I Care About What You Think!

Posted: May 22nd, 2015 | Author: | | No Comments »

F56905Everyone I met in line at SXSW was a journalist. I know it just seemed that way. I wanted to write about the films I was watching, but was intimidated by all of the “professional” writers around me. I could hear them bantering about storyline and acting depth and… well, you get the picture.

It stifled my enthusiasm. Just an amateur with a small blog with a couple of readers. Waiting for the screening of Spy, I could hear the reporters behind me lamenting that they were going to miss Deathgasm because they needed to write up this film. They were snotty and annoying. I was happy when a retired parks designer from Sacramento sat down next to me. He really liked Love and Mercy — he thought that I’d like it too.

I really valued his opinion. I went to see Love and Mercy and left thinking it could very well be the best movie of the festival. I don’t know what the professional reviewers thought about the film. I cared what the guy sitting next to me thought of the film. We weren’t professionals, but we knew what films we liked. It was fun talking with him.

It’s how you relate to a film that matters. I like films that convey complex emotions and ideas — either the characters, the story, or the cinematography. I like beauty. I don’t have hands-on experience making films or as a film critic. I do know what I like and that, it turns out, is important.

I really liked the film Manglehorn. Written by Paul Logan and David Gordon Green especially for Al Pacino. It starred Al Pacino and Holly Hunter. David Gordon Green directed a gentle movie about loss, acceptance, and moving on. Al Pacino gave a subtle and moving performance. Holly Hunter was vulnerable and bright, the film was a touching portrait of loss, acceptance, and moving on. I loved it.

The critics either loved or were indifferent about Manglehorn. If I had made my film viewing choice based upon Peter Debruge’s review in Variety rather than listening to the Austin couple standing next to me in line, I would have missed out on a subtle and beautiful film.

I’m the intended audience of the film. I’m the person who pays (or doesn’t) to see a movie. I love films with all their imperfections. There’s someone else like me, who might care about film the way I care about film. A person who wants to know if they should pay for this film or wait to stream it on Netflix. Someone like me.

“Everyone’s a critic”, the saying goes. I’d argue that the best thing is a “professional” film review is the historical and social context. I care about what you think

The only thing I care about in a “professional” film review is comparisons to other films and historical context. I love thinking about and comparing artists.
I care about what regular people think about films. In the end, the film is for you and your opinion is important. Go watch movies, write about movies, and talk about movies. They’re being made for you and the person standing in line next to you cares about what you think!


Heading to SXSW…

Posted: March 8th, 2015 | Author: | | Tags: | No Comments »

Stand by for a recap of the films and more.


Evil Dead (the remake)

Posted: April 12th, 2013 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

Evil Dead

 ★★½☆☆ 

Would I pay? No

On the day of its release, I’m finally getting to my review of Evil Dead. Yes, I saw its premiere and yes, I still have about twenty films that I’ve written short reviews for but haven’t posted. But back to Evil Dead…

Seeing the premiere at SXSW was really fun. Seeing the Q&A with the stars, director, and producers (including Bruce Campbell) was also fun. The film itself was not. It is a good horror film in the sense that it was bloody, a little bit scary, and you didn’t know what was going to happen. Well, actually, you did know what was going to happen — it is, after all, a remake of Evil Dead.

The good: Fede Alvarez said that he based the length of his daily shoots on the amount of blood he had left. This blood was measured in truckloads. As in, a gas-truck full of fake blood. So if you like blood, then this film might be for you. I had no problem (as some apparently do) with the character of Ash being played by Jane Levy (rather than a dude). The effects are not CG but prosthetic which is refreshing.

The bad: The blatant references to the original Evil Dead were the only funny/campy scenes (look for Sam Raimi’s Oldsmobile). This is not an updated version of Evil Dead in all of its low-budget glory — it’s a completely new film that was intended to be a horror film. Sadly, without the charm of the original Evil Dead, it’s just a mediocre blood bath.


Holy Ghost People

Posted: March 12th, 2013 | Author: | | Tags: | No Comments »

holy ghost people

 ★★★★½ 

Would I pay? YES

Beautiful cinematography and a compelling story make this gripping thriller a good time. Influenced by the 1967 documentary of the same name and the short story “The Lottery” (I know you remember reading it In high school), the story winds around snakes and religion. I had no idea where this film would end up – – which kept me fidgety throughout. That’s a good thing.


Plus One

Posted: March 11th, 2013 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

plusone

 ★★★½☆ 

Would I pay? No.

The characters were well developed and acted, the plot was new and interesting, but the last third of the film was thin and confused. Since most of the film takes place during an amazing college party, I expected the worst. A testament to the film is that I didn’t roll my eyes too much. Adam David Thomspon (Kyle) stole the film — I could feel my stomach knot every time he was on screen, which sadly, wasn’t often enough.

Part of of the fun of going to festivals are the folks you meet. During the credit roll, the woman sitting next to me leaned over and said “I’d give it a four on a scale of ten, and how about you? And I’m in the film!” And indeed, she was Ashley Henshaw, the female lead. 3.5 out of 5 because I stayed awake and didn’t walk out – which says something at 2am.


Earthling

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

 ★★★½☆ 

Director: Clay Liford

A title like Earthling makes me think of  little people running around earth while they’re observed by matriarchal aliens from afar. We know that eventually the little earthlings will get themselves into trouble and need the wise aliens to come down and show them the way. Not so Earthling, which is actually about aliens who inhabit the earth — much in the spirit of John Sayles’ “Brother from Another Planet”.

I missed Earthling at SXSW this year since it conflicted with a film that I didn’t want to miss. I have to say that I was intrigued by the photo that they used as a teaser in the program guide. So I was excited to see it as a selection for the Santa Cruz Film Festival this year.

The film opens with a meteorite hurling through space towards an international spaceship just outside the earth’s atmosphere. The astronaut’s frantic warnings to earth go unheeded, and we soon discover that the atmospheric disturbance has effected those on earth as well as the astronauts trapped inside the spaceship. The initial scenes on the spaceship have a grainy, cramped feel that contrast nicely with the more cinematic scenes that take place on earth.

This is not a typical science fiction movie as focuses heavily on the relationships of the characters as well as the more traditional science fiction plot twists. We’re not dealing with aliens who want to eat us or kill us, nor aliens that just want to be friends. Here we have aliens who live among us and are struggling with complex relationship issues and the desire to return to their original state.

The plot is complicated and a little frightening. There is plenty of gore and there are weird space slugs and vague monologues that are hard to decipher. Sections of the film made me squirm — not because they were terribly gruesome, but because I was afraid that I had unwittingly brought my companion to a sci-fi horror film.

Blood and guts aside, the film vacillated from campy to serious and I spent most of the film rather confused. I think that I figured out the gist of the plot, but left the film wondering if I had not paid close enough attention to the first part of the story or if the gaps in the story were intentional.

I would classify this film as a thinking person’s sci-fi thriller. If you are willing to figure out the complex relationships between the aliens and between the aliens and the earthlings, then this film’s for you. If you like your sci-fi more traditional — the space slugs and alien appendages are still pretty fun.


Santa Cruz Film Festival 2010

Posted: May 25th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: | No Comments »

The Santa Cruz Film Festival closing ceremony happened a little over a week ago. The awards were announced and flowers passed to the winners and everyone went home happy.

This was the ninth annual SCFF and the first without founder Jane Sullivan. As the film festival has grown, so has the quality of film and the organization of the festival itself. This year, under the new director of development, Jess Damsen, there wasn’t the begging for money that we’ve listened to in past years. Sponsorship was up and attendance was up as well.

Although I wasn’t able to attend as many films as I wanted to (a Laurie Anderson show precluded an entire Saturday’s films), I was able to attend quite a few. I was lucky enough to see many of the shorts programs and most of the narrative feature films. The shorts programs were very good, but I get tired of having the “sci-fi and experimental” films during late-night showings — I have a tendency to fall asleep on work-nights if I get bored.

In the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on the festival films. I didn’t write about all of them, but hopefully enough to give a fair representation.


Max Fleischer’s Superman

Posted: May 20th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , | No Comments »

Superman

 ★★★★☆ 

Director: Max Fleischer

Movie Night!

This week it was Michael’s turn to choose our film. As we settled in to the couch, Ruthie informed us that the cheese this week is from Safeway, not her usual Costco plate (Safeway was better than our usual Cosco fare).

You never know what Michael will bring as his selection for movie night. We were promised a four hour “superhero-esque” extravaganza, but it seems the formatting of the series was PAL and wouldn’t run on Ruthie’s player.

Instead, we were treated to six episodes of Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons. Production for these short films ranged from 1941 – 1943. Each episode runs roughly 7 – 10 minutes in length and the stories follow a fairly straightforward formula. The villains are not Superman’s usual enemies, but robots, gangsters, Nazis, and the entire Japanese army!

Wanting to make these episodes as realistic as possible, Fleischer used rotoscoping to imitate live-action movement. Superman’s voice was acted by the same guy who did the Superman radio show — I love how his voice marks the transition from Clark Kent to Superman with “this looks like a job for <insert deep Super-voice here> Superman!”

Ruthie insisted that we watch the “really racist” episode, where superman single handedly befuddles the entire Japanese army. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are in some vague faraway place working on a news story. Each night, Superman sneaks out and terrorizes the Japanese army by destroying battleships, tankers, and fortresses. By today’s standards, it’s pretty offensive. In the WWII world when it was created, it makes a perfect American propaganda piece. Note that Max Fleischer had quit the project when the Superman propaganda pieces were made.

The shorts were fun and incredibly well made. Superman is especially fond of saving golden art deco buildings and the villains are shrouded in shadows. Lois Lane is pretty irritating as a character (also voiced by the same actor who did her for the radio serial), but we’re not talking deep character development here.

The “Mechanical Monsters” Superman episode was the inspiration for “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004) and I’m fairly certain that the Superman version was much more interesting than the Angelina Jolie movie.