Friday, September 26, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week II

Well, week two is definitely best described as full of frustration. With two stellar exceptions, nothing really knocked it out of the park, though nothing was terribly awful (though some would disagree).

This film aims to be an expose of what life is really like in the age of voyeuristic video and violated civil liberties, while at the same time getting at what's really going on with these kids today. Every time I was ready to walk out, something amazing would happen, and every time I was ready to love this film, it did something incredibly stupid. Also, it's one of those films that seems to think that shock is a valuable tool when used without context. It's not. This si the kind of film that it's very easy to overrate. I'm interested in what director Antonio Campos comes up with next, and the frame composition is among the best I've ever seen. But still, it's just not all that.

DEMAIN PEUT-ETRE (Maybe Tomorrow)
An exceptional French short about identity, race, and observation. Haunting, and with any luck it may pop up in the shorts program at the '09 Nashville Film Festival.

SERBIS (Service)
Family travails, in and around a four-story moviehouse in Angeles City in the Philippines. Lots of betrayal, hardcore sex, transsexual gender shenanigans, and through it all, the inescapable sounds of the modern city. Oh, and an extended plot point about pus. Regent Releasing has this for the U.S., which means it will get a small-scale release in NYC, L.A., San Francisco, and possibly in cities with high Filipino populations and/or Tagalog speakers, then come out on DVD shortly thereafter. So much gets crammed into 93 minutes that you almost wish the director had made a miniseries out of it- the setting and characters are rich, but there's so much left unsaid or seen.

TIRO EN LA CABEZA (Bullet in the Head)
This was the screening where a significant portion of the press corps lost their mind. The film is, for all intents and purposes, silent. We hear ambient sounds, consistent with the placement of the camera (almost always far away), but even when we're in the same room as the main characters, they speak but no sound comes out. It's meant to be an allegory about how hard it is to understand what motivates horrifying acts of violence, and it works- sort of. But people HATED this movie. Eh, it's interesting. But it would work better as a short.

Pretty damned amazing, this one. It's a great political film, a savage prison movie, an effective procedural, and rife full of possibilities for theological and political debate. There's a central reel-length conversation that easily ranks among the finest of the year, and it's always interesting to see what happens when artists from other media give film a try. IFC Films has this for distribution, and they're aiming for March 09 for a release. I'm not sure when it'll play here, but I'll lay down dollars that it will play in Nashville at some point.

A delight. A frothy (but slightly edgy) comedy from Mike Leigh? Perish the thought. But this film is like a big goofy drunken British hug, and I can't wait to see how audiences take to it. This opens on Halloween at the Belcourt, and mark my words- this is the perfect date movie. If you bring a date/spouse/significant other with you to see this movie, dimes-to-dollars says you'll get some that evening.

A snarky but ultimately effective Kiwi short that aims to dig, laterally and figuratively, into women's issues. It gets derailed in its final third by a sappy Lilith-lite ballad, but there's still some interesting moments.

VOY A EXPLOTAR (I'm Gonna Explode)
If you'd only ever watched Harold & Maude, Romeo and Juliet, and Y Tu Mama Tambien over and over again, then you too could have made this film. The leads are cute and the young-lovers-on-the-run trope never really gets old, but there just wasn't enough of a spark here to make the ingredients properly- explode. Maria Deschamps, the film's star, has a hell of a career ahead of her, making her motion picture debut in a part that feels like 60% Anna Karina, 25% Bjork, and 15% Linda Manz.

More next week...

In response to last week's questions, yes, I saw Midnight Meat Train in a theatre, and it was pretty awesome. Also, Xanadu on Broadway was everything one could hope for.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New York Film Festival, Press Week I

Inspired by Toby's take on Toronto, I figured why not do the same for this year's New York Film Festival. They start Press Week almost two weeks before the actual festival, so it's good in that it allows to get some word out before the public screenings begin (on Sept. 26th).

It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, and at first feels like a typical Dangerous Minds/Stand and Deliver type film en francais - the young teacher who cares, dealing with students who are stymied by varying levels of bureaucracy and indifference. But as it goes along, it gets weirder and more dialectical, and by the end I was pretty much won over. Sony Classics has it for the US, which means it'll get a week at Green Hills.

One of the two new films from Jia Zhang-ke at this year's NYFF, and this one is pretty much inert. Students in the 90s, currently adults adrift in their own lives, nobody's happy but they do soldier on. There's some nice tracking shots downa river, though.

Absolutely devastating portrait of isolation and life on the brink. Michelle Williams is truly amazing here, and Toby is absolutely right when he says it'd make a great double feature with The Dark Knight. Dog lovers, this is the movie for you. Oscilloscope Films (The Beastie Boys' film label) is handling this, so it will more than likely be coming to the Belcourt at some point.

Can you build a film around an extended sick joke? If it's as good and genuinely effective as this one, then yes.

