Category Archives: Featured

Early Sundance Feelers

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

 

Kicking off the 2022 Sundance Film Festival at 4 pm on Thursday, January 20th, award-winning documentarian Sam Green returns to Sundance with a groundbreaking and immersive documentary, 32 SOUNDS, a film about the powerful effects of sound and how it affects our conscious and unconscious lives. 32 SOUNDS will feature original compositions of live music and narration by JD Samson that will be performed live.

32 SOUNDS is designed to be experienced with personal headphones for a truly unique binaural audio experience. A high-quality headset is strongly recommended for online audiences. Wireless headphones will be provided at performances held in the Egyptian Theatre.

32 SOUNDS will be a special hybrid digital/in-person presentation and will take place simultaneously at the Egyptian Theatre and in The Spaceship’s Cinema House.

Filmmaker Margaret Brown returns to Sundance with the World Premiere of her U.S. Documentary Competition film DESCENDANT, a deeply moving look at the descendants of the survivors of the Clotilda, the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense.

Brown’s DESCENDANT explores and reveals the enduring power imbalance that persists between the descendants of Timothy Meaher, the man who chartered the illegal expedition, and the descendants of those who were enslaved aboard it. The Meaher family owns much of the heavily industrialized area that surrounds Africatown. Elevated cases of cancer and illness are prevalent there, but the Africatown community persists. Residents celebrate their heritage and take command of their legacy by bringing their history to the surface

In addition, Bianca Stinger’s cinematic meditation on memory and loss, THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING,  will screen at Sundance in the Spotlight section after debuting to critical acclaim at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival.

In 2009, Glenn Kurtz discovered a crumbling 16mm color home movie in his parents’ closet — amateur footage his grandfather David shot in 1938 on a vacation to Europe. In addition to familiar tourist attractions, the film included three minutes of what would turn out to be the only known footage of the predominantly Jewish town of Nasielsk, Poland — David Kurtz’s birthplace — one year before the Nazi occupation would destroy the community, leaving fewer than 100 survivors of the Holocaust.

Stigter traces the story of those three minutes and the discoveries they prompted, conducting a filmic excavation seeking to expand time, postponing the inevitable fate of the people caught on celluloid. Examining each frame for clues, playing and replaying the haunting footage, performing active discovery on every detail, THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING bears witness to history to demonstrate the power of cinema to reclaim the past for the present.

Stay tuned!

 

(Sourced from ACME Press News)

UPDATE: Saturday Afternoon Premiere at AFI FEST 2021 – Almodovar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Today at 2:00 P.M, Pedro Almodavar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS, starring Penelope Cruz, is making an afternoon Red Carpet Premiere at the historic Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, Calif. Visit fest.afi.com for more information including ticketing.

Pedro Almodovar’s PARALLEL MOTHERS, starring Penelope Cruz, is slated for an AFI FEST Red Carpet Premiere, today, November 13th, 2021, 2:00 P.M., at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo from fest.afi.com)

UPDATE: There will be a post-screening conversation with Pedro Almodóvar(Director) moderated by film critic Alonso Duralde.

PARALLEL MOTHERS, follows two women Janis and Ana – both single mothers – from the moment they give birth to two daughters. Janis is thrilled by her accidental pregnancy, seeing it as perhaps her last chance at motherhood, while the adolescent Ana is scared and traumatized by the ordeal.

According to AFI Movie Club, Almodovar has been percolating the idea since 1999, when he first pitched it to Penelope Cruz while she was working on Almodvar’s ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER. This is the eighth collaboration between the Spanish duo. In addition, PARALLEL MOTHERS marks the 13th collaboration between Sony Pictures Classics and the production company El Deseo, which Almodovar operates with his brother Augustin Almodovar.

Opening Night Red Carpet AFI FEST 2021

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Last night, the AFI FEST audience at the TCL Chinese Theatre was treated to the World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM! Check out the exclusive photos from the red carpet, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Light, Robin de Jesus, Joshua Henry, Alexandra Shipp and more.

Check out the red carpet video tick, tick…BOOM!

