Tag Archives: Starz Denver film festival

The reality of it all, “Boyhood,” is a work of art

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Sometimes I walk out of a movie, like the ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ and go “WOW.” Most of the time I straighten out my legs, stand up and sigh, “Oh, well.” Then there was my surprise reaction to last year’s SDFF Starz Denver Film Festival Belgian movie, “Broken Circle Breakdown.”  When the movie was over and without warning, I broke into sobs. Then I pulled myself together to get out of the theater and cried all the way home in my car. Last night I walked out of the movie, ‘Boyhood‘ and simply went, “Ah.” I didn’t want to leave and I wanted to hug everyone in the movie. It felt really good.

Richard Linklater‘s newest creation (director of Dazed & Confused, 1993) has taken film to a new moment with Boyhood. The story line is about family. The who & what characteristics of a family and how time marks its growth. The fictional drama (as it is being called) is infiltrated with overwhelming, engaging elements of reality.  Ultimately gifting the audience with real-time changes (braces, baby fat, long hair, short hair) of the entire cast. Filmed for several days each year over a twelve year period the audience becomes totally mesmerized with the characters. There’s only one you’ll really hate and I’ll let you figure that out. The son, (Mason) Ellar Coltrane, is the obvious break-out star of this epic reality drama who is so endearing and interesting, even at six years old, you hope and pray throughout the movie that he is always ok. His sister Lorelie Linklater (Samantha) is the quintessential ‘it’ little girl. She’s the tiny, sassy Britney Spears brat-fan of 14 years ago and, before our very eyes grows into a beautiful young college student. Mother, Patricia Arquette and father, Ethan Hawke, are equally compelling.  They masterfully depict ongoing, every day life everyone can identify with at some age and period of adulthood and parenting. Boyhood proves that they are two of the best actors of our time and definitely adept at being in the moment.

Filmed in Texas, where director Linklater lives, the movie reverberates with memories.  Anyone who has ever gone to school there, lived there or visited Houston or Austin enough, will feel instantly at home and a little homesick. You even get to peek inside The Continental Club and Antone’s, Austin’s still hottest spots. Linklater knows what’s important to a Texan.

I would love to go on & on about this masterpiece. But, you need to see it. You will leave the theater reluctantly, but visually and emotionally content. Orson Welles had his ‘Citizen Kane.’ This is the era of Richard Linklater.

I sort of dread the for certain, poor copycat ‘fictional dramas’ that will surely follow but more of this good fictional drama is something to look forward to.  I am hoping it will evolve into other wonderful dramas that satisfy as this one did. But for this movie season, it’s ‘Boyhood,’ the movie. It will remain a work of art throughout movie history.

It’s playing at The Mayan Theater on Broadway.

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4 Movies Reviewed

Barbara

This little foreign film was heavy. Heavy because the dialogue was slow and for one not familiar with the German language or its behind-the-iron-curtain brutalities in the 1980s, it was unsettling. I didn’t realize where the movie was set or going until close to the end. I watched with hopeful eyes thinking I’d understand Barbara’s secret and piece it all together.

Directed by Christian Petzold, Barbara was worth the 105 minutes it took to run through it, but, I wasn’t sure how I felt when it ended. In the opening scene, her fellow doctors view her from a window in the clinic as she smokes a cig before walking through the door to her first day on the job.  Her associates state with little emotion that she had been incarcerated and thus, lost all her friends and associates in Berlin. The movie focuses on Barbara’s aloof yet skillful life as a doctor in the provinces and how she will cope, stay or flee. The viewer wonders from the start, what is her story?  As the story progresses, the viewer sees her silently dealing with a staff who resent her sophisticated Berlin advantages. Thus, at her every command they seek to sabotage her efforts that prove to be superior.

I liked Barbara, the doctor. Characteristically she was stoic and secretive, beautiful in a sad, emotionally ravaged manner. Rarely is language an obstacle in a foreign film but Barbara may have been a first for me, or, it could have been my lack of knowledge of German history that stumped me.

28 Hotel Rooms

Filmed in hotel rooms all over the country, this movie is a gem. Boy meets girl in hotel dining room, sex follows, phone numbers exchanged, in last parting words, she resounds there will never be another time together.

After years of covert hotel room escapades, the relationship is certifiably stressed yet their rabid attraction for each other can’t be broken even through marriages, babies, jobs, relocations. Lovers Marin Ireland and Chris Messina continue their star-crossed attraction through many years. Fortunately, they don’t age on screen so I like to think the affair went on for no more than ten years.

It’s a sad glimpse into anyone’s love/relationship nightmare – being with the wrong person and trying to make it work. My heart went out to Messina’s character because he could not convince Ireland’s woman to recognize the love they shared even on opposite sides of the country. The lovers spent years trapped by timed bliss inside a hotel room in anywhere USA. The credits said the hotels were all over the world but who can pick out Philly or Portland or Paris through a small window on the 11th floor?

Directorial debut by Matt Ross, USA, (2012)

Free Samples

If you liked Knocked Up, possibly you’ll like this generational genre movie. Directed by Jay Gammil, this Hollywood filmmaker didn’t travel far for script nor locale. Jillian, played by the pretty looking, L.A. type, Jess Weixler. She is a mess. Especially the day the movie happens. So hung-over you can almost smell her foul breath and loose, rancid , blonde of course, hair.

Jillian, sleeps at her best friend’s apartment after her night of debauchery. She has dropped out of law school to pursue what she believes are her artistic talents, which prove to be zilch. Jillian is semi-engaged but finding herself by sleeping with surf boys. Her best friend needs a favor the next morning. She asks Jillian to man the ice cream truck she runs and give out free samples (get it?) all day.

Feeling like crap, Jillian is forced by duty to help her friend and spend the day in a bleak parking lot in West L.A., in an un-air-conditioned panel truck handing out vanilla and chocolate samples to passers-by.

Jesse Eisenberg and Tippi Hedren (yes, of the Birds and Melanie Griffin’s mom), stops in for a long winded sad old actress who never really made in Hollywood spiel and is now alone. I liked Hedren and Eisenberg but they should have known better. Maybe Gammil is a best friend.

The only bright and encouraging scenes were with Jason Ritter. He reminded me of a young Brat Pitt in Thelma & Louise:  cute, sexy, slightly dumb and goofy, and oblivious  of tomorrow. Oh, he slept on the couch at friend’s house and peed on her couch. He left a $20 bill for clean-up. Ugh.  After Ritter’s decent performance, I’d say it’s a movie that moves along aimlessly with recognizable actors who will bribe someone in the future to never mention this film again.

If you’re twenty-five, you might get a kick out of this film.

Chinese Take Away

Out of the four screeners I brought home this was the one that made me laugh. The Argentinian film, written and directed by Sebastian Borensztein, is a movie that stays with you forever because it is, in every artistic, profound way, well conceived with intelligent dialogue, characters, timing and storyline.

How does a Chinaman get to Argentina? The first scene shows a Chinese couple in a boat on a lazy afternoon. Just as the male is about to present the ring and propose, a cow falls from the sky, killing his never to be finance.

The story line is taken from an actual news story about Russians who once stole cows, herded them into the back of an airplane and due to turbulence, fall out of the back of the plane killing a fisherman. This story line is clever, it intertwines two most unlikely men, into one of the nicest, most brilliantly constructed indie films to date.

Roberto, ( Ricardo Darin) a grouchy, fifty-something year old, in Buenos Aires, owns a hardware store. A loner and collector of weird stories cut of the newspapers around the world, is watching airplanes land  while sitting in his lawn chair, drinking beer and snacking, when he sees Jun (Ignacio Huang) thrown out of a passing cab. Curiosity gets the better of him and before he knows it he is sharing his house with the young Chinese man who cannot speak a word of spanish. Roberto tries in vain to help Jun find his lost uncle. Through a few twists and much kindness, the hardware man comes to find out that life is waiting for him after all these years alone, counting screws.

There are many elements to this film. The actors are excellent. The scenes are dramatically bare, or, emotion driven. The characters are fully developed for two men who have little personalities nor speak the same language. What you discover about this film you the viewer, truly likes Roberto and Jun. It’s a movie worth seeing.

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The 35th Starz Denver Film Festival

THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY EDWARD BURNS

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, previewed at the Film Center two days before the festival officially opened, was written and directed by Edward Burns, the Queens native known for his breakout movie, The Brothers McMullen, 1995, and his marriage to Christy Turlington, the model.  Today he’s Spencer Tracey reincarnated.

The Family Christmas felt like an autobiographical film so it was  not surprising to learn Burns’s middle name is Fitzgerald.  That’s how deeply he understands the ferociously loyal Irish-Catholic family dynamics. If he didn’t live it daily growing up, his friends did and he took it all in.  In fact, he believes he was preordained to lay bare the innards of New York’s working class families who live by one Irish-Italian-Catholic rule:  family is everything.

In Burns’s new movie, The Fitzgerald’s are a family torn when Dad (Ed Lauter) left seven children and a wife to fend for themselves. Burns portrays the oldest son, Gerry, who takes on the responsibility of the absent father for the younger siblings and his mother.  When the grandfather dies, he also halts his future to run the family owned Fitzgerald Tavern.

As Christmas, 2012, rolls around the clan’s patriarch surfaces with a benevolent request to spend Christmas day with his family. Rosie, (Anita Gillette) his ex-wife, was adamant when she heard his request, “I told him when he left he’d never step foot in this house again.” Twenty years later, she is still mad as hell. His children, especially the younger ones, wrote dad off long ago.

In  the traditional holiday movies of yesteryear, immigrant families prove to be if nothing else, resilient, anchored by church and family. So it is with this year’s first holiday movie about the Fitzgerald Family.

There were no surprises, except for the scene with Connie’s (Caitlin Fitzgerald) nasty husband. I enjoyed the typical bantering among siblings; whether Irish-Catholic, living in New York or Los Angeles all children react emotionally when dealing with life and lousy fathers. In the Fitzgerald’s Christmas, bad-dad does an about face toward the family he abandoned years ago. The Fitzgerald’s comes to terms with their Christmas Day dilemma, even Rosie.

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