Holy shit. An animated documentary with the urgency of an unquiet witness and the soul of the most imaginative of poets, and structured around the basics of psychic exploration in a way that will infuriate Scientologists, this may also be the film that pushes the evangelical Christian faction in this country into apoplexy. It's a remarkable film, funny and devastating, and featuring one of the most haunting sequences I've ever seen. Again, Sony Classics has it, so be on the lookout for its one-week run at Green Hills.

The best thing I saw during Press Week I, this short from British artist/Pet Shop Boys collaborator Sam Taylor-Wood (whose only other film I had seen was in a segment of Destricted) is a short and sweet tale of High School lust played out to the sound of the Buzzcocks. With any luck, this might pop up at the '09 Nashville Film Festival.

Simulatneously about the casual violence and horror of life under the rule of Augusto Pinochet and one man's need to express himself through dance and wanting to be like John Travolta, this film is upsettingly violent, features hardcore sex, and at least one disco dancing sequence in every reel. How could I not love it?

The centerpiece restoration (last year's was Blade Runner) of the festival. It's a rapturously lovely film, and also a great metaphor for cinema itself. Unfortunately, just as was the case in my Hollywood and Its Alternatives class at NYU some fourteen years ago, I love luxurious blends of history, film, and sex, but I'm still not feeling this one. Rialto Pictures is handling this one, which means we'll more than likely see it at the Belcourt, if there's any justice.

UN CONTE DE NOEL (A Christmas Tale)
A colleague dismissively called this Kings and Queen 2, but I think it's weirder and a bit more incisive than that. Family dramas, insanity, cancer, sexual frustration, and the arduous process of forgiveness- yeah, it's like that. Higly recommended, though. IFC has it, and with any luck, it'll be this year's big Christmas arthouse hit.

A dark, dark French short that is ruthlessly pragmatic and full of the kind of wit that works beautifully here but leaves you wondering if the filmmaker will make the step up to feature-length material.

Kuorosawa Kiyoshi is back, and this time he's made a fairly conventional film- one that takes the issues that form the subtext of his genre material and works with them on the surface. It's a fascinating portrait of this moment in history, and the central cast is pretty damned great. It takes some wide turns in the last half hour, but is still a fascinating development in Kurosawa's body of work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fat Tire on tap

We've added FAT TIRE beer to our taps, come get some while it lasts.

The Sticky: What We Do Is Secret

"It Was A Movement That Changed Music. It Was Music That Changed The World. And It All Started With A Germ." - WHAT WE DO IS SECRET we're playing it for 3 days only. What'd you think? Anyone ever see The Germs live?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Toronto Dispatch, part 2

The last few days of the Toronto festival settle down. The crowds thin out and because the high profile films are front-loaded, the last few days give you a chance to look at films you may not have otherwise. Back in Nashville now, I'm looking forward to a few weeks from now when the weather approaches Toronto levels of pleasantness. Here's the log for the last half of this year's Toronto film festival, again with varying degrees of objectivity...

CHE - Part 1
In which Che takes the eastern half of Cuba. Cinemascope: such a wide world! So many possibilities

CHE - Part 2
In which Che leads a failed revolution in Bolivia. 1.85: Now hunted, Che's world narrows!

Mickey Rourke as a washed up wrestler. Director Darren Aronofsky shows off some new tricks he learned from the Dardennes. Rourke astonishes.

Japanese Midnight offering in which mushroom-haircut countryboy with a love for cheesey pop finds himself as an idolized satanist frontman of a death metal band bound for a face-off guitar collision with Gene Simmons. Yes, really.

Wherein a boy raised by his grandmother is scooped up and taken to an Argentine "paradise", but all I saw was a lot of rain.

Poor boy from the favela gets rich girl from Impanema. Yes, really.

Biopic on Chess Records' founder Leonard Chess

Those French horror guys sure are angry...and suitably deranged.

Bill Maher, half-Catholic half-Jew, does his best to preach the Gospel of Doubt. He succeeds.

Another director of economy Kelly Reichardt (OLD JOY) delivers another tale set in and around Portland, OR, this time with Michelle Williams as an introverted Vagabond-like girl with car issues and a lost dog. Would make a great double feature with THE DARK KNIGHT as Williams' introvert contrasts beautifully with Ledger's troubled Joker considering that they were made at roughly the same time in their lives, post-seperation, mirroring what may have been Williams' frame of mind against what certainly was Ledger's.

Midnight offiering wherein Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself, loses gigs to Steven Seagal and gets sucked into a robbery in his native Belgium.

The true story of an ill-fated informer playing the Brits against the IRA. With Ben Kingsley, who seems to be everywhere lately: A British agent in this one, snogging Penelope Cruz in ELEGY, taking bong hits THE WACKNESS. Hopefully soon to be seen battling Darth Whosit with a bullwhip in some Spielberg/Lucas hybrid. Or maybe playing himself losing gigs to Steven Seagal.

Follows a 3-day music festival centered around the "Rumble in the Jungle": the Ali/Foreman fight in 1974 Zaire. Performers include Miriam Makeba, the Spinners, Franco & OK Jazz, Bill Withers, Afrisa and peak-form James Brown.

