Monday, October 7, 2013

ArcLight Doc Fest This Week

If you are looking for something interesting and informative to do while you are in Hollywood California give the ArcLight Doc Fest a look. It runs October 9th - 13th

Festival passes of ten or five tickets, as well as individual tickets can be purchased here 

Ten tickets are $100.
Five tickets are $50.
Individual are $16.00.

Some highlights are:

This years festival was curated by renowned documentary filmmaker and International Documentary Association president Marjan Safinia.  Most of the festivals 25 films are selections from major film festivals across the US and Canada including Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto Film Fest, SXSW, True-False, AFI Docs and Outfest. Many have been recognized with awards while screening at Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto film festivals, among others. 

The jury for the festival are:

Gretchen McCourt: Co-Chair of the ArcLight Doc Fest and EVP of ArcLight Cinemas
Jonathan Josell: Co-Chair of the ArcLight Doc Fest
Matt Holzman: KCRW radio personality
Greg Finton: Editor, Waiting For Superman,  The World According to Dick Cheney

Find all the information you need at the Achlight Hollywood Third Annual Documentary Film Festival web page. 

I am unable to attend but someone tell me what their favorite film was. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Death by Misunderstanding

Ethan Saylor
I try and keep politics and things not related to movies out of my blog. This one is movie related so I felt I needed to do something more than just click on a link. I am posting this not to denigrate the police but to highlight a problem that gets overlooked. Ethan went to a movie and liked it so much he went back into the theater and sat down to see it again. Ethan died because of a misunderstanding. Ethan's Aid worker warned the Police that physical contact would exacerbate the situation.

I will let you read the letter I received I have a few more points to make at the end. Please feel free to add your name to the petition to make this issue something that people will pay attention to.

My big brother Ethan, who had Down syndrome, was killed by three police officers earlier this year. His crime? Not buying a $12 movie ticket. And now the police officers who killed my brother are getting off with no consequences.

On January 12, 2013, my brother Ethan went to the movies. When the movie was over, he returned to his seat to see it again. Three police officers told Ethan he had to leave, but Ethan didn't understand why. He got frustrated and afraid when the officers told him he was going to jail. His aide came into the theater and told the officers that they should not touch Ethan because it would only make him more upset. He needed time to process their request.
But the officers didn't listen. Witnesses say they threw Ethan to the ground and piled on top of him. Seconds later, Ethan couldn't breathe, and eventually died. The coroner ruled that his death was homicide by asphyxiation.

My family waited six months for the truth about what happened that night, but the officers' own department investigated and decided they deserve no punishment at all.
I started a petition on calling on the governor and attorney general of Maryland to launch a criminal investigation into the officers who killed my brother. Will you click here to sign?

Part of the problem is that police officers in Maryland aren't trained in how to deal with developmentally disabled people like my brother. I think training is an important next step in making sure that what happens to my brother never happens to anyone else. But I also want the officers who killed Ethan to be investigated for his death.

I am still in shock about what happened to my brother. I am shocked that when I go home, he isn't there. I am shocked that these police officers let a dispute over a stupid movie ticket escalate to a point where my brother died, rather than choosing a passive approach. I am shocked that the investigation was blatantly biased and the police department continues to claim the officers did nothing wrong... like my brother's life didn't matter.

I am sick of being shocked. I want to do something. I want my governor and attorney general to get justice for my brother, to find out what really happened and to implement training protocols so that no other family will ever have to experience the pain my family feels. We miss Ethan every day. He didn't deserve this. And no one else does, either.

Please sign my petition calling on Maryland's governor and attorney general to launch a criminal investigation into the officers who killed my brother.

Thank you,
Emma Saylor
Mount Airy, MD

When I was in high school my theater group did some work with mentally challenged kids and My mother worked as a house mother for adults who were working in the community and staying at a home that was giving them controlled independence. I have learned a lot in my experiences with this community and the one thing you can't assume is our level of understanding and communication is going to be received as you intend it.

