Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Films (July-November)

La Belle saison/Summertime (2015, Catherine Corsini) Probably the top film of the year for me so far.
I, Daniel Blake (2016, Ken Loach) Best film I saw at AFI.
The Rose (1979, Mark Rydell)
Morris from America (2016, Chad Hartigan) Great performances and lots of great, new, young performers.
Under the Shadow (2016, Babak Anvari) One of my favorites in competition for 2016's Best Foreign Language Film (Oscars)
Le Silence est d'or (1947, René Clair)

Top Documentaries
13th (2016, Ava DuVernay) Netflix
10 on Ten (2004, Abbas Kiarostami) bonus feature on Ten
Poto and Cabengo (1980, Jean-Pierre Gorin) formerly on Hulu
And the Pursuit of Happiness (1986, Louis Malle)  formerly on Hulu
Somm (2012, Jason Wise)
Breathing Together: Revolution of the Electric Family/Growing Up in America (1971, Morley Markson) Video Link
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (2016, Werner Herzog)                       
The Eagle Huntress (2016, Otto Bell)                       
Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016, Jeff Feuerzeig)
Gleason (2016, J. Clay Tweel)
The Lovers and the Despot (2016, Ross Adam, Robert Cannan)
Audrie & Daisy (Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk, 2016) Netflix
Amanda Knox (2016, Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn) Netflix
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016, Kevin Macdonald) Netflix
Burroughs: The Movie  (1983, Howard Brookner) Great features on the DVD, including a commentary by Jim Jarmusch
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1995, Les Blank)

Short Films
How to Win an Election (Sarah Klein, Tom Mason) Op-Docs Video Link
Untitled Portrait (1993, Cheryl Dunye) from the DVD The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye
A Well Spent Life (1972, Les Blank, Skip Gerson)
Gap-Toothed Women (1987, Les Blank)
Q & A (2015, Adam Epstein)
Everything Is Samuel L. Jackson's Fault (2013, Zoe Jackson) Video Link

Honorable Mentions
Elle (2016, Paul Verhoeven)
Julieta (2016, Pedro Almodóvar)
Christine (Antonio Campos, 2016) Great performance by Rebecca Hall that I hope doesn’t get overlooked.
Miss Sloane (2016, John Madden)
Anjô-ke no butôkai/A Ball at Anjo (1947, Kôzaburô Yoshimura)                       
Mes chères études/Student Services (2010, TV Movie, Emmanuelle Bercot)
Rhapsody in Blue (1945, Irving Rapper)
La Fille de nulle part/The Girl from Nowhere (2012, Jean-Claude Brisseau) Very bizarre, unique, poignant film
Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road (2002, Bob Gale) viewable on Amazon Prime
Lola Versus (2012, Daryl Wein)
Nikui an-chikushô/I Hate But Love (1962, Koreyoshi Kurahara)    formerly on Hulu
Fathers & Daughters (2015, Gabriele Muccino)
Café Society (2016, Woody Allen) Really, I thought this film was way better than the critics have been giving it credit for.
The Hollars (2016,  John Krasinski)       
Postales de Leningrado (2007, Mariana Rondón)
Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer/The People vs. Fritz Baer (2015, Lars Kraume)

Making a Murderer (2015, Moira Demos, Laura Ricciardi) Netflix
Top of the Lake (2013, Jane Campion, Garth Davis)
L'Inde fantôme (1969, Louis Malle) formerly on Hulu

Sunday, August 28, 2016

SoCal CIFF 2016

If you're a filmmaker thinking about submitting your short film to film festivals, check out SoCal CIFF. In its third year, they were sold out opening night: August 12, 2016. It was held at the wonderful, historic Raleigh Studios where attendees of the festival gained exclusive entrance on the lot. In addition to complimentary drinks and food for their V.I.P.s, they also had a great exhibit featuring Sara Radovanovitch's eclectic art, and an amazing DJ: Shai'La Yvonne.

Filmmakers arrived from all over the United States and even other countries to promote their current projects, network, grant red carpet interviews, and participate in Q&As after their screenings.

Featuring over 60 shorts with such a level of quality, several managed to stand out including Audience Choice Winner "Q & A" (Adam Epstein), "#Amish" (Kacey Spivey), "Successful People" (Janina Maria), and "The Traveler" (Jonathan Lawrence, Anthony Bradford).

