Films

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Bruce's First Report from Toronto!

Just spent my first full day in Toronto after arriving in time to see only one film last night. Tickets seem harder to get this year and we REALLY miss Michael and Scot's morning trek to the box office which made things ever so easy for the rest of us. A computer glitch caused many people to get tickets for overlapping times and I talked to many who were frantically trying to reschedule their films in wholesale fashion. Sadly the Cumberland is gone. Work was supposed to have begun turning the wonderful art house into luxury condos but I hear some glitch has stopped all that, alas too late to save the cinema. The Varsity is almost exclusively used now for press/industry screenings. This year there is a new venue - AMC - at Dundas and Yonge, diagonally across from the northern most part of the Eaton Centre. The College Park Box Office has been moved there. All lines for the Festival Box Office and films are formed outside which is messy and uncomfortable considering AMC is on the third floor and the Box Office is on the second.

Thursday night I began with a less than so-so Italian film THE REST OF THE NIGHT (2.5 cats) which belongs on TV, not in a major film festival. The acting was decent but the film was decidedly uncinematic. Furthermore it was filmed in winter giving it a bleak feeling that I suspect was unintentional. Friday started off with a bang. Brent Hamer's O'HORTEN (5 cats) was over-the-top fabulous. It is a bittersweet tale of a man coming to grips with his retirement and his past concurrently. O'HORTEN is a wonderful companion piece to his earlier KITCHEN STORIES. Hamer is definitely maturing as an artist. Later today I saw PANDORA'S BOX (4 cats) a Turkish film about three adult children who are forced to face their personal demons when their aged mother disappears, a victim of Alzheimer's. The mother is played beautifully by French actress Tsilla Chelton who some may remember in the delicious title role of TATIE DANIELLE. Finally I saw FEAR ME NOT a film from Danish director Kristian Levring. FEAR ME NOT (3.5 cats) is a pharmaceutical horror story inspired by none other than the venerable Jean Renoir's version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Ulrich Thomsen (FESTEN, ADAM'S APPLES) is a knock-out as the average man who innocently signs up for testing a new drug. The strong supporting cast includes the wonderful duo of Paprika Steen and Lars Brygmann. So far on Saturday I have seen SERBIS (4.5 cats) from the Philippine director Brillante Mendoza and a documentary on Senegalese Grammy-winning musician Youssou Ndour, YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE (4.5 Cats).

Bruce Kingsley (posted by M Colford)

Most Anticipated from TIFF #1

As we all know, I wasn't able to go to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It was difficult for me, but I will survive. Thanks to Wiebke, Alberta and Tracy for sharing in my pain. I would loved to have seen them on this trip.

Fortunately, as you've seen, Beth is doing a great job providing coverage for Chlotrudis, and there are a lot of online film outfits covering the festival from top to bottom, so I almost feel like I'm there. Today I read the first piece that made me really excited.

Obviously I'm excited about the upcoming releases, BLINDNESS, written by Don McKellar, and ADORATION, the latest film from Atom Egoyan, but I have no doubt I will be seeing both of these films soon after the festival when they are released Stateside. I think I am most excited, however about the new film by French director Claire Denis called 35 RHUMS. I'm hoping someone from Chlotrudis caught it (I'm sure I can count on Ivy) but indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on it in his blog. Here's an excerpt:

...its a wonderful movie that I've had a hard time shaking. 35 RHUMS offers quiet moments with its characters -- each striving for someone, or something, else. Agnes Godard's photography and Tindersticks' music, in particular, are striking and beautiful.

Eugene refers to a review in indieWIRE by Shane Danielsen who also had a great quote:

I was looking forward to a number of films here, but none more than the latest from Claire Denis. Such anticipation usually ends in disappointment, but 35 RHUMS only confirmed her mastery. Her finest piece of work since 1999's superb BEAU TRAVAIL, it seemed like nothing so much as her version of a late Ozu, a latter-day response to EQUINOX FLOWER and LATE SPRING -- and like those films, it's about the bonds of family, and people being kind and desiring the best, for themselves and for each other. Yet it's no mere homage; rather, it's imbued with Denis' own, unmistakeable sensibility, the patient and watchful eye that disinguished earlier Paris-set masterpieces like I CAN'T SLEEP and FRIDAY NIGHT.

