Monday, January 31, 2011



SUBMARINE (directed by Richard Ayoade, executive produced by Ben Stiller) is a must-see from the 2011 Sundance line up.  This brit comedy is about an adolescent boy who must deal with his mother's infidelities and his girlfriend's mother's illness.  In this quick-witted and quirky film, lead actor Craig Roberts plays the precocious Oliver Tate with style and effectiveness.  Opposite Roberts is young actress Yasmin Paige who plays a strong-willed teen with grace and serious acting chops.  These two shine in this world where sometimes keeping the outside at a distance is the only way to survive, until eventually you must deal with it.

However, the real star is the film's style.  With it's independent vibe, but commercial appeal, it may be 2011's version of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.  The editing is fantastic.  Using freeze-frames, eye-contact with the camera, and separate monologues with black backgrounds break the classic narrative flow, but are incredibly effective.  These moments allow the audience to focus on a small change in the scene, emphasizing a reaction or plot point.  All in all, this film's editing and execution is what drives it and sets it apart from other coming of age stories.

This film has charm.  That's probably the best way to describe it.  Charm.  And with it's Brit humor and confidence, I am sure it will be picked up for a (at the very least) a limited engagement in NY and LA theatres.  However, if it doesn't get to a city near you, keep it on your Netflix and DVD list, it's worth it.

You like coming of age stories.
You like Brit humor.
You like a little quirk and charm.
You like self-reflexive films (ie films that know they are films, and are not edited classically).

Below is a humorous description of the film from the perspective of the lead character, Oliver Tate (the precocious 15 year old):

I have been waiting too long for the film of my life. My name is Oliver Tate. This film will capture my particular idiosyncrasies, for example, the way I seduce my classmate Jordana Bevan using only my mind.  Also, since my parents’ marriage is being threatened by a man who runs courses on Mental and Physical Wellbeing, the film will probably feature some elaborate set-pieces of me taking him down. There will be helicopter shots. There will be slow-mo, but also transcendent moments, like when I cure my father’s depression. Knowing me as I do, I will be surprised if this film runs to less than three hours. Note to the press: appropriate adjectives to describe this film include “breath-taking” and “irresistible” as well the phrase: “a monumental achievement”.



Friday, January 28, 2011



Sundance 2011: Reviews: THE NINE MUSES

So, I watched John Akomfrah's THE NINE MUSES at the Yarrow Theatre in Park City, Utah during the ten day festival.  And I must say, "A" for the concept, "F" for the execution.  The film is based on Homer's THE ODYSSEY (a great start to a film) and uses text from the lyrical and poetic classic to discuss the life of an immigrant.  Since Homer's THE ODYSSEY is all about coming home, this suits the immigrant-tale since he is always searching for home or for a new home.  Great.

This is where it gets a little rocky.  Akomfrah starts to use quoted passages not from THE ODYSSEY, but from passages from such authors as: Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, and Emily Dickinson.  Now, I have no problem quoting other works, especially as important as these and the others he quoted.  However, my problem results when there lacks focus.  When each section of the film (which corresponds to the nine muses) is diverse it can be difficult to hold them together.  Not to mention that he uses the most chiched passages from these authors.  Most of which I could quote myself from memory.  Now I understand that the familiarity can breed a connection to the work.  It can also breed a lot of unimagined cliches.

Now, add to the pile of stuff, some music.  Don't get me wrong its great soothing, mysterious original tones, but it was present the whole movie.  Which then becomes repetitive.  Now, add to this the static (and I mean static) images of a man in a yellow (sometimes blue, sometimes red) parka standing in the middle of a path looking at a mountain (sometimes a road, sometimes on a boat).  Now I understand isolated individuals looking out contemplatively can work to create a feeling of solidarity, but when it is the entire 90 minutes (and did I mention they were static) it becomes trite.  I literally thought they were photographs (not moving film) until I saw a bird fly by, which reminded me that Akomfrah did this static style on purpose.  For the entire film.

Now, some of the more interesting parts were when they intercut BBC archival footage of various things. However, it was so haphazard and difficult to follow along that I often did not know what was in the footage and how it related.  Perhaps intertitles with the situation and the date could have been useful to connect the dots for us.  Which is too bad, cause that could have saved the film.  

 Like I said, the idea was particularly interesting and if it took it upon itself to follow one man on his own odyssey (much like Homer did), using the music and Homer's words, with some explained inter-splicing of the BBC footage, the film could have been a knockout.  So concept was amazing (and the write up in the SUNDANCE book, too), but the film did not hold up in person, which is a real shame.
STAY TUNED: For more SUNDANCE 2011 Reviews!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


This is the first of many reviews of SUNDANCE 2011. I plan on reviewing the various feature length and short films that I saw over the four days I was at the festival, but first, I want to give a little background information for any SUNDANCE novices out there.

The SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL is a festival that occurs for 10 days in January. The festival is located in Park City, Utah, just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City. It is the largest and most well-known independent film festival in the United States. The festival was founded in 1978 by Sterling Van Wagenen under the name Utah/US Film Festival. However, with the involvement of Robert Redford (for all intensive purposes, the real founder) in 1981 it moved from September to January, hoping to attract Hollywood types with it's ski resort location and timing. Then, in 1991 Redford changed the name to SUNDANCE, named after his break out role opposite long-time cohort Paul Newman in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. In this film Redford played the Sundance Kid and thus the name of the festival was solidified.

Many directors and films have had their big break come from being a part of the coveted official selection of SUNDANCE. This list includes but is not limited to: Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky, SAW, GARDEN STATE, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, RESERVOIR DOGS, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, CLERKS, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, PRECIOUS and NAPOLEON DYNOMITE (just to name a few).

The festival has a competition as each of the selections are divided into categories (dramatic, comedic, documentary etc...). The most coveted award is the Grand Jury Award, followed by the Audience Award (voted on by the audience at the festival). These awards help these small films find an audience and perhaps even a distribution company.

That brings me to: Why SUNDANCE? Well, the point of film festivals is for small films and green talent to gain some exposure. The best scenario for any film or filmmaker is to find a distributor for their film. A great example of this is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, which played at SUNDANCE and then was distributed for a theatrical release. It then went on to win two Oscars. For the actors, its a way to rub elbows with Hollywood and gain some networking perks. For anyone, getting into SUNDANCE is a big deal and an important step for their career.

How does it work? Well there are numerous theaters where each film plays a few times (usually 4-5 times). You buy a ticket (or wait in the waitlist line) and see the film. After the film, the director (and often times the cast and crew) are there to lead a Q&A with the audience. Perhaps they will even stick around for photos and additional one-on-one time with audience members. Then SUNDANCE also hosts various panel discussions, further Q&A's, concerts and parties. SUNDANCE is a great way to network with film buffs, execs, and stars.

STAY TUNED: for reviews on the films I screened in the next postings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why The Golden Globes Are Crap.

The Golden Globes are crap. Yes, you heard it here. Why, you as? While the Globes have been around awhile (since 1944), they are not reputable. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association are the hosts, which pretty much makes no sense. Foreign Press? Foreign Press?! What does that have to do with film and actual talent? Not much. Plus since it has the word "Press" in the title, that really makes me think it is a marketing ploy, rather than an actual determination of talent from actual style makers (like say, the Oscars).

Basically the awards show was designed to make money. Ya see, the HFPA puts on this shendig to rub elbows with the rich and famous. Basically, the movie makers of Hollywood lobby and recruit votes because if they don't then they don't get nominated. If they don't get nominated, they don't get to go to the event and then they don't get the fake "prestige." And since everyone (the stars, E! Channel, reputable press sources etc..) is playing along with this scam (ie that the Globes matter), then it DOES matter if your film is not nominated. So, basically the Golden Globes is a way for the HFPA to seem important and the movie makers get to win fake awards they lobbied for. In all reality, the Golden Globes are a three hour event that advertises movies. You are basically watching one big long trailer.

So why do the stars go then, you ask? Well, they have to. They are under contract to promote their movies, which includes "award" shows, and sit there, smiling the whole way through.
You seemed shocked, right?
Well, here's some proof. If you watched last evening, host Ricky Gervais presented an opening monologue with a serious, serious party foul: He basically outed the scam of the Globes, to those in the know. While, I am sure HFPA is not thrilled with Gervais, everyone who's in the know had a moment to acknowlede that "we are all just playing along."

Here is the transcript of what he said:
Ricky Gervais:
It was a big year for 3-D movies: Toy Story, Despicable Me, Tron. Seems like everything this year was 3 dimensional. Except the characters in The Tourist, um...I feel bad about that I tell you what, I am jumping on the bandwagon! Cause I haven't even seen The Tourist. Who has?! Um, but no! It must be good cause it's nominated. So shut up, okay? And I'd like to crush this ridiculous rumor going around that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish! That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes. (camera pans to Depp who is having a hard time not laughing, and quiet applause starts to be heard).

With such a sarcastic host, how else do you take this?

All this being said, the best part of the evening was seeing and hearing from Michael Douglas, cancer-free.