Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Wednesday's film trailers is quite simply one of the best films ever made. Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, delves into the madness that was the Vietnam War. The horror, sacrifice and despair that accompanied these soldiers is on display here in full effect. The film contains beautiful, intense acting from Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall, amongst others. The film has a basis and structure from Joseph Conrad's masterful book "Heart of Darkness" with a setting in Vietnam. A Captain (Sheen) is to go up river into Cambodia, find and kill a General (Brando) who has lost his mind, supposedly, and has control over a local tribe. The film is almost as perfect as films get with honest,graphic violence and depictions of the terrors of war and unforgettable toll war had on these men that fought in it. The film contains one of more brilliant opening sequences with The Doors "The End" playing while we see a tree line get blown up and Sheen's character go through the trauma of life and war. Also, a film was to be directed by George Lucas with "Heart of Darkness" being that structure, shot in 16mm documentary fashion but Coppola ended up making this film and turned out a true masterpiece of cinema. Enjoy and watch the documentary on the filmmaking and production of the film called Hearts of Darkness and see how hard, crazy and insane the production was on Apocalypse Now. It is amazing the film got finished at all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

SXSW: Initial Experience of a First Time Festival Attendee

     South by Southwest Festival 2013 has come and gone, and what an experience it was for me. This was my first film festival of any kind and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yeah, the lines were long to get in to the Paramount Theatre, although I was behind the theatre, half way down Brazos Street a couple of times and I still got in with good seats. Yes, having a badge is the way to go. No problems, just waiting, but I got in to all the screenings I wanted to attend. The excitement really revolved around seeing films with a group of filmgoers that truly love the medium. Every screening I attended, I had wonderful, engaging conversations with fellow festival attendees from Austin and around the world. The experience really left me with a smile on my face and a feeling of satisfaction in my heart.
     Austin, Texas puts on South by Southwest (just "South by" is what the locals and repeat attendees call it) every year in March and this was the 20th anniversary of the festival. It involves film, my personal favorite and main focus, music and interactive exhibits, conversations, premieres and panels. The music probably gets the most attention since there are over 120 venues across the city that have constant music shows from all genres of music from around the world. Thousands upon thousands of bands come to the Texas capitol to play gig after gig after gig. You can just drive around downtown or on Lamar or Congress and hear bands and performers playing all day. It is a scene. There is also the interactive part of the festival which displays new technology, business and entrepreneurial campaigns and strategies, as well as video game introductions and advancements, just to name a few. The Austin Convention Center and Palmer Events Center are jam packed with industry leaders involved in all stages of technology, film, music and business. They are all focusing on how the world is changing and how technology is continually advancing. Panel after panel, expressing and discussing what is new and what is changing. It is a madhouse and exciting scene, but for me, it is all about the film part of the festival.
     I had the chance to see eight films. For me, that was everything. The ability to see films that have not been theatrically released with a group of film lovers, critics and the actually producers, directors, writers and actors was everything. It was exciting and an experience I will never forget. That chance to be at the center of the film world for just one week was thoroughly engrossing. The films did not disappoint either. I saw one that was far and away the best, Jeff Nichols Mud. The other two I saw that really stood out to me was a local Austin film Good Night about a party over the course of one night with a bunch of friends, and the documentary Milius, about the zen anarchist screenwriter and director John Milius. Reviews of all these films are in the works but I really enjoyed the feeling of seeing films without any preconceived notions. Just word of mouth and an ambition to see to something that felt and sounded intriguing.
     One of the most exciting moments of the film festival was hearing from fellow festival goers about what they have recently seen and the various opinions, good or bad, about these films. I went into the screening of Good Night, directed by University of Texas graduate Sean Gallagher, knowing nothing about the film or production and was blown away by the storytelling, editing and acting. It was a fascinating piece of filmmaking and contained one of the best performances, even though they were all great, I've seen in awhile from Austin actor Adriene Mishler. A beautiful young actress with so much soul and depth in movements and emotions. Great stuff.
     The other wonderful, ecstatic moment of the festival was sitting in the second row for the Danny Boyle conversation. Conducted by David Carr, it was surreal to be that close to a filmmaker I truly admire. He has directed some wonder films, from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later to Slumdog Millionaire. It was engaging to hear him talk about his process, his appreciation for writers that can create character and the desire to try new things and challenge himself at all costs. He mentioned how music is very important and it needs to go with the film and not just be something that stands alone. It needs to flow with the picture and the feel your attempting to tell and convey. He went from making the Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and then basically lied to get financing for a movie about a man that becomes trapped under a boulder all alone in 127 Hours. Follow your passion and do not let NO get in the way. I also loved hearing him speak about the drug culture behind Trainspotting and how they made a movie that reveled in the scene that was going on in England and how Shallow Grave, his first and best film in my opinion, was trial and error, and started the career of Ewan McGregor. It was very absorbing and the man has as much energy on stage as his films contain.
     Finally, South by Southwest was an introduction for myself, not only in to the local Austin film community, but the overall film festival series. I got to talk to people, film lovers, bloggers and critics from San Francisco to New York City and Europe. I like that. No, I love that. I have a passionate love for film and film history. One guy I talk to gave me some great advice. He reminded me to write, write, write and watch, watch, watch. Work on your writing every day and how you watch and deconstruct a film. Never stop following your dream, your passion, your desires. South by Southwest was a wonderful experience and it has definitely opened my mind up to the enjoyment of film and film culture.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Film Trailers: THE BLING RING