Now I just have to hope that I won't be waiting too long before we get to see it in the States.

Independent Distribution Loses Another Outlet.

Red Envelope Entertainment, the acquisition and and distribution wing of Netflix has closed its doors. As blockbusters make more money and indies get more and more marginalized, going direct to DVD or to Cable TV, we hate to see indie distributors disappear, thus making our cinematic choices that much more limited.

Red Envelope Entertainment had released some pretty significant Chlotrudis films in its short life, including Chlotrudis Best Documentary winners from the past two years PROTAGONIST and THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED. Just recently Red Envelope provided U.S. distribution for two Chlotrudis co-presentations, LOVE SONGS and WATER LILIES. Hopefully another company will turn up to take its place.

While discussing the difficulties of indie and foreign-language film distribution, a film that is sure to be of interest to Chlotrudis members has just been released directly to DVD in the States. HELP ME EROS the Taiwanese film directed by and starring Lee Kang-Sheng, muse and lead actor for beloved Chlotrudis director Tsai Ming-Liang, was released this week on DVD without receiving an official theatrical release. While most Chlotrudis members would probably prefer to see HELP ME EROS on the big screen, better on DVD than not at all!

The Top 10's are starting already!

Over at eugonline, indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez has posted his Top 10 of 2008 so far. Since we are over halfway through the year, and in a few short months, Chlotrudis members will be pondering nominations, Top 10 lists and what not, I thought I'd follow suit and share my own Top 10 of 2008 so far. Of course, given the nature of Chlotrudis, this is never a simple operation, so I'm going to post two Top 10 lists. The first will be my ten best movies that I've seen in 2008 so far, the other will be my ten best Chlotrudis-eligible films of 2008 so far. What are you favorites of the year so far?


My 10 Best Movies seen in 2008 so far! (in alphabetical order)

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS

THE AXE IN THE ATTIC
THE BAND'S VISIT
BLIND
CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (pictured right)
POSTCARDS FROM LENINGRAD
THEATER OF WAR
WATER LILIES

My 10 Best Chlotrudis-eligible Movies for 2008 so far! (in alphabetical order)

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS

THE AXE IN THE ATTIC
BLIND
CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY

JELLYFISH (pictured right)
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
MONKEY WARFARE
MY WINNIPEG
THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS
THE VISITOR

PIFF - Day Two

With a few exceptions, PIFF does a superb job selecting documentaries. In fact, looking back, I would say that overall, the docs I saw were for the most part outstanding, and the narratives, generally uneven. Day Two at PIFF was documentary day, with three docs being the order of the day.

Chris & Don: A Love Story (USA; 90 min.)
directors: Tina Mascara and Guido Santi
documentary

This was the film that Chlotrudis co-presented at Ptown, and I was very pleased by the nearly packed house at the Crown & Anchor. CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY beautifully tells the story of the thirty-year relationship of author/poet Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy who was thirty years Isherwood's junior. With Bachardy still living, the film tends to focus more on him, but Isherwood certainly gets his share of attention. All of the issues you might imagine in a relationship with such disparate ages are present, and because Isherwood was a diarist, the access to his most personal thoughts and even video footage is well utilized here. Just thinking about the fact that these two men first met when Don was 16 (they became a couple when he was 18) you can't help but ponder his entire adult identity being shaped by Isherwood. The main point of struggle was certainly Don's search for an identity when partnered with such a talented and well-known figure. I'm sure that if Bachardy had not found his creative talent as an artist, their relationship would never have survived.