Doc centered around the making of and world tour of N'Dour's "Egypt" record, a brave defense of his Islamic faith in the wake of 9/11.

A horror film for linguists and radio personalities

Davis Guggenheim gets Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White in a room, but all summarizes their careers. Some nice footage of rural Franklin, TN in the process...

Other observances:

- The Manulife building where the press and industry screenings are held has a rooftop bar with an amazing view. I always find the cool stuff on the last day in town.

- Common threads: cross-referencing of IRA figures in HUNGER and FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING. Muddy Waters' first cut of "I Can't Be Satisfied" with just guitar and an upright bass is dramatized in WHO DO YOU LOVE, then heard in actuality in IT MIGHT BE LOUD.

- A Youssou N'Dour performance has a formula: 3 upbeat songs, 1 synthy ballad, 3 upbeat song, 1 synthy ballad.

- Elizabeth Banks: LOVELY, STILL and ZACK AND MIRI. I saw these two back-to-back by accident. She's purty.

- Toronto's street hot dog kiosks beat the hell out of any dog in Nashville. The city is also an enviable model of diversity and harmony. And the human beauty quotient is quite remarkable as well.

- Film execs go to strip clubs named the Brass Rail and Zanzibar, who are evidently owned by the same "really nice guy". No word on the Brass Stables' owner, but I've invited them to Nashville to find out.

- Kevin Smith is now a considerably larger man than Michael Moore. Much much larger. Much.

- Think Atlanta's bad? Toronto sprawl encompasses even more municipalities, some of which can be seen from the top of the Manulife building.

- A few of the films at Toronto have been secured for dates at the Belcourt, but for fear of the jinx, I can't tell you which. Keep an eye to the website.

Signing out...

Toby Leonard

Thursday, September 11, 2008

100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers

This is pretty neat...let the countdown begin...


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Toronto Dispatch, part 1

Well, it's a nice 80 degrees in the day and about 55ish at night here in Toronto. Amid the usual bustle of North America's fifth largest city is a whole lot of film types making their ways from screening to screening. Full days are spent in dark rooms with like-minded buyers, exhibitors, programmers, distributors, writers, bloggers and such - punctuated by brief respites into the daylight for a drop at one of the many Asian noodle joints or maybe a quick stop for the amazing hot dog kiosks that seem to be on every other block. It's easy to subside on those.

In the interest of time and a half-hearted jab at objectivity (or maybe not), here's my viewing log for the first half of this year's Toronto International Film Festival with a comment , observance or something like it.

Harsh lower Pacific Oceans, the Tierra del Fuego, the frozen fingers and cold air permeate the long long takes of this one. to warm it all. I thought at one point that I'd really like to visit, but I think I'll go in the summer.

Evidently, there are two adults in Burma and they both have bad teeth. Why Sony - big Sony - bought this is anyone's guess.

Good looking, but fairly dull Claire Denis.

Tried to get into BROTHERS BLOOM, but was shut out. I hear that I was lucky.

Often referred to as "the Israeli Persepolis", it's really much more than this.

In Deepa Mehta's new film, an Indian woman moves to Canada to be married. She escapes a violent home (and reality in general) via a magic something.

Many animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Kid from Mumbai slums wins big on Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Should be quite a hit. Witnessed the person of front of Roger Ebert turn around and punch him hard in the arm. Whoever you were, you punched a cancer patient. I hope you slept well.

Terences Davies' arresting love/hate poem to his hometown of Liverpool. His first doc as well.

Plato's Retreat in 70's-80's NY was a swinger club hotbed of sex and lots and lots of hair, both pubic and chest-wise. Medallions as well. You would think that would sustain interest.

Amos Gitai = Nap time.

Youssou N'Dour and Le Super Etoiles de Dakar at Dundas/Younge Square. He was introduced by Spike Lee. Great great show. There's a documentary here about him that I hope to catch before leaving.

This will cause a generational rift, somewhere around the mid-40s. Since I fall in the lower, I thought it was drop-dead hilarious.

Aren't seniors cute? Especially when they fall in love. Remarkably, was written by a kid from Omaha then in his teens. He directed it some six years later. In retrospect, certain aspects seemed to have been included only to justify use of a certain Bright Eyes song in the closing credits, but the chicken came before the egg.

Mike Leigh makes a crowd-pleaser. Very funny. Very good-looking film. Best female role so far at the fest.

Rahmin Bahrani's latest effort set in Winston-Salem. Another victory from a director of economy.

Guillermo Arriaga has another star-studded lives-in-crossing time he actually directs it.

Coming up on next update: The 4.5 hour CHE and, fresh from a win @ Venice, RELIGULOUS and Darren Aronofsky's THE WRESTLER.

--Toby Leonard

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Countdown to Crispin

Crispin Hellion Glover arrives in Nashville tomorrow for two big ole nights you'll never forget at the historic Belcourt. To give you a dose of what you're in for check out the NASHVILLE SCENE's interview with Crispin. And here's a little clip of Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show (where Crispin Hellion Glover performs a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated book) that will proceed the showing of Crispin's film WHAT IS IT?.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008