Thursday, September 16, 2010

Per Questi Stretti Morire (Cartografia de una Passione)

At the Venice Film Festival: Per Questi Stretti Morire (Cartografia de una Passione), directed by Isabella Sandri and Giuseppe Gaudrino

Synopsis from the festival's website:


The perseverance, excess and suffering in the life and works of the explorer, filmmaker and photographer Alberto Maria De Agostini (1883-1960) are arbitrarily reinvented. Having left his village in Piemonte at the age of 26 to become a missionary, he reached Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego in 1910. He scaled mountains, discovered fjords and explored glaciers, naming them all. On encountering the anguish and pain of the destruction of the last Indio natives, he expressed these feelings eloquently through the photo plates and frames of his beautiful film Terre Magellaniche. All of this ends up as an imaginary and chaotic repository of memories, amongst the sad, hoarded remains of “white civilization.”


La belle endormie

At the Venice International Film Festival: La belle endormie, directed by Catherine Breillat

I really liked her Bluebeard, so I'm curious to see what Breillat does with a slightly less weird fairy tale. Although I've heard that earlier versions of Sleeping Beauty had the princess awakening from the suckling of the baby that was conceived and born while she was in her coma. That makes it weirder.

Synopsis from the festival's website:


Once upon a time... In a castle somewhere in a bygone age... The fairy Carabosse cuts the umbilical cord of a newborn babe, a little girl called Anastasia. Three young scatterbrained fairies appear, their cheeks red from running... Too late, says Carabosse, at sixteen the child’s hand will be pierced and she’ll die.
The young fairies burst into tears! Their tardiness didn’t deserve that. Now they must ward off the fatal curse... They just manage to predict that instead of dying, Anastasia will fall asleep for 100 years.
Sleeping for a century is very boring, so they bestow on her the possibility of wandering far and wide in her dreams during those 100 years of sleep...

Somewhere

At the Venice International Film Festival: Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola

Synopsis from the festival's website:


You have probably seen him in the tabloids: Johnny Marco drives around in a Ferrari and has a constant stream of girls and pills when he feels like having a night in. Comfortably numbed, Johnny drifts along. Then, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage arrives unexpectedly at the Chateau Hotel and he is forced to confront his life.

This film won the Golden Lion, which means that Coppola basically won the whole festival. Huzzah!

Attenberg

At the Venice International Film Festival: Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari

Synopsis from the festival's website:


Marina, a twenty-three year-old girl, lives with her architect father in a prototype factory town by the sea. Finding the human species strange and repellent, she keeps her distance. Instead she stubbornly observes it through songs of suicide, the mammal documentaries of Sir David Attenborough and the sex education lessons she receives from her only friend, Bella. A stranger comes to town and challenges her to a table football duel, on her own table. Meanwhile, her father ritualistically prepares for his exit from the 20th century, which he considers to be “overrated.” Caught between the two men and her collaborator Bella, Marina investigates the wondrous mystery of human fauna.

Meek's Cutoff

At the Venice International Film Festival*: Meek's Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt

Synopsis from the festival's website:


The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high desert plain, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the ensuing days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in each other’s instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy.

*And yes, I realize the festival is over, but somehow I don't think any of us actually went, so the end result is basically the same, right?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Race to Nowhere

Opening in theaters: Race to Nowhere, directed by Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon

Synopsis from the film's website:


Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

In Theaters: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

Opening in theaters: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont

The Romantics

Opening this weekend: The Romantics, directed by Galt Niederhoffer

Synopsis from AllMovie:


Wedding bells are bringing together a group of old friends as well as reawakening some old rivalries in this comedy-drama. Lila Hayes (Anna Paquin) and Tom McDevon (Josh Duhamel) first met when they were attending the same Ivy League college, and they became part of a circle of close friends who called themselves The Romantics. Six years after graduating, Lila and Tom are getting married, and their friends are seeing each other for the first time in years as they come together for the wedding. Laura Rosen (Katie Holmes), Lila's college roommate, has been invited to be the Maid of Honor, but while they're close friends, Laura has a secret -- she had a fling with Tom while he was dating Lila and she knows they still have feelings for one another. As the wedding day arrives, the occasion (and an open bar) brings some old skeletons out of the closet, especially as Lila's brother Chip (Elijah Wood) confesses his attraction to Laura. Also starring Candice Bergen and Malin Akerman, The Romantics was written and directed by Galt Niederhoffer, who adapted the screenplay from her own novel; the film received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The movie's website is here.

