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Thursday, May 30, 2013


Fran Kranz in Joss Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Photo credit: Elsa Guillet-Chapuis
2013, 107 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and drug use

Review by Joshua Handler

Shakespeare's works are extremely tricky to adapt.  Creating a successful film adaptation requires a great cast, a sharp editor, and most importantly, a director who can keep control over the film, yet give his/her actors enough room to explore.  Joss Whedon, best known as the writer/director of Marvel's The Avengers and the TV series Firefly, took the risk of filming Shakespeare's delightful play Much Ado About Nothing in 12 days at his house in black and white on an extremely low budget set in modern day, yet performed from the original text (i.e. the dialogue was not updated).  What could have ended up as one of the worst Shakespeare adaptations, ended up being one of the best, if not the best that I have ever seen.

Watching Whedon's Much Ado was shot one month after The Avengers wrapped and is like watching a group of friends perform Shakespeare together, which is precisely what this play needs to be performed well.  Much Ado About Nothing is a timeless work that rides on its sense of love and friendship and its sense of joy.  By stripping away any fancy costumes or artistic embellishments, Whedon and cast created a film that captures the essence of the play, while still leaving their own distinct mark on it.  The modern setting and laid back attitude allow the actors to truly live inside of the world created.  At one point, to provide some pleasant background music, one of the characters puts on an iPod.  It is little details like this that remind us that we are not in a foreign world or a time gone by, but rather our own.  Most modern-day Shakespeare adaptations seem to want us to feel like we are in a time past and want us to revel in the beautiful settings and costumes, not necessarily the language.  But, Whedon doesn't want that because he wants Shakespeare to feel alive again; relevant.  Whedon allows his actors to speak, not perform, their lines.  When one performs lines, they tend to overact and a wall of artifice is built up.  However, when one speaks their lines, the artifice falls away and that allows the actors to feel the lines and reach deeper realms of emotional honesty.

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is much of the reason why it succeeds.  While everyone shines in their respective roles, it is Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, and Clark Gregg that are the highlights.  These three have impeccable comedic timing and are pleasures to watch when onscreen.  Gregg, known for his role as Agent Coulson in The Avengers and Iron Man, plays Leonato, the comical and loving father of Hero (Jillian Morgese), the young woman Claudio (Fran Kranz) loves and wants to marry.  Gregg has a quick wit and is a joy to watch every time he is on screen.  He has a sparkle in his eyes that makes his character come alive and makes obvious the delight that he takes in performing in this movie.  Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker play Benedick and Beatrice, respectively, two other people brought together at Don Pedro's (Reed Diamond) house, the setting of the film.  Benedick and Beatrice claim to despise each other, yet secretly love each other.  Denisof and Acker master Shakespeare's language.  They speak it as if it is their own.  The barbs that their characters hurl at each other seem fresh again coming out of their mouthes and sparks fly in their scenes together.  Like Gregg, they have great comedic timing and are no less great at physical comedy.

The editing, cinematography, and score of this film are the icing on the cake.  Whedon co-edited the film with Daniel S. Kaminsky and scored the film himself.  While much of the comedic timing and flow of the conversations can be credited to the actors, much of it lies in the hands of the editors.  They piece together conversations and control the flow of the entire film.  The witty scenes of dialogue are quick, and while many Shakespeare adaptations lag in pieces, this one doesn't.  It feels far shorter than its 107-minute running time and is never boring.  Whedon's score is very simple, yet effective and, for the most part, keeps the tone of the movie light and airy.  Jay Hunter's cinematography is in beautiful black and white.  Much Ado About Nothing is very much a story that revolves around people sneaking around and snooping on each other, and Hunter's cinematography emphasizes this by keeping the camera close to the characters at all times, particularly when they are listening in to each others' conversations.  However, we feel as if we, the audience, are snooping on the characters, making us a voyeur.  We are looking in on these people's lives as they are looking in on each other's.

Mr. Whedon came to the screening of Much Ado About Nothing that I attended for a lengthy, and very amusing, Q&A.  He said, when asked why he chose to adapt Much Ado About Nothing of all Shakespeare plays, that he chose Much Ado because of practical reasons.  The story takes place in one location, and he already could see who he was going to cast.  He said that he wanted to bring out the dark subtext in the story and also illuminate Hero and Claudio's romance which typically is overshadowed by Beatrice and Benedick's.  Hero and Claudio's romance, Whedon shows, is interesting and emotionally powerful.  In this adaptation, the emotional climax revolves around their love story.

Joss Whedon at the Walter Reade Theater
Photo credit: Joshua Handler
Whedon talked much about his career and how working as a screenwriter at the beginning was killing him.  Script doctors would change his scripts so much that he was never happy with them.  He said that his scripts "read how they will look".  When he saw that no one could direct his scripts the way he envisioned them, he decided to take charge and direct.  However, no one would hire Whedon to direct.  "I'll hire me," he said, and this is how his hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to be.

When writing a script, Whedon decides to "find the new way in."  He described how he wanted The Avengers to be a movie that had hints of The Dirty Dozen in it.  He wanted it to have war movie elements in it.  He wanted to show how this war takes a toll on the characters.  It is with this humanity that Whedon makes his films great.  Serenity, The Avengers, and even Much Ado About Nothing all could have been generic genre exercises, but instead they are living, fascinating films that are uncommonly smart and human.

Whedon also discussed his cancelled cult hit TV show Firefly and how when it was cancelled after just two seasons, he felt as if he had lied to his cast.  This show came out exactly as he had envisioned it; it was his pride and joy.  It was very evident that the show's cancellation is still raw and a sore spot for Whedon.  As for bringing the show back, Whedon said that he would be fearful of it because it will not be the same.  He said that no matter how great it may turn out, it would never turn out the same.

Much Ado About Nothing seems to be a response to Whedon's hardships in the entertainment industry.  This project is something that he had complete creative control over and seemed to be a passion project.  It shows.  As incredibly entertaining and smart as The Avengers was, it seemed to be something that Whedon did not have complete control over.  While it contained his signature witty dialogue and his visual flair, it was, in essence, a big-budget action film designed to make money.  This film is a beautiful vision and one that feels like a labor of love.  It was not designed to be a box office smash and was not designed to become the new franchise.  It was simply made by a crew of people with a love and respect of Shakespeare and each other, and it is this love and respect that shine through.  Much Ado About Nothing may not seem like a massive film, and it isn't, yet it is every bit as fun, exciting, and full of wonder as anything Whedon has ever made.  It shows a big-name director does not need a big budget to make a great film.  Most importantly, though, it is a fresh, inviting adaptation of Shakespeare that will make a new generation fall in love with his works.  Shakespeare's works frequently earn a bad name because of their association with high school English classes that overanalyze them to death.  This Much Ado will hopefully show a new generation why Shakespeare's works have survived for over 400 years and will hopefully expose this new generation to the warmth, wit, and power that are contained in his words.


