Posts Tagged IFFBoston

IFFBoston Day Five: That Evening Sun


Abner: You even walk like it.
Lonzo: What?
Abner: White trash. It amuses me.

In That Evening Sun, Abner Meecham [Hal Holbrook] takes off from an assisted-living facility and returns to his Tennessee farm. Once there, he finds that his son has leased it to a man he has never liked, Lonzo Choat [Ray McKinnon]. Abner sets up in the caretaker’s cottage out back and schemes how to get Lonzo and his family to move out. Meanwhile, convinced the farm now belongs to him, Lonzo seethes with resentment at Abner’s return. An ominous air fills each scene as two generations battle it out over land rights. Verbal threats soon escalate to more violent, bitter acts. Directed by Scott Teems, That Evening Sun focuses on an elderly man who has no intention to become a pushover. He is that stereotypical grumpy old man. He’s a widower and seems very bitter except when we see him dreaming about his wife [played in warm, artful dream sequences by Holbrook’s real life spouse Dixie Carter]. Choat is an awful, drunk red neck loser who cannot pay the rent. But in reality, this could be the result of the economy and be a very real and painful situation. Does the audience emphasize with him? Not easily when he beats his daughter and treats his wife like dirt. That Evening Sun reflects today’s economic time: the strains to find work; to keep a family together and to stay sane. The film unfolds like an evening in the South: slow and sprawling.

Grade: B

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Day Four IFFBoston [part two]: We Live in Public

We Live in Public starts with a bang. The images and information hurdle at you just like on the Internet. It is fast-paced, frenetic and jumpy. This provides that fleeting feeling that one idea does not last very long as people lose interest very easily. Tastes change. Fads change. Markets change. Popularity rises and falls. Inexplicably so in many cases. As soon as one idea is popular (MySpace), then people have already moved on to the next great cool site (Facebook), and then to the newest and coolest (Twitter). But all these “cool” online sites are watching you in their own secret, unique ways which may be benign but may not be. At this time, we really do not know. We Live in Public provides us with a cautionary tale of what can happen when an individual loses himself in the public domain.

Directed by Ondi Timoner [Dig!], We Live in Public focuses on an egomaniacal, loner, geeky, dot.com front-runner named Josh Harris. He always has a new idea. A new project. He started Jupiter Communications, then Prodigy which launched the chat room (especially the sex platform) and had an $80 million IPO. In 1994, at the height of the dot.com boom, Harris started pseudo.com, the first Internet television network where people could watch television while simultaneously chatting. Those working at Pseudo had free rein as to what kind of show they wanted to do. People went from “nobodies to celebs because you could set up a modem,” said Jason Calocanis. NY Magazine called Harris the “Warhol of Web TV.” In 1999, during an interview with 60 Minutes, Harris said his goal was to take CBS down. “It’s group-generated consciousness. Our dreams will be created by each other,” Harris stated.

Harris moved on to his next project and built an underground society with monitors and cameras everywhere including the showers and bathrooms and bedrooms. Nothing would be private. The ultimate Big Brother experiment. Everything could be watched. Everyone would be controlled. There was an interrogation room that people willingly entered and subjected themselves to upsetting humiliation and abuse. Harris called it Citizens of Quiet. With so many different types of people involved in this “experiment,” while it began as a big party soon enough tensions escalated and people shut down and fought and broke down. The cameras made people simultaneously uninhibited and stripped of privacy and basic rights. Eventually, the police shut the place down. After his “Quiet” experiment, he moved in with a girl he had met at Pseudo, named Tanya. Of course, they filmed everything and allowed people to comment on things by running an ongoing chat room. As the relationship disintegrates the audience merely fuels the fires and it turns violent.

Harris is an unlikeable character who takes advantage of people without any thought to their feelings or the final outcome. He comes across so selfishly and uncaring. It isn’t that he cannot relate to other people that is the problem. It is that he does not want to change at all. When he delves into the Internet, it is just unhealthy for him and he loses more than just his dignity and any sense of humanity he may have once had. He just wants his 15-minutes to stay in repeat mode for eternity but that is entirely unrealistic. Some of his decisions are so desperate and sick, misguided and wrong that you expect him to be in jail at the end of the film. We Live in Public is quite unsettling, even stomach-turning at times but is so provocative and au courant it is a must see.

Grade: A-

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Director Ondi Timoner on We Live in Public, [Q&A after the film’s screening at IFFBoston]

“The bunker is a metaphor for life online”

“When there’s a camera, people generally give it up. There’s a power there.”

“What lengths we’ll go through to have our lives matter” [on people doing the pre-registration personality test of 300 questions to get into the bunker]

“No one who busted it [the bunker] was alive from 9/11 [to talk to].”

“Best thing as documentary filmmaker is not judge as much as possible.”

“Data I documented happens to be dark. There are beautiful aspects to the Internet.”

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Director Jody Lambert

Before screening Of All the Things for IFFBoston, I sat down at The Joshua Tree bar in Davis Square with Director Jody Lambert and P.H. O’Brien, Director of Photography.

Amy Steele (AS): What did you think of what your father did as a kid and what did you think of his career later in life?

Jody Lambert (JL): When I was a kid, he was at the height of his success. He was a hitmaker. I grew up in L.A. so a lot of kids had parents doing similar things. It didn’t seem that unusual. When I was in college trying to be an actor and writer I realized how epic his career was.

AS: What were the greatest challenges and the best parts?

P.H. O’Brien (PO): I hadn’t filmed concerts before so the technical side of putting different shots together was a challenge. Especially the last concert [in Manila]. It was such a huge venue. We wanted to make it feel like a rock documentary but it is also a father and son and a band going on tour for the first time.

JL: When we got off the plane in Manila and there were reporters there. We didn’t realize the magnitude of my father’s popularity and the reality hit us. For challenges? There were language barriers and technical aspects to deal with. From venue to venue we didn’t know what to expect and how he would perform.

PO: Jody was also stage manager because there was no one else.

JL: We had 100 jobs each: making the movie; helping with the show; being the support team. It was also fun for that reason.

AS: What does your father think of the final product?

JL: He loves it. He still laughs at the same parts. He feels like he’s watching a film about someone else. He enjoys watching the story unfolding. He still gets so much joy out of re-living all this. It’s been great.

AS: Is he going to do any more touring?

JL: He played at the Viper Room in L.A., the Bluebird Café in Nashville and Joe’s Pub in New York and is being approached by people again. The movie has to go one more level of visibility. It has been successful on the festival circuit [writer’s note: Of All the Things has screened at 20 festivals]. We were chosen for AFI Project: 20/20. [writer’s note: according to AFI’s website: “AFI PROJECT: 20/20 is an American Film Institute (AFI) international initiative designed to enhance cultural exchange, understanding and collaboration through filmmakers and their films from the US and abroad. It is an unprecedented cultural diplomacy effort that is the only international filmmaker exchange supported by all of America’s cultural agencies–National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) — and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.”]

JL: What my dad feels is nothing good happens when you say no but so many good things happen when you say yes. Shake yourself out of your comfort zone. He did not have to prove anything to anyone but by doing it he added a few years to his life and feels energized.

–30–

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Day Three IFFBoston: 500 Days of Summer and In the Loop

500 Days of Summer

Narrator: There are two types of people: a woman and a man.

Absolutely the best film that I’ve seen all year. This is the most clever, un-romantic/yet romantic comedy. Tom [Joseph Gordon-Levitt] immediately becomes smitten with Summer [Zooey Deschanel]. He’s a super sensitive guy who has always felt that without love, without a girlfriend his life is incomplete. Summer is the bubbly, free-spirit who makes no plans and takes a day at a time. Tom picks apart every encounter with Summer and overanalyzes everything 500 Days of Summer flips your expectations upside down. It mixes things up. Tom wants Summer to commit. He wants her to be his girlfriend. From the beginning, she tells him, in guy-style, that she is not looking for a relationship and that: “There’s no such thing as love. It’s fantasy.” 500 Days of Summer will make you laugh and marvel at the sparkling Deschanel and a brooding, introspective Gordon-Levitt. Quality acting by two of the most talented younger actors, a creative script, and sweet, real, laugh-out-loud and cringe-worthy moments make 500 Days of Summer is a must-see and a near perfect film.

Grade: A

In the Loop

Hysterical, witty, brash British comedy the imagines the days behind closed doors at Downing Street and in other offices of the British and U.S. government leading up to the Iraq War. Basically the U.S. President and the British Prime Minister are gung ho [as history shows] to go to war but not everyone working for them is in agreement or in such a hurry to send the troops into harm’s way. In the Loop is about politicians who appear to be self-composed and put together and full of the perfect sound bites and then they collapse under pressure or are completely different away from the public and media. In the Loop is fast-paced and provides an insight into British politics as well as a bit of a viewpoint into what the Brits think of Americans [we are Rock Stars! in their eyes apparently]. Directed by Armando Iannucci and written by Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell. An impressive cast includes: Peter Capaldi [Skins, Torchwood], Tom Hollander [The Soloist, Valkyrie], James Gandolfini [The Sopranos, The Mexican], Gina McKee [Atonement], Steve Coogan [Hamlet 2, Tropic Thunder], Anna Chulmsky [all grown up star of My Girl, Blood Car]. You will laugh so much that you might miss some of the lines and will have to put it in your netflix queue!

Grade: A-

After the screening, Director Armando Iannucci said that leading up to Iraq, there were intelligent people having no idea what to do and then “British going to America and getting starstruck with press and glitter of Washington”

He added: “few people in Washington against the war resigned. they just moved laterallly.”

About In the Loop: He wanted the film to be “funny but not belittling the subject, just come at it from every angle. Fundamentally it’s about the war.”

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Day Two IFF Boston: Children of Invention and The Missing Person

Children of Invention

Children of Invention is a surprising film about a hard-working, impassioned mother. At the beginning of the film, we watch as Elaine, a divorced mother from Hong Kong, who no longer can afford the mortgage on her house moves out while the police watch. There’s that tense edge as when someone gets laid off from work and must be escorted off the premises by security. Since she and her two children are moving to a small apartment, they cannot take their couch with them. As they drive off, one of the lasting powerful images of the film is the couch and tons of bottles of discarded vitamins (Elaine had tried her hand at selling blue algae).

Though we see Elaine studying through a Real Estate broker’s exam book, she wants a quick money fix and keeps calling advertisements for marketing and sales that do not seem all that solid. Out of desperation for quick money to jump start her life, Elaine becomes involved in a pyramid scheme. Natively she works 16-hour days, paying little attention to the needs of her two children. Though she makes questionable decisions, Elaine remains strong and determined to belong, succeed and make life for her two children easier than it is for her. Elaine worked while her ex-husband earned his engineering degree and then after the divorce he returned to Hong Kong.

One night when Elaine fails to return home from her job, Elaine’s two children, Raymond and Tina, must fend for themselves. This takes them out to Boston with a plan based on Raymond’s quirky inventions. The result is sweet, moving and a slice of familial bonding. Written and directed by Boston native Tze Chun and loosely based on aspects of his own childhood, Children of Invention poignantly and creatively bridges traditional Asian culture with United States desires and prosperity.

Grade: A-

The Missing Person

I’m in the hide and seek business.
That’s for kids.
If you add some money to it, it’s for adults.

Quirky noir starring Michael Shannon [Revolutionary Road] as alcoholic private investigator John Roscow gets a case to follow a guy with few other instructions. He almost too low key and too mellow but sometimes it works to his benefit under the circumstances. Amy Ryan [Gone Baby Gone] plays the assistant to the man who has hired the PI. Ryan and Shannon have a sardonic relationship that fits the film and its ending.So we ask, as he does, who is this guy? What is important? What is he doing? He seems suspicious because he’s traveling with a young Mexican boy. Roscow sets out after him and doesn’t find out very much about the guy. So then what is the deal? Roscow is an odd one and you just know more layers will be revealed. The entire film I wondered why the title was The Missing Person until both men are connected in some way to 9/11. The Missing Person is an amusing old-fashioned style gumshoe film with an intriguing secret that reveals itself toward the end.

Grade: B-

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Day One IFF Boston– The Brothers Bloom

I’m 35. I’ve only lived life through roles written for me by you. I want an unwritten life. No more stories.
–Bloom

Mexico is—and I don’t like to vilify an entire country—but Mexico’s a horrible place.
–Stephen

The Brothers Bloom, written and directed by Rian Johnson [Brick], is a refreshing, surprising and unique comedy. The Brothers Bloom is quirky and clever, with many hysterical moments. The film centers around two brothers who spent their youth in and out of foster homes. Stephen [Mark Ruffalo] and Bloom [Adrien Brody] adapted to new situations by becoming quick on their feet and creating various characters in order to blend in and to get what they wanted or needed at the time. As adults, the two brothers now jet set around the world as notorious con artists. Stephen devises the master plan, weaves the stories and creates the characters to dupe millionaires out of their money. [It is hysterical to see his blueprints of the plans. The style has not changed from his childhood to present day.] Bloom has the task to befriend the mark. He’s quiet and disarming. Genuine and charming.

