flickflackmovietalk

PCFF 2015 Day 7: Shorts, Dog vs. Nazis, and Awards

Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments

The final day of the festival is finally here! That’s right, the festival has come to an end after many snowstorms and much perseverance. I began the final day with Finn which I had heard lots of good things about, prior to viewing the film. The movie follows the titular boy who discovers his family history, musical calling, and mysterious instructor. But everyone is not as they seem and the baffling past will come to be revealed by the end of this film. While it suffers from predictability, Finn is at first glance nothing but an average family drama. But as it continues on, the film becomes increasingly more and more interesting as the plot continues to unravel. Mels van der Hoeven stands out in an impressive cast as Finn whose boyish curiosity leads to conflict and…Watch the film, already!

Finn

Next up was the second Youth Filmmakers Showcase, this time the Multi-Regional edition. They ranged from zombie epics to magic gum to invisible girlfriends. While it may not have been the strongest collection of shorts the festival has showed, it was still fun to see what young filmmakers had to say. One highlight was GIFTS, a surprisingly violent murder-mystery that made you put the pieces together with little help from the filmmakers.

For the closing night screening, Belle & Sebastian was the perfect fit. I had never seen it before myself, so it was a pleasure to see something new. Sebastian, a young boy on the France/Switzerland border, meets Belle, the so-called “beast” who’s really a shaggy dog with large, cute eyes. But the story is more than cute; it’s moving, emotional, and memorable in all the right ways. Asides from some phenomenal performances from all the lead actors notably, like Finn, the young lead. The main standout, however, is the cinematography which is never better than the opening scene. As Sebastian is daringly lowered from a cliff, I clenched my seat in suspense. The breathtaking shots of the landscapes are fantastic, but it never gets better than the opening scene.
Belle and Sebastian

Of course, the highlight of the day had to be the awards. As predicted by both Flack and I, Song of the Sea took home the big prize that was Audience Choice. Thanks to the audience at the final screening, Belle & Sebastian scored the second spot while Finn clocked in at third. Winda thoroughly entertaining short, took home the award for best short and Scrap Wood War was the Jury Choice.

All in all, it was a great festival that will surely rank highly in the pantheon of past fests. From great…Wait a second, the Oscars are on! We’ll see you next year, at the movies.

PCFF 2015 Day 5: Appalachian Music, Composting, and Our Film’s Premiere

Posted on | February 16, 2015 | Add Comments

The festival kicked into gear today, making a swift recovery after the slight dampening of spirit thanks to the storm. Starting off the day was Okee Dokee Brothers Through the Woods: An Appalachian Adventure, a delightfully joyous romp across the 2,180 mile long trail. The two musicians/hikers are Joe and Justin, who aren’t actually brothers but instead close friends. They plan to travel the entire trail and, while doing so, immerse themselves in the history and music of the mountains. The film balances a sense of lighthearted fun along with the rich history of “mountain music”. They play songs with the people they meet along the way, intermixed with music video-esque shots of the band fooling around. With a less skilled filmmaker behind the scene, the film might have easily slipped into an overly goofy spoof. In the hands of director Jed Anderson, it’s a pleasurable romp for nature lovers and music fans alike. Two local musicians jammed with the kids in the audience to create a song similar to the one sung in the film.

The Second Volume of the Middle/High School Edition of Your Shorts are Showin’ featured six shorts. The two highlights were Monocular Man and Zomposting. Both films balance comedy with drama. Zomposting is a hilarious how-to on composting told in a joyously fun way. The subtitles for the zombie’s dialogue add the perfect tongue-in-cheek touch and it’s all tied together with sharp editing and a memorable voiceover.

Monocular Man: My Eye and Saturn V tells the story of a boy who loses his eye after a firecracker-attached-to-a-rocket doesn’t go so well. The film is done in an incredibly unique way; neon drawings are sketched from the ground up to illustrate the entire story. We can see animator Ellen Stedfeld’s hand as she sketches drawing after drawing. The voiceover adds a witty touch and the script is told from the point of view of the boy. It’s funny, it’s tragic, it’s eye-opening. After the films, Mike Bell and Rich Pederson of Zomposting and R. Jim Stahl and Ellen Stedfeld of Monocular Man stepped on stage to talk about the process behind their shorts. (The two other standouts were Be the Tortoise, an inventive take on the classic Tortoise and the Hare lesson, and In The Coat’s Pocket which at first feels like an adventure but ends up being a thoughtful allegory on domestic violence.

hps3

Wrapping up the day Flack and I premiered our own film, Amelia as part of the Regional edition of the Youth Filmmaker Show. It was great to see an audience react to our short and I also loved seeing other young filmmakers’ works. From Spanish film parodies to living sushi, jewelry robbers to philosophizing on the cultural status of fashion, there was a wide range of films on display. Fielding insightful questions during the panel after the film was also lots of fun. After working on the project for months, it was incredibly satisfying to share the story behind the film with the audience.

We look forward to the second weekend of films, but in the meantime you can watch past favorites from the festival at local libraries. I personally can’t wait for Finn and Eskil and Trinidad next weekend, both of which I haven’t seen but have heard great things about. In the meantime rest your bleary eyes up for more movie watching.

