Ellen Page... Ellen Page... Are we tired of reading/hearing about Ellen Page? No! As many people south of the 54'40 don't know, Chlotrudis discovered Ellen Page in the U.S, awarding her with the Breakout Award in 2005, before HARD CANDY or X-MEN: THE LAST STAND were released. We co-presented the still-unreleased AMERICAN CRIME with the Provincetown International Film Festival which starred Ellen and Catherine Keener earlier this year. Now with the imminent release of the terrific Ivan Reitman comedy JUNO, Page is poised to really break out to a wider audience. Take a listen to this wonderful NPR interview with this talented actress.
I missed a trailer in my round-up of movies of Chlotrudis interest opening this year. This weekend, in fact, in New York City, people can enjoy STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, a literary look at an aging professor and the young woman writing her thesis on him. It features terrific performances from Lauren Ambrose and Lili Taylor, but this film belongs to the sublime Frank Langella. Definitely worth a look.
So I'm slowing down. I've been back from Toronto for one week and I'm having trouble getting the last two days of reviews posted! Isn't it annoying how life intrudes? Anyway, I should get these last reviews out before the weekend is out, and then I'll try to get some pictures from the Q&As up.
Thursday was another four-film day, but fortunately we were able to sleep in a bit. No trip to the box office, and a first film at 12:30 p.m. This was originally going to be a three-film day, but a late addition of A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE, Nobuhiro Yamashita's follow-up to LINDA LINDA LINDA at 9:15 p.m. brought us up to four.
director: Hans Weingartner
cast: Moritz Bleibtreu, Elsa Sophie Gambard, Milan Peschel, Gregor Bloéb, Simone Hanselmann
I was really looking forward to Hans Weingartner's follow-up to the 2005 Chlotrudis Buried Treasure winner THE EDUKATORS. Imagine my disappointment when RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN fell far short of the high bar Weingartner had set for himself with his previous film. The premise is good: after a devastating automobile accident, a wealthy, high-powered, drug-addicted TV executive realizes that the crap reality shows that he is producing provide little to no value to their viewers. He investigates the rating systems and along with a ragtag bunch of misfits, discovers a way to circumvent the ratings system and educate the masses. Okay, I got a little glib toward the end, because Weingartner ends up taking the low road just about every chance he can. In fact, the story ends up being borderline morally reprehensible as the protagonists end up manipulating society as much as the "villains" of the piece.
Production values are terrific. The film opens with a high-energy sequence that takes road rage to new levels. Lead actor Moritz Bleibtreu (RUN, LOLA, RUN) crackles with dangerous energy as he swaggers and smashes his way across the city, snorting obscene amounts of cocaine and swinging a baseball bat. It's too bad that after this manic opening scene, things start to wind down, and credibility becomes strained. By the end of the film I just couldn't stop rolling my eyes.
director: Lee Kang-sheng
cast: Lee Kang-sheng, Yin Shin, Jane Liao, Dennis Nieh
Lee Kang-sheng should be familiar to any fans of director Tsai Ming-liang: he has starred in all of the director's films. With HELP ME EROS, Lee offers his second directorial effort that while clearly influenced by the work he has done with Tsai, is a strong, elegantly-made film all on its own.
Lee plays Ah Jie, a young man who finds himself living in poverty after he loses all the money he'd amassed on the stock market. He passes his days in a in a pot-induced haze smoking the spoils of his carefully tended closet-greenhouse. His cries for help are heard through the telephone helpline operator named Chyi, but he rejects her after finding out that she is overweight. He becomes involved with a betel nut girl (a fascinating Taiwanese cultural curiosity where young attractive, scantily-clad women operate neon-lit convenient store booths on busy roadways, delivering cigarettes and lottery tickets by sliding down fire poles to the waiting consumers) but as their sexual escapades become increasingly meaningless he pushes her away. The film ends with a remarkably filmed closing scene that, had we been able to stay for the Q&A I certainly would have asked him about filming. Lee could do worse than to follow in his mentor Tsai Ming-liang's footsteps, and if HELP ME EROS is any indication, he's well on his way.
director: Shinji Aoyama
cast: Tadanobu Asano, Eri Ishida, Aoi Miyazaki Joe Odagiri, Yuka Itaya, Ken Mitsuishi
Despite an intriguing, adept cast, and some skillful camerawork, Shinji Aoyama's SAD VACATION has a little too much plot to be entirely successful. In fact, more than once I wondered if this film was a sequel and I had missed the first part. Multiple characters and scenarios are mentioned as if we are expected to know their backstories, but apparently we don't. Similarly, several plotlines are inexplicably dropped mid-film without explanation as if to be continued in a later film. Perhaps this is Aoyama's supposition; that we are being dropped into the middle of a story that isn't going to be tidily wrapped up by film's end, but it makes for somewhat frustrating viewing.
