2012 Cinema Eye Honors

Cinema Eye Honors co-chairs AJ Schnack, Esther Robinson & Nathan Truesdell

On a rainy evening in Astoria, Queens, a group of documentary luminaries got together to celebrate the 2012 Cinema Eye Honors for Non-fiction Filmmaking. It was, indeed, a star-studded affair. Walking in to the museum’s lobby last night I was immediately blinded by the sheer docu-star power. Filling the lobby for the cocktail hour were such filmmaking icons as Al Maysles, Frederick Wiseman, Michael Moore, Steve James, Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, the team behind the “Paradise Lost” trilogy.

Shortly afterward, guests filed into the museum’s auditorium for the awards ceremony, the organization’s 5th.  AJ Schnack & Esther Robinson Cinema Eye Honors co-chairs and the evening’s co-hosts had a great chemistry; while Schnack’s goofy asides brought many laughs, it was Robinson who brought just the right amount of solemnity to the occasion. Read more

INTERVIEW: Ed Burns

Filmmaker Ed Burns; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011

Described as something of a companion piece to his 2001 film, “Sidewalks of New York”, Ed Burns’ latest film, “Newlyweds”, is a love story shot mockumentary style, about a couple, Buzzy and Katie (Ed Burns & Caitlin Fitzgerald) each in their second marriage.

Bent on keeping their new relationship free of drama, the newlyweds are tested when Buzzy’s half-sister Linda arrives unannounced at their Tribeca condo. A whirligig of trouble, Linda (Kerry Bishé) upsets the balance, possibly for the better. Shot for a song around the streets of his Tribeca neighborhood, Ed Burns’ latest film is the result of called-in favors, new favors promised and a minuscule budget. There is an air of spontaneity and light-heartedness around this comedy. It shows in the making. According to Burns, the same day they went and purchased their camera and equipment at B&H photo in Manhattan, they decided to begin shooting.

On Demand Weekly’s Adam Schartoff sat with Ed to discuss “Newlyweds”. A year had transpired since they last discussed his last film, “Nice Guy Johnny” and the state of VOD.

On Demand Weekly (ODW): We spoke about a year ago when “Nice Guy Johnny” went on VOD. You were very outspoken and excited about your new distribution strategy of bypassing theatrical. It’s one year later, you’ve got a brand new movie called “Newlyweds” only days away from going on demand. How have your feelings evolved?

Ed Burns: Funny, Comcast is going to be releasing a press release soon, I heard, that says the viewership for independent film on demand has gone up 75% in the past 12 months. Read more

2011 Filmwax Favorites

Kirsten Dunst in a press still from Lars Von Trier's MELANCHOLIA

In no particular order and making no distinction between films which have found distribution or are still looking.   No distinction between docs or ficts either.  I loved these movies! I’ve also missed a ton of movies that I am still trying to catch up with, including “Take Shelter”, “Hugo”, “Young Adult”, “Tin Tin”, “Midnight in Paris”, “The Help”

“Melancholia” (Lars Von Trier)
“Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” (Jon Foy)
“Green” (Sophia Takal)
“Putty Hill” (Matt Porterfield)
“Battle for Brooklyn” (Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley)
“Drive” (Nicolas Winding Refn)
“Margin Call” (J.C. Chandor)
“Another Earth” (Mike Cahill)
“The Color Wheel” (Alex Ross Perry)
“Bombay Beach” (Alma Ha’rel)
“Bobby Fischer Against The World” (Liz Garbus)
“The Arbor” (Clio Barnard)
“Strongman” (Zachary Levy)
“Cold Weather” (Aaron Katz)

Filmmaker Heather Courtney & her subjects of WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011

“Incendies” (Denis Villeneuve)
“Higher Ground” (Vera Fermiglia)
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Sean Durkin)
“Cedar Rapids” (Miguel Arteta)
“Septien” (Michael Tully)
“Where Soldiers Come From” (Heather Courtney)
“The Descendants” (Alexander Payne)
“Shame” (Steve McQueen)
“Weekend” (Andrew Haigh)
“Undefeated” (Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin)

Plenty of others well worth mentioning that were also terrific: “Rid of Me”, “Surrogate Valentine”, “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”, “Bill Cunningham New York”, “The Interrupters”, “Bellflower”, “Silver Bullets”, “Bad Fever”, “Catechism Cataclysm”, “If a Tree Falls”, “My Perestroika”, “Tabloid”, “Circumstance”, “Pina”, “The Skin I Live In”, & “The Artist”.

