Saturday, July 24, 2010

GREAT DIRECTORS (2010)

Written & Directed by Angela Ismailos


Where & When: Nuart Theater, West Los Angeles, CA. June 30, 2010  5:10PM

Being a hardcore movie buff, I was really looking forward to seeing this documentary, "Great Directors" by Angela Ismailos in which she interviews ten film directors.

They may not be household names and their films are far from your typical Hollywood fare but they are certainly a very important part of cinema.Their work is powerful, controversial and challenging but you can also see in them the innovation that has continued to influence and inspire today's film makers. It's clear that it was necessary for each of these directors to create motion pictures that are of their own unique vision, without compromise.

These brilliant directors are from around the world and have created some of my favorite films. They are:

Bernardo Bertolucci, "The Conformist" (1970), "Last Tango In Paris" (1972), "The Last Emperor" (1987)

Catherine Breillat, "Romance" (1999), "Fat Girl" (2001)

Lilana Cavari, "The Night Porter" (1974)

Stephen Frears, "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "The Grifters" (1990), "The Queen" (2006)

Todd Haynes, "Poison" (1991), "Far From Heaven" (2002)

Richard Linklater, "Dazed and Confused" (1993), "Before Sunrise" (1995), "Before Sunset" (2004)

Ken Loach, "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" (2006)

David Lynch, "Blue Velvet" (1986), "Mulholland Drive" (2001)

John Sayles, "The Brother From Another Planet" (1984), "Passion Fish" (1992), "Sunshine State" (2002)

Agnes Varda, "Cleo From 5 to 7" (1962), "The Beaches Of Agnes" (2009)

This is an impressive line-up.

Now you would think with all of this talent and all of the fascinating stories I'm sure they would all have to share, that this would be a compelling film that all fans of the cinema must see. I am sad to report that this documentary is a disappointment and an opportunity to properly showcase these artists is squandered.

While the idea is great and it's a smart selection of film makers, the problem begins and ends with the pretty and blond, Ms Ismailos. She has seemed to have gone to the Michael Moore school of documentary film, because she has placed herself front and center in this piece. I don't know who Ms Ismailos is or what her background is but what I do know is that she's no Michael Moore. She doesn't have the skill nor any known authority to use herself in this film without being way too disruptive. I really didn't want to see her on camera or hear her ramble on about her thoughts on these film makers. I would have preferred to just only hear directly from the directors themselves, like a proper documentary should.

Now, while it was fascinating to listen to these different film makers discussing their history, influences and ideas, I hated how these interviews were assembled in this documentary. Too often there seemed to be no rhyme or reason and they jumped back and forth between the directors without any visible connection between their discussions.The film clips that were used from some of the director's finest work were not used to their best advantage and didn't link up to anything they were talking about.

My suggestion would be to skip "Great Directors" and if you haven't seen any of the films that I have listed above, go and see them. That will give you a better idea of who these directors are and what they have to say.

EAT PRAY LOVE


Dean wanted a book to read on our trip to Palm Springs a while back, so a friend gave him "Eat Pray Love", the best selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is her story of how she ended her marriage and went off around the world to get in touch with herself and to discover what she was missing in her life. He really liked the book.

It was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling and want to make a movie from this novel and so they got a movie star.  Julia Roberts will be playing Ms Gilbert in the film version. "Glee" creator, Ryan Murphy, has co-written and directed the film and features James Franco, Viola Davis and Javier Bardem.

I am in the middle of reading the book myself and I hope I can finish it before the film is released. Just not enough time in my day. It should be released in U.S. theaters on August 13, 2010.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

NOTES FROM OUTFEST 2010

I am back from my visit to Michigan and I'm ready to catch some films at this year's Outfest.

JULY 14, 2010:

"FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEAT MARKET"



This is a fascinating and charming documentary on the gregarious Florent Morellet, a French native who came to New York and opened a restaurant in, at the time, a crazy location: the meat packing district.

Florent, the all-night diner, became the place to go and was open to everyone from celebrities, club kids, families and tranny hookers. All of these people share their thoughts and warm feelings about Florent, the man and the restaurant. It was there for twenty three years and helped contribute in remaking the area in to a hip and stylish part of city before having to shut down because of an outrageous rent increase.

Florent is a wild, fun loving and thoughtful person and activist and I hope this film get a theatrical release because people should see this film.



