Tag Archives: film

ANY DAY NOW: Audience Award Winner at Tribeca

30 Apr

ANY DAY NOW (2012). Image via www.tribecafilm.com.

Travis Fine’s fine new film Any Day Now, starring Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, and Isaac Leyva, is the moving tale of a gay couple living in 1979 West Hollywood who adopt an abused boy with Down syndrome.  The film won the Audience Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival— and renewed discussions of whether Dillahunt and Peter Krause are secretly the same person.

Dillahunt can also be seen with hilarity as Kristen Wiig’s tacky husband in dark hit men comedy Revenge for Jolly!, which had a run of its own at Tribeca.

But seriously, Any Day Now is incredible, and totally deserving of its accolades.  Fine and co-writer George Bloom’s script could easily be a maudlin story too heartrending too connect with most audiences.  But through careful editing, separating emotion from sentimentality, and writing a work that is as often hilarious as it is tragic, Any Day Now‘s creative team elevate their story into a beautiful portrait of a loving family and the necessary struggle for what is right.  Also worth note is the film’s music, remarkably evocative of soulful yet disco-drenched late ’70s L.A.:

Not to give anything away, but the film’s closing song is a doozy.  Picture Alan Cumming, no longer in drag by this point, but quite theatrical, lit up on club’s stage and pouring his heart into this Bob Dylan tune.  Listen, picture it, and as soon as it hits a cinema near you, see this film.

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Snub-a-dub-dub: After the Oscars

27 Feb

 

Last night’s Academy Awards Ceremony is being hailed as the Year of the Snubs.  

Not only did the Harry Potter film franchise wrap its ten-year span without a single Oscar.  Not only did Viola Davis leave without the Best Actress Award given to ever-lauded Meryl Streep, or Michael Fassbender walk away without a single nomination for his excellent work in the disturbing Steve McQueen film Shame.  

Worth note is that not one woman was nominated for Best Director, and not one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture was directed by a woman.

I’m glad to find I’m not the only one distressed by this.

IndieWire’s Women and Hollywood released this video of would-be Oscar contenders in a world with more gender parity.  The video cites these problematic statistics:

“The voting population of the Academy is 94% white, 77% male, and 62 is the average age.”

“In 84 years, only 4 women have been nominated for Best Director.  And only 1, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won.”

“In 2011, only 5% of the top grossing films in Hollywood were directed by women.  The number has decreased since 1998.”

It seems to this film critic that the industry is following parallel lines to U.S. politics – the nineties saw a spike in female participation, but support for women in these fields has since declined.

Maybe It’s time to inject some estrogen (biological or otherwise) into this industry and into the Academy.  Maybe it’s time to rename the Oscars the Octavias.

Within George, Without George: new Quiet Beatle biopic rocks, moves festival audience

3 Sep

A hearty hello from one of the most beautiful places on earth!  Tonight I write from Telluride, Colorado.  I am grateful to be a part of the fastidious, fabulous staff of the 38th Telluride Film Festival in this tiny town full of mountain highs.

Telluride Film Festival. Image via Lane Scarberry. http://lanescarberry.photoshelter.com/

Tonight was opening night.  One of the first films to screen was Martin Scorsese’s newest documentary film, GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD.  The prolific Scorsese co-produced the film with Olivia Harrison, George’s wife, having previously proved his rock ‘n roll mettle with the Bob Dylan doc  NO DIRECTION HOME (2005) and the historial account THE BLUES (2003).  Few in the house were unaffected by the time Olivia Harrison and executive producer Margaret Bodde took the stage for a Q and A following the Show.

I appreciated the film’s very un-VH1 “Behind the Music” approach.  No mention was ever made of how the Beatles formed, how Stuart died, the financial terms of the band, or basically any of the other flotsam any serious fan would know.  Yet at the same time, the film’s launching right in was equally accessible to audiences whether they own one copy of the Beatles’ Anthology for use and one for a collector’s item, or if they have little to no knowledge of the band.  In two parts and 220 minutes, the biopic follows Harrison – or rather, Harrison documents his own life and Scorsese and his team artfully put together the pieces – up to and past the end of his life.  In fact, death is an ongoing, provocative theme throughout the film.

LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD covers Harrison’s upbringing in Liverpool (“If you go to a wedding in Liverpool, people ask ‘How many fights were there?'” says one of George’s brothers), juvenile musical collaborations with Paul McCartney in a truly “Dickensian” school, and early Beatles years in rowdy Hamburg with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best (before Stuart’s untimely death and Ringo’s entrance onto the scene) in Part One.  Part Two sees Harrison off into the realm of what the press terms ‘mysticism’ and the breakup of the band, George’s emergence as an independent artist in collaboration with Phil Spector (who gives an insightful yet somewhat chilling interview), his meeting Olivia and having a son together, and the attack on the Harrisons’ home and his final cancer relapse.

Poster for LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD. Image via NME.

The music is undoubtedly the star of the film.  New 5.1 remasters of the original Beatles and Harrison tracks reverberated the Palm theatre with sonic power.  Combined with the jagged, imperfect sounds of the demos, the songs made the film (they were even given the first slot in the end credits).  From the passage through Beatlemania to Harrison’s spiritual voyages in India with Ravi Shankar through the superold supergroup Harrison formed with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan, the Traveling Wilburys, music drives the plot and grounds it in the constantly changing history of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Sound is engineered in LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD in a way that no song’s power is ever taken away by being placed on backup track; music is in, on full blast, or the film is much quieter.  This is one of the film’s strongest areas.  Another nontraditional approach is in the interviews: no one can get the intimate answers Martin Scorsese can.  Talking heads have no initial introduction by text.  Only characters whose presence aids the story are identified in the impressive, extensive archival photograph collection or later in their interviews.

One production aspect I was initially not sure was effective was the use of voice over narration by an actor playing Harrison.  But as the story progressed I realized how rich the material in Harrison’s own journals was, and though it was striking to hear these passages read by another man with a Liverpudlian accent, in the end the V.O. was a helpful way to provide more insight into this mysterious man. Three and a half hours, and I still want to learn more about my favorite Beatle!  But as Paul McCartney says, “He’s my mate. I can’t give everything away.”  I feel the same way about Telluride.

In short, I loved my first film since the official start of the festival.  I’m getting to see great friends from last year and enjoying the year-out lens of a former P.A.  I also managed to interact with Werner Herzog during my greenroom shift without peeing my pants!  So, I’d say that TFF XXXVIII is off to a splendid start thus far.

Party At Ground Zero: Fishbone, Longevity Heroes

31 Jul

One of the films screening at a festival at which I’m working here in Boston is EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE.  As a music lover, I was offended by myself for not having been familiar with these guys.  I would say that they’re criminally underrated, but the documentary about the band taught me that:

a) everyone making music from 1982-1993 is in love with these guys’ work, and that

b) the band was found “not guilty” of kidnapping guitarist Kendall Jones after he joined a cult-like group, ostensibly to rescue him from the brainwashing perversion of bigamy and big time Christianity that he fell prey to after his mother’s death.  Nolo homo.

From tight, expressive and often hilarious graphics to a narrative flow that really felt for the musicians even as it dealt honestly with the craziness around them, EVERYDAY SUNSHINE was excellent.  Filmmakers Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler neither shied away from nor overdramatized the band’s story (Behind the Music?  You can’t be anything but under and all around Fishbone’s music, with their energetic stage diving and slam dancing antics.)  Groundbreaking, all black, all male Fishbone were at first hard to get a feel for by this Gen Y filmgoer with Gen X taste but less 80s familiarity.  However, years of interviews, concert footage, and animated recreation of pivotal event’s in the band’s history were effectively used to boldly and necessarily illuminate this L.A. story.

I thought Angelo Moore’s theramin dope initially, but later found myself turned off by his self-centered “madd” tics and wrench-throwing dynamic.  Yet the film never leaves Angelo behind as a credible, vital participant in the continuing tale of this funk, punk, never completely drunk heart and soul-pouring makers of music and culture.  I was surprised to find myself left with a ripped dude with a lone dreadlock like a unicorn’s horn as the most solid, reliable band member (Norwood founded Fishbone) and film character.  Ultimately the story of Fishbone to date is one of keepin’ on keepin’ on, in spite of sales-dipping shitty treatment from Columbia and the rest of the recording industry, adverse personal developments, creative conflicts, infighting and jealousy, substance abuse and mental health issues, some pretty bad outfits and a whole bevy of other reasons to break the band up.  It’s really incredible that they would keep Fishbone alive after 25 years, and not a single smash hit.  Yet they soldier on, bringing Fishbone’s hyperunique voice to the masses.  Or, at least for now, to music insiders and small crowds in Eastern Europe.

Watch the video for Fishbone’s 1985 song, “.”

More next week on the experience of being a white chick working for a film fest showcasing people of color.