Mascara and Santi blend live interview with Don and others who knew the couple, with Isherwood's video footage and readings from his diaries, as well as recreations of some key points in their lives. They shape out of this unconventional, decidedly non-traditional relationship a romance for the ages, with grace, style, and a passionate heart. 5 cats

American Teen (USA; 95 min.)
director: Nanette Burstein
documentary

I was intrigued to see this documentary focusing on the lives of teens today that has been the subject of much praise and controversy on the festival circuit. Burstein spent a year immersed in an Indiana community, seeking out and spending time with a group of teenagers that embody the well-known archetypes (or perhaps that should read stereotypes) made popular by the film THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Unfortunately, AMERICAN TEEN just didn't work for me, and the more people I talk to, I've been finding that it either clicks with people, or it doesn't, but even the people who love it can see the artifice and manipulation that turned me off of the film.

I'm not against staged scenes, recreations, or scripted sequences in documentaries. They can certainly enhance a non-fiction film and make it more entertaining. The problem with AMERICAN TEEN is that the film isn't really honest with its audiences. As thing progress, it becomes increasingly obvious that some of the scenes are staged, and eventually you begin to believe that the teens being depicted in the film might actually be characters, or 'actors' representing archetypes, rather than kids being represented in a documentary. Burstein has sought out (or created) such blatant stereotypes in order to fulfill a publicity department's dream and tapping into the early-80's John Hughes zeitgeist that I was instantly reminded of James Frey and his fictionalized memoir. To further this feeling the storylines in AMERICAN TEEN follow such startlingly scripted paths that you'd think a team of Hollywood screenwriters were coaching the action.

Those people who I've spoken two who enjoyed the film totally bought into the PRETTY IN PINK/THE BREAKFAST CLUB vibe that TEEN apes even while acknowledging the manipulation. While I was at first perplexed and disappointed as I watched AMERICAN TEEN, as time has passed I'm still perplexed but now somewhat annoyed. The film's marketing is trying to further underscore the character-like nature of the subjects, and the inauthenticity of the film has begun to grate on my nerves even more. 2 cats

The Axe in the Attic (USA; 110 min.)
directors: Ed Pincus and Lucia Small
documentary

I have been waiting for Lucia Small, director of MY FATHER, THE GENIUS, to make another film; curious to see what direction she would take after the intensely personal examination of her father's life and its affect on his family. I was not expecting THE AXE IN THE ATTIC, a road-trip across America with co-director Ed Pincus, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the resulting diaspora that occurred, displacing scores of people whose homes were destroyed in the storm. What makes ATTIC different from other films or reports on Katrina's aftermath is the way the filmmakers insert themselves into the film, constantly questioning their roles and responsibilities while shooting the film; asking questions of themselves that viewers of documentary films often ask of the filmmakers without being able to get an answer.

Pincus and Small focus on approximately 50 people in the film, pared down from the hundreds they interviewed on their road trip. These stories, powerful and moving all, are intercut with images of the devastation, and scenes where the filmmakers debate the social responsibilities of the country and the individual, and how this disaster affected them each personally. ATTIC is an elegant work, and one that I would encourage everyone to see. It's wonderful to see Small continue her fine filmmaking career, and again, makes me eager to see what she will do next. 4 1/2 cats.

After the film, a group of us headed to Level at the Commons for a filmmaker reception. We were late arriving, and much of the crowd had thinned out, but a batch of Chlotrudis members, myself, Scot, Beth Curran, Beth Caldwell, Dan McCallum and his partner Jon, spent the next couple of hours with director Lucia Small and her associate producer Emma, Boston Phoenix film critic and Chlotrudis-pal Gerry Peary, and Central Productions CEO Mike Bowes. We even got a few clues as to what Lucia might be working on next!

A disappointment for Ellen Page fans in Chlotrudis

It's looking like JACK AND DIANE, the lesbian, werewolf flick we were all on pins and needles about has lost Ellen Page. Recently Cinematical reported that the film has abruptly disappeared from Ellen's imdb page, and the film's website is no longer active.

JACK AND DIANE was to have starred Page and her JUNO co-star Olivia Thirlby, as teenage lesbians who meet in New York City and spend the night "kissing ferociously." Trouble is, one of them discovers that her newly awaken sexual desires turn her into a werewolf. Page and Thirlby were terrific as best buds in JUNO, and this was certainly a film with an audience just waiting for it to be made. Well, last September in Toronto, Ellen and Olivia talked with First Showing about the difficulty the film has had in obtaining financing, and my suspicion is that even with Page's star having risen, the filmmakers were unable to get the necessary investors to begin filming, and Page's increasingly busy schedule just got in the way.

