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Monday, December 9, 2013

December Film Club

Home for the Holidays is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Jodie Foster.  The film stars Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, Claire Danes and David Strathairn.  Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a single mom who has just been fired from her job as an art restorer due to budget cuts.  She flies to spend Thanksgiving at the home of her parents, Adele (Bancroft) and Henry Larson (Durning), while her only child Kitt (Danes) decides to stay home and spend the holiday with her boyfriend.  The family gathering also includes Claudia's resentful, conservative sister, Joanne Larson Wedman (Stevenson), her stuffy banker brother-in-law Walter (Guttenberg) and their two spoiled children.  Also there is Claudia's gay brother Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.) and his new friend Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott), along with their eccentric Aunt Glady (Chaplin).

Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 stars and praised Foster's ability to direct "the film with a sure eye for the revealing little natural moment," and Downey's performance that "brings out all the complexities of a character who has used a quick wit to keep the world's hurts at arm's length."

The film is set during Thanksgiving, but since that holiday has just passed and Christmas is on its way, it felt appropriate.  Film Club will be meeting Thursday, Dec. 19th at 6:15pm.  Come on out and join us!

Here's the trailer: 

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Film Club

Hey everyone, guess what?  It's November!  Time for another film!

First, I'd like to thank everyone who was able to make it out to our Halloween Horror Fest, we had a great turnout, and it was a lot of fun, so once more, thank you.

For the month of November we will be returning to our normal Film Club structure, meeting for a film on the third Thursday at 6:15pm.  We will be meeting Nov. 21st (the week before Thanksgiving), and we will be watching Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece of a film:  No Country for Old Men.

No Country for Old Men is a 2007 American neo-Western thriller directed, written, and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.  The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin and tells the story of an ordinary man to who chance delivers a fortune that is not his, and the ensuing cat-and-mouse drama as three men crisscross each other's paths in the desert landscape of 1980 West Texas.  Themes of fate, conscience and circumstance re-emerge that the Coen brothers have previously explored in Blood Simple and Fargo.

Among its four Oscars at the 2007 Academy Awards were awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, allowing the Coen brothers to join the five previous directors honored three times for a single film.  The film holds an impressive 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on the aggregate review site, out of 232 critical reviews.

The late Roger Ebert said of the film, "No Country for Old Men is as good a film as the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have ever made, and they made Fargo. Many of the scenes in No Country for Old Men are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to simply continue, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene.  Another movie that made me feel that way was Fargo.  To make one such film is a miracle.  Here is another."

This is one of my all-time favorite films of the last decade, if not ever.  I hope that you will join us for our viewing and discussion of this remarkable film.  Again, we will be meeting Nov. 21st at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Horror Fest

Hey folks, thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to see Melancholia last month, hope you enjoyed it!

For the month of October we will be having our annual Horror Fest.  This year, though, I've decided to mix it up a bit and instead of having a film each week, we will be having a horror film marathon, split between two days.  The first two films will be on Wednesday, Oct. 30th starting at 5pm and 7pm and the second two films will be on Halloween, Oct. 31st. also starting at 5pm and 7pm.  Try to be there as close as possible to the starting point of the films so we can get started right away.

The other significant change to Horror Fest this year, is that instead of mainly classic horror films, I've decided to show a few newer horror films that do a decent job of delivering the scares.

Here's what the lineup looks like:
(click the title to view the trailer)

Wednesday, Oct. 30th at 5:00pm:

Wednesday Oct. 30th at 7:00pm:
The Conjuring

Thursday, Oct. 31st at 5:00pm:

Thursday, Oct. 31st at 7:00pm:
Evil Dead

Alright you guys, I hope you're ready for a couple nights of horror filled fun.  If you aren't able to make it or if horror isn't your bag, that's ok, we look forward to seeing you at a later (non-horror) film club!

Monday, August 26, 2013

September Film Club

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out for the documentaries this summer, we will now be returning to the original Film Club schedule of every third Thursday of the month at 6:15pm (unless otherwise specified).  For the month of September we will be watching the beautiful, moving, elegiac film by Lars Von Trier, Melancholia.

Melancholia is an apocalyptic drama written and directed by Lars Von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd, and Kiefer Sutherland.  The narrative revolves around two sisters during and shortly after one's wedding, while Earth is about to collide with an approaching rogue planet.  The film prominently features music from the prelude to Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde.  The film begins with an introductory sequence involving the main characters and images from space and introducing many of the film's leitmotifs.  The film continues in two parts.  Part One:  "Justine" and Part Two: "Claire".  The first scene explores the events at the wedding reception, and the second part follows the sisters' lives after the reception.  Most of the film takes place at the home of Claire (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and John (Kiefer Sutherland), Justine's (Kirsten Dunst) sister and brother-in-law.  The events in the second part lead up to the resolution of what is happening with the rogue planet, nicknamed "Melancholia".

This is probably the most commercial, polished film the director (Lars Von Trier) has every released.  He and another filmmaker were the pioneers of the Dogme 95 Manifesto (click link for more info) that rejected the polished look of modern films, favoring the more realistic, gritty look they limited themselves to.  While the films of the Dogme directors are very fine films that explored a more "bare-bones" style of film making, this film (Melancholia) is one of Von Trier's greatest triumphs.

The film has received mostly positive reviews; it maintains a 77% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus: "Melancholia's dramatic tricks are more obvious than they should be, but this is otherwise a showcase for Dunst's acting and for Lars Von Trier's profound, visceral vision of depression and destruction."

Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, saying of the film, "If I were choosing a director to make a film about the end of the world, Von Trier the gloomy Dane might be my first choice.  The only other name that comes to mind is Werner Herzog's.  Both understand that at such a time silly little romantic subplots take on a vast irrelevance.  In the cast of Von Trier's characters, impending doom seems to have created a mental state of dazed detachment.  They continue to act as if their personal concerns have the slightest relevance.  Von Trier has never made a more realistic domestic drama, depicting a family that is dysfunctional not in crazy ways but in ways showing a defiant streak of intelligent individualism."

We will be watching Melancholia on Thursday, September 19th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 19, 2013

August Film Club: Documentary # 2

Alright everyone, thanks to those were able to make it to the last film.

For our second August documentary and also our final film of the summer documentary Series, we will be watching another film by acclaimed director Werner Herzog, and that film is the fascinating and compelling Grizzly Man.

The film is about Timothy Treadwell who spent 13 summers in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, living with bears.  Over time, he believed the bears trusted him and would allow him to approach them; sometimes he would even touch them.  Treadwell filmed his exploits, and used the films to raise public awareness of the problems faced by bears in North America.  In 2003, at the end of his 13th visit, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were attacked, killed and partially eat by a bear; the events which led to the attack are unknown.

For Grizzly Man, Herzog used sequences extracted from more than 100 hours of video footage shot by Treadwell during his last five years of his life, and conducted interviews with Treadwell's family and friends, as well as bear and nature experts.  Park rangers and bear experts give counterpoints to statements and actions by Treadwell, such as his repeated claims that he is defending the bears from poachers.  Park rangers point out that while the bears may be subject to habitat loss and climate change, etc. there was never a recorded incident of poaching at this national park.  Treadwell had also convinced himself that he had gained the trust of certain bears, enough to walk up and pet them like dogs.  Park rangers again point out that bears are still wild and potentially dangerous animals, and that it was amazing that Treadwell survived as many years as he did without being mauled.  One park ranger is so astonished by Treadwell's actions that he thinks the bears themselves were so confused by Treadwell's direct casual contact that they weren't quite sure how to react at first.

Herzog also narrates, and offers his own interpretations of the events.  In his narration, he depicts Treadwell as a disturbed man who many have had a death wish toward the end of his life, but does not condemn him for this.

Upon its North American theatrical release, Grizzly Man received almost universal acclaim amongst critics.  The film has a score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.  David Denby of The New Yorker said, "Narrating in his extraordinary German-accented English, Herzog is fair-minded and properly respectful of Treadwell's manic self-invention.  He even praises Treadwell as a good filmmaker:  as Treadwell stands talking in the foreground of the frame, the bears play behind him or scoop up salmon in sparkling water; in other shots, a couple of foxes leap across the grass in the middle of a Treadwell monologue.  The footage is full of stunning incidental beauties."

The late Roger Ebert awarded the film 4/4 stars saying, "I have a certain admiration for his courage, recklessness, idealism, whatever you want to call it, but here is a man who managed to get himself and his girlfriend eaten, and you know what?  He deserves Werner Herzog."

Herzog is well known for his eccentric subjects who often border on, if not plunge headlong into, madness.  He finds these broken characters the most interesting and gives their lives the stories they deserve.  You will not want to miss this wonderfully mesmerizing portrait of man who walked that fine line between passion and insanity.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, July 29, 2013

August Film Club: Documentary #1

Hey folks!  Riding the tonal wave created in Restrepo, we will be moving on to a film that is possibly even more serious than the last.  For our first August documentary, we will be watching Werner Herzog's harrowing descent into the world of capital punishment in his deeply moving and astounding film:  Into the Abyss.
Into the Abyss is a documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog about two men convicted of a triple homicide which occurred in Conroe, Texas.  The film profiles Michael Perry, a man on death row convicted of murdering Sandra Stotler, a fifty-year-old nurse of German descent.  He was suspected, but never charged, in two other murders which occurred in Conroe, Texas, with his accomplice Jason Burkett.  Perry was convicted eight years earlier of the October 2001 murder, apparently committed in order to steal a car for a joyride.  Perry denies that he was responsible for the killings, blaming Burkett (also appearing the in film) who was convicted of the other two murders.  Burkett, who received a lesser life sentence for his involvement, likewise blames Perry.  Perry's final interviews for the film were recorded only 8 days before his execution on July 1, 2010.  The film also includes interviews with victims' families and law enforcement officers.  The film does not focus on Perry's guilt or innocence, and has a minimal amount of narration, with Herzog, unlike in many of his films, never appearing onscreen.

The film received generally positive reviews, currently holding a 91% certified fresh rating on out 101 critical reviews.

This is what I wrote immediately after watching the film for the first time:  "Into the Abyss, here is a sad, moving unbiased look at the death penalty; those involved in the crimes, the families of the victims, the guards, the chaplains, and the perpetrators themselves.  Though opposed to the death penalty, Herzog has no agenda, he simply lets them tell their stories, lets us reflect on the events that have transpired, and on their lives, and lets us have a glimpse into it all.  The "abyss" seems to refer less to capital punishment and more to the depths of pain and suffering human beings not only deal to one another but also endure."

We will be watching this wonderfully made film Thursday, August 15th at 6:15pm, hope to see you all there!

Here's the trailer:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July Film Club: Documentary #2

Hey folks, thanks for those who were able to make it out to our film last Thursday.  For this coming Thursday, July 25th we will be watching the very moving, intense documentary entitled: Restrepo.

Restrepo is a 2010 documentary about the Afghanistan war, directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and the late British/American photojournalist Tim Hetherington.  The film explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair, embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley.  The 2nd Platoon is depicted defending the Observation Post (OP) named after a platoon medic who was killed earlier in the campaign, PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo, a Colombian-born naturalized U.S. citizen.  The film follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan in the Nuristan area.  The Korengal flows north to the Pech, which then flows east to the Kunar River valley on the border with Pakistan.  the film chronicles the lives of the men from their deployment to the time of their return home.  The Korengal Valley was at the time regarded as "the deadliest place on Earth" (as stated in the documentary itself, trailers, and television commercials on the National Geographic Channel).

The film received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.  It received a certified fresh rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The late Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars.

This is one of the most intense films I've ever seen, and probably the truest portrayal of modern combat and military service you will ever experience outside of actually serving.  You won't want to miss this harrowing, wonderfully made documentary.

Here's the trailer:

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Film Club: Documentary #1

Alright everybody, this month we're going to move into some different territory for our documentaries.  The first one will be Al Reinert's wonderful film, For All Mankind.

For All Mankind is a 1989 documentary film documenting the Apollo missions of NASA.  It was directed by Al Reinert with music by Brian Eno.  The film provides 80 minutes of real NASA footage, taken on the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.  The focus of the documentary is on the human view of the space flights, and the original mission footage is provided along with the voice of the astronauts, from interviews and form the actual mission recordings.  Among those providing narration are Jim Lovell, Michael Collins, Charles Conrad, Jack Swigert, and Ken Mattingly.  The film concentrates on the beauty of the earth as seen from space.  For All Mankind was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1990.
In the DVD commentary, Reinert explains that he made the film after learning that huge amounts of footage shot by astronauts had been archived by NASA without ever being seen by the public.  Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda sifted through six million feet of film footage, and 80 hours of NASA interviews to create the documentary.