Holiday Crowd-Fundraising Tips from 7 Documentary Insiders

IMDb, to date, lists 7,262 documentaries released in 2011, and there’s no telling how many were made that remain unreleased. That’s a lot of money that must have been raised (or that will continue to appear on credit card statements). But fundraising hasn’t increased so much as it has just gone public with tools such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Public fundraising campaigns that might have once been seen as acts of desperation now seem commonplace if not protocol, whether it’s for a story about a video game (“Minecraft: The Story of Mojang” — $200,000+ in crowdfunding) or a male porn mogul becoming a gay rights activist (“Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story “— $25,000 in crowdfunding). How do you raise money at a time of year when folks are spending their dollars on holiday gifts, travel, food or the past year’s underpaid taxes? The holiday season is no holiday for documentary producers looking to raise funds, but some documentarians say it’s as good a time as any.

Marshall Curry

Marshall Curry, Filmmaker (“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”) There’s so much competition to get funds from traditional doc funders (Gucci/Tribeca, Sundance, Cinereach) so sometimes it’s smart to also go off the beaten path. If you are making an “issue” documentary, try approaching funders who care about your issue but don’t usually fund films.

Read more

INTERVIEW: Sophia Takal

Sophia Takal loves movies. Loves making them and watching them. After the success of 2010’s “Gabi On The Roof in July” which was directed by then boyfriend/current fiancé, Lawrence Michael Levine, the two collaborated on the new “Green”. He acted & produced, she acted & directed.  A hit at this past season’s SxSW, the film then was shown at 2011 BAMcinemaFest and a number of other screenings around the States and in Europe. She was among Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces New Faces, and just this week was among Paste Magazine’s 20 Best New FIlmmakers of 2011.

Sophia and Lawrence have become friends and so I must add that I while both “Gabi on The Roof in July” (which is screening with The Filmwax Film Series on January 18th) and “Green” stand on their merit, I am absolutely biased. Lawrence, who directed “Gabi” and who stars in “Green” also plays a central role in the upcoming “Richard’s Wedding” (dir. Onur Tukel) in which I also have a minor role.

Adam Schartoff: “Green” is like an archetypal indie film. It’s really compelling and completely non-commercial film making. How do you suppose it would go over at the multiplex?

Sophia Takal: I don’t really know how anyone will react to this movie. I do feel like audiences must be tired of watching the same movie over and over again which is why it’s getting harder and harder to get people into movie theaters. There’s not that much stuff that feels new or challenging. I think if more films were put in front of them that were more challenging, they’d like them too. It’s just a matter of exposure.

Schartoff: You made an intensely personal film. Who do you think will respond strongest to it?

Lawrence Michael Levine & Sophia Takal at BAMcinemaFest screening of GREEN; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011.

Takal: I think women identify pretty strongly with some of the themes. And I’m not just referring to the hipster women. I’ve had women come up to me at festivals, women in their 60s, who really understand the feelings behind the main character. So, that’s been exciting that more women are identifying with the movie who are not just my age or a similar background.

Schartoff: Were you always aware that this was a film that women in particular were going to strongly respond?

Takal: I forget at what point I began to realize that we were giving a voice to something that lots of women had expressed but I don’t know that I ever set out to do that. I think I wanted to explore something that other women around me were relating to. And from there I started thinking about my obligations to a larger audience. But it started off with just my own experience.

Schartoff: Do you think you achieved creating a message? A personal message?

Takal: I think so. That’s actually one thing I feel really good about. I put it out there and didn’t pretend these feelings didn’t exist. With “Green”, I think I made it okay for women to acknowledge that they have those feelings too. I think that’s one of the great thing about film or art in general, exposing something personal and not feeling so alienated. In this case, exposing something in myself that other people don’t necessarily want to acknowledge. Maybe those things are ugly or unattractive. Read more

The Greater Good, A Shot in the Arm for the Vaccine Argument

When my wife and I had a child, I was horrified at the idea of my kid getting stuck with needles, but I didn’t question the medicine behind it. I figured, if my pediatrician was recommending it, it was the best course for my son.

