Tag Archives: Buffalo Spree

Coming soon! The film issue of Buffalo Spree and ‘Buffalo ’66’ at the North Park


I had the honor of guest-editing the April 2015 “film issue” of Buffalo Spree, and to tie in with the issue, Spree is presenting a special screening of Vincent Gallo’s dark masterpiece “Buffalo ’66” at the North Park Theatre on April 2.

I helped put the screening together, so I cannot wait. I also cannot wait for everyone to see the film issue … More to come on this soon! In the meantime, click here for more info on the screening.

Wilder, Bogdanovich, Jarmusch, and … Luhrmann? It must be Buffalo Film Seminars time


The onset of fall means back to school, and back to the Market Arcade for the Buffalo Film Seminars. The Bruce Jackson- and Diane Christian-hosted series is a Western New York tradition, a screening and discussion of perennial classics (“8 ½”) new greats (“Oldboy,” “Chunking Express”), well-regarded blockbusters (“The Dark Knight”), and some left-field picks (“A Fish Called Wanda”).

Last spring, for example, saw a screening of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate”; as I wrote in Buffalo Spree, “the filmmaker’s follow-up to ‘The Deer Hunter’ [is] the notoriously earth-shattering financial flop that helped sink United Artists. But in the years since, the story of the battle between European immigrants and greedy land barons in nineteenth century Wyoming has undergone something of a critical reevaluation. While some still scoff, for many seasoned viewers, it is now seen as a sumptuous, stunningly ambitious epic. Its status as undervalued masterpiece was confirmed in late 2012 with the Criterion Collection’s remastered release of the film on Blu-ray and DVD. Buffalo Film Seminars’ screening offers an opportunity to look past the years of controversy, and with hosts Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian, view it with fresh eyes.”

Well said, me. I love the idea of Jackson and Christian selecting a film with a mixed reputation.

This fall’s lineup, which kicks off tomorrow with Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer,” is typically eclectic. There are the obvious cinematic masterpieces (“The Grand Illusion,” “Double Indemnity”), some ’70s favorites (“Network,” “The Last Picture Show”), an offbeat bit of ’90s indie-cool (Jarmusch’s Johnny Depp-starring “Dead Man”), and even Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”

It also includes Jackson and Christian’s acclaimed 1979 documentary “Death Row,” and it should lead to an insightful discussion.

Here is the fall schedule in its entirety:

  • August 27 — Alan Crosland’s “The Jazz Singer,” 1927
  • September 3 — Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night,” 1934
  • September 10 — Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion,” 1937
  • September 17 — Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” 1944
  • September 24 — Delmer Daves’s “3:10 to Yuma,” 1957
  • October 1 — Kon Ichikawa’s “Fires on the Plain,” 1959
  • October 8 — Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” 1971
  • October 15 — Sidney Lumet’s “Network,” 1976
  • October 22 — Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian’s “Death Row,” 1979
  • October 29 — Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man,” 1995
  • November 5 — Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her,” 2002
  • November 12 — Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York,” 2008
  • November 19 — Wim Wenders’s “Pina,” 2011
  • November 26 — Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” 2013

Note that the BFS website features a history of the seminars, “goldenrod handouts,” and a list of all the films that have screened. Films are screened 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Market Arcade Film and ArtsCenter; 639 Main St.; see buffalofilmseminars.com for more info.

Photo from “Dead Man”

TIFF 2012 Revisited: Exhaustion, Exhilaration, and a Sore Coccyx

Anna Karenina

After TIFF comes to a close, I write a feature for Buffalo Spree’s November issue discussing my experience at the fest, and also attempting to give readers a brief look at what’s to come during the rest of the cinema-going year. Here is my Spree piece from TIFF 2012. (Please note that I totally changed my mind on “Something in the Air.” Now I love it!)

It was somewhere around Yonge Street when the drugs began to take hold. I of course mean the Motrin, a necessity after a day that included two aborted interviews, six (!) cab rides, one bad burger, and queue after queue after queue. It was day two of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and that feeling — of exhaustion, exhilaration, and a sore coccyx — is something I long for all year.

By the time TIFF itself begins, Spree cohort Jared Mobarak and I have studied the press and public screening schedules like the Torah, considering plans, back-up plans, worst-case scenarios, and lots of maybes. The eleven-day September festival is a glorious whirlwind of adventure that sees Hollywood, Bollywood, and, for all I know, Dollywood, converge upon Toronto, ready to anoint this year’s Oscar frontrunners, see what elicits boos, and trumpet the season’s “it” girl or guy. The city throbs with cine-mania far beyond the venues: our hotel, the gorgeous Royal Fairmont York, was abuzz with activity all weekend, while the bars and restaurants, especially those around the venues, were happily overstuffed. Even the hot dog vendors seemed a tad flustered.

It’s easy to feel that way, due to the sheer number of films—more than 300, from sixty-plus countries. Indubitably, this means you’re sure to see some greats. Pablo Larrain’s “No,” for example, is a subtle stunner, a technically bold and wildly smart crowd-pleaser about the way advertising helped oust Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the late ’80s. The film was one of the most joyous experiences of the festival. That can’t be said for “White Ribbon” and “Caché” director Michael Haneke’s Cannes-winning “Amour,” but that’s okay, since joy is replaced by overwhelming dramatic force. It is, quite possibly, the best film ever made about the realities of aging, and that toughness makes it an emotionally devastating work. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva star as a long-married couple whose lives are turned upside down when she suffers a stroke; what follows is pain, sadness, and, ultimately, acts of real love. Far sunnier is Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” a satisfying gum drop of a film. This fresh, funny Shakespeare adaptation was shot at the director’s house over twelve days. (I reviewed Much Ado for Indiewire’s The Playlist site, and it was noteworthy for me — the first review I’ve ever written completely on my iPhone “notes.”)

Meanwhile, Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film in almost a decade, “Me and You,” is a wonderfully incisive look at adolescence, while “The Impossible,” a harrowing true story of survival about the 2004 Pacific tsunami, is moving and sincere, if a bit narrow. (The film rarely shows anyone who is not white and vacationing.) Still, stars Naomi Watts and Ewan MacGregor are fantastic, and the child actors are stunning — loud sniffling filled the ornate Princess of Wales Theatre, much of it from me. Some less-heralded but equally involving films included the Lisbon-set “Imagine,” an enchanting work about a school for the blind, and “The Gangs of Wasseypur,” a two-part Indian gangster epic that feels like the freshest take on the genre in years.

Other films were solid doubles, if not home runs. Joe Wright’s Tolstoy adaptation of “Anna Karenina” has an innovative approach—the film is “staged,” if you will, bringing a glorious sense of tongue-in-cheek theatricality to the proceedings. Yet Anna (Keira Knightley) and her lover, the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor Johnson), are the least interesting characters onscreen, and that’s a problem. Still, it’s a truly innovative creation from Joe Wright. “Crying Game” director Neil Jordan’s epic vampire tale Byzantium is the director’s most muscular work in some time, while Kristen Wiig shines in the sitcom-y “Imogene.” And Rian Johnson’s time-travel odyssey “Looper” was the most frustrating film at TIFF, since it is three-quarters brilliant, innovative sci-fi, and then, suddenly, one-quarter WTF?-“Omen”/”Twilight Zone” rip-off. That one-quarter was a crushing disappointment, since until that point, I felt I was watching a possible classic. Even with its ill-advised quasi-horror direction, “Looper” is a film to be admired—certainly a near-masterpiece. (It reminded me that as a parent, I now find “children in peril” story elements to be manipulative and upsetting, an accusation one could also throw at “The Impossible.”)

One notable miss was Olivier Assayas’s autobiographical “Something in the Air.” This look at students in Paris continuing the struggles of post-May ’68 life is handsomely made but pretty vacant. Another, Brian De Palma’s “Passion,” takes the prize for Saddest Exercise in Self-Parody. I’m a longtime De Palma fan, but this one makes even “Black Dahlia” look restrained by comparison. Of course, time often changes my opinions. Seeing Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz” at TIFF 2011, I was horribly disappointed. Watching it again months later, outside the pomp and circumstance of the festival setting, I adored it. There’s hope for you yet, “Something” — but probably not you, “Passion.”

