Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz

Where & When: Nuart Theater, West Los Angeles, CA. November 5, 2015  7:30 PM

If you asked a millennial who is Tab Hunter, I'm sure you would either get a blank look or perhaps some might guess that he's a right-wing politician or the husband of a reality star. For those who did not know, the documentary, "Tab Hunter Confidential" reveals that the blond and handsome Hunter was actually a very popular movie star during the 1950's. And he had a secret.

He came to fame during the Eisenhower era with it's rigidly defined conception of manhood. While the actor was able to portray this rugged he-man image comfortably on film, the real-life Hunter was different from those men he played in front of the camera. Jeffrey Schwarz, who has previously brought to the screen the stories of cult and underground personalities ranging from porn star, Jack Wrangler, John Waters' muse, Divine, gay activist, Vito Russo and gimmick film maker, William Castle, tells another compelling story of Hunter publicly living a lie for the price of Hollywood glory while a constant threat to his career due to the possibility of his true-nature being revealed kept him from truly enjoying his success.

He was born Arthur Kelm in New York City but ended up in sunny Los Angeles after his mother took him and his brother away from their abusive father. As a young boy, Arthur had a passion for ice-skating, horseback riding and the cinema and while he participated in the first two activities, he never imagined himself possibly being an actor.

That changed after Henry Wilson, a Hollywood agent known for his stable of attractive young studs, discovered the nineteen-year old Kelm, gave him the silly stage name and got him under contract with Warner Brothers. He had his first major role with Linda Darnell in "Island of Desire" and while the film was a hit at the box-office, Hunter's performance was not, with the actor dismissed as simply a pretty face. Deciding to gain acting experience by working on the New York stage, Hunter developed much needed skill and confidence.

Tab Hunter rose to the top during the time when an actor's image was still being carefully manufactured by a Hollywood publicity team. He was being projected as the sweet, boy-next-door type that any girl would love to bring home to mother. But Hunter was gay and the studio worked overtime to conceal his sexuality. He was seen out on studio-created dates with several of his lovely co-stars (Debbie Reynolds and French actress, Etchika Choureau, who Hunter almost married, appear briefly to discuss this) which helped not only publicize their latest film but make him appear like your average, all-American boy. This didn't stop some of the sleazier tabloid magazines to publish stories raising questions. Hunter did manage to find true romance a few times, most notably with actor Anthony Perkins of "Psycho" fame but the anxiety of the public discovering the truth caused the relationships to suffer.

Schwartz has crafted a fairly conventional doc although his examinations on strikingly bold individuals doesn't require excessive embellishments. With much of Hunter's life covered in the 2006 memoir of the same title, there aren't any new revelations disclosed.  However, that doesn't stop the film from being fascinating and thoroughly entertaining.

The eighty-four year old Hunter is low-key and easy-going with no signs of resentment or bitterness. This is surprising considering how he went from a major box-office draw and a pop-star with a number-one hit (despite a modest singing voice) but after buying out his contract from Warner Bros.in 1960, struggled to find work. He spent a number of years doing dinner theater, television dramas and B-movies before John Waters offered Hunter a role opposite Divine in the 1981 Odorama comedy, "Polyester". It became a cult classic and put Hunter back in the spotlight.

Long retired and living happily on his horse ranch in Santa Barbara with Allan Glaser, his partner of over thirty years (and one of the film's producers), "Tab Hunter Confidential" shows that the actor came out of Hollywood relatively unscathed despite the arduous challenges the system put him through. It would be great to say that actors today no longer have to live in fear that revealing their actual sexuality could cost them work but the truth is that it still remains a complicated issue. We have certainly come a long way since Hunter's days as a closeted movie star but the evolution still continues.

Monday, November 16, 2015


There has been much recent talk about how female directors are woefully underrepresented in the film industry. But this is hardly surprising news and has been discussed and discussed over the years yet not much has changed.

New York magazine has complied a list of 100 female directors that Hollywood should be utilizing their gifts. Looking over this list, I was shocked to see the names of wonderful directors that have made some of my favorite films (Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou"), Niki Caro ("Whale Rider"), Mary Harron ("American Psycho"), Sarah Polley ("Away From Her"), Amy Heckerling ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High") and Penny Marshall ("Big") to name just a few) and realizing either the huge gap between features or in some cases, still waiting to make another film.  I really hope film executives and producers look at this collection of film makers and will finally wake up and hire some of this great, underutilized talent.

Click below to read the article:

100 Female Directors Hollywood Should be Hiring

Friday, November 13, 2015

BURNT (2015)

Written by Steven Knight

Directed by John Wells

Where & When: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA.  November 2, 2015  9:45PM

"Burnt", an under cooked romantic drama, features the swoon-worthy Bradley Cooper as an American two-star chef that became a superstar in Paris before squandering his talent in a haze of booze, drugs and women. Now clean and sober, he's seeking redemption and forgiveness while attempting to rebuild his career and reputation. Director John Wells, best known for his fine work on television with "ER", "The West Wing" and "Shameless" and for the feature, "August: Osage County", is more than capable of getting amazing work from his performers and shaping together a compelling story. Yet he's unable to put these ingredients together here in a satisfying way, leaving "Burnt" flat and indigestible.

Having served a self-imposed penance in New Orleans for his past sins, Adam Jones (Cooper) is ready to begin again. Broke but still able to charm, Jones checks in to the swanky hotel in London managed by Tony (Daniel Brühl), a former associate. Skeptical of his old friend's claims of cleaning up his act, he's completely floored when Jones suggests they open a new restaurant together. Although trust has to be earned, because of Jones' amazing gift in the kitchen, eventually Tony is willing to overlook his destructive behavior of the past and take another chance. He's not the only one. Omar Sy plays another friend burned by Jones but willing to work by his side in this new venture.

And where does the romance come in? That's in the form of Sienna Miller, re-teaming with her "American Sniper" co-star, as a single mother quite content working as a sous chef in Tony's restaurant at the hotel. Initially unaffected by the brutish charisma of Adam Jones yet finds herself forcibly drawn in to his kitchen and inescapably in to his arms. Cooper and Miller still have a nice chemistry which helps yet not enough to make this unlikely couple coming together believable.

The goal of acquiring a third Michelin star for his new fine dining establishment will be an uphill climb for Jones. His kitchen staff has not yet developed the proper rhythm required. The successful restaurant of a rival cook (Matthew Rhys) from his past lights a fire under Jones while some dealers that tracked him down and owed a substantial sum of money are ready set him on fire. And as the pressure build, the demons that unraveled Jones previously threaten to resurface.

With the countless cooking programs on the air, the atmosphere of intense pressure and controlled chaos that goes on behind the scenes is no longer a mystery. We now expect the wild and burning passion that goes on in a restaurant's kitchen however you won't find much to crave in this pedestrian script by Steven Knight. What is served up, at best, is lukewarm melodrama. If you expect to see fascinatingly complex characters, you would do better to tune in to any episode of "Top Chef".

Mr. Cooper, all scruff and sexy swagger, is quite appealing as the arrogant bad boy. While the actor impresses with skillfully performing like a professional chef,  this material doesn't give him much else to work with. This forces Cooper to coast mostly on his physical attributes though we know he's able to do much more like his Oscar-nominated work in "Silver Linings Playbook", "American Hustle" and the aforementioned "American Sniper".

The most criminal offense about "Burnt" is how it completely wastes the talents of some great actresses. Not only are their appearances far too brief but they're not given much to do. This includes Lily James of "Downton Abbey" and the star of Disney's live-action hit, "Cinderella", Uma Thurman as a lesbian food critic that somehow couldn't resist Adam's sexual charms, this year's It girl, Alicia Vikander as Adam's former lover and most tragic of all; the wonderful Oscar-winner, Emma Thompson resigned to playing a dowdy psychoanalyst assigned to drawing blood to be sure our chef is not using and keep check on his mental state.

If you are looking to simply savior in the joy of Bradley Cooper and his piercing blue eyes, then "Burnt" will certainly satisfy your appetite. However, if you want a drama with a little more meat on it's bones, then you might want to skip this course.

Friday, October 30, 2015


Written by Aaron Sorkin

Directed by Danny Boyle

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. October 9, 2015 8:05PM

Do you think you could imagine functioning without your beloved iphone?

I'm sure you would be fine but for many, that thought would simply never enter their heads. Thanks to the genius of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, used impressive showmanship and the skill of a seasoned huckster to thoroughly convince millions during his lifetime that their lives would be unmanageable and unimaginable without one of his computer products in their hot, sweaty hands.

Under the nimble direction of Danny Boyle and an expeditious script by Aaron Sorkin, the remarkable "Steve Jobs" explores the fascinating story of the man behind the machine, both physical and metaphysical. Instead of trying to cover all of the details in Jobs' expansive history, the film is broken in to three key moments in the inventor's life. Beginning in 1984 with the launch of the Macintosh, then four years later with Jobs, after being forced out of Apple, introducing his next venture, the NeXT computer to 1998 with the return of Jobs to Apple and the unveiling of the game changer; the iMac.

There is no physical similarity but Michael Fassbender is quite effective with an understated performance as he deeply embodies the inner workings of Jobs. And it ain't pretty. Ruthlessly driven, highly demanding, self-involved and emotionally detached, the man behind the curtain turns out to be nothing more than an asshole. A very gifted and creative visionary but still an asshole.

With the "1984"-inspired commercial that played during the Super Bowl, buzz has reached a feverish pitch around the new Macintosh but with a hour to go before the reveal, Jobs refuses to begin. He wants the device to say "hello" before the audience but there's a glitch and programmer, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlberg) doesn't think he can fix it before the launch. Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), a weary, Apple marketing executive and close confidant, wants him to be reasonable but Jobs relentlessly browbeats Hertzfeld until he gets what he wants.

Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), the other co-founder of Apple, shows up to plead with Jobs to publicly thank the team behind the Apple II. He refuses, proclaiming that he only wants to look forward, not back.

And waiting in the wings is Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), Jobs' former girlfriend with their daughter, Lisa. Not only is she upset that Jobs told Time Magazine that despite the paternity test determining the he's "94.1% likely to be the father" there's still 28% of the male population that could be Lisa's father but has to plead with the brand-new millionaire to provide more financial support or she'll have to go on welfare.

Sorkin's rapid fire script wastes no time revealing Jobs' abrasive manner, raving egomania and insensitivity but Fassbender's natural charm smooths out some of the jagged edges, showing glimmers of decency and kindness that the real Jobs had to have in order to have succeeded.

After a power struggle over Apple's future with the company's CEO and father figure, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Jobs loses the battle. Four years later with Joanna by his side, he is about to launch his newest venture, the NeXT computer. Wozniak shows up to lend support but Jobs only wants to confront him over negative statements he made to Fortune Magazine. Jobs has finally acknowledged the nine year old, Lisa as his child but still has no clear idea how to be her father.

As Apple enters the 1990's, the company has fallen on hard times leading to Sculley to be ousted and Jobs triumphantly returning home. By this point, most of his long-time close allies have either disappeared or grown impatient and fatigued from dealing with the mercurial Jobs. His relationship to the college bound, Lisa (now played by Perla Haney-Jardine) has frayed to the point that they're not speaking and refuses to pay for her education. Finally fed-up, Joanna threatens to walk away unless he makes it right with his daughter.

"Steve Jobs" had a long, tortured history beginning at Sony with Sorkin's script initially to be directed by David Fincher and Christian Bale as Jobs. Those two eventually dropped out and Boyle came aboard with Fassbender in the role. But then Sony dropped the project (with the notorious e-mail leaks indicating the casting of Fassbender to be one of the concerns) and found a new home at Universal. The Oscar-winning director has made fascinating entertainment from dark and challenging stories like "Shallow Grave", "Trainspotting", "127 Hours" and his Best Picture winner,"Slumdog Millionaire". He has achieved this once again with "Steve Jobs" by taking Sorkin's vivid but highly theatrical screenplay and keeping this chamber piece visually dynamic with the help of cinematographer, Alwin H. Küchler. Despite these efforts, there are moments that still feel static and repetitive but it's the outstanding performances that help keep the film in motion. Our key players, Fassbender, Winslet, Daniels and Rogan, bring much needed charm, warmth and a little humor to this somber, word-heavy affair.

As with many talented people, Steve Jobs was flawed and damaged but the volcanic "Steve Jobs" shows, despite his shortcomings, what an important, lasting impact he made on our society. For better and for worse, Jobs helped usher in the digital age, making our lives easier and much more complicated in the process.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


The 2015 AFI FEST is just around the corner as it begins on November 5th and concluding on the 12th. It remains one of major film festivals that continues to offer free individual tickets to screenings and events as a gift to the community. Once again, the fest will be held in the heart of Hollywood at several different locations including TCL Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, the El Capitan Theatre and The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There will be a total of 127 features and shorts selected from forty-five countries.

The opening film will be "By The Sea", the latest feature by Angelina Jolie and stars the writer/director and her husband Brad Pitt. Set during the mid-seventies, an American couple vacation in France as the strain in their marriage begins to surface. Once they arrive at a quiet, seaside town, they are distracted by some of the colorful locals. Mélanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud also star. "By The Sea" will arrive in U.S. theaters on November 13th.

There will be three centerpiece galas with “Concussion”, the Will Smith drama about the forensic pathologist who fought the NFL on revealing his findings on how the players have a greater chance of suffering from brain trauma, making it's world premiere on November 10th.

"The 33", a tense drama based on the real-life incident of thirty-three Chilean miners trapped in a collapsed mine and the frantic rush to rescue them. Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro and Gabriel Byrne star in this film directed by Patricia Riggen.

After a six year absence, the combative film maker, Michael Moore returns with a new documentary "Where To Invade Next". The film explores how the United States is apparently looking at countries such as Finland, Italy and France as possible contenders for our "next great enemy".

Brad Pitt appears again in the closing night film, "The Big Short" on November 12th. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, the film looks at the people warning that the build-up of the housing and credit bubble would inevitably lead to the devastating collapse of the U.S. financial market back in 2008. The impressive cast includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei. Adam McKay directs.

AFI FEST Patron Packages and Express Passes are available right now for purchase. Free tickets will be available to the general public online beginning Monday, October 26. For additional information, please go to:


Thursday, October 22, 2015


It may seem a wee bit early to be proclaiming the "best of the year", considering it's only October and some of the potential nominees haven't even been released in theaters yet. Regardless, the Gotham Independent Film Awards are the first to announce their nominations. This collective of film critics, journalists, festival programmers, and film curators determine the nominees while separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers and editors will be involved in deciding the final winners.

I'm thrilled that two of my favorite films of the year received major recognition. "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" received the most nominations with four including Best Feature and Best Actress for Bel Powley while "Tangerine" was awarded three for Best Feature and Best Breakthrough Actor noms for the leads, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. I'm hoping this is just the beginning for these great films and the nominations will bring more overdue attention to them. I'm also happy to see that veterans, Blythe Danner ("I'll See You In My Dreams") and Lily Tomlin ("Grandma") are up for Best Actress and the Brian Wilson bio, "Love & Mercy" and Noah Baumbach's "While We're Young" received Best Screenplay nominations.

The 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards will be held in New York on November 30th at Cipriani Wall Street, and will also honor filmmaker Todd Haynes, actors Robert Redford and Helen Mirren, and producer Steve Golin. Here is the list of nominations:


"The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
"Heaven Knows What"


Phyllis Nagy, "Carol"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner, "Love & Mercy"
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, "Spotlight"
Noah Baumbach, "While We're Young"


Desiree Akhavan, "Appropriate Behavior"
Jonas Carpigano, "Mediterranea"
Marielle Heller, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
John Magary, "The Mend"
Josh Mond, "James White"


Christopher Abbott,"James White"
Kevin Corrigan, "Results"
Paul Dano, "Love & Mercy"
Peter Sarsgaard, "Experimenter"
Michael Shannon, "99 Homes"


Cate Blanchett, "Carol"
Blythe Danner, "I’ll See You in My Dreams"
Brie Larson, "Room"
Bel Powley, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Lily Tomlin, "Grandma"
Kristen Wiig, "Welcome to Me"


Rory Culkin, "Gabriel"
Arielle Holmes, "Heaven Knows What"
Lola Kirke, "Mistress America"
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, "Tangerine"
Mya Taylor, "Tangerine"


"Approaching the Elephant"
"Cartel Land"
"Heart of a Dog"
"Listen to Me Marlon"
"The Look of Silence"

Monday, October 19, 2015


"Bridge of Spies", the Cold-War drama, did surprisingly well this past weekend making over fifteen million dollars. I know part of the appeal was star Tom Hanks but the other major draw to the film was director Steven Spielberg.

Another surprising fact is that "Bridge" becomes the twenty-ninth feature directed by Spielberg. That made think back on some of my favorites like "Jaws" (which really scared the hell out of this then-thirteen year old boy), the "Raiders of The Lost Ark" series, "Jurrasic Park", "The Color Purple", "Catch Me If You Can" and "Close Encounters of The Third Kind". "Amistad", "Saving Private Ryan", "Lincoln" and "Schindler's List" were films I admired more than really liked. And the less said about "Always", "Empire of The Sun", "The Terminal" and "Hook", the better. Overall, I think Mr Spielberg has made an impressive body of work and should be quite proud of his accomplishments in the world of cinema.

New York magazine has compiled an interesting ranking of Mr. Spielberg's films (including his recent "Bridge of Spies") from his least successful to his very best. Click below to read the article:

All 29 Steven Spielberg Movies, Ranked from Worst to Best