Monday, April 15, 2013

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 6

A solid slate of films on Wednesday started with Joe Swanberg's All the Light in the Sky. Based largely on her own experiences in the industry, Jane Adams stars (and co-wrote the movie with Swanberg) as Marie, a 45-year-old woman struggling to navigate having a career in a business where the more she ages, the more her presence is devalued. It's a performance stripped of all vanity and, in typical Swanberg fashion, merely documents his characters without any sense of flare or pretension.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 5

Saw only two films on Tuesday. The first being the historical biography Renoir, about the legendary artist Pierre-Auguste. Not a typical biopic, this focuses on the artist's final years during the first world war and the complicated relationship he had with a model who would become a bit of a muse for both him and his son, the equally legendary film director, Jean. It's beautifully and sumptuously photographed, but narratively inelegant and uneven, which ultimately made it hard for me to engage with what was going on. Not a poor film, but had me wishing it had more I could grasp onto.

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This is Where We Live, however, will be one of the standouts of this year's festival. A slice-of-life movie about a Cerebral Palsy-afflicted young man named August and his friendship with Noah, who is hired by his mother to care for him during the day. Noah is played by writer and co-director Marc Menchaca with a quiet resolve that hides a harboring volatility caused in part by a childhood tragedy. But there are great performances all around and they elevate material that could have easily been overplayed for sentimentality. Aptly titled, the film gives a great sense of this particular rural Texas town and the almost tragic inevitability of their dire circumstances. And as specific as that setting it, this family is in someways a quiet microcosm of situations all over the country. A wonderful American independent movie without a false note to strike.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 4

I started day 4 with the inventive French film, The Painting, was nominated at this past year's C├ęsar Awards for Best Animated Film and deservingly so. The initial conceit is that the characters in a particular unfinished painting are socially stratified--the Alldunns (i.e., "all done"); the Halfies, who are partially finished; and the Sketchies, who are exactly what they sound like. There's an obvious hierarchy here and, for a kid's film, it's a particularly clever parable. But the film isn't satisfied with staying in the world within this particular painting and the story wonderfully opens up when three of the main characters jump out of the frame into other worlds and other paintings. It's a truly uplifting and magical film with the kind of imagination only the best of animated films provide.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 3

Sunday began with another shorts program, “The Weight”, not as successful as a whole than Shorts Program 4, but mostly solid work, including the very funny The Procession, featuring Lily Tomlin and Jesse Tyler Ferguson who get forced into driving in--and then hilariously--leading a funeral procession and the moving Record/Play a science fiction short about a cassette tape and recorder that does more than just play audio.

I wrote about Nancy, Please here. I don’t think it’s worth attending and will likely be one of my least favorite features at this year’s festival.

The History of Future Folk, on the other hand, will be one of my favorite features this year. This sci-fi comedy tells the story of a General Trius from the planet Hondo, who was sent to Earth to destroy all humanity--that is, until he hears the sound of music, which is so thrilling to him, he abandons his plan to become a local folk star. It’s a slight film in many ways, but it makes up for that with incredible charm and music that lives up to the silly idea that aliens would scrap their plan for intergalactic domination just to keep enjoying it.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 2

As always, the Florida Film Festival begins in earnest on Day 2, the first full slate of movies. My docket for the day began and ended with two great shorts programs: the dark and darkly comic "Shorts Program 4: Stayin' Alive" and the ever-popular, ever-gross out "Midnight Shorts". Standouts of the former included Riley Stearns's The Cub, about a family who voluntarily allows their daughter to be raised by wolves; Caterwaul, an endearingly moving short from Ian Samuels about a fisherman and his very peculiar relationship with a lobster; and Things You Don't Joke About, a movie from Viet Nguyen that brilliantly ratchets up the humor as his story becomes escalatingly and hilariously ludicrous.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

FFF Review: NANCY, PLEASE

When Paul (Will Rogers) finally moves in with his longtime girlfriend, Jen (Rebecca Lawrence), it marks not only the beginning for him, but an end--specifically the end of his co-habitation with his roommate, the titular character (Eleonor Hendricks) in Andrew Semans's debut feature, the moody thriller Nancy, Please.

FFF Review: FIRST COMES LOVE

Nina Davenport is a director of documentaries whose cameras point as much at herself as it does to her supposed subjects. They act like video diaries of the most personal kind. But her latest, First Comes Love, about her desire to have a baby--with or without a partner--puts a distinct twist on the term "navel gazing".


FFF Review: PUTZEL

The debut feature from director Jason Chaet, Putzel, opens with narration about a popular fish store/deli called Himmelstein's in Manhattan's Upper West Side and shows us an animated map of said area. It's the part of New York that Walter (Jack Carpenter) grew up in and can't seem to leave--literally. It's as much of a prison as it is a home.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Roger Ebert died today after a long battle with cancer. Through his over decade long illness, he continued to write, both his weekly reviews and on his blog. He continued his annual Ebertfest. He continued to work on new incarnations of his old TV show, At the Movies, which he started with fellow Chicago critic, Gene Siskel. That show, with its debating critics and signature "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" reviews, is the reason this blog exists. Roger Ebert is the reason I write about movies.