PCFF 2015 Day 4: Altered Dimensions, Superpowers, and Singing (in the rain)

Posted on | February 15, 2015 | Add Comments

Patema

Frigid temperatures, heavy accumulation, and a parking ban didn’t stop die-hard festival fans from finding alternative means of transportation (i.e. by foot and bus). It was pretty thrilling to see Providence cinephiles show what they’re made of by braving the harsh weather. Asides from the stormy excitement, the festival managed to continue on minus a few viewers and the RISD Auditorium.

I began the day with the sci-fi flick Patema Inverted. “Woah” is an understatement. Patema, a lively young girl, finds herself in the Danger Zone where gravity is inverted and she is turned upside down…Or is she? That’s only one of the many questions Patema finds herself struggling to answer. After meeting a young boy who has more in common than first meets the eye, Patema sets off on a journey to unite both her world and the next, defying all rules of gravity. The film may at times be a bit confused in terms of pacing and tone, but it’s the awe-some science of it’s world that shines through. Unlike some science fiction films, Patema Inverted takes time in sketching out the rules and limits of it’s world in an enthralling way.

singin-in-the-rain-1-1

Next up was Singing in the Rain, my personal favorite of the day. For those who haven’t seen it, well, get yourself on over to the festival next Saturday to watch a seriously classic musical. The film effortlessly combines fun song and dance numbers with a subtle commentary on Hollywood show-biz. At the heart of it all is Gene Kelly whose priceless Don Lockwood is still as superb as ever. Kelly is also behind the camera, not only co-directing with Stanely Donen but also staging and directing the musical numbers. “Good Morning”, “Moses Supposes”, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, and of course the titular song are some of the most iconic musical numbers to grace the silver screen. Donald O’ Conor perfectly steals the show with his deft humor and incredible athleticism.

Following the film, Brian Jones showed off some of his stellar moves. Jones, a veteran tap-dancer, told his inspiring story beginning with childhood inspiration from his english teacher. He interspersed it with some great dancing and even brought some kids onstage to hilariously cute effect. Jones never paused to take a breath, making it obvious that he hasn’t been fooling around for the past forty-three years on stage.Antboy

Sneaking in for one more film, the Danish adventure Antboy spoofs the superhero genre to comedic effect. Young Pelle yearns of getting the girl and being the popular kid…Or at least being noticed at all. After being bit by a radioactive ant, he teams up with superhero geek Wilheim to become Antboy. The film gets by with enough tongue in cheek to keep it grounded in an original way. It’ll hit home with comics fans, kids, and adults. 

Tomorrow: the Okee Dokee brothers, more jury curated shorts and…Our own short Amelia debuting! We’ll see you there.

PCFF 2015 Day 2: A Mixed Bag of Shorts

Posted on | February 13, 2015 | Add Comments

Sure to be the quietest day of the festival, boasting only one screening, today’s lineup included the Elementary edition of the festival’s very popular Your Shorts Are Showin’ (YSAS) compilation. If you’re not familiar with YSAS, it’s where you’ll find the shorts that the festival has juried spilt into Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle/High School. This year, the Elementary and Middle/High School editions have been split into two Volumes in order to make room for more shorts than ever.

To kick things off, the Elementary Vol. 1 compilation was shown today. The eight short films ranged from nature beauty to animated sci-fi, children of war accounts to ADD documentary. While not all of the shorts were as amazing as the shorts shown in years past, it was still an enthralling mix. Super Girl and Saka Gibi (Fooled) followed young children yearning for excitement in the form of superpowers and turtles, respectively. While both had their moments, their lackluster visuals and clunky acting disappointed. The Looking Planet was a confused tromp through unknown universes with bizarre, blue-colored extraterrestrials.

How the Wolves Changed the Rivers featured beautifully photographed nature landscapes and wintery shots of wolves. With an educational narration, the film set a tone that was both engaging and informative. It was also the shortest of the shorts, which stood out in a compilation where the majority of the shorts could have used another cut in the editing room. In Spin Ritalin documented a young girl with ADD who takes ritalin every day. Yearning to fit in with the other kids, she tries not using the pills for one day. The film is well done and the story is certainly engaging, although it could use some more emotional flare.

In my opinion, Little Questions was undoubtedly the best. It tackled the subject of war from a fresh perspective: that of a young girl. As she asks child survivors about their experiences, director Virginia Abramovich constantly keeps us rooted in the story by grounding it with the simple, innocent thoughts of a child. The film is accessible enough for young kids that it could certainly raise some conversation, while not being violent in any way. It’s through the raw power of the survivor’s words that we get a glimpse into the horror of war in a way few other films manage to do.

Tomorrow, the festival truly kicks into gear with the RISD Museum as well as the Avon Cinema showing shorts and features all day. I’m personally looking forward to re-watching Side by Sidemy personal favorite of the festival so far. Academy Award nominated Song of the Sea is shaping up to be one of the busiest, most anticipated screenings of the entire festival. Snow storms, food trucks, film talks, and more…Flack and I are looking forward to bringing you the highs and lows, surprises and winners of the festival.

