Blog - Photo Blog Written by John Shea
Yup. Way behind.
Last day of the 2010 FilmColumbia film festival. And boy is my ass tired. 21 movies in five days on not the greatest theater seats in the world is pretty punishing to a rear end. The photo today is from a Q&A between actor Stephen Lang and author Peter Biskind. Lang is best known at this moment for being the villain of that little film Avatar. He had two movies at this festival, Christina and White Irish Drinkers. I recommend both movies but my favorite of the pair was White Irish Drinkers. It's an excellent movie still in need of a distributor, so if you get a chance to see it, don't miss it.
Starting off the day was the drama Rabbit Hole. It stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. It's a brilliantly acted and written movie that is emotionally devastating. I think I hated it. Not really, but it is the sort of movie that I'll probably only watch once, simply because I don't want to drag myself through that again.
Next was Biutiful, from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, working for the first time without screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. This is a tough movie to judge. Maybe exhaustion was setting in but I dozed off a couple times in this. It is long at a run time of 138 minutes. But I had a hard time with the main character, played by Javier Bardem. Too many different and sometimes conflicting elements went into him for me to deal with well. This could be my personality though. As a born skeptic, I had trouble with some supernatural elements that weren't established clearly enough for me to accept. I have no problem with supernatural movies but in this case I could never be sure if it was real or the character, and that kept me emotionally distant from him. It might work for others though.
Up next was Miral, Julian Schnabel's follow up to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It's a good movie but more than a bit flawed. The structure is odd and the title character quite passive. I was much more interested in the figure of Hind Husseini, a true life figure who seems more than a bit extraordinary. Miral was a product of Hind's work, but not nearly as interesting as Hind herself.
Christina is a small movie, just three characters in one room. But it is very well written and slowly drips out a horrific story that gets more tense and unsettling as the movie progresses. Good stuff and well worth seeing. Had a bit of a TV feel to it though, which made me wonder if it was video shot at 30fps instead of the film standard of 24fps.
Next was a brutal stylish revenge film called Red Hill. This sort of movie we don't see much anymore. It's tough, bloody and nasty and the crowd ate it up. Kind of an Australian take on Sergio Leone. Pretty high praise I think. Check it out.
Finally, closing the festival was The King's Speech. This stars Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth and tells the story of the succession to the throne of King George VI. This movie is nothing short of brilliant. The acting, cinematography, script and direction are all top notch. This is going to pick up a lot of awards. I don't want to say much more than that because I knew nothing about it going in and was delighted with discovering it that way. Go see it.
That's it for this year's festival. As always it was great fun and highly informative. I can't wait for next year. Although my ass is grateful for the break.
The first event was not a movie but a screenwriting panel where local writers bring in scenes from their scripts and have them read cold by professional actors. Being an aspiring screenwriter, that's gold. Particularly exciting was that this year's panel included Peter Reigert, who has been in tons of things but is probably best remembered for Animal House. And since I've seen that movie about 800 times, that was very cool. I decided to bring a scene from my just completed first draft of Hive. I know some writers bring really polished stuff hoping to wow the crowd. Personally I want to learn so I bring a scene that I find problematic or I just don't know if it works or not. Hearing it read aloud makes it so much clearer than reading it to myself. Each previous year I learned something interesting and this was no exception. I quickly pointed out my own biggest problem with it and the panel had all manner of good advice on how to improve it.
As for the movies, I only saw three for the day. I had to miss Danny Boyle's new movie 127 Hours because the panel ran long. The first one I did see was Made in Dagenham. This is based on a true story in which women working at Ford plants in Britain went on strike to demand equal pay. This one is a real crowd pleaser, particularly if there are a lot of women in the crowd. This screening was punctuated with frequent rounds of applause from the women in the audience. I liked it but found it pretty predictable.
Next was Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. It follows a ballet company that is preparing to put on a new version of Swan Lake in which the White Swan and Black Swan parts are played by the same woman. That's about all I want to say about the story details because the pleasure in this one is figuring it out as it goes along. Natalie Portman has the starring role and it is easily her best work to date. She is magnificent. I don't even want to talk about the details of her performance. That might give too much away. I loved this movie. It was shocking, thrilling and nerve wracking. The camera work is astonishing. But this is a movie that will divide audiences. I talked to a lot of people about this and they either loved it or were repulsed by it. And for the record, I have zero interest in ballet and loved it, so don't think that could decide how you fall on this movie.
