Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yet more SIFF--volume 3


Some upcoming films at SIFF--

TVOR particularly liked the Danish film Fear Me Not, which is showing again. She also thought Kathryn Bigelow's Iraqi war film The Hurt Locker was excellent.

The Headless Woman, La Cienaga, Snow, The Firm Land, and Captive were interesting and also good.

Melodrama Habibi and Carmo, Hit the Road are pretty decent as well--not great, but not a bad time at the movies.

You can skip La Mission. It's not terrible, but not particularly interesting either.

She's already warned you off a few others, and won't repeat herself.

Those of you not in Seattle are on your own right now. Just try to make good decisions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

SIFF 2009--part 2


Here are a few more quick comments from the trenches for upcoming SIFF screenings--

TVOR's top choices: Still Walking, Quiet Chaos, Il Divo, Welcome, The Market--A Tale of Trade, OSS-117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, Kabei--Our Mother, The Hurt Locker, Snow

TVOR also thought these were worthwhile: The Headless Woman, La Cienaga, Mommy is at the Hairdresser's, Hooked, Captive, The Cove

Not bad: Terribly Happy, Melodrama Habibi, My Dear Enemy, Carmo, Hit the Road,

Teetering on the edge: My Suicide

And the ones that didn't work for TVOR: Bluebeard, In Your Absence, El General, Tahaan--A Boy With a Grenade

There are more wonderful archival films coming up at SIFF too--like Coppola's The Conversation. Wow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

SIFF 2009--part 1


The Seattle International Film Festival has just begun, and already TVOR is way, way behind with her comments. First, the non-festival related stuff for non-Seattle people:

If you live in a city where the lovely French film Summer Hours is playing, go see it. It's the best thing TVOR has seen for a while. And if you've already seen that, try Kabei: Our Mother, from Japan. It's not quite the film the first is, more melodramatic, but still worth seeing. If these films haven't come to where you live yet, make a note of them.

Now, for the SIFF notes. Here's what TVOR knows about what's playing the first few days of the festival, all based on her own viewing:

Top choices: Summer Hours, Departures, Quiet Chaos, Still Walking, Treeless Mountain, The Hurt Locker, Snow

Also good: We Live in Public, Captive, Hooked, The Cove, Tulpan

Not bad, but missable: Terribly Happy, My Dear Enemy, Melodrama Habibi, The Higher Force, Carmo, Hit the Road

Flawed, but you probably won't hate yourself...then again, you might: Tahaan-A Boy With a Grenade

TVOR hasn't seen any real stinkers showing in the first few days, although they could be lurking.

And then there are those archival choices, wonderful old films on the big screen during SIFF: Sunset Boulevard, The Third Man, etc. You could always do a lot worse than watch an old classic like one of these.

More later.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sita is singing in Seattle


TVOR is very excited. Her favorite little lost movie, the film that just couldn’t get distributed because of copyright issues, has somehow managed to get a brief run in her very own city. People of Seattle, go to the Central Cinema from May 14th to 20th and watch Sita Sings the Blues! You’ll be glad you did.

TVOR went on at length about this film in her April 4th blog entry. She won’t go through the whole thing again so here’s an abbreviated version: 1) she really liked the film and thinks you should see it and 2) it’s not getting distributed and 3) you need to grab your chances to see it whenever you can.

If you aren’t in Seattle or can’t get to the Central Cinema, you can go to the film’s website and get various links to stream it, download it, or burn it on a DVD. You can even buy a Sita T-shirt. There’s a good chance you’ll want one after seeing Sita Sings the Blues.

Here's the link to the film's website:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good movie alert!


There are some things worth seeing in theaters! You may have to look a little, but if you're lucky, you'll find them.

Written and directed by Gotz Speilmann
This Austrian movie (and really, how many of those have you seen?) was nominated for an Oscar, but has taken a while to get released in the United States. TVOR liked it a lot. It's sort of a moody thriller and sort of a low-rent heist story, but mostly it's a movie that goes in unexpected directions. TVOR went into the film not knowing much about it, and recommends you do the same. She thinks you'll be glad you did.

Sin Nombre
Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga
This is the first feature-length film by Cary Fukunaga, a young American director. To make things more interesting, he made a film taking place in Mexico and a couple of Central American countries, entirely in Spanish, using nonprofessional actors. This is not a guy who's afraid of a challenge. And the film works. The two central characters are both traveling north through Mexico on the roofs of freight trains--a young woman trying to make it to the United States from her home in Nicaragua, and a Mexican gang member running from his former "homies" who are now out to kill him. Sin Nombre covers a lot of ground, both geographically and thematically, with these characters, and does it really well. The film looks great too. Fukunaga managed to get some money to make it, and it's beautifully shot on 35mm film.