In Theaters: Bran Nue Dae

Opening this weekend: Bran Nue Dae, directed by Rachel Perkins

Friday, August 6, 2010

Patrik, Age 1.5

Opening this weekend: Patrik, Age 1.5, directed by Ella Lemhagen

Synopsis from AllMovie:

A married pair of ex-urbanites relocates to a small village in hopes of starting a family, only to receive an unexpected surprise thanks to a mix-up at the adoption agency. Sven and Göran are finally set to realize their shared dream of becoming parents. In preparation, the happy couple even decides to leave city life behind in favor of moving to a quaint village in the country. Unfortunately, the local villagers don't exactly extend a warm welcome to the optimistic couple; while some greet them with outright hostility, most are content simply to shun them. Upon receiving news that the adoption agency was unable to locate a suitable international baby, Sven and Göran agree to take in a local orphan. On paper, Patrik was listed as being age 1.5, though upon meeting their new adopted child it quickly becomes apparent to Sven and Göran that someone misplaced a decimal point. In reality, Patrik is a homophobic 15-year-old juvenile delinquent who's none too happy about being taken in by a pair of aging gay men. Still, Göran recognizes that Patrik needs a home, and agrees to put the openly hostile boy up until he and Sven can find a more suitable place for him to live. But former street punk Sven isn't quite as accommodating due to the fact that he knows well what a young ruffian such as Patrik may be capable of. Over time, Sven's trepidation about Patrik prompts him to confront not only his own misgivings about marriage and suburban living, but his long-buried feelings about his own estranged son from a previous marriage as well.


Quest for Honor

Opening this weekend: Quest for Honor, directed by Mary Ann Smothers Bruni

Synopsis from AllMovie:


In a small village in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq, a woman dressed in Western-style clothes — jeans and high heels — is found shot to death by the side of the road, and the preliminary investigation suggests that the victim knew her killers ... and that whoever pulled the trigger several times took no chances on the victim surviving. Before long, police have come to suspect that this was an "honor killing," in which a woman is murdered by a relative who believes she's brought shame in some way to the family name. "Honor killings" are still considered acceptable in many parts of the Middle East, and while they may be against the law, police rarely spend much time and energy on such cases. Filmmaker Mary Ann Smothers Bruni uses this murder as a springboard for examining the grim phenomena of "honor killings" in the documentary Quest For Honor, which features interviews with members of Sulaimaniyah's Women's Media and Education Center, police officers who investigate honor killings, family members of honor killing victims (and some suspected killers) and others who have become a part of this grim abuse of justice. Quest For Honor was an official selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

The film's website is here.

In Theaters: Cairo Time

Opening this weekend: Cairo Time, written and directed by Ruba Nadda

Lucky Days

Opening in Brooklyn this weekend: Lucky Days, directed by Angelica Torn and Anthony Torn

Synopsis from AllMovie:

A young woman seeking freedom from her abusive boyfriend, her embarrassing family, and her own self-constructed cage encounters a long lost childhood sweetheart who taps into her inner turmoil during the course of an explosive weekend at the Coney Island amusement park. All Virginia wants is to live life on her own terms, but something deep within is preventing her from truly striking out on her own. Now, as Virginia reaches a crucial turning point, life as she knows it is about to end. The only choice for Virginia now is whether to resign herself to the fact that the greedy developers intent on tearing down the boardwalk will accomplish their goal regardless of what she does, or allow herself to disappear right along with the only world she ever knew.


