Archive for April 2009

IFFB cont.

April 27, 2009

Sunday I yet again had to wake up relatively early and head to the Somerville Theater to volunteer. Today they decided that they had far too much food in the filmmakers lounge so they let us schlubs go down there and steal some bagels and BBQ on our breaks. It felt less exclusive and enchanting than I’d hoped. Sadly, though Hal Holbrook had come in an hour before (and his movie was still screening) he was off in an undisclosed location. Anyhow, they had me outside answering random questions, handing out schedules and free chips and doing crowd control most of the day. This was more enjoyable than tearing tickets and it meant I could walk around more and sort of do whatever.

When my shift was done I hit up The Lost Son of Havana, a doc about former Cuban-born Red Sox great Luis Tiant, who was playing in the US when the Bay of Pigs occurred and could never go back. The doc follows him on his first trip back in 2007, reuniting with old friends and family and focuses quite a bit on his relationship with his late father who was a Negro League player in the 30s and 40s. The film was quite good – I didn’t know much about Tiant going in but it was pretty impressive to see him pitch. He pitched from many different arm angles which anyone who knows anything about pitching mechanics will tell you is very hard to do.

When I got outside it had cooled down considerably from the mid-80s highs of the afternoon. Nonetheless I stuck around to see The Escapist, an Irish prison-break film starring Brian Cox and Joseph Fiennes. It was a well executed genre exercise with many of the regular prison film stock characters. However, the twist at the end and the bathos that it caused were less pleasing. Brian Cox was then on hand for Q and A wherein he predictably lamented the lack of distribution for independent film and talked about how there were 40 movie theaters in his small city in Scotland when he grew up. The crowd loved it. Also, Brian Cox doesn’t sound Scottish at all!

This evening I plan to see Art and Copy, a doc about advertising. I’m afraid I’ll be missing the film that closes out the festival on Tuesday starring Robin Williams (yuck) and written and directed by the man who made the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies Bobcat Goldthwait.

IFFB reviews/overview thus far

April 27, 2009

The Independent Film Festival Boston is here. In it’s seventh year it has grown by leaps and bounds with many east coast premieres. This year it has attracted Tom Noonan as a member of it’s narrative jury and in-person appearances from Hal Holbrook, Brian Cox, Rian Johnson, Ondi Timoner, Kevin Corrigan and Robert Seigel among others. Somebody also said they saw Chris Cooper around.

The festival is an all-volunteer run non-profit. Films were shown from last Wednesday through this Tuesday at the Somerville Theater, Brattle Theater, Coolidge Corner Theater and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

I was clued in by an acquaintance that if you volunteer for two 4-5 hour shifts you get to see any and all films for free. I was in.

Monday: Picked up my spiffy red AA volunteer tee with a picture of an anatomically correct heart on it and my volunteer badge at the Somerville – I’m ready to go!

Wednesday: I was all ready and excited to see Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom so I headed out in the rain to the Coolidge. Sadly at 6:30, when tickets went on sale, I discovered that it was, in fact, at the Somerville Theater. O well.

Thursday: I decided to actually focus on where the films were being shown and showed up at the Somerville Theater.

I caught Children of Invention, a film about a Chinese immigrant single mother and her two young children living in Quincy, MA. When the mother gets caught up in a ponzi scheme her children are left alone and must get by without her. This was the best film I’ve seen all year. I know all the tropes and devices used by “children in danger in a dangerous world” films and this one subverted most of them – it was refreshingly surprising and had one of those hopeful endings that moistens the eyes. The child actors are quite talented and it was a delight for Boston locals to catch all of the local in-jokes.

Next I saw The Missing Person, a contemporary detective noir starring Michael Shannon (as the Gumshoe) and Amy Ryan (as the Moll.) It’s hard to be a hard-boiled PI when you can’t smoke in cabs and you wake up in the morning and have to reach for your cell phone instead of the old rotary next to the bed. The film is quite stylized as an homage yet deals with some very specific 21st century American issues dealing with personal re-invention and facing a past trauma. It was a good film and quite nice to look at.

Friday began with me waiting in the wrong line at the Brattle to see Andrew Bujalski’s new one Beeswax. Not much new ground is broken by the notorious “Slackavettes” filmmaker though instead of observing the mundane slice of life of mid-20s upper middle class white america in New York it’s that of the late-20-something upper middle class white America in Austin. I found this film significantly less funny than his last feature Mutual Appreciation, but perhaps that’s only because older characters who tend to have more sophistication and life experience are more deft and less unsure about how to deal with life. Sadly I had to leave this film about 10 minutes before it ended to bike up to the Somerville to meet Julie, Maura, James and Lisa to see The Wrestler writer Robert Seigel’s Big Fan, a dark comedy about an obsessed and emotionally immature New York Giants fan from Staten Island. The film was a bit disappointing (as a Giants fan myself I was hoping for more in-jokes) but after the film Seigel and film co-star Kevin Corrigan took questions. It was the most amusing Q and A I’ve seen so far with Corrigan at first appearing very uncomfortable and fidgety but later giving us a 10 minute long anecdote about his childhood meeting with Robert De Niro. He’s a natural comedian.

Saturday I had my first volunteer shift: I guarded a closet and the filmmakers lounge, ripped tickets, scanned badges and counted and collected audience ballots. It was pretty enjoyable all around (though the sunny 80 degree weather outside made me curse fate a bit.) Afterwards I caught La Mission a film starring Benjamin Bratt (directed by his brother Peter) about a recovering alcoholic Chicano in San Francisco who has to deal with the fact that his teenage son is gay. The film was fine though it had far too many slow motion and swelling strings sequences for my taste. It was one of those by the book liberal issue Sundance films that folks seem to love but didn’t really do it for me.

Next I caught Ondi Timoner’s We Live in Public, a documentary about early internet innovator Josh Harris and, specifically, the way he used technology to investigate the idea of privacy in the lives of his artist friends and, most interestingly, that of him and his girlfriend. This film, 10 years in the making, is well in line with the investigation of deranged genius in Timoner’s previous film, Dig! Check out the website linked above and look at the videos section for a youtube of a crazed fan of pseudo.com attacking Harris at a screening at MOMA. I was really impressed by this film though it’s sad that Harris is such a megalomaniac and so attracted to publicity that he’d allow himself to essentially be exploited for Timoner’s doc about how we’re all willing to let the internet steal our privacy.

After that I pooped out on the midnight movie and went to bed. Review of Sunday soon to come.

A.O. Scott thinks todays indie film makers predicted the recession!

April 9, 2009

A. O. Scott tries to Monday Morning Quarterback and create a new film movement for the current economic climate. The serious problem with his theory is that all of the films he talks about as being of the “Neo-neo realism” school were made while things were still hunky dory. Lehman Brothers was still humming and while gas may have been $4 a gallon in the US, everybody still had jobs and profits were still being made. He may be able to argue that they were somehow prescient of the coming crisis, but that would be stupid because, if that were the case, Kelly Reichardt would have become a millionare by shorting stocks and shit.

Also, check out this description of the first Neo-realist movement and tell me what it reminds you of in cinema today?

Their methods included the casting of nonprofessional actors, often portraying characters close to their real selves; the use of unadorned, specific locations and an absorption in the ordinary details of work, school and domesticity.

Odd that he does not mention the films of John Cassavettes, for instance A Woman Under the Influence or Faces. But today, this describes nothing more than the films of Andrew Bujalski, Joe Swanberg and those of the “mumblecore” genre. Yet he never mentions any of these in his essay, probably because he focuses more on the politics of the films than their style. Anyhow, it’s worth a read.

Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style

April 7, 2009

the_darjeeling_limited1Oh boy!  Matt Zoller Seitz, my favorite critic, is posting a series of five videos and companion essays tracing Wes Anderson’s influences and they are fascinating.  The first three are already up:

Part One – Bill Melendez (and Charles Schultz), Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut

Part Two – Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, Mike Nichols

Part Three – Hal Ashby

Part Four (JD Salinger!) will go up April 9, and the final chaper on April 13.

I cannot recommend these videos strongly enough.

You know what, I take it back.

April 3, 2009

Michael Cera doesn’t need to learn how to act in more than one way at least until he can grow some facial hair. He’s doing it right.

It’s a drug…for the world…that gives worms…to ex-girlfriends!

April 2, 2009

Nathan Rabin at The AV Club’s “My Year of Flops” takes on Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. This is also known as one of the most formative comedic films of my youth. I’m glad he liked it.

Perhaps I’ll get back to my own film reviews this weekend, because this week I’ve been watching Mad Men instead. I’ve got The Mark of Cain on my desk waiting to fill in the questions that Eastern Promises raised about the role of tattoos in Russian prisons. More later.