Here's hoping that the film gets its financing in order and that Ellen's schedule opens up again... or something. What a joy it would be to watch Ellen and Olivia spending the night snogging as it were, then sprouting fur and a wolf's snout and running around howling!

Trailers as Visual Art

Lots of little tidbits to catch up on here, but I just had to start with this one. Many Chlotrudis members have been intrigued by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's film career. He started out as a photographer, and since 1995 has also written and directed five films. The last two, CLIMATES and DISTANT, garnered quite a bit of attention stateside after winning some awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Both films told intimate, personal stories and were lauded for their stunning visuals.

Now Twitch reports that a trailer for THREE MONKEYS, Ceylan's forthcoming film which just premiered at Cannes, has been released. Ceylan is an acknowledged master at the art of filming in HD, and while I'm not usually one to gush over visuals (although you should have heard me raving about the picture quality of the Blu-Ray disc for JUNO) you've just got to take a look at this trailer. Not only is it intriguing and make me want to see the film, it's really just visually spectacular. Go take a look.

Independent Film Festival of Boston Announces 2008 Festival Line-Up

The Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced its festival line-up for when it returns to the Somerville Theatre, the Brattle Theatre and the Coolidge Corner Theatre April 23 - 29, 2008. Opening the festival is TRANSSIBERIAN, the latest from director Brad Anderson (NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND; HAPPY ACCIDENTS) starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, and Ben Kingsley. Anderson, his screenwriter Will Conroy and the cast will be in attendance at the opening night premiere. Closing the festivities on Tuesday, April 29 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre will be Werner Herzog's environmental documentary ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD.

The Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film will be co-presenting two films at the IFFB, both from our neighbors to the north. On Friday, April 25 and Sunday April 27, join us for another tour de force performance by the talented Ellen Page who stars in THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS a visual extravaganza directed by Bruce McDonald. Chlotrudis will also welcome Guy Maddin to town for his magnificent autobiographical, pseudo-documentary, MY WINNIPEG. It screens on Monday, April 28.

Read the IFFB's official announcement below:

The Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFBoston) today announced the films that will be featured at the 2008 Independent Film Festival of Boston. The sixth annual festival will be held April 23-April 29, 2008. This year, to meet the demands of its growing audience, IFFBoston has expanded its slate to include 96 films. The festival, complete with over 150 film screenings, filmmaker Q&A sessions, panel discussions, visiting filmmakers, parties and events will showcase the works of filmmakers who seek to create films that are life changing, thought provoking and expose aspects of life in new and revealing manners.

TRANSSIBERIAN directed by Brad Anderson, written by Brad Anderson and Will Conroy, and starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, and Sir Ben Kingsley will open the festival on Wednesday, April 23rd at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. This marks a return to Boston for Brad Anderson, who previously shot his features NEXT STOP WONDERLAND and SESSION 9 in the city. Brad Anderson, Will Conroy, and cast will be in attendance for the Opening Night screening.

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD directed by Werner Herzog, will close the Independent Film Festival of Boston on Tuesday April 29th at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.

Two feature length films will be making their World Premiere at the Independent Film Festival of Boston this April. The first, TWELVE, brings twelve of Boston’s brightest young filmmakers together on a collaborative project wherein each of them directed a segment of the film, each in a different month of the year, with the other 11 directors always serving as their crew. The directors who make up the twelve are Scott Masterson, Seanbaker Carter, Andy McCarthy, Garth Donovan, Luke Poling, Noah Lydiard, Megan Summers, Brynmore Williams, Joan Meister, Marc Colucci, Jared Goodman, and Vladmir Minuty.

The second film having its World Premiere at the festival is MEADOWLARK, an autobiographical documentary by first-time filmmaker Taylor Greeson, which simultaneously explores issues of faith and sexuality while confronting the violent murder of the filmmaker’s brother.

