Films

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NYAFF Notes

posted for Tomfish

I just got back from a weekend full of good to great movies at the New York Asian Film Festival.

Most anticipated on my must-see list is Chan-wook Park's newest film, I'M A CYBORG BUT THAT'S OK. I was a little afraid that A) My expectations were way too high and B) Park's leaving his Vengeance mode and hitting up what is being marketed as a romantic comedy would just not measure up to his past successes.

After seeing LADY VENGEANCE, I was ready to deem Park as the Greatest Living Director, but seeing he only had 4 movies under his belt at the time I figured it was a bit premature. After finishing my viewing of I'M A CYBORG (in seats that made the Ryerson seem like the fluffiest down) I will now proclaim it: Chan-wook Park is the Greatest Living Director. Shut up, Miyazaki.

CYBORG took two of my main movie peeves (romantic comedies and movies that make mental illness look cute) and turned them on their ear. Every single piece of information, every little cute quirk, every seemingly throw-away bit comes full-circle and gets neatly wrapped up before the movies end.

I guess I'll make some quick notes about the other movies I caught.

  • THE BANQUET - Wire-fu does Hamlet. Everyone dies. Zhang Ziyi pulls off Gertrude. Plus she's hot.
  • RETRIBUTION - Kiyoshi Kurasawa makes the creepiest movies you'll ever see. RETRIBUTION is a more linear story than CURE, CHARISMA or PULSE, but it still made it hard to sleep that night. I'm not sure if he likes exploring similar themes or is making references to his earlier films, but there was a scene that reminded me of his earlier moves every now and then.
  • EXILED - Johnnie To does Sergio Leone. I love cowboy movies, I love frontier justice, I love Tony Wong, I love EXILED.
  • DOG BITE DOG - This may have been one of the best over-the-top brutal violent movies ever, if only the last 15 minutes weren't so damn gawdawful.
  • DASEPO NIAUGHTY GIRLS - Nice to look at, slightly funny. No depth.
  • HULA GIRLS - There's a spate of movies in Japan right now where a ragtag group of misfits banD together and overcome adversity to finish off with a grand finale. WATER BOYS, SWING GIRLS, etc. HULA GIRLS fit this formula to a T. It's a very good movie, but someone has to break this mold soon. LINDA! LINDA! LINDA! has come the closest. The fact that this movie takes place in a coal mining town and the mother only accepts her daughter's foray into hula after watching her had me shouting "Dance, Billy, Dance!" in a brogue accent all night.

So every movie is worth a viewing, although I don't think you should lose any sleep if you miss DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS...

Tom

Mark Ruffalo Replaces Daniel Craig in BLINDNESS

A few weeks ago, new James Bond Daniel Craig pulled out of BLINDNESS, Don McKellar's adaptation of the award-winning novel by Jose Saramago. The film, directed by Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD), about a doctor's wife, played by Julianne Moore, who becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness. Now it has been announced that Mark Ruffalo will step in to replace Craig, and despite the fact that he seems a little young for the role, it's an interesting choice for a film of this caliber. In addition to adapting the screenplay, Chlotrudis-pal McKellar also has a role in the film, as does our other pal Tracy Wright. This one's sure to be a Chlotrudis crowd-pleaser when it is released in 2008.

I'd also like to point out that Chlotrudis members are not the only people who appreciate the talented Mr. Don McKellar. After originally writing this post, I found this post at The Reeler. It's entitled "Six Degrees of Don McKellar," although author Michelle Orange does lose points with me for calling Don "unfriendly."

The Geometrist's Top 10 & the Scientist's Top 10

I've got a couple more member Top 10 lists from 2006. Yes, I know it's a little late, but some people spent a lot of time seeing films from 2006 in preparation for the Awards Ceremony in March. Since then, the delay has been my fault, so to Julie and Beth, I apologize for the lag time, but I have been busy. So, with no further ado...

The Geometrist's Top 10 + 2!
Julie calls herself the Geometrist because that is what she wants to be when she grow up. Julie really focused on seeing a lot of 2006 movies during the first three months of 2007, and here is the list she comes up with.

  1. Science of Sleep
  2. Brick
  3. Duck Season
  4. Sorry Haters
  5. Volver
  6. C.R.A.Z.Y.
  7. A Scanner Darkly
  8. This Film is Not Yet Rated
  9. Cache
  10. L’Intrus
  11. Shut Up and Sing
  12. 51 Birch Street

Also noteworthy: Little Miss Sunshine, Water, Hardy Candy, Clean, Brothers of the Head, Somersault, Jesus Camp, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Requiem, New York Doll, Sisters-in-Law, Who Killed the Electric Car and The U.S. Versus John Lennon.

Have not seen but want to see: The Aura, Inland Empire, Short Bus, Half Nelson, Iron Island and 49 Up (this doc series is consistently well done and intriguing-I am up to 28 Up-and I don’t want to jump ahead).

The Scientist's Top 10
Beth Caldwell is the Membership Coordinator for Chlotrudis, and she also waited until she had seen a whole bunch of 2006 nominees in preparation for voting. Beth really is a scientist, studying agression in rats! Here's her Top 10.

  1. La Moustache
  2. Cache
  3. Iron Island
  4. Sisters-in-Law
  5. Requiem
  6. This Film is Not Yet Rated
  7. Duck Season
  8. Mutual Appreciation
  9. The Motel
  10. Sorry, Haters

Director Formerly Known as "Joe" Wows Critics

Last year one of CSIF's Buried Treasure nominees was a surreal, dreamlike film from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul called TROPICAL MALADY. Back than the director was referred to by film critics as "Joe," but with the release of his latest film, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY the "Joe" references seem to have vanished as critics praise the work of this uncompromising filmmakers. I'm sure Chlotrudis fans of TROPICAL MALADY are looking forward to this new film. It has played at the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, and has fortunately been picked up for U.S. distribution by Strand Releasing. Here's hoping it earns a good theatrical release. Check out some of the glowing reviews: indieWIRE, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Reverse Shot.

The Award-Makers Top 10!

The lists keep coming in, this one from Mary McIntire, who does, in fact, create our Chlotrudis Awards. In fact, she's currently hard at work making a batch of awards for our 13th Annual Chlotrudis Awards Ceremony being held on Sunday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre.

  1. Volver
  2. The Proposition
  3. Clean
  4. New York Doll
  5. Sorry, Haters
  6. Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
  7. Little Miss Sunshine
  8. Twelve and Holding
  9. Water
  10. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

The Technologist's Top 10

Chlotrudis Technology Coordinator Scot Colford sent his Top 10 in weeks ago, but I overlooked it. My apologies!

Scot says, "Gee, I surprised myself again this year. Three of my top four are French and almost all of them are either 1) mind f**ks or 2) heartwarming tales of socially unacceptable sexuality. Hmm. Heck, number 7 is both! That makes up for number 9 being neither, I guess."

  1. Caché
  2. La Moustache
  3. Hard Candy
  4. The Science of Sleep
  5. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
  6. Shortbus
  7. Brothers of the Head
  8. Sorry, Haters
  9. Lonesome Jim
  10. The History Boys

Other films I considered:

Duck Season
Half Nelson
Jesus Camp
Little Miss Sunshine
Old Joy
Requiem
Shut Up and Sing
This Film Is Not Yet Rated

The Reporter's Top 10

Daniel Berman is one of Chlotrudis' newest members. He has a show on Brookline Cable Access that reviews movies. Here is a wrap-up of his 2006 Movie Experience.

A Banner Year for Independent Films 'Ten Best Named', 2006
by Daniel Berman

Well folks, the art-deco movie houses are swarming with all kinds of interesting films to keep at the forefront of your minds. In the scheme of things I have another archival collection of documentaries, experimental animation, and newly discovered feature films to behold.

This year I made my way too the local film festival scene including the Boston Film Festival, Nantucket Film Festival etc. and got too visually in-take some of these documentaries.

As we being the filmic junkies of the smaller movie houses that we witness David Leaf's eye-catching THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON to the intriguing THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT. We continue our venture with the highly controversially talked about Kirby Dick's THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED as we go behind the iron curtain of the MPAA rating system.

In one of the best documentaries to hit the independent film circuit is the U.S. corporate America's electric automobile and its rise and fall. The brilliantly crafted and well-documented film that investigates the question that who is too blames government, consumers, oil manufacturers; it could be even the hydrogen-powered car that brought down these popular vehicles. In Chris Paine's extraordinary and insightful filmic masterpiece with WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

Director Andrew Bujalski (FUNNY HA-HA, 2005) is giving moviegoers another fascinating feature film with his latest social commentary piece with MUTUAL APPRECIATION. Currently, in its experimental stages the newest animated flick called RENAISSANCE is a James Bond in sleek and stylish black and white images.

The original film to use this animation is the philosophical speaking WAKING LIFE 2001 directed by Richard Linklater. RENAISSANCE is a gritty, dark story of a society ruled by one major corporate empire named Avalon. In reminisce of sci-fi classics like METROPOLIS and BLADE RUNNER this is a story about a society on the verge of imploding on itself. In a future that crime is escalating rapidly with little hope of survival of coming out alive.

Sydney Pollack (1975, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR) directed a visually astonishing bio-picture entitled SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY. Pollack takes in the genius of one of the most recognizable, controversial Architects of the twentieth century.

In conclusion, Ric Burns just released a four-hour televised documentary on one of the most important artistic figures in our American culture entitled ANDY WARHOL: A DOCUMENTARY FILM. Burns enthralls us with Warhol's vision in unseen archived video clips and still shots that give light to his work. Years ago WGBH released Ken Burns historical look into America's pastime with "Baseball," and his most recent televised documentary on the world of "Jazz" to "Jack Johnson: Unforgivable Blackness."

`Ten Best Named' Independent Films:

1. The U.S. vs. John Lennon
2. The Trials of Darryl Hunt
3. Renaissance
4. Who Killed the Electric Car?
5. This Film is Not Yet Rated
6. Sketches of Frank Gehry
7. Mutual Appreciation
8. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film
9. Neil Young: Heart of Gold
10. Who Gets to Call it Art?

Honorable Mentionable(s):

Drawings and War: The Testimony of the Children of Uganda
49 UP
The Cult of the Suicide Bomber
Not a Photograph: The Mission to Burma Story

The Royal Top 10

Here's what board member Hilary Neiukirk had to say about this year's films:
"My list is *lousy* with royalty...

In alphabetical order:

49 Up (d) (right)
Heading South
The History Boys
The King
The Last King of Scotland
Little Miss Sunshine
The Proposition
The Queen
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (d)
Volver

I wasn't thrilled with the narrative films this year, but there were a lot of great docs. In addition to the two that I included above, these are well worth a mention:

Deliver Us From Evil
The Devil & Daniel Johnston
Jesus Camp
New York Doll

The President's Top Films of 2007

Okay, it's my turn. Here are my top films of 2007.

So this year I will agree… it was a somewhat lackluster year for independent film. Not only am I not jumping up and down with excitement about many films this year, my top 2 films were seen at film festivals one and two years ago respectively (ditto #5). That’s not to say that there weren’t some really terrific films released last year, but let’s just look at the #1 film, for instance: SORRY, HATERS. Here’s a film that only had a release in Boston because Chlotrudis brought the filmmaker in to do a special screening. Otherwise it wouldn’t even be eligible. What’s up with that? Incidentally, SORRY, HATERS was my #1 festival film last year. It was a good year for France (they financed, or co-financed 6 of my top films) but not a good year for Canada or Asia, two countries that usually show up strongly on my lists (Canada’s only appearance was the co-financing of my #2 film; although arguably, the star and main driving force of my #3 film is Canadian). Documentaries also performed well, with two showing up on my Top Movies of the year.

  1. SORRY, HATERS – A powerfully disturbing film that examines one woman’s emotional reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that is also somehow a black comedy. Robin Wright Penn puts in a riveting performance, and Jeff Stanzler has written a refreshing screenplay that is filled with bitter humor and surprising warmth.
  2. CLEAN – Hmmm… another tour de force performance from a lead actress, this time Maggie Cheung as the widow of a rock star drug overdose victim, trying to stay clean to win back custody of her son. Director Olivier Assayas wrote CLEAN with Cheung, his ex-wife, in mind, hoping to provide her a vehicle for her acting. He is successful, showing us a side of Cheung that is not usually evident in the Asian costume pics we are used to seeing her in.
  3. HARD CANDY – Another strong lead actress performance… do you see a pattern here? Chlotrudis Breakthrough Award winner Ellen Page lives up to our expectations with a brilliantly self-assured performance in this confounding film that viewers tend to love or hate. Controversial, tough to watch, HARD CANDY follows pre-teen Hayley as she meets a much older man (in his 30’s) on the Internet, then a Café, then agrees to return to his apartment, but Hayley has something else on her mind.
  4. LA MOUSTACHE – Ah, here’s one for the leading men. Did he really have a moustache? Or didn’t he? That was the mantra taken up by several viewers after enjoying this perplexing, French psychological thriller about a man whose identity seems to hinge on his facial hair. Vincent Lindon (all masculine sexuality in Claire Denis’ FRIDAY NIGHT) plays loving and oh-so confused husband to chameleonic Emmanuelle Devos in this mindbending drama.
  5. CACHÉ – Is there a more consummate filmmaker than Michael Haneke? This film blew my mind at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, and while a second viewing proved to be more straightforward, it is amazing to watch Haneke unravel his story which is all about the things we don’t see on the screen. Interweaving issues around race, privacy, class and politics, Haneke, along with his adept leading actors Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, create a masterpiece of bourgeois paranoia.
  6. THIS FIL M IS NOT YET RATED – Kirby Dick’s documentary about the Motion Picture Association of America, the organization that rules of the film ratings board, is a joy for any film lover. Rarely has a documentary ilicited such laughter, triumph and outrage while imparting important information about a frightening trend of eroding liberties. It’s interesting to see how many of the films that have had trouble with the ratings board are Chlotrudis favorites.
  7. VOLVER – Pedro Almodóvar returns to his female-domainted wacky comedies with a vengeance. With VOLVER he gives Penelope Cruz a meaty role that allows her to truly shine in a way she hadn’t the opportunity before, and he also reunites with his former partner-in-crime, Carmen Maura. How appropriate that volver means “return.” Also in powerful evidence is Almodóvar’s impeccable eye and skill with a color palette; VOLVER is one of the most visually delicious films released this year.
  8. SHUT UP & SING – Who knew the Dixie Chicks were my favorite band? Not me, until I saw Barbara Kopple’s thoroughly entertaining documentary about a moment in recent history that irrevocably changed the career of the biggest-selling female musical group of all time. An offhand remark dissing the President at a concert in England sets off a firestorm of radio station bannings, bulldozed CDs and even death threats. It’s truly a rare moment to witness the utter transformation of a rock and roll band.
  9. L’INTRUS – Claire Denis’ films aren’t for everyone. But if you’re like me, you see a Claire Denis film and get all excited afterwards about figuring out what it all means. L’INTRUS is a complex story that references lead actor Michel Subor’s earlier films, involves a character known as Queen of the Northern Hemisphere, and explores the nature of a man’s heart in someone who has received a heart transplant. Dense, visually stunning (thanks to multiple Chlotrudis Award winning cinematographer Agnes Godard) and intentionally oblique, L’INTRUS is another of Denis’ films that stimulate the mind of the viewer.
  10. INLAND EMPIRE – Speaking of indecipherable films… David Lynch creates a window into his mind, and it’s an unsettling place to be. This uber-creepy tale of “a woman in trouble” offers a vehicle for an amazing performance from Laura Dern that explores Lynch’s views on filmmaking, the Hollywood machine, and the trouble actresses face as they grow older. All the while telling multiple tales and transporting us to another world that is as creepy as all get out!
  11. THE SYRIAN BRIDE – Highlighting the tragedy of conflict with sheer absurdity, Eran Riklis’ THE SYRIAN BRIDE features a strong script, an assured directorial hand, and a terrific cast, most notably Hiam Abbass as a woman who struggles with the fierce independence she feels in her heart and the obliging acquiescence she lives with toward her husband. It’s a powerful look at the way war shatters families in the most unlikely and unthinkable ways.
  12. TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK & BULL STORY – Talk about a meta-movie! Eclectic director Michael Winterbottom has created a film about the making of a movie adapted from an unfilmable British classic. The terrific cast, including Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves, skewer their personas brilliantly and with energetic relish. It’s all a little bewildering, but oh, so much fun.
  13. IRON ISLAND – This Iranian allegory tells the story of a small community living on a derelict oil tanker off the coast. They are held together by the iron-willed “Captain Nemat,” whose good heart is concealed by his single-minded purpose. When the tanker’s owners decide to sell it, Nemat and his community must find a solution of find themselves homeless. It is a testament to this film that there are no easy answers to the moral dilemma presented.

The Close but no Cigar Crowd (They deserve mention; but I couldn’t quite justify their presence on a Top Films of the Year list): CHANGING TIMES; DELIVER US FROM EVIL; LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP; SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS; WATER

The Bottom of the Heap (Ugh! Didn’t need to see these!): ADAM & STEVE; INNOCENCE; THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREENE; THE QUIET; TRUST THE MAN; UNKNOWN WHITE MALE

Biggest Disappointments (These are films that, for whatever reason, I expected more from. In all three cases, the films have merit, they just didn’t succeed with me the way I’d hoped they would): 3 NEEDLES; STOLEN; THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

Biggest Difference of Opinion (These are films that lots of my colleagues loved that I just couldn’t fully embrace.): BATTLE IN HEAVEN; BRICK; HALF NELSON; SHORTBUS