Monday, April 30, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 6

Sorry again for the delay. Been on the west coast this week and managed to spend Saturday at Coachella!!!! Will post that later in the week - but I want to get at least the first 7 days of the Philly fest up first before it all fades from memory as I wrote nothing down (yes that was dumb.)

Dipped into animation on day 6 at the festival. Princess is a Danish picture about a brother, August, who takes revenge on the porn industry that killed his sister (Christina, the titular princess) while trying to care for her daughter. The film also incorporates live action moments as well - via home video flashbacks shot in happier times by the brother. As is often the case the animation is used to show things that wouldn’t be allowed with real actors. The young girl (7 or 8 maybe) has been abused mentally, physically and sexually by those around her mother – in one scene she cries not wanting to take a bath however once she is finally in the tub we learn that its not normal child resistance but because “bath” means something totally different in the world she has lived in. This is the moment the brother snaps and begins his vengeful quest.

Horrific violence involving both uncle and niece ensue and the secrets of August and Christina’s past come out as the film careens to its tragic climax. This is a very impressive feature debut for director Anders Morgenthaler. I saw his student short film “Araki: The Killing of a Japanese Photographer” at the Chicago Film Festival in 2003 which had a very similar plot though the quality of the animation has greatly improved along with a deeper plot. He is currently working on a live action feature which I eagerly await.

Nothing follows ultra-violent Danish animation better than a 40’s screwball comedy! Given the 77 minute run-time of the previous film I was able to head over to catch The Philadelphia Story for the first time and on the big screen. Aside from several projection issues the film was enjoyable though I have to admit that don’t see it as quite the classic that others do. This may be because some of the jokes are cultural references Dig the supporting cast in the Keystone at the bottomto the time period in the film (1920s). The film was followed by a talk by U of the Arts professor Camille Paglia who could not possibly have fit more words into her 25 minute talk. It was more of a lecture than a Q&A (not unexpected) but she pointed out some of these references and also talked a bit about the films legacy and the elite pre-WW1 Main Line Society in which the film is set. Naturally she's a huge fan.

And that is all for day 6. Late-

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RIP to a Russian Architect

I was in college at the time of his downfall but i didn't realize that Yeltsin had been held in such low regard nearing his exit, thought Chechnya didn't develop till Putin's reign and i also didn't know he was held responsibe for the influence the Oligarch's yeilded at the time. But I think history will be on my side of this one - a visionary and a drunken bear.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Methane River (Bill Fray Cover - Live Radio Performance)

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Oregon Girl

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 5.1

Delay over ...

The final film I saw on the first Monday of the festival was The Unseeable (In Thai but you can see the trailer)…which really is its own review. A tired ghost story from Thailand, this film apes all recent “twist endings” that we have come to expect from Sixth Sense clones. Really not worth dwelling more on this one.

As I mentioned in the last post intrepid Metro reporter and sometimes poker buddy Josh Cornfield is blogging the 2007 Philadelphia Mayoral race (and council races) at FightforRoom215. I had no idea that that the Mayor’s office was actually in room 215 of city hall. Wonder if this happened before or after the area code was established? Link will also be over on the link list to the left.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 5

Its great to see you all here on a Monday...

Day 5 consisted of a coming of age comedy, a Thai ghost story and the best video game flick since The Wizard.

Starting off with Rocket Science may have been the wrong way to go as it was all downhill from there. This film is simply a joy. The story: a kid from a broken home in Plainsborough, NJ with a stuttering problem who joins the debate team for a girl he's crushed on. This is the second film and first fictional piece from Spellbound director Jeffrey Blitz. Blitz deserves kudos for writing this as the film is not only hilarious (subtle & broad in turn) but also develops strong characters.

This film feels set to follow in the footsteps of last years indie-comic darling Little Miss Sunshine. There is a strong family element and colorful characters. The soundtrack is heavy on indie cred with several Clem Snide and Violent Femmes tracks as well as whimsical instrumental tracks from Snide's Eef Barzelay (Sufjan Stevens and DeVotchka were present in LMS). The film will appeal to everyone who was ever in high school. And its being in released on a limited number of screens in mid August just like LMS. Something tells me it will expand rather quickly. Here's an interview with the director... with the stiffest interviewer ever.

Second on the list was the first doc I saw at the fest this year: The King of Kong. If you have seen any of the recent specials on various networks (Spike, G4, MTV, ect) about the history of games you know who Billy Mitchell is. He is the first person to record a perfect game of Pac-Man along with having held several other classic arcade records at different times. Plus he has a look. Mitchell was proclaimed as Gamer of the Century in '99. He is also the the poster geek of Twin Galaxies, the officially recognized (by consensus i guess) keepers of video game records. So what happens when an out of work engineer from Washington State sends in a video that shows Billy's record which has lasted since 1982 being shattered (while his young son is whining for him to stop playing and wipe his ass no less)? A classic arcade shit-storm that ain't gonna be as easy to clean.