In Theaters: The Parking Lot Movie

Opening in New York this weekend: The Parking Lot Movie, directed by Meghan Eckman

Friday, July 30, 2010

Helen

Opening in New York this weekend: Helen, written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck

Synopsis from the film's Facebook page:

In the heartwrenching new film Helen, Ashley Judd portrays a beautiful, intelligent university professor who is happily married to David (Goran Visnjic) and enjoys a loving relationship with her teenage daughter (Alexia Fast) from a previous marriage. Despite all her good fortunes, Helen is hiding a secret; and a sudden, unexpected breakdown sends her spiraling into severe depression. Helen’s profound love for her family, which once kept them inseparable, now is tearing them apart. Amid the desperate battle for her life, her love and her sanity, Helen finds herself pulling away from David and seeking comfort from a fierce yet fragile, enigmatic and troubled young woman, Mathilda (Lauren Lee Smith), who is also struggling with a mental disorder – and whose extraordinary spirit and devotion shines like a flickering light inside Helen’s darkness.

In Theaters: The Extra Man

Opening this weekend: The Extra Man, written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

In Theaters: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

Opening this weekend: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, directed by Brigitte Berman

Friday, July 23, 2010

Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child


Opening this weekend: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, directed by Tamra Davis

Synopsis from the movie's website:

Centered on a rare interview that director and friend Tamra Davis shot with Basquiat over twenty years ago, this definitive documentary chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the young artist. In the crime-ridden NYC of the 1970s, he covers the city with the graffiti tag SAMO. In 1981 he puts paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 he is an artist with “rock star status.” He achieves critical and commercial success, though he is constantly confronted by racism from his peers. In 1985 he and Andy Warhol become close friends and painting collaborators, but they part ways and Warhol dies suddenly in 1987. Basquiat’s heroin addiction worsens, and he dies of an overdose in 1988 at the age of 27. The artist was 25 years old at the height of his career, and today his canvases sell for more than a million dollars. With compassion and psychological insight, Tamra Davis details the mysteries that surround this charismatic young man, an artist of enormous talent whose fortunes mirrored the rollercoaster quality of the downtown scene he seemed to embody.

Featuring interviews with Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O'Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffmann, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, Rene Ricard, Kenny Scharf, among many others.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ramona and Beezus

Opening this weekend: Ramona and Beezus, directed by Elizabeth Allen

I don't think I'm the target audience for this movie, but I loved the books so much I ordered Honey Nut Cheerio pencils that said, "Athena, Age 8." ("Athena" was what I wanted people to call me, as the goddess was my personal role model. Good thing I didn't know about sacrificing goats.)

From the movie's website:

The adventures of young Ramona Quimby (newcomer Joey King) and her big sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) come to life in this all new film based on the best-selling books by Beverly Cleary. Ramona's vivid imagination, boundless energy, and accident-prone antics keep everyone she meets on their toes. But her irrepressible sense of fun, adventure and mischief come in handy when she puts her mind to helping save her family's home.

In Theaters: Mugabe and the White African

Opening this weekend: Mugabe and the White African, directed by Lucy Bailey

In Theaters: Countdown to Zero

Opening this weekend: Countdown to Zero, directed by Lucy Walker

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Contenders

In theaters: The Contenders, directed by Marta Mondelli

Synopsis from the film's website:

Nora and her husband Ken host a birthday party in their vacation house by the sea.  The guest of honor arrives first but, due to some inexplicable ailment, retires upstairs.  The other guests, Veronica (returning from an eight-year-spell in Europe) and Marc (an unfaithful married man) complete the party.
As the night unravels, one of the guests inexplicably dies.

Will the marriage of Ken and Nora, marred by Ken’s repressed subservience and Nora’s obsessive jealousies, last the evening?  And will the nostalgic Veronica, and the childish Marc will find peace?  Before dawn, the remaining friends indulge in sex and slices of cake, as they grapple with their own relationships, their friend's death, and the secret of happiness.

When the sun appears, who of these "contenders" will ultimately find what they are looking for?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Viscera Film Festival

Showing on July 17 in Los Angeles: The Viscera Film Festival, featuring short horror films directed by women

If I lived anywhere near LA, I think I would have to go, despite the risk of nightmares...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Netflix It: Titus

Available on Netflix: Titus, directed by Julie Taymor

Thematically dark but visually dazzling. Who knew Shakespeare was this gruesome? This is a totally different level than the usual murders and suicides...

