Category Archives: Feature Film

THE LOVE WITCH: A film by Anna Biller

the-love-witchTHE LOVE WITCH, a film written, produced, and directed by Anna Biller starring Samantha Robinson, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Gian Keys, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley and Jennifer Ingrum is “an astonishingly lush, entrancing marvel that debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival.”

Oscilloscope Laboratories is scheduled to release THE LOVE WITCH in 35mm in Los Angeles at the Nuart on November 11th and in New York on November 18th, with additional screenings at select theaters across the country.

Biller is known for her use of classic and outdated film genres to talk about female roles within culture, coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure. She creates all of her own costumes and set designs, making many or the props and paintings as well as composing and scoring for her films. THE LOVE WITCH, was made using only traditional film processes.

Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a beautiful young witch, is determined to find a man to love her. In her gothic Victorian apartment she makes spells and potions, and then picks up men and seduces them. However, her spells work too well, leaving her with a string of hapless victims. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desperation to be loved will drive her to the brink of insanity and murder.

With a visual style that pays tribute to Technicolor thrillers of the ‘60s, THE LOVE WITCH explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism.

 

Here’s what leading critics are saying about THE LOVE WITCH:

“Extravagantly fulfills the filmmaker’s intention to create ‘visual pleasure for women.”

Steve Dollar, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

“Biller shot it, ravishingly, on 35mm and furnished every frame with uncanny precision; the result really could pass as a relic of the era. That it’s quite funny and charming seems almost beside the point.”

Calum Marsh, THE VILLAGE VOICE

 

“Sex, death, Satanic rituals, God-level costume design, and cinema’s greatest tampon joke ensue, as Biller spins an arch but hyper-sincere story about the true price of patriarchy. A spellbinding homage to old pulp paperbacks and the Technicolor melodramas of the 1960s, Anna Biller’s THE LOVE WITCH is a throwback that’s told with the kind of perverse conviction and studied expertise that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.”

David Ehrlich, INDIEWIRE

 

“A metaphysical astonishment. The costumes and furnishings, Biller’s own handmade versions of the era’s candy-coated extravagances, are as exquisitely arch and theatrical as the performances and the action, which—for all their comic exaggeration—echo with an uncanny symbolic power.”

Richard Brody, THE NEW YORKER

Check back for a full review coming soon…

See you at the movies!

(Excerpt from The Love Witch press materials courtesy of Marina Bailey PR)

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Holding on with Nanni Moretti’s ‘Mia Madre’

Mia Madre from acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti tells the story of a woman, Margherita, played by Margherita Buy, balancing her harried career life as a director with the demands of her latest movie juxtaposed against a home life with her 13-year old daughter and dying mother.

Characteristically self-reflective and autobiographical, Moretti’s latest work, Mia Madre, addresses the poignancy of human transience, how we process loss and gain strength through humor. Mia Madre premiered  in the Main Competition at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Ecumenical Jury Prize while actress Margherita Buy received accolades at Italy’s 2015 Donatello Awards capturing the Best Actress Prize. Writing credits for Mia Madre, were shared among Moretti, Valia Santella, Gaia Manzini, Chiara Valerio, and Francesco Piccolo. Other works Nanni Moretti is known for include The Son’s Room (2001), winner of the FIPRESCI Prize and Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, Dear Diary (1993), winner Best Director at Cannes Film Festival, Golden Globe, Italy, Best Film, and The Caiman (2006), nominated for Palm d’Or.

Fortunately for Ms. Buy’s character,  Margherita, Director Moretti hired John Turturro to play against Margherita in the form of a hammed-up Italian-American actor, Barry Huggins, who rarely can think of anything other than himself. Barry’s annoying, self-indulgent personality grinds on Margherita and her crew alike during filming as he repeatedly goes up on the delivery of his lines while antagonizing the set crew with impertinent demands for mustache combing and even going so far as challenging directorial authority. However, these tense filming moments add some emotional counterweights to the deep familial moments Margherita engages in with her mother, Ada, played exquisitely by veteran actress Giulia Lazzarini. Ada is a retired schoolteacher, admired, respected and loved by those around her glimpsed by her painstaking attention to her granddaughter’s Latin grammar lessons and in her overall well-being.

