Twilight, awaiting wrap.
Girls skating - Afghanistan (x)
Awesome. Girls skating in Afghanistan.
This blog follows my exploits through the worlds of film, food, family and drink.
One day years ago I thought to myself “why hasn’t Kenneth Lonnergan made a new film since You Can Count on Me?”. I looked him up on IMDB and it turned out that he had made a new film called Margaret. More research revealed that it had been in post production for a long time and in fact had not been released yet. The film itself must have been a difficult endeavor to start with, but on top of that it sounds like there were some very unsupportive producers involved, which complicated an already perilous task. If you have the desire you can read this excellent dissection of what happened from the New York Times.
But how is the film?
Well I missed it’s measly one week run in Los Angeles and had to wait to see it on DVD. The DVD release was as complicated as the rest of this project. If you buy the film it is a package deal. You get the directors cut on BluRay AND the shorter theatrical release on DVD. As far as I know there is no getting the one or the other on the other format. Does that make sense? In other words if I want to see the longer directors cut I would need to borrow a BluRay player because it only exists on BluRay. I would call me a great lover of movies, but I still haven’t made the financial jump to BluRay yet.
The film has been sitting around my house from Netflix for over a month. I was having trouble finding the time and the energy to watch the film. At two and a half hours I knew that I was going to need to be able to concentrate.
My wife started watching the film with me and a key event at the beginning made her bow out. So I did. Her life is hard enough without consuming more hardcore drama and I can’t blame her for that.
The film sat around more.
Finally this morning I watched the film and I thought it was amazing. How this film and it’s performances didn’t get more notice and a better release is nothing short of astonishing.
My only regret is that I didn’t watch it with someone because the film is deep enough that you want to hash it out with friends.
Have you seen Margaret?
What did you think?
If you haven’t seen You Can Count On Me or Margaret you must check them out.
***I was going to attach the trailer, but watched it and decided against it. I wouldn’t call the trailer a good representation of the film.
It is crazy to think that someone as dependable as James Schamus was given the boot. Thinks are going to get bumpy, who knows whether that will lead to opportunity or even fewer chances for indie filmmakers…
Indie is changing. Follow the money:The last five years had seen at least as many art-house-film companies folded up or folded into their major-studio parents. In 2008, Time Warner shuttered its Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures labels and closed down New Line Cinema’s New York offices. That same year, Paramount consolidated its Vantage division, and in December 2010, five years after Disney parted ways with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the entertainment giant sold the much-downsized company that the brothers had founded, Miramax, to an investment group called Filmyard Holdings, which has done disappointingly little with the company.Frank DiGiacomo’s casualty count was spurred by the firing of James Schamus and the closing down of Focus Feature’s New York offices. As a producer he’s credited with Brokeback Mountain (2005), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (executive producer/screenplay), Happiness (1998) (executive producer), and Sense and Sensibility (1995), along with 38 other films. His company, Focus Features, produced Jane Eyre (2011), Milk (2008), and Eastern Promises (2007), while signing on to distribute A Serious Man (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Sin Nombre (2009), and The Pianist (2002). Frank DiGiacomo at Vulture tallies all the films that Schamus is directly involved with and credits him with 84 Oscar nominations with 16 wins in 12 years.
Schamus is considered an outsider, a man with good taste, and he’s out of a job. It’s not that the future of “art house” cinema is over — it’s that the traditional players are tightening their purse strings. The production companies and audiences that will replace what was created over the 90s and the 00s are going to look vastly different and, over the next few years, are going to have to experiment in order to find their footing. If history is any indication, this isn’t going to be a smooth transition.
[Image: Director Ang Lee (L) and former head of Focus Features James Schamus (R)]
I would love to say that I have spent every waking minute of the last few days at the festival watching films, but alas our filmmaker badges only get us into the first screening of the day. Luckily I was able to talk my way into one other screening so I have a bunch more short films to tell you about.
Program 10 - Tough Choices
Ellen Is Leaving, is directed by Michelle Savill, and is a wonderful film that is at times funny, but still heartfelt and a little weighty. Just the sort of thing that I like. Ellen is leaving on a big trip we find out in the beginning of the film and her long time boyfriend is not excited about losing his love. She asks if there there is anything he wants her to get him and he jokes about getting a new girlfriend. At first this idea whirls around unseriously, but then it takes hold and she sets out to set up her boyfriend with a new girlfriend. The shot composition and the movement of the camera were unique and elevated a simple concept to the level of a great film. I really enjoyed this film.
Fort Apache, directed by Addison Mehr, is a lovely looking film with effective slow pacing. I wish that there was some stronger story structure at the beginning of the film that would have helped me get into it faster, but ultimately this is a beautifully shot film with fine acting that builds nicely.
Elie’s Overcoat, directed by Erik Howell, is a very moving, true story about a man trying to escort his Jewish friend to safety during World War II in Romania.
Program 13 - Strong Women
This Program had some very strong films in it. After the screening I was walking down the sidewalk and overheard a couple in front of me talking about what they had just seen and remarked that they thought the films had just got better and better as the program went on. Then they wondered if the programmers planned it that way. It made me chuckle because I would hope that programmers try to have a screening build in some way, whether it be quality or intensity. The other reason that I was amused was that I felt the opposite of the couple, I thought the program started strong.
Shale, directed by Jed Cowley, is a great film that is wonderfully shot and acted. A married couple are seemingly at the end of their relationship when Shelia shows up at her husband’s shale pit informing him that she owns half. The tense confrontation that follows is well acted and touching. It even has a surprising action element that left me wondering how they were able to pull that off without breaking anything or injuring anyone. A well done, naturalistic piece of filmmaking.
Haleema, directed by Boris Schaarschmidt, is a beautifully shot short film that does an excellent job of dramatizing an important issue in the world that doesn’t get enough attention: the scarcity of clean drinking water. The actors do a fine job and the piece is has a very magic hour type look.
Care, directed by Brett Wagner, is a touching portrayal of a young woman struggling to find balance between living her life and taking care of her father who has dementia. The construction of this short seems like it begged to be elongated and made into a feature. It’s almost felt like the short was made up of parts selected from a feature. The film’s star Rachel Brosnahan gives a brave performance as her character tries to navigate a new love, a new job and her father’s dementia. The whole cast does a great job and I think that the film would be even better as a feature because it would give Wagner a chance to fully realize many of the story elements that are touched on in the short.
My new short film Tomorrow is playing the 17th Annual LA Shorts Fest. on Monday September 9th at 7:45pm. It’s great to play a festival that is right here in Los Angeles and that screens their films at such a nice venue. The sound and image at the Laemmle is wonderful. It is often hard for independent films to get any attention, especially in Los Angeles where we are inundated by films from every direction.
Throw in short independent films and the prospect becomes even more bleak. For instance the Los Angeles Film Festival is a major US film festival and you will hear about some of the films, especially the ones that have name cast, but even at that prestigious festival you won’t see much press about shorts.
The LA Shorts Fest, or by their longer name Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, is in their 17th year and can boast that they are one of a handful of venues that provide a pathway to being nominated for an Oscar in the category of Short Film. Even with that sort of prestige, and the fact that the festival runs for a week and screens 280 films from 17 countries, I haven’t really seen much in the way of reviews of the films at the festival.
I’m no film reviewer or even film writer for that matter. I’m just a filmmaker and film viewer, but as I filmmaker I’m always interested in finding new films that might pique my interest.
I don’t have the time or money to review very many films, but when I see something I like or that I think you should check out, I’ll jot down some thoughts.
I wish I had the time to see even more films. I have already missed some films that I would have liked to have seen. For instance I noticed in the very first program of the festival Nancy Savoca had a new short film playing called The Tale of Timmy Two Chins.
My wife and I went to the opening night program and you can see that the festival was trying to bring out the stars. One film was directed by Ralph Macchio, an animated film was voiced by George Takei, and Sir Ian McKellen, Katherine Ross and Rutger Hauer starred in three other films.
My favorite film of the night by far was a short documentary called Eddie Adams: Saigon ‘68 directed by Douglas Sloan. This amazing short film talks about the amazing photographer Eddie Adams and how his career was defined by a picture that he took of a person being executed. He was in the perfect position to take the picture and it ran in newspapers all over the world and most people have seen it and would call it one of the defining images of the vietnam war. The great thing that the doc does is then take the story and widen the scope beyond Eddie and talks about the power of images to distort and effect all sorts of things including the vietnam war. Great film.
My wife really enjoyed Wini and George and I found parts of it to be really great. Katherine Ross gives a touching performance in it and there were a few shots that I really liked.
Turn, directed by Stuart Gillies, stars Rutger Hauer in a stunningly photographed visual poem. The audience seemed a little surprised when the film ended. I think they thought the film was just getting started, but I really enjoyed the film and thought it was beautifully shot.
The short Tonight I Strike, directed by Dan Gaud, was very uneven (for me), but it was completely enjoyable because the filmmaker was clearly not trying to get a base hit, he was swinging for a home run. Filmmakers should be able to experiment and I wouldn’t be surprised if he teamed up with someone in the future and made something amazing like District 9. The film is worth seeing just for the robots and design elements that he has put into the film. He was also great in the Q and A, which he hilariously did via cell phone.