The Year In Review 2014: Civil-Rights Struggles, Punk Girls, and a Boy’s Childhood

Posted on | January 19, 2015 | 1 Comment

boyhood_still

A darkly comic musical, a film critic’s personal struggle, a travel through space and time (and wormholes!), and 12 years in the life of one fascinating boy. These are just a few of the films that graced 2014’s screens and left us enthralled and restless about the ever-changing art form that is film. With the awards season in full swing, the Oscar nominations recently announced, 10 best lists popping up everywhere, and the year already past it’s close, it’s time to take a look back at the year in cinema. We’ll discuss surprises, disasters, memorable moments, what the Oscar nominees mean, and, of course, our favorites. So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for some cinephile debating.

Flack: Perhaps it should come as no surprise, in our world of Internet immediacy, that both print critics and bloggers alike announced their Best-of-the-Year lists weeks before the year was finished. As soon as December began, the lists began popping up, one after another, in a rushed flurry of movie mania. By Christmas, it seemed every critic in America had written about “The Best of Film of the Year”. So…we’re kind of late to the party.

But that doesn’t matter. For one thing, Flick and I don’t see movies before their releases (that’s why critics were able to release their lists so early), and often not until they’ve played in New York and LA for months. Besides, a little time for reflection can’t hurt. And the Oscars, the last hurrah of awards season, don’t air for over a month.

So, now we’re here to discuss the year in film. We’ll talk about which films we liked and which we didn’t, but also try to find some overarching themes that explain the state of cinema. Let’s start there, with the simple yet endless question “How’s cinema doing?”interstellar-movie-still-007-1500x1000

Flick: The current state of cinema is an intriguing one, undoubtedly. Over the last few years, critics have complained that big-budgeted blockbusters are starting to become the future of film. While I certainly agree that the endless rampage of mindless studio extravaganzas is far too common, this year was filled with a refreshingly wide range of films. Yes, there was The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s 2 ½ hour conclusion to his second Tolkein trilogy, that’s greatest weakness (to name just one) was it’s ceaseless repetition and never-ending length. But there were also films such as Interstellar, a movie that while I have mixed feelings about, didn’t fail to challenge the idea of what a film with a $165 million budget could be. Sure, Christopher Nolan struggled with some of the same action flick pitfalls that Jackson did (notably running time), but what he did manage to do was make me think, something these types of films rarely do.

Independent films grew even larger in noteworthy number and many have made it to the top of critic’s lists, as well as a certain Oscar category. Birdman, We Are The Best!, Whiplash, and Boyhood all followed believably flawed characters in the types of riveting stories that keep me excited about film’s potentials. Each of those films came from directors with visions that were unique. Birdman features an astounding one-take that forces you to follow Riggan Thompson as he heads from behind the curtain to the tops of buildings. We Are The Best! matched it’s story, following three young girls starting a punk band, with a punk filmmaking aesthetic (handheld camera, inexperienced but excellent actors, etc.) Whiplash was grounded by two astounding performances, one from up and coming Miles Teller as the driven Andrew, the other from J.K. Simmons as a jazz teacher willing to take his students to the edge of sanity. And Boyhood? More on that one later.
we-are-anatomy-videoSixteenByNine540-v2

Flack: Every year, noisy, nonsensical blockbusters get more money and attention than they deserve, while intelligent, artistic filmmakers struggle to get their voices heard and films seen. And every year, critics complain. 2014 brought us some worse-than-expected blockbusters and some truly exceptional indie films. As you said, they’re both wrong and right. I’ll start with the blockbusters.

Both audiences and critics were enamored by a number of the year’s summer tentpoles: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and, especially, Guardians of the Galaxy. All three films had their strengths, but a sense of unencumbered imagination was sorely lacking. Many would beg to differ, but I think we should stop expecting great things from Marvel. The studio has become more of an oversized producer of product and less a studio committed to making good movies. I’ll probably see the upcoming Ant-Man, but I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it.

That said, Hollywood did surprise us with one sci-fi action spectacle that felt like a relief. That’s a bit ironic, because the film, Edge of Tommorrow, was about a guy dying over and over. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain. Edge’s plot (inexperienced soldier in future-dystopia gets killed, and reborn again, repeat) may sound like Groundhog Day with more guns and less comedy. But for what it is, the Tom Cruise-starring film was a refreshing mix of exhilarating action and lively wit. Next time you have a craving for blockbuster action, check it out.

Still, the audacious ambition of smaller films thrilled me most this year (the drum-solo finale of Whiplash got my heart beating faster than anything that Marvel produced). The originality, intelligence, and artistry of the work of Richard Linklater, Alejandro González Inñártitu, and Damien Chazelle made a strong case for the enduring power of American independent cinema. Without the pressure of big studios, but with the benefit of caring executives, all three made films of precise and personal vision that brings to mind the word “auteur”. But aside from the biggest of blockbusters and smallest of indies, what other in-between films excited you?

