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Entries in NYFF (89)

Tuesday
Oct142014

Top 10 Things We Learned from the 52nd New York Film Festival

To close out our New York Film Festival coverage for the year, a quartet of takeaways from this annual highly curated celebration of international cinema. NYFF doesn't have a broad selection like a lot of festivals but there were goodies. I've asked each member of our team to send me a top ten list of things they learned (we did not consult each other on our lists).

I'll start

NATHANIEL'S TOP TEN NYFF TAKEAWAYS

1. 17 years after Boogie Nights, Julianne Moore is still 'the foxiest bitch in the world'

2. Birdman has a smorgasbord of quotable lines. My favorite on first viewing:

Popularity is just the slutty cousin of prestige."

3. Marion Cotillard is getting so mesmerizingly authentic onscreen pretty soon she's going to walk right off of it in character like she's reenacting The Purple Rose of Cairo. (I apologize for the image: no one wants to think of the Dardenne Brothers going 3-D.)

4. You should never ever sit in the middle of a row of a long-ass Mike Leigh movie if you are feeling sick. My half-apologies to my row mates who you have no right to take up aisle seats if you're uncomfortable moving for the people in the middle.

More including Whiplash, Birdman, Inherent Vice, and Channing Tatum's boots after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct132014

NYFF: A Conversation About "Inherent Vice"

Hello dear readers. Your host Nathaniel here for our penultimate article on this year's New York Film Festival. I hope you've enjoyed the reviews from Glenn, Michael, Jason and me. Several people have asked why none of us reviewed Inherent Vice or if any of us had seen it. Strangely we all were there. But then no one claimed it so we've opted to have a conversation about it at least in part to figure out what held us back. Let's begin...

NATHANIEL R: It just goes to show you you never know. Alejandro G. Innaritu is one of my least favorite wildly acclaimed auteurs and Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my all time favorite wildly acclaimed auteurs. And yet here I am at the end of New York Film Festival after screenings of Birdman and Inherent Vice and guess who provided cinematic ecstacy and guess who gave a bad trip? It's Opposite World!

I reach out to you Glenn, Jason, and Michael to help me parse my feelings since you've also been devouring the NYFF. The Inherent Vice screening was a full week ago and I am no closer to writing anything about it. I keep hearing that it's a perfect stoner movie.  Do I not like it because I am not into weed (so perfectly capturing that feeling would be lost on me) or because it's simply not good: shapeless, meandering, super-indulgent, and purposefully incoherent?

[more]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct132014

NYFF: A Second Look At Foxcatcher

The NYFF concluded last night but we've got a couple more pieces for you. Nathaniel reviewed Foxcatcher briefly at TIFF and here's Michael's much more positive take on it...

If it’s true that great storytelling unfolds in a way that is both surprising and inevitable, then Bennet Miller’s Foxcatcher appears at first glance to be missing half of the equation. The most surprising thing about the spare script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman is how shocking it isn’t. We can see the impending tragedy coming from miles away. Only the film’s characters seem blind to the descending shadows. Tremendous piles of money have a way of obscuring vision like that.

Based on the real events leading up to a 1996 murder, Foxcatcher’s first images show the incredibly rich at play with their pets, sitting atop thoroughbred horses, surrounded by hunting dogs, etc. It’s appropriate for a film about the unfathomably wealthy John du Pont’s attempts to keep champion wrestlers Mark and David Schultz as his own personal possessions. 

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) doesn’t require much convincing to take du Pont up on his offer...

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Sunday
Oct122014

Birdman Conference & Party: Egos, Creative Challenges and "A Critical Presence"

Choosing Birdman as the closing night film of the 52nd New York Film Festival was a smart move. Premiering in the slot right after it would have been a truly humbling experience for another film. Not that I wish to inflate Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's ego any further.

Iñárritu, Norton, Watts and Amy Ryan at the premiere

In the press conference that immediately followed our screening yesterday he admitted that it's already enormous. "Inquisitor. Tyrant. Dictator" are just three of his names for his own ego and the idea for Birdman was to explore the inner struggle with ego and the creative process. Innaritu says he starts most creative projects thinking  "This is great, fantastic, very genius!" and shortly thereafter has a bipolar switcheroo "You're a stupid asshole. This is a piece of shit, no one would care about it!" He thought this creative struggle would  be a cool thing to dramatize on film though he didn't mean it to be specifically about the ego of actors. He actually thinks they don't have big egos. "Politicans have bigger egos...even my dentist!" he added spontaneously to much laughter in the room. "He's an asshole. He makes me suffer and I pay him."  

Michael Keaton's internal creative struggle takes a slightly different turn "I go through, 'Oh you're the greatest, you're wonderful. And then 20 minutes later... no, you're actually more than that Michael!"

Throughout the conference the actors found ways to keep the mood light and funny. Somehow Naomi Watts became the favorite member of the cast to tease, which was interesting because the actress she plays onscreen is riddled with insecurity. [More...]

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Thursday
Oct092014

NYFF: Maria Dances on the Mountain-tops

Straight from the final week of The New York Film Festival here's Jason on Olivier Assayas' new film Clouds of Sils Maria, starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.

If I was going to make a sort of Cinematic Mad Libs where I filled-in-the-blanks with all my favorite people, places, and things, which then somebody would take that list and turn that into a movie, there's a good chance that Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria would be the result. Noun-wise we have my favorite actress Juliette Binoche. Place-wise we have the Swiss Alps, my favorite place in all the world. And Thing-wise we have Rainer Werner Fassbinder's play (and movie) The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Sils Maria tosses all these ingredients into a pot and cooks up a stew that listen, I was just never not gonna like. It was made for me! And it is delicious.

Maria Enders (Binoche) is a big deal actress and international movie star - she is basically Juliette Binoche. She has flirted with the Hollywood game after rising up in serious roles, and is now trying to swing back to the interesting stuff again. At her side, insistently, is her personal assistant Val (Kristen Stewart), always juggling a couple of cellphones and a thousand appointments at once. Into their life comes a script about the love affair between a woman and her female personal assistant - Maria had played the ingenue role in her youth, but now she's going to tackle that of the older woman. The two women take to the mountains (a gorgeous expanse of Northern Switzerland, misty with metaphor and, uh, mist) to rehearse the two-parter, slipping between their roles and reality, and debating the give-or-take between what makes a movie star and what makes an actress and if they can reconcile the spaces.

It helps, of course, to have that extra level of frisson introduced that here we have a Serious Actress and International Movie Star having this on-screen debate with an International Movie Star who very much would like to be a Serious Actress (and who, by the way, is a Serious Actress - Kristen Stewart's fantastic in this) - in the Q&A following the film Assayas underlined how important it is that we always see it's Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart on screen, that the performative aspect never dissipates; I found the endless reflections of actress and person and character fascinating. And the fact that this is a talky acting piece about making a talky acting piece in between big-budget other-stuff. And the way the big-budget other-stuff swoops in and effects all that talky acting. As the third woman (a well-cast Chloe Grace Moretz) comes in, a mask of whatever-the-moment-calls-for, nothing but a mirror, we watch where the conversations land - the way the theater stage itself is over-produced and overwhelmed, a maze of clear boxes like a re-staging of Chinese Roulette by way of Playtime.

It's very much of a piece with Fassbinder's work though - while Petra von Kant is fogged up and made into this movie's own separate thing it's clear that's what everybody's riffing upon, and as with that film (and most of Fassbinder's work) it is the performance itself that is placed at the forefront. Everyone is playing their roles, hitting their marks, spinning towards their inevitables - the snake will roll in just on time, even if you're not there to see it. "Is it set on Earth?" Binoche asks a director pitching her a science-fiction movie towards the end - after all she's already been up in the clouds, dotting the snow-caps with sacrifices; it's probably time to come down now.

--

Clouds of Sils Maria played last night at NYFF and plays again tonight at 9pm.

Tuesday
Oct072014

NYFF: Telling Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Our NYFF coverage continues - here is Jason on the serial-killer documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper.