Special guests attending the festival include Famke Janssen, Guy Maddin, Harmony Korine, Harlan Ellison, Mary Stuart Masterson, Jay McCarroll, Chris Eigeman, Brad Neely, Harry & The Potters, and many more to be announced in the coming weeks.

Discounted passes are available on the festival website, http://www.iffboston.org, through March 31st. Individual tickets will be available on the website starting April 1st. There are film-only passes, party-only passes, and Chrome passes which grant access to all films and parties available.

INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL OF BOSTON 2008 OFFICIAL SELECTIONS:

Narrative Features
AUGUST EVENING, directed by Chris Eska
BALLAST, directed by Lance Hammer
BEAVER TRILOGY, directed by Trent Harris (Buried Treasure screening)
BIG MAN JAPAN, directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto
BLOOD CAR, directed by Alex Orr
THE CAKE EATERS, directed by Mary Stuart Masterson
FLASH POINT, directed by Wilson Yip
FROWNLAND, directed by Ronnie Bronstein
GOLIATH, directed by David Zellner & Nathan Zellner
JETSAM, directed by Simon Welsford
MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, directed by Barry Jenkins
MISTER LONELY, directed by Harmony Korine
MOMMA’S MAN, directed by Azazel Jacobs
MONGOL, directed by Sergei Bodrov
MY EFFORTLESS BRILLIANCE, directed by Lynn Shelton
MY WINNIPEG, directed by Guy Maddin
NATURAL CAUSES, directed by Alex Cannon, Paul Cannon, and Michael Lerman
THE NEW YEAR PARADE, directed by Tom Quinn
PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND, directed by Daniel Barnz
PING PONG PLAYA, directed by Jessica Yu
PINK, directed by Alexander Voulgaris
SAVAGE GRACE, directed by Tom Kalin
SEVERED WAYS: THE NORSE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA, directed by Tony Stone
STUCK, directed by Stuart Gordon
TIME CRIMES, directed by Nacho Vigalondo
THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, directed by Bruce McDonald
TRANSSIBERIAN, directed by Brad Anderson (Opening Night Film)
TRIANGLE, directed by Ringo Lam, Johnnie To, and Tsui Hark
TURN THE RIVER, directed by Chris Eigeman
TWELVE, directed by Scott Masterson, Seanbaker Carter, Andy McCarthy, Garth Donovan, Luke Poling, Noah Lydiard, Megan Summers, Brynmore Williams, Joan Meister, Marc Colucci, Jared Goodman, and Vladmir Minuty
VEXILLE, directed by Fumihiko Sori
WOODPECKER, directed by Alex Karpovsky

Documentary Features
AMERICAN TEEN, directed by Nanette Burnstein
AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR, directed by Steve James and Peter Gilbert
CRAWFORD, directed by David Modigliani
DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, directed by Erik Nelson
ELEVEN MINUTES, directed by Michael Selditch
ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, directed by Werner Herzog (Closing Night Film)
FRONTRUNNER, directed by Virginia Williams
THE GREENING OF SOUTHIE, directed by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis
INTIMIDAD, directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin
JOY DIVISION, directed by Grant Gee
JUMP!, directed by Helen Hood Scheer
LIFE. SUPPORT. MUSIC., directed by Eric Metzgar
THE LINGUISTS, directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger
LIONESS, directed Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers
MEADOWLARK, directed by Taylor Greeson
NERDCORE RISING, directed by Negin Farsad
NOT YOUR TYPICAL BIGFOOT MOVIE, directed by Jay Delaney
PUBLIC ENEMY: WELCOME TO THE TERRORDOME, directed by Robert Patton-Spruill
SAVIOURS, directed by Ross Whitaker and Liam Nolan
SECOND SKIN, directed by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza
SECRECY, directed by Robb Moss and Peter Galison
SEX POSITIVE, directed by Daryl Wein
SONG SUNG BLUE, directed by Greg Kohs
VERY YOUNG GIRLS, directed by David Schisgall
WE ARE WIZARDS, directed by Josh Koury
WILD BLUE YONDER, directed by Celia Maysles

