- I do not recall ever feeling this sad about somebody famous dying: here are 2 beautifully written articles on the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and his craft.
- D. Watkins reflects on his circle of friends in Baltimore who are too poor for pop culture.
- 10 bands who banned photos in 2013.
- Michael Koresky on a much maligned subgenre : “chick flicks.”
- Trailer of the Week: Charlie Stratton’s In Secret
Al Midan aka The Square (Egypt/USA 2013)
4 out of 5
Al Midan follows a group of young revolutionaries who are standing up against the corrupt, violent regime that has ruled over Egypt for decades. These individuals are risking their life to benefit their countries’ future and it is happening in Tahrir Square which has become an urban battleground. The film follows the revolutions’ beginning in 2011, when the activists experienced a brief moment of hope when Mubarak stepped down, and follows them handling the very messy aftermath which is still going on to this day. Al Midan shows history in the making, and these inspiring people are sacrificing everything they have for a common cause; their commitment is a testament to the human spirit. (Full disclosure: Though I found the film to be captivating, I had to leave 20 minutes before the film ended.)
Unfriend (Philippines 2014)
0.5 out of 5
David (Sandino Martin) has just been left by his boyfriend via facebook. David is at his wits’ end and will do anything to get him back. Unfriend is shockingly inept; a film that is astounding to see at such an acclaimed festival. The plot, production values, and acting are asinine and there are no redeeming features to speak of. The quality of the film is no more apparent than in the last sequence which strives to be dramatic but is simply laughable.
Boyhood (USA 2014)
4 out of 5
Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is an elementary aged child living in Texas with his extroverted older sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater, the daughter of the director) and single-parent mom (Patricia Arquette). Mason is not an especially unique kid and does not lead a spectacular existence by any means, yet seeing him grow up is riveting nonetheless. Boyhood starts off with Mason at age seven and ends when he is about to go off to college. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood represents a version of bland Americana that is very familiar and the film does have its share of simplistic, generic beats to service its relatability (especially geared towards white, middle-class men) but its impact and ambition is undeniable: it is an astounding cinematic feat and an absolute joy to watch.
The Dog (USA 2014)
3.5 out of 5
John Wojtowicz, better known as the dog, attempted to rob a bank in order to finance his lover’s sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970’s. The crime was a controversial sensation at the time, inspiring Sidney Lumet’s film Dog Day Afternoon. The real John Wojtowicz went to prison for his crimes and has never been able to shake off what he did, or rather, it is not clear whether Wojtowicz ever wanted to start anew. The Dog is an entertaining time capsule exploring Wojtowicz’s colorful, boisterous personality and the gay subculture of New York in the 1970s. The film has been eleven years in the making and it shows: directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren manage to gain access to all of the key players in the dog’s life (though his transgender lover is not as central to the story as one would hope) but it could have also used a tighter edit.
La Marche a Suivre aka Guidelines (Canada 2014)
3.5 out of 5
In a small village nine hours away from Quebec, a group of high schoolers are enjoying their idyllic youth. Most of the adolescents that director Jean-Francois Caissy has chosen to focus on are encountering some disciplinary issues. Outside of school they enjoy the majestic nature that surrounds them. La Marche a Suivre attempts to capture teens as they experience freedom as well as restrictions by the (very empathetic and capable) people in charge of their future. This fly on the wall documentary focuses on non-descript youths in an oddly enlightening way: it is a mesmerizingly shot timeless exercise in observational documentary filmmaking.
3 out of 5
Michel Gondry is known as a whimsical director; a dreamer. Noam Chomsky is a high-minded intellectual; an egghead. The film follows a visualized account of a series of conversations the two very different men have. The imagery is, of course, charmingly Gondryesque but the aim of the documentary remains elusive. Gondry is clearly a big fan of Chomsky and wanted to pick his brain but certain key questions come to mind while watching the documentary: Why now? Why does Gondry choose to ask these set of questions? There are inspired moments to be sure but the film’s foundation is murky at best.
Kreuzweg aka Stations of the Cross (Germany 2014)
3 out of 5
Fourteen year old Maria (Lea van Acken) is caught between two worlds: her ultra-religious church community and her secular school. Her communion is upon her which compels her to reflect on where she belongs more than ever. She wants to be good and lead a righteous and pure life but constantly feels that she is a disappointment to god - so overpowering is her faith. Maria wants to prove her unwavering devotion and will let nothing stop her. Kreuzweg deals with extremes: her family is unabashedly severe (especially her beast of a mother) and her religion knows no compromise and is hellish to abide by. Lea von Acken is a very game lead, but Kreuzweg’s metaphorical spin is far too heavy-handed and unsubtle, the film is an exercise in pointless cruelty.
Töchter aka Daughters (Germany 2014)
3 out of 5
Kuzu (Turkey 2014)
4 out of 5
Trouble is brewing in a small, quiet village in Turkey. The son of Medine (Nesrin Cavadzade) and Ismael (Cahit Gok), is about to get circumcised – an auspicious occasion that brings his mother great grief for they haven’t a penny to spare and desperately need to prepare an adequate celebration meal. As part of a cruel prank, the boy’s older sister Vicdan (Sila Lara Canturk) tells him that he is doomed in one of the more uniquely spun tales caught on celluloid and the truly awful joke soon develops into something far more sinister. What starts off as a gentle allegorical film develops into a raw depiction of human evil. Kuzu lags in places but its last third brings the masterfully conceptualized dark fairy tale to a very fitting end.