Judith Light – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield and Alexandra Shipp – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield and Lin-Manuel Miranda – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Andrew Garfield – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Director Lin-Manuel Miranda – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Robin de Jesus, Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Julie Oh – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Robin de Jesus – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Isabella Gomez – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM
Julie Larson – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!
Alice Brooks, Cinematographer – AFI FEST 2021: World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!

Tickets Still Available for Select In-person Screenings Tomorrow!

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AFI FEST 2021: LGBTQ Films

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI FEST 2021: LGBTQ Films

Pride comes in many forms. And there’s a lot to be proud of with AFI FEST films exploring people along the queer spectrum! The AFI FEST 2021 lineup has no shortage of incredible films that are sure to pique interest. These films touch on history and activism, uncovering fascinating and inspiring stories alongside personal and emotional ones, celebrating unsung personalities and shedding light on beautiful subcultures. See stories in the concert hall, in the Puerto Rican jungle, a German prison, a small Italian apartment, and the many other places explored within this section. This diverse collection of features and shorts is a veritable rainbow of offerings that are not to be missed.

BERNSTEIN’S WALL

For the better part of the 20th century, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein was a household name due to his music in WEST SIDE STORY (for which he won an Academy Award®), his role as Musical Director of the New York Philharmonic and his work on television making classical music accessible to the general public. This documentary follows the life of this extraordinary first-generation son of Ukrainian-Jewish parents, from his early life in New England, to the many “firsts” he claimed during his early orchestral career and his constant advocacy of worthy causes. The narration uses Bernstein’s own words, harvested from his many recorded appearances on the radio, television and in-person interviews, which offers a strikingly intimate perspective. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 12, 3:15 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

 

CODED

The coded advertisements of legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker quietly, but directly, acknowledged a community that was forced to live in the closet. Screens as part of Meet The Press Shorts 1. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 11, 8:30 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

COMPARTMENT NO. 6 

Finland Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission

A young Finnish woman escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a larger-than-life Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment No. 6 to face major truths about human connection. COMPARTMENT NO. 6 shared the Grand Prix award at Cannes in 2021 and has been selected as Finland’s official entry for the 94th Academy Awards®. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person | November 11, 10:00 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

ENVIAR Y RECIBIR

A warehouse worker at a fast fashion company forms an attachment to a piece of damaged inventory.  Screens as part of SHORTS PROGRAM 2. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 12, 6:00 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

GREAT FREEDOM 

Austria Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission

Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the Queer Palm, Franz Rogowski [who starred in the AFI FEST films HAPPY END (2017) and I WAS AT HOME, BUT…(2019)] captivates as the lovesick Hans in Sebastian Meise’s second narrative feature 10 years following his debut (STILL LIFE). Incessantly imprisoned for breaking Germany’s “Paragraph 175” – a law that makes homosexuality a crime – Hans’ life unfolds in postwar Germany over three periods of time and with three distinct relationships. He has a brief but passionate connection with Leo, a soft-spoken schoolteacher, and a longer, more serious romance with Oskar. But Hans’ most complex and profound relationship is with Viktor, his homophobic cellmate, who after 20 years grows to be his closest confidante. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person | November 14, 4:00 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

 

HER DANCE

After not being invited to her sister’s wedding, Aya, a transwoman, shows up by surprise on a Shabbat night at the Orthodox Jewish community where her family lives. Screens as part of  Shorts Program 2. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 12, 6:00 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

MANO SANTO

A grandfather harbors his runaway grandson after fleeing the constraints of home. Screens as part of Shorts Program 4. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 13, 2:15 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT

Adapted from Adrian Tomine’s acclaimed graphic novel, PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT weaves a breezy tapestry of modern love stories. Beautifully realized in crisp black-and-white cinematography, the electrifying, multicultural 13th arrondissement sets the stage for a panoramic tale of four young lovers. Lucie Zhang delivers a breakout performance as free-spirited Émilie, who begins a casual relationship with new roommate Camille (Makita Samba). Noémie Merlant (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) plays wide-eyed student Nora, whose new life in Paris is complicated when she is accidentally mistaken for cam girl Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). Stepping away from his usual genre fare, Jacques Audiard, along with script collaborators Céline Sciamma and Léa Mysius, brings to life the sprawling dreams of desire and human connection in the city of love. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 11, 8:15 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

PLAYTIME

North American Premiere

A mother wants to play with her son. A boy wants to find out what his friend is giving a girl. A cat has disappeared. But these are only games.  Screens as part of Shorts Program 5. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 13, 4:45 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

PRIDE

An aspiring writer finalizes stories for “Pride,” a student-run newspaper. Over a hectic two days in the early 1990s, she puts the finishing touches on the upcoming issue. Screens as part of Shorts Program 4. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 13, 2:15 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

A SUMMER PLACE

On the day of Tina’s birthday, she is ready to give up on everything until an extraordinary encounter changes her life. Screens as part of Shorts Program 1. Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person | November 12, 3:00 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

Virtual screening available beginning November 11, 12:00 p.m. PST | Buy Virtual Ticket(s)

 

tick, tick…BOOM!

Opening Night / World Premiere 

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with tick, tick…BOOM!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of “Rent.”

Jon is a young theater composer who’s waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American musical. Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, Jon is feeling the pressure from everywhere: from his girlfriend Susan, who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City; from his friend Michael, who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security; amidst an artistic community ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. With the clock ticking, Jon is at a crossroads and faces the question everyone must reckon with: What are we meant to do with the time we have? Learn more about the film.

Screening in-person |  November 10, 7:30 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

 

 

WILDHOOD

US Premiere

The road of life can be difficult as Link, an indigenous Mi’kmaw teen, certainly knows. Fortunately, he has his younger half-brother, Travis, by his side. When their abusive father is discovered to be hiding an unimaginable secret about Link’s long-lost mother, the brothers begin a challenging and revelatory. Following the breadcrumbs of information along the way, the brothers begin a journey in search of her. During their quest, they are joined by Pasmay, also two-spirit and Mi’kmaw, known in the community for his dancing. Link soon discovers that Pasmay’s kindness and generosity are infectious. What starts as a bleak story of despair for Link, turns into a charming trek of self-discovery and young love. Writer/director Bretten Hannam’s second feature is overflowing with visual and emotional beauty. Learn more about the film. 

Screening in-person |  November 13, 4:00 p.m.  | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)

 

With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated.  Learn more about AFI’s annual film festival celebrating the best in global cinema at FEST.AFI.com.

Individual tickets and passes to AFI FEST 2021 are currently available on FEST.AFI.com. AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/

(Sourced from AFI FEST news)

Martin Scorsese on the Making of SILENCE

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The one and only Martin Scorsese visited the AFI Campus recently to discuss making his spiritual epic SILENCE (an AFI AWARDS 2016 Official Selection), the master filmmaker’s decades-long labor of love that explores apostasy and crises of faith in 17th-century Japan. The film features Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuit missionaries dispatched to Japan to locate a fellow priest gone rogue, played by Liam Neeson.

“Obviously, these themes and ideas and concepts are very much the foundation of my life. The formation began, in a way, at a very early age, so I’ve never really lost interest in that or the urge to keep searching,” Scorsese told AFI Conservatory Fellows, referencing his religious films THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) and KUNDUN (1997). SILENCE is based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name. “Reading the book… The whole idea of this apostasy, why did it seem like a victory rather than a defeat?” Scorsese said, explaining one of the film’s central questions.

Watch a clip below in which Scorsese discusses how he was forced to re-think how to film a particular scene in SILENCE.

 

Scorsese also discussed the future of cinema with Fellows. “I do feel that cinema, for the first hundred years, has been within this proscenium…but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way,” he said. “You have this unlimited technology; you can do anything. I’m the product of a certain place in time. You’re younger, it’s very different, and it’s up to you to reinvent it and use any form you want… The one thing that keeps you human is your story, and it has to be from a personal vision. It has to come from a personal truth that is different from making a product.”

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(Source: afi.com)

Nostradamus Report – The Future of Film

Posted by Larry Gleeson

If you could see what the film industry has in store for the next 3-5 years, would you dare…

2017 Nostradamus Report

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Despite increased competition for audience attention in general and cinema screens in particular, the number of feature films produced in Europe and the US continues to grow. It is not expected to shrink significantly in the next 3-5 years. Among the reasons are new tax incentives and increasing investment from new platform media companies, but also the impact of real democratization of production technologies and to some degree of funding.

A Swell of Films

While this swell of cinema in theory allows a wider range of voices to be heard, in practice it makes it very difficult even for excellent work – of which there is arguably a lot – to find an audience, as there is no equivalent surge of innovation in distribution and audience relations. It also means that bad or irrelevant work has almost no chance to be seen. While it seems clear that public funds should be redirected from the latter categories either towards more deserving feature projects, or towards the production of excellent film content in other formats or for other platforms, this is currently not politically possible. A change like that might also exacerbate the already difficult career paths especially of directors in a marketplace where films by unknowns are very difficult to fund or sell.

3dtechnologyOn the next 3-5 years, all exhibitors will need to focus on the customer experience to stay competitive, but this can look very different depending on their type. On the one hand, we are seeing the emergence of a technologically oriented cinema optimized for experiencing blockbuster fare. On the other hand, we are seeing a focus on human interactions and live performance – so called “live cinema” – as a rapidly developing segment of the exhibition sector, helping audiences both new and old to build relationships with institutions and curators. These ostensibly very different styles of exhibition have in common that they are immersive, allowing the viewers to place themselves socially or physically inside the story, or to engage with its themes together. The social aspect is also at the heart of the growing market for film festivals aimed at general audiences.

Specializing The Screening Experience

Another approach to eventizing movies is just to make the cinemas a lot nicer, with better chairs, better concessions, food and alcohol, increasing cinema’s appeal to, for instance, grownups on dates. This strategy is working well both in mainstream and arthouse environments. At the extreme end are the dedicated luxury cinemas, offering experiences like butler service, Tempur mattresses, or massages.

While the future looks bright for movie theatres big and small, the sheer number of feature premieres means a theatrical window is not feasible even for all quality films – not even on the festival circuit. There is certainly room in the VOD marketplace for both strong curation and dedicated film libraries, but among the pieces missing from the distribution puzzle are still business models for social or distributed digital premieres.

A complete digital transformation of the small screen landscape seems inevitable and will probably happen relatively fast since audiences neither understand nor much care about business models or back-end technologies. As we discussed last year, the end result will probably look something like TV has for the past few decades, with consumers paying one or a few separate bills to services aggregating OTT content. Viewers are, however, likely to be allowed to pick their packaged channels more selectively than before.

The Uncovered Financial Stream

The revenue streams will of course be radically different from the current models. Mergers and acquisitions are likely to continue as the biggest players scramble to establish dominance throughout the value chain. In the US, studios and networks are eyeing a future after affiliate fees and syndication fees, and considering whether owning the viewer relationship directly could provide a similar amount of revenue. Similarly, it seems feasible that a major technology company could purchase a major studio. If antitrust regulation is relaxed under the Trump administration, as net neutrality rules almost certainly will be, the media landscape is regardless likely to consolidate dramatically during the next four years. Changes in the US entertainment industry have global ripple effects. It is also likely that the cultural importance of US content specifically will diminish in the long term, a tendency that could be accelerated by isolationist policies.

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VR on the Verge

In the next 3-5 years, the fundamental grammar of VR storytelling will finally be developed, and the real leaps will happen once the production tools are more widely available. Some standardisation will help focus a splintered marketplace. Investment in “VR cinemas” today should be viewed as tests – exhibitors preparing for a coming generation of the technology that may not be easily available in homes. In the short run we are also likely to see a brief exclusive “theatrical” window for VR.

Download the full report here at your own risk: nostradamus2017

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(Source: nostradamusproject.org)

 

 

 

 

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ was first stop in Debbie Reynolds’ unsinkable career

Posted by Larry GleesonBy Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-GazetteUnfolding memories of all that Debbie Reynolds brought to the stage, screen and celebrity fascination of our lives would read like a chronicle of Hollywood history, starting in 1952. That’s when a 19-year-old went toe-to-toe with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singin’ in the Rain,” the American Film Institute’s No. 1 movie musical of all time.Ms. Reynolds died Wednesday at 84, just one day after the death of her daughter, actress, writer and mental health activist Carrie Fisher.

