Sunday, April 24, 2011

MSPIFF log 4.22.11

The First Beautiful Thing (2010)
dir. Paolo Virzi

Day 9
17th Film
(7/10) Recommended

The First Beautiful Thing has an undeniable charm. A festival film that has no interest in challenging audiences, but why should it? Enjoyable.

Amigo (2010)
dir. John Sayles

Day 9
18th Film
(1/10) Not Recommended

Ugh. John Sayles, what are you thinking. Cheesy agitprop that was best summed up by my friend Nick who said it reminded him of "Dr. Quinn!" Ouch.

13 Assassins (2010)
dir. Takashi Miike

Day 9
19th Film
(9/10) Highly Recommended

Who knew Miike had it in him? It's the same feeling I got after watching Graveyard of Honor. But after years of cranking out films with fearless bravado, Miike proves his deft skill once again in a samurai magnum opus. Don't miss it on the big screen.

Opens at the Lagoon June 3

Saturday, April 23, 2011

MSPIFF log 4.21.11

A Useful Life (2010)
dir. Federico Veiroj

Day 8
14th Film
(7/10) Recommended

A delightfully confounding film about the love of cinema and the love of the cinema, A Useful Life feels like a historical archive. In beautifully framed black and white, Jorge's life embodies the unglamorous rigor and passion for film exhibition. Rife with clever anecdotes and stylistic puns, the film chronicles the end of Montevideo's Cinemateca Uruguaya and Jorge's unexpected transition.

Applause (2009)
dir. Martin Zandliet

Day 8
15th Film
(7/10) Recommended

A one-woman show, reminiscent of Cassavete's Opening Night in its compare and contrast of stage and life, Applause catapults beyond the stagnant storyline with Paprika Steen's amazing performance. She plays Thea, an actress of certain claim and glamour who teeters between poise and vulgarity. Living under the shadow of her alcoholism, her story of recovery feels genuine from start to finish.

Plays again: Sunday 4/24 9:00pm

Midnight Son (2010)
dir. Scott Leberecht

Day 8
16th Film
(3/10) Not Recommended

The vampire genre takes another blow below the belt with this low-budget, blood-slurping drama. Unfortunately, the characters don't have the weight to carry the serious, slow-paced nature of this film.

Plays again: Saturday 4/23 10:00pm

As always, for more information go to MSPIFF official website.

Friday, April 22, 2011

MSPIFF log 4.20.11

Missed Tuesday at MSPIFF because I was working at the best theater in the Twin Cities, but I jumped right back in on Wednesday:

The Green Wave (2010)

dir. Ali Samadi Ahadi

Day 7
11th Film
(8/10) Highly Recommended

A fantastic documentary about the 2009 Iranian elections. A view from the foot soldiers of the protests, director Ali Samadi Ahadi combines rotoscoped images with guerrilla video with talking head interviews. The testimonials are unbelievable and the documentary is a tough watch. Incredibly compelling even if you do know the outcome.

Dooman River (2009)
dir. Zhang Lu

Day 7
12th Film
(6/10) Take It or Leave It

Beautifully shot and acted, Dooman River nonetheless suffers from the heavy handed cataclysms that befall the small village and the film's central family. Set on the Chinese side of the Dooman (Tuman) River where North Korean refugees have been fleeing for the past two decades. It's an interesting and subtle snapshot that derails from too much on dramatic intervention. Zhang Lu is still a director to watch.

Plays again: Thursday 4/28 9:30pm

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
dir. Eli Craig

Day 7
13th Film
(8/10) Highly Recommended

Hilarious. Genre fans should not miss it.

MSPIFF log 04.18.11

Dossier K (2009)
dir. Jan Verheyen

Day 5
9th Film
(5/10) Take It or Leave It

There is nothing too great nor too awful about Dossier K, a well-made crime drama from Belgium. You've got the key components of earnest cop, corrupt cop and honorable thug, nefarious thug and the various oxymorons that go along with those classifications. The blood is spilling among the Albanian underworld in Antwerp and it is up to the handsome Detective Vincke to get to the bottom of it. Entertaining but forgettable.