This film holds a 93% certified fresh rating on the aggregate review site out of 15 critical reviews.

This film must be seen to truly appreciate its beauty and splendor.  The marriage of the images on screen and the soundscapes created by the gifted Brian Eno are oftentimes overwhelming in their majesty.  This is a film that every person on earth should experience.

We will meet Thursday, July 18th at 6:15pm, hope to see you all there!

Here's the trailer:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June Film Club: Documentary # 2

Our second documentary film for the month of June (which will be showing June 27th at 6:15pm) is the film:  Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a film by the street artist Banksy that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art.  The film charts Guetta's constant documenting of his every waking moment on film, from a chance encounter with his cousin, the artist Invader, to his introduction to a host of street artists with a focus on Shepard Fairey and Banksy, whose anonymity is preserved by obscuring his face and altering his voice, to Guetta's eventual fame as a street artist himself.  The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on January 24th, 2010.  It is narrated by Rhys Ifans.  The film was nominated fore the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards.  There has been debate over whether the documentary is genuine or a mockumentary, although Banksy answers "yes" when asked if the film is real.

This film holds a 96% certified fresh rating on the aggregate review site out of 107 critical reviews.
This film is a great little piece of satire on celebrity, consumerism, and the world of art.  I found it hugely entertaining and I hope you will as well.  I look forward to seeing you all there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, June 3, 2013

June Film Club: Documentary #1

The first film we will be watching for the month of June is Seth Gordon's delightful documentary, The King of Kong: A fistful of Quarters.

The film is a 2007 American documentary film that follows Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for the arcade game Donkey Kong from whom the film presents as reigning champion, Billy Mitchell.  In Ottumwa, Iowa, Walter Day founded Twin Galaxies, an organization formed to keep track of high score achieved on arcade games in the Unite States.  Billy Mitchell, having achieved the highest ever recorded scores on Donkey Kong and Centipede in the 1980s, remains a video game legend in 2005.  On the other side of the country, in Redmond, Washington, Boeing employee Steve Wiebe has been laid off as a Boeing engineer, and now spends his time as a science teacher.  His friends and his wife, Nicole, describe him as an unfortunate figure who always comes up short, despite being proficient at music, sports, art, and mathematics.  Preparing to get back into the workforce, Wiebe begins going to night school to get a master degree and obtains a Donkey Kong machine to play in his garage as a pastime.  After reading about Mitchell's world record of 874,300 on the internet, Wiebe focuses on mastering Donkey Kong and successfully achieves a score of 1,006,600 points.  Wiebe submits the tape to Twin Galaxies, which propels him to becoming a local celebrity and news topic as the new world record holder for a few weeks.  However, Mitchell sends his self-styled protege, retired banker turned pro-gamer Brian Kuh, to investigate Wiebe's machine.  Kuh find that the machine's circuit board was provided by Roy Schildt, who claims to hold the high score for Missile Command.  Unbeknownst to Wiebe, Shcildt and Mitchell have been nemeses for years ever since Mitchell caused Schildt's high score to be brought under scrutiny, preventing him from receiving official recognition from Twin Galaxies.  They believe Wiebe's board may have been tampered with in order to get revenge on Mitchell.  In order to prove his gaming skills, Wiebe travels to Funspot Arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire, to perform a high score live for Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day and other high-ranking members of Twin Galaxies, hoping to confront Mitchell and play head-to-head.

This film holds a 96% certified fresh rating on the aggregate review site out of 98 critical reviews.

I really loved this film, and I hope you will too.  We will be meeting Thursday, June 20th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there.

Here's the trailer:

Summer of the Documentary Film

Hey everybody!