All in all, the interactions Ada has with Margherita and her thirteen year-old granddaughter, Livia, played solidly by Beatrice Mancini, provide profound insights into the day-to-day struggles professionals like Margherita face off the set and the emotional ramifications that can carry over on to the set. The grief, fear and vulnerability Margherita exudes with Ada adds an enormous sensitivity to her on-set, director’s demeanor. Throughout the shoots, her emotional struggle comes very close to consuming her. And this is where the brilliance of casting comes into play as Turturro’s outlandish Huggins’ boasting and audacious behavior off-set provide a much needed respite to Margherita’s ‘pressure cooker’ life situation. Just when it appears she’s had enough, Turturro’s character manages to create a moment in which Margherita is able to release the inner tensions and when she does Buy’s character captivates with her big screen emotives.

In my opinion, this is the strength of the film. Yet, Moretti adds a masterful touch with a subtlety sure to appeal to film buffs and scholars alike. While the on-location filming scenes add a emotional counterweight that they aren’t real. And they don’t feel real nor do they appear real. In addition, the film within a film theme is cliche’ with a highly fabricated labor dispute conflict being the core issue complete with nonsensical dialogue adds to the falseness. so much so that at one point, Turturro’s Huggins bellows out in frustration that none of what they are doing is real and he desperately wants to go back to real life! It’s almost as though he’s harking back to the filmmaking genesis of Italian Neorealism and its quasi-reaction to the state of Italian cinema prior to WWII. Almost…

Mia Madre opens in Los Angeles and New York August 26th, 2016 (followed by a national roll-out).

Highly recommended!

Venice Film Festival 2016: Impressive Line-Up For Golden Lion Nominations

The 73rd Venice International Film Festival has been set in motion. The dates are out and the line-up has been released. The festival will pit twenty movies for the top prize named Golden Lion. From dramas to thrillers, the line-up is loaded with some power packed performances.

Venice Film Festival will kick start with the world premiere of La La Land. Directed by Damien Chazelle, the musical has already been the talk of the town due to the sizzling chemistry of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The plot of the movie revolves around a jazz pianist who falls in love with an ambitious actress in Los Angeles.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven will be showcased before the curtain closes on the festival. The movie stars Denzel Washington in a plot set for the modern retelling of the 1960 classic about outlaws in the Old West.


Talking about the festival, director Alberto Barbera says that the focus of this year’s line-up has been philosophical and existential questions that prevail in films. He says movies which steer away from brutality of reality and every day news are approached. He clarifies that the idea should not be looked upon like a sort of escapism.

 

Venice Film Festival Nomination Line-Up
Ana Lily Amirpour, The Bad Batch
Stephane Brize, Une Vie
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Derek Cianfrance, The Light Between Oceans
Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat, El ciudadono ilustre
Massimo D’Anolfi, Martina Parenti, Spira Mirabilis
Lav Diaz, The Women Who Left
Amat Escalante, La region salvaje
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Roan Johnson, Piuma
Andrei Konchalovsky, Paradise
Martin Koolhoven, Brimstone
Emir Kusturica, On the Milky Road
Pablo Larrain, Jackie
Terrence Malick, Voyage of Time
Christopher Murray, El Cristo ciego
Francois Ozon, Frantz
Giuseppe Piccioni, Questi giorni
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Wim Wenders, Les beaux jours

The popular one among the lot, The Light Between Oceans, to be showcased at Venice Film Festival, is a story about a couple who help a baby that drifts away in a rowboat. The cast of the movie includes Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz and Michael Fassbender.

The Venice Film Festival will also be remembering the great work by two legendary film directors, Abbas Kiarostami and Michael Cimino, reported Euro News. Both the directors recently passed away. Venice Film Festival comes to a close on Sept. 10 2016.

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(Source: http://www.movienewsguide.com article by Ancy John)

AFI DOCS 2016 Wrap Up

With ninety-four films from over 30 countries the 2016 AFI DOCS had something for just about every documentary film lover. The Opening Night film dazzled the at-capacity audience at the Newseum with Alex Gibney’s North American Premiere of Zero Days,a detailed account of claims the US and Israeli governments unleashed a sophisticated virus to thwart the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. The film also addressed the issue of retaliation and made for a lively conversation and Q & A following the screening. Highly recommended.

