Today’s AFI Movie Club selection received a Best Picture Academy-award-winning Oscar and is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
From writer/director Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT was also honored in 2016 with an AFI AWARD, recognizing it as one of the year’s most outstanding achievements in the art of the moving image – with the official rationale stating that, “MOONLIGHT illuminates the peerless power of cinema to inspire empathy for others and embrace a greater understanding of ourselves. Barry Jenkins’ poetic tour de force presents a deeply emotional triptych — the journey of boy to man searching for connection amidst the labyrinth of societal boundaries. An extraordinary ensemble lights the way in this sublime realization of a world where the question ‘Who is you?’ echoes in the pain of dreams deferred and the strength of an inner truth.”
Available to watch on Kanopy, Hoopla, Fubu Tv, and Showtime. Highly recommended viewing!
Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast from Focus Features tells a humorous, tender, and intensely personal story of one boy’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the city of Branagh’s birth. Belfast is an impeccable work based on Branagh’s own upbringing in Belfast in the late 1960’s.
The soundtrack features a plethora of Van Morrison’s greatest hits, including a newly written song for the film, adding joy and optimism to the challenging circumstances a young couple is facing with their young children. Their nine-year-old boy must chart a path towards adulthood through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. His stable and loving community and everything he thought he understood about life have changed forever but joy, laughter, music, and the formative magic of the movies remain.
The cast includes Golden Globe nominee Caitríona Balfe, Academy Award® winner Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, and introduces the ten-year-old Jude Hill. Dornan and Balfe play a passionate working-class couple caught up in the mayhem, with Dench and Hinds as the quick-witted grandparents. The film is produced by Branagh, Laura Berwick, Becca Kovacik, and Tamar Thomas.
Exquisitely executed cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos, Director of Photography, utilizes various camera angles reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma andis simply a visual delight. Befitting the 1960’s the production design from Jim Clay hit the mark with a splattering of classic 1960’s vehicles, urban sidewalks, and building facades to match. The hair, make-up, and costuming donned by the handsome and vivacious actors are a feast for the eyes. Wakana Yoshihara and Charlotte Walker handled the respective departments.
The beautiful and talented Belfast actors were cast by Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockman. Úna Ní Dhonghaíle (The Crown) nailed the editing as she managed to draw the viewer into the 1960’s world and keep them there with seamless continuity. And, as mentioned, the music is from the Belfast-born legend, Van Morrison.
Said Kenneth Branagh:
“Belfast is a city of stories and in the late 1960s it went through an incredibly tumultuous period of its history, very dramatic, sometimes violent, that my family and I were caught up in. It’s taken me fifty years to find the right way to write about it, to find the tone I wanted. It can take a very long time to understand just how simple things can be and finding that perspective, years on, provides a great focus. The story of my childhood, which inspired the film, has become a story of the point in everyone’s life when the child crosses over into adulthood, where innocence is lost…”
Belfast, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, has a perfectly directed runtime of 97 minutes, a compelling storyline, and is so technically proficient that it appears to be an early favorite for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Awards for best film and best director. Highly recommended!
***Belfast began its theatrical release on November 12th, 2021, and recently screened November 5th, at Landmark’s Tivoli Theatre in University City, Missouri, as part of the 30th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, November 4 -21, 2021.
A Special Tribute to powerhouse actor, Peter Dinklage, generated massive buzz before his world-premiere in the new film musical, Cyrano. Dinklage is a four-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones and has turned in several strong performances on the big screen in Station Agent, Elf, and I Care A Lot.
In Cyrano Dinklage solidly carries the weight of the lead as Cyrano, a man who feels undeserving of romantic love. The film is breathtakingly beautiful with lavish costuming, epic battles, and spirited musical numbers. Numerous pundits are mouthing Dinklage’s performance as Oscar-caliber – the question being is it enough for this record-setting Emmy recipient to become an Oscar recipient? Cyrano is coming out for the holidays. A “don’t miss” viewing.