Synopsis from AllMovie:

One of William Shakespeare's lesser-known plays, Titus Andronicus was staged in New York by award-winning theatrical director Julie Taymor in an acclaimed 1995 production, before her widely praised Broadway version of The Lion King. Taymor revisits that production for her first motion picture, with the addition of a star-studded cast. Roman General Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) has returned from defeating the Goths in a bloody battle, but the victory has left him with mixed feelings, as the war took the lives of several of his sons. Titus is reminded by his first-born son Lucius (Angus Macfadyen) that their faith demands the sacrifice of an enemy prisoner as a gift to the gods for their victory. Titus chooses the eldest son of Tamora (Jessica Lange), the Queen of the Goths, who has since been taken hostage by Titus's troops. Tamora pleads for her son's life, but Titus goes ahead with the sacrifice. She then becomes the lover of the new emperor of Rome, Saturninus (Alan Cumming), a weak-willed and corrupt man. Tamora uses her connection to the throne for her own ends: in retaliation for the death of her son, Tamora and her surviving sons, Chiron (Jonathan Rhys Myers) and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys), brutally rape Titus's beloved daughter, Lavinia (Laura Fraser). This act sets in motion an ever-tightening spiral of revenge and retaliation that leaves few of the participants unscathed. The supporting cast includes Colm Feore as Marcus, Harry Lennix as Aaron, and James Frain as Bassianus.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lost Persons Area

Showing at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Lost Persons Area, directed by Caroline Strubbe

Synopsis from the KVIFF website:

The story, located for the most part in an industrial no-man’s land, between tall electricity pylons on which the leading male characters are working, is not easy to sum up. This reflective, highly personal debut by writer-director Caroline Strubbe doesn’t rely on a strict narrative line. It offers reflections of solitude, feelings of disquiet and longings, all observed through a searching, roving camera. The film is an intimate and mysterious chronicle of relationships in general and family relations in particular. The young daughter Tessa is more or less left to her own devices, but manages to fill her days with rangy rambles and a strange passion for collecting things. For her part, her mother Bettina appears to dream of another life: a more normal one or, perhaps, on the contrary, a more adventurous one. Lost Persons Area is a subtle drama about restless people’s search for happiness.

Love, Lust & Lies

Showing at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Love, Lust & Lies, directed by Gillian Armstrong

Synopsis from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival website:

In 1976 renowned Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong met three 14-year-old friends, Kerry, Josie, and Diana, at a youth center in Adelaide. A portrait of their adolescence makes up the core of the film Smokes and Lollies, the first of five documentaries capturing the lives of the three ordinary working-class girls (and later women). With breaks of several years, the filmmaker regularly returned to her heroines, and in 1996, when each has an adult daughter, she released Not Fourteen Again, winning the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Documentary. Despite her original plan, in 2009 Armstrong decided to contact her heroines for the last time in order to find out to what extent they had fulfilled their dreams and desires, and whether they can be as honest with the camera and, above all, with themselves as they all once promised. This unique long-term documentary project superbly charts the seemingly ordinary lives of three women, offering a singular look at Australian society from the mid-70s till today.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Theaters: The Kids Are All Right

Opening this weekend: The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Finally! I feel like I've been hearing about this movie forever.






Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Hedgehog

Showing at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival: The Hedgehog, directed by Mona Achache

Synopsis from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival website:

An intellectual concierge, a precocious 11-year-old and a refined Japanese gentleman are the strange trio at the heart of the sometimes uplifting, sometimes cynical The Hedgehog, based on Muriel Barbery’s bestselling novel. Making audiences feel clever while also delivering an old-fashioned fairy tale of unexpected love (and even a dose of social critique), Mona Achache’s helming debut unashamedly has it all ways. But the result is a basically touching, engaging parable about the importance of unconventionality. Performances are strong, with Josiane Balasko in particular suggesting a wealth of simmering emotion beneath her impassive features.

Unsubtitled trailer:

Netflix It: Whale Rider

Available from Netflix: Whale Rider, directed by Niki Caro

This is one of those movies where you just want to scream at the mean grandpa to stop being such a mean grandpa. Go ahead. But he won't hear you.

(Somewhat spoiler-y) synopsis from the movie's website:

In a small New Zealand coastal village, Maori claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. In every generation for more than 1000 years, a male heir born to the Chief succeeds to the title.

The time is now. The Chief's eldest son, Porourangi, fathers twins - a boy and a girl. But the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Pai.

Grief-stricken, her father leaves her to be raised by her grandparents. Koro, her grandfather who is the Chief, refuses to acknowledge Pai as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of no use to him. But her grandmother, Flowers, sees more than a broken line, she sees a child in desperate need of love.

And Koro learns to love the child. When Pai's father, Porourangi, now a feted international artist, returns home after twelve years, Koro hopes everything is resolved and Porourangi will to accept destiny and become his successor.

But Porourangi has no intention of becoming Chief. He has moved away from his people both physically and emotionally. After a bitter argument with Koro he leaves, suggesting to Pai that she come with him. She starts the journey but quickly returns, claiming her grandfather needs her.

Koro is blinded by prejudice and even Flowers cannot convince him that Pai is the natural heir. The old Chief is convinced that the tribe's misfortunes began at Pai's birth and calls for his people to bring their 12-year-old boys to him for training.
He is certain that through a gruelling process of teaching the ancient chants, tribal lore and warrior techniques, the future leader of their tribe will be revealed to him.

Meanwhile, deep within the ocean, a massive herd of whales is responding, drawn towards Pai and their twin destinies.

When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. Until one person prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the people. The Whale Rider.


   

Friday, July 2, 2010

Great Directors

Opening this weekend: Great Directors, directed by Angela Ismailos

Synopsis from the film's website:

A deeply personal and intimate look at the art of cinema and the artists who create it, Great Directors is a celebration of films and film-making starring ten of the world’s most acclaimed, provocative, and individualistic living directors, featuring original, in-depth conversations with Bernado Bertolucci, David Lynch, Stephen Frears, Agnes Varda, Ken Loach, Liliana Cavani, Todd Haynes, Catherine Breillat, Richard Linklater and John Sayles. These interviews more than just chronicle Ismailos’ encounters with ten remarkable men and women. Extensively illuminated by clips and historical archives from the subjects’ works, they also reveal the distinctive personalities who created the timeless images that have long inspired Ismailos-and all of us. Intercutting among the filmmakers in a freely associative way, Ismailos explores each director’s artistic evolution; the role of politics and history on their work; their feelings about the other great directors who inspired them (with Bertolucci paying homage to Pasolini, Breillat to Bergman, and Haynes to Fassbinder, etc); and the agony and ecstasy of being an artist in a medium that is, paradoxically, also an industry.


Beautiful Islands

Opening this weekend: Beautiful Islands, directed by Tomoko Kana

Synopsis from the movie's website:

This movie looks at three beautiful islands, shaken by climate change: Tuvalu in the South Pacific, Venice in Italy, and Shishmaref in Alaska.

The islands all have different climates and cultures, but the people all love their native lands. The film, which took three years to shoot, focuses on their daily lives. It portrays festivals that foster ties among the people, traditional crafts which have been passed on for generations, and peaceful lives by the water. They are all disappearing by climate change.

When these people lose their homelands, their cultures and histories face “death.” Their lives in the midst of all the changes suggest where our future leads..

Director, Kana Tomoko purposely decided not to put any narration or music in this film. It is a two-hour trip around the world, listening to the sounds of waters and winds, accompanied by the children’s smiles. She wants you to sharpen your minds and feel what we are going to lose as climate change really (threatens) hits our planet.

Only When I Dance

Opening this weekend: Only When I Dance, directed by Beadie Finzi

Synopsis from the movie's blog:

This feel-good documentary follows Irlan and Isabela, two teenagers from the violent favelas of Rio de Janeiro, as they pursue their dreams of becoming professional ballet dancers. This inspiring story takes us from Rio - where their communities must raise the funds to support their ambitions - to exhilarating ballet competitions in New York and Switzerland. It's a film about their determination to dance, and the price one must pay for talent, ambition and success.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ripley's Game

Available from Netflix: Ripley's Game, directed by Liliana Cavani

Though I don't think I would wholeheartedly recommend this movie (Ripley's motivations are a little too opaque for the plot to totally make sense, and it fails the Bechdel Test), it's not a bad little thriller, and it's got Ray Winstone who was once, shockingly, voted Britain's fifth sexiest actor. So there's that.