Some filmmakers were already looking ahead to film their next project. Writer/director/actor Oliver Singer mentioned that the script for the feature-length version of "A.W.O.L." was already written. Producer Annie Clark ("Cry Hard") spoke of wanting to make another short before attempting her first feature. Writer/director/actor/producer Tara-Nicole Azarian is at work on a feature-length cosplay documentary.

The festival closed with an exciting awards ceremony. Multiple award-winners at the festival were "S.A.M." (Best Science Fiction and Sean Kaufmann for Best Actor) and "Legend of Dark Rider" (Best Horror and Titus Paar for Best Director). The post-festival party was held at the Moment Hotel on Sunset Boulevard where filmmakers celebrated their awards and got in the final chance to network before the big weekend finished.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

[Paul Jury and Hailey Bright from the web-series "48 States of Granddad"]

The SoCal Clips Indie Film Festival had a sold-out opening night on August 12, 2016. My personal favorite short was "Q & A", directed by Adam Epstein. Writer Jacob Stark explained to me that this satire was inspired by a real question and answer session that occurred relatively close to the Los Angeles area. Other highlights included the first episode from the web-series "Successful People" and the dramatic "Tu & Eu".

Saturday's schedule will feature first-time producer Annie Clark's "Cryhard". She said it was her first movie ever and wants to make another short before making a feature in 2017. The budget was just 2,000 Canadian dollars, so it met the festival's limit of a $10,000 or less budget.

Also to look forward to is Paul Jury's "48 States of Granddad". He drove through the 48 continental states after college and wrote a book about it before adapting the story into a web-series. While he has also visited Hawaii, he is waiting for the Netflix deal to explore Alaska.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Top Films (June 2016)

Top Documentaries:
De Palma (2015, Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow) Recently released in theaters.
Life, Animated (2016, Roger Ross Williams) Completely amazing. I had no idea what this movie was about before I saw it, just that it was from an Academy Award winning director. It was incredibly moving and highly recommended.
The Century of the Self (2002, Adam Curtis)
Vapor Trail (Clark) (2010, John Gianvito)
Miss Sharon Jones! (BarbaraKopple) I saw a sneak preview, but it'll be showing in Los Angeles in early August.      
Dreamcatcher (2015, Kim Longinotto) I discovered an amazing list of films directed by women on Netflix that helped me find this movie.

 Conjuring 2  (James Wan) Pretty scary, but pretty weird that it was released in the middle of summer.

I, Dalio (2015, Mark Rappaport) available on Fandor

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Top Films (March - May 2016)


Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse/My Golden Days (2015, Arnaud Desplechin) Really a beautiful movie.
Valley of Love (2015, Guillaume Nicloux)
Marguerite (2015, Xavier Giannoli)       
Love Serenade (1996, Shirley Barrett)   The director's original voice helped propel Miranda Otto's career. Definitely a joy to watch.
The Watermelon Woman (1996, Cheryl Dunye) Cheryl Dunye really has an original voice that shines through in this film. I'm eager to check out her other films.
Le Voyage de Fanny/Fanny's Journey (2016, Lola Doillon) Daughter of Jacques Doillon takes on two difficulties: working with children and the task of creating a great WWII film. She does both really well and stands out as a great director in her own right.
Au nom de ma fille/Kalinka (2016, Vincent Garenq) It's difficult to do a film that takes place over several decades, but this one succeeded. Great acting & storyline.
La Vache/One Man and His Cow (2016, Mohamed Hamidi) Extremely funny.   
La Symphonie pastorale (1946, Jean Delannoy) Michèle Morgan is splendid.
Hrútar/Rams (2015, Grímur Hákonarson)
Bølgen/The Wave (2015, Roar Uthaug) Wonderfully paced Norwegian catastrophe film.
I don't usually separate documentaries from narrative features, however there were too many good documentaries that deserve their own spotlight.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst    (2015, Andrew Jarecki) One of the most amazing documentaries ever.
Presenting Princess Shaw (2015, Ido Haar) A YouTube artist rises from obscurity after an artist in another country takes her work and sets music to it. Totally incredible. If you want anyone to succeed, it's Princess Shaw.
Anita (2013, Freida Lee Mock) Totally incredible.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011, Mark Cousins) A great love letter on the history of film.
Demain/Tomorrow (2015, Cyril Dion, Mélanie Laurent) An extremely important documentary (which won the César Award for Best Documentary), it offers solutions and ways of dealing with global warming and other things that threaten humanity's survival.
India's Daughter (2014, Leslee Udwin) The director's storytelling and approach is incredible. Despite her success, she wants to hold off on making other documentaries until she can institute a curriculum in schools all over the world that will teach children about respect.
Fed Up (2014, Stephanie Soechtig) Really important documentary about sugar and the recent, harmful effects it's been having on Americans.
It Felt Like a Kiss (2009, Adam Curtis) Really great documentary on alternative takes of history.  Video Link
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011, Martin Scorsese)
Place de la République (1974, Louis Malle) This could have been a simplistic or misguided attempt. However, Louis Malle asking random passerbys questions in the Place de la République area in Paris turned out to be very charming.  Nowadays, we are inundated with technology. Everyone has a camera on their phone. But in this instance and time period, people didn't realize they were being recorded and oftentimes didn't see the point. These days, a filmmaker could get sued for something like this. I am not under the impression that Louis Malle acquired release forms. While not a masterpiece, this documentary still has the charm that only a true master could cultivate.  [same text posted on Letterboxd]
Shout Gladi Gladi (2015, Adam Friedman, Iain Kennedy)  Really underrated documentary.
City of Gold (2015, Laura Gabbert) Great tips on where to eat in L.A. from Jonathan Gold.
Hobo (1992, John T. Davis)