This is a small situation that is made incredibly tragic by several escalating events.  The Movie theater manager who insisted his removal could have seen this was not a normal situation and perhaps let him stay. The care giver could have paid for another round and asked for rembersment from his parents. The police could have invited him out with promise of candy or a soda so they could talk. Many things lead to this tragedy that could have been avoided.

But we cant avoid is that all of us need to readjust our thinking when it comes to mental problems in this country.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Movies 101 - Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story – 136min - NR

Yasujirô Ozu’s vision in the movie takes a snapshot of Tokyo changing from one generation to another.  It takes place around one family comprising of grandparents and adult children and grand children. The Elderly Couple, Shukichi and Tomi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama), travel to Tokyo to visit their adult children but they are caught up in their own lives to pay them much attention. The only one who shows them any kindness is their daughter in-law, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), who was widowed during the war.

While they are there the siblings chip in and pay for a trip to a resort so they can free up the room they are staying in for a meeting.  But the night life at the resort is too loud and disruptive so they come home early. Noriko again steps in to assist the family and invites them to stay with her.  During the long trip home Tomi falls ill and passes away. The family is now faced with going out to the country for the funeral. There the children exhibit different reactions to the death of their mother.  One is very quiet and passive and the other is practical and starts to stake claim to some of the belongings.

Noriko is the only one who shows compassion for father in-law, during this exchange Shukichi says that she is such a good person she should remarry as it would not dishonor the memory of their son.  She insists that she is a very selfish person but her actions have shown different.  She is given a watch that belonged to Tomi as a memento. The end of the movie shows her leaving on the train and on to a new future.

My Take Away:

This movie tells the story of how children grown up and become wrapped up in their own lives and at times leave the other members of their family out of their lives.  There is a scene where Shukichi stays out all night drinking. He and his drinking buddies lament the way their children have turned out.  They are all disappointed with their children’s lives and how they are all forgotten when they start focusing on making their own way in life. 

You can see the focus is different from the country life to the city life.  Elements in the story those shows how different life is lived in each setting, all of the children have moved away. 

This is an excellent example of show don’t tell.  We see how the children act we don’t need long explanations of what they are thinking. Their behavior speaks volumes.  Even Noriko is beautifully portrayed as someone who cares and who is deeply lonely at the loss of her husband, but hold true to his memory.  

This is a story that has a message that does not deliver it in a heavy handed fashion; it’s a sermon that is told in a parable, not thundering from a pulpit.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time for Change

I am going to trying a new format with my reviews on What is Showing Next. I have become far too comfortable with my format and I think its holding me back. A good friend of mine told me that my best writing comes from the reviews that I am angry at. That scared me… Am I only showing my passion when I am angry? Am I going to be known as the angry reviewer?

After a long talk with my editor I have decided to avoid the form and just say what is on my heart. I do love movies, all kinds of movies I even re-watch movies that I hate, that’s how much I love the movie experience. Hell I hated Starship Troopers and I saw that four times in the theater.

 My editor suggested before I write I down a few shots so I have no inhibitions in my work. I am going to try and open up on the page and see if I can do this without the liquid courage. My review of Pacific Rim is going to be a little late because I have to write it again this time free of fear, concern for how people might feel if they read it and just be me.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

An Empty Seat in the Balcony

Rodger Ebert succumbed to his cancer this week and it only fitting that I post about him and his work and his influence on me. I remember watching him when I was a kid and truly enjoyed his reviews and his arguing with his partner Gene Siskel. Even when His and Siskel did not see eye to eye, it was a disagreement that was done out of respect because a good healthy dialog expressing points of view were valued. What I enjoyed most in his work was that he spoke to the audience because he was truly in love with movies. When I was a kid I used to measure my views with his almost like walking in his footsteps to help develop my film palate. When I was older I found myself not agreeing with his views as often because I had developed my own tastes but I always appreciated his point of view. His reviews were written in a very conversational style it was very open, honest and beautifully written.  His passion for film was infectious, I remember reading his reviews and it seemed like he was talking directly to me. In High school I was in the drama club all four yeas I was a performer. It was my dream to one day have my performance reviewed by him.