In recent years, Ms. Reynolds appeared on screen mostly as matriarchs, with Albert Brooks in the title role of the 1996 film “Mother” and as Debra Messing’s mom in the sitcom “Will & Grace.” She also provided the voice of the nurturing spider in “Charlotte’s Web,” Nana Possible in the animated TV series “Kim Possible” and Lulu Pickles for “Rugrats.”

The 1973 Broadway musical “Irene” earned her a leading actress Tony nomination and her lone Academy Award nomination was for her favorite role — “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Earlier this year, Ms. Reynolds was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars ceremony.

Ms. Reynolds gave us many more memories in seven decades as a public figure, but if she had done nothing else in her career, she would still be remembered simply for being in “Singin’ in the Rain,” Mark Olsen wrote in his Los Angeles Times appreciation.

The actress had four credited movie roles when she was cast opposite Mr. Kelly, a Pittsburgh native, and Mr. O’Connor.

“She noted at the British Film Institute in 2011: ‘I wasn’t sexy, I wasn’t beautiful, I wasn’t cute and I couldn’t dance. Why would they take me?’

“One only has to see her pop out of a cake to dance and sing to ‘All I Do Is Dream of You’ to answer the question. Her exuberance, the sheer attack with which she approached the part, made her undeniable,” Mr. Olsen writes.

“You know, I was so dumb,” she said to the American Film Institute in 2012, “that I didn’t feel you could fail.”

Mr. Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, on Thursday told BBC Radio that Ms. Reynolds, Mr. Kelly and Mr. O’Connor “are like comets that flash through the air once in a lifetime. And we are ever so grateful.”

On Facebook, Mrs. Kelly debunked what she called “a tall tale” about Ms. Reynolds as a young dancer. She quoted NPR’s Neda Ulaby as saying Ms. Reynolds “had studied gymnastics, but for the movie, she practiced tap dancing for up to 14 hours at a time.”

Mrs. Kelly said production records are very clear on the subject. For example, “on April 25, 1951, the report indicates that Gene arrived on set at 10 a.m., had one meal and departed at 5:15 p.m. ‘Debbie Reynolds same.’” She also notes, as Ms. Reynolds has said, that her rehearsal time was three months, “which says a lot about Debbie and the remarkable assistants who taught her to dance.”

There has been much speculation about the cause of the seemingly unsinkable Ms. Reynolds’ death. The entertainer suffered two strokes in 2015 but seemed to make a full recovery.

No cause of death has been disclosed for mother or daughter, but some are blaming Ms. Reynolds’ passing on broken heart syndrome, known medically as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. In the scant space between her daughter’s death and her own, Ms. Reynolds told her son, Todd Fisher, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’” according to the Associated Press.

“A ‘broken heart’ really is an event where the heart ceases to function normally and is prone to heart rhythm abnormalities,” Dr. Mark Creager, past president of the American Heart Association, told the AP. “That term is used to explain a very real phenomenon that does occur in patients who have been exposed to sudden emotional stress or extremely devastating circumstances.”

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The documentary “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” will premiere at 8 p.m. Jan. 7 on HBO. The film chronicling the sometimes rocky mother-daughter relationship was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May and was originally set to air on HBO in March.

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The Hollywood Reporter called it “a tender tribute to two iconic women whose Hollywood history spans from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ through ‘Star Wars’ and whose intimate connection is no less singular.”

In the meantime, viewings of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Singin’ in the Rain” would seem to be in order.

(Source:post-gazette.com)

Korean cinema of 2016: Women, politics, horror

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)

Women, female relationships and political intrigue were the hallmarks of Korean cinema this year.

A number of films that delved into the world of the occult, driven by unfathomable forces of evil, also stood out in a year that saw the return of some of Korea’s most renowned directors, including Park Chan-wook and Na Hong-jin, who each added significant pieces to their idiosyncratic oeuvre.

Spotlight on women

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Arguably the most globally lauded Korean film of the year, Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” took on the subject of a lesbian thriller romance, featuring two female lovers against a world of demented male figures. Provocative scenes were portrayed against a fairy tale-like backdrop.

