Friday, November 30, 2012

Movies I need to see

No matter how many movies I see, I always seem to be behind on key titles!

Here's what's on my must-see list for this weekend, in order of urgency.   I've got to accept that I may just not fit them all in, I'm afraid.

  1. Middle of Nowhere
  2. Skyfall
  3. Killing Them Softly
  4. Anna Karenina
  5. All the Romanian movies playing @FilmLinc except those I’ve already seen
  6. A Royal Affair
  7. Walk Away Renee
  8. The Flat
  9. Hitchcock
  10. Rise of the Guardians
  11. Lincoln again
  12. Cloud Atlas again

The sheer size of that list is grounds for requiring at least a four-day weekend.    Gonna go work on trying to figure out how to stop time. 

In the meantime, suggest revisions to the order of that list and/or let me know if you want to join me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Minnesota Movie Madness - Catch Up Post!

While I have every intention to actually update this blog less frequently, I am nonetheless compelled to mention my last week or so of movie consumption.

Thanksgiving found me thousands of miles away from my home, the documentary-laden cinematic paradise that is New York City. I spent the holiday with my folks in Saint Paul, MN, which is far from a wasteland for a movie-lover, but certainly the list of choices is just a bit shorter than my spoiled self is used to. No worries - I saved a pile of mainstream titles for this reason only.

And you know what? It ended up being a pretty good movie week.

First of all, I got to meet my Twitter pal Chris and chat about film over a cup of coffee. Something tells me he's quite pleased tonight, his favorite film of the year (still, I think?) having won the Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. (Moonrise Kingdom!)

I'm also glad to have caught up on five movies I wasn't about to miss. Those are:

Flight - which I saw thanks to my old friend Nick dropping by unexpected and whisking me away to the theater in the middle of a tense day on the home front. Flight was honestly a little better than expected. It's fair to compare it to a Lifetime movie, or worse, an after school special. You can't get around that. But aside from the shmaltz, it was a solid performance and what everyone says about that crash landing is dead on - harrowing stuff. I did struggle to understand the film wanted to make about religion. It was brought up too much to be an accident, but I didn't see an over-arching point or resolution to where it started to go with it.

Lincoln - My favorite of the weekend and definitely one of the best of the year. I totally screwed up going to this by myself since my parents would have been floored by this one. I did make them promise they'd go see it. I was thinking this was gonna be a lot more accessible than it was, and I found it being meatier, smarter, and actually even funnier than I was expecting. There were a few flourishes that did leave me with a "yeah this was made with Oscars in mind" but I thought those would punctuate every scene, and there were only a handful. I'm actually hoping to see this again.

Silver Linings Playbook - Could NOT have been more excited about this one. Jackie Weaver is basically the absolute best, it won the big prize at TIFF, AND it has Jennifer Lawrence running around in skimpy clothes? Where do I sign? I was trying to temper my expectations but almost everyone I knew (except a contrarian or two) was raving. Guys - I just don't get it. Not only what was the big deal about this movie, but where's the outrage? C'mon! We're smarter than this! And the movie was, too, for a good 45 minutes! You don't go from being that realistic (and trust me, I know, that shit was a little TOO real) to the complete fairy tale unrealistic "you've gotta be kidding me" lobotomy that got dumped on us. I'm genuinely curious as to how that even happened. Failures on so many levels. And I get why the general population bought it. My parents even came around at the end and left with that "awww!" look on their faces. But I can't help but raise an eyebrow at the super positive critical response. What do I know, I guess. Expect some snarky tweets if this one gets any major awards. Not now, guys, not in SUCH a jam-packed-with-quality year.

Wreck-It Ralph - This one wasn't even on my radar but I read a few super-positive tweets about it and figured it would make a good Dor/Micah girls night out. My niece is eight (and a half!) and perfectly willing to take a break from Angry Birds on my iPad for long enough to see a movie. What a satisfying ride. I loved the visuals and the voices and the concept overall. It could have been weird or bad but it was instead executed nearly perfectly, even if it did lose me ever so slightly in the third act. But, the eye candy and overall sweetness (pun intended) made it impossible to anything but adore this. Surprisingly great and more than anything, totally original.

Life of Pi - Didn't read the book. Don't know the story. Didn't see a trailer. Went because it's Ang Lee and because I thought my parents would dig it. They definitely went ape shit for the darn thing, and it gets no complaints from me either. Though I will happily kvetch about how my mom made an audible "awww!!!" sad little whimper every time something sad happened. I guess that's how I can tell she was engaged. Well that, and she turned to me half-way and whispered "This is really good!" Ah, sweet vindication. (I may or may not have mentioned that my mom is crazy particular about movies and I won't hear the end of it if I choose unwisely.)

My only movie-related regret of my Minnesota trip would be that I did not get a chance to visit the new Uptown theater, which has finally been renovated.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 - What a Great Year for Documentaries!

