November ‘Coming Attractions’ (from Buffalo Spree)

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I’m getting this one up a little late: my November “Coming Attractions” column in Buffalo Spree. It’s a but shorter than usual due to my TIFF feature from the same issue.

November is typically busy in the film world, but there’s more to the month than Oscar bait. Here are some unique options to consider, at locations around WNY.

Real Boy at BPAC: The latest film in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Dare to be Diverse Film Series sounds fascinating. The documentary Real Boy is centered on the story of a transgender teenager’s experience with his family and friends, and as a budding musician.

(7 p.m. on November 17 at 1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org)

Buffalo Film Seminars: Four true crowd-pleasers are part of the November Buffalo Film Seminars’ schedule: Peter Sellers stars in Hal Ashby’s Being There (November 1); Brian De Palma brings his unique style to the big-screen version of The Untouchables (November 8); Cher shines in Moonstruck (November 15); and Like Water for Chocolate is a delightful Mexican romance (November 29). Before the latter is Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, on November 22. It’s a complex masterpiece that qualifies as a real must-see.

(7 p.m. at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Thanks to Audrey Hepburn (and no thanks to Mickey Rooney), Breakfast at Tiffany’s still charms. Turner Classic Movies brings Holly Golightly to the big screen on November 27 and 30.

(2 and 7 p.m. on November 27 and November 30 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Word and Pictures: You might have missed this 2013 romantic drama starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. The two stars make it a worthwhile film.

(4 p.m. on November 13 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival: Buffalo Dreams is, in a word, killer. For ten days, audiences can enjoy action, animation, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, thriller, and science fiction features and shorts from around the world. That list includes 105 features, and many screenings feature Q-and-As with the filmmakers and stars. Highlights include Two for One, a post-9/11 drama that was shot in Buffalo and features beloved actor Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Attack of the Killer Shrews, a comedic remake by Niagara Falls filmmaker Ken Cosentino. Troma Entertainment founder Lloyd Kaufman will introduce the film.

(November 4-10 at the Eastern Hills Cinema, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville; November 11-13 at the Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; buffalodreamsfilmfest.com)

The Screening Room: In addition to the Buffalo Dreams screenings mentioned above (Nov. 11 to 13), Amherst’s Screening Room screens the still pulse-pounding political thriller The Manchurian Candidate throughout the month. It’s Frank Sinatra’s finest performance, but Angela Lansbury is the actor you’ll truly remember …

(7:30 p.m. on November 4, 5, 9, 11, and 12 at the Screening Room, 3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Thursday Night Terrors—Phantasm II: Don Coscarelli’s 1988 sequel is a fun, unexpected choice for the great Thursday Night Terrors series. The film’s reputation has certainly grown in recent years.

(7:30 p.m. on November 17 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—The Player: Robert Altman’s comeback film, The Player might be of the most striking, most acidic drama about Hollywood ever made. Featuring Tim Robbins and a cavalcade of cameos, it’s a wonderful choice for CCC’s Altman-centric season.

(7 p.m. on November 3 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Nichols High School Movie Night at the North Park: More great selections from the students at Nichols in November: John Huston’s The African Queen on November 7 and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing on November 14. The latter, especially, is a wonderfully offbeat choice. (Of all Kubrick possibilities, who would’ve predicted The Killing?

(7 p.m. on November 7 and 14 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Stella Dallas: Next up in the season’s Barbara Stanwyck series is this 1937 sudser.

(7:30 p.m. on November 18 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Fredonia Opera House: Lots of interesting choices at the Fredonia Opera House this month, starting with The Dressmaker, an adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s bestselling novel starring Kate Winslet (7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1). Catch Brazil and Game of Thrones favorite Jonathan Pryce as Shylock in a “Globe on Screen” presentation of The Merchant of Venice on November 5 (1 p.m.). Ron Howard’s hit Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week, a look at the Fab Four’s touring years, screens on November 12 and 15. And the acclaimed yet sadly underseen Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, screens on November 19 and 22 (7:30 p.m.) For the full Opera House rundown, visit fredopera.org.

(Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

TIFF16 recap: Good timing, bad escalators, and stunning cinema (November Buffalo Spree)

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My annual TIFF recap can be found in the November issue of Buffalo Spree, and the timing isn’t bad, since many of the films mentioned are now playing or opening soon in Buffalo.

When it comes to the film festival experience, timing is everything. The Toronto International Film Festival is no exception. In some years, TIFF’s September time slot is a good thing, since it falls squarely at the start of the fall awards season. However, the festival takes place after the increasingly important fests in Venice and Telluride, and before the prestigious New York Film Festival. That can lead to years like 2014, when a controversial screening policy led to prime slots for a number of high-profile disappointments—The JudgeRosewaterSt. VincentThe Equalizer.

That was then. In 2016 (and last year, for that matter), TIFF was better than ever. The lineup for the eleven-day festival of nearly 300 features included several masterpieces, numerous very good films, and very few all-out disasters. It’s possible—if not likely—that this year’s Oscar winners in the Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress categories all played the festival. (I’m talking about La La Land, Damien Chazelle, Casey Affleck, Natalie Portman, Michael Shannon, and Michelle Williams. And yes, it is ridiculously early to make such predictions.) Some of these premiered elsewhere, but their response at TIFF cemented their status as awards frontrunners.

For all of these films and many, many others, timing is paramount. And whether you are a paying member of the public or an accredited film critic, your overall success rate as a TIFF attendee is seemingly dependent on random chance. Take my first day at TIFF16. Heavy traffic on the QEW meant my longtime festival compatriot Jared Mobarak and I arrived a little after 9 a.m. on the fest’s opening day. That also meant I was too late to see one of my most eagerly awaited selections, Sundance Film Festival hit Manchester by the Sea. I was severely bummed, especially since I was waiting in another line as the 9 a.m. screening attendees exited and I overheard their rapturous talk. Yet three days later came a festival miracle: an added press and industry screening scheduled at 9 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Cinema 5. Unsure about the size of the theater (and nervous about the number of panting press folk likely interested in attending), I arrived more than an hour early and found a short line. I also discovered the theater only had forty-five seats, and by 8:15 the queue was epic. Happily, I got one of those seats and was able to experience director Kenneth Lonergan’s emotionally overwhelming, surprisingly subtle Manchester. (Timing!) The story of a sad sack tasked with serving as his nephew’s guardian after the death of his brother features career-best work from the aforementioned Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. It’s a legit tear-jerker.

So, yes, good timing for yours truly. This was not the only instance of early arrival guaranteeing me a seat for something special. That was also the case for the press screening of Moonlight, a wondrous coming-of-age drama that follows a young African-American male through three complex stages of his life; the press screening of designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, a stylish Hitchcockian gem starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and a revelatory Michael Shannon; and for the first public screening of American Honey, an almost indescribably exhilarating teenage road movie from Wuthering Heights director Andrea Arnold.

With a family and day job waiting at home, my TIFF experience is generally short (four days this year), and so my selections are dependent on what the powers that be choose to schedule while I’m in attendance. Therefore, I was unable to catch a few of 2016’s biggest festival hits, including La La Land, the sure-to-be-an-awards-favorite musical from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle that stars the delightful Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. And, of course, a number of biggies that were screening during my four days just couldn’t be wedged into my schedule. (I suppose that’s a mix of  good and bad timing.) But in addition to the films I’ve already mentioned, I was able to see fabulously meandering German comedy Toni Erdmann; Paul Verhoeven’s provocative Elle (starring Isabelle Huppert); the clever and surprisingly witty sci-fi drama Arrival(with Amy Adams); the morally complex Una, featuring Rooney Mara’s best performance yet; and the divisive Personal Shopper, a Kristen Stewart-starring ghost story that I found brilliant.