This summer, I'd like to do something a little different with Film Club.  In theory, I think it's an awesome idea and one that will work well, in practice, well, let's hope I'm right.  The theme for the summer is going to be Documentary Film.  What I'd like to do is show two films a month, both will be on a Thursday night.  I'm thinking, one film will be on the regular third Thursday and maybe the second one will be on the fourth Thursday, we'll see how it works out.  This way, we don't have to stay after hours on a Friday or something, and hopefully everyone will be able to make it to at least one film or the other (or ideally, both!)  Each month will have a different theme of sorts.  One month is going to be light-hearted films for pure entertainment's sake, another month might be more informative, dealing with such subject matter as the military and the space race.  The last month will be two films from the same director, both incredibly emotional films dealing with humans, their motivations and the consequences of their life choices. 
Hopefully by this time, the remodeling will be done and we will be able to enjoy these films on a brand new projector, blu ray player and sound system.  In the meantime, feel free to come to library and check out our Documentary section.  Like the rest of the DVD collection, it is growing at a healthy rate and we have some very great films in there.

Here's a look at the lineup I have planned (click the title for the trailer):

July 18th- For All Mankind
July 25th- Restrepo

August 15th- Into the Abyss
August 22nd- Grizzly Man

I'll keep you updated!

Monday, April 29, 2013

May Film Club

Hey everybody!
Thank you to everyone who made it out to see Samsara, we had a good turnout and good discussion following the screening.

Our film for the month of May will be Terry Gilliams' wonderful film Brazil.

Brazil is a 1985 science fiction fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam.  It was written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard.  The film stars Jonathan Pryce and features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm.  It has been described as a "dystopian satire".  The film centers on Sam Lowry, a man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living a life in a small apartment, set in a dystopian world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines.  Brazil's bureaucratic, totalitarian government is reminiscent of the government depicted in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, except that is has a buffoonish, slapstick quality and lacks a Big Brother figure.  Jack Matthews, film critic and author of The Battle of Brazil (1987), described the film as "satirizing the bureaucratic, largely dysfunctional industrial world that had been driving Gilliam crazy all his life".
The film has a 98% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, with 39 out of 40 reviewers giving it positive reviews.  it has received a score of 88 on Metacritic, based on 12 reviews.  Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan described the film as "the most potent piece of satiric political cinema since Dr. Strangelove".  Janet Maslin of The New York Times was very positive towards the film upon its release, stating "Terry Gilliam's Brazil, a jaunty, wittily observed vision of an extremely bleak future, is a superb example of the power of comedy to underscore serious ideas, even solemn ones."  The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; for Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction (Norman Garwood, Maggie Gray).  Other films that drew inspiration from Brazil's cinematography, art design, and/or overall atmosphere include Jean-Pierre Jeunet's and Marc Caro's films Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995), the Coen brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), and Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998)

This film is a little bit longer than most of the films we've watched, so I'd like it if everyone could be here as close to 6:00pm as possible, that'll give us a little extra time.  We will be meeting Thursday, May 16th.  I hope to see you all there for this excellent film!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Remembering Roger

If you've watched the news, read the newspaper, or looked something up online in the past week chances are you've heard that our very own Chicago movie critic, Roger Ebert, has passed away.  Initiate sadness.  I did not know Roger Ebert personally so I can't really write up a memorial for him, what I can do is remember the times I've spent with him through his work.  I began watching Siskel and Ebert way back in the day when I was a child, it was very nearly my favorite show and I've continued to watch it throughout its various iterations (At the Movies, Siskel and Ebert and the Movies, At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper, etc.).  I sat down every weekend with such a joyous anticipation, ready to hear all about the new movies and whether they received the iconic "Thumbs up" or "Thumbs down", and even though I more often sided with Gene Siskel (who was my favorite then), after his tragic death, I slowly became attached to Ebert with his vast film knowledge and enjoyable writing style.  With the advent of social media, Ebert was able to take his writing to the next level.  He wouldn't just review films, he would Tweet about something that was interesting to him, or something that made him angry, or what was going on at a particular film festival he happened to be attending. allowed him to post his reviews to an even wider audience and also offered him the ability to post blog entries that may or may not have had anything to do with films.  Sometimes he would blog about current events, or science, or his personal life as a recovering alcoholic, really he would just blog about literally ANYTHING that interested him (as is the purpose of a blog).  I would read everything he posted with a voracious appetite.  Sometimes what I read made me mad, sometimes it made me happy, or sad, or excited, this was the appeal of Roger Ebert.  Even when I whole-heartedly disagreed with him, I still very much enjoyed reading what he had to say, I enjoyed his unique voice, even long after his cancer took his literal voice from him.  Roger Ebert was (pretty much) the only person I actually trusted with film reviews (regardless of whether or not I agreed).  I respected his authority on film in general and even though there is the ever present issue of "taste,"which varies from person to person, Ebert knew his stuff, and I came to know when he was reviewing completely objectively and when he was letting a little subjectivity get in the way (he was notoriously hard on horror and some sci-fi, but understandably so).  The film community has benefitted greatly from this man's existence and his loss has produced a giant hole, one too big to fill currently, but Ebert had "students" or rather, people that he trusted and admired as reviewers.  These people worked together to post reviews on his website over the past few months while he was dealing with his illness.  It isn't the same as reading Ebert, and it never will be, but hopefully one day I'll be able to extend that same level of trust to them.
The passing of Roger Ebert is one of the few celebrity losses that has actually affected me.  Much of my early love of film and the continued growth of that love (into what now could pass as an obsession), I owe to that man.  I watch films differently as a result of reading and learning from him, I am more observant, picking up on the things that work and don't work, learning to recognize patterns and devices that many directors use (and overuse), what can be said without words but merely moving the camera in a certain direction.  He has been an inspiration when it comes to writing as well, and I've even dabbled (amateurishly) at reviewing films, a profession I could see myself enjoying.
I'm not ready to move on to another reviewer yet, mainly because no one can match Ebert as it currently stands, but I know I will eventually.  My love of film will push me forward towards the others who share this same, deep affection for the moving image, it is a community, and there will always be someone willing to comment.
You were one of the best, Ebert.  You'll always have a "Thumbs up" in my book.
"And so, until next week, the balcony is closed."