Benedict Cumberbatch was in the house at the Werner Herzog Theatre for a screening of the Jane Campion written, The Power of the Dog, based on a 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage. Campion seems to be a shoo-in to receive her second Oscar for screenwriting for The Power of the Dog. The screenplay might not be the only Oscar talk as Cumberbatch, always a strong screen performer, delves deeply into the soul of his character, Phil Burbank, delivering a dark presence un-before seen from Benedict.
Last but certainly not to be thought of as the least, is the new Wes Anderson love letter to journalists at an American newspaper outpost in a fictional French city, The French Dispatch. The film brings to life a series of short stories that had appeared in the magazine, “The French Dispatch Magazine.” The ensemble cast includes Timothy Chalamet, Bill Murray, Leas Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Lyna Khoudri, Steve Park, Matthieu Almaric, Henry Winkler, and Frances McDormand. Sharply written and oh….what a cast!
The Telluride Film Festival has become known as a launch for numerous award season campaign debuts. And this year was no exception. Stay tuned for Part III!
Spending my birthday at the 48th Telluride Film Festival proved a remarkably pleasant experience. Receiving a warm hug from a lovely young woman who had dressed herself on Halloween as Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, I engaged Marcel the Shell with Shoes On lead, director, writer/creator Jenny Slate in a polite and deeply poignant conversation on the Telluride Film Festival and her latest work with long-time collaborator Dean Fleischer-Camp.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (2021), is a feature-length mockumentary on the scruffy mollusk and life as it is known. Sharp writing and a creative narrative, and spot-on stop-motion animation made Marcel the Shell With Shoes On ) an audience favorite. According to news reports negotiations for the film’s distribution and exhibition are ongoing. Slate and Fleischer-Camp are adamant Marcel gets its due. I couldn’t agree more. Highly recommended!
Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is an impeccable work based on Branagh’s own upbringing in Belfast in the late 1960’s. The soundtrack features a plethora of Van Morrison’s greatest hits adding joy and optimism to the challenging circumstances a young couple is facing with their young children.. Beautiful actors and a compelling storyline deliver what appears to be an early favorite for the year’s best film.
Sean Baker ( Tangerine, and The Florida Project) and A24’s Red Rocket, featuring Simon Rex, a standout media personality, Brenda Deiss, and Bree Elrod, tells the tail of a Mikey Saber, a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown and attempts to make a fresh start. Rex turns in a tour de force performance as Mikey Saber. Baker’s strongest work to date. Not for the faint of heart. Earthy.
Telluride has become known as a launch for numerous award season campaign debuts. And this year was no exception. Stay tuned for Part II.
(***Above media by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee featuring the 2021 Telluride Film Festival Opening Night Art Sculpture)
Having met my featured Mountainfest member, Nora Bernard, at the 46th Telluride Film Festival, my curiosity piqued upon reading her social media post on this year’s Mountainfilm, the Bivvy Pass, and her zeal in being part of this year’s Programming Team. Without missing a beat, I quickly visited Mountainfilm.org and counted my blessings. I viewed the Mountainfilm Intro by Stephen Burns. Stunning photography accented the clip leading me to check out this year’s Guest Director Louis Psihoyos sharing what makes Mountainfilm his “go-to” festival year after year.
My good fortune didn’t end there as Ms. Bernard accepted my proposal for a feature via a virtual Q & A. Please see below.
What do you do for the 2020 MountainFilm Festival?
I was an Associate Programmer for this year’s festival which consisted of reviewing film submissions and giving my recommendations to the Programming Team at Large.
Why did you choose to work for MountainFilm?
I have been working for the Telluride Film Festival for a number of years and quite a few of my colleagues have also worked for Mountainfilm. The Program Manager, Lucy Lerner, was a Senior Manager for TFF and I reached out to her with interest in being a screener for the 2019 festival.
How has your experience been?
It’s been such a thrill. I have to say, I’ve been impressed by a lot of the submissions I have watched. The documentaries screened at Mountainfilm run the gamut from outdoor adventure, climate change, anthropology, and social justice. 2019 was my first time attending and I got caught up in the overall commitment to the community. It’s been so motivating to watch the year-round staff translate that to an online platform in these current circumstances.
Why did you choose Programming?