As much as Tales of the Grim Sleeper is about telling the tales of the South Central Los Angeles based serial killer, who killed anywhere from ten to over a hundred women, presumed to be mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, over the course of twenty-plus years, Nick Broomfield's tremendously effective documentary slowly reveals itself to be more than these pieces - really its the very existence of these pieces, and the crew's ability to suss them out one after the other, that forms the true tale, which is one of a police department's indifference to the horrors being visited upon a poor, black community already destroyed by poverty, drugs and violence, and what those blind eyes have helped wreak.

Step back and look at what I just wrote to maybe assess some of the scope of the systemic failure on hand here - anywhere from ten to one hundred women. Over the course of twenty years. When Broomfield allows the doc's score to slide into subtle variations on the Psycho and Halloween theme music it's hard to decide if its the serial murderer or the black-hole absence of law-enforcement that's truly inspiring the horror show here. The wall that goes up from the LAPD is certainly far more frightening than any Michael Myers mask.

That's not to say that the Grim Sleeper himself - 57 year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was arrested in 2010 and is still awaiting trial - is by any means let off the hook here. The film drops itself down into his skeptical community (literally using Google maps to fall right into its tree-less urban endlessness) in the wake of his arrest and picks away at their distrust (distrust of these white documentary film-makers, or of anyone showing concern really) to piece together the picture of a man very clearly capable of much awfulness. His neighbors and friends and eventually his victims, finally given a voice, have, whaddya know, an awful lot to say.

But Franklin's probable guilt (and the horrific details that we come to form that opinion with) is not so much what you walk away from the film with - it's the fact that nobody has been bothering to listen to these voices before now that haunts - the years and the bodies that have been allowed to pile up. The lasting mark that Tales of the Grim Sleeper reveals is that of the erasure of the basic humanity from an entire community, and the vacuum that leaves in its wake. The guardians have ignored their oaths - it is they who sleep, the gates unmanned, allowing these grim nightmares to take root.

Tuesday
Oct072014

NYFF: Debra Granik's 'Stray' Doc

New York Film Festival is in its final week and here is Glenn on Debra Granik's documentary 'Stray Dog'.

Debra Granik’s last film was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and catapulted its lead star into super-stardom. Naturally, she hasn’t made a film since. Just like Patty Jenkins, Kimberly Peirce, Courtney Hunt and more, it appears newfound success doesn’t necessarily breed an open door (or open checkbook) to future career possibilities for many female directors. We were recently talking about this in regards to Kimberly Reed, but artists tend to find a way to release their creativity, and so while Granik wasn't able (or at least hasn’t yet managed) to get adaptations of Russell Banks’ novel Rule of the Bone or a signposted HBO series off the ground, she has taken on the reigns of a documentary, a first for the Tennessee native.

Granik and her producing partner Anne Rosellini discovered the title character of Stray Dog, a Missouri-living biker and Vietnam veteran, when filming Winter’s Bone in 2009. Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall looks imposing, but as Granik’s wonderfully quiet and observant documentary shows, he is a man with demons. Much like all the other men who returned from the Vietnam war and others like it, he can’t get the images of death and destruction out of his head. Throughout the film he and his friends all struggle to hold back tears – many unsuccessfully – as they recall the nightmarish visions they witnessed for the sake of their country (a country that shamefully doesn’t do its due diligence in helping them).

Material like this is rife with the possibility of condescension. The idea that highbrow audiences will be watching this film and marveling at how they never knew those motorbike-riding hicks from the flyover states could be so gosh-darn nice, entertaining and feel good. Luckily Granik’s film swerves away from that, never letting the material approach caricature or colorfully adding mocking stylistic affectations or local music to make a point that, lol, they have such adorable small town attitudes (another NYFF doc, Red Army about a Russian hockey team, does just that).

One of the film’s most interesting passages comes late in the runtime as Alicia, Ronnie’s Mexico-born wife, goes back home to fetch her two children to come back and live with them. The boys with the lack of English and expectations of California sun and palm trees as seen in the movies makes for a fascinating transition and I almost wish it hadn’t have arisen so late in the production and had allowed Granik to follow it further. However, the story of the boys is nicely juxtaposed to that of Stray Dog himself. All of them are grabbing at the American dream, but Ronnie has been doing it for decades, hoping to stop the horrors of war from squandering the life he’s been able to make for himself. B+