Ultimately, Gravity is made for where the money’s at, and that money is no longer stateside.
The planets have realigned and America is no longer at the center of the Hollywood universe. Imaginative outsiders are heading west to mine California gold, and in true Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, foreigners now pull the artistic strings inside the behemoth studio system. Take for example that feat of spectacular special effects and cinematography prowess known as Gravity, an Avatar-rivaling blockbuster helmed by the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, which draws a line in the sand, giving us a glimpse into what the future marriage of art and commerce will look like.
“all important stories are minority stories.”
For co-directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, their 13-years-in-the-making “American Promise” may have fulfilled every indie filmmaker’s American Dream. Since winning the Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the doc – which trails this upper-middle-class black couple’s own son Idris and his friend Seun as they learn to navigate the majority white world of NYC’s prestigious Dalton School – has nabbed prize after prize, including the top award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and most recently, at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. It was there in Hot Springs that I finally got to catch the flick – and, as good luck would have it, moderate a Q&A via Skype with the Brooklyn duo. And since there’s rarely enough time post-screening to adequately address questions in depth, I asked the filmmaking couple for a repeat performance here at Global Comment. (“American Promise” will premiere on PBS in February – but if you simply can’t wait, go to www.americanpromise.org to request a screening near you.)
Ahead of the New York revival of The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford to be shown at The Museum of the Moving Image on December 7th, Mark Farnsworth pays tribute to a masterpiece of modern cinema.
The Western is violence. The Western is death. “Death is the predominant element of the westerner’s world view, death of a certain kind, that is, death understood in a certain way,” states Peter A. French. What kind of death does the westerner seek? Which Homeric end could claim his life? The heroic showdown, the bloody last stand, or the ignominy of being gunned down like a dog in the street?
Simply put, Katell Quillevere’s “Suzanne” is mesmerising filmmaking.
Have you ever imagined just how powerful your name is? Both with and without it you are everything and nothing. It can mask and reveal as much about your parents as it can about your own soul. Changed by friends, marriage or deed poll you have a symbiotic relationship with the letters that form the DNA of your existence. Only a parent truly relinquishes their given name, most do willingly, some do reluctantly but when a child no longer recognises you as mum or dad, when they revert to using the name of your own childhood, then you are submerged deep inside your own existential crisis.
Schwarz gives us a glimpse through a looking glass filled with contradiction, frustration and ultimately death.
Mere miles from El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities in America, lies Ciudad Juárez, ground zero for the drug war – only conventional wars have rules of engagement. The battle raging within our neighbor to the south is something far more disturbing since Juárez is at heart a no man’s land, where rhyme and reason do not exist. Enter veteran photojournalist Shaul Schwarz. With honest artifice-free filmmaking and gorgeous lush cinematography – that allows us to viscerally experience the surreal nature of life on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border – the Israeli director has created a debut feature equal parts elegant and eye-opening. Shifting from the tale of a hugely popular, Los Angeles-based musician whose “narcocorridos” celebrate the drug lord lifestyle, to a Mexican crime scene investigator who puts his life on the line everyday sifting through the chaos, Schwarz gives us a glimpse through a looking glass filled with contradiction, frustration and ultimately death. After having played to great acclaim at this year’s Sundance and Berlin film festivals, “Narco Cultura” opens in NYC in November with a national rollout to follow.
This week Mark Farnsworth’s film choices from the 2013 London Film Festival feature the Polish post World War 2 drama “Ida,” the British, urban thriller “Sixteen,” South African shocker, “Of Good Report” and “The Fear” a study of domestic violence in Catalonia.
Anna lives the simple life of a novitiate in a Polish convent. Her meals are plain; her days are silent like the snow that frames her tranquil existence. Orphaned in World War 2 Anna knows only god and her fellow nuns. Out of the past emerges Anna’s wayward aunt, “Red Wanda” soaked in booze and cheap men. She was once a judge of some notoriety, exacting revenge on war criminals and collaborators alike. Having annihilated the enemies of the state, she is a broken cynic crushed by the weight of history, crushed by the guilt of surviving when so many of her family were massacred. Wanda reveals she is Jewish; reveals to Anna that her real name is Ida Lebenstein.
The filmmakers have obviously learned a trick or two on how to sell a film.
“The Sarnos–A Life In Dirty Movies” isn’t really about dirty movies at all. The filmmakers have obviously learned a trick or two from their subject Joe Sarno on how to sell a film. As the prolific writer/director of 75 sexploitation movies, Sarno felt that the most important element of his features was their titles: “Warm Nights and Hot Pleasures,” “Vibrations,” and “The Wall of Flesh” promised salacious delights but were actually more character driven pieces about female emotions. True to form this documentary is really a touching tribute to Sarno’s marriage to his remarkable wife Peggy as the ageing auteur tries one last time to direct another movie.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to Drive is a grotty, nasty, stylish revenge flick.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to “Drive,” “Only God Forgives” is a grotty, nasty, stylish revenge flick set in Bangkok, Thailand. Refn once again reunites with “Drive’s” leading man, Ryan Gosling who plays Julian, a drug dealer fronting out of a boxing gym with his older brother Billy. Julian’s the strong, silent type (catatonic in places), Billy’s the seething psychopath who rapes and slaughters a sixteen year old prostitute and is then himself murdered on the orders of Lt. Chang, a Bangkok policeman.
As with women themselves, it turns out that fuck-yous are far more effective when there’s more than one.
It’s tempting to review The Heat, the lady-centric buddy cop comedy from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, by focusing on what the movie is not. It is not an action vehicle made by men, for men; the by-the-books stickler and loose cannon who must learn to work together are played by Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, respectively, and its screenwriter is Parks and Recreation veteran Katie Dippold. It is not the most original plot that has ever been put to film; if you’ve seen a buddy cop movie in your lifetime, the basic beats are already extremely familiar. And, last but not least, it is not a total cinematic victory for feminism.
Luhrmann doesn’t have enough depth to make Fitzgerald’s characters truly shallow
He watches the winking green light. He is blissfully unaware that it is a bilious green, the green of envy, an old money Cyclops that never sleeps. This light will never be extinguished, never be defeated, invulnerable to challenge and change. Behind the light, curled in their shallow magnificence lurk those, “careless people who smash up thing and creatures” ready to be unleashed once again upon exam text youth.
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