 

 

Kicking off the first full day, I had the good fortune of seeing seven short documentaries under the guise of Shorts: Outside In; Tracks, The Great Theatre, Rotatio, Neige, Fundir and Chocolate Mountain Metal, Shorts: Outside In. Warmly recommended.

Winding up a busy Day 2 at the Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism in downtown Washington, DC, Newtown, an emotionally, powerful look at the local community two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre from acclaimed director Kim Snyder, and Audrie & Daisy, a story of two high school girls who were sexually assaulted in indefensible states and their vilification on social media with tragic consequences, were shown. Both are must-see films. Highly recommended.

 

Day 3 brought  After Spring, a telling tale of the relocation of Syrian refugees and the challenges they face at the Zaatari relocation camp inside the Jordanian border. Directors Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez attended the screening and made themselves available to discuss the making of the film. Recommended.


Almost Sunrise, explores an alternative approach to the traditional diagnosis and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Director Michael Collins chronicles the journey of two Iraq War veterans as they share a 2700 mile hike from the Midwest to the state of California to create an awareness of their trauma. Along the way, the two are warmly greeted and supported by fellow veterans and communities alike. Warmly recommended.

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Unfortunately, due to an overwhelming demand for seats at the Guggenheim Symposium and Screening, I was not granted a place for the evening’s conversation with Werner Herzog and Ramin Bahrani including clips from Herzog’s storied career and a screening of his latest work, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. Nevertheless, I made my way over to Silver Spring, MD, AFI Silver Theater for Cinema, Mon Amour, a wonderful story of a Romanian family and their ‘never say quit’ spirit as they work determinedly to keep open the last of Romania’s grand movie palaces.

Day Four began with a visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for the Filmmakers Forum and the making of short documentaries. Quick and to the point, storytellers and the movers and shakers of the industry engaged in an informative format as filmmakers and producers provided guidance and probed the issues in today’s filmmaking environment.

Full of vigor, the featured Command And Control,directed by Robert Kenner, recounted a 1980 nuclear accident with surreal details. Highly recommended.command-and-control-tribeca

Next, I dropped in on Vanessa Gould’s Obit, an insider’s guide to the world of who’s who in the annals of lives lived through the eyes of the legendary New York Times obituaries desk. Obit reveals a unique form of journalism and the idiosyncrasies of the writers and editors who create and compose these celebrations of extraordinary lives lived. Warmly recommended and my personal favorite!

Closing out the evening again at the Newseum with a Spotlight Screening of Check It.  Check It, a mesmerizing look at an inner city, Washington DC, gang composed of gay and transgendered teens who allied themselves together for protection and survival out on the streets of the nation’s capitol over a three year period, was directed by Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor. Over the course of the film, the Check It gang comes to the realization that while surviving is critical so is leading a productive and useful life. Warmly recommended.

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Day 5 kicked into gear with another visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for Part Four of the Filmmakers Forum. I arrived early and met Discovery’s Gina Scarpulla. Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Scarpulla and her team at Discovery are pioneering virtual reality in film. Virtual headsets, known as lunchboxes were made available before and after the forum. See my full write up here: AFI DOCS Filmmaking Forum on Virtual Reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came the Chicken People, directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes. Chicken People delves into the worlds of the contestants and their contenders, pure bred chickens,  as they vie for best fowl at the Ohio National Poultry Show and the title of Super Grand Champion. Warmly recommended and A Don’t Miss!

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Doc & Darryl, a soon-to-be-aired ESPN 30 for 30 film, depicts the trials and tribulations of the 1986 Major League Baseball World Champions New York Mets and the meteoric rise and setbacks of the team’s two most talented players, Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. The film was co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. See my write up: Doc & Darryl

Closing out the the 2016 AFI DOCS was Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. This is a masterpiece of television history. Breathtaking images of actors, writers and directors watching clips from  All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Good Times juxtaposed against their commentaries, highlight this cinematic gem. Another must see film! And I know Norman Lear wouldn’t have it any other way. Highly recommended.