Flick: A film that’s been talked about a lot lately is Selma and it’s one that I really loved. While the film received incredible reviews and lots of early buzz, I think the Oscar snubbery has really gotten in the way of the fact that this is a truly incredible film. Ava DuVernay, nearly unheard of previous to the film, took over directing reins after Spike Lee, Lee Daniels, and others quit the project. The film we are left with is truly incredible with a great cast led by the astounding David Oyelowo. Oyelowo captures the spirit, the flaws, the intricacies, the voice, and the drive behind Martin Luther King Jr. and he carries the entire film. His performance is one of, if not the, best of the year and the Academy’s inability to see that shouldn’t get in the way of people seeing the movie.thumbnail_20110

Into the Woods, a film by no means on the same level as Selma, was very entertaining. It really had everything it needed to succeed as a family film released for Christmas, but for some reason it didn’t really get a lot of attention. Meryl Streep showed off her high notes, James Corden stepped up his emotional game, and Chris Pine stepped in for a scene-stealing number. It was dark, funny, and most interestingly, a musical. There are so few musicals coming out that the ones that do should be cherished. This is no Sound of Music or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but it is a highly enjoyable film.

Let’s talk about a film that surprised you. Maybe one you weren’t expecting to be so good or one you missed at the theater but caught up on at home.

Flack: We Are the Best!, which you mentioned before, had a small release, unsurprising for an indie foreign film released in the middle of summer. But Lukas Moodyson’s Swedish comedy blends feminist girl power with DIY punk rock to joyous effect. And the premise is irresistible: kids with no musical experience/talent start a band. Catch it on Netflix.

Another film I caught up on long after it’s summer release was Get On Up, the often-ludicrous but always energetic James Brown biopic. Director Tate Taylor, who made The Help, tackles too much too quickly, broadly, and simply, and the film often feels like a messy first draft. But Chadwick Boseman, as James Brown, slips into the role of Mr. Dynamite and just disappears; even when the film falters, his infectious energy and pure funkiness holds it all together. I can’t recommend the movie, but Boseman and the concert scenes are undeniable.

Here’s a question: what do you think of this year’s onslaught of biopics (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, Get On Up)? If a film’s historical subject is fascinating, can you accept the film’s cliches? Or does this genre’s Oscar-baiting conventionality need to be shaken up?

Flick: Like all genres, I feel like the outcome is more dependent on the filmmakers talent than whether or not they’re helming a sci-fi, comedy, or biopic. The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game were two that I felt really worked. They had directors (James Marsh and Morten Tyldum) who approached these people’s (Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing) lives with genuine emotion. At the end of the day, what makes or breaks a biopic is the actor in the lead role. If the actor fully immerses themselves into the character, making us believe they are that character, the film typically works. If they make a half-hearted attempt and aren’t believable, the film tends to collapse. (Get On Up is an exception; Boseman’s performance was phenomenal, the film not so funky.) Eddie Redmayne perfectly embodied Stephen Hawking’s brilliant, disabled self. Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch slid right into the tortured soul of Turing, making us sympathize with the tormented genius.

the-wind-rises-post6

Apart from these three, which I think were really the three most talked about biopics (in part because of their similarities) of the year, I didn’t get a chance to see Big Eyes, Mr. Turner, or Unbroken. I don’t see it as a trend that needs to stop, it’s really just the classification of films that follow the lives of historical figures. The one thing I do think should stop, however, is the cradle-to-grave technique. Get On Up’s use of it really hurt the film, The Theory of Everything, and The Imitation Game’s choice to not use it helped them out. By honing in on a certain period of the person’s life, filmmakers are really allowed more freedom to relax the pace of their film. They have less ground to cover, and more room to explore a singular event significant enough to warrant an entire film.

The next topic I want to delve into is the Oscars. All end of year discussions aren’t really complete without some mention of the golden statuette and you and I certainly have some opinions. Asides from what you mentioned in your highly informative post (read it if you haven’t!), what can you tell me about February 22nd’s big night?

Flack: Sorry to be anti-climactic, but I have to respond to your thoughts on biopics. I disagree that “if the actor fully immerses themselves into the character making us believe they are that character, the film typically works”. This year’s biopics (Get On Up, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game) featured believable, committed, Oscar-worthy performances but tired direction lacking true depth or artistry. Theory and Imitation had fascinating stories and great acting, but the politely polished style of directors Marsh and Tydlum felt anything but original. Paradoxically, I found both films engrossing and enjoyable films despite those flaws; my immediate emotional reaction was a positive one. Only looking back, do I notice the lack of a personal stamp from either filmmaker.

And the Oscars? The Academy’s failure to recognize Selma in a few major categories has been met with heaps of media attention, and (for the most part) rightly so. But we should also notice, and applaud, their widespread recognition of indie films. Besides typical Oscar bait like The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, movies like Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, and frontrunner Boyhood got lots of love. That indie-loving attitude was a nice surprise. That said, I was shocked Life Itself, Steve James’ poignant tribute to and examination of Roger Ebert, was left out of the Best Documentary category. Another big snub, in the animation category, was The Lego Movie. Neither of us loved that film as much as most; can you elaborate on your opinion? Any other Oscar thoughts?