Well with all the other festivals I’ve worked, I’ve always worked on the logistical side of things. Production, venue operations, ticketing, volunteers…you name it and I’ve probably done it. However, my eyes have been moving toward the creative side and I’m grateful to Mountainfilm for giving me the opportunity.
What other festivals/projects have you worked on?
I’ve also worked for the Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Telluride Film Festivals and am a part of the FantasticFest features submission team. Each job, I’ve worked has taught me so much and has rolled over into the next. There are so many talented people that put together these events. For now, I’m quarantining in New York City and hoping for the chance to help make that magic again soon.
Mountainfilm, a documentary film festival in Telluride, Colo., showcases “nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues that matter.” The 2020 edition has gone virtual in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountainfilm offering its 2020 festival lineup through a secure online platform from May 15–25. The new Bivvy pass provides full access to over 100 films, a symposium, and additional presentations for $75. An option to purchase individual films, shorts programs, or presentations for $10 each is also available. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did!
Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies….
Each Labor Day weekend, the tiny mountain village of Telluride, Colorado triples in size. Swells of passionate film enthusiasts flood the town for four days of total cinematic immersion, embarking on a viewing odyssey, blissfully spending entire days in flickering dark rooms. With only an appreciation of celluloid to guide them, these devotees flock to the show, year after year. Why? Blind faith. Telluride doesn’t reveal the program until everyone lands in town. Yet the Telluride family trusts that a unique experience will unfold. (Telluridefilmfestival.org)
The Telluride Box Office for Cinephile, Acme and Festival level passes is open NOW. Please note that Patron Passes are sold out.
Please visit the Telluride Film Festival website to order your pass online.
If you have any questions on the best way to order your pass, or other general inquiries regarding the Festival, call 510.665.9494 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll be glad you did!
Until next time. I’ll see you at the movies!
*Featured photo courtesy of Telluride Film Festival
Filmmaker Terrence Malick’s obsession with the Book of Job has another reincarnation with his latest film, A Hidden Life, from Fox Searchlight Pictures. Exquisitely shot utilizing primarily natural lighting by Cinematographer Jorg Widmer the film is aesthetically pleasing and bursting with spiritual energy. Solid acting performances with a splash of authenticity from a relatively exclusive German-Austrian casting by Anja Dihrberg that includes August Diehl in the lead role and Valerie Pachner portrayoing his loving wife as well as Bruno Ganz, Matthias Shoenaerts and Michael Nyqvist, in supporting roles, contribute immensely to film’s thematic intent. A Hidden Life is based on the a conscientious objecting, Austrian peasant farmer, Franz Jagerstatter, who refused to take an oath of allegiance to Adolph Hitler and sacrifices everything, including his own life, rather than fight with the Nazis in WWII.
Malick sets his masterpiece in authentic Austrian and German World War II locations including the very family farmhouse of the Jagerstatters which, over the years, has become a sort of pilgrimage site. While the film is set in and around World War II, several themes emerge that are not only relevant today – they seem to be evoking men and women who have a moral compass and intestinal fortitude to stand up to what is, quite simply, inherently wrong.
A Hidden Life premiered this year at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palm d’Or, the festival’s highest award. Terrence Malick, directed and wrote the film, was awarded the François Chalais Prize. The François Chalais Prize is awarded at two main events, the Cannes Film Festival (since 1955) and the Young Reporters Awards (since 1999). The award was created in honor of French journalist and film historian, Francois Chalais. At Cannes, the prize traditionally rewards a film dedicated to the affirmation of life and journalism, It also highlights the very presence of journalists at Cannes.
And, it would be easy to look at today’s news and see a young Greta Thunberg and imagine Malick’s vision. As evocative as Thunberg’s recent performance at the United Nations Climate Action Summit was, Franz Jagerstatter’s stance was deliberately contemplative, sourcing a love and understanding of an earthly wife.Interestingly, several members of the cast and crew drew upon a set of love letters between Jagerstatter and his wife to find the correct impetus in creating characters, designing costumes and the selection of shooting locations. With production design by Sebastian Krawinkel and costuming from Lisy Christl, the work could easily pass for a period piece.