Check out for more remembrances of Roger, and read his last movie review: Terrence Malick's To the Wonder.

Monday, March 25, 2013

April Film Club

Hey there folks, hope everybody had a great weekend!  A special thanks to everyone who was able to make it to our showing of The Quiet Man, we had about 22 people, let's keep up those numbers!
Now, on to business.  Last year, in April, we watched the film Baraka (click link for trailer), a non-narrative, cinematic adventure that explores nature, mankind and the essence of life, using only moving images and music.  That film came out in 1992.  10 years later (2012), Fricke directed something of a spiritual sequel to Baraka, entitled Samsara.  This will be our film club film for the month of April, which will meet Thursday the 18th.

Samsara is directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson.  The pair had collaborated on Baraka and reunited in 2006 to plan Samsara.  They researched locations that would fit the conceptual imagery of samsara, to them meaning "birth, death and rebirth, or impermanence."  They gathered research from people's works and photo books as well as the Internet and YouTube, resources not available at the time of planning Baraka.  They considered using digital cameras but decided to film in 70 mm instead, considering its quality superior.  Filming lasted for more than four years and took place in 25 countries across five continents.  Fricke and Magidson emphasized avoiding a particular political view in assembling the film.  Frick said, "We just try to keep it in the middle and then we form little blocks of content and then we set them aside until we had enough.  We did all of this without music or sound effects.  We just let the image guide the flow and then we started stringing the blocks together."

Expanding on the themes explored in Baraka (1992) and Chronos (1985), Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man's spirituality and the human experience.  Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a non-verbal, guided meditation.

Samsara is one of the most moving, most visually breathtaking films you will every experience.  You will not want to miss this film, hope to see you there! (If you are ever unable to make it to one of our showings, all the films shown are available for rental at the library!)

Here's the trailer:

Monday, March 4, 2013

March Film Club

Hey folks, thanks to everyone for bearing with the slight technical problems we had a few weeks back.  Despite the uncertainty we ended up having a good turnout for "Manhattan", so thank you again.
Well, March is here and that means a new film.  For the month of March, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I've decided to show John Ford's Irish classic "The Quiet Man."

"The Quiet Man" is a 1952 Irish-American Technicolor romantic comedy-drama film.  It was directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLaglen and Barry Fitzgerald.  It was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story by Maurice Walsh.  The film is notable for its lush photography of the Irish countryside and was an official selection of the 1952 Venice Film Festival.  In the 1920s, Sean Thornton (John Wayne), an Irish-born American from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, travels to Ireland to reclaim his family's farm in Innisfree.  He meets and falls in love with the firery Mary Kate Danagher (Maureen O'Hara), the spinster sister of the bullying, loud-mouthed landowner Squire "Red" Will Danagher (Victor McLaglen).  The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, of which it won 2 for Best Director (John Ford) and Best Cinematography (Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout).  The film holds an 89% Certified Fresh rating on the aggregate review site out of 37 critical reviews.

