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Film Festivals

Monday, September 8, 2014

Accused murderer Lonnie Franklin in Tales of the Grim Sleeper
  • Accused murderer Lonnie Franklin in Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Sixty-six-year-old British documentarian Nick Broomfield didn't blend in when he went cruising around South Central Los Angeles to retrace a 22-year serial killing spree for his upcoming doc Tales of the Grim Sleeper. Even with local prostitutes, crack addicts, and know-it-alls riding shotgun, the fearless filmmaker and his cameraman stuck out. Not that Broomfield cared, even though accused murderer Lonnie Franklin was popular on these streets. When three neighbors of Franklin try to chase him off by hollering “peckerwood,” Broomfield shrugs, “I thought that word was an endearing term,” and promptly crosses the street to say hello.

Faux naivety is Broomfield's weapon. He wades in deep, then slices himself up as chum. By using gentle, earnest questions, he can charm anyone. (At least, anyone who hasn't been warned by Broomfield's ire-inducing docs Kurt & Courtney and Biggie & Tupac, which made enemies of Courtney Love and Suge Knight.) Broomfield also has patience and an eye for the absurd. Watching footage of Franklin entering a courtroom, he notes that the man who preyed on women is clutching a Nora Roberts paperback romance.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Still from You, Me & Her, directed by Sarah Doyle. - COURTESY OF ETHERIA FILM NIGHT
  • Courtesy of Etheria Film Night
  • Still from You, Me & Her, directed by Sarah Doyle.
Etheria Film Night is out to dispel that women don't want to be directors. More importantly, the new film festival exists to address the misconception that women don't direct scenes that bleed, crash and explode.

During the course of Etheria's inaugural event at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, gore poured from the screen. The suspense was intense. The action was, at times, brutal. The films were diverse: a sci-fi tale inspired by Cree lore, a Japanese horror story, an Australian comedy about Jell-O wrestling. Every one was directed by a woman. 

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

JOHN & JOHNNY "DRESSES" VIDEO FROM FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL
When comedy writers Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett launched the Found Footage Festival out of a Manhattan bar in 2004, it was a means of showcasing the odd assortment of found VHS tapes they'd collected from dumpsters, warehouses and thrift stores over the years. The festival, which is comprised of awkward public access shows, 1980s infomercials and low-budget instructional videos, now claims a cult following, a line of DVDs and merchandise and an annual cross-country tour that stops in Los Angeles this week. 

In between archiving long-lost footage from local T.V. networks, professional pranksters Prueher and Pickett drummed up publicity for the festival by pulling a few television stunts of their own. In 2010, they arranged for their friend Mark Proksch to appear on several Midwestern news shows as Kenny "K-Strass" Strasser, a bumbling yo-yo enthusiast with a troubled past. The prank was so successful that it led to Proksch's getting cast as Nate, Dwight Schrute's handyman, on The Office.

Late last year, Prueher appeared on morning news shows as the fictional Chef Keith Guerke, who demonstrated how to absurdly re-use holiday leftovers while namedropping G.G. Allin and Judas Priest, alluded to suicide, flipped tables over and asked morning anchors to beatbox for him.

"We were back in Wisconsin and didn't have a lot to do over the holidays. We thought it'd be funny to get on some news shows and say stupid things," Prueher says by phone. "The other thing is we've developed a keen eye for what makes an awkward moment on television."  

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Film Festivals

A Found Footage Fest at L.A. Filmforum

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Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 6:07 AM
Fly by Scott Stark
  • Fly by Scott Stark
Anyone weary of Paranormal Activity's take on the found-footage genre need look no further than the Egyptian's Spielberg Theatre for a healthy dose of the real thing.

Hosted by L.A. Filmforum and having its world premiere this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., the latest edition of the Festival of (In)appropriation consists of 14 different works comprising an approximately 90-minute program to be introduced by curators Jaimie Baron, Lauren Berliner and Greg Cohen. The shortest of these, Celeste Fichter's Walking on Water, lasts just over a minute and uses the theme from Hawaii Five-O to accompany the biblical tale of Jesus defying natural law. Soda_Jerk's The Time that Remains, a "spectral melodrama" starring several iterations of both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, is the longest at twelve minutes.

The dozen other entries fall somewhere in between and explore everything from LBJ's tenure as president to the Freudian notion of the death drive to the Pledge of Allegiance's effect on schoolchildren. Now in its sixth year, the traveling festival's emphasis on novel works that not only repurpose existing footage but also lead viewers to reconsider the source material's original intent has earned it a sterling reputation and small-but-devoted following that may soon include you.

Festival of (In)appropriation #6 is at Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m. lafilmforum.org.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Film and TV

Sundance 2014: Ten Films to Watch

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Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 9:07 AM
Matthew Crawley's a killer in one of our ten favorite movies from this year's Sundance Film Festival.
  • Matthew Crawley's a killer in one of our ten favorite movies from this year's Sundance Film Festival.
For Robert Redford, Sundance's opening day was a bummer. He woke up to learn the Academy had snubbed him for a (deserved) Best Actor nod for the sparse yachting drama All Is Lost, and had to spend his typically triumphant morning press conference swatting down questions about being sad. Luckily for the rest of us, the festival was a smash, or at least a sizzle. There wasn't a surefire champion, but most films earned warm, welcoming buzz that buyers stoked by writing check after check. Five years ago, covering Sundance was like selling a mote of gold: A film might be the real deal but was almost impossible for anyone else to see. Thanks to VOD, now odds are that everyone can (eventually) catch the best of the fest. Here are ten you shouldn't miss.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume I
  • Nymphomaniac: Volume I
Let's start with the ending: the closing credits disclaimer that insists that none of the lead actors in Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac filmed penetrative sex. If there is real sex in the movie, and it sure looks like there is, it must have been done by one of the eight credited sex doubles, listed far down the crew after the cast, somewhere around the caterers and gaffers. (Humble billing, but oh what luscious names - my favorite was Elvira Friis.) The sex doubles loaned their loins to Von Trier, who digitally stitched them to his actors.

