film will end, and it’s actually a surprise in a nice bit of misdirection by the director. It’s a nice calling card for all involved, and one can see why it was nominated for a student academy award.

This Morning

Directed by
Lucy Mulloy

When is a home movie not a home movie? When it’s a student Oscar-nominated short! Then it’s a documentery. Lucy Mulloy was visiting a friend, just filming the friend’s kids, when Jay's toy is broken. Jay isn’t there yet, so Mulloy lets the girls who broke the little Wolverine action figure hide it, knowing that Jay has ADD or some such thing needing pills, and is going to throw one heck of a temper tantrum. His sister Dafeney gets the blame, but Dafeney blames it on her friend, who’s now gone. The promised tantrum lasts for much of the fifteen minute film.

Now instead of sending this film to “America’s Funniest Home Videos” [mainly because it’s not the least bit funny], Mulloy gets kudos and money on the festival circuit. I at least hope she got the kid a new action figure.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gen Art film festival

Today is the first night of the Gen Art Film festival, which isn't always here in NYC. I"ve seen three of the films already, and since I'm lazy and I generally reprint stuff from a while ago, here are they are:


Written and Directed by
Joshua Michael Stern

Once upon a time, long, long ago. There was a boy named Christopher Robin. His father wrote a beloved fantasy book for children about him, and thus ruined poor C.R. Milne’s life forever.

When Zachary Pierson(Ryan Drescher) was a little boy, his father, T.L. Pierson (Nick Nolte) wrote and illustrated a series of books on a magical place called Neverwas before they took him away to the looney bin. His death was one of those things that can ruin a kid’s life, so he took his mother’s maiden name as his own and when we meet Dr. Zach Riley (Aaron Eckhart) again, he’s all grown up and a psychiatrist to boot, arriving at the hospital where his father spent most of his last years in order to help clean the place up and find out what exactly happened with his old man, something his mother
(Jessica Lange) heartily disapproves of. His new boss(William Hurt)
wouldn’t have approved either.

But there are forces out there lying in wait for our hero. Maggie Paige (Brittany Murphy), an old friend from childhood, is a big fan of his father’s books and is surreptitiously working on an article on the late TL. Also, is one Gabriel Finch (Ian McKellen) an inmate at the hospital who also has a fixation on T. L’s books, but for slightly different reasons…

This is perfect material for someone like Terry Gilliam and is the film he probably should have made instead of “Tideland” or the “Brothers Grimm.” This is lots of fun as well as deep, and the characters are ones we can identify with. The acting is wonderful, Eckhart and McKellan give one of their best performances. Gandolf lives, and it’s here. This is worth seeing twice.


Directed by
Jason Matzner

It’s tough being a saint. Audrey(Agnes Bruckner) is stuck in the dreamland trailer park somewhere in New Mexico living with her physically fit but mentally damaged father(John Corbett) and thus she has nowhere to go. Her best friend and neighbor Cindy, er, Calista (Kelli Garner) is dying of some horrible desease and thus she has to take care of her as well.

Is a talented poet who should be going to college in the fall, but her responsibilities to these two needy people is too great. Poor, poor Audrey! Then Mookie(Justin Long) comes along, and there’s love, but Callista is in lust with him too, so gives way. Pure soap. But don’t worry, she works in the local bodega with a nerd named Abraham (Brian Klugman) and they have hot sex.

The problem with this trailer trash version of “Days of Our Lives” is that it’s too predictable. Tom Willett’s screenplay tries to bring nobility into this piece of fluff, but the third act is far too stupid to really keep one interested. The ending is entirely predictable, that everyone lives happily ever after, or at least achieves a minor enlightenment, is something we can see coming within the first fifteen minutes of the film. While the performances are quite good, Kelly Gerner is hot, the piss-poor script just isn’t worth the time and trouble to get out of the house and go to the theater. Pass it by.


Written and Directed
By Goran Dukic

According to the Catholic Church, if you kill yourself you wind up in Hell. So when Zia(Patrick Fugit) offs himself, he goes to someplace less bad. A place much like Earth, but grayer and without any stars.

So with no Heaven in sight, our hero is stuck in a dead-end job and spends his spare time getting drunk in the local bar, and here he meets a Russian rock musician Eurgene(Shea Whigharn) who electrocuted himself with a guitar on stage. He still lives with his parents, who are also suicides. They’re hanging out when Zia’s old friend Brian(Jake Busey) informs our hero that his long lost love(Mary P. Gleeson) has also put herself to death. So, now Zia has a mission, taking Eugene’s car and it’s owner on a quest to find her.

On the way, he and Eugene pick up a pretty young hitchhiker named Mikal(Shannon Sossamon), who died of a drug overdose and wants to find the People In Charge, and appeal her eternal sentence as the death wasn’t intentional.

So we have a longish road trip into the world of magical realism, where we meet all sorts of eccentric characters, including a guy named Kneller(Tom Waits) who runs a holiday camp where minor miracles are performed, and a cult leader(John Hawkes) tries to off himself again and find the next level…and yes, there is the expected romance.

This is actually a fun film and worth at least a matinee.