Short Films
APOCALYPSE OZ, directed by Ewan Telford
AQUARIUM, directed by Rob Meyer
A CATALOG OF MY ANTICIPATIONS, directed by David Lowery
CHIEF, directed by Brett Wagner
DOXOLOGY, directed by Michael Langan
THE DRIFT, directed by Kelly Sears
THE EUROPEAN KID, directed by Ian Martin
THE EXECUTION OF SOLOMON HARRIS, directed by Wyatt Garfield and Ed Yonaitis
FILM MAKES US HAPPY, directed by Bryan Wizemann
GLORY AT SEA, directed by Ben Zeitlin
HEARTBEATS, directed by Vincent Coen
IF A BODY MEET A BODY, directed by Brian Davis
I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE, directed by Cam Christiansen
I LOVE SARAH JANE, directed by Spencer Susser
JACKSON WARD, directed by Matt Petock
KIDS + MONEY, directed by Lauren Greenfield
LA CORONA, directed by Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
LARRY (THE ACTOR), directed by Brett Portanova and Eric Poydar
THE LONELY BLISS OF CANNONBALL LUKE, directed by Levi Abrino
MAN, directed by Myna Joseph
MAYBE IN THE SPRINGTIME, directed by Mai Sato
MR.P, directed by Jake Vaughan
PEPPER, directed by Harry McCoy
PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY, directed by Bo Price
THE PULL, directed by Andy Blubaugh
THE RAMBLER, directed by Calvin Reeder
REORDER, directed by Sean Garrity
SAFARI, directed by Catherine Chalmers
SANGIT SENYOR, directed by Alan Lyddiard
SAVE THE WORLD, directed by David Casals-Roma
SIKUMI (ON THE ICE), directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
SPIDER, directed by Nash Edgerton
34x24x36, directed by Jesse Epstein
TONY ZOREIL, directed by Valentin Potier
WELL-FOUNDED CONCERNS, directed by Tim Cawley
WOMAN IN BURKA, directed by Jonathan Lisecki

Panel Discussions

  • Collaborative Screenwriting Presented by Zhura.com
    A discussion with screenwriters and other industry professionals on the benefits of collaboration featuring Amy Fox (Heights) and Will Conroy (Transsiberian)
  • Distribution 2.0
    A discussion with some of the companies on the cutting edge of film distribution featuring representatives of Spout.com, Current.com, Indiepix, and Ourstage. Moderated by Amy Dotson of the Independent Feature Project (IFP).
  • Comics to Film/ Film to Comics
    A presentation by “Robot Stories” writer/director and writer of the hit comics The X-Men and World War Hulk, Greg Pak.

The Independent Film Festival of Boston will reach a diverse audience by incorporating a number of venues in the greater Boston community including:

  • Somerville Theatre in Davis Square
  • Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square
  • Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline

Filmwise, MIFF Ends on an Unpalatable Note

As tasty as scrambled eggs and beer might be, it sounds fairly unpalatable to me, and so was the Chilean film the title of which, SCRAMBLED BEER, took its name. It was our last film of the festival, and was also a last minute switch. Tuesday night also featured a film from the Philippines, which at the time drove me nuts (not in a good way) but with some distance has grown on my considerably.

SLINGSHOT (Philippines; 86 min.)
director: Brillante Mendoza

Mostly on Bruce’s recommendation, I decided to catch Brillante Mendoza’s film SLINGSHOT, after skipping it in Toronto. Being half Filipino, I do like to catch films from the Philippines when possible, but generally I haven’t had much success with enjoying them. SLINGSHOT is a fascinating film, one that drove me nuts while watching it… I believe I even told Scot that I thought it was the most annoying film I’d ever seen, but upon reflection, it’s really quite remarkable, and displays Mendonza’s talents quite well. The action of the film takes place during Holy Week, and touches upon themes of religion, politics and poverty. The opening scene is frantic and loud as the police raid a large building where dozens of poor families live. Everyone has their claim to innocence, but these pleas fall largely on deaf ears as the police route most of the buildings male inhabitants and haul them into prison for the night. The next day, most of the men are released and return home, but we soon discover that there isn’t a whole lot of innocence among the lot of them.

Of course, that’s the theme of the film, as campaigning for local elections is in full-swing, and we see various politicians dropping all semblance of propriety and buying votes… literally handing money out in public square to obtain votes. At street level, we see that most of these people will do whatever they have to do to make some money. One man must con another man to pay a third man who is collecting money to pay off his debts to a fourth, and so on. While the constant fighting, shrieking and mayhem that goes on throughout much of this film is incredibly grating, the film is so realistically shot that you sometimes forget you are watching a narrative. There is something so immediate and raw about this footage that you can’t help but be drawn in. Mendoza captures life on the poor streets of the Philippines in a remarkably vivid and realistic way. 3.5 cats

SCRAMBLED BEER (Chile; 88 min.)
director: Cristobal Valderrama

After reading the synopsis of this film (something about a cross between a buddy film and a time travel film) Scot decided he wanted to see SCRAMBLED BEER. So we exchanged tickets for BLUE EYELIDS, which we’d already purchased for this one. I was game; I’d never seen a film from Chile before. It’s such a skinny country! Well, for me, scrambled eggs and beer just don’t go well together.

Vladimir is basically an irredeemable lout. From the moment we meet him he is shown to be a boor, a cad, and a slob. Things get worse from there. After being evicted, he moves in with his friend Jorge and his girlfriend Monica, who clearly is repulsed by Vladimir. After their first day in the new apartment, Vladimir wakes up the next morning with Monica in bed next to him, suddenly filled with passion for him. Despite his shock, he welcomes this new attitude, until he finds out that somehow three weeks have passed since he went to sleep the night before. Things get even more confused when he wakes up the next morning two weeks earlier. He starts to suspect that Fedora, a creepy neighbor who also happens to be a witch, might be involved. So while things sounds a little wacky and confusing, hold on, because suddenly, just over half way through the film, a twist is introduced the radically changes the tone and expectations for the viewer.

Sadly, none of this is handled very well. The comedy is broad and obvious; something that actually might feel right at home in a multiplex. The characters, especially Vladimir, are so unappealing and obnoxious that it’s hard to really root for any of them. Finally, the sudden revelation comes out of nowhere and despite itself, almost makes the film a little interesting. It saved it from a 1 cat film for me. I can now give it 1.5 cats.

Overall, the Miami International Film Festival is a great vacation choice for a film buff. The weather in early March is beautiful, the film selection is great, and for us, the accomodations were perfect (thanks to Chlotrudis member Richard Alleman for the loan of his apartment!) You can't get much better than hitting the beach every day then watching movies every night. As far as drawbacks go, every film festival I attend just makes me admire the amazing organizational feat that the Toronto International Film Festival accomplishes every year. The queues were thoroughly disorganized in Miami, and I feel that is one of the single most important things to do right from the public's perspective. On a larger scale, Miami has a terrible service industry. I can't recall a single satisfying encounter with waitstaff in restaurants. Even if things started off well, by the end of the experience, things had devolved. Gratuities are included in the bill at most restaurants in Miami Beach, and I feel this just takes away any incentive for servers to care. Still, I would attend the Miami International Film Festival again in the future.

Checking in on Past Nominees: Paddy Considine

Cinematical has announced that British thesp, and Chlotrudis nominee Paddy Considine will try his hand at directing a feature narrative. Considine was nominated in the Best Supporting Acting Category in 2005 for MY SUMMER OF LOVE. He first caught our eye in Pawel Pawlikowski's outstanding LAST RESORT, appeared in 2002's 24-HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, and was recently seen in the British comedy, HOT FUZZ. Mainstream audiences might remember him in last year's THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.

Considine wrote and directed a short film entitled DOG ALTOGETHER starring Peter Mullan last year. His new project is titled TYRANNOSAUR which will star British TV actress Olivia Colman. There won't be any dinosaurs in TYRANNOSAUR however; the film focuses on a woman leaving an abusive relationship. Filming will begin at the end of the year.