Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bullhead - the Oscar Nominated Crazy intense Belgian film

I wasn't too sure about this one, going into it.  Nearly everyone I know who'd seen it was saying it was great, but hard to watch.

As the years pass, I'd like to think I've been better and better at stomaching the hard to watch. As soon as I discerned, in advance, that there was no animal violence to speak of in this story about a man who makes meat his career, I thought there was little else the movie could throw at me that would phase me.

Or. Not.  'Cause wow.  Wow! Yeah.

I've seen more disturbing movies in my life. And I've seen better films, this year, in the same Oscar category (:::coughASeparationcough:::).  But this movie will stick with me, for sure.

I brought someone who isn't really the same crazy movie person I am - and this movie not exactly being the latest Mission Impossible in terms of accessibility concerned me a bit.  But I was relieved on a couple fronts to learn I wasn't the only one amongst the two of us who really enjoyed this one.  Totally impressive, moving, strong character, compelling enough story.  Recommended to most. Not to my parents, but most others.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Academy Nominated Doc Shorts - WOW, WOW, WOW.

What a program.

We were joking going into it that we were going to be confronted 130 minutes of heavy sadness.  Watching documentary film is often (and fairly, for the most part) branded as a very serious endeavor.  One could say that holds true for almost all things Academy-nominated, really.

And this year's crop were surely no exception, but there was a strong undercurrent of hope that united them, as well.

Only four of the five nominees were shown, but it was still over two hours of outstanding non-fiction.  I would not fight any one of those films (which ranged from 22 to 40 minutes in length) winning the big prize.  

Two rose above the rest - one for the tremendous courage of its participants (Saving Face) and the other for its ability to poetically show overwhelming suffering being slowly overcome by new life, and dreams for the future of a country and people (The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom).

I kept thinking of my good friend Shiri during the latter film, mainly because I think she'll really like it, and just because I truly found it to be one of the best documentaries I've seen in  a very long time - and I've seen a lot of great documentaries.  I'm bummed she didn't come along.

It mind sound trite, but it's true - I thought quite a lot while I was watching about how lucky we are to be mostly safe and happy if at times troubled by minor setbacks and inconveniences. There is unimaginable suffering in the lives of others - and real strength that I can say for near certainty I'd be unable to display in a similar situation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where to watch the Oscar Nominated Shorts

Want to impress your friends at your Oscar party by knowing what the heck they're talking about when they read off the Shorts nominees? Curious how you can gain the advantage in your Oscar pool?

Do not miss the 15 films nominated in this pint-sized category, split by Live Action, Documentary and Animated.  Good things can and absolutely do come in small packages, and as luck would have it, you can appreciate them at a theater near you.

Minnesota friends - head on over to the Riverview or the Mall of America on specific dates.  Los Angelenos - the Nuart, the Egyptian, the Music hall or the Laemmle Noho are your Shorts suppliers this season.

Take a look at the site because even if you're stuck in Lexington KY or Wilmington DE, you can get in on the action. 

Watch my favorite of the Academy Award Nominated ANIMATED Shorts...

Called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

It totally enchanted me. If you can watch the entire program in your city

I love that the shorts program they show in theaters features not just the Academy Award nominated ones, but others "of note."   There were three in the entire program from Canada. Our neighbors to the north really brought it, this year.    Other than the above, my favorite was one called Skylight, not up for an Oscar but delightfully entertaining and funny.

Movies I Need to See - which should I prioritize? What to skip entirely?

Even though it seems like I spend almost every non-working waking moment watching movies, there are a surprising number on my "still have not seen" list.  Not that I'm interested in seeing everything out there (Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island appears no where on my list) - but there are a fair number that are playing that I have just missed somehow.
Several of these I need to see if only for their Oscar nominations - Extremely Loud and The Iron Lady would NOT be on my list, otherwise.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  • Chico & Rita
  • In Darkness
  • The Iron Lady
  • Crazy Horse
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • The Grey
  • Coriolanus
  • The Turin Horse
I better hurry and see all of these next week before Film Comments Selects screenings start and I am tied up with those. 

NY pals, if any of the movies on the list above are on your list too, let's go together.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Unfinished Spaces doc at he IFC Center - Cuba, Que Bella Es!

As if there weren't enough to love about the IFC Center, tonight was the second of eight Stranger Than Fiction screenings, which is a series they program there that brings a new (or sometimes old) documentary to audiences every Tuesday for a couple months straight. I will go next week, too.