Friday, May 24, 2013


Margarete Tiesel in Paradise: Love
Courtesy of Strand Releasing
Review by Joshua Handler

Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy was shown last month through the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  In attendance for intros and Q&As were director Ulrich Seidl, actress Margarete Tiesel, and co-cinematographer Ed Lachman.  The Film Society graciously gave me tickets to this film series and I apologize to them for not writing up this review sooner.  Paradise: Love, the first film in the series was released last month, and Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope will be released later in the year by Strand Releasing.

Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl made three thematically similar, yet almost completely narratively separate films which put together create the Paradise Trilogy.  The first film, Paradise: Love was released last month and the following two, Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope will be released in theaters later this year.  Each film follows a different woman from the same family looking for their individual paradises.

Paradise: Love follows Teresa (Margarete Tiesel), an overweight middle-aged woman who decides to leave her boring life in Austria for a vacation to Kenya.  While in Kenya, Teresa searches for love or at least someone who genuinely finds her attractive, yet only finds men who are willing to exploit her for loveless sex.  Love is a fascinating, flawed, and very disturbing film that is also shocking in its frankness.  Seidl uses an incredible amount of casual nudity and sex to drive his point home.  The lovely Margarete Tiesel gives a committed performance.  She isn't afraid to be completely nude and really has a commanding screen presence.  Teresa is despicable, yet oddly likable at the same time, and Tiesel captures this brilliantly.

The effects of colonialism on Africa is an overarching theme in Love.  While colonialism ended some time ago, the film still depicts the African men waiting on the rich white women, while the women treat them like something less than dirt.  The women expect all of the men to want to have sex with them and to be completely subservient.  At one point in Love, Teresa invites one of the young hotel workers in to her room to have sex with her.  When he refuses, she promptly gets mad and brutally kicks him out.  As soon as she realized that he wouldn't have sex with her, her whole attitude changed.  She changed from a nice, generous lady to a cold, mean one.

Throughout the course of the movie, Teresa looks for love with these men and never finds it.  The ending to the film is not quite satisfying, as it is too abrupt and the pace is a bit too slow, but the climactic scene that precedes it is a scene so subtly disturbing and powerful that it makes up for much of the film's flaws.  The climax of Love is quite possibly the greatest scene in the entire trilogy of films.  It is incredibly frank, disturbing in its implications, and the reason why I cannot get this film out of my head.

The second film in the trilogy, Paradise: Faith was all-around the best and a film I would consider a masterpiece.  It follows Teresa's sister, Anna Maria (Maria Hofstätter), a devout Catholic whose entire life is dedicated to her religion.  However, one day, Anna Maria's Muslim husband comes back to her house and shakes everything up.  This film is about Anna Maria's search for paradise through religion and is the most controversial of the films (I don't want to give anything away, but when you see this film, you'll know why Faith caused controversy).

Hofstätter's performance, like Tiesel's in Love, is a powerhouse that is as daring as it is controlled.  Hofstätter does a masterful job at conveying the pent up emotion inside of Anna Maria.  She lives for Jesus and literally doesn't do anything that will hinder her quest for paradise.  Even in a sequence in which Anna Maria tries to get a drunk woman to pray with her and is subsequently attacked, Hofstätter keeps control.

Faith examines the clash of non-fundamentalist Islam with fundamentalist Christianity and the place of fundamentalist religion in the modern world.  As her husband and the world try to break Anna Maria's devotion to her faith, it becomes more and more evident how ridiculous her way of life is and how in this day and age, there is no need for fundamentalist religion.  In an age in which religion is frequently questioned, there is no room for all-encompassing religious devotion, and this is why Anna Maria's paradise is unattainable.  Her paradise is one that does not exist, is not tangible.

This film is visually and thematically provocative and will give audiences quite a bit to think about when it has ended.  I personally find religion a fascinating subject and loved the way that Seidl took a no-holds-barred approach to the subject.  It was deliberately-paced, but endlessly fascinating and a film that I would happily view again.

The third film in the trilogy,  Paradise: Hope, is the lightest and least interesting of the trilogy, yet still features some incredible performances.  It follows Teresa's daughter, Melanie (Melanie Lenz), an overweight teenager who is sent to a weight-loss camp.  She searches for her paradise in an older doctor who works at the camp.  This film is shot in the same cold style as the previous two, but is nowhere near as challenging or intriguing.  Hope does not seem to know what point it wants to make and ends on a very abrupt note, making the film extremely unsatisfying.

However, the acting from everyone is phenomenal, particularly Lenz, who gives her character a warmth and charm not seen in Teresa or Anna Maria.  Melanie is young and hasn't been beaten by the world yet (though one can predict that if her story were continued by Seidl, she'd be near death later in life, as he is far too kind to her in this installment of the trilogy).

The comparative lightness of this film does not work to Hope's favor, as it prevents Seidl from exploring seriously weighty issues and is a dramatic tonal shift from the other two deadly serious films. The lightness in this movie is additionally far too large a contrast to the film's darker subplots.

According to Seidl, the films' scenes were shot in chronological order, a rarity for a feature film, as all of the film's dialogue was improvised.  By shooting in chronological order, the actors were able to build their characters.  If shot non-chronologically with improvised dialogue, the actors wouldn't have had time to prep.  Seidl also mentioned that he originally had wanted to put Hope before Faith, an interesting decision, and wanted the three films to be one long movie before realizing that there was way too much material for one movie and that the stories weakened, rather than strengthened, each other.  Ed Lachman (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There), the trilogy's co-cinematographer, said that loved that original film, though.