La jeune fille et les nuages (2001, Georges Schwizgebel) Video Link
Dernière porte au sud/Last Door South (2015, Sacha Feiner)        
Papa, Alexandre, Maxime & Edouardo (2015, Simon Masnay)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top Films (December 2015 - February 2016)

Top Features

Mes petites amoureuses  (1974, Jean Eustache) I had seen a bunch of Eustache's other film, but this was a very affecting story of childhood much like Truffaut's The 400 Blows or Maurice Pialat's L'Enfance Nue/Naked Childhood (Pialat was also an actor in this film).
Scent of a Woman (1992, Martin Brest) Normally I avoid remakes like the plague, but Al Pacino's performance really was amazing and inspiring.
Come Back, Little Sheba  (1952, Daniel Mann) Great portrait of a man who suffers from alcoholism (Academy Award nominated).
Advantageous (2015, Jennifer Phang) This was the top new film I viewed for the Spirit Awards. I was underwhelmed by a lot of the other nominees. However, this one had great characters and did a lot with a low budget.
Agantuk   (1991, Satyajit Ray)  Great characters and story.
La madriguera/Honeycomb (1969, Carlos Saura) One of the most strangest and daring films, even for Carlos Saura.
Déjà Vu    (1997, Henry Jaglom) Incredible writing fused with an unbelievable story.
Nothing Personal (2009, Urszula Antoniak) This is such a quiet film with great cinematography.
Passion Fish  (1992, John Sayles) This was the third film I've seen by John Sayles recently. Lianna and Baby's It's You also had great performances, but Mary McDonnell was especially wonderful and received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this film. Angela Bassett was also great; she definitely made the film interesting to watch.
The Intern (2015, Nancy Meyers) I'm such a sucker for Nancy Meyers' films, plus the acting was so great.     
Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013, Morgan Neville) Great history on background singers who did not receive their due.

Honorable Mention
The Automatic Hate (2015, Justin Lerner) So many films these days do not have the depth that this one had. The writing was excellent and cognizant, and the story was off-beat but charming.
The Big Kahuna (1999, John Swanbeck) Great dialogue and acting. The title and DVD cover are a bit misleading.
El viaje a ninguna parte/Voyage to Nowhere (1986, Fernando Fernán Gómez) Almost like Underground (but about an actor instead of a politician), this film covers the amazing life of an actor weaving in and out around truth, fantasy, and reality.
¡Cuba Sí! (1961, Chris Marker) I never realized this film inspired Agnes Varda's Salut les Cubains, a short film I've been championing for years.
Kon-Tiki (1950, Thor Heyerdahl)
Run for Cover  (1955, Nicholas Ray)
Gods and Monsters (1998, Bill Condon) A really great look into director James Whale's life.
Joy (2015, David O. Russell) This movie definitely was hit or miss for crowds over the holiday season. I personally found it inspiring with great performances.

Picturing Barbara Kruger (2015, Pippa Bianco)    https://vimeo.com/111582602   
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness    (2015, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) Won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Very important film on honor killings.
A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008, Nick Park) Finally saw this short. It was really well-done and spot on.