As always, there were many films I did not get to see, including several biggies. I wanted to catch the TIFF People’s Choice Award-winning “Silver Linings Playbook,” but missing David O. Russell’s Oscar favorite, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, meant I had time to read Matthew Quick’s fast, funny book — certainly a silver lining. I skipped Ben Affleck’s crowd-pleasing thriller “Argo” and the audience-dividing Wachowski Bros.-Tom Tykwer epic that is “Cloud Atlas,” since both were scheduled to open in October. Others that drew major buzz were “Rust and Bone,” which could bring Marion Cotillard another Oscar, and Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” starring Greta Gerwig in a black-and-white love story.

I was left most fascinated by five fiercely idiosyncratic films: the aforementioned “No” and “Amour,” Rodney Ascher’s “Room 237,” Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder,” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” A documentary on various fan theories about Kubrick’s “The Shining,” “Room 237” left me almost tearful with excitement. It captures something, I think, about the sheer power of cinema, and the ways it can capture (if not steal) our imaginations, in ways both intentional and unexpected. You’ll never look at the Overlook Hotel in quite the same way.

It was fitting that the final two films I saw, Malick’s “To the Wonder” and P. T. Anderson’s “The Master,” were the most jagged, fascinating pair of the festival. “Wonder” is the more aesthetically mystifying of the two, taking the life-as-a-series-of-memories style of his controversial, Oscar-nominated “Tree of Life” to what might be its breaking point. This is introspection to the point of absurdity — “Do you know what you want?” asks Rachel McAdams, and many will shout, “No!” — but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite being Malick’s least successful work, it is still imaginative, thrillingly opaque filmmaking, all the more for featuring almost no dialogue. (Seriously — prepare for narration, some bad poetry, and many, many shots of lovers in cornfields.) Even with its flaws, I found it mostly intoxicating, especially the lead performance of Olga Kurylenko.

By the time you read this, you’ll have had a chance to see “The Master,” the film that, more than any other I’ve seen in 2012, makes me want to sit, think, read, and process. (Remember that word — “process.” Once you see “The Master,” you’ll understand its relevance.) Anderson’s film is, then, “Room 237”’s spiritual cousin, a rigorous, hypnotic, unsettling film that in some ways is unlike any other ever made. Sure, there are shades of others, including Anderson’s own “There Will Be Blood.” But there’s a new cinematic language on display here, I think, one more accessible than “To the Wonder”’s but no less ambitious. Yes, the film is about Scientology, and religion, but less than one might think. Anderson and his cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams all deserve Oscars) have created something about failure, fear, self-delusion, family, and man’s longing for inclusion. Trust me when I say that whether you like “The Master” or not, you’ve never seen anything quite like it before. I can’t imagine we’ll see a better film this year.

Both “Wonder” and “Master” offer little in the way of explanation. They both are about pain and poison in literal and figurative senses, they both seem to be puzzles with several missing pieces, and they both shrug their shoulders when accused of practicing mindf—ery. These are the kind of films that make TIFF so virile, so complex, so ultimately enjoyable. Where else within two hours of Buffalo can the act of sitting in a darkened theater, eating popcorn (when allowed — I’m talking about you, Ryerson Theatre), and waiting for the L’Oreal commercial to finish and the movie to begin feel almost spiritual?

Like those obsessed viewers in “Room 237,” the puzzle pieces of “To the Wonder” and “The Master” haven’t all fit together for me yet. There’s an inherent thrill in searching for a missing piece, and if that doesn’t symbolize the point of watching, rewatching, and, yes, processing, I’m not sure what does.

Photo courtesy of TIFF

Rent It: The Devastating “Amour” is Ideal for Home Viewing


One of my favorites last year at TIFF was Michael Haneke’s “Amour” — in fact, it was my pick as last year’s best film. To tie in with its release on DVD and Blu-ray, I wrote a bit about the film for BuffaloSpree.com. It really is a film that is ideal for viewing at home, and despite how difficult it is to watch, I hope it reaches a new audience.

There are certain films that are just made for the big-screen — if you’re going to see “Pacific Rim,” it is probably theater or bust — and there are others that seem ideally suited to an intimate setting. Michael Haneke’s overwhelmingly emotional “Amour” is one of the latter picks.