JULY 15, 2010:

"FROM URANUS TO TITICACA"

This is a collection of 14 comedic short films that range from high camp, smutty instructional videos, television spoofs, bizarre puppets and "actress", Tanya Roberts pushing a trip to Tahiti. I didn't think most of these were particularly funny and even though the films were short, they felt either underdeveloped or the jokes went on for far too long but I did enjoy a few:

Two mildly entertaining episodes of "Fagney & Gaycey", a gay male take of the television cop show, "Go Go Reject", a film more cute than humorous, is the story of a "Flashdance" obsessed, twink who dreams of becoming a stripper but is told he's just too skinny and the best of the bunch, "Bella Maddo" a weird but actually kinda funny soap opera that has transsexuals and drag kings playing the leads about an aging, vain and selfish mother, a perfect blend of Joan Crawford and Dina Lohan, and the abuse she heaps upon her young daughter, all in the name of love.


JULY 16, 2010:

"PAULISTA (QUANTO DURA O AMOR?)"


Marina, a struggling actress, leaves behind her small town goes to Sao Paulo for a new start. She moves in with Suzana, a lawyer and befriends Jay, who lives in the building. They are all searching for love but try to find it with all of the wrong people. Marina falls for a female bisexual singer who is troubled, Jay is in love with a girl that he has to pay to be with and Suzana gets involved with someone at work but she has a dark secret that she fears may jeopardize their relationship.

The film is very melodramatic, which I normally don't mind but this time it just didn't work for me. It was all too predictable and the characters were not particularly interesting.



JULY 17, 2010

"I KILLED MY MOTHER (J'AI TUE MA MERE)"


Xaiver Dolan, the cute, twenty-one year old writer/director of this semi-autobiographical story, won three prizes at the 2009 Cannes Festival for his terrific first film.

This is the story of a single mother and her gay teenage son, Hubert (played by Mr. Dolan) who have a serious issue with communication. He is a difficult kid and prone to unreasonable outbursts but the problem is that instead of dealing with him like a mature adult, his mother acts as much of a child as he does.

After given an class assignment to interview his parents, Hubert tells his teacher his mother is dead so he wouldn't have to deal with her. This information obviously get back to her and makes their bad relationship even worse.

A great script, wonderfully rich performances and beautiful cinematography makes this definitely my favorite that I saw at the festival and one of my favorite films I've seen this year. I highly recommend you seek this one out.



JULY 18, 2010:


"FROM BEGINNING TO END (DO COMECO AO FIM)"


This is another film from Brazil and it's about two half brothers who we meet as children. They are very close which causes some concern by their mother, who fears that something beyond brotherly love is going on between them, although to me, it seems like she is overeacting, considering their ages. However, when they become young men and their mother passes away, the brothers feel it okay to start a passionate, sexual relationship.

To be honest, I found this to be very erotic, despite the incest theme however, with all of the stunningly beautiful people and the film's glossy shine, "From Beginning To End" never raises much above a gay porn fantasy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

KNIGHT AND DAY (2010)

Written by Patrick O'Neill


Directed by James Mangold


Where & When: Quality Cinemas, Canton, MI.  July 6, 2010 2:00PM



Tom Cruise is back.

Although he wasn't necessarily missed but he is back with Cameron Diaz, his co-star in "Vanilla Sky" (2001) , the really bad remake of a really good Spanish film, "Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos)" (1997), in "Knight and Day", a film that tries to mix together action, comedy, thrills, mystery and romance but just ends up with a loud and incoherent mess.

I have to give the film a little credit as it's an original summer movie and not an unnecessary sequel or a pointless remake, which I realize is a very sad statement to make.

It begins at the airport in Wichita, where June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is trying to catch a plane after purchasing parts for a Pontiac GTO when she smashes into a charming and handsome man named, Roy (Tom Cruise). There is an instant attraction between them but she continues on through airport security.

While preparing to board the plane, she slams in to Roy again. After the apologies, they engage in flirty small talk before June is informed that she has been bumped from the flight. She begs to get on because she has to get back for a dress fitting for her sister's wedding but it's of no use. She watches as Roy boards the plane.

CIA agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) has been surveying the whole situation and thinks she's working with Roy and has her placed back on the airplane.