Instead of shooting with written dialogue, Seidl said that a 20-page synopsis of the given film would be written and he would shoot off of that.  After shooting a scene, he would stop, edit or analyze the given scene, then shoot the next one.  During the post-series Q&A, Ulrich Seidl said something that I was fascinated by.  He said that American films are more dialogue-based, as they rely on dialogue, like a novel does, to propel the story forward, whereas European films, like his own, are about observation.  I cannot argue with Seidl.  His films' success lay mostly in their acute sense of observation.  Each character in all of his films is three-dimensional and real.  No matter if I liked the film or not, I always believed the characters and the situations.  Many scenes have dialogue, but it is the power of the (sometimes explicit) visuals that transcends words.  If one looks at a standard American film, I'll use 2011's The Help, it is completely evident how much we rely on "witty" repartee rather than silence and observation in our films.  While the performances in The Help were masterful and finely observed, the script and direction were not.  While director Tate Taylor certainly allows Viola Davis scenes of beautiful silence, he doesn't give her enough, and he certainly doesn't grant his other actors or scenes the same privilege.  In that film, the characters' emotions are rarely observed or felt; they are said. In contrast, in Seidl's trilogy, the emotions are frequently conveyed through actions or pure silence.

Overall, while the Paradise Trilogy is uneven, it is absolutely fascinating and I would happily give each film another watch, as they all have a lot to explore.  I find myself thinking more and more about Love.  While it was not as strong as Faith, Love has scenes that are so brilliantly executed that I would love to re-watch the film to view them again.  These movies will not be for everyone.  In fact, most will positively hate them.  However, if you like your films really dark and bleak, these would definitely be worth looking into.

Paradise: Love 3.5/4
Paradise: Faith 4/4
Paradise: Hope 2/4

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trailer for Gordon-Levitt's DON JON

The first trailer for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's DON JON has appeared courtesy of Relativity Media!  The film follows Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt), a young man addicted to porn and unable to have a meaningful sexual relationship with another woman.  However Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), the "perfect" girl, comes along and turns Jon's life upside down.

This film is absolutely superb and has been getting great buzz ever since premiering at Sundance in January.  Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and starred in this film.

You can find the trailer here:

Monday, May 20, 2013


Natalie Dessay and Jean-François Sivadier
Courtesy of Distrib Films
Becoming Traviata
2013, 112 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Becoming Traviata is a piece of filmmaking so incompetent that it makes me scared that if this got picked up by some distributor, something else equally as bad will be picked up for distribution and then will potentially be viewed by me.  However, it is films like highlight one of the nastier perks of being a film critic.  As a general audience member, there is only so much impact that one's opinion can have.  However, as a film critic, if I hate a movie, I will write about it and people may trust it and stay far away from that film.  Being able to slam an obnoxiously horrible movie is a pure joy when something deserves to be slammed, and Becoming Traviata more than deserves it.

The film is a documentary about a group putting on Verdi's famous opera La Traviata for what I believe is an arts festival.  Are we given any context whatsoever as to what the opera is about or the backgrounds of who is performing?  Of course not!  Why would we ever deserve to know that?  In all seriousness, documentaries must provide a little context on their subject.  Becoming Traviata provides none and because of that, I felt lost and my interest in the film waned from the beginning.  After about 40 minutes of this nonsense, I was completely done.  After 112 minutes, I wanted to burn the DVD that I watched the film on.

Traviata is a horrid piece of filmmaking for so many reasons.  If there was a book written on how NOT to make a documentary, this would be a prime reference.  Aside from the zero context given, there was nothing for me to grasp on to, nothing to connect to and pull me into the film.  All the film consists of is rehearsals for the opera and some footage of the finished product.  That's about it.  I don't know about you, but I do not want to watch people rehearsing an opera for 112 minutes.  I really love going to the opera.  However, I don't want to see a film consisting solely of rehearsals of one.  The film could have been far more interesting if there were interviews with cast and crew members to give insight into the production, but alas, they are nonexistent.  In addition to the lack of insight and the tedious, repetitive nature of the film, there is random footage spliced in of a costume designer fixing or making a costume.  I was mad enough that the film was so stupefyingly boring by the point that this scene popped in.  If having this scene appear in the movie was supposed to provide an interesting break from the rehearsal footage, it failed.  I would have rather watched more rehearsal footage because at least it was consistent visually and tonally.  Intercutting a scene of a costume designer working was distracting in the worst possible way.

To add insult to injury, the film is poorly shot.  With a dynamic opera featuring as dynamic a star as Natalie Dessay, the cinematography should match.  During the sequences filmed when the show was actually being performed, the camera pans and then maybe zooms in slowly on something from afar.  The film is as well-shot as a parent videoing their child's band concert from the back row.  While I do not expect groundbreaking cinematography from a documentary, I do expect something slightly more interesting than what is given here.  (I realize the following example is a film from a master filmmaker with a bigger budget and venue but) Martin Scorsese's Shine a Light is a wonderful concert documentary that had superb cinematography...and was shot in IMAX which means a bigger, heavier, harder-to-move camera.  If Scorsese and his crew could pull off what they did in Shine a Light, surely director Philippe Béziat and crew could have pulled off something better and tried a bit harder to make this film look better than a bad videorecording.

The one good aspect of this film is the star Natalie Dessay, an acclaimed soprano with a stunning voice.  She is a star in every sense of the word and is magnetic when on screen.  In the sequences where she is simply allowed to perform without interruption (these are few), she is electrifying.  She radiates with energy and emotion, and that makes her riveting.  I would have loved to hear her insights on singing opera or the show in general.

Overall, Becoming Traviata is a messy documentary that is overlong, tedious, and poorly-made.  It does not even have an interesting ending.  It seems as if the filmmakers got lazy and just tacked on extra footage that they could call an ending.  I cannot recommend enough that everyone stay away from this movie.  If opera buffs are looking for a film with insights on the creative process or on opera, this is not the film.


Friday, May 17, 2013


Greta Gerwig in FRANCES HA
Courtesy of IFC Films

2013, 86 minutes
Rated R for sexual references and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Frances Ha is the latest film from director Noah Baumbach, best known for writing and directing dark comedies such as The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, and Margot at the Wedding and writing and producing for Wes Anderson on such films as Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve ZissouFrances Ha is substantially lighter than Squid, Margot, and Greenberg, but is still insightful, entertaining, and sad.