Il Divo
Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino
As is frequently the case, New Yorkers get to see really wonderful foreign films before the rest of us--except, that is, for those of us lucky enough to spend time at film festivals. Il Divo opened there last week, and we can only hope that those of us in smaller cities get to see it before too long. (In the mean time, TVOR recommends that you attend your local film festival.) Il Divo tells the story of Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti who held office off and on in the 1970's and 1980's, and is generally assumed to be corrupt, and responsible for the deaths of many. Naturally, in 1991, he was appointed senator for life. This is no standard biopic, however. The film looks like an American gangster movie, in the tradition of The Godfather or Goodfellas, and is one wonderful piece of cinema. It's very stylized (in a good way), and is wonderful visually and in its use of music. There are many characters--government ministers, victims, bad guys (or combinations of all three). You're unlikely to know who many of these people are, but don't worry, just go with the flow. You'll have a ton of fun.

Sleep Dealer
Directed and co-written by Alex Rivera
This time, filmgoers in Los Angeles as well as New York get a jump on the rest of us (except, of course, for those film festival die-hards). This little under-the-radar film is a Mexican science fiction movie that non-fans can enjoy. No spaceships, no androids, no intergalactic battles. Just a futuristic story with a great idea. It takes the idea of Mexican workers doing the United States' dirty work in fascinating directions. Not everything about this film works (this is the director's first feature), but it's definitely worth checking out. When (or if) it comes to your city, of course. Or, eventually, on video.

Goodbye Solo
Directed and co-written by Ramin Bahrani
This guy is the current big deal in American cinema, which is interesting because most people have never heard of him. TVOR really likes his movies--if someone is going to be anointed the savior of American film, he seems like a good choice. It helps that he's articulate, seems nice, and does good Q&A's--TVOR has seen him in action. He also seems unlikely to sell out to Hollywood any time soon. Now, about Goodbye Solo. It's the story of a charming Senegalese immigrant, working as a cab driver in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the relationship that develops between the cabbie and one of his fares, much to the displeasure of the other man. It's also about the world (and world view) of the cabbie and a bunch of other things too. This really is a lovely film. TVOR doesn't want to say too much more. Just see it.

Written and directed by by Greg Mottola
Here's a film you can probably actually find playing all over the country, but you'd better act fast--it's been out a while and theater operators will probably push it out of the few remaining theaters it's playing in soon, in order to make room for the big summer movies. This story, set in the 80's, follows a recent college graduate who, because of family financial problems, ends up working in a sorry-looking amusement park instead of spending the summer traveling in Europe with his buddy. Needless to say, he is not happy about that development, and only reluctantly gets drawn into the world of the park and the lives of the other employees. It's a sweet (but not icky-sweet), gentle film and you should see it.

The Soloist
Directed by Joe Wright
TVOR has mixed feelings about this one. The movie is based on the true story of the relationship between Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist, and Nathaniel Ayers, a schizophrenic living on the streets of LA. Mr. Ayers was once a talented musician, but his disease forced him to drop out of Julliard and give up the cello. This type of movie is just a recipe for disaster--you would expect it to be some sappy thing with a phony, uplifting, feel-good ending. Well, it's not that. It doesn't entirely work, but it's not that. First of all, it has Robert Downey Jr. as Steve Lopez. Thank God. TVOR would watch him do just about anything, and true to form, he elevates his material and is wonderful in the role. Jamie Foxx is good as Mr. Ayers, although not nearly as interesting to watch. A superb actor playing a regular old flawed human is so much more interesting than a good actor playing a disabled character. At least that's what TVOR thinks, although the people who give out awards tend to disagree. Anyway...the film treats people with schizophrenia more realistically that some movies (A Beautiful Mind) but some of its segments trying to show what Mr. Ayers is seeing and/or feeling just don't seem to work. Ultimately, it's not a bad film, but not that great either. See it if you want to. Especially if you're a Robert Downey Jr. fan. But keep your expectations in check.

On video:

Earlier films by Ramin Bahrani are Man Push Cart, about a Pakistani immigrant and Manhattan street vendor, and Chop Shop, about young parent-less Latino immigrants, living and working in Queens. These two movies and Bahrani's new one are all about immigrants, striving to get along and improve their lives, but don't think they follow a pattern. The three films are very different, and each has its pleasures.

Gret Mottola's earlier films include Superbad and The Daytrippers--very different from each other, but both entertaining and well-made. Superbad is the rare adolescent male comedy that even grown up people (including grown-up women) can enjoy. The Daytrippers is a road movie in which an entire family, plus hangers-on, piles in a the family station wagon to investigate suspicions of one daughter's husband's infidelity.

Jesse Eisenberg, very good as the lead in Adventureland, has a couple of earlier films that TVOR really liked. In The Squid and the Whale, he's the older of two sons whose self-absorbed parents' marriage is crumbling, and in Roger Dodger, he's a kid whose absolutely sleazy uncle (Campbell Scott) takes him out, looking for sex. Really.

The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon are out on video now. Both are nicely done films, with wonderful lead performances.