Yes, it’s almost time for TIFF16: Analyzing the first batch of announcements

La La Land; courtesy of TIFF

La La Land; courtesy of TIFF

TIFF16 is almost upon us … so I wrote about the festival’s first announcements for BuffaloSpree.com. The piece went live on July 27, hence the title, “42 days till TIFF16
Analyzing the first batch of Toronto Film Fest announcements.”

And we’re off … The fall festival season has begun. OK, it’s still July. But once the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) holds its introductory press conference, announcements begin to leak for fests in Venice and New York, and Telluride rumors begin, it’s clear the attention of cinephiles has moved on from summer cinema to autumn Oscar hopefuls.

TIFF15 was a fine festival, with highlights like eventual award winners Spotlight and Room, delights like Brooklyn and The Martian, and high-profile disappointments like Black Mass. At this point it’s too early to judge the TIFF16 lineup, especially since the eventual lineup will number around 300 (!).

Admittedly, the announcement of The Magnificent Seven as this year’s opening film is likely to disappoint all but the star-crazy folks who line up along King Street for a glimpse of celebrities. Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 western is an iffy proposition — the director’s last film was the justifiably forgotten The Equalizer— but it does star Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. The festival’s opening films are notoriously a mixed bag, but it’s especially hard to summon much enthusiasm for Seven.

Still, the list of forty-nine Special Presentations and nineteen Gala Presentations includes numerous highlights. Consider just a few of the films announced for this year’s festival, running from September 8 to 18:

  • La La Land: Director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was one of 2014’s finest films. His hugely anticipated follow-up starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land, could not look more enticing. A musical set in modern Los Angeles, the film boasts one of the most striking trailers in ages.
  • Nocturnal Animals: Designer Tom Ford made a startling debut as a director with 2009’s A Single Man, and his second feature is ridiculously star-packed: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Michael Sheen. Intrigued? If not, try the plot summary: “[T]he story of a woman who is forced to confront the demons of her past, as she is drawn into the world of a thriller novel written by her ex-husband.” Yes, you’re in, and so am I.
  • American Pastoral: Ewan McGregor is close to the last person I would’ve pictured as Philip Roth’s “Swede” Levov. But to McGregor’s credit, he found a way to bring the 1960s-set Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to life with himself as director and star. Considering how long it’s taken to see Pastoral hit the big screen, I’m willing to accept Obi-Wan as “Swede.”
  • A United Kingdom: Belle, Amma Asante’s 2013 hit, was a moving period drama. For her next effort, A United Kingdom, she has lined up two great actors — Selma’s David Oyelowo and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike. It’s the “true story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.” Sounds like another fascinating historical film.

In addition to those four, there are recent Cannes’ favorites like Toni Erdman and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, buzzed-about Sundance smashes Manchester by the Sea and Birth of a Nation, and some real question marks. (Woody Harrelson as LBJ? Directed by Rob Reiner? Hmm.)

The Canadian lineup will be announced at a press conference next week, and plenty more announcements will arrive during the next month-plus. Fingers crossed for Kristen Stewart-starrer Personal Shopper, Oasis documentary Supersonic, and Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake.

Is it September 8 yet?

Pondering ‘Ghostbusters’: A film as fun — and as essential — as anything else in 2016

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“Ghostbusters” is as deliriously pleasurable as any film I’ve seen in 2016. And I say that with no hesitation. It is, in fact, as good as the flawed but ever-watchable originals, and in some ways even superior.

Yes, the world-building can be a bit much, the villain is lame and poorly conceived, the cameos are fun but almost overwhelming, the adherence to the original film, especially, is a bit too snug. (Thrown out of the college/PO’ing the mayor/etc.)

But it’s FUN. And FUNNY. And so much smarter than its trailers, and its prerelease buzz, might have you believe.

The greatness of Kate McKinnon has been well-documented (and very well, by the likes of Wired and Vulture), but let me join the chorus: her Holtzmann is one of the most utterly delightful creations in recent cinema. You can’t take your eyes off her, and that’s due to McKinnon’s charisma. I have not been a “Saturday Night Live” watcher for some time now, so this was my first KM experience. My goodness. (I’ve been scouring YouTube for the clip of her lip-syncing DeBarge, but no such luck.)

All four leads are quite good, especially Leslie Jones, and it would be hard not to relish Chris Hemsworth’s performance as the wonderfully idiotic Kevin. Interestingly, it is the interplay of the four leads that I’ll most remember. The same is true of 1984’s “Ghostbusters,” a film that works so well mainly because of the charms of its cast and the novelty of its concept. The effects and the story were adequate, at best; the same is true of “Ghostbusters” 2016. And that’s fine. (Several reviews criticized the effects-laden finale. Um, it’s “Ghostbusters.” That’s pretty much how things are going to end.)

It pains me that many will remember the 2016 “Ghostbusters” mainly for the absurd, inane culture-war horseshit that’s swirled around the film for months. I feel sorry for the haters, those whose misogyny or backwards sense of nostalgia keeps them from seeing and appreciating something so joyful. It’s their loss.

Driving home after the film, I realized what makes “Ghostbusters,” for me, such a profound success: It’s something that 5 or 10 or 15 years from now I can imagine watching with both my daughter and my son, and finding as enjoyable as I do now. But more than that, I can see my daughter loving the fact that onscreen are four women who are presented as something beyond The Girlfriend/The Wife/The Secretary. They are the heroes, and they are science nerds, and they are hilarious. It’s probably clichéd to say that I’m more cognizant of such things after having a daughter. But it’s true. Today, I see more clearly than I may have before exactly why these representations are downright essential. And above all other reasons, that’s why “Ghostbusters” is a landmark summer blockbuster. Regardless of how much money it earns or what the final critic consensus may be, this is important. This means something.

Other random thoughts:

  • Loved the “Bababooey” shout near the end, surely wedged in by Stern Show super-fan Paul Feig.
  • The blink-and-you-miss-it tribute to Harold Ramis felt more resonant than any of the cameos, actually.
  • I truly hope the film’s box office is strong enough to earn a sequel. Similar to the upcoming follow-up to “The Force Awakens,” the set-up is complete. Now Feig and company can go in whatever direction they’d like.
  • Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon.

July Coming Attractions: The dog days of summer are perfect for screenings

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July is not over! Only half over. I neglected to post my June Buffalo Spree Coming Attractions column, but July is updated the web and ready for your enjoyment.

The summer film series lineup is now in full swing, and there’s no better place for us to start our look at what’s on tap this month than Canalside.

Tuesday Night Flix at Canalside

It’s hard to think of a lovelier spot to watch a film than at Canalside, so the return of the Catholic Health-sponsored free outdoor film series is cause for celebration. The series started on June 14 and continues into September, and July’s lineup is relatively varied, and generally family friendly: The animated mouse immigration saga (!) An American Tail on July 5, the first Pirates of the Caribbean entry on July 12, Pixar’sFinding Nemo on July 19, and last summer’s dino sequel Jurassic World on July 26. The fine folks from Young Audiences Western New York (YAWNY) will offer up a special craft for the kids on select nights. In July, these are set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. (pre-movie) on July 5, 19, and 26. Note that Adirondack chairs are available for the first hundred guests. So, yeah. It pays to arrive early. (8:30 p.m. on July 5, 12, 19, and 26 on Pierce Lawn at Canalside; canalsidebuffalo.com)

A Twist of Lemmon, starring Chris Lemmon

The Fredonia Opera House offers an intimate opportunity to learn about the late Jack Lemmon on July 15. TheSome Like It Hot star’s son Chris presents a live performance called A Twist of Lemmon that features stories about his father’s work, his relationships with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Walter Matthau, and songs from Hollywood’s golden age. It’s a unique presentation that also includes a Q-and-A. (7:30 p.m. on July 15 at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Free Outdoor Movie at Chestnut Ridge Park

Chestnut Ridge played an important role in my young life, as a place to sled, run around, and play. I love that the Park continues to find new ways to draw in families, year-round. The latest example is a July 24 screening of Pixar’s The Incredibles. The witty superhero romp is as strong now as it was in 2004, and best of all? The screening is free. (9:15-11:30 p.m. on July 24 at Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park; chestnutridgeconservancy.org)

Films at the Library

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system offers up two unique series this summer. The first, appropriately titled “The Dog Days of Summer,” will feature only films about canines. I’m down with that, especially if this list does not include Jim Belushi’s K-9. (The lineup has not yet been announced.) Meanwhile, the Town of Collins Public Library has mounted a Shakespeare Film Fest, and has scheduled three diverse picks for July. First is Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren, on July 12. The Twelfth Night-inspired teen romp She’s the Man, starring the now-MIA Amanda Bynes, screens on July 19. And Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society remains a fine film about the impact of the Bard’s work, as well as a showcase for the dramatic talents of the late Robin Williams. It screens on July 26. (“Dog Days of Summer”: 5 p.m. on July 7, 14, 21, and 28 at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Sq.; Shakespeare Film Fest: 6 p.m. on July 12, 19, and 26 at Town of Collins Public Library, 2341 Main St., Collins; buffalolib.org)

Free Outdoor Family Movie Night and Kids PajamaParty at Green Acres Ice Cream

Every Tuesday from July 5 to August 23, Depew’s Green Acres Ice Cream features a free family film. The schedule includes some of the biggest animated hits of the last year-plus: Minions on July 5, The Peanuts Movie on July 12, Zootopia on July 19, and The Good Dinosaur on July 26. (Movies start at dusk at 4357 Broadway, Depew; greenacresicecream.com)

Grand Island Movies in the Park

How does a free outdoor film series stand out in the busy WNY marketplace? The Grand Island Movies in the Park series pulls it off by pairing one for the kids and one for the teens. Pixar’s classic Finding Nemo screens at 9 p.m. on July 30, followed by Independence Day at 11 p.m. This is a clever double-bill, since sequels to both films were released on June 17 and June 24, respectively. (The series started on June 25 with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Marvel blockbuster Captain America: Winter Soldier.) (coreymcgowan.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—Planet of the Apes

There have been seven—seven!—Planet of the Apes films since the iconic 1968 original, and the quality is spotty at best. But there is no denying the pleasures of that first film starring Charlton Heston. The ongoing Turner Classic Movies Big Screen Classics series presents the film this month, and twenty bucks says it’s as entertaining as any new film released in the month of July. (2 and 7 p.m. on July 24 and 27 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Silo City Blockbuster—Rocky III and Creed

queaky Wheel brings two films in the ongoing Rocky Balboa saga to Silo City for a very special (and free) double bill on the weekend preceding the Fourth of July. While the quality of Rocky III is debatable, the third chapter in the battle between Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed is certainly fun. (Mr. T!) Last year’s Creed, however, is undoubtedly great. The film about Creed’s son Adonis (the great Michael B. Jordan) and an aged Balboa is heartfelt and utterly crowd-pleasing. (Rocky III at 9 p.m., Creed at 11 p.m., at Silo City, 87 Childs St.; squeaky.org)

Roycroft Film Society—Phoenix

The Roycroft has scheduled one of the finest foreign films of recent years for its July screening. Director Christian Petzold’s post-World War II drama is the story of a concentration camp survivor’s attempt to reconnect with the (non-Jewish) husband who believes she is dead, and to learn whether he betrayed her to the Nazis. The performances from stars Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld are stunners, and the final scene will leave you breathless. (4 p.m. on July 10 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora;roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Bacchus Summer Film Series

The truly unique summer film series held on the back patio at downtown favorite Bacchus offers a typically varied July lineup—some Dude, some Amy Schumer, some Kung-Fu, some Pixar: The Jerk (July 6),Trainwreck (July 7), The Big Lebowski (July 13), Ghost (July 14), The Incredibles (July 17), Dazed and Confused (July 20), The Princess Bride (July 21), Drunken Master (July 22), The Breakfast Club (July 27), andKnocked Up (July 28). (Dusk at 56 W. Chippewa St.; bacchusbuffalo.com.)

Cultivate Cinema Circle

CCC’s summer season runs into September, and July features two fascinating documentaries. First, however, is one of the greatest and most important films of the 1960s: Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders. Featuring Godard’s then-wife Anna Karina, this French New Wave highlight is almost as influential as the filmmaker’s 1960 classic Breathless. Next is Doug Block’s The Kids Grow Up (July 21), an intimate portrait of his daughter featuring footage filmed throughout her adolescence. The month concludes with Do Not Resist, a sobering look at American police culture. (Outsiders: 7 p.m. July 7 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; Kids: 7 p.m. on July 21 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; Resist: 8 p.m. on July 27 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Amherst Youth and Recreation Department 2016 Summer Movie Series

Little yellow things, feelings, glass slippers, and a very likable sheep make up the July Amherst Youth and Recreation list. The outdoor series features Minions on July 8, Inside Out on July 15, Cinderella on July 22, and Shaun the Sheep on July 29. (9 p.m. on July 8, 15, 22, and 29 at Clearfield Community Center, 730 Hopkins Rd., Williamsville; amherstyouthandrec.org)

The Screening Room

As usual, Amherst’s Screening Room is full of more treats than I can mention, so visit screeningroom.net for the full listing. Highlights include the Marilyn Monroe-starring, Niagara Falls-filmed (and set) thriller Niagara and the acclaimed Anthony Weiner-centered documentary Weiner on July 1 and 2. (Both films began their Screening Room runs in June.) Being AP, a documentary about horse-racing legend AP McCoy, screens on July 7. And July also features the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy Silver Streak, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and a film noir double bill. The latter includes Edgar G. Ulmer’s deliciously nasty 1945 Tom Neal-starrer,Detour. It was notoriously shot in six days, and has more imagination than most blockbusters. (3131 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

 

Also screening this month …

Fathom Events has a number of screenings on tap at the at the Regal Elmwood Center and the Regal Transit Center. In addition to the aforementioned ApesThe Met: Live in HD presents La Bohème on July 13 and Così fan tutte on July 20, both at 7 p.m. And audiences can explore history, spirituality, architecture and art in St. Peter’s and the Papal Basilicas of Rome at 7 p.m. on July 14. Visit fathomevents.com for details.

The Dipson Amherst Theatre presents Rigoletto from the Opera de Paris at 11 a.m. on July 24 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre (3500 Main St.; dipsontheatres.com).

Artist/filmmaker Marshall Arisman presents his documentary A Postcard from Lily Dale at 7:30 p.m. on July 29 at the Fredonia Opera House (fredopera.org).

The Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls offers five free outdoor screenings on Fridays in July: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on July 1, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on July 8, The Breakfast Club on July 15,Grease on July 22, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on July 29. All films are shown in Seneca Square. (senecaniagaracasino.com)