000144.0022649.tif

Flick: I’ll start with my thoughts on The Lego Movie. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the faulty but usually trustworthy critic’s consensus website, the movie was the 3rd best reviewed film of the year with a 96% “fresh” rating. The almost unanimously positive praise came out of nowhere and it surprised me enough to go see the film. While I can’t say I completely didn’t like the film, it certainly didn’t even near the great Pixar films, such as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. That being said, the film certainly did have it’s fair share of laugh-out-loud moments, pop culture references, and recognizable actors’ voiceovers, to keep it highly entertaining. I wouldn’t recommend seeing it instead of some of the other fantastic films of the year, but to truly review the year in film it is an important one to watch.

The rest of the Oscars? This year has just the right mix of predictable and surprising nominations to make the show interesting. The Best Picture category doesn’t have any real surprises other than the fact that it is the first year, during the Academy’s 5-10 nominee rule, there have not been nine nominees (there are eight). Surprises? Steve Carell in Foxcatcher for Best Actor, Marion Cotillard in for Best Actress, Song of the Sea (see it at the PCFF!) over The Lego Movie for Best Animated Film, and Foxcatcher’s Bennett Miller for Best Director.

In terms of the show itself, Neil Patrick Harris certainly has the chops after hosting the Tony’s for three consecutive years. Plus, it’s the Oscars. Anything can happen…Right?

Flack: Many complain about the Oscars. They favor big movies! They favor small movies! Only old people watch them! Why are they pandering to a younger audience? And so on and so on. But there’s something about the show’s distinctly old-school-Hollywood devotion to glitz, glamour, and gold statues that’s irresistible, if only to argue over and criticize. I, for one, will be watching on February 22.

Besides the films themselves, 2014 was marked by drama, tragedy, and surprise. Early in the year, news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was spread, and during summer, that of Robin WIlliams’. Obituaries seemed to flood the film world, more so than in most years. It was a year of often great cinema, but the movies took a few painful blows too.

And who could forget the drama (which seems to have died down quicker than it sprang up) surrounding the Seth Rogen and James Franco buddy comedy The Interview, which was pulled from theaters after threats from North Korea?

Now we must answer the question we’ve been tiptoeing over since this conversation began: What’s the best/your favorite movie of the year? I’ll start. As expected, my choices are both personal, as well as over-analyzed and critiqued. So…here goes.

whiplash-miles-teller-andrew

For me, there were two 2014 films that stood above the rest. My second favorite of the year is Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s breathless and relentless jazz drumming drama about a college musician (Miles Teller) facing a nasty, psychologically abusive teacher (J.K. Simmons). Chazelle, only a second time director, made one of the year’s most technically precise pieces of cinematic artistry: the cinematography, editing, and music flow together to create suspense, confusion, and atmosphere. The film is as exact and meticulous as the drumming Teller’s character practices. But at the movie’s heart lies a thoughtful, psychologically murky examination of artistic perfection, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to reach such heights.

My favorite film of the year, however, is Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age journey Boyhood. Shot over 12 years with the same cast, the film follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he ages from 7 to 18, going from first grade to the first day of college, as he transforms from cute video-gamer slacker to thoughtful and loquacious photographer. As many have noted, the film would’ve been noteworthy even if it hadn’t been this good. Luckily, it’s even better than good. Linklater follows up on his brilliant premise with a little movie that feels big, or an epic that feels intimate. By capturing the seemingly insignificant parts of Mason’s life (haircuts, graffiti escapades, new houses, wide-ranging conversation), he stitches together a quilt of moments that sum up the joy, the awkwardness, the disappointment, the rebellion, the love, and the ordinary normality of boyhood, and also girlhood, and adulthood, and life. The wonderfully natural performances (Coltrane as Mason; Lorelei Linklater as his irritating sister; Patricia Arquette as their struggling single mom; and Ethan Hawke as their divorced slacker dad) are a joy to watch, not just because seeing them grow up and age on screen is a profound experience. The four lead actors capture the flaws and eccentricities of their characters and, by the time the film’s done, we feel like we’ve known them for 12 years.

Linklater, with his subdued, nimble direction, isn’t interested in visually daring imagery or cinematic showiness (though we do get some effortless tracking shots). He’s fascinated by the average struggles of life, the fleeting nature of time, and the cumulative effect of childhood. He’s got a canny, perceptive ear for two-person conversation, a savvy take on pop culture and it’s effect on our lives, and a delicate understanding of how a child’s influences shape them into the adult they will become. Ultimately, the power of Boyhood is too sophisticated for overused headline-adjectives (Incredible! A Once-In-a-Lifetime Experience! Dazzling!), which I, admittedly, may have overused in my original review. But Boyhood is nothing if not a deeply moving experience that inspires an outburst of feelings. Yet Linklater touches something deeper, something honest, something universal yet hyper-specific. I’m still not sure what that is. Is it his ability to put the passing of time right in front of our eyes? Is it his careful examination of a boy, and his family, and all the other important people in his life? Is it his fascination with little moments, rather than big milestones? After seeing Boyhood at the theater, I couldn’t wait to repeat the experience, and, when I finally saw the film again a few days ago, I realized this is the kind of the movie that I’ll want to return to again and again over the years. Perhaps my view of it will change over time, as I grow up. Perhaps I will uncover the mysteries and meanings of the film, as I age. But I know this: Boyhood is a special little movie, a masterpiece of the everyday. Watching it, a huge smile spread across my face; later, I was nearly moved to tears. I’m not sure I’ve seen a film that had such fly-on-the-wall realism. It does so in a way only movies can achieve, using the capabilities of cinema in unique ways that highlight the ordinariness of our lives. The closing shot is perfect, because it is both complete and open-ended. After three fleeting hours, I was hungry for more. Isn’t that the highest achievement a movie can make?

