Get Email Updates!
Subscribe in iTunes!

Opinion

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON | Review

 

Two couples find out that their five-year old sons had been switched at birth.  Think about this premise, and then imagine what most filmmakers might have done with it. To see what Hirokazu Kore-Eda does with this story is to recognize why he is one of the master filmmakers. LIKE FATHER LIKE SON (SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU) stands head and shoulders above any film I have seen so far this year.

MV5BMTU5MzgzODkwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDUwNjg3MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_

Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s latest film LIKE FATHER LIKE SON

 

The film presents a fascinating moral quandary. The discovery of a son you weren’t previously aware of is one thing. But that still cannot match the anxiety of knowing that the child you did rear as your own now legally belongs to other parents who could forcibly take him away. Does it matter that the children in this film are only five years old, in that formative phase when they are most impressionable? Would it have been easier if the children were younger?  Is it better to just quickly “exchange the kids” as suggested by the lawyers representing the hospital where the mix-up occurred at birth? What carries greater moral imperative: nurture or bloodline? Confronted with this premise, most of us might say that this would be an easy decision: your child is the one you have loved and cared for as your own, not the one connected by genetics; keep the child you have, and bloodline be damned. But the film argues that the situation might not be as simple.  How are you to observe a child grow up with other parents and see him start to physically look increasingly like yourself?

 

Consider the two couples. Ryoto Nonomiya is an aggressively competitive businessman on the fast track to corporate success. His stay-at-home wife, Midori has given up her career to care for their son Keita. Several characters in the film comment that the Nonomiya home in a gleaming high-rise reminds them of a hotel room. This is a family that is not lacking for much. Yudai Saiki works outside of the city in a somewhat run down appliance store and his wife Yukari is employed at a fast-food chain. They support their three kids including the mischievous Ryusei. The paths of the two disparate families intersect when genetic testing initiated by the hospital confirms that Keita and Ryusei were switched at birth.

 

This story could have lent itself to any manner of tonal or stylistic construct. This might have been a bitter, angry film. It might have been a legal procedural. It might have been a deep, soggy wallow of a movie. But LIKE FATHER LIKE SON is none of those things.  Instead the film is elevated because the treatment given to this material is one of quiet observation. Kore-eda has been called an heir to Ozu for reason, not least because of his ability to watch his characters from afar without judgment. And this movie is no exception. It has no interest in melodrama; you will not find a shrill note here. And then there is the one thing about Kore-Eda’s work that makes him one of my favorite filmmakers: he refuses to create villains. There isn’t a mean character in any of his films. Not the over-ambitious Ryoto in LIKE FATHER LIKE SON, not the strict patriarch in WALKING STILL, and not the absent mother in NOBODY KNOWS. Kore-Eda recognizes that people are seldom all-out malevolent, and to his great credit as a scriptwriter, he has never granted himself an easy out by generating conflict by way of an ill-intentioned character. No, the people who populate his stories all mean well; their actions are driven by who they are and their behavior is conditioned by their upbringing and values. But they are all, without exception, decent people. This is what makes Kore-eda the most humanist of all filmmakers working today.

 

Does it matter that this story plays out in Japan? Not one bit; this film could have been set anywhere in the world. The grandparents are recognizable in their yearning to see more of their children and grandkids, while walking a fine line with not overstepping. Observe the grace and  uncannily natural rhythms captured from the child actors here. And when you have as gentle, nonjudicative, and keenly observant a filmmaker as Kore-Eda, the experiences of a specific few slowly begin to reflect the universe. Notice how the specifics of the two families in LIKE FATHER LIKE SON are used to make deft observations about class differences. The Nonomiyas are the definition of cultured living: they eat healthy, have their son tutored for piano, and live in a catalog-ready home. The Saikis are struggling to make ends meet, live in a much smaller space, and are frequently late; but they are also quick to the laugh and agreeably content. When the Nonomiyas suggest that they are financially capable of taking care of both sons, the one they have reared as their own as well as their biological child, the Saikis bristle with honest indignation. See how easy it would be for this film to tip over, if even very subtly, with its sympathies toward one family. It would have been easy to call the rich couple out for their patronizing, intellectual detachment, or call the other couple out for being irresponsible and crude. But the film resolutely does not. It quietly makes it clear that each set of parents are well-meaning and generous in their love for their children.  They may be flawed, but both sides are inarguably decent.