I met him once in Boulder, Colorado after I had gotten out of the Army. I was floating around not really knowing what to do with my life and he was hosting a screening of Silence of the Lambs. It was magical to be in the same room with him, I was completely start struck. After the screening he was talking with people, he was answering questions and was completely approachable, he answered every question without seeming put out or rushed. I stood close by for his entire time there, I was really directionless and had no place to go, he had to answer one question three different times and each time he did he was without frustration or being short tempered. He had gotten through all of the questions and turned to me, looked me in the eye and the best I could muster was a stupid grin and a short nod of acknowledgement.

If I could jump back to that moment, I would say thank you. Thank you for the years of inclusion I felt through your work. For giving the title of critic a good and solid bar to be measured by for providing an example for new and upcoming writers who love movies just as much as you do. Thank you for not looking down your nose at movies. Thank you for your honesty and your support of the explosion of new media. I know that at the time he hadn’t done some of these things yet but, hey I am going back in time from today. Perhaps this is a lesson to not let the opportunities pass, live your life with an understanding that nothing last forever and when you have an opportunity take it, don’t just grin and nod your head.

He had a story at the front of his book “Your Movie Sucks” it was about the first time he viewed the movie The Brown Bunny how he talked with Vincent Gallo about the problems with the movie and Mr. Gallo went back and re-cut the film, This is how I see his reviews as not sharp barbs or insults but a real desire to get people to improve their product. He knew the power of the medium, and he at times pleaded with some filmmakers to make a better product for social reasons.

Another example of his wonderful support was his help for a blog called the Mandy / Ebert Project; he gave her some encouragement by directing people to her blog. The direction of the blog was that Mandy is going to go through his book and review each movie. It was acts like this that really highlight how wonderful he was. You can read her stuff here The Mandy/Ebert Project she is truly a talented writer. I am trying to make my voice heard in this huge universe of media, if I ever make it as someone with influence I am going to live by his example and support people who are struggling to get started. Whoever asks for help I am going to try and help as best I can. How you treat your fans is so telling, I think that is the difference between true greatness and just fame.

Writing feels hollow now, I feel like a complete and total fraud for ever trying to write reviews but I guess it’s going to take more writing to fill the gap left by him. I don’t presume to be a replacement for Mr. Ebert no one ever can. All I can do is promise to keep the conversation open in the same manner he did, with tireless dedication and a passion for the movies.

It’s his way of communicating that I am trying to model. I write my reviews in a limited explanation of the movie to make sure to not give anything away. If you see it in the trailer I write about it so they are giving away the spoilers not me.  I try and keep the technical jargon to a minimum if you want to talk about the Depth of field of a shot or the 1800 rule, well it seems like more of a guideline today, The benefits of mes en scene or shot composition, or how the 3D effects after productions are completely different from the shots captured with a 3D camera we can do that. How a long take is different than tracking shot and it can be the most underappreciated and the most challenging shot to do.

Most people want to talk about how the stories made them feel what effect it had on them and I am willing to have whatever conversation you want but I am going to gear my reviews to just the person who enjoys movies and the conversation that happens after them. Good movie or bad movie it doesn’t matter, what you take away from it is way more important than what aspect ratio they filmed it in.

In parting I would just like to say Mr. Ebert if you can read this, know I am going to try my best to keep up the good fight for communicating and supporting this thing we both love, movies. Rest well sir, rest well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Movies 101 – Persona

Persona – 83 min – NR

Alma (Bibi Andersson) is a young nurse who is charged with caring for a stage actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) who has stopped talking.  The doctors can’t explain why she has stopped talking so the head administrator suggest that Alma and Elisabet go to her coastal cottage to convalesce and see of that will help Elisabet to relax and get her voice back. While they are there Alma does all of the talking and Elisabet listens to her and starts to analyze her as if her nurse was a character study.  The two start to get a closer relationship and at times it almost seems like Alma is the one who needs the emotional help.  Alma starts to resent Elisabet and the two almost exchange places.  They leave the cottage separately without affection.