The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film arrives tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and my guess is many who were turned off to the idea of seeing a film about a long-married couple whose lives are turned upside down when the wife suffers a stroke will rent it. I expect they’ll come away moved, especially since so many of us have gone through similar situations in our own families. When I saw the film at a Saturday night public screening at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival, I became aware, early in the film, of the sounds of sobbing. As the film progressed, these sounds became more and more pronounced.

Some of this reaction is due to the note-perfect performances from legendary stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, but I could not help thinking that for many in the audience, “Amour” was hitting close to home. It certainly did for me—it was my pick as last year’s No. 1 film.

I am not exaggerating when I saw that this film might be the finest ever made about love and aging. It is certainly Haneke’s (“The White Ribbon,” “Cache,” “Funny Games”) most human creation, yet it retains the air of mystery and unease that defines his best work. Most films that arrive with this level of praise are a letdown, but this is not the case when it comes to “Amour.” It is a game-changing film.

The DVD and Blu-ray both include a making-of feature, as well as a Q-and-A with the soft-spoken Haneke. Even if you’ve already seen “Amour,” revisiting is wise. That’s another sign of a great film. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 2013)

Left to Right: Director Michael Haneke, Emmanuelle Riva, and Jean-Louis Trintignant


WNY’s All-Time Greatest Movie: “Buffalo 66” v. “The Natural”

redfird gallo

Last September, for Buffalo Spree’s “all-time greatest” issue, I pondered two great films shot here in the Queen City: “Buffalo 66” and “The Natural.” In light of the WNY Heritage article I discussed earlier this week, let’s take a look.

There is a scene in Vincent Gallo’s dark masterpiece “Buffalo 66” that captures the ennui of low-scale small-city life as well as any film ever made.

Billy Brown (Gallo), a fresh out of prison deadbeat, has forced tap dancer Layla to pretend to be his wife in order to impress his sour parents in dreary, cold Buffalo. After a family dinner from hell and a jaunt to the bowling alley, Billy drags Layla to Denny’s. It’s an old-style Denny’s, and it’s grim. (The last few Denny’s I’ve been in were completely redone, so don’t take offense, Denny’s of America.)

He orders a water, she orders a hot chocolate. Typically, he knows the woman who walks in the front door—it’s his old crush. In fact, Wendy Balsam (Rosanna Arquette) sits directly across the aisle. “Weren’t you in my third-grade class?” she asks. “Yes,” he mutters, head down.

It may seem a throwaway scene; in fact, it might be. But it captures a certain piece of Western New York that is not often captured on celluloid. It’s the lower-class, late-night, where-else-can-we-go?, what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life?, world come to life. In a real movie. One that takes place—and was shot—in Buffalo. I can remember spending pre-legal-drinking-age mornings—2, 3 a.m.—in a Denny’s just like this one, drinking coffee with my motley friends and hoping that the Wendy Balsams of my past would not be wandering in. If you grew up here, there’s a good chance you watched this scene play out often, and you were the star.

The Denny’s sequence accounts for four or five minutes of “Buffalo 66”, but it is the moment that seals the deal: Gallo’s sad, flawed character study is the greatest Buffalo-set film ever made. (Note the word “set.”)

It’s also uncomfortably homophobic, often wildly pretentious, and downright cruel. Its vision of Buffalo occasionally feels like a kick to the groin for those who love this city. And it requires that one can tolerate Gallo, the provocateur as known for receiving onscreen oral sex (in his directorial follow-up, “The Brown Bunny”) and wishing cancer upon a film critic (Roger Ebert) as he is for being a truly strong director and actor. (See Francis Coppola’s underrated “Tetro.”) It also means sitting through lots of Yes on the soundtrack, or as I like to call them, “No.” But the level of insight makes the flaws worth it.

Consider the feel-bad “Buffalo 66” the antithesis of “The Natural”, which is the more obvious “greatest Buffalo film” pick. Of course, “The Natural” was simply filmed here—it does not take place in the Queen City. But it’s the Buffalo of our sepia-toned dreams, featuring a Central Terminal packed with travelers, a gussied-up Parkside Candy on Main Street, and the Rockpile, in all its glory. Let’s call it the greatest Buffalo-shot film ever made, then.

“The Natural”’s ending is the finest sport-gasm ever filmed, with Roy Hobbs’s scoreboard-smashing home run set to Randy Newman’s swelling score. It is gorgeous, and heartwarming, and beautiful, and despite betraying the dark ending of Bernard Malamud’s book in every way, it remains the favorite movie of just about every dad in WNY, and carries an air of nostalgia for the time Redford and Hollywood came, saw, and loved our city. (The website forgottenbuffalo.com features a breakdown of all the film’s Buffalo locations.)

I’d hate to see a breakdown of the depressing locations in Gallo’s film. But the ugliness is part of the plan. And there is a nice inversion of this thematic unattractiveness in a subplot I’ve yet to mention.

Billy was imprisoned after placing a $10,000 bet on the Buffalo Bills, who, of course, lost the Super Bowl when kicker “Scotty Wood” missed the game-winning kick. (He took the blame for a crime he did not commit in lieu of paying his debt, or seeing “bad things happen.”) In essence, then, the entire film is predicated on the lingering effects of this moment, one played out endlessly in the minds of many (if not most) Buffalonians for the past twenty years. Watching the film again for the first time in several years, I was stunned by the equanimity of its ending, in which Billy decides not to kill Wood—yes, he was going to kill him—and instead recalls, “He kicked good that season … He missed one measly field goal.” So at heart, “Buffalo 66” is an ode to moving on, and that’s something Buffalonians have been forced to do with regularity.

Let’s end on the wisdom of Mickey Rourke’s bookie: “If Buffalo ever makes it back to the Super Bowl … bet against them.”

Image from Buffalo Spree; Redford photo courtesy of Buffalo History Museum

40 Days to Go: Highlights From TIFF’s First (Cumber)batch of Announcements


The Toronto International Film Festival is the only major fest I am able to attend each year, so it’s a bit like my Super Bowl. Covering TIFF for Buffalo Spree has been an amazing experience—here is my post-festival analysis from last year—and each year seems to bring new pleasures. In many ways, the festival is an indicator of all the hits (and misses) audiences in Buffalo and beyond can expect for the remainder of the year.

I’m always thrilled to hear the first batch of announcements, and Tuesday morning’s press conference certainly included some films I was hoping would hit TO. Here are some thoughts that first appeared in a piece by me at BuffaloSpree.com.

  • 12 Years a Slave skips Venice for Toronto: This is big. Steve McQueen’s Shame was my favorite film of TIFF 2011—and of 2011, period—so I’m personally thrilled. Skipping Venice and debuting in TO is a major coup for Cameron Bailey and his fellow TIFF organizers.
  • The full Midnight Madness line-up is coming on July 30: It is always fun to see what’s in store here. Last year, I did not make it to any of them. Funny, I recall DESPERATELY wanting to attend the Seven Psychopaths midnight screening. Glad I waited …
  • TIFF’s 2013 MVPs: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and Mia Wasikowska all appear in multiple films. Cumberbatch is in three (!), most notably opening night film The Fifth Estate, in which he plays Julian Assange.
  • Under the Skin finally arrives: Jonathan Glazer’s (Sexy Beast, Birth) Scarlett Johansson-starring quasi-sci-fi film has been in production for a lonnng time. Very exciting to see it here.
  • Lots of Cannes hits: The controversial Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour, Like Father Like Son, and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive were three of the most buzzed-about Cannes 2013 entries.
  • The return of Jason Reitman: The first movie I ever saw at TIFF was Reitman’s Juno, and Jared Mobarak and I had the privilege of shaking the director’s hand afterwards. (I’m sure he was thrilled.) Labor Day, starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, seems like a perfect story for his typical blend of humor and drama.
  • Oscar buzz: August: Osage County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Rush, The Fifth Estate, and Gravity are already in the mix.
  • The return of hometown TIFF favorites: In addition to Reitman, Don McKellar and Atom Egoyan are back; the full Canadian lineup is coming soon.
  • Some films I did not even know were in production are screening here: I had no idea Jason Bateman was directing a film (Bad Words), that the late James Gandolfini was starring with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener’s next project (Enough Said), or that Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to Meek’s Cutoff was finished (Night Moves).
  • Missing in action (so far): There is still lots of time for more announcements; TIFF maestro Cameron Bailey said the first batch only included about one-quarter of the complete lineup. But some I’m still hoping to see added are Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (it is playing Venice), and Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man. Also missing, so far, are three of the best-reviewed films at Cannes: the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Robert Redford in All Is Lost, and Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska.

I’ll be covering TIFF 2013 for Spree, on my site, FilmSwoon.com, and hopefully for some other outlets, too, so there is plenty more to come. It’s on, kids …

Photo from 12 Years a Slave courtesy of TIFF.net

Weekend Preview: Squeaky Wheel’s Fab Outdoor Animation Fest Turns 10

squeaky poster

Yes, one of the summer’s last blockbusters opens this weekend, as well as one of the year’s most acclaimed films, but I want to start with a Buffalo treasure: Squeaky Wheel.

This Saturday, July 27, is Squeaky Wheel’s 10th annual Outdoor Animation Festival in Days Park, and it is a perennial summer treat. The free event is a perfect opportunity to watch some great films under the stars; attendees can bring lawn chairs or blankets, and should arrive around 8:30 p.m. to grab a good seat, and have some fun with the Stop Motion Animation Station.

Among others, the festival will showcase two recent animations by local youth artist, Maria Ziaja; you can watch one of her videos here.

And afterwards, an after-party will be held at Allen Street Hardware featuring “exclusive screening that features animations too lewd, too wild and too crazy for the main screen!”

As I put it in a “Hot 5” entry for Buffalo Spree last year, “it is an outdoor event that is visually thrilling and thematically varied … and once again it highlights the work of internationally renowned experimental and underground filmmakers.” Of course, I explained, the animation fest is the tip of the Squeaky iceberg: There are workshops, kids camps, regular screenings, the acclaimed Buffalo Youth Media Institute, and much more. I had the honor of serving as Squeaky board member for several years, and I can say with confidence that every SW event is a blast — especially this one.

Note also that Squeaky will hold an encore presentation of the fest at Canalside on August 21.

After these cool films, this week’s major blockbuster offering, “The Wolverine,” seems a bit ho-hum … But perhaps I’m still wounded from the horrible “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Reviews have been mixed for this one, but I think X-Men fans are hopeful. Hugh Jackman is hard not to like, and his Wolverine is one of the most indelible onscreen comic book characters of recent years. Plus, setting the film in Japan seems very wise.

But who knows? It is difficult to predict how much the film will snag this weekend, but the buzz seems stronger for this one than, say, “Pacific Rim.” (I haven’t seen “PR” yet, but I’d bet money that it’s a more ambitious, interesting film than “Wolverine.” But buzz is buzz.) Let’s say $60 mill, which I’d call a great success.

Quite frankly, I’m more excited for the weekend’s other two main releases: “Fruitvale Station” and “The To-Do List.”

“Fruitvale Station” was one of the hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and lead Michael B. Jordan is being pegged as a breakout star. It’s a film that has drawn praise — and tears — from many, many major critics, and it is expected to be part of the Oscar conversation. I can’t wait to see it, and interestingly, it is opening wide in Buffalo, at the Dipson Amherst Theater, and also at every local Regal (Elmwood, Transit, Walden, Quaker Crossing, and Niagara Falls).

The trailer for “The To-Do List” looks devilishly hilarious, and with the great AubreyPlaza in the lead (“Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Parks and Recreation”), this could be a solid word-of-mouth earner.

“The Godfather” is still showing at The Screening Room — 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday — while Tuesday (July 30) sees 1948’s “Pitfall” and Thursday (August 1) sees the WNY premiere of the acclaimed Sundance 2013 selection “This is Martin Bonner.”

This week’s Bacchus  pick is a slightly odd: the Bradley Cooper-starrer “Limitless.” Meanwhile, the UB North Campus features two wildly different films: “X-Men: First Class” on Friday (July 26), and, thrillingly, “The Place Beyond the Pines” on Tuesday (July 30). The latter is one of my favorite films of 2013. (Big Bradley Cooper week in the Buffalo outdoor film world.) UB South Campus is also showing “Pines,” on Wednesday (July 31). The film is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on August 6, but these are cool opportunities to see it on the big screen.

Coming soon: Woody Allen’s fantastic “Blue Jasmine” should be opening here soon, while August 2 sees two films with the number “2” in the title — the similarities end there: “2 Guns” and “The Smurfs 2.”

Ugh. But do not despair, as the summer still has some offerings that COULD prove wonderful: “Elysium,” “The World’s End,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The Grandmaster,” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”

Poster art courtesy of Squeaky Wheel

48 Hours of Short Films in the Queen City


One of the reasons I wanted to start a film site for my own writing was to occasionally spotlight some local projects, screenings, etc., that I think are worthy of some attention. (Buffalo Spree continues to be a great source for calendar events like this, of course, and so is the Buffalo News Gusto section, which I have the pleasure of occasionally contributing to.) See: Hallwalls’ recent Jazz Noir series (returning in the fall), Squeaky Wheel’s annual Outdoor Animation Film Festival (July 27 and August 21), and, a very cool project happening from June 21 to 23, the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with the 48 Hour Film Project concept until I saw some Facebook posts; for its Buffalo incarnation, “filmmakers from all over the Buffalo area will compete to see who can make the best short film in only 48 hours. The winning film will go up against films from around the world.”

This is a perfect event for college kids and others with a passion for film- and video-making, and I would expect some great work will come out of it.

You can find all of the details here, but note some key dates, all taken from the website:


Open Audition Casting:

Saturday, June 15

Noon–4 p.m.

Pierce-ArrowFilmArtsCenter, 1635 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo



Friday, June 21

6–7 p.m.




Sunday, June 23

5:30–8:30 p.m.  



Premiere Screenings

Wednesday, June 26–Thursday, June 27

7 p.m.

Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, 639 Main Street, Buffalo

Tickets for the screening will be $10 and can be purchased at the Market Arcade.


Wrap Party

Wednesday, June 26

Directly following the screening

Cabaret Restaurant, 490 Pearl Street, Buffalo


Best of Screening

Wednesday, July 17

7 p.m.

Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St, Buffalo

Tickets will be $10, and available to purchase online directly through Helium’s website or at the door.

Welcome to FilmSwoon!

fs small logo

Thanks for visiting FilmSwoon.com, a website that has been percolating in my mind for some time, and which I’m quite excited about.

If you are here, there is a good chance you’re familiar with my work as a critic – I’m a regular contributor to the Buffalo News, a frequent writer for Buffalo Spree magazine and its website (buffalospree.com), and I’ve also contributed to Indiewire’s The Playlist and The Film Stage.

Or, perhaps you just stumbled on my name somewhere. However you made it, I’m glad you’re here. A few notes on what I’m up to here:

… While this is a site based around my writing, I hope it will also be a source for news. Each week, I’ll include a round-up of some of my favorite film etc. pieces from the week. I’ll also keep up with the world’s film festivals, especially the Toronto International Film Festival, which I’ve attended every year since 2007.

… This is not a review site, exactly. I think of it more as an opinion site. Sure, there will be short reviews here, and links to my reviews, but it’s more a place for me to offer quick opinions on everything from movie trailers to new releases and oldies.

… While I am based in Buffalo, NY, and will certainly make sure Buffalo is part of what I do – I’ll look at movies opening or screening locally, etc. – this is not merely a “Buffalo” movie site.

… That brings me to the name. I did not want my name to be in the name of the site. I found that “swoon” was a word I was using frequently in reviews (including my Buffalo News review of “To the Wonder”), and everyday conversation. It seemed a little … Weak. But folks I talked to seemed to like it, and it also has a strange significance for me. Back in 1995, as a film-crazed 15-year-old, PBS ran a documentary called “American Cinema.” I can’t say it was great, but at the time, it was an important resource for me. A great deal of time was spent on a film I was unfamiliar with, Tom Kalin’s “Swoon,” and this tale of Leopold and Loeb seemed strange, unsettling, and utterly fresh. It was also, at the time, unavailable. (Downloading was not an option, yet, and I wasn’t clued in enough to figure anything else out.) Anyway, it took me another 15 years to get to watch “Swoon,” and I didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. And it reminded me that there was a time when I couldn’t easily see everything I wanted, and wondered what films and stories were looking outside of suburbia.

I hope that many of you will like the Facebook page, read the updates on Facebook and Twitter (twitter.com/FilmSwoon), and occasionally stop by. I promise that of you have even a shred of interest in cinema, it will be worth it. Let’s get started, shall we?