Come and join us for this wonderful film.  We will be meeting Thursday, Mar. 21st at 6:15pm, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, February 25, 2013

85th Academy Awards

The Oscars aired last night, and I spent the hours between 6:30 and 11:00 watching every moment.  There were a few surprises, but not many disappointments as far as winners were concerned.  Here follows my breakdown and reaction to some of the results of last night's event.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
-I knew this was going to happen.  Anne definitely brought the heartbreaking emotion that deemed her worthy to win this award.  She won for her role as Fantine in "Les Miserables."

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
-This one surprised me, but in a good way.  I wasn't sure if they were going to give it to him or not.  I was secretly hoping for Philip Seymour Hoffman for the win, since "The Master" didn't get the attention it deserved but I was very happy to see Christoph win.  He won for his character Dr. King Schultz in the excellent "Django Unchained."

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence
-This one also surprised me.  Personally, I was voting for Jessica Chastain who was kind of incredible in "Zero Dark Thirty" but I wasn't disappointed to see Lawrence win it.  Her character was great and she put the intensity and realism into it that pushed her to the forefront.  She won for her character Tiffany in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis
-To say this was no surprise would be an understatement.  Daniel Day-Lewis is such a fine and exceptional actor that I didn't doubt for a moment that he would take this one.  His portrayal of Abraham Lincoln (like his other roles) made me forget I was watching an actor playing a character, and made me feel I was watching Lincoln himself come to life.  He absolutely deserved it.  Daniel Day-Lewis won for his portrayal of (obviously) Abraham Lincoln in the film "Lincoln."

Best Writing Original Screenplay:  Quentin Tarantino
-I was actually surprised by this because I didn't expect them to give this one to Quentin.  That said, I was pretty happy for him.  First of all, I believe they snubbed "Looper" for this category, but such is the Academy.  I thought they might give it to Mark Boal for "Zero Dark Thirty", a decision I would've been ok with, but Tarantino deserved it.  He won for "Django Unchained."

Best Writing Adapted Screenplay:  Chris Terrio
-I was perfectly content with Chris Terrio winning this category.  The other nominees all would've been good choices, but I think this was the right choice.  Chris Terrio won for his screenplay for "Argo."

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda
-Nope.  I wasn't happy with this choice at all.  Roger Deakins should've taken this one easily for his work on "Skyfall," or Robert Richardson for "Django Unchained."  Honestly, I think "The Master" should've been up for this category, but then again, it should've been up for Best Picture as well.  Claudio Miranda won for his work in "Life of Pi."

Best Original Song: "Skyfall" by Adele
-This one deserved it, though I was pretty fond of "Before My Time" by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell from the wonderful film "Chasing Ice."  Adele brought an energy to this song that captured the essence of James Bond, harkening back to the old days while at the same time making it sound fresh.  This would also sum up how I feel about the film itself: an effective blending of old and new.

Best Visual Effects: "Life of Pi"
-I wasn't happy with this decision either.  Almost the entirety of this film is CGI, but there isn't a clear reference to reality to make it seem impressive, whereas "The Avengers" completely recreated New York City for it's remarkable action sequences.  Even "Prometheus," would have been a more acceptable choice (despite any reservation you may have with the plot), the visuals were breathtaking.  I don't even feel like I have to point out that it aslo beat "The Hobbit," just shameful.
Best Director: Ang Lee
-I thought Ang would take this one, though personally I would've picked someone else.  I was hoping Spielberg was going to snatch this one up, or maybe David O. Russell for a surprise win.  I do believe there was some snubbing at a criminal level going on with the absence of Ben Affleck from this category.  Ang Lee won for "Life of Pi."

Best Picture: Grant Heslov, George Clooney, Ben Affleck for "Argo"
-I stand behind this decision fully, and I knew from the start that this film would take it.  I think Ben Affleck has really found his niche in the role of director.  Each of his efforts has been better than the last and I eagerly look forward to his next project.  It isn't the full speech (which is a great speech) but here's a clip:
I'm glad that Grant Heslov let Ben speak since he was snubbed in the Best Director category.  He fully deserved this honor.