The film follows 27-year-old Frances (Greta Gerwig) as she tries to figure out what to do with her life.  Needless to say, the story is very loose and light and does not follow a traditional story structure at all.  It is like a series of scenes strung together to make a cohesive whole.  The film was shot very cheaply on a Canon 5D Mark II and in black and white.  Frances Ha is very much an homage to the French New Wave due to its youthful energy and narrative looseness, and Woody Allen’s Manhattan, as it is in its own way a love letter to New York City.

Greta Gerwig plays Frances and gives possibly the best performance of her career to date.  While she essentially plays the same character in every film, she has completely mastered it and in Frances Ha, really explores the inner anguish and sense of utter hopelessness that Frances feels each and every day.  She is an incredibly talented actress who also has impeccable comedic timing.  The dynamite supporting cast also goes a long way.

Very little of Frances Ha’s story is anything new and is almost too light and aimless for its own good, but it still manages to capture enough truth, darkness, humor, and honesty to make it mostly overcome its narrative flaws.  Many films about aimless mid-20s New Yorkers are not as hopeless as Frances Ha gets.  At times the film is uniquely depressing.  Co-writers Baumbach and Gerwig really capture Frances’ feelings, and through the script and Baumbach’s direction, make the audience feel what she is feeling.  Baumbach never lets the film careen into the “too depressing” territory because he steers it back on the comedy track.  The carefree sense of happiness that Baumbach and Gerwig infuse the film with is infectious.  Leaving the film, I felt energized and happy.

Overall, Frances Ha is a slight film in Baumbach’s filmography, but is nonetheless very entertaining and features a brilliant performance by Greta Gerwig.  This movie will not be for everyone, but for those Baumbach fans out there, you will not be disappointed. 

This film was shown as part of the Rooftop Film Series, which features early screenings of hot new independent films straight from the early year festival circuit.  This screening was held on the Open Road Rooftop at the New Design High School and featured the band Brazos and a Q&A with Baumbach and Gerwig following the film.  Tickets for the upcoming films can be purchased here.  It was a truly unique event that makes for a great, and cheap at $13, night out in NYC.  There was an after-party with free drinks served that I did not attend.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

THE ROCKET: Tribeca Film Festival Review 2013

Sitthiphon Dittamoe as Ahlo
Photo credit: Tom Greenwood
2013, 96 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Sweeping the Tribeca Film Festival this year, The Rocket won the Best Narrative Feature, Audience Award, and the Best Actor awards, and rightfully so.  This film was directed by Kim Mordaunt and was a big hit at the 2013 Berlinale.  I really hope a distributor picks this movie up, as I believe it has the potential to be as big a hit as Beasts of the Southern Wild was last year.  It has everything anyone could ever want in a movie: memorable characters, dazzling cinematography, a heartwarming story, and quite possibly the greatest child performance that I have ever seen.

The Rocket follows a young Laotian boy, Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe), who from birth was considered to be a carrier of bad luck.  Ahlo must move out of his home with his family when a company comes in to build a dam that will flood his village and in a refugee camp, he makes two new friends who join Ahlo and his family on the journey to find a new home.  Along the way, Ahlo finds out about a rocket competition and decides to compete to try to bring a better life to his family.

Kim Mordaunt's achievement with this film is monumental.  He combines a wonderful family story with a powerful regional awareness, as the war-torn country's history plays a large role in the story.  Mordaunt manages to keep a perfect balance between creating a portrait of a scarred country and a portrait of a boy growing up in this country.  Mordaunt makes The Rocket feel alive in ways that few films are.  He infuses the film with a distinct cultural voice and reverence for the magnificent country that he filmed his movie in.

Sitthiphon Disamoe's performance as Ahlo is astounding and deserving of the Tribeca Film Festival's Best Actor award.  While Disamoe is extremely young, like Beasts of the Southern Wild's Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, he performs with a wiseness way beyond his years.  He gives the film its soul and personality and his wide-eyed innocence make him one of the most likable actors to appear in any film in recent memory.  This is a performance that goes beyond acting.  

The cinematography for this film is also stunning.  Shot using the natural landscape to full effect, the cinematography evokes a feeling of haunted sadness, a land torn apart by turmoil, full of ghosts and horror, calmed by time.  The usage of bright colors evokes a sense of magic.

Finally, we arrive at the story.  While The Rocket follows few new story beats, it is one of the most compelling and smartly-written stories in ages because it tells a story rich with cultural and historical awareness and contains a protagonist that only the hardest-hearted wouldn't want to root for.  It is a masterful balancing act and the film comes together at the end to create a beautiful conclusion that left me with tears streaming down my face.

Overall, The Rocket is a gem, a film that should be remembered in years to come and should be shared by parents with their (slightly older) children.  It is an inspiring story of love, perseverance, and friendship set against an exotic backdrop.  In short, this is a small masterpiece and one of the best films I have had the pleasure to have seen thus far in 2013.


OXYANA: Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Photo credit: Hilary Spera
2013, 82 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

The next few reviews marked with "Tribeca Film Festival 2013" means that I saw the films through the Tribeca Film Festival, but did not get to review them.

Oxyana is one of the most horrifying and brave depictions of drug addiction that I have ever seen.  It is a fearless documentary that follows the lives of residents of Oceana, West Virginia, a town that has been destroyed by drug addicion, particularly Oxycontin.  This film won the Best New Documentary Director and Best Documentary Feature - Special Jury Mention awards at the Tribeca Film Festival and completely deserved them.

Oceana is a town that was described by as resident as being a great place to grow up and raise kids in before being ravaged by drug addiction.  Ever since Oxycontin hit the market, though, the town has literally fallen apart.  As another interviewee mentioned, the town is in the middle of nowhere and has very limited forms of entertainment; there is no movie theater, sporting arena, etc.  All there is for people to do is to abuse drugs to escape their horrible lives.

Oxyana was directed by Sean Dunne and with this film, he created something unique and provocative. The most impressive aspect of his directorial work is that this is not a film that criticizes or looks down upon its subjects.  Instead, he takes a non-judgmental approach to the material and simply lets his subjects tell their tragic stories.  He shows us the effects addiction has had on families and friends.  Many people do not live long and die from drug overdoses.

Dunne does not stint on the detail in Oxyana.  He shows the addiction in all of its horror, as he unflinchingly shows people preparing their drug of choice and shooting up.  The intimacy that Dunne captures on camera and the trust that his subjects gave him is astounding.  

In addition to being completely compelling, Oxyana is gorgeously shot.  Cinematographer Hilary Spera captures the atmospheric natural beauty of Oceana in addition to the grit and grime that pervades each scene.