 

It is in this recognition of the decency of those who love a child that the film ultimately provides an abiding definition for family; the only one that matters.  That it does so apolitically, unemotionally and with authenticity, is cause for gratitude.

 

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON is screening in San Diego at the Landmark Hillcrest cinemas February 14-20. http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/SanDiego/SanDiego_Frameset.htm

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Oscar Nominated Shorts | Review

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  No, I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about the yearly ritual that us film lovers and movie geeks get to indulge in which requires taking a trip to watch the highly coveted series of Oscar Nominated Shorts at the local cinema.

Unknown

Oh I how I look forward to this annual treat where I go with my fellow Moviewallas and get to spend a delightful afternoon watching ten of the best shorts Animation and Live action Features; two separate programs with a short break in between.  This year a special pleasure for me, I got to watch five incredible documentaries too.

This collection of shorts representing filmmaking in 2013 is no different to any other year in that the Oscar nominated shorts is an opportunity to watch bite size nuggets of incredible film making from a variety of talented filmmakers from around the world.  Only I am shocked that year upon year the standard gets better and better.

In the live action category:

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” (Director: Esteban Crespo, Spain/Spanish). Synopsis: Paula, a Spanish aid worker, has an encounter with an African child soldier named Kaney.

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything) (Directors: Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France/French). Synopsis: Miriam has left her abusive husband and taken refuge with her children in the local supermarket where she works.

Helium” (Directors Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark/Danish). Synopsis: A dying boy finds comfort in the tales of a magical land called HELIUM, told to him by the hospital janitor.

“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” (Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish). Synopsis: Sini tries frantically to get her family ready to leave for a wedding, but her husband and two children are interfering with her efforts.

“The Voorman Problem” (Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, UK/English). Synopsis: A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god.

This a rare occaision when I am glad I don’t have to vote for a winner since If I had to pick one, I couldn’t.  I was fascinated by That Wasn’t Me, sat on the edge of my seat as the riveting drama of Just Before Losing Everything played, laughed at Do I Have to Take care of Everything, pondered existential questions whilst watching The Voorman Problem and even shed a tear or two during Helium

 I could have spent way more time with any one of these five movies given the deep well rounded characters and back stories each presented that merit full movies of their own.

For the Animated shorts, this season brings us:

“Feral” (Directors Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, USA/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: A wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization.

“Get a Horse!” (Directors: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim, USA/English). Synopsis: Mickey Mouse and his friends are enjoying a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete shows up with plans to ruin their day.

“Mr. Hublot” (Directors: Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Luxembourg/France/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: The eccentric, isolated Mr. Hublot finds his carefully ordered world disrupted by the arrival of Robot Pet.

“Possessions” (Director: Shuhei Morita, Japan/Non-dialogue).  Synopsis: A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited  by goblin spirits

“Room on the Broom” (Directors: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, voices by Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon in UK/English). Synopsis: A genial witch and her cat are joined on their broom by several friends as they set off on an adventure

The animation shorts for me represent a vast array of style, story and genre even.  Whilst watching we are reminded by those super smart and talented people at Disney that there is always room in your heart to let in a fresh Mickey Mouse Adventure. In Get a Horse, Mickey and his pals return in this old/new caper.  This time however our eyes get to feast on incredible technology that combines black and white with color and 2D with 3D type animation.  Room on a Broom is a sweet modern day fable told in verse that had me smiling from ear to ear; a special treat for animal lovers.  Atypical subject matter for a traditional cartoon, in Feral and Possessions which to me represent more adult type themes and style and finally a cute futuristic tale called Mr Hublot  which at it’s core is represents a beautiful tale of a man who rescues a dog but realizes in the end that it is he who has been rescued.