Now that synopsis really does not do this film justice.  It’s so much more a visual journey than a normal story people are used to today.  The prelude to the film has a lot of snap images that set the emotional tone of the film. Right off the bat this film put you in an uneasy state.  There is a small boy to sits up in what looks like a hospital bed and is looking at the blurry image of what looks like the main characters. After watching the movie that set up made me think that it starts out with the merging of these two people.  They the set and costume is all very barren, as if to give no distraction for the emotional journey of Alma.  Elisabet gives a wonderful performance with nothing more than her eyes and facial expressions.  There was some really great film work with using a break in the film to symbolize the break in their relationship.

This is the first Ingmar Bergman movie I have seen. I am intrigued by his imagery and his ability to tell a story. His minimalist approach of giving the subject a chance to sit front and center of the story is a refreshing change to my usual film experiences. One notable scene in this film is how Alma describes how Elisabet is a cold and remorseless woman who got pregnant only because she was told that she has everything except the experience of motherhood.  The first part of this scene was only  focused on Elisabet face as Alma goes through the events of this story, the very next scene is the same story only seeing Alma’s face and the two faces merge one half is Alma the other is Elisabet.  They are framed in complete symmetry.

My Take Away:

The influences of this film can be seen in other films like Mulholland Drive, Love and Death use the scene set up of having bother characters in the shot but one looking off screen right or left and the other character looking directly toward the camera with their eyes on the other character.  Visually the overlap almost gives the two characters a single body. The best way to describe it is when I saw this I thought it was one half of the brain talking to the other half.  Alma is the analytical side and Elisabet is the creative side.

I feel like today the story telling part of the movies that are coming out today are more focused on profit than substance.  Yes it’s a business and yes they are in it to make money.  BUT Ingmar Bergman was quoted as saying this about his work on this film.

“At some time or other, I said that Persona saved my life—that is no exaggeration. If I had not found the strength to make that film, I would probably have been all washed up. One significant point: for the first time I did not care in the least whether the result would be a commercial success…”

There has to be something freeing about an artist performing their art without the baggage of making money. And that is what this movie feels like to me, an opening of his soul and expression of his sprit.

What other movie do you know of that was a labor of love without regard of finical gain? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Suggestions from the Twittersphere – Brick

So I thought I would try something new, I am asking the twitersphere if there are movies I need to see before I die. Asking the verse this question I was expecting a response like I normally get, a Spam account tacking on some virus laden link alongside my post in hope to snare some unsuspecting fish. I sometimes feel like I am talking to the big black when I ask question in social media. I started blogging so I could start a dialog with other people about really good movies, really bad movies hell any movie that could spark a conversation. Most of the time I get no response; however every now and again I get a response from someone. This time I got a response from @james_goggin his tweet said only five words, “Try Brick or The Limey.”

From that response an idea for a new feature on IMHO was born. I am going to not only highlight Movies 101 from RE’s list of 102 films (I am still working on that) but I am going to include movie reviews from suggestions I get from people on Twitter or Facebook. So here is how it goes, I am going to keep asking and getting suggestions of really good movies I need to see before I die. If you bring me something I have not seen I am going to make an effort to watch it. So here goes my review of Brick.

Brick - 110Min – R

Brick is a hardboiled detective story set in High school. I have seen this film classified as neo-noir. It mixes in the very dark story and characters and blends them in with the modern setting without making it about teenage angst. It is a true crime story with High school back drop.

Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a kid who does not belong to any click. He lives life on his own terms. An ex-girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin), calls him up and asks for his help. She ends up dead and he vows to get to the bottom of her death. He pushes himself into her world and tries to bring down whoever was responsible for her death.