At 82 minutes, Oxyana never wears out its welcome.  Documentaries are frequently interesting, but just as frequently too long.  Dunne sets out to paint a portrait of a dying town and does so with brevity and clarity.  This movie is naturally incredibly depressing and even at its current running time is incredibly hard to sit through.  That certainly does not mean that it is not worth going to see.  This is a must-see documentary.

Overall, Oxyana is the work of a brave filmmaker who, if there is any justice in the world, should have a long, successful filmmaking career.  It is beautifully shot and, at times, brutal to watch, but never less than completely riveting.  The story of Oceana is a very important one to tell.


Joss Whedon and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Through Film Society of Lincoln Center

The following is a press release from the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

An Evening with Joss Whedon
Wednesday, May 29

Special filmmaker talk will follow 
a sneak preview of Whedon’s upcoming film 

New York, NY (May 16, 2013– The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today An Evening with Joss Whedon at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street). Writer-director Whedon will take part in a wide-ranging conversation about his career—from his Oscar-nominated screenplay for TOY STORY to his cult TV shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and recent blockbuster hits like THE AVENGERS. The filmmaker conversation will follow a special sneak preview of his bold and modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, opening at the Film Society on Friday, June 7.

A multi-hyphenate with successes that few peers can match on film, television, and the internet, Whedon counts among his accomplishments being the creator of beloved TV programs such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1996-2003), “Angel” (1999-2004), "Firefly" (2002-2003), and “Dollhouse” (2009-2010); an Oscar-nominated screenwriter of TOY STORY (1995) and co-writer of the subversive genre bender, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012); the creative force behind the internet sensation Supervillain Musical, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"; and, most recently, as the director of the third highest grossing motion picture of all-time, THE AVENGERS.

With his latest film, Shakespeare's classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Shot in just 12 days (and using the original text), the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love. Starring familiar faces from previous Whedon projects like Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Tom Lenk and Sean Maher, the film (and play) features nefarious plots and a series of comic and tragic events seem as though they may keep the anyone from truly finding happiness, but then again perhaps love may prevail.

Whedon is the first third-generation TV writer, following the footsteps of both his grandfather John Whedon (“The Donna Reed Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Leave It to Beaver;”), and his father, Tom Whedon (“Alice,” “Benson,” “Golden Girls”). His writing career began with assignments on the television series, “Roseanne” and “Parenthood,” before his feature film script for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER became a box office success in 1992.

Whedon garnered an Oscar nomination for his work on TOY STORY prior to writing the script for ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997) and seeing his groundbreaking television series version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” establish itself as a cultural touchstone. After the television run of his space western “Firefly,” and the subsequent big-screen adaptation SERENITY (2005), Whedon, along with his brothers Zack and Jed, Maurissa Tancharoen, created “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” as an online three-part musical, originally streaming for free. The self-funded project became an unprecedented hit, eventually earning the project an Emmy for Outstanding Special Class - Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs.

In 2012, Whedon’s THE AVENGERS broke box office records. As his adaptation of William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is set to debut, Whedon is at work both on the television series “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and THE AVENGERS 2 from the Marvel Universe.

Tickets are on sale now for both An Evening with Joss Whedon ($20.00), and the opening of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING on Friday, June 7(general public $13.00; $9.00 for students and seniors (62+); and $8.00 for Film Society members). Visit for complete film festival information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First Teaser Trailer for RIO 2

The first teaser trailer for RIO 2 has arrived from Twentieth Century Fox.  The synopsis is the following: "The entire cast of the animated smash RIO returns in RIO 2, and they are joined by a new flock of top actors and musical talents. Rich with grandeur, character, color and music, RIO 2 finds Jewel (Anne Hathaway), Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and their three kids leaving their domesticated life in that magical city for a journey to the Amazon. They encounter a menagerie of characters who are born to be wild, voiced by Oscar nominee Andy Garcia, Oscar/Emmy/Tony-winner Rita Moreno, Grammy winner Bruno Mars, and Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth."

Watch the teaser below:

Jackie Chan Retrospective with Appearance

The following is a press release from the Film Society of Lincoln Center:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center 
& New York Asian Film Festival 
 Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York 
in association with Asia Society announce 


Jackie Chan in person on June 10 and 11 including presentation
of the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award

Jackie Chan Retrospective 
(June 23-27)

New York, NY, May 13, 2013-The Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York Asian Film Festival announced the details today for a rare series of appearances by international film icon, Jackie Chan on June 10 and 11, followed by the largest retrospective of his films ever held in North America (June 23-27).

On the occasion of the release of Chan’s 101st film, CHINESE ZODIAC (2012), the Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York Asian Film Festival will honor Jackie Chan, the director, and celebrate his 40-year-career in film. During that time, Chan has re-invented how action is filmed, with innovations in editing, choreography, and story-telling influencing filmmakers at home in Hong Kong, and overseas in Hollywood.

Chan belongs to a list of motion picture titans that includes Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, and Buster Keaton. Each of these artists controlled every aspect of their movies - from the conception, to the filming, to the editing. Each of them created a unique genre based around their onscreen persona, and each of them made movies that weren’t so much filmed stories as total cinematic experiences.

With that in mind, the New York Asian Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York will host An Evening with Jackie Chan and present him with the Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, June 10, followed by an onstage Q&A, and a special premiere screening of his newest film, Chinese Zodiac. A press conference with the film legend will take place onTuesday, June 11

The events at Lincoln Center are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with three-week long tribute to creativity in Hong Kong cinema (including Jackie Chan Retrospective and the Hong Kong films selections at the 12th New York Asian Film Festival). We are deeply grateful for their vision and dedication.

Separately, Jackie Chan will have a second appearance at a special screening supported by the Asia Society at its auditorium, on the evening ofJune 11.

Additional support is provided by The Kitano Hotel,, Fortune Star, American Genre Film Archive (, Warner Brothers, and Manhattan Portage.

(June 10 & 11)

Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway)
A screening of Jackie Chan’s 101st movie, his massive blockbuster, Chinese Zodiac, in a newly edited 107 minute version he’s prepared for North America. Setting box-office records when it was released in China, the screening will be preceded by the presentation of the New York Asian Film Festival's Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award and an onstage Q&A with Jackie Chan.
Monday, June 10 at 7:30PM

Hong Kong Economic Trade Office New York (115 East 54th Street, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue)
To participate in this press conference, please RSVP to Ted Geoghegan (TedGeoghegan@gmail.com406-531-7799) for English-language media, and Melissa Ng/Stephanie Chow ( / ext.223/220) for Chinese language media.
Tuesday, June 11 at 11:00AM

Asia Society (725 Park Avenue, between East 70th and East 71st Streets)
Screening of DRUNKEN MASTER 2 preceded by an onstage Q&A with Jackie Chan.
Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30PM

(June 23-27)

All screenings will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (West 65th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway). Visit for more information.

ARMOUR OF GOD (1986) 97min digital projection
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
After doing a serious police drama set in Hong Kong, Jackie Chan had the urge to do something lighthearted and international, and so ARMOUR OF GOD was born. A two-fisted, three-footed, ten-knuckled adventure flick, Chan does Indiana Jones, playing a pop star turned treasure hunter Asian Hawk, who takes on a Euro-cult of psychotic monks in an effort to rescue an old friend’s kidnapped girlfriend. It’s a heady blend of his signature style and exploitation trends (including a beat-down by a bevy of blaxploitation beauties), in which Jackie took a life-threatening fall while performing a stunt that halted production for months and required emergency surgery. To this day, he still bears the hole in his head. But that’s all right: this movie was worth it.

ARMOUR OF GOD 2: OPERATION CONDOR (1991) 106min digital projection
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
One of Hong Kong’s great out-of-control productions, AOG2 went way over budget and way over schedule as Chan and company hopped around the globe indulging Chan’s desire to top himself. Which he does. The result is the biggest and most complex Jackie Chan movie to date, with Asian Hawk’s quest for a cache of Nazi gold resulting in a succession of gigantic setpieces and intricate action, including one of cinema’s great car chases, the destruction of an entire hotel, and a final battle in a wind tunnel. This is the kind of movie that has you goggle-eyed from start to finish.

CHINESE ZODIAC (2012) 107min digital projection
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
In his 101st movie, Chan resurrects his treasure-hunting Asian Hawk character from the Armour of God franchise and delivers an action spectacle that has broken box-office records in China. Reported to be his final “large-scale action picture” CZ kicks off with Chan being hired to steal 12 antique bronze sculptures, representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and repatriate them to China. Like a Saturday afternoon matinee, this colorful, kinetic flick is a live action cartoon for grown-ups, offering manic action scenes, hidden islands, pirate gangs, and funky gadgets galore. Cut down by about 20 minutes by Chan himself for the North American market (trust us, you’re not missing ANYTHING), this is the king of the pop-and-lock saying goodbye to the blockbuster movies that made him famous in funtacular style.

CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min 35mm
Director: Wong Jing
Country: Hong Kong
Directed by Hong Kong’s King of the Box Office, Wong Jing, CITY HUNTER is packed with insane action and ridiculous comedy. The disappearance of a newspaper tycoon’s daughter brings Chan’s easygoing private sleuth and his lovelorn sidekick (Joey Wang) onboard a luxury cruise liner that soon becomes the target of a gang of hostage-taking terrorists. Wong spins this DIE HARD-on-a-boat scenario into a series of outrageous set-pieces, including a deadly card game and a self-referential movie-theater brawl that finds Chan imitating the moves of an onscreen Bruce Lee. Eventually, it goes so far over the top that you can’t even see the top anymore, climaxing with the legendary STREET FIGHTER tribute beat down between Chan and Gary Daniels.

DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min 35mm
Director: Lau Kar-leung & Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
Filmed at the peak of Chan’s prime, sixteen years after his breakout turn in Drunken Master, this transcendent pairing of classic Shaw Brothers director Lau Kar-leung and Jackie Chan resulted in what many claim to be the greatest martial arts film ever made. In this take on the legend of Wong Fei-hung, Chan shares the screen with the great Ti Lung and also Anita Mui, who almost steals the show as his motor-mouthed stepmother. The plot revolves around Fei-hung’s attempts to foil a foreign syndicate trafficking in ancient Chinese artifacts, but the film’s jaw-dropping kung-fu sequences need little explanation. Lush, opulent, and made with no consideration for budget or schedule, it took three months just to shoot the final action scene.

LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010) 95min digital projection
Director: Ding Sheng
Country: Hong Kong
The best Jackie Chan movie since 1994’s Drunken Master 2, this is the film in which Chan finally proves he’s a real actor, not just an action star. At 56 he can’t do the death-defying stunts anymore, so in LBS he trades super-sized spectacle for small-scale combat and his best script ever (it took 20 years of development to reach the screen). Set in ancient China, it centers on a farmer (Chan) who’s drafted into the army and winds up accidentally capturing the enemy general. If he can get his unwilling captive back home he’ll earn his freedom, the only catch being that he’s thousands of miles from safety. It’s a heartbreaking and hilarious escapade, and Chan’s camera-ready charisma has never been put to better use.

MIRACLES (aka MR. CANTON & LADY ROSE) (1989) 127min digital projection
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
If you ask Jackie Chan which movie he’s most proud of directing, he always names this shimmering 1920s gangster fantasia, a remake of Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day set in a storybook Hong Kong that recalls like Damon Runyon’s New York. Chan plays a nice-guy country bumpkin who inherits the top crime king position from a dying mafia boss. With the fast feet, quick quips, and sudden reversals of Hollywood’s great screwball comedies, it also features a diva turn by pop star Anita Mui, Hong Kong’s answer to Madonna, except she can actually act.

POLICE STORY (1985) 101min 35mm
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
Jackie’s first contemporary cop thriller, in which he played a hot-tempered inspector framed for murder by a vengeful drug lord, proved that he was willing to pull out all the stops—from carrying out a bit of slapstick with two telephones to trashing an entire shopping mall. A breathless adrenaline rush full of twisted bumpers and broken ribs, and with what might be a record-high ratio of broken glass per minute, POLICE STORY is viewed by many as Chan’s greatest achievement and a milestone in the Hong Kong canon. Premiering in the U.S. at the 1987 New York Film Festival, it’s been much imitated, but nothing beats the original.

POLICE STORY 2 (1988) 101min 35mm
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
As dark and sobering as POLICE STORY 1 was light and playful, this sequel is all about the consequences of action. Chan begins the film demoted to traffic duty after his mall-destroying misadventures in Part One. He finds himself unable to protect his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) from danger, he can’t track down the bad guys to fight them, and his archenemies are more interested in their cancer treatments than in revenge. The spectacular stunts and killer set-pieces are still there—including a climactic duel with a deaf-mute bomber set in a fireworks-laced warehouse—but POLICE STORY 2 feels more like a deconstruction of the cop thriller than anything else Chan’s ever made.

POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP (1992) 95min 35mm
Director: Stanley Tong
Country: Hong Kong
Teaming up with Stanley Tong, one of his most reliable collaborators, Jackie turned in this stunning capper to his Police Story trilogy and re-launched the career of Michelle Yeoh in the process. In this installment, intrepid cop Ka-Kui goes undercover with a dangerous drug lord—a set-up that finds Chan breaking a henchman out of prison, posing with an invented family, and finally dangling from a moving helicopter. The action shifts from Hong Kong to Thailand to Malaysia, culminating in a climax spanning rooftop, sky and train that ranks as one of Chan’s finest extended set-pieces. The film was released in the US in a dubbed, recut version titled simply SUPERCOP, featuring a pow-wow, no-holes-barred theme song by the seminal New Wave rock band Devo.

PROJECT A (1983) 101min 35mm
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
A team-up with his Chinese opera school brothers Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, this cops-versus-pirates actioner was the movie that transformed Jackie from a martial arts star into a director of transcendent physical comedy. One of the first action movies to be set in colonial Hong Kong, PROJECT A is the first of Jackie’s films to be spiced with outrageous stunts, including a jaw-dropping bicycle chase and a 50-foot fall from a clock tower (inspired by Harold Lloyd’s hour-hand dangle in SAFETY LAST!) that was so terrifying it took Jackie three days to work up the courage to attempt it.

PROJECT A 2 (1987) 101min 35mm
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
A meticulously crafted Swiss watch of mistaken identities, espionage, and colonial intrigue, PROJECT A 2 may be Jackie’s greatest accomplishment as a filmmaker. Chan keeps four separate subplots whirling through the air with the greatest of ease, while leaving time not just for intense action and groundbreaking stunts, but for some extraordinary non-action filmmaking. No comedy director has ever topped the intricacy of the famous nine-minute scene set in a two-room apartment that takes the conventions of French farce and turns them up to 11.

SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW (1978) 98min 35mm
Director: Yuen Wo-ping
Country: Hong Kong
This is where it all began. Chan teamed with director Yuen Wo-ping (later to serve as action director on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) for this kung fu comedy about a bullied young man working as a janitor at a martial arts school who learns to fight back against his tormentors using a kung fu technique known as “Snake’s Fist”. Soon, the novice starts to develop a strategy of his own—fittingly, since SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW also found Chan himself arriving at what would become his inimitable, career-defining style. The film became Jackie’s first box-office hit, and the first movie to introduce the world to his innovative brand of action-comedy.
(NOTE: dubbed in Mandarin with English subtitles projected live during the screenings)

THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min 35mm
Director: Jackie Chan
Country: Hong Kong
Jackie’s directorial debut was the idea showcase for his martial arts prowess and that of his co-stars—among them his “little brother” from Chinese opera school, Yuen Biao, who appears here alongside Jackie for the first time, and Korean super-kicker Hwang In-Shik. Opening on a high-stakes lion dance competition and closing on a ferocious showdown between Chan and Hwang, THE YOUNG MASTER found Jackie exploring the thin line between kung fu as performance and as life-or-death combat. His first movie for Golden Harvest, the studio which would become his home for the next 20 years, it’s arguably his greatest pure martial arts film.


12.30pm SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW (1978) 98min
2.45pm THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min
8.00pm DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min

1.15 pm MIRACLES (1989) 127min
4.00pm POLICE STORY (1985) 101min
6.15pm ARMOUR OF GOD (1986) 97min
8.30pm ARMOUR OF GOD 2 (1991) 106min

1.30pm CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min
3.45pm MIRACLES (1989) 127min
6.30pm PROJECT A (1983) 101min
8.45pm PROJECT A 2 (1987) 101min

2.15pm THE YOUNG MASTER (1980) 106min
4.30pm LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010) 95min
9.15pm CITY HUNTER (1993) 105min

2.00pm DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) 102min
4.15pm POLICE STORY (1985) 101min
6.30pm POLICE STORY 2 (1988) 101min
8.45pm POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP (1992) 95min

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exclusive First Look at I, FRANKENSTEIN!

The lenticular to the left is the exclusive first look of I, Frankenstein straight from the Cannes Film Festival.  The film has the following synopsis: "
Set in a dystopic present where vigilant gargoyles and ferocious demons rage in a battle for ultimate power, Victor Frankenstein's creation Adam (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself caught in the middle as both sides race to discover the secret to his immortality. From the creators of the hit supernatural saga, UNDERWORLD, comes the action thriller I, FRANKENSTEIN, written for the screen and directed by Stuart Beattie based on the graphic novel "I, Frankenstein" by Kevin Grevioux, and brought to life by a cast that includes Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Mahesh Jadu, Caitlin Stasey and Aden Young as Victor Frankenstein."

The film opens in theaters January 14, 2014.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Linklater, Coppola, Coogler, Lowery at FREE Summer Talks

The following is a release from the Film Society of Lincoln Center: 



New York, NY (May 10, 2013) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today their FREE Summer Talks series, kicking off next week with BEFORE MIDNIGHT director Richard Linklater, actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke on Thursday, May 16th at 8PM at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center’s Amphitheater. Moderated by Film Comment contributor Phillip Lopate, the evening will be free to the public and will include a selection of clips and questions from the audience.

As an extension of the NYFF LIVE talks during the festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will host live, free talks throughout the Summer. The lineup will also include director Sofia Coppola for THE BLING RING on June 10 at 7:30PM, director Jem Cohen for MUSEUM HOURS on Wednesday June 26th at 6:00PM, who will also screen a short film as a way of describing how he came to make MUSEUM HOURS and director Ryan Coogler for FRUITVALE STATION on Thursday July 11th at 6:00PM. The Jem Cohen and Ryan Coogler talks will be moderated by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s, Director of Digital Strategy, Eugene Hernandez.

The following directors will also participate in the Film Society Summer Talks - the date/time to be announced shortly – director Sebastián Silva for CRYSTAL FAIRY in July and in August director David Lowery for AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS and Joe Swanberg for DRINKING BUDDIES. Additional talks will be announced at a later date so stay tuned and visit for more information.   

Free tickets will be available at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam) box office on a first-come, first-served basis one hour prior to the conversations. For those unable to attend in person, video from the event will be available online at


Films, Descriptions & Schedule

Director: Richard Linklater
Nine years after we last saw Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke), the couple are together in Greece. Richard Linklater's latest collaboration with Hawke and Delpy picks up the story that began nearly two decades ago in Before Sunrise (1995) and then continued withBefore Sunset (2004). In the new film, Before Midnight, Celine and Jesse are now in their 40s and grappling with the past, present and future of their relationship.
*Thursday, May 16: 8PM 
Summer Talk with director Richard Linklater, actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. All share in a writing credit for the film also. 
Moderator: Film Comment Contributor, Phillip Lopate.

Director: Sofia Coppola
From Oscar award winning writer and director Sofia Coppola, THE BLING RING tells the story, based on actual events, of a group of teenagers obsessed with fashion and celebrity that burglarize celebrities’ homes in Los Angeles. Tracking their targets' whereabouts online, they break-in and steal their designer clothes and possessions. Reflecting on the naiveté of youth and the mistakes we all make when young, amplified by today's culture of celebrity and luxury brand obsession, we see through the members of the ‘Bling Ring’ temptations that almost any teenager would feel. What starts out as teenage fun spins out of control and leaves us with a sobering view of our culture today.
*Monday, June 10: 7:30PM
Summer Talk with director Sofia Coppola. 
Moderator: TBC

Director: Jem Cohen
Well known for his distinctive work in Super 8 and 16mm film, as well as numerous music videos for the likes of R.E.M., Fugazi, Vic Chestnutt, Jem Cohen has made a name for himself with a number of acclaimed feature films, including InstrumentBenjamin Smoke and Chain. His latest film, Museum Hours, observes the burgeoning relationship between a quiet Vienna museum guard (Bobby Sommer) who meets a lonesome American visitor (Mary Margaret O'Hara). Anchored within a grand gallery at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, Jem Cohen's Museum Hours is an examination of art, architecture and ultimately, contemporary humanity.
*Wednesday, June 26: 6PM
Summer Talk with director Jem Cohen. Will also include a screening of a short film as a way of describing how he came to make Museum Hours.
Moderator: The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Digital Strategy, Eugene Hernandez.

Director: Ryan Coogler
Remember the name Ryan Coogler. If all goes according to plan, you should be hearing it a lot. The winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival for his first feature, Fruitvale Station, Coogler is a former college football player who eventually embraced filmmaking. In the film, Coogler examines the tragic story of Oscar Grant, a victim of excessive police force in Coogler's own Oakland neighborhood. Charming and inspiring, Ryan Coogler is one of the most celebrated new filmmakers of the year.
*Thursday, July 11: 6PM
Summer Talk with director Ryan Coogler. 
Moderator: The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Digital Strategy, Eugene Hernandez.

Director: Sebastián Silva
New York based Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva took his cast and crew on a fun ride when making Crystal Fairy, one of two feature films he had at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Produced by Pablo Larraín, director of last year's No (NYFF 50), Crystal Fairy is based on a real road trip from Silva's youth. Michael Cera stars as an American tourist who encounters a wanderer (played by Gaby Hoffman) during a Chilean vacation. The two of them, along with a group of locals (played by Silva's real-life brothers) embark on a journey in search of an elusive hallucinogen cactus that leads them to unexpected places.
*July: Specific date TBC 
Summer Talk with Sebastián Silva. 

Director: David Lowery
An exciting discovery at this year's Sundance Film Festival, David Lowery is no stranger within American indie circles. Not only did he write and direct the upcoming Ain't Them Bodies Saints, but he edited Shane Carruth's recent Upstream Color and co-wrote Yen Tan's Pit Stop. Lowery's Texas drama, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, stars Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck in a story of outlaws set in Texas.
*August: Specific date TBC
Summer Talk with David Lowery.

Director: Joe Swanberg
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a craft brewery. They have one of those friendships that feels like it could be something more. But Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick). And Jill wants to know if Luke is ready to talk about marriage. The answer to that question becomes crystal clear when Luke and Kate unexpectedly find themselves alone for a weekend.Drinking Buddies is written and directed by Joe Swanberg and stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston.
*August: Specific date TBC
Summer Talk with Joe Swanberg.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Photo credit: Ken Woroner
2013, 108 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality, brief strong language and smoking 

Review by Joshua Handler

Stories We Tell could have simply been a movie about a woman wanting to explore her family's past.  It could have turned into a vanity project that would leave people wondering why they would ever want to watch it.  In the hands of the talented Sarah Polley, though, it turns into a moving, universal documentary structured like a mystery.  It is very rare for me to be completely floored by a movie and even rarer when I cannot think of a single movie that I have ever seen like it.  Stories We Tell accomplished both for me.

Stories We Tell is a movie best seen without much background information.  It is about what happens when Sarah Polley asks her dad and other family members to tell the story of her late mother.  Each has their own version of the story and their own perception of her, creating a complex portrait of a seemingly fascinating woman.  Polley interweaves the riveting interviews with old family footage bringing this incredibly personal story to life.

The genius of Stories We Tell lies in Sarah Polley's own unique gift for storytelling.  As mentioned, this could have been a horribly boring movie that would have only been relevant to Polley and her family.  Instead, by structuring the story like a mystery, she can pull the story back layer by layer, until she completely pulls the rug out beneath us, giving the film an extremely satisfying and moving conclusion and engaging the audience.  By engaging the audience with her tightly coiled story, Polley makes a connection with her viewers, a connection that will not be broken until long after the film's end.

Without going into too much detail, Stories We Tell examines the nature of family stories and how much can be explored by listening to different versions of the same one over and over.  Polley manages to mix these multiple tellings into one cohesive whole.

While I would absolutely love to go into greater depth with this film, I cannot do so with a good conscience.  Stories We Tell is a movie best viewed without knowing much about it.  Do not watch the spoiler-filled trailer or read other reviews before viewing the movie.

Overall, Stories We Tell is a landmark film that, while a little overlong at the end (still riveting, though), is a beautiful and emotionally potent film that I will never forget.