Flick: At least the highest a film this year did; I, too, was deeply moved by Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, also my favorite film of the year. Hearing the film summed up as “a groundbreaking film, twelve years in the making” tends to lead to overly-hyped disappointment. But it’s true: Linklater has crafted a film so titanic in ambition, yet so flawless in execution. The result is 2 hours and 46 minutes of a filmmaker at his best. Without a doubt the most important time I spent in the theater this year, the film’s greatest strength is it’s ability to feel so real. By combining the real-life experiences of his cast and crew with his own recollection of growing up in Texas, the film feels more true to life than most.

At the center of the film is Ellar Coltrane, a nonprofessional who comes across as anything but. His Mason Jr. is a patchwork of what it means to be a boy growing up and he grows from child to adolescent, teenager to man. Coltrane is aided by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, who plays his sister. Patricia Arquette is Mason’s mom, struggling to raise her two children while avoiding (or gravitating towards) abusive husbands. Ethan Hawke is Mason Sr., the out-of-the-picture dad who is trying to reconnect with his wife and kids.

Like you, I was deeply touched by the sometimes brutal frankness of which Linklater imbues this story. It is rough-around-the-edges in a way that feels natural and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. When the film drew to a close, after 12 years or a little over 2 ½ hours, I was just about sure that no other film would move me the way Linklater’s sprawling, ambiguous, and remarkable heck of a film did. And I was right.

Although there were certainly some other great films, even if they didn’t near Boyhood’s brilliance. My second favorite film of the year is Birdman. The experience of watching it was similar to Boyhood, in that it felt so new and fresh. Unlike Boyhood, Birdman didn’t span 12 years-but it did span one seamless take. Emmanuel Lubezki, the visionary cinematographer behind The Tree of Life and Gravity, brought his idiosyncratic knack for framing scenes with sheer style. He can film a conversation scene like no one else can; no shot-reverse-shot here. Instead, he follows the characters as they bounce from stage to street and bar to sky.

The story is equally intriguing: Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) aims to restart his career with a Broadway play, years after his famed Birdman films. But when he calls in popular actor Mike Shriner (Edward Norton), things get complicated. It’s all helmed with impeccable precision by Alejandro Gonzaález Inñártitu. The ending, in particular, is especially ambivalent and much discussed. But that’s what makes the film so great: it’s different, it’s daring, and it’s pretty darn good.

With the year behind us and 2015 already in full swing, what can we expect this year? A few films I’m personally looking forward to: Tomorrowland, Macbeth, and, possibly more so than anything in recent memory, Star Wars: Episode VII. Let’s hope the force is as strong with this year as it was with last.

Here are our top five favorite films of the year. In order! (Take that you cop-out alphabetical sorters!)

Flick’s Top Five

5. We Are The Best!

4. Selma

3. Whiplash

2. Birdman

1. Boyhood

Flack’s Top Five

5. The Wind Rises

4. Birdman

3. Selma

2. Whiplash

1. Boyhood

A Look Ahead: Bible Stories, Hobbit Conclusions, and…Angelina Jolies’s Breakthrough?!?!?!

Posted on | December 4, 2014 | Add Comments

With Turkey Day behind us and the first Friday of December nearly upon us, it’s time to look ahead to some of the films soon coming to theaters. This year’s winter crop of films is, as usual, one of the most exciting selections you’ll find all year long. There’s not quite as many Oscar contenders as usual; this year the award darlings were more spread out with Birman out mid-October, Foxcatcher in November, and Boyhood far back in early July. That being said, there is still a lot coming out in the next few weeks. So buckle up and prepare to head back to the museum, back to Middle-Earth, an escape from Egypt, the wacky ’70s, and into the woods.Screen-Shot-2014-09-30-at-10.23.02-AM-620x412

The Indie Darling: Inherent Vice 

Two years ago, P.T. Anderson’s The Master was one of the biggest Best Picture snubs. But that doesn’t mean that his latest film, Inherent Vice, is out of the race. Despite some negative reviews at festivals, any film with a cast that boasts Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, and more at least has a shot at a nomination. The story follows Phoenix’s detective, Lary “Doc” Sportello as he tries to find out why his former girlfriend has mysteriously disappeared. It all takes place in ’70s LA and it all hits screens on the 12th.