My child’s mother, on the other hand, didn’t feel the same way. Having done some research on the subject, she suggested slowing it all down and spreading the shots out over time. To her credit, and without realizing it, she’s brought us into the great vaccination debate.

If you’re a parent (or know one), you might have had a similar conversation, and you might have already made up your mind about the connection between vaccination and disease. A new documentary, “The Greater Good”, adds perspective to the issue, asking how much of a good thing a person can take until it’s not all that good any more. (The film opened in New York this weekend.)

“It is an advocacy film,” says “The Greater Good” producer Chris Pilaro, “not a work of journalism and I think that’s very clear in the film, as it should be.”

The filmmakers chose to follow three families whose lives were adversely affected by vaccines because, as director-producer Kendall Nelson says, “Historically, those stories were really not being told… We figured that the general public already believed that vaccines were essentially a godsend.”

One thread follows young Jordan King, who before being vaccinated was a “normal,” happy toddler. After being vaccinated, Jordan’s behavior changed dramatically — He ended up diagnosed with autism. His case is one of many that have indelibly linked vaccines to autism. Read more

THE LIE sneak preview at the Tribeca 92nd Street Y

Filmwax's Adam Schartoff with filmmaker Joshua Leonard; photo credit: Arthur Kleydman (c) 2011

I was fortunate enough to moderate a recent sneak preview screening of Joshua Leonard’s “The Lie” the 92 Y Tribeca last week.  In addition to seeing the solid comedy, I finally got to meet Josh and engage him for a post-screening Q&A.

Leonard both directs and stars in “The Lie” and while he did express his occasional frustration wearing both hats, it doesn’t show in his film.  Based on a 2008 T. C. Boyle short story which he optioned after reading it in The New Yorker, the movie is not so much about the titular lie but its aftermath.  Leonard (“Higher Ground”, “Hump Day”) plays Lonnie who is facing a very premature mid-life crisis shortly after he and his wife, Clover (a fabulous Jess Weixler) have their first baby.  Lonnie, a failed musician, has a dead-end job editing shlocky commercials while Clover, a recent law school grad, is grappling with a corporate job offer.  This event is anathema to the couple; not so much because it runs against their shared values, which it does, but because they would never have considered such an offer earlier in their relationship.

Around this time Lonnie starts playing hooky from work, much to the irritation of his irascible boss Radko (Gerry Bednob).  In truth, Lonnie is taking the day to jam with his old friend Tank (Mark Webber), drink coffee in the local diner, and spend time with his beloved new daughter.   By the third or fourth day of calling out, to stop Radko from becoming apoplectic, Lonnie let’s slip an atrocious lie about why he can’t make it to work.  I won’t give it away or what ensues since that’s the reason to get over to Village East Cinema on 2nd Avenue and see the movie.

“The Lie” is simple and Leonard leaves plenty of space for both the comic moments as well as the more moving ones.  Weixler is a find, both deceptively gorgeous and a fine comedienne in her own rite.  The laughs are not necessarily big but they come regularly.  The movie invites in its viewers and you feel like you’re in good hands.  The ending —not T.C. Boyle’s— feels somewhat patched on but does not undermine the film.

This was my second experience hosting such an event for the 92Y Tribeca.  The last one was a month or so back for another Seattle filmmaker, Megan Griffiths, with her film, “The Off Hours”.

A Nightmare Before Thanksgiving: An Evening with Tim Burton

Director Tim Burton

For a brilliant filmmaker like Tim Burton, the recent tribute to him sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (Fresh Blood: An Evening with Tim Burton) was a bit of a disappointment. FSLC Programming Director, Richard Peña, interviewed him in awkward segments sandwiched between film clips which had been divvied up into various topics like Animation, Collaborations with Johnny Depp, and not so surprisingly, “Sweeny Todd”. It occurred to me that the evening itself was a signal as to just how heavily his new movie is going to be promoted. An expensive musical version of the hit Broadway play, the movie stars none other than Mr. Depp as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Mrs. Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, as Mrs. Lovett. From the few clips I saw at the tribute –according to it’s director, the film is apparently still in in some state of post-production– there’s reason to feel optimistic. Not really knowing much about Johnny Depp’s singing voice, he does a reasonable job considering he is starring in a Stephen Sondheim operetta. No doubt there’s a lot riding on the success of this film and so the early buzz is already circulating.