This is an outstanding movie that everyone should see. Masterfully executed and has a mix of humor and action. It is every bit as thrilling as Chinatown and gripping at the Maltese falcon. Rian Johnson has a limited résumé but so far it’s a short list of wins. He worked with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper another great film. I have not seen Brothers Bloom but I am going to put it on my list.

The blending of this type of story in the setting they chose would not be a natural fusion, but they did a great job of making the elements work without too much adjustment of any of the characters to the overall plot line. There are some really excellent lines that Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers and I could see Humphrey Bogart saying them. Not that he was mimicking him, but he delivered them with the same power and bravado as some of Boggy’s no nonsense tough guys.

As this is a new feature I don’t have a set format for this kind of article. I am not going to do spoilers or a take away like in Movies 101. I am just going to say that this is absolutely one you need to see. Thank you to James for turning me onto this movie. If I were giving it a complete review on What is Showing Next I would give it a green light. This is exactly what I was looking for in asking my question, and I am glad I asked.

I saw this movie on Netflix watch it now. but you can see the whole thing on IMDB.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Guest Review - Sophie’s Secret – Whispers Book 1

From time to time I like to have people guest post on my blog. Please welcome Alia Gonzales who is an up and comming writer who is working on her book and took some time to shoot me a book review.

Sophie’s Secret – Whispers Book 1 by Tara West
Review by Alia Gonzales

The front cover of “Sophie’s Secret- Whispers, Book 1” had a very pulling quality and made me want to open the book, but I was poorly disappointed. The book was entirely focused on a teenager who was trying to get the cute boy in school to like her. The blurb that was listed next to the book when I purchased it listed it as a paranormal romance, and it didn’t fit that by much. While Sophie did in fact have a paranormal ability to occasionally read minds, it was by no means an important part of the book. Just from reading the clues of what was happening around her it wasn’t really necessary to have the rare moments she did read someone’s mind.

Sophie also has two other friends in the book who are listed as having paranormal abilities, but only rarely was it mentioned. Much like Sophie’s ability, the friends who were mentioned would have been just as important to the book without their abilities. They were only used as random intervals and played no part in the story or what was happening. When the different abilities were used, it felt very much as they were thrown into the story just so it could be categorized as paranormal, and not because it fit into the plot line. There were many different opportunities where it could have been brought more into light, or explained better, and it was left completely unanswered.

As an adult reading this book it really made me want to slap the main character. She was constantly trying to compare things like her having a crush on a boy as being just as important as her sister finding out she was pregnant and losing her husband. While I understand this book is geared towards teenagers it really felt like it made it hard to connect to what was happening in the book, and I felt absolutely no empathy for Sophie at all.

The book read very much as though I was simply reading a teenage girls diary. There wasn’t enough narrative to make me feel like I cared about any of the characters, and beyond wanting to complete the book; I felt no draw to really see what happened next. That being said, this could be a fantastic book for teenagers, primarily high school girls who may feel they’re going through the same hormonal and physical changes that are taking place in their lives. As a young adult book it can likely do a fantastic job of connecting with the young audiences and draw them into things like the dances and different classes the students are taking.

Give her a like on her facebook page and start a conversation with her.  I have a question, Do you think this would make a good movie?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Movies 101 - Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos – 93min – NC17

Babs Johnson (Devine) is the filthiest person alive. She lives in a trailer on the run with her mom Edie (Edith massy) and her son Crackers (Danny Mills) and her lover Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). A local couple Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole) want to take her title away because they are the filthiest people alive. The move goes from one rude crass scene to another and stops and takes a breath by showing something only mildly offence and then goes back to more of the rude and crass stuff. It was billed as an exercise in bad taste for good reason. Some of the list of offences it showcases are rape, kidnapping, white slavery, indecent exposure, incest, cannibalism, corophagia, drug usage, murder, arson and theft. I am sure there are others but I am having a hard time remembering them. I think it’s because my subconscious is deleting that night completely from my memory out of self preservation.