Wednesday film trailers took a break last week due to the SXSW festivities, but it's back this week with the new trailer for Sofia Coppola's latest feature The Bling Ring. The film stars Emma Watson, Leslie Mann and Taissa Farmiga, and is based on true events that revolve around a group of celebrity obsessed teens that find and rob the homes of famous people (whatever the term "famous" people actually means). The film looks great from the trailer and I have not seen a film from Ms. Coppola that I have not liked. I especially love her first two features The Virgin Suicides and my favorite Lost In Translation. I also love the yellow and black coloring of the title which lends to a renegade, comical punch the film will most likely possess. The music will be fantastic too. Enjoy the trailer.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Don Jon
(formerly known as Don Jon's Addiction)

Written & Directed
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

     The first film for the South by Southwest Festival that I have been able to see is Don Jon's Addiction, written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. Apparently now being titled just Don Jon, OK. The film follows the everyday routines and actvities of Jon Martello. He is called Don Jon, similar to a Don Juan-type figure, by his friends since he can consistently pick up "tens" at the club but his real situation is an insatiable, obsessive addiction to pornography. He meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) and wants to subside his selfish inclinations by falling in love with the beautiful woman, but cannot achieve any level of satisfaction. The film charts Jon's growth and maturation with comedic punch and wit, but ultimately feels redundant and goes in a direction that should more gratifying than its attentions are set to be.
     Jon's addiction to porn is consistent with who he is. Jon is a self-absorbed, stereotypical Guido from New Jersey who objectifies everything from his apartment to his car. But he objectifies woman, real and cyber, above all. He can hook up with any woman he wants but does not have the control he has when with his Internet porn. He does not have to worry about feelings, boring sex and lack of exploration. Porn supplies his life with a limitless amount cravings and substantiates all his desires and needs. The addiction of Jon and his objectification of woman exemplify a societal trend of the "me first" generation. Whatever makes me satisfied, happy, content and puts the person in an uncultured state of popularity seems to be Jon's life. His way.
     The film is Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut and shows his talent and charisma with the pen and behind the camera. First off, this film, especially in the family dinner scenes and the safer R, to avoid NC-17, rated masturbation areas are laugh-out loud hilarious. The jokes are not silly mainstream film funny, but honest depictions of the everyday life of this New Jersey boy. He rides in his muscle car, yelling obscenities at cars driving in front of him than cuts to Jon walking into church and confessing his sins. Funny material, handled with a wonderful comedic touch. Who knew Gordon-Levitt had it in him. Not only to be seriously funny but he shows his great range as an actor to play an unlikable, self-absorbed guy. Gordon-Levitt is a growing artist and with his subtle Jersey accent and the disciplined selfish, comedic lifestyle shows the growth of this artist. His comedic timing and relevance is impeccable.
     Secondly, he shows a talent for use of sound and sound editing. The powering on of his laptop signifies that Jon is about to satisfy his craving. During some of these scenes where he has already been with a woman, he wakes up and masturbates to porn while his female companion is still asleep in his bed. To Jon, there is nothing like porn. These are also situations where Gordon-Levitt puts his main character in less than gentleman-like scenarios. Scenes at the club where his objectifications are less than desirable and make me wonder why woman would ever want to date or hook up with someone like this. These were areas where the film also excelled.
     Gordon-Levitt has compiled a great cast for his first directorial effort. Scarlett Johansson is perfect as the main love interest for Jon, Barbara. She is selfish, if not more than Jon himself. She withholds sex from Jon and ulitmately wants a man that she can completely control. In one scene where the two are shopping for curtains or drapes, Jon wants to go buy some cleaning supplies but she states that he does not need to do that. She is telling him he does not need to clean his own apartment. She, as well as Jon, are living in worlds that are saturated with media culture. Jon with his porn crutch that causes him to want more out of sex and a relationship then is deemed normal or possible for that matter and Barbara, who in an earlier scene at the movies, believes in the fantasy, formulaic nonsense of Hollywood produced romantic comedies. It is an interesting parallel of media saturation and nonexistent individualistic, rational thinking.
     The undeniable standout of the film, and I am honestly saying this not out of disrespect but just because I have not seen him anything in forever, is Tony Danza. He is funny and unapologetic in that blunt, humorous way. He is great and well worth watching the film just for his performance. Also, Julianne Moore is wonderful as a woman that meets Jon while they are both taking classes in college. She, as always, hits every note perfectly and brings so much humanity and heart to the film.
     The film works on the comedic and stagnant state of selfish human beings in this over cyber saturated society, but the film stalls after the midway point. This is not to say it is not an entertaining or thought provoking film but we continually see redundant shots of Jon at the gym, church, porn and dinner that bog the film down. I believe this repetition shows Jon's disciplined nature but just needed a punch of something new or another character to smooth out film. The film is funny without a doubt though.
     Don Jon shows the mechanical and fractured ideas of romance that society accepts and desires to replicate in every day life. The film, although not a complete knockout, contains wonderful performances and a great use of sound. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven with his first directorial effort that he not only is an extremely talented actor but has the ability to tell a good story with a good control for directing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SXSW break

This week I have been volunteering at the South by Southwest Festival in my hometown of Austin, TX. Posts are light with me currently working my regular job and my volunteering duties. I, however, am working on numerous film reviews and two essays on my experiences during the festival. My first festival, mainly focusing on the film part has been a blast so far and I will be posting much this weekend and next week. No film trailers this week and all I can say is I have been enjoying my first film festival immensely. I will say, 12 to 16 hour work days are exhausting but so worth it to be able to see these  films that are premiering and screening at South By. The people are great and extremely friendly. Favorites so far being Mud and Milius. Post and writings on the way...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Casting for BIRDMAN; No Mendes for Bond 24

Just to add to the impressive cast announced for Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's upcoming comedy Birdman, Edward Norton has been added to the cast. Gets better and better. Anticipation is high. In other more disappointing news, Sam Mendes has declined the offer to direct the next Bond film. After the 1.1 billion worldwide success of Skyfall, it is no surprise the Broccoli's wanted Mendes to direct again but he has theatre projects that will take up the majority of his time. Supposedly, Bond 24 and Bond 25 were to be filmed back-to-back and Mendes was not interested in that idea. Who is going to direct the next Bond film? In my opinion, it has got to be a successful, visionary director. Christopher Nolan comes to mind as the obvious choice but Alfonso Cuaron would also be an interesting choice. Who knows. I just hope it is not a flashy CG driven director like Zach Snyder, he is not terrible visually but too much computer graphics, or a boring studio guy like Francis Lawrence. Hope for Nolan, but I would much rather he do something original, as with Cuaron. Should be intriguing whoever is chosen to direct. Mendes was class and respectful.

Film Trailers: GOODFELLAS

Just watched part of this film today. Classic. One of the best films ever made. If I compiled a top ten list of all time, it would be in my top five. Probably my top three. Prime example of story, acting, music, editing and brilliant directing. Perfect from first frame to end credits. Enough said. Enjoy the trailer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Casting on BIRDMAN

Exciting news on the casting and plot of Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's new project Birdman. First off, this director is easily one of my favorite directors around. All of his films from Amores Perros to 21 Grams, and Babel to Biutiful, I have thoroughly enjoyed. Craft at the highest level. These films are personal, depressing and harrowing dramas that usually have overlapping, non-linear narratives with exceptional acting and beautiful cinematography. His next film is going to be very interesting since the director is going more towards the comedic arena then ever before. The film titled Birdman will star Michael Keaton as an egotistical actor who had a  role as a superhero but has not achieved the same success since. It mimics Keaton since his iconic turn as Batman in Burton's films. The actor mounts a Broadway play to reclaim some notoriety and glory. Emma Stone will play the actor's rehabbed daughter; Naomi Watts, who was in 21 Grams, plays an actress; and Zach Galifianakis will play the producer of the play. Sounds really intriguing and begins filming in April. In my eye, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu can do no wrong and I am excited that he is venturing off on a new path and challenge. The story was written by Innaritu, with Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo and playwright Alexander Dinelaris, and was based off a short story by Raymond Chandler. Shit. Can't wait!

New Trailer: FRANCES HA

Today, IFC Films premiered the trailer for Frances Ha, the new comedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach. This appears to be a beautifully shot love letter to New York City in pristine black and white cinematography. The story follows Frances (Greta Gerwig) through her day and night travails in the City. She is a dancer, but does not dance professional and does not have a settled in job or apartment. The film appears to speak of young people, well, people anywhere from their mid to late twenties into their early forties, and the ambiguity, love and searching for whatever it is people search for in life. What are we doing? I can't figure out what I should be doing or how concerned I should be about it. When I see this trailer that is some of the concepts that come to mind, as well as the idea of all of us under forty folks trying to figure out life and realizing we have no idea what we are doing. We still need experiences and love though. Well, I am really excited to see this little film and the black and white photography reminds me of Gordon Willis' gorgeous black and white in Woody Allen's Manhattan. The film opens on May 17. Enjoy the trailer and Gerwig is a star in the making.