The main issue I had with the evening was that it was not really the appropriate forum for a larger than life character like Tim Burton. To me, it seemed that he was out of his element through much of the 75 minutes or so that transpired. The questions were fairly superficial and therefore the fans who filled up the Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, didn’t learn much if anything about the esteemed director. Still the cinematic stroll down memory lane was fun and I was reminded about how powerfully effective his images were on the big screen. It’s been almost twenty years since I saw Beetlejuice or Edward Sissorhands and there’s no comparing it to the DVD. His style is big, loud and macabre. The tribute to him might have worked better had it followed suit.

Upcoming special events on the Film Society’s calendar include a special preview screening of Oscar contender “Atonement” on Tuesday, December 4th and the Society’s annual gala tribute on April 14th, 2008, honoring Meryl Streep.

[Article originally appeared: http://www.rabbireport.com/archives/2007/11/a-nightmare-bef.htm]

 

film review: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Written and directed by Ethan & Joel Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
Produced by the Coens & Scott Rudin
Director of Photography Roger Deakins
Edited by Roderick Jaynes
Music by Carter Burwell
Released by Miramax/Paramount Vantage
USA. 122 min. Rated R
Cast:  Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper & Barry Corbin

Article originally appeared: http://www.film-forward.com/nocountr.html

The body count in the new Coen Brothers movie, “No Country for Old Men”, could very well be higher than the collective death toll from all their past movies. Fans of these Minnesota-bred filmmakers will remember their darker excursions into violent terrain, like “Blood Simple”, “Miller’s Crossing”, and swaths of “Fargo” (“I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper”). Not to say there aren’t familiar moments of their humor throughout “No Country”.

One of these memorable scenes comes well past the halfway mark when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who earlier found over two million dollars from a drug deal gone terribly wrong and is now being hunted by the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), walks into a small town five-and-dime wearing just his hospital gown and cowboy boots. The nonplussed shop clerk looks up and without so much as blinking an eye asks Moss how the pair of boots he sold him earlier was working out for him. The moment is that unique brand of Coen Brothers humor at once familiar and so very welcome in a movie that needs its tension broken whenever possible. Read more

film review: JOE STRUMMER THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN

Directed by Julien Temple
Produced by Amanda Temple, Anna Campeau & Alan Moloney
Director of Photography Ben Cole
Edited by Mark Reynolds, Tobias Zaldua & Niven Howie
Released by IFC First Take
Ireland/UK. 124 min. Not Rated

Friends sit around a campfire, reminiscing, drinking, and jamming, just a few yards from the riverbank. It hardly sounds like the setting to pay homage to a man who wrote lyrics like:

On the Rio Grande they’ll tie you to a tree
And you can’t call the lawyers ’cause the whorehouse is asleep
You people will get weak
They’ll throw you in a cell where you can barely breathe

The aforementioned tribute is for Joe Strummer, the legendary punk musician and Clash bandleader, who is given his due in this terrific, if not a bit lengthy, new documentary, “Joe Strummer – The Future is Unwritten”, by Julien Temple. The choice for the fireside location becomes clear later in the film.

There is no more fitting person to make this film than Temple as he was right there with the Clash, just as he was with the Sex Pistols (“The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle”, “The Filth and the Fury”), filming Strummer’s band at its most infamous worst or best, depending on who speaks. Fortunately for Temple and us, there is a large archive to pull from, allowing Strummer to narrate the film right from the grave. Morbid? Not at all. And while some of the talking heads get choked up at various points, the documentary is more life affirming than you might think would be the case.

Strummer, as we learn through the anecdotes of his friends – none of whom are referenced until the final credits roll – had his struggles with drugs and alcohol but was rooted enough to work through them. In one amusing anecdote, he recalls that a number of years after the Clash had broken up, he made a decision to decrease his drinking, only to be asked to tour with the Pogues, hardly the most temperate group of musicians. Amusing stories, interspersed with animations of Strummer’s artwork, and the fantastic music make this movie so uplifting. It also becomes apparent that, though Strummer was a complicated person, he didn’t burn many bridges in his 50 years. Even after being thrown out of the band at its height of success, one of the most visible personalities is fellow Clash-mate Mick Jones, the Roger Daltrey to Strummer’s Pete Townshend, if you will. Read more

film review: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR — BOB DYLAN LIVE AT THE NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL, 1963-65