I'm not sure what the filmmaker was initially trying to capture when this materialized or if he was came in after the first "incident" but regardless the story line that develops is a classic underdog vs. establishment tome. Basically this official game community, with a vague air of Todd Browning's Freaks, conspire to shut this challenger down. But Steve Wiebe (said challenger) is a niche honest guy so he goes right ahead and jumps through all the hoops that are set up for him until they finally accept his skill at Donkey Kong. What was captured in this doc has the feel of vintage Michael Moore, but with more facts but less grandiose targets, while the Gamer of the Century comes off as good as Bush in F9/11. There is a powerful shot near the end where Billy and his long-time friend and minister are bring interviewed by the filmmaker and after the ministers comments Wiebe, Mitchell, asked the same question, lyingly says "I don't know about that situation" and the minister can barely believe what he has just heard. If you hate games, if you love games, hell if you are completely ambivalent; this is still a must see film.

Unfortunately the film was shown on DVD. Distributors please! You know this is going to a film festival and will be shown on a big screen so get a print. DVD looks like crap when blown up to that size. I also would've love a Q&A after this one.

Gonna stop here for now as i forgot to plug my computer in and it just shut down erasing the last bitz i wrote. Day 5 part 2, links, spell check and a bit about a blog you should check out will all be dealt with later.

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 4

Two more films on tap for Sunday at the fest. And they need to check the links they have posted for their films on the site.

First was Exiled or Fong Juk if you want to search on IMDB. This is one of two Johnny To films playing the fest (there was supposed to be a 3rd but the print wasn't available). It starts with two different pairs of shady men in trench coats knocking on a door and asking for Wo. While they wait we find that they know each other. When Wo arrives they follow him in and the first of Wait. Smiths? Really?many stunning bullet ballets begin. We find that all 5 are friends from a young age now working for different bosses in Macao, one of which Wo nearly knocked off. So they then sit down to talk, reminisce and set aside their orders to come together one last time.

The blurb in the fest program says "To is the greatest Hong Kong genre director working today," and with this its hard to disagree. The film has the beauty of a Yimou Zhang epic and pistol choreography that can go head to head with vintage Woo. The levity is perfectly placed throughout as well. Do yourself a favor and catch this when it rolls out in limited release in June and till then check the trailer:

Next was Day Night Day Night which i had first noticed watching this years Independent Spirit Awards where it won the "Someone To Watch" prize (highly ironic). I thought it would be haunting or arresting...instead it was self-important yet trite. It is the story of a young girl who attempts a suicide bombing mission in Times Square. You are dropped in as she gets off a bus into a terminal in Jersey and gets a call from her handlers. What follows is similar to what was shown in Paradise Now - she is trained, a video is made, lots of cloak and dagger and then she's let loose on NYC. However while PN showed the conviction of all involved this shows nothing of the sort. The characters are all American aside from a bomb-maker with a British accent. Her handlers try out different shirts, jackets and background images for her final video. She washes her stockings and brushes her teeth then trolls from MSG to Times Square stopping for a mustard covered pretzel and some pudding. It sound like an edgy farce but the direction is ultra solemn verite style so I'm not sure if the film is a comment on Americans' lack of conviction or on how western Muslims are soft, a trite example of how easy it would be for this to happen or just a story of a misguided youth. We get a few semi-precious clues to the girl's background - she looks vaguely of middle-eastern decent but could just as well be Hispanic (the actress is, in fact), she has come from across the country, she "is doing it for him" which may or may not be a younger brother, and her parents when she calls are looking for her.

I'm not going to give away the ending but its as ambivalent as the rest of the film. There is no substance and it takes its style from so many that have come before. I think the raison de etre is just to make you look at other people more questioningly which i find tantamount to cinematic terrorism.

This starts in limited release May 11th.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Night 2

Night 2 started out unceremoniously enough - I went to see Invisible Waves and quickly fell asleep. Equal parts the films fault, my own and the anti-hype man who announced at the begining that he hoped everyone had had some coffee. I kinda wrote the whole thing off after that and fell asleep less than 20 min in. Woke up with 40 or so left but dipped out early as my next film was sold out and starting soon so i wanted to get in line for a decent seat - and since i slept thru most of it...who cares!

The second viewing was for Scotish film Red Road. Road was 3rd at Cannes in 2006 (Jury Prize) and is the first in a trilogy to follow the Advance Party concept devised in-part by former Dogme 95 Danes Lars Von Trier and Lone Scherfig. The film has similarities in theme and plot to Cache though I consider the later's reach & execution superior. The lead is a woman who works for the security company/gov't agency in charge of monitoring all Glasgow's public security cameras. The secrets of he life are slowly revealed while she begins to obsess over a local man she follows first on camera then in real life until it all comes to a head in an totally unerotic but highly graphic sex scene. The film explores the omnipresence of big brother style camera in our lives (esp those of Britons) as well as other voyeristic aspects of its characters and their paranoia. The actors and first time director are to be congratulated for this fine piece of work.

