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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in film festivals (209)

Monday
Sep292014

NYFF Surprise! While We're Young: Or, The Kids Are All Wrong

Our NYFF coverage continues with Matthew Eng on this year's surprise screening -- which was less of a secret than usual this year, continually hinted at by the NYFF themselves, even spoiled ahead of time by IndieWire...

Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts star in "While We're Young"

Noah Baumbach is showing his age.

Not that this is the first time, mind you. Anyone who stuck through his exquisitely harsh and thus totally divisive Greenberg will surely remember Ben Stiller’s crusty, titular protagonist sourly announcing to a party full of fuzzed-out twentysomethings, “I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview.”

There’s something instantly more pronounced about Baumbach’s evident unease towards the current generational divide in his latest adult dramedy, While We’re Young, in which Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia, a deceptively comfortable urban couple who are surprised to find themselves befriended and seduced by Jamie and Darby, a married pair of kind-eyed, porkpie-wearing, Bushwick-dwelling hipsters, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. What starts as a casual, multi-generational friendship soon transitions into something more consuming, as Josh, a struggling documentary filmmaker whose sophomore follow-up has taken ten years to finish, finds himself both aping and inspiring Jamie, who just so happens to be an aspiring documentarian himself. [more...]

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Monday
Sep292014

Fun Fact: Celebrities Spend Way More Time Promoting Movies Then Making Them

Case Study #215,031. Cate Blanchett still on the Blue Jasmine tour 15 months after the US premiere with a screening at the Zurich Film Festival this week. 

(Remember how satisfying it was when she won the Oscar in March? Easily the most deserving Best Actress win in at least a decade.)

Sunday
Sep282014

NYFF: At Odds Over 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'

The New York Film Festival has started, and here is Glenn on a pair of films from Argentina and Italy, 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'.

As film lovers, and especially as film critics, we like to think we view films from a purely neutral place without bias or prejudice. That feeling of going into any film with a blank slate of emotions, taking films on a case by case basis where there’s the possibility of liking literally anything that gets thrown our way. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s as far from the truth as you could get. Whether it’s an actor or a director, a genre or even a region, sometimes there are things we just do not like or respond to as viewers. I freely admit to there being many personalities whose presence in front or behind a camera I find a struggle and while the the quality of the material they have to work with can fluctuate, sometimes you just have to admit that somebody or something is not for you.

Such was the case after seeing Two Shots Fired and La Sapienza two film with seemingly in common. The Argentinian and Italians films do share, however, a style. This certain storytelling aesthetic that aims for faintly quirky, film’s that trade in an excessively dry, often tangential, random humor that is delivered in monotone voices by a cast that sound more like they’re doing a table-read for a badly scripted soap opera. The actors’ robotic body movements suggest a disconnect between character and emotion, but which ultimately does more to distance the viewer from the film than anything else. When a character gets to express actual emotions in the same way a real human would it’s positively elating.

In Martín Rejtman’s Two Shots Fired, I liked a late-in-the-runtime turn of events that sees the return of a character who disappeared after the opening sequence. Sadly it goes nowhere as characters shrug it off and carry on with their lives as if the entire enterprise was for nothing. Eugéne Green’s La Sapienza has more virtues, which make its weaknesses even more disappointing. Its photography is suitably lush and the many, many shots of beautiful Italian architecture are gorgeous to behold, but the story that runs around them is like slowly watching life be drained out of a painting. Such rich possibilities are never taken advantage of.

 Both films’ arch sensibilities kept me at arm’s length from engaging with them in any way. They sit in between stylistic minimalism or flamboyant visual expressiveness, utilizing none of the virtues of either. I had similar issues with Greek “weird wave” titles like Dogtooth and Attenberg, but found much more of interest in their stories and visual storytelling to still be more or less on side despite other quibbles. I found the Argentinian and Italian films incredibly hard to latch on to; this emotional coolness (or detachment, whatever you like to consider it) leaving no hook for me to hang on to. Given how few notes are in their registers, if you don’t ‘get’ them from the start you’ll be at a loss for the duration.

Two Shots Fired screens on Monday Sep 29 (8.45pm) and Tuesday Sep 30 (3pm).
La Sapienza screens on Saturday Sep 27 (3pm) and Sunday Sep 28 (12.15pm).

Wednesday
Sep172014

TIFF Jury of One: Nathaniel

Channing & Chastain hit TIFFAnd now, a superfluous but fun-to-write "awards" wrap of the 25 films I saw at TIFF to close out the coverage. I did a little wrap post for Towleroad as well, focused on the LGBT content and the celebs, but if you're a TFE regular I know what you like: awards and lists!

I had intended to see 40 films but with only 8 days of actual screening time (travelling the other 2 days) that proved ridiculous to even try for, impossible really. Especially since I was planning to AND DID write up everything I saw before the festival actually ended. I've never written this quickly so excuse the typos (yeesh).

If you were reading along the whole time this might feel redundant but who doesn't love to box their experiences up in list format? In a festival with hundreds of films everyone has a different experience so this was mine... with nominations only. Don't even ask me to pick winners because I like things to marinate. It's good to get a little distance before bold decrees of "THE BEST!"

BEST PICTURE
links go to the reviews 

Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval on the set of "Mommy"

  • Force Majeure (Sweden) -Magnolia Pictures. Opens October 24th
  • Mommy (Canada) - Roadside Attractions will release. When though? Unfortunately they aren't exactly a swift distributor. (A headscratcher addendum: Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm, which debuted last year at TIFF is still without a US distributor. US audiences just can't jump on the Dolan train without hitting festivals. Maybe that will change with all three of his first features currently winning new fans on Netflix Instant now)
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden) - Currently without US distributor
  • Wild (USA) - Fox Searchlight. Opens December 5th
  • Wild Tales (Argentina) - Sony Pictures Classics will release. When though?