Directed by Murray Lerner

[Article originally appeared: http://www.rabbireport.com/archives/2007/10/nyff-07-review-4.htm]

Us hipsters living in such edgy NYC neighborhoods as the Lower East Side or Williamsburg have sunk a lot of dough into our music collections over the years and while we periodically weed through our CDs and LPs, tossing out the odd Terence Trent D’Arby or Linda Rondstat album, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has loosened their grips on their copy of Sgt. Pepper’s or Back in Black. And then there’s the ubiquitous Dylan collection which necessarily includes Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. [My personal favorite is Nashville Skyline but that’s getting off topic.] It’s no coincidence that any serious Dylan collection includes those particular three works for it was during that seminal period when Bob Dylan folkie, became ‘DYLAN, Spokesman of a Generation’. Nowhere is that transformation more vivid than in the new documentary, Murray Lerner’s “The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at The Newport Folk Festival, 1963-1965”. All the footage –70% of which has never been seen before– is lovingly pieced together from those three summers and Lerner, wisely, allows the footage to speak for itself. There are no talking heads, no aging rockers’ waxing philosophical, mostly just Bob Dylan playing Bob Dylan songs. Oh, there are some terrific moments with Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul & Mary, but mostly it’s just Bobby Dylan, singing into the microphone while strumming away on his guitar.

Dylan had emerged from the NYC folk scene in the early 60’s and had already caused quite a stir but not many of us aforementioned hipsters were around back in those days, or at least not old enough to remember just what a sensation this punk folk singer caused back in the day. Folk music was such a huge phenomenon at the time, its fans such die hard purists, that any modifications to their songs were often met with outrage and while Dylan was initially met with a certain amount of skepticism and even derision, it was impossible for anyone with a mind of their own to ignore the obvious: this skinny Jewish kid was the shit. As portrayed in the new Todd Haynes biopic, “I’m Not There”, Dylan was all about persona and his particular brand of shape shifting left everyone enthralled. Over the course of “The Other Side of The Mirror”, we get to witness one of these morphings right before our eyes; that of a shy self-conscious folkie into a cocky rock star. It’s worth the price of admission, I can assure you.

film review: GONE BABY GONE

Written & directed by Ben Affleck
Produced by Alan Ladd, Jr., Dan Rissner & Sean Bailey
Written by Affleck & Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Director of Photography John Toll
Edited by William C. Goldenberg
Released by Miramax
USA. 115 min. Rated R
Cast:  Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Madigan & Amy Ryan

[Article originally appeared:  http://www.film-forward.com/gonebaby.html]

There oughta be a law that all future Boston-based movies have to take place in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. In recent years, we’ve seen our share of the genre – perhaps we’ll refer to them as chowder flicks – among them “The Departed” and “Mystic River”, the latter which, like “Gone Baby Gone”, was adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane. In case you don’t recognize the Boston patois, it hasn’t come all that far along since I pahcked my cah in Hahvad Yahd.   In fact, it’s one of many clichés, among the red herrings, in Ben Affleck’s overwrought directorial debut.

As private investigator Patrick Kenzie, Casey Affleck (a fine actor to be sure — see “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” if you can) is about 10 years too young for the role. But that’s okay; the screenplay smooths over that logistical problem by having several of its characters tell Patrick that he looks too green, but his partner and girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) is just as fresh faced as he.

When a four-year-old girl is kidnapped from her drug-addicted single mother/monster (a convincing Amy Ryan), the little girl’s aunt (Amy Madigan) and her husband, both disenchanted with the police’s investigation of the kidnapping, hire the local investigators, who specialize in missing persons. Madigan, slipping seamlessly into hausfrau mode, is just one of many fine actors obviously doing the director an enormous turn. Read more

film review: THE AXE IN THE ATTIC

Directed by Ed Pincus & Lucia Small

Article originally appeared: http://www.rabbireport.com/archives/2007/10/the-axe-in-the.htm

After the New Orleans flood of 1965, many of those who survived would keep an axe in their attic so that, in the event the water should ever again rise to the top of their homes, they would have a way out. Interestingly, some of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, forever immortalized in TV and still images, standing on their roofs hoping for rescue owe their lives to this practice.  Now documentary makers Lucia Small and Ed Pincus bring us “The Axe in the Attic”, a fine contribution to the 45th New York Film Festival and one that pulls no punches. Where’s the outrage you may ask; this remarkable documentary gives its subjects – both victims as well as its creators – a platform for expressing it. The results are moving.