Well, there you have it, just a few of my Oscar reactions.  For a full list of all Oscar nominees and winners, click the link below:

Monday, January 28, 2013

February Film Club

Greetings!  Thank you to everyone who made it out for Rashomon, we had a good turnout.  I'd also like to doubly thank those you who were willing to stick around for a bit of discussion.  I'm going to try and continue that trend so we can have some communication, or at least some sort of dialogue about these great films.  Discussions after the films will definitely continue for all those interested in participating.  I look forward to hearing your reactions.
So, February will be here in four days and that means a new film approaches.  For the month of February, we will be watching:

Directed by: Woody Allen

Manhattan is a 1979 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Woody Allen from his screenplay co-written with Marshall Brickman and produced by Charles H. Joffe.  The film opens with a montage of images of Manhattan accompanied by George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.  Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) in introduced as a man writing a book about his love for New York City.  He is a twice-divorced, 42-year-old comedy writer for television dealing with the women in his life who quits his unfulfilling job.  He is dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year-old girl attending the Dalton School.  His best friend, Yale Pollack (Michael Murray), married to Emily (Anne Byrne), is having an affair with Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton).  Mary's ex-husband and former teacher, Jeremiah (Wallace Shawn), also appears.  Isaac's ex-wife Jill Davis (Meryl Streep) is writing a confessional book about their marriage.  Jill has also since come out of the closet as a lesbian and lives with her female partner Connie (Karen Ludwig).  Isaac himself ends up falling in love with Mary (Diane Keaton).
Manhattan was filmed in black-and-white.  The decision to shoot in black and white was to give New York City a "great look".  The film also features music composed by George Gershwin, including his arguably most famous musical piece, Rhapsody in Blue, which inspired the idea behind the film.  Allen described the film as a combination of his previous two films, Annie Hall and Interiors.

The film was met with widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for two Academy Awards:  Best Supporting Actress for Hemingway and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Allen, although it lost both awards.  Often considered Allen's best film, it ranks 46th on AFI's list of top comedy films.  In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.  The film holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on (Click for more info) based on 49 critical reviews.

This is one of my absolute favorite Woody Allen films, not quite as funny as Annie Hall but not quite as serious as Interiors, Manhattan is a wonderful blend of both.

We will be meeting Thursday, February 21st at 6:15pm
Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, January 7, 2013

January Film Club

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope you all had a safe and enjoyable holiday.  A new year brings a whole new lineup of films to view over the course of this year, so, for the returning Film Club members, I hope to see you again, and for all those who have yet to join, what are you waiting for!?  We'd love to have you watch a film with us.
I was also toying with the idea of a somewhat different format, well, not a different format, just I'd like to include some discussion time if possible.  I believe these films have a great deal of material to talk about, so I was thinking of implementing that.  Any feedback would be appreciated.

Now, on to business.  The film for January will be:

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Rashomon is a a 1950 Japanese crime drama film directed by Akira Kurosawa, working in close collaboration with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa.  It stars Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo and Takashi Shimura.  Rashomon introduced Kurosawa and the cinema of Japan to Western audiences, albeit to a small number of theaters, and is considered one of his masterpieces.  The film opens on a woodcutter and a priest sitting beneath Rashomon gate to stay dry in a downpour.  A commoner joins them and they tell him that they've witnessed a disturbing story, which they then begin recounting to him.  The woodcutter claims he found the body of a murdered samurai three days earlier while looking for wood in the forest; upon discovering the body, he says, he fled in a panic to notify the authorities.  The priest says that he saw the samurai and the woman traveling the same day the murder happened.  Both men were then summoned to testify in court, where they met the captured bandit Tajomaru, who claimed responsibility for the rape and murder.

From here, the film goes on to recount the story from the point of view of the bandit, the woman, the samurai and the woodcutter.  What really happened?  Who's story is the correct story?  Come and see the film and find out for yourself.

This a film that is so rich in style and technique, storytelling and humanity (or lack thereof), you won't want to miss this genuine masterpiece.  Hope to see you there!
For those who are interested, Rashomon holds an impressive 100% certified fresh rating on the aggregate review site:

Here's the trailer: