Sunday, October 26, 2014

23rd Philadelphia Film Festival: Winners and Day 10

Even though the festival ran through Sunday, winners for the festival's 23rd turn were announced on Friday night before the closing night screening of "Wild".

The anonymous slate of jurors awarded the British production "The Duke of Burgundy" its grand jury prize in the narrative category. The film is about a young girl who becomes a housekeeper to a wealthy amateur lepidopterist and the sexual relationship that develops. The French ghetto drama "Girlhood" won the special jury prize and Yann Demange won the director gong for "'71", about a new soldier left behind in the turbulent streets of Ireland during the Troubles.
'The Duke of Burgundy'.

"The Overnighters" won for best documentary and one of the most talked about films of the festival, "The Tribe", won the archie award for best first feature.

"Crescendo! The Power of Music" won the Pinkenson Award for local feature.

The audience award will be announced after the festival.

To me the list of winners represented PFF's (unintentional) theme this year- stories told a million times before PFF are all of a sudden new and fresh just because we're seeing these films the first time.

Nice try, but originality was barely evident during this year's festival, and it shows in the prize winners.

As I digress, only to be amped up later in this post, I had only one more day of screenings that I attended, day 10 (Saturday). While I wasn't really looking forward to anything, I figured I'd make the most out of my badge.

Read about the festival's first four days here.

Read about festival days 7 & 8 here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Young Adult author Ellen Hopkins Stops by UDHS

New York Times Bestseller Ellen Hopkins signs a book for UDHS junior Emily Miller
After hosting Tina Fey and Anderson Cooper in recent months, Upper Darby High School added young adult author Ellen Hopkins to its list of celebrity sightings.
The New York Times Bestselling author spoke to about 40 students in the school’s library Monday afternoon about the writing process, future projects and her career.
 “(Young adult) is where I belong as a writer,” said Hopkins, who has written, non-fiction children’s books, adult fiction and poetry as well.
Hopkins has been the source of controversy with her signature one-word titled books, including “Crank” and Burned”, with the former being banned in some schools because of its frank depiction of drug use and sexuality among teenagers. The same novel has also been required reading for schools for the same reasons.
She said of the controversial nature of her books, which have tackled teenage suicide, prostitution and rape, that these are problems that parents don’t want to know “exist.”
“I’m a staunch defender of your right to read,” she said, encouraging teenagers and parents to read provocative books together to have a discussion about the issues books address.
Hopkins later signed copies of her books for students who are big fans of her work, including junior Emily Miller, who said the author’s “ballsy” style has influenced her.
“It’s dark and twisted, but hopeful. I like stuff like that,” Miller said.
Miller said she’s currently writing a novel about an abnormal household life and poverty, while also incorporating poetry into it.
“(Writing) doesn’t have to be happy and nice all the time” she said.              
Hopkins is currently on a book tour for her recently released novel, “Rumble”.

23rd Philadelphia Film Festival: Days 7 and 8

It was a dreary, miserable day before I went downtown for a couple of evening showings on the festival's 7th day. I had skipped screenings on days 5 and 6 because I have a legit job where film criticism isn't my primary focus. It's a nice hobby, though.

(Read about days 1-4 of the festival here)

Anywho, one of the films I was most looking forward to, and the one most difficult to squeeze into my schedule, was this year's Cannes jury prize winner "Goodbye to Language" - which tied with "Mommy", another PFF selection. Later on I would be checking out the German film "Stations of the Cross", and while the first few days were full of disappointment, day 7 was a total highlight.

Day 7- Visual Stimulants

The rain was a problem. Parking downtown can be a total asshole, and with the rain I figured I was going to be showered with no possibilities. Luckily, I found a spot about two blocks over with only 7 minutes before the screening started for "Goodbye to Language". I got a good seat and honkered down for whatever the hell was about to come my way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

23rd Philadelphia Film Festival: Days 1-4

It's here! The 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival is finally underway, and with a good slate of films from all over the world.

The over 100 selections have already had people lining up outside the theaters with their badges and tickets eagerly waiting to see some of the critically acclaimed films that have already made the rounds at international film festivals, from "Birdman" to "Mommy" and foreign language film Oscar hopefuls in "Force Majeure" and "The Way He Looks".

With so much to see, the Philadelphia Film Society, which coordinates the festival, proudly touts that during the 11-day festival you will "see something you'll never forget". Whether these be films that are great or so bad that you'll never forget it, PFF has a line-up that will guarantee some hits and definitely some misses.

Seeing as this was my first time attending a real festival with a badge - last year I bought tickets for four films - I was ready to start binge watching with long days and tons of experiences. There's nothing like spending a day at the movies seeing three or more films in a day. I thought it would be extremely tiring, but it was pretty enjoyable, even when every film you see is foreign and you have to stay awake to read the subtitles.

As I was highly anticipating many films, I soon found that only three days of movie watching I was watching a whole bunch of new movies with tired, redundant stories that brought nothing new to cinema. (Scroll down to the bottom for ratings)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: "Birdman" Soars High on Talent

Riggan (Michael Keaton) and Mike (Edward Norton) square off in "Birdman".

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. USA, English, color, 119 minutes) Living in a time where thoughtless superhero action moves dominate the box office, is there any hope for those actors who have become icons after their starring role in the franchise ends?

Imagine Robert Downey Jr. 20 years from now after the Iron Man franchise is over and he's trying to break back into the acting world with a serious performance. Will he always be remembered as being Iron Man, or will people think he has real acting chops?

This is the basis for the comedy "Birdman", starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor trying to revive his acting career by writing, starring and directed an adaptation of Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" for Broadway.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie Review: 'Leaving Circadia' is a Charmer

Evan Mathew Weinstein and Larisa Polonsky are love interests in "Leaving Circadia" (Courtesy of Facebook)
If you've left college in the past 10 years (graduated or otherwise), it's quite possible some of you have been "privy" to that sudden realization that the parties are over and it's time to join the real world.

You've studied for four years, or longer, getting a piece of paper saying you have accumulated enough knowledge in an area of study that you can use it in the work place. Or maybe college wasn't for you and now you're struggling to find a good job that doesn't need that (un)necessary bachelor's degree.

Then all of a sudden people you went to high school and/or college with are getting married and having kids and you're just like "huh, what have I been doing with my life?" And the next thing you know you're 30 and you don't know what you've done lately.

"Leaving Circadia" explores this post-college rut.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Delco Resident's Film to Open FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia

Drexel Hill actor and producer Drew Seltzer will be bringing his acclaimed film to the Philadelphia area for the first time next weekend.
“Leaving Circadia”, executive produced by Seltzer, will be the opening night selection at the FirstGlance Film Festival at the Franklin Institute on Oct. 17.
“I’m hoping we’re gonna get a big turnout,” said Seltzer. “It always helps when you’re screening in a town that you’re from to get that kind of support.”
Primarily set in a Brooklyn brownstone apartment building, the light-hearted comedy follows a group of late 20-somethings who seem stuck in a post-college rut dealing with work, relationships and life’s new responsibilities.

(Read my review here)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Movie Review: 'Gone Girl' MIssing Any Sort of Originality

Gone Girl (2014, directed by David Fincher. USA, English, color, 147 minutes) As I sat and watched "Gone Girl" my feelings toward it went from intrigue to annoyance in about the first 10 minutes. Not knowing what the story was about aside from the straightforward title I was hoping the story would be as interesting as its vague title. Boy, was I wrong.

Directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on her 2012 bestselling novel, "Gone Girl" throws out any conventional sense of an atmospheric thriller, like Fincher's own "Zodiac", and gives us a film full of standard Lifetime cliches with a lot more bloody violence. OK, there's atmosphere, just no thrills.

On the day of their wedding anniversary, Nick (Ben Affleck) has come home to discover his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing. After just one day, media attention on the case is full throttle with a tough-as-nails cop (Kim Dickens) trying to peg the apparent murder on Nick, and the public already throwing stones at the charmingly apathetic husband.

What progresses in a glacial two-and-a-half film is a standard exercise of what happens when a bored, rich white woman has nothing better to do with her time than concoct a whole mess of a plan that in the end served no purpose at all.

It may have an all-star cast and Fincher at the helm, but it doesn't take away from the fact that this is material perfect for Lifetime. The man is always bad and the woman is always good. There's nothing to get caught up in here, just waiting for the inevitable conclusion and seeing the cookie-cutter Lifetime characters stick to form (like the female cop who seems to be on a mission to make sure Nick did it).

One standout was Tyler Perry, who plays a celebrity-driven attorney representing Affleck's character. He provides some good laughs, and you know it's a bad film when he's the best part of it.

Save your time. Even a good director like Fincher can't save this run-of-the-mill story of the made-up problems of rich white people.

Rating: D-