Don’t allow the blip of controversy about this movie get in the way of checking it out. While Spike Lee’s “When The Levees Broke”, a powerful and necessary work of documentary film making itself, is planted firmly in New Orleans interviewing survivors and celebrities alike, Pincus and Small hit the road for a 60-day tour of America’s back roads to find their subjects.  It’s no exaggeration to suggest that those displaced residents of New Orleans belong to the single largest American diaspora. They can be found in FEMA trailer parks and crashing with family, but their collective feelings of depression and hope are truly profound. The controversy – or criticism – that the film is generating has to do with the two filmmakers inserting themselves so centrally into the story. Many of said critics believe that the focus ought to be solely on the victims and that showing the film maker’s own problems just intrudes on the victims’ dignity and to be honest, at times their presence does have a taint of narcissism, but ultimately I found the decision to be a successful device. Read more

film review: PARANOID PARK

Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Gus Van Sant & Blake Nelson
Edited by Gus Van Sant
Cinematography by Christopher Doyle
Cast: Gave Evans, Daniel Liu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen & Lauren McKinney
IFC Films
France/USA. 85 minutes. Rated R.

[Article originally appeared: http://thefilmlot.com/tflblogwp/?p=121]

It has already become indie lore that “Paranoid Park”, Gus Van Sant’s new film, was cast through MySpace. It’s not so outrageous when you consider that most of the actors average about 15 years old and, characteristically, Van Sant wanted as natural a cast as possible. In keeping with “Jerry” (2000), “Elephant” (2003), and “Last Days” (2005), the film has that meandering, long take vibe.

The film goes back and forth in time, a popular device these days, but one that works particularly well in a movie that is pretty much a suspense story. Each time the film’s plot is advanced forward you get fed clues to the mystery. The mystery in question is the grizzly death on a set of train tracks located very close to the skateboard park of the movie’s title. Alex (Gabe Nevins), a high school student and skateboarder is experiencing heavy duty problems at home: his parents have split and his cheerleader girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) just seems to be using him to advance her own social status. We see Alex keeping what appears to be a diary throughout and which becomes a central device. It’s also one of the things that humanizes Alex. He comes across as thoughtful and sensitive and even has something resembling a sense of humor. This is what, for me, separates this movie from Van Sant’s other more recent output. Alex’s journey over the course of the few days and the choices he makes clearly shows emotional growth. It’s refreshing in a movie where Van Sant could’ve chosen to show the similar disaffected kids who roamed through Elephant. There is one scene between Alex and his father, who has recently moved out, which is actually quite moving. The father, in spite of his brief screen time, is one of several adults who come across fully realized. Another is a police detective (Daniel Liu) who visits the high school to interview its “skateboarding community”. Read more

film review: GO GO TALES

Written & directed by Abel Ferrara
Cinematography by Fabio Cianchetti
Edited by Fabio Nunziata
Production Design by Frank DeCurtis
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Bob Hoskins, Matthew Modine, Asia Argento, Sylvia Miles & Burt Young
USA/Italy.  2008.

[Article originally appeared: http://www.rabbireport.com/archives/2007/10/nyff-07-review-1.htm]

Abel Ferrara’s new film “Go Go Tales” takes place almost entirely in a seedy New York City strip club called Ruby’s Paradise and will likely be cause for some controversy due to a scene involving a dancer who compensates for her lack of talent with an act involving her affectionate Rottweiler. While the look of Ferrara’s film is reminiscent of the Cassavettes 1976 cult classic, “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (both involve strip club owners who must come to terms with their gambling addictions) the comparisons end there. While the cast of misfits in both pictures have created makeshift families where they work, Bookie is far darker in both look and tone (“Go Go Tales” is apparently a comedy) and the former film is… well… better.

With a colorful cast, including Willem Dafoe as club owner Ray Ruby, Matthew Modine as his silent partner & brother Johnie, Bob Hoskins, Sylvia Miles in yet another memorable role, and various dancers, bouncers and club patrons, a mostly entertaining 96 minutes transpires but the film is far from great. “Bad Lieutenant” or “The Funeral” are two far superior Ferrara films. However, whatever the film lacks was more than made up for by the press conference which followed. Here are a few of the highlights.