exodus-gods-and-kings

The Actioneer: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott is by no means slowing down. He has 17 producing projects on the horizons as well as a film and a mini-series that he’ll direct. The Counselor, his film from last year, failed loud and hard with terrible critics reviews (a 34 on Rotten Tomatoes!) and no Oscar watch. But with a fantasy-action spectacle a little more in his comfort zone, Scott could be back at it.

maxresdefault

The Career Restart: Top Five

Comedian Chris Rock is best known for satirical skits and trashy movie parts. He’s aiming to change all that with a new project that will not only find him in front of the camera but behind, as well. He plays a comedian who wants to be a serious actor. Things go downhill when his fiancée (who just so happens to be a reality TV star) announces she wants to film their wedding on her show. Whether things will go well for Rock is yet to be seen, but he has already made the cover of New York Magazine.The-Hobbit-The-Battle-of-The-Five-Armies

The Grand Finale: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson (finally!) closes the curtain (alas, probably not) on his six-part Tolkein epic. The new film may be short compared to the other films, but it’s titular battle is said to be forty-five minutes. Asides from that big battle, there is still a lot to be wrapped up with the many characters and plot threads left unfinished. Plus, there is a certain character’s death that is yet to be seen…Celebrity Sightings In New York City - December 2, 2013

The Show Stopper: Annie

Yes, another Annie. But, wait!!! The youngest Oscar nom ever, Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis is the red-haired wonder? Yes, although she isn’t very red-haired. She is, however, joined by Cameron Diaz as Ms. Hannigan and Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks.  The film is obviously aiming to corner the market on something the whole family can enjoy, but whether it will is yet to be seen.Into-The-Woods-Movie-Stills-Wallpaper

The All-Star Musical: Into the Woods

Meryl Streep. Emily Blunt. Chris Pine. Anna Kendrick. James Corden. Johnny Depp. All of these big names will step into the woods to dress up as storybook characters in Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical. They’ll all be singing under the reins of Rob Marshall of Chicago and more recently the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean fame. Even though it comes out a day after Christmas and a week after Annie, it will certainly be butting heads with the previously mentioned musical. What will audiences be drawn to more: charming orphan girl or familiar fantasy creatures?unbroken-movie-angelina-jolie

The Director Breakthrough: Unbroken

Angelina Jolie may have directed In the Land of Blood and Honey, but that film went largely unnoticed. Unbroken will surely not. It tells the story of an Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini, who is taken captive by the Japanese during World War II. The trailer shows an inspirational story with peril in the seas, in the cold, and in prison.

Also Out This Month: Tim Burton tries (another) comeback with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Big Eyes, J.M.W. Turner is portrayed by Timothy Spall who has already gained Best Actor attention in Mr. Turner, Ben Stiller is back for the third and final installment this time in London in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Seth Rogen co-directs (with Evan Goldberg) and co-stars (with James Franco) in The Interview, Clint Eastwood tells the story of a Navy S.E.A.L. who has killed over 150 people in American Sniperand if this isn’t enough holiday spirit, Rupert Wyatt turns Mark Wahlberg into a gambling literature professor having an affair with a student in The Gambler. Happy Holidays!

A Look Ahead To TIFF Kids 2014

Posted on | April 13, 2014 | Add Comments

We can't wait to see Felix at TIFF Kids 2014For the past two years, Flack and I have taken the long drive up to Toronto, Canada to attend the TIFF Kids film festival to find films for the PCFF. We’ve seen some incredible films, not to mention the pleasure of reclining in the irresistibly comfy theater chairs, perusing the building’s movie bookstore, and just staring in awe at the Bell Lightbox building. This year, we’ll be back again and the lineup of films looks as good as ever. We’ll hopefully be bringing you written updates all throughout next weekend, starting on Friday and going through Sunday. For now, here are the films we’re looking forward to.

Felix

A fourteen-year-old boy wants to become a proffesional musician just as his late father was. His mom, however, isn’t supportive of this dream. Felix will have to win over his mom, face up to school bullies, and find the aid of his dad’s bandmate in order to follow his dreams. This has all the makings of an feel-good family drama.

Antboy

Pelle, a 12-year-old living in a small Danish town, has a boring, average life. But all it takes is a bite from an ant and he’s given superpowers. Pelle must face the villain Flea who is terrorizing his town and in doing so, cope with his new powers and learn the meaning of being different. Enter Antboy. Could be the perfect superhero adventure for younger ones.

Side by Side

The intriguing trailer for this brother-sister runaway film manages to clip together a lot, while still leaving questions unanswered. Equal parts adventure, drama, and coming-of-age story, the film promises to be both exciting and harrowing at the same time.

In addition to these films, we’ll also have access to the “Screening Room”, where we’ll be able to choose from a library of DVD’s (from this year’s festival) to watch on a computer workstation. It’s one of the many privileges of having Industry Passes.