When June gets on the flight, there are only a handful of people on the 747. She thinks it's a little odd but she doesn't question it. June soon gets back to flirting with Roy before excusing herself to go to the restroom. While she is away, all of the passengers of the plane begin to attack Roy with assorted weapons but he effortlessly takes each one of them down including the pilots.

June returns to her seat completely unaware of what has happened. Roy calmly explains to her that everyone on board is dead and they are going to have to land the plane themselves. She just thinks he's joking at first until she sees the seated bodies shifting on to the floor as the plane starts to head straight down.

After surviving a crash landing without a scratch, Roy has some explaining to do. He tells June that he is a CIA agent on the run from both the CIA and a Spanish arms dealer who both want, for very different reasons, a powerful battery, and it's up to Roy to make sure it doesn't fall in to the wrong hands but what if Roy's hands are wrong?

Poor June doesn't know what to do or who to believe but Roy has gotten her involved in this and if she wants to stay alive, she will have to trust him and stay by his side.

Roy drags June with him as they are chased, shot at, tortured, have missiles fired at and nearly trampled by bulls all the while traveling around many glamorous locations like Austria, Spain, and Kansas.

"Knight and Day" (which was originally called "Wichita" which is a slightly better title) is fun, high energy and action packed which is what people expect of their summer movies but when it tries to give us more, this is where the film runs in to little trouble.

Although the story in very convoluted, the script actually has a few well written moments scattered throughout but they are overshadowed by the monotonous, over the top action sequences and bad attempts at humor that just throws the film's tone too much out of balance. It really didn't work that well in "Mr & Mrs. Smith"(2005) either, which is that film's style that this is unsuccessfully trying to emulate but at least it had the sexual chemistry of Brad and Angelina while "Knight and Day" has a game Ms Diaz but a sexless Mr.Cruise which equals zero in the chemistry department.

The leads bring out all of their charisma and star quality that we have come to expect from them and the talented supporting players, which include Viola Davis and Paul Dano, who all earn their big paychecks by distracting the audience from the fact that none of them are playing anything close to real human beings.

I admit that I found "Knight and Day" entertaining at times but the film trying to combine realistic characters with unrealistic action situations while throwing in strained comedy and an unconvincing romance in the mix just didn't work.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION (2010)

Written & Directed by Reed Cowan


Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA.  June 30, 2010  5:20PM


This documentary brings to light the involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the passing of the California proposition that would define that marriage would only be between a man and woman and change the California Constitution.

We first meet Tyler and Spencer, a young couple who decided to get married during the brief time it was legal for gay and lesbian couples before it would be decided by a vote in November 2008. We see the joy on their faces when they are pronounced legally wed but their happiness is short lived when the proposition is made in to law. It also turns out that Tyler and Spencer are both former Mormons and can't believe or understand how the church could have done this.

Before the election, Thomas Monson, a Mormon Prophet, was concerned that this might not happen so he decided to take action and organize the church to do all they can to make sure that proposition 8 passed. They secretly teamed up with the evangelicals, since the Mormon Church was not seen favorably by the public, and gave money and resources to aid in this battle. It is estimated that the church gave more than 22 million dollars for the cause.

The film uncovers classified documents, videotaped meetings and a largely concealed money trail of coerced Mormon followers that shows how far the church went into making sure they did not fail in the passage of this bill.

This film also touches on the conditions that gay and lesbian youths in Utah have to endure when they are turned away from their Mormon families. That was the original plan for this documentary before Mr. Cowan, a former Mormon missionary, decided to turn this film in to exposing the church's illegal involvement in California's political race.

The issue of gay marriage touches me personally. I have friends who were married during this time and although Dean and I don't feel the need to be married, I think no one should be denied that right for their relationship to be legally recognized in the eyes of the law. If you have a problem with the word, "marriage", that's fine, call it something else but it has to be completely equal to heterosexual marriages.

I think the Mormon church's beliefs are just as repugnant and ridiculous as they feel about homosexuality and that is perfectly all right. The problem is when they take the money of all of their hard working members and use it to get involved in politics is wrong, morally and legally.

The Mormon church may be claiming victory but let us not forget that it was won only by a 4% margin which is far from a landslide and I'm sure the outcome would have been much different if they had not put out completely false advertisements.

Despite pedestrian film making, corny re-enactments and Oscar winner, Dustin Lance Black who may be a very good writer but leaves a lot to be desired as a narrator, the message of  "8: The Mormon Proposition" is very important and needs to be brought to people's attention.