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This was my first AFI DOCS. Set in our nation’s capitol, the festival ran smoothly. Two venues were in downtown Washington, DC, and were within walking distance of one another. Also, both venues were easily accessible by the Metro and had plenty of shops, coffee bars, sports bars and restaurants nearby. The third venue was in Silver Spring, Maryland, home of the AFI DOCS Silver Theater and Cultural Center. Again, plenty of shops and nearby eateries and fairly easy to get to by Metro. The Washington Post calls AFI DOCS “The nation’s leading documentary film festival.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

The AFI DOCS Interview: #NEWTOWN Director Kim A. Snyder

June 1, 2016

On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and murdered 20 schoolchildren and six educators. In the aftermath of the killings, filmmaker Kim Snyder traveled to Newtown and trained her lens on a grieving community, following several families who came face to face with tragedy. NEWTOWN reveals both the indelible scars gun violence leaves behind and the resilience of people who come together to heal.

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AFI spoke to director Snyder ahead of the film’s AFI DOCS premiere.

What led you to documentary filmmaking?

I was working on the production side of narrative filmmaking when a turn in my personal life compelled me to direct my first documentary. I have been doing it ever since.

What inspired you to tell this story?

I was drawn to the profound effects of collective trauma and the need for many people in Newtown to be heard on their own terms in an effort to make meaning out of the unthinkable. I wanted to pierce through a growing desensitization to these escalating incidents of mass gun violence through creating an emotional experience that humanizes the issue in a universal way.

How did your subjects?

It was like peeling an onion. In that first year, I did not feel comfortable penetrating the privacy of those most affected. My first connections were with the Interfaith community, which informed an intimacy and framing that was at once philosophic, existential and spiritual to some extent; it lent a holistic approach to a community wrestling with the darkest of journeys. Friar Bob, the priest who buried eight of the 20 children, was among those severely affected in terms of trauma. As I organically developed relationships with others through careful trust building, I began to develop a story of a town through a number of prisms, including that of parents of loss, educators, first responders, neighbors, youth — faces that render a portrait of any town and one that would redefine what it means to be a victim, while exploring the profound effects of survivor guilt and the resilience required to repair the social fabric of the entire community in the wake of the tragedy.

What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?

I faced a profound sense of responsibility in not wanting the process of the film to add to the ongoing trauma of those who participated, and in keeping my own psychological and emotion reactions to the material in check.

What do you want audiences to walk away with?

I want them to take away a profoundly emotional but rewarding journey to experience in their own community. I want them to experience perspective, anger and uplift from a community that offers profound truth and life perspective. Most importantly, I want them to leave with the conviction to participate in effecting change.

Why is Washington, DC, a valuable location to screen your film?

It is perhaps the most essential place for us to screen. Presenting an intimate exploration of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history in the seat of government and policymaking will be extremely powerful. We hope to maximize this potential.

NEWTOWN plays AFI DOCS on Thursday, June 23 at 5:45. Buy tickets here.

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[Source: American Film Magazine (blog)]

Mark Wahlberg Bringing ‘Deepwater Horizon’ to Big Screen

From ABC News:

Mark Wahlberg is bringing the real-life disaster story of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion to life on the big screen.

Good Morning America” debuted the new trailer for the film, “Deepwater Horizon,” which features the stories of those who worked on the BP rig during its harrowing final hours. The April 2010 explosion killed 11 people and triggered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, an electrician who escaped from the burning rig. He’s joined by an impressive cast: Dylan O’Brien as floorhand Caleb Holloway; Gina Rodriguez as young crew member Andrea Fleytas; Kurt Russell as crew member Jimmy Harrell; and John Malkovich as BP representative Donald Vidrine.

“Deepwater Horizon,” hits theaters Sept. 30, 2016. Watch the trailer above and see the exclusive dramatic character posters below.

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Star Trek Beyond

STAR TREK BEYOND is in theaters July 22, 2016

Star Trek Beyond, the highly anticipated next installment in the globally popular Star Trek franchise, created by Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew.

In Beyond, the Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

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(Press materials courtesy of Paramount Studios)