Synopsis from AllMovie:

The cool and mannered sociopath Tom Ripley returns to the big screen in director Liliana Cavani's 2002 crime thriller Ripley's Game, adapted from the 1974 novel by Patricia Highsmith. Living a life of luxury as an art dealer in northern Italy with his musician wife Luisa (Chiara Caselli), Ripley (John Malkovich) attends a party thrown by Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott) and overhears the host making critical comments about Ripley's fashion sense. Enraged, Ripley immediately plots his retaliation for this slight, which comes via a reunion with his former business partner Reeves (Ray Winstone). Reeves seeks out Ripley's help in finding an unrecognized assassin to kill a Russian gangster, and Ripley suggests he talk to Trevanny — whom Ripley knows has recently been diagnosed with leukemia and is also desperately strapped for cash. Trevanny reluctantly accepts the offer, in order to insure his family's security — but is pressured into a repeat performance, which draws the ire of Ripley. The situation quickly spirals out of control to the point of drawing the attention — and anger — of the Russian mob, forcing Ripley to intervene. But the master criminal also develops a respect for his unwitting victim, forming an unlikely friendship under the most dire of circumstances.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Other Movies at the Edinburgh Film Festival

Some other films screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival:

A Small Act, directed by Jennifer Arnold

Foxes, directed by Mira Fornay

Hotel Atlantico, directed by Suzana Amaral

Les Signes Vitaux, directed by Sophie Deraspe

Nothing Personal, directed by Urszula Antoniak

Obselidia, directed by Diane Bell

The Extra Man, directed by Shari Springer Berman

The Oath, directed by Laura Poitras

Third Star

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Third Star, directed by Hattie Dalton

Synopsis from the EIFF website:

BAFTA-winning short filmmaker Hattie Dalton makes an auspicious feature debut with this poignant but still screamingly funny paean to making the most of life – while you still can. James (Benedict Cumberbatch) invites his three closest friends to join him on a road trip to his favourite place in the world. Like many an impulsive group holiday, however, the undertaking proves fraught with practical difficulties, surreal encounters and emotionally ravaging revelations... With a vibrant, witty and insightful script by Vaughan Sivell, and a quartet of excellent lead performances from the UK’s finest young actors, this is a moving, pertinent and unpredictable film, and a fantastic showcase of new and promising British film talent.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Edge of Dreaming

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: The Edge of Dreaming, directed by Amy Hardie

Synopsis from the film's website:
 
This is the story of a rational, sceptical woman, a mother and wife, who does not remember her dreams. Except once, when she dreamt her horse was dying. She woke so scared she went outside in the night. She found him dead. The next dream told her she would die herself, when she was 48. 

The Edge of Dreaming charts every step of that year. The film explores life and death in the context of a warm and loving family, whose happiness is increasingly threatened as the dream   seems to be proving true.   From the kids reaction to their horses' death (they taught the dog a new trick – called 'dead dog'),   the film mixes humour, science and married life as Amy attempts to understand what is happening to her. 

Everyone wrestles with the concept of their own mortality, but few so directly explore and confront the subject. When Amy fell seriously ill, as her dream predicted, she went on a search to change that dream, leading her to eminent neuroscientist Mark Solms, and to new understanding of the complexity of our brains. The final confrontation takes us back into her dream with the help of a shaman, revealing a surprising twist to the tale.

The Black Panther

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: The Black Panther, directed by Iyari Wertta

Synopsis from the EIFF website:

Disheveled private eye Nico Beamonte’s latest case comes from God himself … possibly. He wants Nico to find the mysterious Black Panther. But who, or what, is the Black Panther? And what has this got to do with a cryogenically frozen Mariachi singer and a 1950s flying saucer? Surrealism, Mexican-style – as if film noir had collided with props left over from a Ray Harryhausen film.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Perestroika

Showing at the Edinburgh FIlm Festival: Perestroika, directed by Sarah Turner

Synopsis from the EIFF website:

Blurring the boundary between reality and fiction, Perestroika retraces a journey made exactly 20 years previously, in an attempt to come to terms with the death of a close friend. Hypnotic and haunting imagery and evocative soundscapes draw the viewer into a mysterious space of reflection, caught between past and present. The journey itself – which interweaves footage from the original trip – becomes a metaphor for the process of remembering and reexperiencing.

Soul Boy

Showing at the Edinburgh Film Festival: Soul Boy, directed by Hawa Essuman

Synopsis from the film's website:

Nairobi, Kenya. 14 year-old Abila lives with his parents in Kibera, one of the largest slums in East Africa. One morning the teenager discovers his father ill and delirious. Someone has stolen his soul, mumbles the father as he sits huddled in a corner. Abila is shocked and confused but wants to help his father and goes in search of a suitable cure. Supported by his friend Shiku who is the same age as him, he learns that his father has gambled his soul away in the company of a spiritual woman. The teenager doesn’t want to believe it and sets about looking for the witch. When he finally discovers her in the darkest corner of the ghetto, she gives him seven challenging tasks to save his father’s lost soul. Abila embarks on an adventurous journey which leads him right through the microcosm of his home town.

Netflix It: Point Break

Available from Netflix: Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Synopsis from AllMovie:

Kathryn Bigelow's fourth action film follows FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) as he goes undercover to infiltrate a cache of Southern California surfers suspected of robbing banks. Utah, a former football player, is assigned to Los Angeles. There, four bank robbers, who wear rubber masks and call themselves "Ex-Presidents," have executed a series of successful robberies which embarrassingly have the FBI stumped. Utah, and his partner Pappas (Gary Busey) suspect that the robbers are surfers and hatch a plan for catching them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let It Rain

Opening this weekend: Let It Rain, directed by Agnès Jaoui

Synopsis from the film's website:

Agathe Villanova, féministe nouvellement engagée en politique, revient pour dix jours dans la maison de son enfance, dans le sud de la France, aider sa soeur Florence à ranger les affaires de leur mère, décédée il y a un an. Agathe n'aime pas cette région, elle en est partie dès qu'elle a pu. Les impératifs de la parité l'ont parachutée ici à l'occasion des prochaines échéances électorales. Dans cette maison vivent Florence, son mari, et ses enfants. Mais aussi Mimouna, femme de ménage que les Villanova ont ramenée avec eux d'Algérie, au moment de l'indépendance.

Le fils de Mimouna, Karim, et son ami Michel Ronsard entreprennent de tourner un documentaire sur Agathe Villanova, dans le cadre d'une collection sur «les femmes qui ont réussi».

On est au mois d'août. Il fait gris, il pleut. Ce n'est pas normal. Mais rien ne va se passer normalement.

Or in other words:
 
Agathe Villanova, a feminist who has just entered politics, returns to her childhood home in the south of France for  ten day to help her sister Florence go through their deceased mother's possessions. Agathe never liked the area; she left as soon as she could. However, the demands of women's equality in the legislature have brought her here for the next election. This is the house where Florence, her husband, and her children all live, as well as Mimouna, the housekeeper that the Villanovas brought with them from Algeria when that country gained its independence.
Karim, Mimouna's son, and his friend Michel Ronsard are filming a documentary about Agathe, as part of a collection about "successful women."
It's August, but the weather is gray and rainy. That's not normal... but nothing is going to be normal.

Stonewall Uprising

Opening at the Film Forum this weekend: Stonewall Uprising, directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Synopsis from AllMovie:

Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner team up to explore the Stonewall riots, an event that served as a sharp turning point for gay rights in the United States. The setting was a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn; the date was June 28, 1969. It was a time when homosexuality was still seen as a dangerous mental illness, and raids on gay gathering spots were commonplace. When New York City police raided the mafia-run establishment, they figured the patrons could be herded into paddy wagons without a fight – they were wrong. Over the course of the next three days, gay protestors clashed with police in an uprising that made headlines across the world. In this film, participants from both sides of the conflict offer firsthand testimony about the social climate of the era, and the riots that sparked a revolution.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Out of the Ashes

Showing at the Edinburgh Film Festival: Out of the Ashes, directed by Lucy Martens and Timothy Albone

Synopsis from the film's website:

Along the way the Afghan cricket team won three tournaments to make it to South Africa and the World Cup qualifier. They were the first nation ever to rise from cricket's lowest league to this level. That a nation riven by war, marred by corruption and fractured by poverty could achieve this makes the story all the more remarkable. Out of the Ashes is the ultimate David and Goliath film.

The team, with very little funding, no facilities and a lack of infrastructure, have achieved what no one else has managed. At a time when Afghanistan is in the news for suicide bombers, drugs and rigged elections, this film shows a more human side to a country too often associated with tragedy.

We were there when the team swam in the sea for the first time, ate fish and chips, watched the samba and gate crashed an English wedding. We were there when they faced their greatest challenge in South Africa and filmed their return to Afghanistan.

Mundane History

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Mundane History, directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong

Synopsis from the EIFF website:

Thai cinema continues to come of age with this exciting debut. Pun is a home nurse, tending to the recently paralysed and angry Ake, who has a fractious relationship with his father. As tensions boil, a mundane day trip reveals how fragile the universe is, and a life-affirming change takes place. Featuring an astounding planetarium scene, this deeply felt cry for change is simply spellbinding.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Girl with Black Balloons

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Girl with Black Balloons, directed by Corinne van der Borch

Synopsis from the film's website:

Bettina is said to be the most beautiful woman to have ever lived in the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City, according to residents, yet has hidden herself away in her studio for over 40 years.  She sleeps on a lawn-chair and surrounds herself with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling, filled with works of her art that have never seen the light of day. These boxes hide a stunning body of work - but it's come at a huge cost.  Her life as a reclusive guardian over her creativity and artwork inspires us to think about the world that we have each chosen for ourselves, how we are captive of it or freed by it.

During humorous, intimate and provocative moments, first-time director Corinne van der Borch develops a delicate friendship with Bettina and gradually unveils the life of one of New York's last true eccentrics.

No trailer on YouTube yet, but you can watch the trailer on the EIFF website, on the film's website or on the film's KickStarter page. (About KickStarter—van der Borch needs a few more grand to finish technical stuff on the movie before the EIFF. Looks like a worthy cause to me!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Donkeys

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Donkeys, directed by Morag McKinnon

Synopsis from the film's website:

Donkeys is a bittersweet, tragicomic tale. When Alfred learns of his impending death he realises it’s time to make amends with his estranged family. However before things get better they get a whole lot worse and a blast from the past injects calamity, comedy and confusion into Alfred’s efforts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Lottery

Opening this weekend: The Lottery, directed by Madeleine Sackler

Synopsis from the movie's website:

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

In Theaters: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Opening in theaters this weekend: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

In Theaters: Winter's Bone

Opening in theaters today: Winter's Bone, directed by Debra Granik

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Act of Dishonour

Showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival: Act of Dishonour, directed by Nelofar Pazira

Synopsis from the National Film Board of Canada:

In a land beset by endless strife, honour can come at a high price – even for the innocent.

Mena, a young, beautiful bride-to-be, lives in a small, remote village in northern Afghanistan, a harsh landscape that still shimmers with breathtaking colours. Respecting the deeply conservative local customs, she and her fiancé, Rahmat, have little contact yet cherish a special bond. The arrival of a Canadian film crew briefly opens a window on a new world for Mena, a foray beyond the boundaries of convention that leads her inexorably down a dangerous road.

Directed by Nelofer Pazira, the star of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s acclaimed Kandahar and co-director of the documentary Return to Kandahar, Act of Dishonour is a compelling drama in which East and West, love and honour, modernity and custom clash with tragic consequences. In this rich microcosm of a fractured society, many stories intertwine, including those of Mejgan (played by Pazira), the Afghan-Canadian translator who befriends Mena, and thoughtful Ali, a member of an ethnic minority who wrestles with the prospect of eternal exile from his childhood home.

Act of Dishonour shuns easy answers, challenging rigid moral paradigms and preconceptions on both sides of the cultural divide. This eloquent, nuanced portrait of life in Afghanistan is part lament against injustice, part testament to the spirit of a people who have survived decades of war.