Tonight they showed Unfinished Spaces, a documentary about a fascinating architectural project in Cuba.  This movie also screened at the LA Film Festival last year and most recently at the Havana Film Festival. It introduced us to three architects appointed by Castro in the 60's to design five separate arts schools in Havana, and broke our hearts slowly as we watched what became of the once-cherished monuments over time.  It was a surprisingly moving story that used bricks and arches and fountains as a metaphor both for the ever-changing historical landscape as well as possibly the lives of the architects who poured their hearts into the project. And here I was, expecting a fairly dry history lesson.

It would have been so fun to see the movie at a screening where the architect subjects were in attendance, but the two (super young!) directors were at least on hand for an insightful Q&A.

Here's a link to the trailer on Vimeo:

Monday, February 6, 2012


One of my favorite parts of Oscar season (outside of cursing anything and everything starring Sandra Bullock) is catching the live action, documentary and animated shorts at the IFC Center.

It's happening this weekend, y'all! Get excited!

FYI if you were wondering what the best short film is that I ever saw as part of this program, I am happy to award that distinction to last year's animated short winner at the Oscars, The Lost Thing.

Watch it RIGHT FUCKING NOW, if you know what's good for you.

Chronicle. Or, a case for avoiding high school bullying at all costs.

Sometimes it's good when the local indie theater by your house isn't showing a damned thing you haven't already seen.

That way you can go to the mega monster multiplex in Times Square with your friend, and see the movie you know jack crap about but that virtually everyone on your Twitter is praising.

Tonight, Chronicle was that movie. @kirkland24 was that friend.

I liked! It was a ride. I couldn't help but put myself in the shoes of those kids, finding out that they all of a sudden could do what they couldn't have imagined in their wildest dreams - control objects with their minds.

I liked how the movie focused on their discoveries on maximizing their new talents - the joy, the surprise, the plusses and the minuses that come along with great power, especially for those not necessarily emotionally ready to handle it.    As with hand-held footage (or "found" footage- sorta?) there were a COUPLE of "uh - really, you didn't shut the camera off yet" moments but they were really cleverly explained well in advance.

I do have to say I can't remember the last time I noticed product placement like I did here. It's no coincidence I left there wanting some Pringles, or Baskin Robbins.  Mmmm... ice cream.

Anyway - good fun, no complaints, would recommend. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Norwegian Wood

I've seen now enough movies at the IFC Center that I'm showing up for ones I only sort of want to see.

That's how I felt about Norwegian Wood before I caught the 2 PM today.

Two and a half hours later it was clear why I was lukewarm about going in the first place.  Halfway through the movie, I was only beginning to warm up to/care about the characters.  You could definitely tell these were people who were richer, with clearer motivations and more meaningful interactions.   Flat. Beautifully shot, with some truly gorgeous locations, and fine performances, but flat.

I should have read the book. I should have read the book. I should have read the book.  How many times have I told myself that? Well, it's very true in this case, that's for sure.   I guess it usually is. 

At any rate, in less than a week the Academy-nominated shorts will open and I'll return to having a wide slate of films there from which to choose.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth - my third movie at the IFC Center this week

... I wish I could tell you I didn't accompany it with my third bucket of popcorn this week but dear reader(s) I am not in the habit of lying to you.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie.  The documentary centered on a public housing project built in St. Louis in the '50's that less than 25 years later was branded a complete failure after the once promising initiative fell into miserable conditions and eventually completely destroyed. 

The film relied heavily on (albeit compelling) accounts from former residents painting a picture of life inside this highly stigmatized but in fact quite family-oriented and at times happy community.  The perspective of the city planners and other residents of St. Louis were displayed through archival footage but I thought it would have been interesting to see what some of them thought today, how/if the passing of time had given them perspective. 

Mostly though, I thought about how nicely this tied into two other documentaries I saw recently about the experience of the marginalized urban poor - particularly Slavery By Another Name and The House I Live In.  Each of these three movies focuses on a totally different topic - the first being how for decades after slavery ended, it was still practiced in one form or another, and the second being a fascinating look in part at how the US war on drugs has ravaged entire communities, particularly the poor and minorities (although not exclusively).  Having seen these three movies in the last week or so, I've spent quite a lot of time reflecting on not only my own life of privilege and whether or not I've taken the opportunities I've been given for granted,  but mainly on the myriad invisible social systems that are in place affecting the ability of so many to live a prosperous and happy life.  And above all, it's been really eye-opening to be reminded of how relatively recently it was perfectly fine for folks to be so blatantly, overtly, plainly racist.   When I think back to that stuff, it's easier to imagine it as in the far distant past, no matter how untrue that is.

I also found it interesting that the movie was virtually sold out - there were at least 100 people in there.