Again, a wonderful gaggle of talent collected under the umbrella of animation and if you weren’t  lucky enough to catch The Blue Umbrella when it played as an appetizer to last year’s Disney/Pixar’s Monster’s University, it plays in the  “highly commended section” in this program.  Despite the number of times I see The Blue Umbrella, I can’t help but marvel at the human like emotion that is generously created by Pixar and I always have a lump in my throat when the credits run.

 

oscar shorts

I love the action shorts and the animations, but I am a documentary lover at heart and so the documentary shorts were an absolute treat for me to watch.  This year’s entries:

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” (Directors: Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Canada/USA/UK – English). Synopsis: At 109, Alice Herz Sommer is the world’s oldest pianist…and its oldest Holocaust survivor. At the heart of her remarkable story of courage and endurance is her passion for music.

“Karama Has No Walls” (Director: Sara Ishaq, UAE/UK/Yemen – Arabic). Synopsis: When protesters in Yemen added their voices to those of other nations during the Arab Spring, the government responded with an attack that left 53 people dead and inspired widespread sympathy throughout the country.

“Facing Fear” (Director: Jason Cohen, USA/English). Synopsis: As a gay 13-year-old, Matthew Boger endured a savage beating at the hands of a group of neo-Nazis. Twenty-five years later, he meets one of them again by chance.

“Cavedigger” (Director Jeffrey Karoff, USA/English). Synopsis: New Mexico environmental sculptor Ra Paulette carves elaborately designed and painstakingly executed sandstone caves, driven by an artistic vision that often brings him into conflict with his patrons.

 “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” (Director: Edgar Barens, USA/English). Synopsis: In a maximum security prison, the terminally ill Jack Hall faces his final days with the assistance of hospice care provided by workers drawn from the prison population.

By far, the most difficult category to judge, I was incredibly moved and inspired by The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.  Angered by an astonishing tale of the human spirit and the importance of revolution in Yemen’s account of the Arab Summer in Karama has no Walls, challenged and troubled by both Facing Fear and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall which made me question my own prejudices and preconceived ideas and intrigued by the account of the environmental sculptor Ra Paulette and his cave digging antics in the aptly titled Cavedigger

So there you have it.  If you have never seen an Oscar short program, I strongly urge you to rush out and watch and if you love movies and have seen a Short program, I urge you to rush out and see this year’s nominees, given the standard is exceptional, in either case, you will not be disappointed, I certainly wasn’t and look forward to next year’s most wonderful time of the year again with baited breath

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014 open nationwide this Friday, January 31st

In San Diego, the Live Action and Animated programs will open at the Landmark Ken, In Los Angeles the Live Action and Animated programs will open at The Nuart in West L.A. and in Orange County at the Regency South Coast Village 3.

Please see local listings or the link below to find a cinema near you

http://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/dates-locations/

What’s in a Name | Review

How many times have you heard the phrase “If you want to stay friends with someone, stay away from religion or politics”?  Well, in the movie What’s in a Name, we get to experience both during an intimate evening with a group of family and friends.  Written and directed by the talented duo Alexandre de la Patelliere and Matthieu Delaporte who adapted this delightful film from their highly successful stage play, What’s in a Name tells the story of a slick real estate agent Vincent who is about to enter into fatherhood. During a dinner with family and childhood friends he announces the name of his future son, however a discussion about the scandalous moniker explodes into a feisty debate that brings the group’s past bubbling to the surface albeit with hilarious, dramatic and altogether unbelievable results.

WhatsInANamePoster

What’s in a Name is an enchanting heart warming and often too realistic window into how relationships with family and friends evolve over time.  It explores the roles we play in a group and the grudges and opinions we harbor about each other that most of us never share.  Just what would happen if we could tell others what we really thought about them and their life choices?

