New to Blu-ray: Leos Carax’s ‘The Lovers on the Bridge’

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Leos Carax’s The Lovers on the Bridge is, quite simply, one of my favorite films. So I was thrilled to write about Kino’s new Blu-ray release for The Film Stage.

The Lovers on the Bridge (Leos Carax)

Nine years before the fin de siècle came the brutal romance of Leos Carax’s The Lovers on the Bridge — well, nine years if you lived in France. American audiences could not experience Carax’s wounded, fragile love story until 1999, just one more bit of controversy for an already controversial film. Thankfully, Lovers now has a rightful place amongst the classics of the twentieth century. Starring Carax’s frequent leading man Denis Lavant as a street performer and a twentysomething Juliette Binoche as a one-eyed artist, it’s a film as noteworthy for its locale — Paris’s Pont Neuf bridge — as it is for its acting. Nevertheless, Lavant and Binoche are breathtaking, just like the glorious fireworks that explode during the film. Kino Lorber’s stunning Blu-ray release features a wonderfully insightful essay by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky as well as a fine video essay by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin. But the real treat is the film itself, a crucial effort from the filmmaker who would find his greatest success with 2012’s Holy Motors. While the latter is one of the most memorable efforts of the last decade, there’s no question that The Lovers on the Bridge is Carax’s mightiest achievement. – Christopher S.

INTERVIEW: Hirokazu Kore-eda on Fatherhood, Typhoons, and ‘After the Storm’

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It was truly an honor to interview (by email) director Hirokazu Kore-eda for The Film Stage.

There is no filmmaker in the world more attuned to the complexities of family life than Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda. Consider the emotional upheaval that faces the parents and children of 2013’s Like Father, Like Son, or the relationship between the sisters of 2015’s Our Little Sister. Koreeda’s latest film following those two gems, After the Storm, continues his warm but ever-truthful gaze at what bonds people together. (Film Movement opens Storm on March 17 in New York and Los Angeles.)

Set against the backdrop of an approaching typhoon, Storm is the story of a failing author (Hiroshi Abe) struggling to pay his child support, and his attempts at rebuilding relationships with his son (Taiyo Yoshizawa) and ex-wife (Yoko Maki). As sweet and funny as the last two great Kore-eda films, Storm also has the sharp insight of earlier masterpieces like Nobody Knows and Still Walking.

Currently working on his next film, Kore-eda answered some brief questions about Storm, working with his “alter-ego” Hiroshi Abe, and his experience directing child actors.

The Film Stage: After the Storm continues your focus on the shifting dynamics of family. What drew you to this story of a father and son, and this stage of their lives?

Hirokazu Kore-eda: I wanted to depict the concept of fatherhood with this film. [In addition], I wanted to make a film that cuts out a part of one’s long life. I think a part of life is better.

Did the idea of the typhoon come before or after the rest of the story?

I had the idea of a typhoon from the very beginning. I actually started to write the script on the night of a typhoon. After my father passed away, my mother started living by herself in the housing complex where I grew up. When I went back home for the New Year, I noticed the changes. The kids had left, and only the trees had remained and grown up. Seeing this gave me the idea to make a film about the housing complex. The first scene that came to mind was a walk through the complex with grass that had become very beautiful in the morning after a typhoon. Since I was a child I’ve always wondered why the complex was so beautiful after a typhoon. Though nothing changes, it seems like a complete transformation happened overnight. I wanted to describe that moment… Although a typhoon can destroy ordinary life, in most cases it purifies everyday living.

You work so well with children, in this case actor Taiyo Yoshizawa. Do you direct your young actors differently than your adult actors?  Are there any other filmmakers whose work with children has influenced your approach?

Usually I don’t provide a script to kid actors. I only explain to them the setting of a scene and give them the dialogue verbally without telling them the whole story of the film. I don’t know if I am influenced by others, but if so, it’d be Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s films, Ken Loach’s Kes, and Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer.

You’ve worked with Hiroshi Abe before. What made him right for this role?

In my 40s and 50s, I identified with the roles that Abe played in Still Walking and the TV series Going Home, so he is special for me. He is like my alter-ego. After Still Walking, both of us became fathers, and I think this is reflected in our characters. I think it’s wonderful that a director, an actor, and the roles we create grow up together.

Your films are known for their emotional impact, but also their warmth. When dealing with a drama such as After the Storm, how do you juggle the heavier, dramatic elements with the humor that’s also a trademark of your work?

I want to add the serious sequences into scenes of ordinary living. I think people tend to laugh when they want to cry. It applies to the feelings of characters and audiences as well.

What can you tell us about your upcoming film, The Third Murder?

I’m still in the process of editing the film, but the story is about an attorney, a murderer, and the family of a victim.

A venerable festival, more Thursday Night terror, and Vertov’s masterpiece, deconstructed (from the March Buffalo Spree)

The Women’s Balcony, ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016, will be shown at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival. COURTESY OF THE BUFFALO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

The Women’s Balcony, ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016, will be shown at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival.
COURTESY OF THE BUFFALO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

My March Buffalo Spree column opens with an always fascinating film fest.

Film screenings are back in full swing this month following a bit of a post-holiday lull in January and February. Hollywood unleashes some biggies, as well, including a new King Kong entry (Kong: Skull Island) and a live-action Beauty and the Beast from Disney. But if you are looking for truly unique offerings, you’ll find them on this list.

Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival: It is year thirty-two for BIJFF, making it one of the area’s longest-lasting film festivals. It’s a yearly treat, really, one featuring scores of unique films, many which are making their local debuts. As with past festivals, the 2017 installment opens with a kick-off party. Scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 6 at the Screening Room (the Boulevard Mall, 880 Alberta Drive in Amherst), the evening will include a movie snack buffet station, beverages (cash bar), a film, and one free ticket to any other film during BIJFF. The festival itself starts on March 17 and runs through March 23, with all screenings at the Dipson Amherst Theatre. The lineup features a number of gems, including A Borrowed Identity, the story of a Palestinian Israeli teenager who attends a Jewish boarding school; The Women’s Balcony, a dramedy about a close-knit congregation that ranked as Israel’s highest-grossing film in 2016; and Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, a documentary about the creator of All in the Family and Good Times. Check bijff.com for plot summaries and times. (Kick-off party at 7 p.m. on March 6; festival March 17-23 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; bijff.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Mustang: One of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the eighty-eighth Academy Awards, director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s film tells the moving story of five sisters living in a Turkish village. It’s an emotional powerhouse with a memorable conclusion, and a fine Roycroft Film Society selection. (4 p.m. on March 12 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Buffalo Film Seminars: Three unique foreign classics are featured in this month’s Buffalo Film Seminars lineup. (There is no film on March 21.) First is Robert Bresson’s heartbreaking Au Hasard Balthazar on March 7, the unforgettable story of a donkey’s sad life and death. The 1972 Iranian film Downpour, directed by Bahram Beizai, screens on March 14. Lastly is Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala on March 28. The Russian language film was the great director’s comeback success after a difficult period that even included a suicide attempt. (7 p.m. on March 7, 21, and 28 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)

Old Chestnut Film Society—Dreamboat: This 1952 comedy stars Clifton Webb and Ginger Rogers. (7:30 p.m. on March 10 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)

Thursday Night Terrors—The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Now this is unmissable. The best known film in the second series of Thursday Night Terrors is Tobe Hooper’s still-disturbing horror classic about grave-robbing cannibals. It still frightens, and it still looks quite unlike any other film. (7:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)

Renee Lear—Every Shot from Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera as an Animated GIF: Here is a fascinating project featured in March and April at Hallwalls, in which the video artist and filmmaker reorganizes the 1929 silent film Man with a Movie Camera as a series of animated GIFs. For more on the Torontonian’s work, visit reneelear.com. (March 10-April 28 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.; hallwalls.org)

TCM Big Screen Classics—All About Eve: There few films sharper than All About Eve, the gloriously “bumpy” tale of veteran Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and upstart Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The latest installment in the ongoing TCM Big Screen Classics series film will be shown in its original aspect ratio. (2 and 7 p.m. on March 5 and 8 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at the Riviera Theatre: North Tonawanda’s Riviera started a Harry Potter film series in January, and the eighth film brings it all to a close on March 12. Deathly Hollows Part 2 is the rare final installment that truly satisfies, and does so with vivid action and real emotional depth. It culminates in a final scene that wonderfully calls back the original film, while looking ahead to the future. (Doors open at 2:30 p.m., film begin at 3 p.m. on March 12 at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Family-Friendly Film Series: The library’s Crane Branch hosts a family-friendly film on the second Saturday of every month. Call 883-6651 for info on this month’s selection. (11 a.m. on March 11 at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Crane Branch, 633 Elmwood Ave.; buffalolib.org)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live from the Opéra National de Paris at the Dipson Amherst: This month’s simulcast is George Balanchine’s ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer. (2 p.m. on March 27 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Sword Art Online—The Movie: The hit anime series Sword Art Online comes to the big screen for a one-night-only movie event. Visit fathomevents.com for the rest of the Fathom Events lineup. (8 p.m. on March 9 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Fredonia Opera House— The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism: The Opera House presents a high-definition production exploring the exhibition “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement” at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut. Also scheduled this month are simulcasts of La Traviata and Idomeneo, on March 11 and 25, respectively. (7:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Focus 45—Tim Wagner, Film Projection 101: Film technician Tim Wagner will discuss motion picture projection skills in the digital age in this special talk. (Noon on March 11 at the Curtis Theatre at the George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave., Rochester; eastman.org)

The Seasons in Quincy—Four Portraits of John Berger at Hallwalls: If there is one absolute must-see in March, it is the March 7 Hallwalls’ screening of The Seasons in Quincy—Four Portraits of John Berger. This collection of four essay films serves as a fitting study of Berger, the storyteller who just passed away in January. Actress Tilda Swinton is among the filmmakers involved in the project, which explores Berger’s time as a farmer in the remote Alpine village of Quincy. The Seasons was an extraordinarily ambitious five-year project, and this Buffalo screening is tremendously exciting. (7:30 p.m. on March 7 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.;hallwalls.org)

Weekend Matinees and Ice Guardians at the North Park: The North Park’s ongoing matinee series kicks off the month with Belle and Sebastian, but please note that this is not a concert film featuring the wonderfully twee Scottish legends behind the classic album If You’re Feeling Sinister. No, this is a 2013 French family film about a plucky orphan and his dog. It screens at 11:30 a.m. on March 4 and 5. Next up, on March 11 and 12, is 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, a film based on the long-running superhero series that nineties kids adore. Outside of the weekend matinee realm is Ice Guardians, a documentary scheduled for a special screening at 9:30 p.m. on March 15. This look at the tough road face by many National Hockey League enforcers has drawn great acclaim. (North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—The State I Am In: CCC’s four-film retrospective of the early films from director Christian Petzold begins on March 1 with 2000’s The State I Am In. This story of two ex-terrorists in hiding in Brazil with their teenage daughter sounds like another bold work from the filmmaker behind two recent masterpieces, Barbara and Phoenix. (7 p.m. on March 1 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.;cultivatecinemacircle.com)

“Throwback Thursdays” at the Riviera: It’s hard to argue with any of the selections in the Riviera Theatre’s latest screening series. February featured the likes of Gone With the Wind and Casablanca, while this month includes greats like Singin’ in the Rain (March 2), Citizen Kane (March 9), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (March 16), and Funny Girl (March 23). (7 p.m. on March 2, 9, 16, and 23 at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda;rivieratheatre.org)

The Screening Room: A typically packed Screening Room schedule begins on March 2 with a one-night only screening of the documentary Dying Laughing. This exploration of stand-up comedy features heavyweights like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, and Sarah Silverman. Returning to the Screening Room on March 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11 is the beloved Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rounding out March is your grandmother’s favorite film, The Sound of Music. It screens on March 25 and 26. (Check screeningroom.net for times; all events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)

My Oscar stats: 12/24 …

So … I did not do well with my Oscar predictions. I came in at 50% correct, 12 out of 24. But I DID have a better night than that accountant who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope.

=============================

 

BEST PICTURE

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

=============================

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

=============================

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

=============================

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

=============================

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

=============================

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

=============================

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

=============================

COSTUME DESIGN

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

=============================

DIRECTING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America

13th

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

=============================

FILM EDITING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

=============================

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

=============================

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls

Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

“City Of Stars” from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story

Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

=============================

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

=============================

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

=============================

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

=============================

SOUND EDITING

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

=============================

SOUND MIXING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

=============================

VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

=============================

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

=============================

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

My predictions for the 89th Academy Awards

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As in recent years, I contributed some Oscar picks along with Jared Mobarak and Bill Altreuter for Buffalo Vibe. Here are the rest of my predictions. Please note this is what I THINK will win, not what I WANT to win. (My predictions are italicized.)

 

=============================

 

BEST PICTURE

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

=============================

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

=============================

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

=============================

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

=============================

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

=============================

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

=============================

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

=============================

COSTUME DESIGN

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

=============================

DIRECTING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America

13th

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

=============================

FILM EDITING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

=============================

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

=============================

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls

Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

“City Of Stars” from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story

Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

=============================

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

=============================

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

=============================

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

=============================

SOUND EDITING

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

=============================

SOUND MIXING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

=============================

VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

=============================

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

=============================

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Buffalo’s Peter Vullo zeroes in on our national mood — and it goes viral (for BuffaloSpree.com)

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This was kind of fun. My friend Peter Vullo saw a post of his go viral, and spoke to me about how it happened for BuffaloSpree.com.

So this is how a viral post happens: At 1:42 p.m. on Sunday, January 29, Buffalo native Peter Vullo made a Facebook post that nicely summarized the mindset of a great many residents of Donald Trump’s America. Captioned “2017 starter pack,” the simple but hugely effective image displayed three books — George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 — along with a Blu-ray of John Carpenter’s mind-bending cult classic, They Live

As of 12:00 p.m. on February 1, the post had been shared … more than 19,000 times. Yes, more than 19,000 times in three days. Meanwhile, the post continues to make waves on Twitter and Instagram, as well.

Vullo, an assistant manager at the Amherst Dipson Theater and curator of the popular Thursday Night Terrors screening series, is still reeling from what’s transpired in such a short period of time. Here, he talks about how the post came together, and why he chose these books and this film.

 

So … what are you thinking right now? This is crazy.

I’m in disbelief, honestly. I don’t think anyone ever expects one of their posts to go viral. At least, I didn’t. It’s a weird thing to watch unfold. I was having a regular day at work while this post was getting thousands of shares, and I’m wondering, “What in the world is happening?” It’s one thing to witness it happen to someone else, but to be in the middle of it is something else entirely. It’s hard to process. At a certain point, you feel as though it doesn’t belong to you anymore.

You can’t plan it. It just happens, and social media does the rest. It also says a lot about the zeitgeist of our current time — what people are thinking, what people are feeling. It’s strange.

 

You really nailed the four picks. Did they come to you right away? And was this any kind of planned photo, or just a quick idea?

Well, They Live has been on my mind a lot lately because of the Thursday Night Terrors screening of the film we did a few days ago. It felt like exactly the right movie at the right time.  John Hurt passed away recently, so the film version of 1984 in which he starred came to mind as well. It was a combination of those and just keeping up on current events. Without getting too explicitly political, it feels like a strange and important time in our culture. There’s a feeling that we’re living in history at the moment — that books will be written about this particular time.

1984Animal FarmFahrenheit 451, and They Live have all been culturally significant for decades and decades, of course. They’re always relevant. Sometimes we just need a reminder. I think 2016 into 2017 was that reminder.

I post photos of movies and whatnot all the time on social media. I didn’t think anything of it. It’s just something I do. So, I gathered up those books and the movie, which were front and center on my shelf, and took a picture. It just caught fire, inexplicably, and gained momentum.

 

What kind of responses have you received?

People have given me lots of other titles to add to the list: Brave New WorldThe Handmaid’s TaleV for Vendetta,Idiocracy. Perhaps a second photo is in order.

 

Has anyone asked if your starter pack is for sale? Because I think there’s a real market for it…

I believe 1984Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451 are all back on the top sellers list! Amazon and other outlets can’t seem to keep them in stock either. It’s great to see people interested in reading again.

I do have some plans for something involving one of the books in the stack. It’s hush-hush at the moment, but it could be very interesting. It will have some things in common with They Live …

Sugar-free Treats for Movie Lovers (from Forever Young)

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I enjoyed writing my first feature in years for Forever Young, Buffalo Spree’s ancillary publication for readers over 50.

For couples, finding a unique Valentine’s Day gift can be an extremely difficult task. One idea? Zero in on one of your partner’s passions. If those include cinema, consider one of the books, soundtracks, or DVDs/Blu-ray discs listed here.

 

Books for Cinephiles

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)

Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, a hilarious and touching look at her life as Star Wars icon Princess Leia, was a must-read even before the sudden, shocking passing of its author in December. (Fisher’s death, of course, was followed by the equally tragic loss of her mother, Debbie Reynolds.) It is even more poignant now.

Buy it at all major bookstores and amazon.com.

The Art of Selling Movies by John McElwee (GoodKnight Books)

Anyone with an interest in classic cinema will adore The Art of Selling Movies, a 300-page treat packed with photos and vintage advertisements. Featuring everyone from Valentino and Pickford to Bardot and Hitchcock, this is a wonderfully entertaining and insightful coffee table tome.

Buy it at amazon.com.

Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage by Robert S. Bader (Northwestern University Press)

Bader’s book highlights a fascinating, little-known segment of the Marx Brothers’ career, the twenty-five years the foursome spent on stage. He traces the comic legends’ road from live performance (Groucho made his debut in 1905) to big-screen successes.

Buy it at marxbrothers.net.

Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen (GoodKnight Books)

It’s hard to find new ground to cover when discussing the personal life of a legendary figure like Jimmy Stewart, but author Robert Matzen pulls it off in Mission. This thoroughly researched text explores the actor’s wartime exploits, and the effect these experiences had on his later life and career.

Buy it at amazon.com or goodknightbooks.com.

 

DVD/Blu-ray Delights

His Girl Friday (Criterion)

Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday still holds up, and then some. This comic adaptation of The Front Page starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell is as funny today as it was upon release, and with this high-definition restoration, it has never looked or sounded better.

Buy it at criterion.com or amazon.com.

Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition (Sony)

Tom Cruise gave his best performance in Jerry Maguire, the sports-agent romantic comedy that that gave the world the phrase, “Show me the money!” It remains a surprisingly poignant film, and this Best Buy exclusive Blu-ray limited edition offers a fine reason to revisit.

Buy it at Best Buy or bestbuy.com.

 

Must-Own Soundtracks

La La Land (Interscope)

La La Land might have been 2016’s most purely enjoyable film, and the music is a key element of its appeal. Stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone acquit themselves nicely in this witty, moving homage to Hollywood musicals. The songs by Justin Hurwitz are smart and satisfying, especially “City of Stars” and the anthemic “Another Day of Sun.”

Buy it in stores and on amazon.com.

Jackie (Milan Records)
The musical score for this Natalie Portman-starring film about Jackie Kennedy is strange, haunting, and fascinating—just like the film itself. Composer Mica Levi’s work here is astoundingly original.

Buy it on amazon.com.

 

Looking for a Rental?

Looking for something a bit less expensive? Consider one of the following films now available to rent from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, or Redbox.

Deepwater Horizon

Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell star in this surprisingly involving action film about the biggest oil spill in US history. It’s a disaster film done right, and Russell, especially, is masterful

Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep is predictably wonderful as painfully awful opera singing-heiress Florence Foster Jenkins. However, costars Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg are equally strong in this modest, satisfying film.

Sully
While Sully is no classic, Clint Eastwood’s biography of hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is quite involving and often thrilling. It’s a reminder that there is no actor more capable than Tom Hanks.

You Should Be Watching: Brit Marling’s stunning series ‘The OA’ (for The Buffalo News)

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I was thrilled to ponder Netflix’s “The OA” for The Buffalo News’ “You should be watching column. Brit Marling is, quite simply, my favorite current actor, so I was probably destined to love it. Still, I was unprepared for how invested I became in this stunning series.

The best series of 2016 debuted in full on Dec. 16, just one week after it was announced. Since then, Netflix’s “The OA” has enraptured, overwhelmed, and frustrated viewers nationwide. A highly spiritual, quasi-sci fi drama told in eight parts, “The OA” is the brainchild of two stunningly talented individuals. The series is the latest creation from actress Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij, following the thematically similar 2012 mindbender “Sound of My Voice” and 2013 thriller “The East.” “The OA” represents their finest achievement to date, and it just might be your next pop culture obsession.

Title: “The OA”

Year it began: 2016 (December)

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Who’s in it: Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Emory Cohen, Phyllis Smith, Riz Ahmed, and Alice Krige

Typical episode length: Episodes range between 31 and 71 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 8

Brief plot description: A young woman named Prairie Johnson resurfaces suddenly after being missing for seven years. Blind when she disappeared, Prairie now has the ability to see. She also calls herself “OA,” and has unexplained scars on her back. Slowly, OA begins to tell her story — involving a scientist, an experiment, and similarly missing individuals — to four local high school students and their teacher.

Why it’s worth watching: For fans of the hugely talented Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the announcement that a new series created by the duo was set for release in one week’s time felt like a holiday gift. It became apparent after watching the first couple episodes of “The OA” that this series — a film in eight chapters, really — was even more emotionally resonant and adventurous than the great “Sound of My Voice.” Much of the joy that comes from watching the series comes from the constant story surprises/mega-spoilers that occur, but it can be said that the tale of Prairie Johnson involves near-death experiences, Russian oligarchs, the FBI, high school pressures, and the horrors of sudden imprisonment. In less than a month, “The OA” has earned the crown of most Reddit fan theory-friendly show since “The X Files,” and it shares “Files”’ innate conflict between faith and skepticism. To that end, it must be said that a leap of faith is required. Viewers who choose to buy-in are rewarded with an emotional, dramatically transcendent experience. A key part of this necessary acceptance involves the show’s “Movements,” a series of interpretive dance moves that are strange, a bit silly, and utterly enchanting. It all culminates in an already controversial ending — one critic believes the climax is “tasteless,” and you’ll see why — that is provocative and thrilling. In fact, the second it ends, you’ll have to fight the urge to binge-watch the entire thing all over again. And I guarantee you’ll be Google searching “The OA Season 2.”

Ten reasons why 2017 will be a great year for cinephiles (from January Buffalo Spree)

Tracey B. Wilson, star of Trew Calling, takes a selfie with friends on the BIFF red carpet. PHOTOS BY SUMMER OLIVER

Tracey B. Wilson, star of Trew Calling, takes a selfie with friends on the BIFF red carpet.
PHOTOS BY SUMMER OLIVER

Most of my January “Coming Attractions” column for Buffalo Spree took a look at the year to come. You can check out the usual column online, as well.

January is a rather quiet month for screenings, so it’s a fine time to look at the entire year ahead, and reflect a bit on the previous twelve months. If you love cinema, there’s plenty to be excited about in 2017.

Year eleven for the Buffalo International Film Festival: There was no clearer sign that the Buffalo International Festival was in good hands than its choice of opening film: Tyler Hubby’s documentary Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present. This long-awaited portrait of the experimental filmmaker and University at Buffalo professor was a bold, brilliant pick, and it wasn’t the only festival standout; the partly animated documentary Tower, for example, ranks among 2016’s most acclaimed films. With a great lineup that featured several local productions, some ideal venues (the North Park, Hallwalls, Squeaky Wheel), and visiting filmmakers from around the world, the annual festival was an undeniable success. It was also a fitting tribute to late founder Ed Summer. Speaking to festival programmer John Fink a few days after BIFFX, it was clear the organizers were already thinking of next year: “At our 2017 festival, you’ll find films that might not otherwise screen in WNY front and center on the big screen along with engaging panels and events that celebrate diverse and underrepresented voices, emerging talent, and WNY’s film industry.” BIFF executive director Raymond Guarnieri says the dates for 2017 are set—October 6 to 9—and that the program will be announced in late summer with tickets on sale at buffalointernationalfilmfestival.com in September. (Organizers will once again offer a “Bison Pass” with unlimited screening access. At an advance price of $35, it’s a steal.) If 2016 is any indication, BIFF has officially staked its claim as the local film festival. It’s incredibly exciting to see what transpired this past October, and to ponder what’s to come.

The (expected) release of Marshall: Buffalo was buzzing over the summer with the news that Marshall, director Reginald Hudlin’s film about the early career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was shooting throughout the area. Stars Chadwick Boseman (an actor on the verge of mega-stardom as Marvel’s Black Panther), Kate Hudson, and the rest of the cast had lovely things to say about the Queen City. But when will we actually get to see Marshall on the big screen? As of press time, no date was set. However, distribution rights were already snapped up by Open Road Films, the studio of Oscar winner Spotlight, so a 2017 release is likely.

Diverse pleasures from DipsonDipson Theatres cinemas continue to find a nice balance between older-skewing independent films, hot-button documentaries, and ongoing series like Thursday Night Terrors. Marketing and promotions coordinator Jeremy Mills says some of Dipson’s biggest hits in 2016 involved established longtime favorites: Tom Hanks (Sully), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), Sally Field (Hello, My Name Is Doris), Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van), and, of course, the Beatles (Ron Howard’s hit documentary Eight Days a Week).

Did the switch to larger, reclining seats at the Amherst Dipson help at the box office? It’s certainly possible, especially when it comes to the Buffalo Film Seminars series. But just as pleasing is the success of one-off screenings like the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ doc One More Time With Feeling. “We partnered with Record Theatre to give that screening even more of a ‘live show’ vibe, and they outdid themselves by providing a ‘merch table’ that included the brand new LP and most of Cave’s discography as well,” Mills says, adding, “offering titles that appeal to both music fans and filmgoers is something we’re happy to keep exploring, and we’ve got more music-centric screenings planned with Record Theatre in the near future.” Mills is also excited to see the Cultivate Cinema Circle and Thursday Night Terrors series continue at the Amherst.

A second installment of Thursday Night Terrors: Organizer Peter Vullo’s horror series was a smash, drawing solid audiences for films like Fright Night and The Thing. Vullo says it exceeded all expectations thanks to the passionate community of horror fans in Buffalo. Therefore, another season will be on its way. “I hope to make the series better with each successive screening,” he says. “I think the success of Thursday Night Terrors shows that there’s a place for every genre of film in Buffalo. It’s just a matter of reaching that audience and playing the films they want to see. There’s room to experiment and expand. It’s a beautiful time to be a film lover in Buffalo.”

A busier-than-ever North Park Theatre: The North Park was hot in 2016; October even saw it host a screening of the first presidential debate. In addition to the theater’s usual selection of current independent films, the popular Family Matinee series and ultra-cool Neon Fever will continue. The latter saw screenings of such sci-fi and neo-noir classics as Blade Runner and Akira. Program director Ray Barker says, “2017 will be another exciting year for the North Park. In addition to bringing highly anticipated, Oscar-nominated films early in the year, we plan on bringing a director to the North Park in summer 2017 who was previously nominated for an Academy Award himself.” That’s a very cool teaser.

Comfy seats at the Regal Cinemas: Visitors to the Walden Galleria Mall cinema in recent months know the changeover to big comfy recliners has already taken place. A May Buffalo News article said all area Regal cinemas were expected to have these seats by October 2016, but, as of press time, there were no new updates. Still, you can probably expect to see the Regal theaters in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Orchard Park, and Williamsville getting real comfy real soon.

More treats from the Roycroft Film Society, the Old Chestnut Film Society, the Buffalo Film SeminarsSqueaky WheelHallwalls, etc.: It might seem as if the number of screenings of new, recent, and classic films in the Buffalo area has exploded in recent months. While there are certainly some new kids on the block, the folks mentioned here have been killing it for years. Keep checking this column in print and online for their latest events and screenings.

Another summer of outdoor cinema: From Bacchus to UB to Canalside and beyond, the number of venues offering outdoor screenings is greater than ever before. Watching films under the stars is now a Buffalo tradition.

New offerings from Cultivate Cinema Circle: The most recent CCC season featured a salute to Robert Altman, and the subjects for potential future series include Michael Mann, Alfred Hitchcock, and Roberto Rossellini. CCC organizers Jordan Smith and Jared Mobarak say they plan to continue screenings at the Dipson Amherst, Burning Books, and North Park. They also invite fans to tweet (@CultivateCinema), email (info@cultivatecinemacircle.com), or post (facebook.com/cultivatecinemacircle) suggestions for future films.

The fate of the Market Arcade may (or may not) be determined: So this is not a prediction, merely a hope. Not long after Main Street’s Market Arcade cinema closed its doors in 2014, there was talk of the AMC chain taking over the space. While AMC is an imperfect choice—the spot has always made most sense as a site for independent and small-scale films, rather than Transformers 7—it was nevertheless an exciting development. Fast-forward two years and … nothing. As of late September, a sign on the building still read “The facility is expected to reopen under new ownership by early 2015.” Meanwhile, a now hilariously dated feature in Buffalo Business First from February 2016 stated that “the theater could, potentially, be reopened by late summer or early fall in time to show such anticipated releases as the Ghostbusters reboot, Star Trek Beyond, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.” Insert shoulder-shrugging emoji here. Let’s hope 2017 is the year of the Market Arcade’s rebirth as a site for cinema. Better late than never.

Christopher Schobert’s Top 10 Films of 2016 (for The Film Stage)

jackie-1

It’s always exciting to see my personal top 10 list for 2016 posted at The Film Stage. But it’s always difficult to call it “finished.” Here’s how things stand … at the moment.

Ignore any suggestion that 2016 was not a fantastic year for cinema. Moments linger (the campfire dance in American Honey, the final encounter in Certain Women, the Tracy Letts–Logan Lerman debate in Indignation, the first ten minutes of High-Rise, both “Camelot”-soundtracked sequences in Jackie, any scene that featured Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash) and performances resonate (everyone in Moonlight, Emma Stone in La La Land, Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters).

Choosing ten favorites and five honorable mentions is nasty business; I wish I could have included Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, a ridiculously underrated film that does not deserve to be remembered as a flop. But it just missed the cut. (Also, I was unable to see Silence in time for end-of-year consideration.) What these fifteen films have in common is the ability to surprise, confound, and delight in equal measure. Let’s see 2017 top that.

Honorable Mentions

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10. The Nice Guys (Shane Black)

The Nice Guys

The finest film of summer was Shane Black’s non-blockbuster The Nice Guys, a wildly funny, seriously involving slice of 70s noir. Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and (soon-to-be-a-megastar) Angourie Rice are perfectly cast, and somehow the plotline seems fresh. It is such a satisfying viewing experience, in fact, that I found myself desperately hoping that it would kick off a franchise. That’s not to be, but that’s OK — we have The Nice Guys to enjoy forever.

 

9. A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino)

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From start to finish, A Bigger Splash is beautifully disorienting. This tangled web of relationships and insecurities is highlighted by Tilda Swinton’s (voice-resting) rock star, and, of course, by Ralph Fiennes. He is a delightfully gyrating force of nature who is somehow not a lock for an Oscar nom. You’ll never hear “Emotional Rescue” again without picturing his moves. Even when offscreen, Fiennes’s aging record producer feels deeply involved. Clearly, Splash cements Luca Guadagnino’s place on the list of the world’s most exciting filmmakers.

 

8. Sing Street (John Carney)

sing-street

Like La La Land, the best moments of John Carney’s Sing Street felt charged by an almost relentless sense of positivity. What makes that accomplishment so remarkable is that much of the film is rooted in poverty, heartbreak, and sadness. That sadness, however, is balanced by some gobsmackingly fun music. And in the “Drive Like You Mean It” sequence, Sing Street truly achieves emotional liftoff. The film also takes the crown for must-own soundtrack of 2016.

 

7. American Honey (Andrea Arnold)

American Honey

Where did American Honey come from? It’s hard not to ask that question while watching Andrea Arnold’s film, an almost indescribably exhilarating teenage road movie. A cast of unknowns (and a never-better Shia LaBeouf) excels at making this crew of magazine-hawking teens seem startlingly real. It’s a long journey — over two and a half hours — but never drags. In fact, Honey seems to fly by, so intoxicating is its mix of fiction and (quasi) reality.

 

6. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

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In Paterson, Jim Jarmusch makes the everyday riveting. And much of the credit has to go to Adam Driver, whose bus driver-poet is quite unlike any artist we’ve seen onscreen before. The same can be said of his wife, Laura, played by a luminescent Golshifteh Farahani. It’s the most effortless film of Jarmusch’s career, and certainly the most moving. It also features the most unexpectedly heartbreaking scene of the year, involving Driver, Farahani, a poorly behaved dog named Marvin, and a book of poems.

 

5. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

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The Handmaiden is pure cinema — a tender, moving, utterly believable love story. It’s also a tense, unsettling, erotic masterpiece. There’s a palpable exhilaration that comes from watching this latest film from Park Chan-wook. From its four central performances and twisty script to the cinematography of Chung Chung-hoon and feverish, haunting score by Jo Yeong-wook, The Handmaiden is crafted to take your breath away. It’s hard to imagine a 2016 film with a better look, feel, and sound.

 

4. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)

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Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women is wise, funny, and wholly original. This is the family drama reimagined, in visually intoxicating fashion. The performances stand out, especially Annette Bening and Greta Gerwig. Yet it’s Mills’ script that resonates strongest; there are a few lines from Bening that seem to capture what it truly feels like to be a parent. Interestingly, it seems 20th Century Women is already underrated.

 

3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

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Watching Moonlight is a wondrous experience. This coming-of-age drama following a young African-American male through three complex stages of his life never strikes a wrong note, and it always surprises. Barry Jenkins has crafted something extraordinary here, and it will be fascinating to see what he does next. In the meantime, let’s rewatch Moonlight, a film to be treasured and analyzed for years to come.

 

2. Jackie (Pablo Larrain)

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Pablo Larraín’s Jackie upends the traditional historical drama with bold storytelling, note-perfect performances, and a piercingly smart, emotionally probing script. The film belongs to Natalie Portman, but the entire cast stands out, especially John Hurt. With Jackie (and his other late-2016 release, Neruda), Larrain has deconstructed the film biography, and it’s thrilling to watch. It’s difficult to imagine a film about a recent historical figure that feels as emotionally affecting.

 

1. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

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Damien Chazelle’s Los Angeles-set musical lives up to the the fall festival hype. And my goodness, that’s saying something. Wonderfully unrealistic, even its flaws (and there are a few) are endearing. The songs, the performances from Gosling and Stone (the look on her face when the Messengers’ burst into life in concert might be the most perfect reaction of 2016), and that opening are unforgettable. But these are all topped by its dazzling final sequence, which sees La La Land practically explode with a mixture of joy and melancholy. The result is a film that leaves the viewer in a state of bliss — high on the feeling that comes from great cinema.