Film Essent Archive for May, 2011

SIFF 2011: Trailer Park #1

Here are trailers for some of the films I featured earlier today in my SIFF 2011 Preview.

Opening Night Film: The First Grader


The Interrupters



WITHOUT from right on red films on Vimeo.

SIFF 2011: The Preview

Thursday evening, the 37th edition of the Seattle International Film Festival will kick off with a Gala opening screening of The First Grader, followed by a sure-to-be-packed opening party. Justin Chadwick’s charming drama about an 84-year-old Kenyan freedom fighter who decides to take advantage of the government’s free education program by enrolling in his village’s school is an interesting choice for a festival opener: There are no big stars to parade down the red carpet — but then Seattle’s never really been the kind of festival locals flock to because of the stars. It’s a rather innocuous, crowd-pleasing choice, not likely to offend any festival donors — but then, rebellious Seattle isn’t exactly the kind of town where not offending is the first priority.
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Review: The Tree of Life

“There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow.”

This quote begins and sets the tone for Terrence Malick’s philosophically ambitious film The Tree of Life, a sprawling visual poem that delves into ideas around the interconnectedness of all things through the intersection of a 1950s family in Waco, Texas (Malick’s boyhood hometown) with life, the universe and everything.
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Hey, is There Some Film Fest Going on in France or Something?

Chances are pretty good, if you’re one of my film industry colleagues, that you’re over in France at this little fest called Cannes right now. Maybe you’ve heard of it … you know, the Cannes Film Festival? Fairly significant fest in the film world. You can tell because Lady Gaga performed there the other day:

No, really, it actually is an important film festival. If you’re there, you’re staying busy eating panini while standing in line, or fighting your way through crowds star-gazing on the Croisette, or soaking up the best of the world’s cinema, or frantically downing free espresso shots in the press lounge, or arguing about the films you’re seeing with other critics over late-night drinks or an early morning cafe au lait.
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A Word on Without

Mike Tully has a piece up on his indieWIRE blog about the Maryland Film Festival (never been to that one, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard raves about it, so I need to add it to my bucket list, I guess). One thing that caught my eye in the write-up was Tully’s shout-out to Mark Jackson’s Without, a film of which I’m also a big fan.
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Cannes Trailers: Sleeping Beauty and The Kid With a Bike

Sleeping Beauty premiered Thursday at Cannes to fairly lukewarm reviews. I’m still intrigued enough by the trailer to want to see it, so hoping it comes to Toronto.

And upcoming at Cannes: Here’s the trailer for the Dardenne brothers’ newest, The Kid with the Bike, which premieres at Cannes on Sunday.

Review: Bridesmaids

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: I liked Bridesmaids, quite a lot. It’s true, generally speaking, that comedies about weddings tend to give me hives right from the trailer. But … this one was produced by Judd Apatow, and I actually like most of the films he’s been involved with. The director, Paul Feig, has been involved with The Office, 30 Rock, Weeds and Arrested Development. It was co-written by Kristen Wiig, and stars Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne. All things considered, it looked to be something more than your average wedding comedy.
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Reason #89 Why You Wish You Were at Cannes

Or at least, why I do.

Review: Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation, a quirky little film that generated a decent amount of buzz at Toronto last fall and is playing now in limited release, is a frequently funny, sexy, trip of a film in spite of a tendency to feel uneven more than it should. Chalk it up to freshman jitters, maybe, but I felt frequently while watching the film that first-time writer-director Michael Goldbach didn’t quite have the self-confidence to know when to play a hand all the way out and when to reel it back in just a notch — or when to just ruthlessly kill those idea babies and let them go.

One of the ways in which this is evident is the presence of a great deal of expository voice-over, which tends to be used to make sure we understand, by being told, various ideas we should understand by being shown. What makes much of the voice-over even more perplexing is that it frequently explains things that don’t need explaining, and does so with an ever-so-slightly bored, hipper-than-thou tone which tends to toe the line between “all right, somewhat engaging, I guess” and into the ever-popular “precious.”
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Pardon Me, Your Bias is Showing

I’ve been meaning to jot down some thoughts on gender and media since a luncheon at the Sarasota Film Festival, when Geena Davis, representing her Institute on Gender and Media, gave a speech about the mission of the organization, which was announcing a partnership with the festival to promote the creation of films in which gender roles are portrayed equitably.

A fellow journalist who was at the fest noted that the speech Davis gave was very similar to what she had to say in a speech from Newsweek’s Women in Media Conference held in September, 2010, and when I looked it up, sure enough, she was right. No matter, though … Davis certainly delivered the speech passionately and eloquently, and the points she raises about how kids are exposed to ideas around gender from the time they’re old enough to be plopped in front of television to watch Dora the Explorer are surprising.
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Making Hillary Clinton Invisible: Is Criticism of Hasidism Antisemitism?

So I was reading this post over on Jezebel this morning about Orthodox Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung editing the images of Hillary Clinton and counter-terrorism expert Audrey Thomason out of the photo of the Osama bin Laden raid Situation Room. Why? Because the paper doesn’t publish photos of women, of course. Pictures of women, apparently, are considered “sexually suggestive.”
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The Other Cost of the War on Terror

My friend Matt Zoller Seitz posted this thoughtful Salon piece by Glenn Greenwald to Facebook the other day, and it made me stop and think. In the piece, Greenwald notes while many of us (myself included in this) have been vocal in expressing our dismay about the public display of jubilation over the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, not as many of us have been questioning the whys and wherefores of how his death happened. And that maybe this is a problem.

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether or not Osama bin Laden was a Bad Man, IF there was an order to kill, not capture, do you have a problem with that? IF he was unarmed and not fighting back when his compound was overtaken, IF he was shot and killed while unarmed, do you have a problem with that? Should he have been arrested and tried rather than killed?

Greenwald makes some excellent points in his piece, and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t. He raises issues that really need to be discussed in public and in private, and at the core of these issues is the question of whether we’ve given up so much in the War on Terror that we’ve lost sight of the very freedoms we’ve been supposedly fighting to protect.

Domestic Terror?

These people scare me as much, if not more than, the most fundamentalist of Islamic jihadists. The older I get, the more I become convinced that learning to overcome hate and intolerance is the single biggest lesson we all have to learn in this life. And clearly, it’s not an easy lesson.

(Hat tip to Tori McDonough, via Facebook.)

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Axe Cop Episode #4 — I’ll Chop Your Head Off!

Here’s one of my favorite episodes of Axe Cop, in which Avocado Soldier becomes Uni-Avocado Soldier, UniBaby gets a family, Axe Cop slays a snowman with his axe and a flashlight, and the dog, Ralph Wrinkles, gets a voice.

Axe Cop creators Ethan Nicolle (who does the illustrating) and his younger brother Malachai, will be at San Diego Comic Con, doing an Axe Cop panel, signing, and other Comic-Con-ish stuff. If you’re not up to speed on the awesomeness that is Axe Cop already, get with the program, kids — or he’ll chop your head off!

Stephen King is Still Alive

Brenda should be happy. The kids are quiet, the road stretches ahead of her like an airport runway, she’s behind the wheel of a brand-new van. The speedometer reads 70. Nonetheless, that grayness has begun to creep over her again. The van isn’t hers, after all. She’ll have to give it back. A foolish expense, really, because what’s at the far end of this trip, up in Mars Hill? She looks at her old friend. Jasmine is looking back at her. The van, now doing almost a hundred miles an hour, begins to drift. Jasmine gives a small nod. Brenda nods back. Then she pushes down harder with her foot, trying to find the van’s carpeted floor.

I’m a little behind the game on this, but hey, maybe you are, too. The above paragraph is the teaser for Stephen King’s short story in the May 2011 Atlantic. It’s called Herman Wouk is Still Alive,” and you should go read it. It’s good.
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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon