Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Year in Repertory Cinema

For as long as I can remember, I have been deservedly derided by my friends for having seen so few classics, despite being such a huge movie person. This was the year I decided to start to change that.  Slowly, of course – it’s an uphill battle at this point. Plus, it’s harder for me because I fail miserably at watching movies at home.  It’s just not my ideal environment – too many tempting distractions, and I cannot abide watching films with distractions.  That leaves me with theatrical experiences. But, I’m in luck; I live in the best city in the world for seeing older films.    
I wound up seeing around 42 “older movies” in theaters this year – mostly at the IFC Center, but also The Film Forum, Museum of the Moving Image and MoMA.

To be fair, I also saw Goodfellas and The Game this year, but not in a theater. Loved them both, especially the latter.  Oh, and I also watched Ghostbusters for the first time.  Twice!  It’s hard to appreciate a movie like that as much as I know I would have if I’d seen it as a kid – but I do at least totally “get” what the fuss is about.

I took advantage of some awesome programming from local movie houses – my favorite of which being the Universal 100 this summer at the Film Forum, where they showed multiple double features in honor of Universal’s 100th anniversary. I saw my first, second and third Douglas Sirk films as a part of that. Such good stuff.

But, the IFC Center also spoiled me by showing a different Alfred Hitchcock film every weekend at 11 AM for months in a row. Of his notable ones I missed Rope, The Birds, Dial M for Murder and The Man Who Knew Too Much.

I want next year to be an even better year for me in terms of catching up on classics.  Also, I’m going to make an effort to improve my watch-at-home habits. And also to improve my keeping track of my watch-at-home habits. 

Here are a few notable “bests:”

Best Hitchcock (of the 11 I saw for the first time in 2012): Vertigo

Most Embarrassing Confession:  This was the year I finally saw Back to the Future 1 and 2

“What’s the Big Deal” Award: American Graffiti. Meh!

Most Fun: Miami Connection

Top Five Overall

5. Wake in Fright
4. Annie Hall
3. Imitation of Life
2. Vertigo
1. Three Colors: Red

Also amazing were Life is Sweet, The Conversation, Psycho, L’Enfant, Nashville, Oldboy, The Battle of Algiers, To Catch a Thief, Rebecca, Rosemary’s Baby

Here's the full list of older movies I saw theatrically in 2012:

Life is Sweet
Marathon Man
Annie Hall
The Conversation
Funny Face
The Battle of Algiers
Cape Fear
Shadow of a Doubt
To Catch a Thief
The 39 Steps
Rear Window
Hello, Dolly
Imitation of Life
American Graffiti
Magnificent Obsession
Written on the Wind
Big River Man
Wake in Fright
Miami Connection
The Spy Who Loved Me
Torn Curtain
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Rosemary's Baby
Three Colors: Red
Back to the Future
Back to the Future 2

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Ones that Got Away

As I prepare to write some kind of summary post wrapping up all my cinematic adventures this year (a top ten list, sure... but  more) I am reminded that despite the high octane film consumption these past twelve months, there were a handful that simply slipped between my fingers.
Here's my list of movies I meant to see and just didn't manage.  I am aware that oceans separate some of these in terms of quality. Nevertheless, they were either at one point high enough on my list that I still want to see them despite bad reviews, or never made it onto my radar, but now need to be:

A Royal Affair
Almayer's Folly
Being Flynn
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Girl Walk//All Day
Killer Joe
Lola Versus
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Sing Your Song
The Bay
The Color Wheel
The Flat
The Grey
The Turin Horse
This Is Not a Film
To Rome with Love
Walk Away Renee

I would say that the three I want to see before any other are This Is Not a Film, Killer Joe and Girl Walk//All Day.  This Is Not a Film is the only documentary on the shortlist that I have not seen, which is pretty embarrassing considering it played for a long time at the Film Forum just down the street from my apartment.

I welcome comments shaming me for not seeing some of these, or steering me clear of some of the bad ones.   I particularly encourage comments advising me how I can see This Is Not A Film immediately.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Movies Left to See in 2012

Here go all the movies I hope to see this year still, in theaters:

Out Now:

On the Road
A Late Quartet
A Royal Affair
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Hyde Park on Hudson
Jack Reacher
The Guilt Trip
This Is 40
The Impossible

Out next week:

Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Promised Land

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Very tentative Sundance schedule

If all goes well, here's my schedule. Blue means that I have a ticket. Everything else is still needed.

Jan 17th:

May in the Summer (MAYIN17CE)
Twenty Feet from Stardom (TWENT17CN)

Jan 18th:

Who Is Dayani Cristal?
God Loves Uganda
Sound City
Pussy Riot, No, or a party (?)
We Are What We Are

January 19th:

Don Jon’s Addiction
Touchy Feely
I Used to Be Darker
Cutie and the Boxer
Blackfish (BFISH19TN)

January 20th:

Breathe In
The East (EASTT20CA)
Stoker (STOKE20CE)
Before Midnight (BEFOR20CN)

January 21st:

?? The Crash Reel or naps
Toy’s House
Google and the World Brain (GOOGL21PE)
Charlie Victor Romeo
Blue Caprice

January 22nd:

The Way, Way Back
The Spectacular Now
In a World…
Magic Magic

January 23rd:

?? Pussy Riot, TBA, Kill your Darlings or Lovelace
Interior, Leather Bar
Documentary Shorts Program 1
After Tiller
Ass Backwards

January 24th:

Soldate Jeanette
Escape from Tomorrow
Citizen Koch
The Rambler

January 25th:

Aint Them Bodies Saints
Running from Crazy
The Lifeguard
This Is Martin Bonner
Gideon’s Arm

January 26th:

Upstream Color
The World According to Dick Cheney
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

January 27th:

?? TBD
?? TBD
?? TBD
?? TBD

Friday, November 30, 2012

Movies I need to see

No matter how many movies I see, I always seem to be behind on key titles!

Here's what's on my must-see list for this weekend, in order of urgency.   I've got to accept that I may just not fit them all in, I'm afraid.

  1. Middle of Nowhere
  2. Skyfall
  3. Killing Them Softly
  4. Anna Karenina
  5. All the Romanian movies playing @FilmLinc except those I’ve already seen
  6. A Royal Affair
  7. Walk Away Renee
  8. The Flat
  9. Hitchcock
  10. Rise of the Guardians
  11. Lincoln again
  12. Cloud Atlas again

The sheer size of that list is grounds for requiring at least a four-day weekend.    Gonna go work on trying to figure out how to stop time. 

In the meantime, suggest revisions to the order of that list and/or let me know if you want to join me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Minnesota Movie Madness - Catch Up Post!

While I have every intention to actually update this blog less frequently, I am nonetheless compelled to mention my last week or so of movie consumption.

Thanksgiving found me thousands of miles away from my home, the documentary-laden cinematic paradise that is New York City. I spent the holiday with my folks in Saint Paul, MN, which is far from a wasteland for a movie-lover, but certainly the list of choices is just a bit shorter than my spoiled self is used to. No worries - I saved a pile of mainstream titles for this reason only.

And you know what? It ended up being a pretty good movie week.

First of all, I got to meet my Twitter pal Chris and chat about film over a cup of coffee. Something tells me he's quite pleased tonight, his favorite film of the year (still, I think?) having won the Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. (Moonrise Kingdom!)

I'm also glad to have caught up on five movies I wasn't about to miss. Those are:

Flight - which I saw thanks to my old friend Nick dropping by unexpected and whisking me away to the theater in the middle of a tense day on the home front. Flight was honestly a little better than expected. It's fair to compare it to a Lifetime movie, or worse, an after school special. You can't get around that. But aside from the shmaltz, it was a solid performance and what everyone says about that crash landing is dead on - harrowing stuff. I did struggle to understand the film wanted to make about religion. It was brought up too much to be an accident, but I didn't see an over-arching point or resolution to where it started to go with it.

Lincoln - My favorite of the weekend and definitely one of the best of the year. I totally screwed up going to this by myself since my parents would have been floored by this one. I did make them promise they'd go see it. I was thinking this was gonna be a lot more accessible than it was, and I found it being meatier, smarter, and actually even funnier than I was expecting. There were a few flourishes that did leave me with a "yeah this was made with Oscars in mind" but I thought those would punctuate every scene, and there were only a handful. I'm actually hoping to see this again.

Silver Linings Playbook - Could NOT have been more excited about this one. Jackie Weaver is basically the absolute best, it won the big prize at TIFF, AND it has Jennifer Lawrence running around in skimpy clothes? Where do I sign? I was trying to temper my expectations but almost everyone I knew (except a contrarian or two) was raving. Guys - I just don't get it. Not only what was the big deal about this movie, but where's the outrage? C'mon! We're smarter than this! And the movie was, too, for a good 45 minutes! You don't go from being that realistic (and trust me, I know, that shit was a little TOO real) to the complete fairy tale unrealistic "you've gotta be kidding me" lobotomy that got dumped on us. I'm genuinely curious as to how that even happened. Failures on so many levels. And I get why the general population bought it. My parents even came around at the end and left with that "awww!" look on their faces. But I can't help but raise an eyebrow at the super positive critical response. What do I know, I guess. Expect some snarky tweets if this one gets any major awards. Not now, guys, not in SUCH a jam-packed-with-quality year.

Wreck-It Ralph - This one wasn't even on my radar but I read a few super-positive tweets about it and figured it would make a good Dor/Micah girls night out. My niece is eight (and a half!) and perfectly willing to take a break from Angry Birds on my iPad for long enough to see a movie. What a satisfying ride. I loved the visuals and the voices and the concept overall. It could have been weird or bad but it was instead executed nearly perfectly, even if it did lose me ever so slightly in the third act. But, the eye candy and overall sweetness (pun intended) made it impossible to anything but adore this. Surprisingly great and more than anything, totally original.

Life of Pi - Didn't read the book. Don't know the story. Didn't see a trailer. Went because it's Ang Lee and because I thought my parents would dig it. They definitely went ape shit for the darn thing, and it gets no complaints from me either. Though I will happily kvetch about how my mom made an audible "awww!!!" sad little whimper every time something sad happened. I guess that's how I can tell she was engaged. Well that, and she turned to me half-way and whispered "This is really good!" Ah, sweet vindication. (I may or may not have mentioned that my mom is crazy particular about movies and I won't hear the end of it if I choose unwisely.)

My only movie-related regret of my Minnesota trip would be that I did not get a chance to visit the new Uptown theater, which has finally been renovated.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 - What a Great Year for Documentaries!

While I waited for my next screening at DocNYC to start, I took out my phone earlier today and tweeted something about it being such a great year for documentary film, that the Academy must allow for 15 nominees and 5 wins. Alas, if I ran the world!

That prompted some further discussion and a request for supporting evidence which I am more than happy to provide.

I've seen, at last count, about 90 documentary films this year - mostly at film festivals, so it's safe to say the bulk of them haven't been released yet. Do I make a list of just those that were shown in the US so far this year? Sure, OK. I'll do that, even though it excludes my two favorites.

So here's the best of what's come out this year, according to me.

The Invisible War
Planet of Snail
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
How To Survive a Plague
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Beauty is Embarrassing
The Revisionaries

And while I wouldn't call them personal favorites (perhaps only by virtue of the crowded playing field) - also very good and totally worthy of praise would be Searching for Sugarman, The Queen of Versailles, The Impostor, West of Memphis, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Chasing Ice.

And while I'm thinking of it, I also really enjoyed Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care.

The movies I expect will be on my list next year, providing they are released:

The Act of Killing
Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Vivan Las Antipodas!
The Source
Rewind This! (Just kidding - I haven't seen that one yet, though I have no doubt it's a masterpiece)

I'll probably see another 20 docs this year (12 more this week alone) so I wouldn't call this my definitive "best docs of 2012 list" just yet.

Doc NYC Adventures Thus Far

Annoying cell-phone users (and a few loud late-comers I haven't mentioned yet) notwithstanding, I have had a lovely experience at Doc NYC so far.

It's my first year attending this festival which seems to have been created and set up just for me.  A week of documentary film, including several hot titles I regrettably missed at other festivals?  Held at the IFC Center, mere blocks from my apartment? YES, PLEASE.

I've caught three films so far - Venus and Serena, Ethel and Bettie Page Reveals All.  Enjoyed aspects of all three - Ethel stands out as the best one so far. I've been so far struck by the passionate audiences and the relative ease / low stress element of attending screenings.

I'll write more later about my impressions of the films and the sheer awesomeness of the festival.

Anybody in New York who doesn't have their tickets already should be planning on seeing what all is still available for the rest of the festival which goes until the 17th.  Do not miss out! As for me, I am super psyched to see West of Memphis tomorrow, The Central Park Five next week, and like 15 more movies in between.

Know what else I am super excited for? Getting exactly six hours of sleep before my alarm goes off tomorrow for a five-movie day.  But don't worry - if I get tired, I'll just wake myself up by taking flash pictures of my last movie.  That doesn't bother anyone, right?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bad Behavior at the Movies

Tonight I can say I've seen it all.  I thought I had seen it all before, but I was wrong. Now, I've seen everything.

Nearly sold-out crowd for a midnight documentary.  People are jazzed up. Some are dressed up like the subject, as a kind of tribute. Everyone's cheering for the intro, folks are into the movie.

So everyone will behave, right? Surely they've come to actually, I don't know, watch the movie?

Not so fast. Two people seemed to have other agendas. Mr. Texto on the left, several rows in front of me, lost focus with the film not even 15 minutes in, and instead of having the decency to just graciously nod off, the emboldened sonofabitch thought he might see if anything on his mobile phone could entertain him further. Answer, unfortunately, was yes, as he proceeded to distract himself (and ~100 of his fellow movie-goers) every ten minutes for the next hour.

But our little attention-deficit poster child only gets takes the 2nd place trophy in the Most Annoying Person at the Midnight Movie contest I was holding in my own mind tonight.

No no - the big prize goes to Sally McSnapperson who, I presume, loved the movie so much that she felt the need to further document it by taking photographs with the camera of her smartphone.  She held the damned thing up to the light a few times, and an eager audience of filmgoers watched that shutter close more than once.  Sad news, though - the pics didn't turn out to her liking.  Don't worry though, guys, she wasn't going to give up that easily.  She could do better. The flash! She switched that feature on and went to town.  I'd say ten flash pictures from a two-minute period of the film are now sitting idly in her phone, ready for her to swipe through fondly as she rides the subway back to New Jersey or wherever the hell she crawled out of.

I'd now like to address the people sitting to her immediate left and right, as well as the full row directly behind her.  Were you just a bunch of raging pussies, or had someone actually bound your fingers for some reason, rendering you completely incapable of tapping the budding shutterbug?  I won't hear any excuses of just being too drawn into the film to have noticed it, because even if such captivation was possible, this was not the film to inspire such a comment.

Yours truly was of course the brave soul who wandered from the back row of the theater down to the middle of the third row to tap the crazy person on the shoulder and hiss "EXCUSE ME BUT THE LIGHT FROM YOUR CAMERA IS EXTREMELY DISTRACTING." She gave me a look of immediate compliance mixed with pure mortification that indicated it hadn't crossed her mind that there were other actual humans sharing the same space as she.

Because I'm a good person I will choose to forgive, but I will never forget.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Movies You Must Watch at DOC NYC

Doc NYC, as the name suggests, is a documentary film festival happening November 8th thru 15th in Manhattan.  At the SVA theater (a Tribeca Film Fest mainstay, in Chelsea) and the IFC Center (where I basically live), to be precise. I’d launch into an impassioned spiel about how much I love this fest, but truth be told, I’ve actually never attended Doc NYC.

I’m poised to change that starting this year, and in a big way. I’ve just bought tickets to 17 movies that are screening there (plus a few shorts I presume).   Crazy doc lady?  You say that like that like it’s a bad thing.

Anyway, I’m one thousand percent positive this festival’s gonna rule, and not just because the popcorn at the IFC Center is basically my version of crack.  It’s that Thom Powers guy – the one who founded and runs the festival along with his wife RaphaelaNeihausen.  I trust his taste since I’ve been enjoying the doc slate he programs at the Toronto International Film Festival for many years.

I’ve been seeing docs all year long, so I’ve got a leg up on this festival.  Here, then, is my list of films that I can heartily recommend.

(CAVEAT: I haven’t seen West of Memphis or Ethel, but based on buzz from past festivals, these films should also be on your radar.)


This follows Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars as they record a new album while being sued by their record label for a staggering 30 million dollars.  It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it is of particular interest to anyone who wants to stare into that guy’s gorgeous, gorgeous eyes for two hours, or anyone who has even a basic interest in what happens behind the scenes in the music industry.  The biggest reason to see this film, though, is that it offers something sort of rare for a documentary film – a truly unique theatrical experience.   Moviegoers generally know that watching a horror movie or a comedy is a lot more fun in a big crowd, but it’s widely accepted that most documentaries can be enjoyed just as much on your iPad as in a packed multiplex.  Not so with Artifact.  It was positively delightful to watch this one surrounded by 30 Seconds to Mars devotees who cheered for the first solid minute and snickered at seemingly innocuous lines that must be inside jokes. If you’re at all inclined to see this, make a point to see it at the opening night of Doc NYC.

Of all the subgenres of documentary film out there, competition films and docs about senior citizens are high up there on the charm scale.  Ping Pong is a funny, lighthearted combination of those.  There’s an international Over 80’s Table Tennis championship to be won. You’ll meet a host of characters from around the globe as they vie for the top spot in their age bracket.  If you need to take a break from serious topics, you could do a lot worse than this, which is sure to bring a smile to your face if not a twinge of the inadequacy of your own fitness routine.

This is the story of Radioman, a NYC personality – one of those people you always see and think huh, what’s his deal? This guy loves movies. Particularly, movie sets. He has gained a reputation with top Hollywood actors and directors as the guy who was as common to see around a movie set as a boom mike or the craft services table – so much so that they started giving him walk-on roles. This film won’t change your life, and you may leave it with more questions about this guy than answers, but you’ll chuckle along the way. Mainly it’s fun to watch as huge star after huge star shows up in the documentary to talk about their love for the guy.  And this will go over particularly well here since the film is chock full of NYC sights.

I’ve seen quite a few outstanding personal documentaries lately and this one’s no exception.  The film starts off on a very small scale – one woman’s quest to learn more about her father who left when she was a small child. From there, the viewer gets a front seat to this journey as she discovers more about the man she barely knew.  I was mostly surprised by the universality here. Sure, most of us couldn’t say our Alabama-raised dad missed our formative years on account of his gallivanting around the globe as a flamenco guitarist, leaving in his wake more than one splintered family, and even inspiring a line in a famous pop song.  But - learning to love someone despite of their shortcomings? Reconciling that good can come from bad?  These are the types of lessons that shine through in the film and allow it to resonate with audiences.  I’ve been pulling for this little movie since Sundance and I absolutely recommend it.

Part rock biography, part inspiring survival story, solid heart.  Jason Becker was a guitar prodigy from an early age, and his supportive and loving family nurtured his talent throughout his childhood, which paid off big time when his dream came true and he was selected to play with David Lee Roth on tour and record an album with him.  Those dreams were cut short by a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 22.  Who could have imagined that staring at a future of rapid decline and paralysis, Jason Becker’s creative aspirations were far from over?  You won’t meet a more determined man.  His story provides of the most striking, yet humble, kind and unassuming examples of unending triumph over adversity that you’ll see in any film – fiction or non-fiction. Loved it, loved it, loved it. 

If you can only see one movie at Doc NYC… um,  try harder. See more! There are so many good ones to see!

But okay, seriously.  If you need to place a priority on which film is absolutely unmissable? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered – this is the movie, right here. 

Not only does it make my top three docs of 2012 list but it will surely end up on my top ten films of the year. There were rainbows doing cartwheels through fireworks in my brain when I watched this freaking movie.  I knew exactly zero about the subject before I sat down to watch, so I had no predisposition to the film at all.  But it truly blew me away – both the fascinating man they profile as well as the expertise they apply in crafting his story.

If you want to know more about why I loved this movie, feel free to read the gushing review I posted of it after I saw it at TIFF.


And so, New Yorkers, go forth and buy tickets! It’s time to take full advantage of what your city is offering you. DOC NYC is the kind of event that makes you proud to live here – so don’t just nod at the poster as you run past the IFC Center on your way down to the F train and think “wouldn’t that be fun.” Go online, book some tickets, and treat yourself to some really great docs.