The film has a run time of two hours and fifty-three minutes and is highly recommended. The scrumptious mise-en-scene never gets old and seems to re-create itself throughout the entire film.
In addition to making its world premiere at Cannes, A Hidden Life made its North American premiere at the recent 46th Telluride Film Festival and is slated to screen in the Special Presentations at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, October 3rd through October 12th, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee.
According to IMDb.com, expect A Hidden Life in theatres on December 13th. Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!
Actor Adam Driver picks up right where he left off with his role in BlacKkKlansman as Flip Zimmerman with his portrayal of Senatorial staffer Daniel Jones in The Report, a dramatic, investigative, political thriller based on actual events. The actual events depicted in the film were conducted under the auspices of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s operation of a post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Staffer Jones begins investigating the program and discovers subversion of law, destruction of evidentiary materials and encounters stonewalling from the nation’s highest intelligence agency in their attempts to conceal the interrogation program results.
The film has a feel of a thrilling and riveting docu-drama similar to All the President’s Men with the ominous dark undertone reminiscent of the Parallax View. Notwithstanding, the buffoon-like portrayal of the $80 million program directors, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jensen, is quite disturbing and immediately brings to mind the New York City (NYC) Mayor’s Office and the NYC Police Department coerced confessions of the Central Park Five. Burns became inspired to make the film after reading a 2007 Vanity Fair article by Katherine Eban detailing how Mitchell and Jensen became the architects of the country’s enhanced interrogation movement under the George H. Bush Administration.
But, it’s Adam Driver as Daniel Jones in a Frank Serpico-like performance that makes The Report work. Having John Hamm in the mix as Denis McDonough, President Obama’s National Security Council’s chief of Strategic Communication, adds a powerful element to the story’s setting. Annette Bening delivers an uncanny likeness and seems to channel United States Senator Diane Feinstein, (D-Calif.). Maura Tierney, Sarah Goldberg, Ted Levine and Matthew Rhys help round out a strong ensemble cast assembled by Avy Kaufman. Meanwhile, Production Designer Ethan Tobman, creates a realistic set conducive to the suspension of disbelief.
And, it’s Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth that is most inspiring as Jones spends years uncovering and defending what is right. What results is a nearly 7000-page classified (still to this day) report and the longest investigation in the history of the United States Senate. What’s more mind-boggling is that few Americans are aware of it. Instead learning from what happened in the program’s, the nation’s deep state apparatus hid, stonewalled and redacted any criminal wrongdoing of the program’s sadistic directors and violated the American people’s trust which leaves the viewer to wonder and question if our democracy is broken beyond repair.
The film is slated to be released into theatres on November 15th, 2019, and will be screening during the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, Oct0ber 3rd through October 12, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. The Report is an Amazon Studios Original film, written and directed by Scott Z. Burns with a run time of 118 minutes. The story seemed unfinished…….and it is. Simply because the American people were held in the dark due to national security until now. The Report shines a bright light – illuminating power and exposing the truth. A “must-see” film!
I had the good fortune of being at the 46th Telluride Film Festival and working in the Werner Herzog Theatre with a reserved seat. I didn’t know what to expect on Saturday afternoon, the 31st of August, 2019. But before I knew it….
Bam! Hard-hitting, independent filmmakers, Safdie Brothers (Good Time), Josh and Benny, screened a frenetic film, Uncut Gems, starring, in an Oscar-caliber performance, funny-man Adam Sandler. The film is executively produced by legendary filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, and was one of my favorite films at this year’s film festival.
In Uncut Gems, Sandler plays a hustling, manic, charismatic Jewish jeweler, Howard Ratner, in New York City’s Diamond District. National Basketball Association’s future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett of the famed Boston Celtics, lends a supporting role with a remarkably cool performance as Ratner gets himself roiled into an ever-deepening crisis.
Think of Mean Streets in the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle of insatiable appetites and self-destructive behavior. Cinematographer Darius Khondji captures memorable visuals of the New York City skyline. The film’s narrative, however, belongs to Sandler via the Safdie Brothers. I found myself rooting for Ratner and then shook my head as the film’s tragic hero/anti-hero continued to hustle against all odds.