While I waited for my next screening at DocNYC to start, I took out my phone earlier today and tweeted something about it being such a great year for documentary film, that the Academy must allow for 15 nominees and 5 wins. Alas, if I ran the world!

That prompted some further discussion and a request for supporting evidence which I am more than happy to provide.

I've seen, at last count, about 90 documentary films this year - mostly at film festivals, so it's safe to say the bulk of them haven't been released yet. Do I make a list of just those that were shown in the US so far this year? Sure, OK. I'll do that, even though it excludes my two favorites.

So here's the best of what's come out this year, according to me.

The Invisible War
Planet of Snail
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
How To Survive a Plague
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Beauty is Embarrassing
The Revisionaries

And while I wouldn't call them personal favorites (perhaps only by virtue of the crowded playing field) - also very good and totally worthy of praise would be Searching for Sugarman, The Queen of Versailles, The Impostor, West of Memphis, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Chasing Ice.

And while I'm thinking of it, I also really enjoyed Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care.

The movies I expect will be on my list next year, providing they are released:

The Act of Killing
Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Vivan Las Antipodas!
The Source
Rewind This! (Just kidding - I haven't seen that one yet, though I have no doubt it's a masterpiece)

I'll probably see another 20 docs this year (12 more this week alone) so I wouldn't call this my definitive "best docs of 2012 list" just yet.

Doc NYC Adventures Thus Far

Annoying cell-phone users (and a few loud late-comers I haven't mentioned yet) notwithstanding, I have had a lovely experience at Doc NYC so far.

It's my first year attending this festival which seems to have been created and set up just for me.  A week of documentary film, including several hot titles I regrettably missed at other festivals?  Held at the IFC Center, mere blocks from my apartment? YES, PLEASE.

I've caught three films so far - Venus and Serena, Ethel and Bettie Page Reveals All.  Enjoyed aspects of all three - Ethel stands out as the best one so far. I've been so far struck by the passionate audiences and the relative ease / low stress element of attending screenings.

I'll write more later about my impressions of the films and the sheer awesomeness of the festival.

Anybody in New York who doesn't have their tickets already should be planning on seeing what all is still available for the rest of the festival which goes until the 17th.  Do not miss out! As for me, I am super psyched to see West of Memphis tomorrow, The Central Park Five next week, and like 15 more movies in between.

Know what else I am super excited for? Getting exactly six hours of sleep before my alarm goes off tomorrow for a five-movie day.  But don't worry - if I get tired, I'll just wake myself up by taking flash pictures of my last movie.  That doesn't bother anyone, right?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bad Behavior at the Movies

Tonight I can say I've seen it all.  I thought I had seen it all before, but I was wrong. Now, I've seen everything.

Nearly sold-out crowd for a midnight documentary.  People are jazzed up. Some are dressed up like the subject, as a kind of tribute. Everyone's cheering for the intro, folks are into the movie.

So everyone will behave, right? Surely they've come to actually, I don't know, watch the movie?

Not so fast. Two people seemed to have other agendas. Mr. Texto on the left, several rows in front of me, lost focus with the film not even 15 minutes in, and instead of having the decency to just graciously nod off, the emboldened sonofabitch thought he might see if anything on his mobile phone could entertain him further. Answer, unfortunately, was yes, as he proceeded to distract himself (and ~100 of his fellow movie-goers) every ten minutes for the next hour.

But our little attention-deficit poster child only gets takes the 2nd place trophy in the Most Annoying Person at the Midnight Movie contest I was holding in my own mind tonight.

No no - the big prize goes to Sally McSnapperson who, I presume, loved the movie so much that she felt the need to further document it by taking photographs with the camera of her smartphone.  She held the damned thing up to the light a few times, and an eager audience of filmgoers watched that shutter close more than once.  Sad news, though - the pics didn't turn out to her liking.  Don't worry though, guys, she wasn't going to give up that easily.  She could do better. The flash! She switched that feature on and went to town.  I'd say ten flash pictures from a two-minute period of the film are now sitting idly in her phone, ready for her to swipe through fondly as she rides the subway back to New Jersey or wherever the hell she crawled out of.

I'd now like to address the people sitting to her immediate left and right, as well as the full row directly behind her.  Were you just a bunch of raging pussies, or had someone actually bound your fingers for some reason, rendering you completely incapable of tapping the budding shutterbug?  I won't hear any excuses of just being too drawn into the film to have noticed it, because even if such captivation was possible, this was not the film to inspire such a comment.

Yours truly was of course the brave soul who wandered from the back row of the theater down to the middle of the third row to tap the crazy person on the shoulder and hiss "EXCUSE ME BUT THE LIGHT FROM YOUR CAMERA IS EXTREMELY DISTRACTING." She gave me a look of immediate compliance mixed with pure mortification that indicated it hadn't crossed her mind that there were other actual humans sharing the same space as she.

Because I'm a good person I will choose to forgive, but I will never forget.