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Entries in California (18)

Wednesday
Feb032016

HBO’s LGBT History: The Case Against 8 (2014)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions.

Last week we talked about the thrilling and necessary anger fueling Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, something not even Ryan Murphy’s at times clumsy direction could quell. From that we turn to what might be the limpest most inessential HBO LGBT film I have encountered in this entire series (sorry, The Out List, you had a good run): Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s The Case Against 8.

There’s a fascinating, informative, and entertaining doc to be made about the circuitous road to overturning California’s same-sex marriage ban, but Cotner and White’s film isn’t it...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan292016

Retro Sundance: 2006's Quinceañera

Dancin' Dan continues our classic Sundance celebration with a tenth anniversary of a film that should really have a bigger fan base.

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's Quinceañera is one of those films that is inextricable from the story of how it was made: The two moved to the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, a primarily working-class Latino neighborhood that was rapidly gentrifying. After being invited to their neighbor's fifteenth birthday party - a Latin American right of passage known as a quinceañera - they were amazed by the elaborate ceremony and thought it would make a great setting for a film. Later, when thinking about making a drama partially based on their experience as a white gay couple in a gentrifying neighborhood, the idea resurfaced. And the rest, as they say, is history: Quinceañera won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for dramatic feature.

Both of those awards make total sense after watching the film, which is a low-key crowd-pleaser that isn't afraid to tackle some big, complex issues head-on. Thankfully, the film isn't primarily about the white couple moving into the under-privileged area, but rather about Magdalena, a pregnant virgin, and her cousin Carlos, who is gay. Both have been thrown out of their homes for the seeming sins of their lives, and move in with their uncle (or tio) Tomas. The building where Tomas lives has recently been bought by a white gay couple, James and Gary, who move in and waste little time in starting up a ménage à trois with Carlos.

These three separate story threads - Magdalena's, Carlos's, and James & Gary's - combine to make Quinceañera not so much a coming-of-age story, but a coming-of-home story, looking at what makes us feel a sense of belonging both in life and in a specific place. And it's the film's sense of place that really makes the film resonate. The whole thing feels authentic, between the location shooting, the mostly non-professional (though quite talented) performers, and the cozy-looking living places. Everything has a lived-in feel that is more rare than it should be in films, and Glatzer and Westmoreland (who gave us Julianne Moore's Oscar-winning performance in Still Alice, just before Glatzer passed away) keep what little quirk there is grounded enough that it never grates.

This is a small film with a lot on its mind, and it stays true to its modest roots all the way through. It's a Feel-Good Movie that you really can feel good about.

Happy 10th Birthday, Quinceanera! Remind us to throw you a huge party in five years. You'll surely be just as wonderful as when you first premiered.

Tuesday
Apr282015

Mad Men 7.11 "Time & Life"

go speed racer, goLynn Lee, reporting for Mad Men at the Movies.

This should be a short report, considering there were no movie references this week – unless you count Lou Avery’s surprise bonanza with storied anime studio Tatsunoko Productions. But that sounds like a TV deal, especially with Lou’s reference to the studio’s best known serial, “Speed Racer.” (Which the Wachowskis did try to make into a movie almost four decades later, starring Emile Hirsch. It flopped spectacularly.) Still, this was the kind of character-rich, office-centered “Mad Men” episode (directed by cast alum Jared Harris, aka the late lamented Lane Pryce) that begs for discussion.

In a sense, there wasn’t time for the movies because there was so much going on, as Sterling Cooper tries yet again to reinvent itself and preserve its independence from the big bads. We’ve seen this particular movie before, and as the players keep reassuring each other and others, it can happen again...

We’ve done this before. You know we can.”

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Mar262015

TCM Classic Film Festival Starts Today!

Greetings and salutations, cinephiles! Anne Marie here, reporting from sunny (and hot) Hollywood, CA as the 6th annual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off. For the next four days, I'll be reporting what's new (and old) at Hollywood's largest festival devoted entirely to celebrating the classics. 

This year, the theme of the festival is "History According To Hollywood". Films range in period and subject from the French Revolution (Reign of Terror), to the American West (My Darling Clementine), to the Civil Rights Movement (Malcom X), and the Apollo missions (Apollo 13), with historians and even an astronaut onhand to lend perspective. Of course, it wouldn't be TCM if they didn't roll out the red carpet for icons of a bygone era of the silver screen: Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, and Ann Margaret will discuss their films before special screenings. And tonight, the entire festival kicks off with the 50th Anniversary of The Sound Of Music, with Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in attendance.

However, the TCM Film Festival has courted some controversy this year for exactly the wide range of films that they are celebrating.

After the festival schedule was announced, TCM fans took to social media to denounce it as "too new" and "lacking true classic film." Adding to the controversy was the decision to screen many films digitally, instead of on film. Sides were taken, articles were written (the best explanation is courtesy of The Black Maria), and all of it seems to boil down to one question:

How do you define a classic?

 

Is a Classic film defined by age? Quality? Time and place of origin? By expanding this definition to include films that are only 20 years old, are we adding diversity or devaluing already great work? Film is, comparatively speaking, a very new artform; only a little over 100 years old. It's been regarded as "legitimate" art for less than half of that. Considering that movies are still new and ever-changing, maybe we should focus less on labels and more on celebrating what's been accomplished in a century.

Today, dear TFE readers, you get to choose what you think is a classic. Below are five films being shown at TCMFF. On top of the daily updates, I will go to whichever of these five you choose, and report back on it during the Monday wrap up. So, I'll ask again: how do you define a classic?

What Should Anne Marie See at TCMFF?
THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961) w/ Shirley MacLaine0%
LENNY (1974) w/ Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman0%
42ND STREET (1933) w/ Christine Ebersole0%
MALCOLM X (1992) w/ Spike Lee0%
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) w/ Keith Carradine, Peter Fonda0%

Thursday
Dec182014

Boyhood Trophies. Nightcrawler Sweeps. Plus: A Bunch of Oscar Chart Updates

Pro Boyhood. Meh on Gone GirlAs you have undoubtedly heard by now even President Barack Obama has boarded the Boyhood train, declaring it the best of the year... that he has seen (it might surprise you to hear that presidents don't have a lot of time for moviegoing). FLOTUS, who helped hand out the Oscar for Best Picture to Argo if you'll recall, offers up no "Best" opinion to People Magazine but randomly shares that she didn't think Gone Girl was all that and preferred the book.

Where were we? Oh yes. Regional critics groups are feeling a tiny bit friskier than usual. No, they really are. Oh sure there is a lot of hive mind action happening (Boyhood, Arquette, J.K., Citizen Four etcetera) but it's not quite as lockstep as it has been in recent years.

Since we last spoke a few more cities have weighed in and it's semi-interesting at least to see a range of Best Actress choices (Reese & Rosamund) and how about San Diego's total unblinking obsession with Nightcrawler?

Lou Bloom must have given them the hard sell. Lou Bloom got that job. [More...]

Click to read more ...