The musical score by Daniel Lopatin rocks. That’s all I can say. It rocks! Benny Safdie and co-writer Ronald Bronstein edit the film so that it mimics the roller-coaster-ride narrative. The younger viewers were gaga during the film while the older generation seemed to be going bananas with the frenetic pacing. Nevertheless, the Safdie Brothers are perfecting their art. The production values are strong and the mise-en-scene provides an abundance of detail to the film’s character and to the film’s narrative.
In the Q & A following the film, Benny and Josh Safdie discussed their love of the fast-paced, New York City Diamond District vendors and confessed their infatuation with the Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth tragic-comic novels of the Jewish-American experience. And, interestingly, in the same vein as Joel and Ethan Cohen, the Safdies do all facets of filmmaking in collaboration. Admittedly, the Safdies knew from the start they had a winner with Sandler.
Sandler, known mainly for his comedic roles, also participated in the Q & A revealing he pushed both brothers hard on his character, Howard Ratner. The result is a highly sophisticated performance that will stand as one of, if not the very best, of Adam Sandler’s career. Hats off to casting team of Francine Maisler and Jennifer Venditti. Also, Mr. Sandler’s agent’s persistence in getting his client and the Safdie’s to meet, was noted and gratefully acknowledged by Sandler himself.
With a run time of two hours and fifteen minutes the film moves at an extraordinary pace. And when it ended, it left me wanting more. More Safdie Brothers and more Howard Ratner. The film is scheduled to be released by A24 into theatres on Christmas Day, December 25th. My recommendation is after you finish shopping, catch the matinee or after dinner see the evening show. Either way you won’t be disappointed. Very warmly recommended.
Viewed as part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival at the Werner Herzog Theatre.
Written and directed by Kitty Green (Casting JonBenet, The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul), The Assistant from Cinereach and Forensic Films, tells the story of Jane, a talented young production office assistant for a powerful corporate studio head. Actress Julia Garner (Ozark) portrays the young assistant freshly out of college and new to the industry. Other cast members included stars Matthew Macfadyen, Juliana Canfield, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Dagmara Domińczyk, Makenzie Leigh, Noah Robbins, and Purva Bedi.
The film follows a day in the life of an office assistant as Director Green allows the camera to capture the mundane tasks undertaken from preparing the coffee maker to ensuring the correct number of designer water bottles are readied for an upcoming visit. As the day progresses, an angry wife calls in and the assistant is passed the call. Despite suggestions from her co-workers to assuage the wife with a plausible meeting occupying the executives time, the assistant goes her own way offering no excuse fro the executives absence leading to a blistering rebuke from the executive over the telephone. This happens again later in the day and the executive takes an interest in the assistant telling her he will make her great.
A visit to the human resource office to explain the executive’s actions including flying a beautiful young waitress in from Idaho and putting the waitress up at a posh New York City hotel and handing her a production office assistant position for which the waitress has no clue in how to do. The human resource director stonewalls the assistant’s efforts and reminds her that she is new and needs to learn from the experience if she wants a career in the industry. A supermodel shows up to retrieve an ear ring lost inside a hotel room couch under the executive’s name. All this happens on the assistant’s father’s birthday who she eventually calls from a dingy coffee shop near the office. All in a day’s work.
Undoubtedly, Green was inspired by the media frenzy surrounding the Weinstein Company and the Harvey Weinstein meltdown as the studio executive’s past actions were brought into the public eye. Interestingly, Green tangentially allows the viewer to experience the uncomfortableness from an office assistant’s point of view who has aspirations of being a film producer. Shot in darker tones and at times in a chiaroscuro palette, Cinematographer Michael Latham captures the claustrophobic and stifling atmosphere of the work space. Fletcher Chancey handled the production design with John Arnos steering the art direction. In addition, Tamar-kali composed an original score for the film.
The Assistant, with a short run time of 85 minutes, is an underscored character study that speaks volumes of the degradation and abuse that occurred inside and outside the studio executive’s workplace. Green makes a statement providing the viewer with an introspective experience of the clammy and dank office atmospheric of a powerful studio executive driving a runaway locomotive. Warmly recommended.