This movie was kind of put together in a “let’s see if we can film some of the most socking and vile things we can” way. Apparently John Waters (the director ,writer, producer, cameraman... everything) borrowed ten thousand dollars from his parents and got all of his friends together on the odd weekend to put together this film. It was a huge underground midnight movie success. This movie is completely and totally horrible, and I mean not from a content stand point. This is truly an amateur film that was trying to get attention by not having any talent but the ability to shock the viewers. No matter how awful this movie is you have to acknowledge that John Waters has brought us some wonderful films in his career. I think this movie shows us the starting point of his talent. He had grit to handle all aspects of making his film and did get better over time. He has made some really memorable films that have excellent messages. He is also known for his flashes of poor taste and his love of the exaggeration of the social dynamic of the fringe elements of society.

I really don’t see any historical or meaningful significance for watching this film and I think that this was added to the list of 102 films only to show the low point in cinema. Do you remember the high school joke of telling a joke that makes no sense but at the end you and all your friends laugh as it is the most hilarious joke ever told to make the new person to the group feel stupid; this is what this movie feels like and I am the new guy to the group.

My Take Away:

Film making is a journey, once you start making movies you refine your style and try new things with each film. It’s easy to make light of how bad this movie is but you have to understand it’s the predecessor to some better films from him. From Pink Flamingoes to Hairspray they are all a part of one film maker’s journey. You may not like his style of film making but his art as improved over the years. His subjects always have this hint of subculture and sarcasm. As I think about it, I am glad I saw this film. I am also glad I don’t ever have to see it again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Movies 101 - Repulsion

Repulsion - 105min – UR

What do you get if you slip into the head of a young woman’s broken mind? Repulsion brings you along the reality crumbling ride that is on a fast track to madness. The movie focuses on Carol (Catherine Deneuve) she lives with her sister, Helen (Yvonne Furneaux), in London. She is a withdrawn young woman who works in a beauty salon. She is quiet and awkward and works with many people but seems completely alone. She has caught the eye of Colin (John Fraser) who repeatedly asks her out but she refuses. When Carol’s sister decides to take a vacation with her lover, Michael (Ian Hendry), she leaves her fragile sister alone with her thoughts. With no grounding influence from her sister Carol falls rapidly into madness. With the Apartment crumbling around her and the walls literally reaching out to molest her and memories of an abuser from the past she has no way to keep a hold of reality. When Helen and Michael return they finder her in a catatonic state under a bed and two dead bodies in the apartment that has wallowed in rotting flesh and disarray.

 This Psychological thriller is Roman Polanski’s first English film. This black and white film started off feeling like “Breathless” in its free floating form as we follow Carol through her life. It turned subtly and crept into a movie that was hard for me to watch. It was immensely creepy and made me want to intervene with the character and get her some help. I guess this is a mark of a great film when you are completely engrossed and have such a connection to the characters. She had this reoccurring dream/ fantasy of being molested by someone. I thought that she was remembering things form her child hood, she takes along tie to look at a old picture of her when she was a child and the picture has her isolated and with grim look on her face. She might be looking at the male in the picture so it could have been him that harmed her when she was younger.

The special effects were subtle and were really good at making me doubt that I saw what I saw. The use of bells and the isolation of the apartment really made the background of her reality expand and contrast depending on the need of the scene. When I first saw the apartment it looked like a very small studio. While she was alone it seemed to grow and it was larger than I first thought. I think this adds to the isolation feeling. The complete separation from humanity in her mind was now manifested in her apartment.

My take way:

I had a few problems with some of the characters, Colin is a compete mystery to me. When you have been rejected and the woman of your desires really does not seem into you, Dude move on, time to start fresh with someone else. I wonder if he had some senses that she needed help but could not identify that and interpreted it as desire. She was extremely attractive but also completely emotionally withdrawn.

 I got this film from Netflix on DVD.