See you in Toronto!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | April 5, 2014 | Add Comments

2 1/2 stars

Think back to 2008, long before Marvel Studios was at it’s current world dominating state, when the first Iron Man film came out. It was a witty, fun film that had a hero who wasn’t as perfect or brave as Superman, nor as dark and brooding as Batman. He was somewhere in between, with added parts wit, snark, and humor. Now skip ahead six years, to 2014. Not only have two more Iron Man films been made, but Thor and Captain America films have also been added to the mix. They have all had a couple of sequels, and as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been thrown together along with other heroes in The Avengers. And now, here we are, in 2014 with Captain America returning to the big screen.

This time around, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo are squeezing into the director’s chair, taking over after Joe Johnston directed the first installment, The First Avenger, but they unfortunately lack any artistic flair that you can tell is theirs. With Thor, Kenneth Branagh put his Shakespearean stamp on the caped demigod and in Iron Man, Jon Favreau mixed witty humor with frightening realism. Here, the Russos don’t seem to know where they want to head with the film, other than follow the lead of Kevin Feige, the mastermind president of Marvel, who has schemingly connected all of these superheroes into one, big money-sucking giant. I’m pretty sure I would have liked the film a good deal more if there was less of the Marvel universe setting-up and more of a down-to-earth superhero story.

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

That being said, once I realized that the film wasn’t going for superheroism told through poetic direction, I did manage to sit back and enjoy the never-ending twists and turns of the film. And boy, are they fun. Every scene involves some new character being either thrown into the mix, being reintroduced, or dying, to the point that that the film reaches beyond exhaustion and into guilty, giddy fun. The film is part sci-fi, part paranoia, part mystery-thriller, part action caper, part rogue-on-the-lose…and that’s much of what makes it enjoyable. The fact that the film isn’t going for an obvious tone (i.e. Shakespearean or witty-dark) gives it an all-over-the-map aspect that is ridiculous, but also crazy fun in it’s own right.

That brings me to one last point and that is the fun. If you were asked what a superhero film was ten years ago, you might have answered “a fun, enjoyable adventure”. But today, that is becoming less and less true. Superhero reimaginings almost always seem to go darker and more violent and that is certainly true here with The Winter Soldier. The fun of the ’40s shtick in the first film gives way to the “Don’t trust anyone!” tone that is evident from the beginning. Early on in the film, Captain America is tasked with rescuing captive members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization who are being held by pirates. When Cap lands on the ship, I expected him to heroically maneuver his way past the pirate guards. But, I was shocked to see that he instead went straight for the kill, knocking them off in different, equally violent ways. As I watched the film develop, I yearned for the excitement and adventure of not only the first film, but other earlier superhero flicks. Unfortunately, the way Marvel is heading, the chances of an honest-to-goodness adventure, are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

Flick’s 2014 Oscar Speech

Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 1 Comment

For the fifth annual time, Flack and I hosted an Oscar Party. Two films, endless trivia, good food, and speeches. That’s right, Flack and I both read our speeches to add some excitement and opinion to the night. Below, you can read my speech.

 

The unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse. A woman surviving alone in space. The untold story of backup singers. A dysfunctional father-son duo road trip. All of these stories and more were watched on screens big and small and all of them are up for an Oscar.

This year was an interesting year for film, with directors like Alfonso Cuaron taking bold chances with breakthrough special effects and Morgan Neville taking bold chances in different ways by telling an unknown story with true drama.

Going into this year, critics, industry know-it-alls, and audiences alike were predicting movie theaters to decline and while, yes, Netflix is growing bigger by the second and at home movie-watching technology is also growing at a surprising rate, there were a number of films that were undeniably great “movie theater experiences”. Take “Nebraska” for example, a film that is by no means a 3-D action spectacle, but is, by all means, a great “movie theater experience”. The B&W cinematography showing beatiful vistas was perfect viewing for the theater. Meanwhile, “Gravity” used IMAX and 3-D technology that felt uniquely new and different. After spending 16 minutes watching the camera slowly pan over Earth in one continuous opening shot, you are hurdled into a frightening crash sequence, one that uses sound, visuals, and storytelling to a combined effect of pure horror.

Music was also used to interesting effect this year, with more and more directors opting for pre-existing, well known music, rather than a score of their own. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” did this well, using songs like David Bowie’s Major Tom prominently. But, orchestra scores were also used well. Mark Orton used strings to interesting effect in “Nebraska” and Randy Newman used horns and drums to create a foot-stompingly energetic score for “Monsters University”. One more notable soundtrack mention would be “Inside Llewyn Davis” in which Oscar Issac and more sang folk ballads with minimal guitar strumming and maximum vocal chords.

With such a diverse year for films, there’s a lot to celebrate, which is what tonight’s all about. In just a few minutes we’ll be treating you to two screenings of Oscar nominated films. In the den: “Frozen”, nominated for Best Animated Film, a chilly musical comedy. And in the living room: “20 Feet From Stardom”, a documentary following multiple backup singers.

So without further ado…The films!

 

Flick + Flack’s 2014 PCFF Recommendations: 5 Films In 5 Minutes

Posted on | February 12, 2014 | Add Comments

The 2014 Providence Children’s Film Festival is almost here! Running February 13-23, the movie-going extravaganza is back with a new executive director, more films, and a longer schedule. Flick and Flack give you their top 5 picks.

keep looking »