In the era of Google image search, the difference between an XXX freeze frame of an actor having sex versus a perfect simulacrum seems technical at best, though I suppose their parents must be relieved.So yes, even though we've been informed in real life that Shia LaBeouf's penis is named Richard Dreyfus, we don't actually see the thing during a scene where he primes himself before taking 15-year-old Joe's (a brave Stacy Martin) vaginal and anal virginity, or later when the camera plants itself between his legs as she rides him like a pony. We're seeing someone else's, lots of someones else's, and if you're not prepared for a minute-long montage of full-frontal flaccid cocks, I suggest you see another film.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

ROQUE SILLES, COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE
  • Roque Silles, courtesy of Sundance Institute

Every Sundance there's a crowd-pleaser, and most years it's got one degree of separation from the Little Miss Sunshine crew. But the most delightful flick of the 2014 fest is an unconventional documentary with no plot, no dialogue, and nothing but party. Living Stars, a fleet 63-minute film by Argentinean directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, is a lark, a YouTube-influenced trifle that travels to different people's homes, plops a camera on a tripod, and asks them to pick a song and dance. 


That's literally all Living Stars is: 30-plus strangers shaking their stuff to Britney Spears and the Black Eyed Peas. In the corner, Cohn and Duprat write each dancer's name and occupation. There's secretaries, building managers, judo instructors, telemarketers, students, and supermarket cashiers. There's kids as young as 3 and adults so old they can't even stand, so they move it to Pitbull by waving their hands. There's good dancers and bad dancers and a whole lot of mediocre. It makes your body want to move, and then, improbably, it makes your brain start to race.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

The new film Fed Up - SUNDANCE SITE
  • Sundance site
  • The new film Fed Up
Sixty years ago, Fred Flintstone hawked Winston cigarettes. Today, he pitches cereal. And both can kill.

Stephanie Soechtig's rabble-rousing documentary Fed Up argues that it's time to attack Big Sugar just like we successfully demonized Big Tobacco. Narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up is the first doc of Sundance to stir up an outraged Q&A with attendees agitating for nutritional reform: put new labels on processed foods, resurrect home economics classes, rally our leaders to combat the corporate Sugaristas, and screen Fed Up in schools across America.

The flick starts with a simple question. In 1977, George McGovern introduced the McGovern Report, which outlined healthy dietary goals for the country. Why, then, have Americans gotten fatter - exponentially so, especially the young? In 1980, there were zero cases of childhood type 2 diabetes. In 2010, there were 57,636. "That used to be called adult-onset diabetes," sighs Bill Clinton. No longer. Now we have 9- and 10-year-old kids dying of heart attacks and strokes. 

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Kristen Stewart in Camp X-Ray - © BETH DUBBER, COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE
  • © Beth Dubber, Courtesy of Sundance Institute
  • Kristen Stewart in Camp X-Ray
Kristen Stewart spent five Twilight films getting rescued by werewolves and vampires. Consider Camp X-Ray her rebuttal to a half-decade of playing damsels in distress. As Guantanamo guard Private Cole, Stewart is punched, bloodied, and spat on - and that's just the first 10 minutes. When her commanding officer jokes, "Welcome to Gitmo," she smiles.

Will audiences take Stewart seriously as a hard-as-nails soldier? Maybe, but around the festival, Camp X-Ray has already been dubbed Guantanamo Babe. Seeing her in camouflage fatigues demands a double-take, especially because when she stands among the sturdy men who make up her unit she looks like a sapling surrounded by redwoods.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
  • Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
Pamela Smart, the sexpot schoolteacher who seduced three teenage boys to shoot her husband, has been imprisoned without parole since 1991. Her official release year is sometime in 9999, assuming that human civilization is still alive. Yet the captive in Jeremiah Zagar's Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart isn't her. It's us, the viewers who became transfixed by the first televised murder trial.

The first full day of Sundance screenings kicked off with this measured documentary that flatters the filmmakers and editors in the packed theater by declaring that they're as powerful as God. Which in Smart's case is true enough - at least, they were certainly as powerful as the judge and jury who convicted her of murder nine months after she'd been convicted in the public eye.

Before her case even went to court - hell, two days before jurors were even selected - Smart's story was turned into a TV movie with all the memorable details groomed into place: the 22-year-old ambitious ex-cheerleader, the unsuspecting husband, the three dumb luck boys born on the wrong side of the tracks. Helen Hunt played Smart, and the town's main reporter asked to play himself. The local newspaper ran full-page ads for the flick. But instead of sequestering the jury, the judge (who said he hoped he'd be played by Clint Eastwood in the next remake) let them go home every day with just a pinkie swear that they'd try not to be influenced by their friends, family, and the media screaming for her blood. 

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