My favorites at the fest turned out to be this eclectic mix of two Swedish comedies, one hyperstylized the other realistic and intellectually provocative, one Canadian melodrama about a bad seed and his wild mommy, one Oscar bound US solo hiking trip, and an exciting Argentian anthology mixing revenge, thrills and comedy.

Favorite Scenes and Performances After the Jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep162014

Amir Sat on a Branch Reflecting on TIFF

Amir here, looking back at the Toronto Film Festival that recently wrapped up.

"Girlhood," superior to Boyhood and one of the best of TIFF 14

You may have noticed that after a few years of covering the festival to various degrees for The Film Experience, I was completely absent from this space for the past ten days, mostly because of a personal decision to enjoy the films without sweating over writing. TIFF is a big festival, maybe the most frantic and hectic in the world, with more choices than one can physically experience over ten days. Nathaniel and I shared so few films from the program’s sprawling lineup, we could have each written about every single thing we saw and you’d never know we attended the same festival. It’s this overwhelming scale that made me want to take a break from reporting, and yet, I feel unsure about how that affected my festival experience.

Writing about films for me is a passion born out of the necessity to articulate my thoughts on the things I watch. Maybe that process of writing makes the films more memorable? Isn’t it so that writing, even about bad films, makes us appreciate good cinema all the more? Without recording my memories, details about this year’s films have fled my mind quicker than ever. My feelings about some of them have been diluted a bit, too. There is something missing, even though I had the best festival experience of my life, meeting more people than ever and watching some terrific films. Maybe this pessimism is just a withdrawal symptom. Let’s stay positive!

As has become something of an unplanned tradition for me – with precedents including Oslo, August 31st and Closed Curtain – my favorite film of the festival came my way on the last day.

MORE...

"The Look of Silence" will be in theaters next summer

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Saturday
Sep132014

TIFF: A Little Chaos

TIFF 14 doesn't actually wrap until tomorrow night but my adventure in Toronto has come to an end. There are still a few writeups to come but here, for you, is my take on the Closing Night Film as I zip up the suitcase and head to the airport.

How to describe that thing where you thoroughly enjoy watching something that is neither objectively good, nor enjoyably bad? I imagine anyone who has an inordinate fondness for an entire genre or subgenre, quality be damned, will understand. Sci-fi and horror fans will line up nodding, I'm sure. But for me that genre is the costume dramedy.

Those with allergies to "light" costume period pieces should give this trifle from actor/director Alan Rickman a wide wide berth. For me, prone to enjoy both famous thespians playing dress-up and royalty porn as long as it neither are weighed down by the self-seriousness of Oscar-seeking biopics, this obscure fanciful tale flew by. Alan Rickman plays the King of France who wants a brand new something-he's-never-seen-before as new attraction for the gardens of Versailles. He's about to move the entire court there and the unveiling must be magnificent. A fountain it will be then and his royal gardener Andrè Le Norte (Matthias Schoenaerts in walking romance novel cover form with long luscious locks but broad shouldered manliness) hires the widow landscape designer Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) to create it because he recognizes that she's actually a visionary immediately though he can't quite admit to it as he weighs her proposal.

Complicating matters is that the King doesn't handle failure well and Le Norte's future hangs in the balance and he wants things quicker than they seem possible. Also: Le Notre and De Barra are, SURPRISE! (just kidding), falling for each other.

There's a bit of proto-feminism wishfulfillment happening and a bit of romantic melodrama but the movie never totally commits to any one thread. Its paper thin, really, with nothing much in the way of thematic interest that's actually explored or depth of characterization. All hangups aside it was just great to see Kate Winslet on the big screen again but she could've done this in her sleep while blinded by silly hats and short of breath from a corse---oh, wait. But better light and unchallenging than embarrassing which is how things go in the movie's most obvious bid at self-seriousness with a "twist" flashback about Madame Barra's tragic past that the movie teases ad nauseum from early on.

The movie suffers from what looks like underfunding since it skimps on anything that might back up the central subject matter which is meant to convey and continually references about how lush, overgrown, and imaginative De Barra's work is. But again, an easy sit, especially if you're costume inclined. Winslet and Schoenearts work fine together though their romance feels more talent-based than physical. Since their work is dramatic they sometimes feel like they're in their own film. It's not unlike those classic Disney fairy tales, really, where the leads are drawn as "beautiful" realistic-ish humans while the side characters are from another species, with oversized heads or comic limbs. Among the ensemble, most of the actors are delightful even if no one is remotely challenged (oh look Stanley Tucci doing his fun gay sidekick schtick again!). Jennifer Ehle (far on the periphery) and Helen McCrory (near the center of the action as Schoenaerts shady wife) both manage to play into the movies preference for types and caricature while also slyly suggesting actual individual character. As a result their scenes feel like whole new films sprouting up like weeds inside the one we got but that's okay since this garden is wilted. C+

 

Also at TIFF: WildThe Gate, Cub, The Farewell Party, BehaviorThe Theory of Everything, Imitation GameFoxcatcher, Song of the Sea, 1001 Grams, Labyrinth of Lies, Sand DollarsThe Last Five YearsWild Tales, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceForce Majeure, Life in a Fishbowl, Out of Nature, The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessCharlie's Country, and Mommy