Finally for the night was Fair Game. It is directed by Doug Liman and starred Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. It tells the story of the Bush White House's outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame for political reasons. I followed this case in the new pretty closely, as I was appalled at the behavior of White House officials in this incident. As a result, I remembered the details pretty well. And somehow it felt more confused and muddled after watching the movie. The first act is a nearly incoherent vomiting of exposition. The second act was alternating scenes of Sean Penn righteously screaming at someone and Naomi Watts selflessly worrying about Iraqi scientists. The third act was just heavy handed and ham fisted dialog brutally hammering home the point that this was an injustice. In real life, Plame has my sympathy. But the movie was a disaster.
This was a damn busy day at the festival. I caught another five movies today, bringing my three day total to thirteen. Yes, my ass is getting tired.
Up first was The Illusionist. No, not the Edward Norton movie. This one is animated by Sylvain Chomet, who previously brought us the brilliant Triplets of Belleville. This time he's a lot less weird but a lot more emotional. It's a sad tale of a small time magician, traveling the land looking for work. Indirectly it shows the slow sad death of variety acts as the world moves on to TV and movies.
Next was Tiny Furniture. Now, I was excited to see this one because it was shot with a Canon 7D DSLR camera, which uses the exact same sensor as my Canon T2i. I was dying to see just how well that can translate to the big screen. And the answer is pretty damn well. Producer Kyle Martin was on hand to answer questions, so I made a point of picking his brain on how they dealt with shooting on a DSLR. As for the film itself, it is great and funny as hell. Writer/director Lena Dunham does a brilliant job of tackling the little humiliations of life, particularly for someone with a less than perfect body. It is well worth your time to check out.
White Irish Drinkers was the third movie. Written and directed by John Gray, it's a coming of age story set in Brooklyn in the mid 70s. And it is a hell of a film. This wasn't on my radar at all but it's a really solid movie with some great moments. Gray and actors Peter Riegert (Animal House) and Stephen Lang (Avatar) showed up to take questions from the crowd. I was pretty pleased to note that Lang, a monstrous bad ass in Avatar, stands no taller than I do.
Fourth on the dance card was Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. This documentary was made by Alex Gibney, who picked up an Oscar a couple years ago for Taxi to the Dark Side. I'm a little torn on this one. From a critical standpoint, it's a solidly made documentary. Gibney makes one really bold choice that pays off pretty well. But as a resident of New York, and a pretty political guy, I had some problems with it. Most notably, I could feel Mr. Gibney's political leanings coming through. There is the distinct sense that Spitzer was the subject of a political hit, and quite a lot of the movie is devoted to that idea. Spitzer certainly had enemies but the problem with a conspiracy story is that Spitzer is guilty of breaking the law and incredible hypocrisy. But that doesn't seem to matter to some folks. When given the chance to ask questions after the movie, a string of people stepped up to complain that a variety of alternate conspiracy theories hadn't been analyzed in the movie. Maybe it's just me. I have zero respect for the Republican and Democratic parties. So when one of them turns out to be crooked, I'm very comfortable ditching them. For devotees of those parties, that doesn't seem to be the case. Puzzling. Anyway, if the subject interests you, check it out. Gibney's a good filmmaker, even if he can't completely set aside his biases.
Finally came Suck. This is a comedy about a struggling rock band that finds its fortunes turning after the bass player is turned into a vampire. It's a very funny movie with a host of great cameos by the likes of Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Malcolm McDowell and Dave Foley. I dug it a lot but wished the crowd was bigger. This is definitely the sort of movie that will feed of a big audience in the mood for fun.
This is day two of the 2010 FilmColumbia film festival and I bring you a photo that has nothing to do with the festival at all, apart from being taken just down the street from the theater. Truth be told, there wasn't an exciting photo op at the festival today, so I did some street photography instead.
As for the festival I saw five, yes five, films today. Up first was White Material, by director Claire Denis, starring Isabelle Huppert. It's about a white coffee plantation owner in Cameroon during a revolution. She's desperately trying to get the crop in before somebody kills them all. If you like glacially paced films with little dialog and lots of arty shots, this is the movie for you. Personally I was bored.
Next was The Princess of Montpensier by director Bertrand Tavernier. When the film was introduced they said the director wanted to make the quintessential French film. And it certainly is French. It's a period piece, set in the 1500s during war between Protestants and Catholics. The title character is married off for political reasons despite being deep in heat with some other guy of some nobility. So you have a love triangle, except then her husband's mentor falls for her too, making it a love rectangle. Until of course, yet another noble guy falls for her, turning it into a love pentagon. The movie has a cool score and some battle scenes, keeping it from being a complete kleenex factory. But the love stuff falls pretty flat, at least for me, for the simple reason that I didn't actually like any of these characters.
It was starting to seem like a rocky day until Mike Leigh came to the rescue with his latest movie, Another Year. It's a tad long but spectacularly acted and very sharply observant. There is no story to speak of. It revolves around an older couple who are deeply in love and severely charming. Their odd friends and family drift in and out and use the couple as their anchor in life. I'm really not kidding about the no story part, so you might find the structure a bit jarring. But if that isn't a concern, this is a wonderful film.
After that was The Debt, a thriller starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson. John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directs. This is a top notch film about a trio of Mossad agents sent to hunt down a Nazi war criminal. Years later, things come to light that cast great doubt on that mission. I don't want to go into much detail on this one, so just trust me, this is a great thriller and worth your time.
Finally, rounding out the day was Stone. This stars Edward Norton, Robert DeNiro and Mila Jovovich. This was a frustrating film. DeNiro plays a prison counselor who gets Norton as a client. This starts out really well. Norton sports corn rows and a weird voice with hundred mile an hour wise cracking delivery. I was delighted. Clearly two hours of verbal jousting between two great actors was about to occur. Settle back, grab the popcorn and get ready to be wowed. Sadly that didn't really happen. Part way through the movie suddenly went all new age and Norton settled down and steadily decreased the verbal fireworks. By the end, Jovovich was stealing scenes from both of them. She was great as a seductress. She slid easily between sexy, playful, devious and feigned innocence. There's a whole faith and redemption theme going here but it took me an hour after the movie to sort it all out. They just didn't seem to know what they wanted this movie to be so it lurched around trying to do too many things. This one felt like a real missed opportunity.
That's all for today. Another report tomorrow.
Here we see the first few people arriving at the Crandell Theater in Chatham, NY for the 2010 FilmColumbia film festival. You may not have heard of it but it is a hell of a festival. Five days, three venues and dozens of features and shorts. I've been going for the last seven years and loving just about every minute of it. How such a great festival sprung up in a tiny town like mine is beyond me.
Today I saw three films. The first is Night Catches Us, starring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland). It's set in the mid-70s and takes a look at what happened in the aftermath of the destruction of the Black Panther movement. Now, I admit not being terribly knowledgeable about the Panthers. So that definitely affects how I view the movie. I'm a bit too young to remember this stuff personally and haven't really studied it, so I have no preconceived notions to deal with. That said I thought it was an excellent film. The Panthers are just about as murky to me as before seeing the movie but I now have some idea what it would be like to try and live with that in your past. The acting is excellent and it is a beautifully shot film. It does a wonderful job of mixing urban decay with wilderness imagery and uses depth of field to great effect to help tell the story. Definitely recommended.
Next was the French film Partir, starring Kristin Scott Thomas. She plays a bored housewife who rather suddenly has a torrid affair with an ex-convict. Thomas is magnificent in the lead role. Her ability to speak volumes about her character with the tiniest shift of expression is brilliant. That said, I'm not a huge fan of the movie. Her husband is never well fleshed out, which makes it much harder to understand her actions. And I had the third act pretty much figured out well in advance. But it could well be worth your time just to watch her performance.
Finally, there was The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, the third film based on Stieg Larsson's series of novels about the cyber witch Lisbeth Salander. I haven't seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but did see The Girl Who Played With Fire. I felt a bit lost in the second movie due to having missed the first but felt on much firmer ground with the third. This is a thriller of sorts, albeit an odd one in which the title character is confined for almost the entire movie. It's a tale of conspiracy and intrigue and all that sort of thing. And it's two and a half hours long. The first couple hours buzzed along pretty nicely for a movie built almost entirely out of exposition. But by the time that last half hour rolls around, I was checking the clock pretty frequently. Noomi Rapace isn't given much to do but stare sullenly at one character after another, barely speaking for two thirds of the movie. I liked the second film in the series a lot more. I'll probably make the effort to go back and watch the first film, just to see if that changes my view of the other two.
I'll be back tomorrow with another photo and more mini reviews.
There was a horrible accident last night at the end of my road. I don't have a lot of details at this point. A firefighter drove down the road, responding to an emergency call. Something went wrong and he missed the turn completely and slammed into a telephone pole. He didn't survive. I suspect something happened before he hit the pole, like a heart attack. It was a heartbreaking moment. Seeing his family as they discovered his fate is something I won't soon forget.
This isn't a photo of the accident. It shows the power crews working hard to replace the downed pole. This shot was taken around 2 AM, several hours after the accident. These guys have a pretty thankless task, cleaning up after a mess like this. They are easily forgotten in the aftermath, which is a shame. They are dedicated and hard working and deserve a little recognition for their work. Thanks guys.
Page 3 of 26<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>