“Handmaiden” has nabbed various international accolades since its screening at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. Vogue.com named it among the “10 Most Fashionable Movies of 2016” for its lavish mise-en-scene, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards gave it a best production design award.

The New York Times listed Kim Tae-ri, who stars as Japanese lady Hideko’s earthy, unabashed handmaiden Sook-hee, in a September article titled “Four Actresses Everyone will be Talking About this Fall.”

Female romance also featured in Lee Hyun-ju’s indie film “Our Love Story,” a subtle, realistic tale of an encounter between an art student and a stranger.

Antagonistic relationships between women were explored in films like Kim Tae-yong’s “Misbehavior,” which draws on the jealousy and pride between two female teachers fighting for the affections of a male student. Both Kim Ha-neul and Yoo In-young are excellently cast in their roles: One is reticent and downtrodden, while the other is vivacious, young and self-absorbed.

Director Lee Eon-hee’s “Missing,” meanwhile, saw the unlikely reconciliation between two women — a mother and the nanny who kidnapped her daughter, played by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin.

In a mature tale of womanhood, “Bacchus Lady” explored the world of Korea’s elderly prostitutes and the universal solitude of growing old.

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung portrayed the feisty protagonist, who, at 65, turns tricks for a living. Directed by E J-yong, the film offers an emotional reflection on life and death as Korea advances into an aging society. It was screened at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Scandalous politics

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This year also saw a number of films portraying disasters and authorities’ damnable responses.

Director Park Jung-woo’s “Pandora,” set to be streamed globally on Netflix, depicted a nuclear power plant meltdown and the lack of an emergency response system, resulting in the preventable deaths of nuclear power plant workers and residents of surrounding areas.

Kim Seong-hun’s “Tunnel” saw actor Ha Jung-woo trapped inside a collapsed tunnel for weeks on end, with members of the rescue squad wringing their hands at the ineffectual orders from those higher-up in the government.

Kim Sung-su’s “Asura: The City of Madness” depicted a bloodstained web of criminals and politicians.

The latest political thriller “Master,” helmed by Jo Eui-seok, stars actor Lee Byung-hun as a con artist who amasses astronomical wealth and bribes government officials to exert power in state affairs. The flick which opened last week, rang an eerily familiar bell in Korea, which is currently embroiled in an influence-peddling political scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye.

Ride into the occult

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Two of this year’s most striking films were in the horror genre, ruminating on morality and human nature.

Yeon Sang-ho’s apocalyptic zombie thriller “Train to Busan” showed everyday characters — from students to office workers — fighting for their lives while trapped on a torpedoing train swarming with flesh-hungry zombies. It premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival’s Midnight Screenings section and has been picked up for a US remake by Gaumont, a French film studio.

Na Hong-jin’s occult thriller “The Wailing (Goksung),” which also screened at Cannes’ Out of Competition section, took viewers on a terrifying journey toward unreasoning evil. Fourteen-year-old actress Kim Hwan-hee delivered a chilling performance as a possessed child.

A period in time

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A number of period pieces also sought to reinterpret historical events from the Japanese occupation era.

Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” transformed the story of Korean independence fighters smuggling in bombs from Shanghai to Korea into a stylish noir.

In “The Last Princess,” director Hur Jin-ho focused on the early stages of the Japanese occupation of Korea through the eyes of Joseon princess Deok-hye, weaving the historical into a personal tale.

“The Portrait of a Poet” by Lee Joon-ik offered a moving portrait of poet Yun Dong-ju, in colonial Korea where the Korean language was banned.

(Source: http://www.koreaherald.com)

Top 3 Christmas Movies

With Christmas Day upon us, I wanted to revisit my three all-time favorite Yuletide films.

It’s A Wonderful Life – From Paramount Studios, American Frank Capra’s Christmas fantasy/drama based on Philip Van Doren’s short story, “The Greatest Gift,” tops the list.

A Christmas Story – Nipping at Capra’s heels’ masterpiece is Bob Clark’s comedy based on Jean-Shepherd’s anecdotes.

Home Alone – American classic comedy from  John Hughes and Cris Columbus tells the story of a small Chicago boy who is left behind while his family flies to Paris for the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

FILM REVIEW: Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941): USA

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi. Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, was first on AFI’s first 100 Greatest American Movies Movies of All Time in 1998. Ten years later, a 10th Anniversary Edition of AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies found Citizen Kane still perched in the top spot.

Loosely based on newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane was the first feature film by Welles. Hearst forbad any mention of the film in his newspapers upon the film’s release.

After signing his contract, Welles had been green-lighted for his film with a directorial final cut by RKO Pictures after his string of successes on Broadway with his Mercury Theater, including the thrilling radio broadcast of ‘The War Of The Worlds.’ Welles also brought several of his Mercury Theater actors on board for the project, several of whom would go on to have substantial Hollywood film careers including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane and Ruth Warrick.

Welles shared writing credits for Citizen Kane with Herman Mankiewicz and the two won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1942. The film received a total of nine Oscar nominations in 1942 including Best Picture, Best Director (Welles), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Welles), Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Sound, Recording (John Aalberg), Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Bernard Herrmann), Best Film Editing (Robert Wise), and Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (Perry Ferguson, Van Ness Polglase, A. Roland Fields, Darrell Silvera).

The film opens in what appears to be a surreal reflection with a Bengali Tiger and ominous non-diagetic music with snow falling inside a crystal with an utterance of “Rosebud.” A strong, deep-toned, narrative voice-over begins informing the viewer with wartime newsreel clips from “News on The March,” mentioning among others Khubla Khan. After a series of quick edits, a low-angle shot of a large, stone-built castle the narrator refers to as “Xanadu, a pleasure dome,” is held for a moment.

Without missing much of a beat the narration continues with quick frames of paintings, pictures and statues that have been “looted” from the finest European museums. Not stopping, the narration intensifies as the narrator projects powerfully about animals of the land, foul of the air – two of each – in creation of the world’s largest private zoo since Noah and the largest monument a man has built to himself since the pyramids using 100,000 tons of concrete and 200,00 tons of marble in its construction culminating in a crescendo as the narrator introduces by name only the film’s protagonist, Charles Foster Kane, the great yellow journalist and heir of the Colorado Lode. News stories and the biography of the his life and death are flashed on screen as the story begins with a smoke-filled room of newsmen trying to determine the significance of the last word the newspaper tycoon uttered, ‘rosebud.’

Told primarily through flashbacks as the mystery of rosebud is explored, Citizen Kane contains a highly structured narrative coupled with revolutionary deep focus cinematography, mostly unseen before in mainstream cinema. Cinematographer Gregg Toland provided the deep focus effect with his specially treated lenses and light-sensitive film stock. The deep focus cinematography allowed the entire scene being shot to have primary focus and thus allowing the subjects to have equal importance visually. In addition, Welles and Toland removed floorboards in another groundbreaking scene to create ultra low-angle shots of the newspaper men following Kane’s unsuccessful pursuit of the American Presidency. The effect visually is stunning as rather ordinary, though influential, men are now seen as overly large, powerful titans squaring off.

In its essence, Citizen Kane, is the tragic tale of a man who has high ideals to be the people’s voice, the voice of the common everyday man. Slowly, however, the benevolence of the man becomes consumed with a passionate pursuit for power.

Tellingly, Citizen Kane’s message is still pertinent today. After Kane is defeated at the ballot box by the ‘sleaze factor’ (a decidedly distasteful tactic that can skewer even the most accurate polling data) he uses his newspapers to declare “Fraud at the Polls” in large-type newsprint headlines. Historians often cite Welles’ depiction of Susan Alexander Kane (a character purportedly representative of Hurst’s long-time, close intimate, Marion Davies) as the basis for Hurst strong negative reaction to Citizen Kane. More recently, several news outlets cite President Obama’s infamous roasting of President-elect Donald Trump at a 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner as the catalyst for Trump’s headlong dive into the 2016 race for the White House. Interestingly, even before Election Day, Trump declared fraud on the election. Interesting indeed. Citizen Kane is a must-see film for any serious cinephile and is highly recommended for all filmgoers.