All in all, I watched twenty-six films in total before or during my tenth TIFF. (Nine of these were prefest screeners; seventeen were screenings during my four days in Toronto.) Twelve of these twenty-six were very, very good. Six were so-so. (Surprisingly, Nate Parker’s Sundance winner The Birth of a Nation falls here; it’s adequate at best, and that’s without even considering the horrific rape allegations rising from Parker’s past.) Six were unexceptional. (One of these was Terrence Malick’s years-in-the-making Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, a gorgeous bore from a filmmaker whose recent decline is worrisome.) Two were really, really bad. Those numbers are quite strong.

But how’s this for bad timing? One of the stories of the festival (seriously) was the broken escalators at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, and, while the bitching was a bit much, it was easy to see why folks were so annoyed. This is one epic set of stairs, and it’s almost comical to ponder the up escalator (and later the down) breaking during the eleven days the world industry descends upon this theater. Couldn’t this have happened, say, twelve days later? Oh well.

At its best, TIFF and any film festival serves as a launching pad for future success, a showcase for bold new art, and a place for cinephiles, critics, and celebs to congregate and share the magic of cinema. All of that happened at the North American premiere of Jackie on September 11. I was able to get a ticket from the press office for that first screening—yep, good timing—and had high expectations. The director, after all, is Pablo Larraín, the prolific Spanish filmmaker responsible for NoThe Club, and another TIFF16 entry, Pablo Neruda biopic Neruda. And starring is Natalie Portman, a spot-on choice looks-wise. Even with my prefilm excitement, my expectations were exceeded. The story of the week following the JFK assassination from the perspective of Jackie Kennedy, Jackie was TIFF16’s finest film. It upends the traditional historical drama with bold storytelling, note-perfect performances, and a smart, probing script.

With films like this one highlighting the lineup, it was odd to read this quote about the 2016 festival, from industry bible Variety: “‘Most of the films were terrible,’ one distribution executive griped. ‘I can’t wait to get home.’” Ha. For me, TIFF16 was a series of masterpieces and a reminder that despite rumors to the contrary, film is not dead. It’s alive and well for eleven days in September and beyond. With JackieMoonlightManchester by the SeaNocturnal Animals, and many other greats set to open in Buffalo shortly, your timing is very, very good.

Review: ‘Oasis: Supersonic’ is a wildly entertaining blast of bombast

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Here’s my Film Stage review of SUPERSONIC, which screened in Buffalo and across the nation on October 26.

Oliver Stone. That’s the filmmaker who should have been asked to chronicle the career of Oasis, the hugely successful, ever-combustible, now-departed kings of Britpop. Looking at the entirety of the band’s lifespan — from the early 1990s to break-up in 2008 — it’s hard not to notice the trademarks of Doors-era Stone: controversies, fisticuffs, conspiracies, bravery, insanity, ego, vulnerability, lust, and violence. In rock and roll, these are positives, and the joys that emanate from such feelings and behavior is certainly on display in Oasis: Supersonic, a Noel and Liam Gallagher-approved documentary. The band’s career, however, is not really the subject of the new documentary directed by Mat Whitecross and from the producers of Amy, Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning Amy Winehouse documentary. Instead, Supersonic is about the rise of the band, the period from birth to its two concerts (to 250,000 attendees) at Knebworth.

And that’s fine, since Supersonic is a wildly entertaining blast of energy and bombast. There are few successes in music history quite like the one-two punch of Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, and the film’s mix of interviews, videos, concert scenes, and unseen footage is, in a word, stunning. Even die-hard Oasis fans will be floored by scenes of the band’s first concert with Noel Gallagher, at Scotland’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in 1993. (Not to mention video from the band’s infamous Whisky A Go Go bust-up in 1994, as well as a rehearsal room performance of “All Around the World” from the early 90s.)

Told mostly in chronological order after opening with the band’s epic Knebworth concerts (minus a few time jumps), Supersonic moves from the Gallagher brothers’ youthful antics to the start of Oasis, signing by Creation Records, the remarkable successes of Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory, and… that’s it. The Knebworth gigs surely represent the apex of Oasis’s popularity, but hitting the brakes here may disappoint the band’s most hardcore fans. Those hoping for tales of the 2007 bust-up that killed the band must look elsewhere. Newer fans and those with only a modest interest in Oasis are likely to walk away a bit more impressed by the film, and what the Gallaghers accomplished. As Noel puts it in the film, “I don’t think anybody will ever be able to fully explain to people, who are maybe like teenagers now, what a colossal thing Oasis was in the lives of anybody who gave a shit about music,” Gallagher said.

Indeed, Supersonic does a fine job of showing just how large-scale the phenomenon was: countless concert scenes, lots of snappin’ paparazzi, and some stunningly nasty put-downs from Noel to “has-beens” like the late Michael Hutchence. More intriguing are the photos and stories from Noel and Liam’s childhood in the Manchester suburb of Burnage. The unsung hero of these early scenes is surely mom Peggie Gallagher, a hard-working, loving figure forced to hold down several jobs. Her husband was physically abusive, and the scenes described by Peggie, Noel, Liam, and third brother Paul are harrowing. Psychologically, we learn much about the brothers’ Gallagher here, and the reappearance of their father at the height of the band’s popularity is both sad and expected.

The opposite is true of, well, much of the film. There are moments of (sometimes surreal) humor, specifically an animated re-creation of a drunken ferry ride to Amsterdam, some studio hijinks during the making of Morning Glory, and Noel’s admission that Liam oozed the rock-star charisma that he [Noel] did not: “He had a great haircut, a great walk.” Noel, in particular, comes across as the most thoughtful member of the band. (Sorry, Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs and Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan; only the former agreed to be interviewed for Supersonic.) The most startling example might be his memories of writing the song “Supersonic” during the time it took for the other members of the band to eat some take-out food. Liam Gallagher’s starpower remains undeniable; whether messing about at the Definitely Maybe cover shoot or pontificating poolside in Japan, it’s clear his magnetism was as important to Oasis’s success as the hooks of “Live Forever” and “Wonderwall.”

Supersonic truly blasts off after Definitely Maybe drops, and the band is hurtled toward international popularity. The film ends with 1996’s Knebworth concerts, and this means we never see the drug-fueled excess of Be Here Now, not to mention the fascinating place Oasis found themselves in after the tide turned against that record. It’s understandable that Whitecross chose Knebworth as an ending point, since the band never again commanded the attention of the zeitgeist on that scale. It takes for granted that we all know what happened from then on — as Liam puts it late in the film, “We were never gonna do ten rounds” — but leaves us wanting more. Perhaps that’s what every music documentary should aspire to.

Yet as a longtime Oasis fan, it’s hard not to see Supersonic as something of a missed opportunity. There are some surprisingly notable omissions. The band’s influences — The Beatles (of course), The Smiths, The Stone Roses — are barely acknowledged. (We do hear a Stone Roses tune in the background of an early scene; interestingly, Whitecross previously directed the 2012 ensemble comedy Spike Island, which used the Roses’ famous concert as its backdrop.) The controversial 1996 MTV Unplugged performance, which saw Liam drop out due to vocal issues, is unmentioned, an odd choice considering the major headlines it caused. Also missing is the band’s 1996 MTV Video Music Awards performance of “Champagne Supernova,” notable for Liam’s slow gob at song’s end. “Britpop” and “Cool Britannia” are never uttered. But most noteworthy is the film’s failure to include the infamous “Blur vs. Oasis” battle of summer 1995. The simultaneous release of Blur’s “Country House” and Oasis’s “Roll With It” was the starting point for the 2003 Britpop documentary Live Forever, so this ground has indeed been covered on film. Still, the band’s “loss” to Blur, followed by a gargantuan victory on the album charts, is an undeniably important moment in the group’s history, and U.K. music in general.

Interestingly, Whitecross chooses to use only voice-over; we never seen the Noel and Liam (not to mention Bonehead or Guigsy) of today. It’s a surprising move, as watching the brothers speak is often more interesting than what they actually say. There’s also a surplus amount of concert footage. (My friend Anthony Chabala, a longtime expert regarding the instruments used by the band, considers Supersonic a concert film with biographical embellishments.) Even with these minor quibbles, we’re left with a film that is undeniably strong, and never less that hugely entertaining. The only logical criticisms, in fact, relate to what’s left out. There is still a great, epic, full account of the Oasis story to be told. In the meantime, we have Supersonic, a reminder of a time when two brothers born in poverty and bred on Beatles took over the world. It didn’t last long, but it was one helluva ride. Above all else, Supersonic captures that feeling.

Oasis: Supersonic screens for one night only on Wednesday, October 26.

 

Preview: The Oasis documentary, ‘Supersonic,’ screens on Oct. 26

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The Oasis documentary Supersonic was a late addition to my October Coming Attractions column for Buffalo Spree. My write-up is below, and watch this space for my Film Stage review of the film.

Oasis—Supersonic: A documentary about Noel and Liam Gallagher’s Oasis, the battling Britpop supernovas behind “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” from the producers of Oscar-winning Amy Winehouse doc Amy? Yes, please. A24 is releasing Supersonic in America, and the distributor has scheduled one-night-only screenings for October 26 nationwide. Whether you love the Gallaghers or not, watch the trailer at supersonic-movie.com and tell me you’re not intrigued. This could turn out to be one of the most entertaining documentaries of 2016. (7 p.m. on October 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

October Coming Attractions: Celebrate ten years of the Buffalo International Film Festival, and prepare for Halloween with The Shining

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Check out my ‘Coming Attractions’ column from the October 2016 Buffalo Spree.

October features some cinematic kingpins—Fellini, Kubrick, the Marx Brothers—but it’s highlighted by the tenth installment of one of Western New York’s strongest film festivals. 

Buffalo International Film Festival: Last year was a thrilling one for the Buffalo International Film Festival (BIFF), highlighted by a screening of Emelie, Michael Thelin’s well-reviewed thriller. The 2016 fest is set for October 7 through 10, and for the first time in the festival’s ten-year history, every entry will be screened in a venue located in the City of Buffalo. The opening night centerpiece at the North Park will be Tyler Hubby’s new feature documentary Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present. That’s huge, especially for the late artist and UB professor’s legions of local fans. The lineup includes numerous interesting films, so peruse the entire lineup and find times and locations at buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com(October 7 to 11; buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com)

Buffalo Film Seminars: Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian open October with three heavy hitters: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, October 4), Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita, October 11), and Orson Welles (Chimes at Midnight, October 18). Still, the most intriguing pick of the month might be Sarah Elder and Leonard Kamerling’s 1977 documentary Drums of Winter, which screens on October 25. The hugely acclaimed, award-winning film about the Yup’ik people of central Alaska is listed in the Film Preservation Registry by the Library of Congress. And there’s a wonderful local link here, since Elder is a media study professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. (7 p.m. at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Oasis—Supersonic: A documentary about Noel and Liam Gallagher’s Oasis, the battling Britpop supernovas behind “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” from the producers of Oscar-winning Amy Winehouse doc Amy? Yes, please. A24 is releasing Supersonic in America, and the distributor has scheduled one-night-only screenings for October 26 nationwide. Whether you love the Gallaghers or not, watch the trailer at supersonic-movie.com and tell me you’re not intrigued. This could turn out to be one of the most entertaining documentaries of 2016. (7 p.m. on October 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St. ;dipsontheatres.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—The ShiningHave you watched the documentary Room 237? If not, get on that. (I’ll wait.) The exploration of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and its many (probably incorrect) interpretations is utterly mind-melting. It also reminds us that Kubrick’s film is far more than a scary Stephen King adaptation with an unhinged Jack Nicholson screaming, “Here’s Johnny!” Instead, The Shining is one of the most complex, influential movies ever made. But it is scary, as well, so kudos to the TCM Big Screen series for making the film its October selection, just in time for Halloween. (2 and 7 p.m. on October 23 and 26 at the Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Fredonia Opera House: Arthur Miller and the Marx Brothers have genius in common, and two of their finest works grace the Fredonia Opera House screen in October. First is a simulcast of Miller’s View From the Bridgeat 1 p.m. on October 1. This 2016 Tony winner for Best Revival of a Play stars the always stellar Mark Strong. Meanwhile, on October 7, the Opera House screens the classic Marx Brothers’ comedy Duck Soup at 7:30 p.m. The screening is part of Fredonia State College’s annual “Freedonia Marxonia Festival.” And in a nice touch, admission is “Free.” (Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Roycroft Film Society—About Elly: Anyone who’s seen Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation and The Past will likely agree that the Iranian filmmaker ranks near the top of international cinema’s best. His latest effort, The Salesman, earned him Best Screenplay honors after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in May. That one will be released soon, but this month the Roycroft Film Society offers a chance to catch 2009’s About Elly. The story of the mysterious disappearance of a kindergarten teacher is considered one of Farhadi’s greatest works, and that’s saying something. (4 p.m. on October 9 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Nichols High School Movie Night at the North Park: The students at Nichols have darn good taste in cinema, as evidenced by this stellar series. The lineup features Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Charlie Chaplin’s The Bank on October 2; Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby on October 17; Hitchcock’s bold, experimental Rope on October 24; and King Kong on October 31. (The Cameraman/The Bank: 11:30 a.m. on October 2, all others at 7 p.m. on October 17, 24, and 31, at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

North Park Theatre: In addition to the aforementioned Nichols’ screenings the North Park’s October lineup includes the George Hamilton-starring indie Silver Skies at 7 p.m. on October 4 and a tenth anniversary presentation of Mike Judge’s prescient satire Idiocracy at 9:45 p.m. the same night. (Both will feature live satellite Q-and-As.) The silent horror classic Nosferatu is scheduled for 7 p.m. on October 12, and will feature a live score by the Invincible Czars. (North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

riverrun Global Film Series: Iran is the “Country in Focus” for this free three-day presentation of films and lectures. The series will include a short film from late Taste of Cherry director Abbas Kiarostami, as well as Bahram Beyzaie’s recently restored 1972 drama Downpour. Also scheduled is Notes on Blindness, a project with both a documentary and a virtual reality component. (Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.; globalfilmseries.wordpress.com)

Burchfield Penney Art Center: In addition to the riverrun Global Film Series mentioned above, BPAC has October screenings of the documentary All the Difference, a film exploring issues related to African-American manhood, and Korey Green’s Buffalo-set (and shot) gangster film The Romans(Difference: 7 p.m. on October 13; Romans: 7 p.m. on Oct. 20; 1300 Elmwood Ave.; burchfieldpenney.org)

Thursday Night Terrors—Fright Night: This great new horror film series continues in October with 1985’sFright Night, Tom Holland’s thrilling and funny vampire tale. Ignore the so-so Colin Farrell-starring 2011 remake, and instead head to the Dipson Amherst. (7:30 p.m. on October 27 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Cultivate Cinema Circle: The fall CCC season includes a focus on Robert Altman, and for October, that means a screening of his underrated ensemble piece A Wedding. Also planned is Audrie & Daisy, a documentary about sexual assault that garnered high praise at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. (A Wedding: 7 p.m. on October 6 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; Audrie & Daisy: 7 p.m. on October 12 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Rocky Horror Picture Party: It wouldn’t be Halloween month without a screening of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This event is an annual Rivera Theatre favorite. (9:30 p.m. on October 28 at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Call Her Applebroog: Artist Ida Applebroog’s daughter, filmmaker Beth B., directed this personal portrait of the provocative painter. (7 p.m. on October 12 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.; hallwalls.org)

Old Chestnut Film Society—The Lady EveThe films of Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb are the focus for the latest installment of the long-running Old Chestnut Film Society series. December’s selection is a goodie, as The Lady Eve is one of Preston Sturgess’s finest comedies. (7:30 p.m. on December 9 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

The Screening Room: Amherst’s Screening Room has so much happening this month that I barely know where to begin; remember to visit screeningroom.net for the full listing. Halloween-centric highlights include the John Landis horror favorite An American Werewolf in London on October 7, 8, 11, 14, and 15; Mel Brooks’sYoung Frankenstein, starring the late Gene Wilder, on October 22, 25, and 28; Mario Bava’s cult classicHatchet for the Honeymoon on October 22; John Carpenter’s original Halloween on October 27, 29, and 31; local filmmaker Greg Lamberson’s Killer Rack on October 28 and 29; a double bill of Vincent Price-starrer The House on Haunted Hill and Ed Wood’s needs-no-introduction Plan 9 From Outer Space on October 30; and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead on October 31. (Check website for times; 3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Also screening this month …

  • The Dipson Amherst Theatre has two opera simulcasts scheduled this month: Samson et Dalila on October 13 and Macbeth on October 20. (Samson: 8 p.m. on October 13; Macbeth: 8 p.m. on October 20; at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)
  • Sherlock Holmes joins Sherlock Holmes, in a way, when Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Elementary’s Jonny Lee Miller appear in a screening of the National Theatre adaptation of Frankenstein on October 25. Trainspotting and Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle helmed the acclaimed production. (7 p.m. on October 25 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
  • Outside of Buffalo, there are two unique October film festivals worth a drive. ImageOut, Rochester’s LGBT film festival, is set for October 6 to 16 (imageout.org). And the Toronto After Dark Film Festival offers nine days of horror and sci-fi from October 13 to 21 (torontoafterdark.com).

A TIFF16 round-up (for BuffaloSpree.com)

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I wrote this round-up of my time at TIFF16 for BuffaloSpree.com. Note that my suspicions about La La Land taking the People’s Choice Award were indeed correct.

For me, the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival is over. But TIFF16 actually runs through Sunday, the day we’ll discover which film has won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. (My money is on La La Land.)

There is plenty more to come from me on the festival, including a feature in the November Spree. But in the meantime, here’s a brief ranking of the 26 TIFF entries I saw during or before the festival. You’re going to hear a lot more about Jackie, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Moonlight, American Honey, Toni Erdmann, Elle, and Arrival in the months to come. Without further ado, my TIFF16 ranking:

  1. Jackie
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. Nocturnal Animals
  4. Moonlight
  5. American Honey
  6. Personal Shopper
  7. Toni Erdmann
  8. Una
  9. Elle
  10. Arrival
  11. Lady Macbeth
  12. Werewolf
  13. The Birth of a Nation
  14. We Are Never Alone
  15. Clair Obscur
  16. City of Tiny Lights
  17. Dog Eat Dog
  18. Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey
  19. A Monster Calls
  20. Trespass Against Us
  21. Marija
  22. Past Life
  23. Little Wing
  24. Le Ciel Flamand
  25. Pyromaniac
  26. In the Blood

One film to call attention to is Lady Macbeth. Part of TIFF’s Platform series, the film is a shockingly dark period piece about a young woman in a passionless marriage. What follows involves sex, murder, and some stunning set pieces, all centered on a killer performance from star Florence Pugh. Happily, the film was bought by distributor Roadside Attractions during the festival and will be released in 2017.

A quieter film than many of the festival biggies, Lady Macbeth is the perfect festival find. Keep it on your radar.

Notes from the queue: My TIFF16 diary

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A significant part of the Toronto International Film Festival experience is waiting in line for screenings to begin. This year, I spent much of that time writing reviews or putting together some brief Facebook posts about my time at the festival. Here are four days of notes, all written the morning after.

Day 1: September 8, 2016

Day one of #TIFF16 is in the books, and it was a solid start. We did not arrive in time to catch any of the early morning biggies (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, LOVING, PATERSON, DANIEL BLAKE), but we did manage to eat pizza at 10 a.m. (win) before I caught Olivier Assayas’s confounding, brilliant PERSONAL SHOPPER. It’s no shock this slow-burn ghost story has proven to be divisive, but it worked wonderfully for me, and it’s another peak for Kristen Stewart. (A woman behind me just described the film as “an incoherent mess.”)
Next was the Cannes hit TONI ERDMANN, a long, long, long but truly lovable comedy about a father and daughter. Madden Ade’s film meanders quite a bit, but it has moments as uproarious and moving as any in recent memory.
Following TONI was Paul Schrader’s unpleasant but admittedly entertaining DOG EAT DOG. It’s a Cleveland-set crime romp starring Nicolas Cage and Willem DaFoe, and it’s exactly what you’d expect. Norway’s PYROMANIAC could’ve used some of Schrader’s lurid passion — it’s a repetitive and dull account of a serial arsonist.
Now on to day two, starting with Tom Ford’s NOCTURNAL ANIMALS … One thing is certain: Everyone on screen will be better dressed than me.

 

Day 2: September 9, 2016

Brief rundown of #TIFF16 day two — brief because I’m now exhausted: Tom Ford’s NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is my favorite of the fest so far, a razor-sharp, (predictably) stylish, uniquely funny film that feels like De Palma plus Hitchcock divided by, well, Tom Ford. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Amy Adams and Michael Shannon at the top of the list.
My Amy Adams marathon continued with ARRIVAL, a strong, cerebral sci-fi drama with surprising emotional impact. There’s always one film at TIFF that makes me really miss my kids, and this year, it’s ARRIVAL.
The somber kids’ film A MONSTER CALLS was ambitious but way too familiar, and left me cold. Paul Verhoeven’s ELLE, on the other hand, was a wildly entertaining, utterly provocative gem. Isabelle Huppert gives the most memorably complex performance I’ve seen this year.
The day ended with so-so crime thriller/family drama hybrid TRESPASS AGAINST US, a film I’ll be reviewing soon for The Film Stage.
I’m now seated for a British entry called LADY MACBETH, and the day will also include THE BIRTH OF A NATION, VOYAGE OF TIME, and at least one more TBD … On with it!

 

Day 3: September 10, 2016

It’s my fourth and final day at #TIFF16, and it follows an interesting Saturday, to say the least.
I started with LADY MACBETH, a very dark period piece not based on Shakespeare, but featuring a heroine who would make Lady M. proud. It’s unsettling and fascinating to watch where this film goes.
I followed with Nate Parker’s controversial THE BIRTH OF A NATION, a film with moments of great power but occasionally clumsy execution. I’d call it good but not great, and that’s without even considering the moral issues Parker’s past.
Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY is more of the same — more breathy voiceover (this time from Cate Blanchett), more stunning imagery, more Malick in every way. It’s not a satisfying experience, although perhaps the shorter IMAX version will be.
TIFF added a late-night press screening of the acclaimed MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, so I skipped Park Chan-wook’s THE HANDMAIDEN to attend. (I already skipped the latest from Wim Wenders due to fatigue, hunger, and disinterest.) Kenneth Lonergan’s MANCHESTER was worth the schedule change — it’s an emotionally devastating winner in every way. There’s lots of weeping, and yes, it made me weepy. Casey Affleck highlights a uniformly strong cast.
Today includes Rooney Mara in UNA (watch for my review for The Film Stage), buzzed coming-of-age drama MOONLIGHT, Cannes’ favorite AMERICAN HONEY, and, finally, Natalie Portman in JACKIE. With any luck, I’ll also catch some football while writing today …

 

Day 4: September 11, 2016

My final day at #TIFF16 saw fun times in the order-less line pictured here, but it was worth it: JACKIE, starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, was the finest film I saw at the festival. And that’s saying something, because I saw several masterpieces. In addition to JACKIE, I loved three other films yesterday: Rooney Mara-starrer UNA, stunning coming-of-age drama MOONLIGHT, and the wondrously electric AMERICAN HONEY.
More to come on these and others, but right now it’s time to mow the lawn. (That’s a sure sign I’m home from the fest.)

#TIFF16 starts tomorrow … and I’ll be there

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My friend Jared Mobarak and I head north tomorrow morning, so make sure to keep up with the fun on Twitter. I’ll also be posting at BuffaloSpree.com, writing a feature for the November Spree, reviewing a couple TIFF selections for The Film Stage (if all goes according to plan, Una and Trespass Against Us), and one for The Playlist (Werewolf).

It’s all on … in less than 24 hours.