Plays again: Friday 4/29 9:30pm

International Narrative Shorts
Garagouz (2010) dir. Abdenour Zahzah, Algeria
It's Natural to Be Afriad (2010) dir. Justin Doherty, UK
Mokhtar (2010) dir. Halima Ouardiri, Morocco/Canada
Night Fishing (2010) dir. Park Chan-wook, Park Chan-kyong, South Korea

Day 5
10th Film
(8/10 overall) Recommended

You can go for the heartbreak (especially Mokhtar) but stay for the Night Fishing, the short by Park Chan-wook and his brother Park Chan-kyong shot on an iPhone - it's pretty amazing and slightly mind boggling. If you thought the themes of Thirst were all over the map, Night Fishing condenses that into a 33 minute package that is mesmerizing. Part music video, part horror film, part shamanistic ritual. I can't wait to see this again.

Plays again: Sunday 5/1 9:00pm

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MSPIFF log 4.17.11

No rush to post my viewing from this day, because both met my low expectations.

Gigola (2010)
dir. Laure Charpentier

Day 4
7th Film
(1/10) Not Recommended

This film can't figure out what is important: the past, the present, the future or simply empty affectation. As a result, it is really hard to care about any of it. Set in 1960s Paris, the film revolves around the loves, losses and conquests of Georgia (Lou Doillon, Jane Birkin's other daughter) in Pigalle's lesbian subculture. The narrative is all over the map and in the end emotionally vacant. What is meant to be serious ends up being silly.

Plays again: Saturday 4/30 9:00pm

The Troll Hunter (2010)
dir. André Øvredal

Day 4
8th Film
(3/10) Not Recommended (but if you are destine to see this, you are destine to see this)

Is it Trollhunter? Or Troll Hunter? Or The Troll Hunter? Whichever it is, I don't think I am giving anything away by saying it is about trolls. The set up is very Blair-Witch-Project-like: mysterious unauthenticated news footage of amateur reporters following a mysterious hunter leading to some mysterious secrets about real, live Norweigen trolls. But waiting for the trolls becomes tedious, and the material a replica of things we have seen before. Three-headed trolls, make for a diversion, but it's not enough. See The Troll Hunter with a crowd through, and you might just have a good time.

Opens in the Twin Cites on July 1.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MSPIFF log 4.16.11

Nostalgia for the Light (2010)
dir. Patricio Guzmán

Day 3
4th Film
(9/10) Highly Recommended

Plays again: Monday 4/18 8:45pm

Happy, Happy (2010)
dir. Anne Sewitsky

Day 3
5th Film
(6/10) Recommended

Plays again: Sunday 4/17 5:00pm

A Cat in Paris (2010)
dir. Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol

Day 3
6th Film
(7/10) Recommended

Plays again: Saturday 4/30 1:00pm

MSPIFF log 04.15.11

Kinsasha Symphony (2010)
Democratic Republic of Congo
dir. Martin Baer

Day 2
2nd Film
(6/10) Recommended

Plays again: Saturday 4/16 5:30pm

Curling (2010)
dir. Denis Côté

Day 2
3rd Film
(8.5/10) Highly Recommended

Plays again: Saturday 4/16 8:00pm

(An economy of words with the economy of time. Interested in my brief thoughts? Follow me on Twitter. Some of these films will resurface on my MSPIFF roundup for In Review Online.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

MSPIFF 2011 - Opening Night

Brisk. Cloudy. Windy. But the predictably unpredictable weather of April in Minnesota could not dampen the hum-hum of opening night at the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival. MSPIFF opened this year with its most ambitious program yet: three weeks with over 200 films. This expansion means an extra week and 40 more films than the Fest has ever had. (Only the unmentionable 2005 MSPIFF came close with 160-some films.) Having this land on my backdoor (literally 2 miles from my humble abode) is at once exciting and overwhelming. While have concluded that I can't see everything, I'm going to do my best to see as much as a working class human can.

As if trying to illuminate that there is something for everyone, MSPIFF chose to open with three diverging films: Page One: Inside the New York Times (for the documentary and newspaper lovers; sold out), Trollhunter (for cult film fans and troll lovers; nearly sold out) and Score: A Hockey Musical (what do you get when you combine "Glee" with hockey? a Minnesota crowd-pleaser! also sold out.) Page One was my choice, with Minneapolis native David Carr and director Andrew Rossi in attendance, but, low and behold, the damn thing was sold out. I had no sooner resigned myself to Trollhunter when friend and fellow blogger Daniel of Getafilm offered up an extra ticket. A stroke of luck, because, from the sound of it, I didn't miss much in Trollhunter (but I'll let you know in a couple days when I see it for myself.)