The marvelous Tadanobu Asano stars as Kenji, involved in some shady dealings that land him in hot water with a gang, and in possession of a Chinese orphan. When his path serndipitously reunites him with the mother that abandoned him as a child, he embarks on a complicated scheme of revenge that causes him to jettison any sort of concern for those around him. There are several other plot threads weaving in and out of this main story, and they do add some depth and interesting character, but are ultimately a bit extraneous. If SAD VACATION were the second part of a trilogy, I think it might work better.
director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
cast: Kaho, Masaki Okada, Yui Natsukawa, Koichi Sato, Hiromasa Hirosue
Thank Goodness Nancy mentioned in casual conversation over lunch one day that she would be seeing the new film by the director of LINDA LINDA LINDA. What? How did I miss that? Such is the bane and the beauty of TIFF. There are so many films you're bound to miss some (even miss knowing about some) that you want to see; but through conversations and interactions, you often find out about them and are able to rearrange things to see them. Such is the case with Nobuhior Yamashita's A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE.
Based on the manga series written by two women called Tennen Kokekko, the film takes an sweet look at life in a tiny Japanese village in the country where there live six kids who go to school in the combined primary and middle school. The oldest, an eighth grader named Soyo Migita who loves taking care of the younger students is nervous about the arrival of a boy her age moving to the village from Tokyo. He's dripping with urban cool and she assumes they will fall in love, yet when she meets him, her infatuation turns to disappointment when faced with his clumsy, insensitive behavior. Naturally, you know they will be holding hands soon.
Like the manga it was based on, GENTLE BREEZE is very episodic, telling lovely tales of innocence in a village that seems too good to be true. There's the story about the slightly scary, but ultimately benevolent ghost on the bridge; the class trip (for the two eighth-graders) to Japan; and the group trip to the nearby festival. It's all very sweet and lovely, yet in a way that avoids the cloying, Disney-feel of American films. It's a welcome portrait of a girl's world; something we see so little of on film.
Posted on behalf of Gil...
Just wanted to pass along some interesting news that I came across on YouTube. As you probably know, the filmmakers of FOUR-EYED MONSTERS have been extremely resourceful in promoting their independent film on the web. Last year, they even worked with IFFB in screening their film at the Somerville Theatre for a few weeks.
Now, the filmmakers have decided to work with Spout.com to post their whole 70-minute film on YouTube for free for one week only. At the beginning of the film, they explain that they will receive $1 for every person that signs up with Spout.com which is a social networking site for film fans. Signing up doesn't cost anything and only takes a few seconds. At the moment, they have raised $3100.
When coming across this on YouTube, I got excited for two reasons. First, I had missed the film at the Somerville so I'm glad that I had a chance to see this film. After watching it, I can see why they've developed a following and I hope that the filmmakers make another film. Second, if the FOUR-EYED MONSTERS filmmakers prove to have success in bringing new subscribers to Spout, it could provide an ideal alternative for indie filmmakers to fund their films.
So check out spout.com/foureyedmonsters and you'll see what I'm talking about.
After Gil sent me this piece, I checked out Spout.com. It's pretty cool, I signed up, and made the FOUR-EYED MONSTERS another $1! So easy. Support Independent Film, and make me your friend if you join!
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.
- Science of Sleep
- Duck Season
- Sorry Haters
- A Scanner Darkly
- This Film is Not Yet Rated
- Shut Up and Sing
- 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.
posted on behalf of Gil Cordova by Michael Colford at the O'Hare Airport in Chicago!
While some may associate the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin only with music, SXSW is actually a ten-day festival in mid-March that also includes an interactive media conference in addition to one of the top film festivals and film conferences in the country. As some of you know, Amanda and I lived in Austin before moving to Boston and we’ve been able to attend SXSW on and off for the last ten years. So this year, we were fortunate enough to travel south for a steady diet of good films interspersed with margaritas, barbecue, and warm weather.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the films that we saw:
RUNNING WITH ARNOLD – Half-baked political doc about the action star turned California governor. Despite some great footage, the film only brushed the surface as to why California voters thought Arnold was their best option to govern the state. Due to scheduling, the film didn’t include his recent re-election which would have provided another interesting chapter of the Arnold saga. (2 ½ cats)
THE UNFORESEEN – In this documentary produced by Robert Redford and Terence Malick, Austin filmmaker Laura Dunn profiles the life of real estate developer Gary Bradley and his battles with local Austin environmentalists. The film, which includes some of the most gorgeous cinematography that you are likely to see, presents a thorough analysis of the types of sacrifices that come with economic progress. (4 ½ cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME (www.stealapencil.com)–Director Michele Ohayon (Cowboy del Amor) profiles the life of Jack Polak, a young accountant who was sent to a concentration camp in 1943 with both his wife and girlfriend. Adapted from the novel by the same name, the film is both a tragedy and a love story and also noteworthy for condensing a large amount of history and personal narrative in an informative and engaging manner. (4 ½ cats)
SCRAMBLED BEER (MALTA CON HUEVO) – Odd-couple comedy from Chile about a slob who is trying to get along with his neat freak roommate. Formulaic at first, the film has some nice twists that prove original and entertaining. (3 ½ cats)
EAGLE VS. SHARK – Certain to appeal to fans of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and MURIEL'S WEDDING. A funny little comedy from New Zealand about two relationship-challenged twentysomethings. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
KNOCKED UP – the latest comedy by one of my favorite writers/directors, Judd Apatow, who directed THE FORTY YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and the cult TV shows "Freaks and Greeks" and "Undeclared." In this film, Seth Rogan plays Ben, an aimless slacker who is forced to make some mature decisions when he “knocks up” Katherine Heigl after a drunken one-night stand. As with Virgin, Apatow brings some heart and depth to a one-note premise and it is certain to be one of the better studio films that will be released this summer. (4 ½ cats)
638 WAYS TO KILL CASTRO – British filmmaker Dollan Cannell looks into the countless attempts by the CIA and Cuban exiles to kill Fidel Castro. Without doubt, the film includes some unbelievable footage, yet I couldn’t help but think that the parts were better than the whole. Still worth checking out for those thought-provoking parts. (3 ½ cats)
RUN GRANNY RUN – Documentary about 90-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock who was the Democratic nominee for the New Hampshire US Senate seat. Underestimated by both her opponents and allies, Granny D struck a chord with voters as she campaigned against politicians who caved in to special interests. One of the better political docs that I’ve seen and another example of the difference that one person can make. (4 cats)
MONKEY WARFARE – In this Canadian feature starring Chlotrudis faves Don McKellar and Tracy Wright, the two actors play former revolutionaries who are keeping a low profile from the authorities. As a result they are forced to work low-income office jobs and sell garage sales purchases on the Internet. When the two encounter a young woman intent on taking on the establishment, an interesting conflict develops. While McKellar is great as usual, the film is a true showcase for Wright. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFBoston AND CO-SPONSORED BY CHLOTRUDIS.
As is the case with festivals, we could not see everything that we wanted to see. Fortunately, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFB) will be screening many of the most buzzed-about films that were shown at SXSW. IFFB starts next Wednesday, April 25 and continues through Monday, April 30th. Some of the films include:
FAY GRIM - the IFFB opening night film and a follow-up to Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool
AUDIENCE OF ONE – Special Jury Award Doc Winner at SXSW about a minister who believes that God told him to make the next blockbuster biblical film
BLACK SHEEP – Peter Jackson-produced horror/comedy about genetically-mutated killer sheep
HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS – the new film from “mumblecore” filmmaker Joe Swanberg (LOL) and starring fellow “mumblecore” filmmakers Andrew Bujalski (MUTUAL APPRECIATION), Mark Duplass (THE PUFFY CHAIR) and Todd Rohal (THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE)
THE KING OF KONG – Documentary about competitors looking to break the world record score on video game classic Donkey Kong
A LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR – Documentary about the legal world and five law school graduates studying for the bar exam
Many festival films now have their own websites and MySpace pages where you can view trailers which is the best way to get an idea as to whether you might want to see the film. If you haven’t already checked out the IFFBoston lineup (www.iffboston.org), I encourage you to check it out so you’ll be all set for next week.
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.
Variety reports that Cormac McCarthy's chilling, post-apocalyptic tale, The Road will be adapted for the big screen by screenwriter Joe Penhall (who penned the movie version of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love to mixed results. Australian director Joe Hillcoat, who recently helmed multiple Chlotrudis-nominee THE PROPOSITION, will direct. That's going to be one chilling movie... I just hope they don't go the full-out zombie route. The terror of McCarthy's book comes largely from the isolation surrounding the main characters, and the potential danger of discovery. It might be difficult to successfully translate to the big screen. I can see it working in Hillcoat's hands as long as he mixes in a little restraint. It's really a character piece and a road movie; I'd hate to see it turned into a horror flick. We'll see.
With the kick-off just over a month away, the Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced the impressive line-up for its 5th Annual Festival. I'm truly looking forward to MONKEY WARFARE, Reg Harkema's look at aging hipsters in Toronto that stars recent Chlotrudis guests Don McKellar and Tracy Wright. In a similar Canadian vein, I can't wait to check out Sarah Polley's feature narrative directorial debut, AWAY FROM HER. Hal Hartley is back with FAY GRIM, a sequel of sorts to HENRY FOOL. As has been the case in the past, the IFFB offers an outstanding batch of documentaries as well, with PROTAGONIST leading the pack for me... that's Jessica Yu's follow up to Chlotrudis nominee IN THE REALM OF THE UNREAL. Go check out the list!