The brothers decide to embark on one last job. The target: an eccentric heiress in New Jersey, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), and Stephen knows that she will be an easy target.

Stephen remains the mastermind. He acts and controls. He and Bloom have a complex relationship as Stephen is the older brother and the stronger-willed one. Bloom is overly sensitive and caring. Sometimes too much so in their chosen field of work.

Introverted Bloom worries and analyzes everything while Penelope, suddenly free to explore the world, is a ray of sunshine, smiling her way through any situation. She turns out to be an asset instead of a mark. Bloom falls in love with her, definitely not part of Stephen’s plans. But how could he not? She’s beautiful, smart, charming and delightful. They perfectly balance each other’s personalities.

Each character seems stuck. Stephen does not want to give up the game, the planning, and the con. Bloom cannot tear himself away from Stephen and what Stephen wants him to do. He cannot make his own decisions that will make him truly happy. Penelope’s privileged background keeps her from living a full life and her own life.

A snappy script with twisty moments and action-packed scenes makes The Brothers Bloom an outstanding film.

Grade: A-

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IFFBoston Review: Trinidad


First, I’m an artist.
Second, I’m a surgeon.

–Dr. Marcie

In 2003, Dr. Marci Bowers left her family and thriving OB/GYN practice in Seattle to take over Dr. Stanley Biber’s genital reassignment surgery (GRS) practice in Trinidad, Colorodo, and a former coal mining town of 9,000. “Trinidad . . . for the transgender community became kind of a spiritual place and of course the sex change capital of the world,” said Dr. Marci Bowers. Marci is the first transgender woman to perform GRS.

It’s not gender reassignment surgery but genital reassignment. It’s aligning the genitals with the gender that’s always been in place,” explained Marci.

The medical aspect is unnecessary. Dr. Marci shows close-ups of hairy post-op reconstructed vaginas with clitoris, vulva and proper symmetry. It steers away from the true point of the film: understanding the people behind the surgical procedures. This isn’t a surgical show. All of a sudden I felt we were delving into the blood and gore of surgery. Bloody skin being stretched and stitched.

Trinidad would have maintained greater understanding for transgendered if the filmmakers, PJ Raval and Jay Hodges, keep their cameras on the characters instead of delving into the surgical suite.

The true beautiful aspects of the film are the moments it focuses on three different transgender women. There is Marci’s story, as well as that of Sabrina Marcus, an engineer and founder of the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference, and Dr. Laura Ellis, a family practitioner. Both women are working to establish a recovery bed-and-breakfast for post-operative transgender patients.

Sabrina is the most interesting woman of the three as she is honest and sincere about her decision. She came out as transsexual in her late teens to early 20s and started dressing as a woman but then met and married a woman, and had children. I adore her refreshing candor. She and her wife divorced though she still has parental and visitation rights of her teenage children who are very easy going and supportive.

Due to the fact that she was transitioning from a man to a woman, Sabrina lost her job as a shuttle engineer. She admits to her life’s dichotomy and complexity as she was living as “½ man, ½ woman.”

Sabrina adds: “You’re almost pushed into this environment where you’re either a boy or a girl. There really needs to be an allowance for someone who needs to be in the middle. I consider myself a transsexual woman.”

At one point she admits that she misses aspects of being a man and that few transgendered people would ever share that thought. That comment was really eye-opening to me. I would never think that after so many years of being trapped in the wrong body that someone would miss the old body.

Trinidad tries to be a film that opens up the audience’s eyes to the little know transgender community. The filmmakers have interviews with townspeople: some who do not understand the transgender community at all and a few more open minded people who say that whatever makes someone feel comfortable should be accepted. But it does seem that a line is drawn in the sand between the transgendered and many in the community. Trinidad is a film about tolerance, individuality and being oneself in one’s body and one’s own skin.

Sunday, April 26, 5:45, Somerville Theatre.

GRADE: C+

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