Red Road rolls out in NY & LA next week.

The last film of the night was a based-on-a-true-sports-story called The Flying Scotsman. Johnny Lee Miller was on hand to intorduce his role as Scotish cyclist Graeme Obree. Its a typical film for the genre though the sport itself is not - this is velodrome cycling not Tour de France style. It's based on the athlete's autobiography about his struggles with depression, the highs of breaking world records and battles with cycling's governing body over improvements he tried to bring to the sport. Miller gives a solid performance as does Billy Boyd as his manager. Its good to see Miller in a good role in a decent film again after years of paying the bills with the likes of Dracula 2000, Mindhunters and Aeon Flux, and the acting is really what seperates any sports film or biopic from another as the arc is the same every time. Now is there a Jai-Alai story out there that must be told?

Miller's Q & A was mostly about what was and wasn't fact in the film, his prep for the roll and fielding questions about Obree. One guy had the nerve to ask Sick Boy himself if he had ever been in anything the guy may have seen - totally uncool. The film will get a limited roll out starting May 4th in 10 cities.

Due to Easter and Grindhouse i skipped Saturday so next update will be in a few days.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Night 1

Hey, still working on the show, however since film will be consuming all my free time for the next 2 weeks I'm going to try to get my thoughts on all the films at the festival up here.

Thursday night was opening night at the fest and the lead film was The Ten
. Its an anthology of sketches, each one dealing with one of the 10 Commandments (in order). Fitting for the season, the film also marks the second big screen reunion of The State this year after Reno 911!: Miami (a 3rd is on the way though the full cast isn't in Balls of Fury as in these two). It was writted by State alumns David Wain and Ken Marino, directed by Wain and also stars Jessica Alba, Adam Brody, Paul Rudd (also in Reno), Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, Justin Theroux, Oliver Platt, Winona Ryder, Rob Corddry, Liev Schreiber & Ron Silver. All 10 stories are set in the same world and characters are part of several different sketches.

As a huge fan of the genius that was The State it pains me to say that this is not a very good film. The faults start right at the beginning. The anthology is tied together by interstitial segments featuring Rudd in a kind of negative space with 2 huge stone tablets (guess what's on them?) talking directly to the audience about the film ("I'm here to present the 10 stories" kinda thing) while also being a character in the film who is cheating on his wife (this becomes commandment #7 or 8...or whichever). These are awkward and underwritten. On the otherhand the rest of the film is way too over the top. It feels like what The State would've been like with a bigger budget and fewer people to scrutinize what was funny and what was just lame. There are some hilarious moments and others, that while supposed to be, elicited something more akin to deafening silence from the audience. If there was more of a filter I think this woulda rocked - there is an animated sequence for False Witness that I keep dwelling on because of a great and subtle joke that the rest of the film could've used more of: a rhinoceros is walking around in his work uniform and the back of his shirt reads the name of the locksmith company he works for: Locksmith Black Mombazo. The movie should've had more bits like this and fewer of Platt imitating Anuld.

So why open a festival with a mediocre film like this: celebrity guests!!!

From the left that's Wain, Rudd & producer ___ (there were 19 on the thing and I don't remember this one's name).

The Q&A was more enjoyable than the film! Some nice banter and Wain who fielded most of the questions was cracking wise throughout. The best part of the night however was this revelation: The State is coming to DVD in the Fall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So the 200 bucks for the festival badge was worth it!

Anyway I'm hoping to surpass my film count from last year (33). So whenever I have time available, the reviews will appear. In the meantime enjoy don't worry your pretty little head about it.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fools, A Time for Rebirth.

Hey Reader. The Sho 'Nuff is back. I've changed up the look and I'm widening the scope. Gonna blog about random media, pop culture, politics... whatever.

Haven't been to a show in quite a while so I ended up splurging this week on two shows at the Tower Theater. Friday night was the homecoming and last US date on the current leg of The Roots tour. What a fantastic performance. ?uestlove sang Roxanne in full falsetto. You just can't beat that shit. The show was being filmed from all over the theater so i hope a DVD is released soon.

Before that though was The Decemberists and their Twilight in the Fearful Forest tour. Got seats in the 3rd pit row 2 hrs before the show (thank you Craigslist) and it was awesome. First time seeing the pnw crew and despite the short length it was full of hyper-literate goodness. Colin jumped off the stage during Culling and fried like bacon in the isle. Instead of saying anymore I'll just let you listen...

Or I won't as I can't access my storage space right now. Tomorrw then.