Natural and convincing performances from a talented cast including Patrick Bruel, Valérie Benguigui,  Charles Berling,  Guillaume de Tonquedec and Judith el Zein elevate this movie from a family melodrama into a witty and surprising black comedy that makes you feel like you really are that fly on the wall of this rather dysfunctional yet clearly affectionate group of people who argue with each other like it’s a national sport.  The smartness of this movie is further showcased by its ability to share Parisian life and attitudes to class, sexual orientation and political leanings.

The dialogue is witty, punchy and hard hitting at times but you are never far from a smile, a giggle or belly laugh whilst being equally moved by the writers’ ability to distill human behavior and basic emotions that if allowed to come to the surface reduce us all to six year olds in a playground

This charming movie, which has already been a huge hit in France, will be opening in theatres in the US on Friday 13th December and will also be available on VOD.  Check local listings

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/whats-in-a-name-le-prenom/id625282414?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

 

The Good Road | Review

Just what does it take to become India’s entry for the best foreign film category at the Academy Awards 2013?  Well, you have to beat out 21 other contenders as newcomer filmmaker Gyan Correa’s film The Good Road has done and in doing so is perhaps the first Gujarati film to have made it.  Produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) The Good Road albeit a little controversially has left behind strong films including “The Lunchbox”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “English Vinglish”, “Vishwaroopam”, Malayalam film “Celluloid” and Bengali film “Shabdo”.

Correa’s debut movie is an interesting intertwining of three separate stories all set on a highway in Gujarat that come together in a thought provoking climax.  A truck driver called Pappu (Shamji Dhana Kerasia) and his side kick (Priyank Upadhyay) are given a task which is not so legal, a middle class family from Mumbai (Ajay Gehi and Sonali Kulkarni) are holidaying in Gujarat with their young son (Keval Katrodia) and a young girl (Poonam Rajput) who is on her way to meet her grandmother unfortunately loses her way and finds herself lured into a roadside brothel.

What the film lacks in depth, is totally compensated for by the Colorful and often breathtaking cinematography care of Amitabha Singh; gaily dressed village women contrasted against a white salt plain, gaudily painted trucks along the highways & vibrant life-filled rest stops and stunning sparse vistas of the Gujarat which are all set to hauntingly beautiful acoustic Gujarati folk music

What I admired most about the movie though was the social narrative that Correa manages to evoke; child prostitution, the class system and the struggles of an often-stressed working class.  In addition, the tension created throughout the movie is often intolerable as we watch the decisions of each of the characters play out hoping that nothing too bad will happen to them.  Correa who wrote and directed the film also chose to cast locals in the movie, a great decision in my opinion since they add to the authenticity of the movie

the-good-road-wallpaper-06

The Good Road may not win the Oscars, however it is a journey that will stay with you for some time

The Good Road will be the closing film at The South Asian International Film Festival, presented by HBO running from December 3rd through the 8th

 

Girl Most Likely | Review

What lengths would you go to in order to get a boyfriend/girlfriend back?  This is one of the central questions faced by thirty-something Imogene (Kristen Wiig), who was once a promising young New York playwright but whose promise has fizzled, thanks to a crisis of confidence in the comedy Girl Most Likely. 

Heavily in denial about being dumped by her society boyfriend, Imogene uses her skill for drama to stage an elaborate fake suicide as an appeal for his sympathy. However when her attempt backfires, she is put into the custody of Zelda, her estranged gambling addict mother (Annette Bening), and must return home with her to the Jersey shore. Desperate to get back to her Manhattan circle of so- called friends, Imogene must finally deal with her family, including her unique crab obsessed brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), Zelda’s new shady CIA boyfriend The Bousche (Matt Dillon) and a cute young lodger and wannabe singer (Darren Criss), who together help Imogene sort out her place in the world.

Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“The Nanny Diaries”), Girl most likely also attempts to explore the mother-and-child relationship and the length that parents go to in order to protect their children.

girl-most-likely-international-poster

This is a frothy sweet and rather light movie that leaves you wishing it had a little more depth and flavor. Wiig’s demonstration yet again of her impeccable comedic timing and her portrayal of a desperate imploding woman, which is more than adequate, was enjoyable to watch, however it felt like this character was another version of the one she played in her breakout hit from last year Bridesmaids.

 The story is a little too implausible and lacked consistency in tone.  The film seems to have trouble deciding whether it wants to be an all out family comedy or tender drama about the trials and tribulations of class, single parenting and ambition.

Even with a great cast in Benning, Dhillon and Fitzgerald, this movie didn’t convince me to join it on it’s journey and so I ended up not quite caring for our main protagonist.  That’s not to say that there aren’t a few really funny and tender moments which make this movie an easy watch.

Overall, despite another great performance from Kristen Wiig, a complicated back-story and a few too many quirky characters made this otherwise potentially interesting character story come across a little over-cooked.

Girl Most Likely by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions is released this Friday July 19th. Check local listings for showtimes

 

Wadjda | LAFF 2013

In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, WADJDA is a movie of firsts. The first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first film to be written and directed by a Saudi woman Haifaa Al-Mansour.  Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film and no doubt as it did for me, this film will remain with you long after the closing credits have rolled.

Wadjda_Poster_1_640x920

At a high level the story is simple, Wadjda tells the story of a young girl living in a suburb of Riyadh determined to raise enough money to buy a bike in a nation that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. However, at it’s core, this movie does a wonderful job of exploring what it’s like to be different and want other things to those around you.  It plays with our expectation of “normal” in a complex culture and one that is often hidden to us; yet, does it manages to do this in a rich and meaningful way.  A story about mothers and daughters, relationships in a society where men are allowed to take more than one wife and expectations whilst maintaining humor, this is a movie that will lift your spirit and make it soar

The great story is elevated by brilliant acting and great direction. Waad Mohammed who plays the delightful Wadjda is mesmerizing, funny and extremely likable whilst the beautiful Reem Abdullah who plays her mother is

amusing and perfectly poised as she portrays what it is like to be a modern woman in a not so modern place

So, if you’re asking yourself whether a movie about a girl wanting a bike is worth rushing out to go and see, I say RUN, This movie made me laugh and cry and educated me.   Welcome to one of my favorite movies of the year. I have fallen in love with this movie and it won’t leave me

Wadjda Trailer


A Hijacking | Review

How many times have you asked yourself the question “How much is a Life worth” and have you ever considered how that would change if you had to pay for it?  Tobias Lindholm’s movie A Hijacking elegantly captures the process of negotiation between a large Danish corporation with much on the line and Somali pirates who seem to have nothing to lose.

a-hijacking-poster

 When the cargo ship MV Rozen is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean as it is heading for harbor the ship’s cook Mikkel and the engineer Jan who, along with the rest of the seamen, are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars, a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali pirates.

The movie stars Søren Malling (“Borgen,” Talenttyven, A Royal Affair), Johan Philip Asbæk (Spies & Gilstrup, “Borgen,” A Family, ), Dar Salim (“Game of Thrones,” “Borgen,” The Devil’s Double, Submarino ), and Roland Møller (Northwest, R)

Lindholm (“Borgen,” The Hunt, Submarino, R) creates tension and raises the stakes without overdoing the action.  This is as much psychological thriller as it is a narrative of the perils faced by cargo ships on the open seas.  As the film unfolds slowly, tension builds to unbearable levels as we become totally enthralled and invested in what will happen to the crew.   Lindholm manages to keep us on the edge of our seats as we hope and pray that they will see their families again.  This film is gritty and realistic and whilst we experience the wonder of being on the open seas on a cargo ship to start with, we quickly get a sense of the claustrophobia experienced not only by the hostages as they are locked in a small space but also by those negotiating for their lives who also become hostages themselves.  Good acting and direction allow us to witness the journey of a smart business man who quickly learns that the same tricks that help you win in the business world do not help when you are trying to negotiate with psychopathic sociopathic hijackers

This film is a fascinating look at the things that bond people together and the relationship that hijackers and hostages often build with each other.

A HIJACKING be opening in select cities including New York, Los Angeles, Irvine (in Orange County) and San Francisco on Friday, June 21, 2013.  Check link below and local listings for play times

 

http://www.magpictures.com/dates.aspx?id=e0b17d74-6d43-44f7-8c91-802ed0d7e7a4

 

2012 Toronto Film Festival (Official Selection)

2012 Venice Film Festival (Official Selection)

2012 Tokyo International Film Festival (Official Selection)

2013 New Directors/New Films (Official Selection)

2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival (WON- Director to Watch)

2013 Robert Festival (WON- Best Film, Best Actor, Best Editor, Best Screenplay, Best Sound)

2013 AFI Fest (WON- Audience Award)

2012 Thessaloniki Film Festival (WON- FIPRESCI Prize, Golden Alexander Award)

Sightseers I Review

Being a child of the Eighties, any film that opens with the classic Soft Cell song “Tainted Love” is one to get my attention immediately and I’m happy to say that this movie not only got my attention but managed to keep it throughout the entire duration.

 Sightseers tells the story of Chris (Steve Oram) who wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way – on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan. Tina’s led a sheltered life and there are things that Chris needs her to see – the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the rolling countryside that separates these wonders in his life. But it doesn’t take long for the dream to fade. Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, not to mention Tina’s meddling mother, soon conspire to shatter Chris’s dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him the wrong way

over a very jagged edge.

Sightseers_Poster_4_4_13

This is a strange and rather unexpected English movie that goes to a place that you just don’t expect it to by turning the seemingly quiet and sometimes rather boring countryside on its head.  Competently directed by Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace, Kill List), this is sweet, horrific and enjoyable all at the same time and that’s not an easy feat to pull off in my mind.  This movie will have you laughing and grimacing within seconds of each other and if you are a fan of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg movies, this will definitely appeal to you.

As all good movies teach us, it is often not the subject matter itself but the relationship between those involved that pulls us in and keeps us throughout the journey, Sightseers showcases two delightful actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram who play the central characters of Tina and Chris.  Both at times are sweet and endearing and you can’t help but like them and their ever stranger behavior as the movie progresses.  The chemistry between the two is a joy to watch and it feels like the characters have been fully developed and realized

Anyone who is English or an Englishphile will really enjoy this movie and even if you are not, you will enjoy the great 80s score (even though it’s not set in that time).   A modern day English country side Bonny and Clyde Horror love story (well sort of)

http://blog.sightseersmovie.com/

Sightseers opens on  Friday, May 10, 2013 at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema in New York and at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in West L.A.  Check local Listing for screen times in other cities

 

 **OFFICIAL SELECTION – Directors’ Fortnight: CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2012**

**OFFICIAL SELECTION: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013**

**OFFICIAL SELECTION: TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012**

** LONDON CRITICS CIRCLE FILM AWARDS 2013 (WON- BREAKTHROUGH BRITISH FILMMAKER) **

 **EVENING STANDARD BRITISH FILM AWARDS 2013 (WON- PETER SELLERS AWARD FOR COMEDY)**

  **BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS 2012 (WON- BEST SCREENPLAY)**

  **MAR DEL PLATA FILM FESTIVAL 2012 (WON- BEST SCREENPLAY) **

 **STIGES- CATALONIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012

 (WON- BEST ACTRESS, BEST SCREENPLAY)**

Downloaded | SXSW 2013

Back in the year 2000, when the rest of the world for worrying about the Y2K bug, we were making the decision to get a broadband connection to enable us faster access to the worldwide web.  A big driver of this decision was a new service we had discovered called Napster which enabled us to share music that we had purchased with our friends.  More importantly it gave us access to a world of music we had never been exposed to.  Imagine my delight then when at this year’s SXSW, the movie Downloaded was playing.   Welcome to one of my favorite films of the SXSW 2013 Film festival.

downloaded

Downloaded written and directed by Alex Winter (yes, that Alex Winter of Bill S Preston fame – Bill and Ted) focuses on the advent of digital media sharing, including the rise of game-changing company Napster and controversial pioneers Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. The digital revolution ultimately created a technology paradigm shift and upended the music industry.   This great documentary has insights from well known music artists and figures within the music industry including: The Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Noel Gallagher, Henry Rollins, former Sony Music Chairman, Don Ienner, former record producer and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.

Alex Winter masterfully documents an account of a time and events that in my mind changed history.  More importantly he has shared the profile of a young Sean Fanning who has previously been portrayed as an anarchist as a thoughtful and rather lonely young boy who just wanted to push and understand the boundaries of the technology of the time.  In addition, we see a very different Sean Parker to the one portrayed in last years hit The Social Network.  What particularly resonated with me through the entire movie was the story of the genius young minds behind Napster and what motivated them and it’s not always what you may think it was.

Watching a group of brilliant young minds come together and create something that not only changed the public perception of what they were willing to pay for and which ultimately brought the music industry as it had been for years to it’s knees but also how these young men defend themselves against corporations is fascinating.  This is a David vs. Goliath story that is definitely worth a watch.

fanning and parker

The biggest treat for me came during the Q and A after the movie when we got to meet Alex, Winter and both the Seans in person.  The interaction between the three and especially the Seans just solidified how brilliantly Winter had captured the essence of these incredibly talented young men.  If you have any interest in music, entrepreneurialism, dot com or milestones in history, this is a must see documentary

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing | SXSW 2013

Is it already time for yet another rendition of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing I hear you ask?  Well, when that version is a slick and stylish black and white contemporary one directed by Joss Whedon (yes, the same JW who just directed last year’s blockbuster The Avengers), one should take note and take note we did on day 2 of SXSW 2013. The lines were long for this one and despite the fact that there was a torrential downpour in Austin; we waited patiently in a line that wrapped multiple times outside the building and around a long corner.

MV5BMTgxNjQ0MjAwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjI1NDEyOQ@@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_

I wasn’t disappointed by this exquisitely directed light and frothy, bubbly and joyful movie, which at its core remains a romantic comedy that explores barriers that stand in the way of love.  Shot in 12 days at Whedon’s own house that was designed by his architect wife and co producer Kai Cole, (whilst he should have been on vacation with his family following the wrap of Avengers), I was drawn into the modern day world where Beatrice and Benedick hate, question and then fall in love with each other.

William Shakespeare’s words from yonder year come alive quickly and although I think one could be easily distracted by Ye Olde English and some may even find the juxtaposition between non-relevant language (anachronisms to the hilt) a little jarring and non believable, once you allow yourself to be immersed into the story and the great acting by a terrific cast, you will quickly see that this latest edition of Much Ado is a testament to the fact that the human condition stays the same even though time and technology move on.

My only criticism of the movie (and I had to dig deep for this mind you) is that at times, some scenes (especially those at the “Police station”) came across a little too much like an SNL skit and at times the movie felt a little precious and over stylized.

IMG_1575

Much ado About Nothing Panel at SXSW2013

Following the movie, we were treated to a Q and A with a panel of 13 of the cast members and Mr. Whedon himself.  As you can imagine, most of the audience were die hard Whedonites who asked questions about how the movie was cast and shot and how much they love his work and so on, but it was most touching when a young lady stood up and nervously stated that she had promised herself that if she ever got to talk to the man himself, she would tell him how thankful she was for all his work through the years and how much watching his movies through some hard times had helped and inspired her personally.  She really tried to hold it together but was extremely emotional and remarkably, even though I rolled my eyes to start with, I along with most of the room felt a little lump in my throat as she sat down having shared a very heartfelt and very personal outpouring; aahh, the power of film.  Yes, Joss Whedon, I too am thankful that a new generation of moviegoers will get to experience Shakespeare albeit in a non-conventional way and even if one of them is inspired to pick up an original version of this wonderful play, that would be an achievement.  PS I loved the women’s wardrobe so if you are reading this Joss, please let me know where it came from.

Much Ado About Nothing stars the talented Amy Acker and the very charming Alex Denisof in the lead roles with a superb supporting cast.  Release is planned for June 2013

Visit the official movie site  to watch the trailer