Opening night is not without a certain amount of pomp and circumstance. Speeches, introductions, accolades and awkward moments are standard. Al Milgrom, face, heart and soul of the Festival, gave surprisingly brief comments before hitting the ceremonious gong signaling the beginning of the Festival. Some people raised there fists in a silent cheer, others simply sighed and everyone clapped. On with the films!

Page One was riveting. The film gives a fascinating snapshot of the inner workings of the most recognizable and well-respected newspaper in the world, as the 'crisis of print media' lurks like an elephant in the background. At the center of Page One is the outspoken former editor of the Twin Cities Reader, David Carr and the Times media desk responsible for reporting the downfall of their own industry and upswing of the ubiquitous 'new media.' The topics of the film are ones close to my heart and mind and can be typified by this very blog you are reading. I am the novice. I am the threat. I do not get paid. Fortunately what you are reading right here is not real news. I'm a newspaper reader and more importantly a reader of the print edition of the NYT. And if it went away, I would have to seriously reassess the world I live in.

This is a documentary that openly celebrates a tradition that I am in line for, so the group cheer elicited for the rigors of print media was one I could accept. And so was the underlying if somewhat unintended sales pitch to renew or start a subscription to the New York Times. David Carr and Andrew Rossi took to the stage for a Q & A moderated by Star Tribune editor Tim Campbell. Carr is the unequivocal writing rock star with a personality to match. His rock bottom story is very well known in the Twin Cities and it was an added bonus to have him appear. He hilariously chided Rossi for choosing a former crack addict who sounds like Kermit the Frog to be the star of his documentary. Rossi mentioned that the doc was originally going to be more about Carr and less about the Times, but the film evolved to create a balance of industry examination and personality power. The end has been re-edited since Sundance and, had I known this before the screening, I would have asked about it.

After the Q & A, I headed out to the pavilion tent that MSPIFF has set up for the weekend to get my free lemonade and vodka (opening night with a ticket only!) The tent has been set up to help kick off the Fest with live music, a cash bar, foodstuffs and a place to chat with friends and filmmakers. The weather isn't really suited, but the tent was toasty and warm. So warm, it kind of made me sleepy. This was no hootenanny. But we're Minnesotans. We're international film fans.

One day down. Twenty to go.

Page One plays again on Wednesday, April 20 at 9:15pm.
All the info you need on MSPIFF website.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MSPIFF Cinema Shanty - Friday 9-10am on KFAI

Myself, Peter Schilling and Jim Brunzell take to the KFAI airwaves tomorrow for a special one hour edition of Cinema Shanty in honor of the three-week, 200 plus film extravaganza also know as the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival. Peter and I will talk opening night shenanigans and we will have Craig McCall, director of Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, on the air to talk about his film which makes its premiere at the Fest. We will also feature interviews with Al Milgrom, Susan Smoluchowski and Ryan Oestreich of The Film Society of Minneapolis/St Paul who put on the Fest.

Tune in here!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

MSPIFF 2011!

MSPIFF is almost here. Are you ready? While the MSPIFF website is on the fritz, here are a few things you can schedule or avoid, depending on what you think of my taste in film. My recommendations from the dozen or so I've seen:

Le Quattro Volte (Italy) Michelangelo Frammartino
The world is full of mysteries and so is this beautiful, dialog-less film.Saturday 4/23, 5:00pm
Monday 4/25, 5:00pm

The Arbor (UK) Clio Barnard
Experimentalism plus raw emotions.
Monday 4/25, 7:15pm
Friday 4/29, 5:00pm

The Fourth Portrait (Taiwan) Chung Mong-Hong
This young actor is amazing.
Wednesday 4/27, 7:00pm
Wednesday 5/4, 5:00pm

How many films will I see this year? No one knows. There are a ton of films I want to see, but these are the ones high on my list:

Nostalgia for the Light (Chile) Patricio Guzman
The great unknowns of outer space meet the great unknowns of a brutal history.
Saturday 4/16, 12:30pm
Monday 4/18, 8:45pm

13 Assassins (Japan) Takashi Miike
Missed my first a second big-screen opportunity to see this film. I will not miss my third and fourth.
Thursday 4/24, 6:45
Friday 4/25, 9:45

My Joy (Russia) Sergei Loznitsa
Kind of pleasant that I have avoided really knowing what this drama is about.
Saturday 4/30, 4:30pm
Monday 5/2, 7:00pm

Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard) France
Not because I have to, but because I really want to.
Friday 4/29, 9:15

The 2010 Minneapolis/St Paul International Film Festival runs from April 14 to May 5 (three weeks!) with over 200 films.