"We are our choices." -Jean-Paul Sartre. Life is all about choices. The choices we make, or that we don't make, in small decisions, in big decisions. Everything is about these choices and every choice we make, even subconsciously, leads us down one path or another. We can't go back, but we can continue to be aware and learn what influences us to make decisions. This is an endless philosophical discussion with no conclusion, but the concept of "choices" has been on my mind a lot at film festivals - ever since a discussion I had with my friend & fellow critic Pamela Jahn at the Cannes Film Festival. Then it continued while I was at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic. I chose to go to this festival because I enjoy it, and I really want to catch up with and see more films. I'm very happy I went to this festival, and strangely enough even though a number of my friends were also there we never ended up at the same screenings. This isn't uncommon at film festivals, but it did make me think more about the choices we make - especially at fests.
I'm back! Back in the Karlovy Vary groove..! Kicking off this weekend is the 53rd Karlovy Vary Film Festival, a wonderful festival that takes place in a lovely little spa town (also known as Carlsbad) in Czechia - just a few hours drive west of Prague. This is my second year back to the festival, as I stopped by last year for my very first time. And I am so happy to be back. I think I'm falling in love with this festival! The town, the people, it's wonderful. There's an undeniable cinephile vibe, campsites for those who can't afford hotels, the venues are vintage cinemas or old theater halls converted into temporary cinemas. Best of all, Karlovy Vary has a stellar line-up and that's why I'm here - to catch up with and see lots of films over the next week.
"Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation." -Walt Disney. I decided to attend the Annecy Film Festival this year to see some films, in hopes of catching the best best animated films before anyone else. What I discovered is a festival unlike any other, a community of animation geeks, illustrators, filmmakers, storytellers, and cinephiles; a lovely little town known as the "Venice of the Alps"; and a handful of films that show how incredibly versatile and emotional animation can be as a storytelling technique. I fell in love with this festival, which is no surprise considering I've heard great things about it for years. It is indeed one of the greatest film festivals in the world, and I did indeed see some exceptional films.
I'm back in France! Only one month after the Cannes Film Festival, I have returned to France for another film festival - Annecy. For years I'd heard about Annecy, but for years I thought it was a festival only for animators and industry insiders and people who work on the films. Last year I learned that it's actually just another film festival, like any other, and that anyone can attend and see films. So I decided to make my first trip down to Annecy this year and check it out. For those that don't know, the "Festival International du Film d'Animation d'Annecy" is a fest dedicated to animation - all kinds of animation. They show short films, feature films, works in progress, and they host workshops, events, discussions, signings and more. It's basically Comic-Con for animation nerds - and they flock to this tiny town every year to geek out for a week.
Looking back on Cannes this year, everything did turn out pretty well. No disasters, nothing bad happened, no big complaints, they actually let us bring in water to the cinemas this year (they didn't last year). At the start of the festival, I wrote about how they were entering a new era and starting out by making some major changes - and who knew how this would all affect us. Now that the 71st Cannes Film Festival is finished, the awards handed out, looking back on the experience - it was a great year. It went smooth, they showed a ton of outstanding films, plus a few bad ones. Even though it wasn't exactly perfect, they seemed to actually be making some good progress getting into a new era and slowly setting a precedent for the next few years. Dare I say, they're making the right steps. Little by little, they're cleaning up their act and still remaining relevant - even without Netflix films (for now). Don't listen to the naysayers, Cannes is as important as ever.
Another year, another Cannes Film Festival. But this year is different. In 2017, Cannes celebrated its 70th anniversary and things went as they usually do. This year, for the 71st Cannes, they're changing things up. In a statement sent to press in the last few weeks, Cannes director Thierry Frémaux explained: "We want to make the most of this new decade to explore, experiment, question our customs and practices." In March, Cannes announced three major changes and new rules for the festival this year: no selfies on the red carpet, no Netflix films (in connection with French distributors upset because of archaic laws about films required to be in cinemas), and no more press screenings before the "public" (they're not really public anyway) world premieres in the evening. With all of these changes, and more, it's going to be a very, very interesting year. I'm sure some press will be pissed, others unfazed, but most of all - no one knows how it's going to play out.
Every year at Sundance, there are people who try to claim that it was a bad year for films. Every year, there's critics who claim everything they saw was bad and it's a bad line-up and there's no good films and this year for cinema sucks. But they're wrong. They are always wrong. Not only do I recommend trying to see more films, since there's over 100 playing and there's no way anyone saw everything, but it's also about taking a closer look at how the films have evolved and what they represent. At the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, many of the films were very personal, very powerful, and sometimes provocative and challenging, for good reason (society today is pretty crazy). Even though some films weren't that great, or didn't turn out perfect, that does not mean they still aren't exciting, innovative, creative, original works that push cinema forward.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." –Maya Angelou. The official "tagline" (or motto or whatever it is) for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is: "The Story Lives in You." This line of text is emblazoned upon all the banners, and shows up during the opening intro video before every single screening at the festival. At first I thought it was just a nice tagline, but after seeing over 30+ films here, I realize it's the very central theme of the festival. Almost every film I've seen has something to do with telling a very personal, intimate story. Yes, every film has a story to tell, that's what filmmaking is all about. But the more films I see here, the more I realize there is something unique about telling a personal story, expressing what's inside of you and your own experiences, and turning that into cinematic art. It's inspiring.
Another year, another Sundance. There's no place I'd rather be. I'm so so happy to be back again. This is my 12th year in a row returning to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, and I'm totally ready to jump in and start watching films. I've written so many of these introductory posts over the years, and I'm well aware that I usually just keep saying the same things over and over. But really, it's how things are at the start. It's all fresh - we have no idea what we're about to see, we don't really know which films will be good or bad, we don't know what we'll discover, we don't know what we'll end up loving (or hating) by the end. It's exciting to be here, nervously waiting for the doors to open and the projectors to fire up. Let's go watch some films.
Another year, another stellar slate of motion pictures seeing release. Despite what others might say about it (once again) being an off year at the movies, there were definitely some true winners worth seeking out. All you had to do was find them. Films that moved us, resonated with us, and out-and-out blew us away all saw release in 2017, so much of them, in fact, that, as with previous years at the cinema, it was difficult coming up with the 10 best. Here you will find my Top 10 Films of 2017, those motion pictures that spoke to me more than others, but someone else's Top 10 could just as easily be a completely different set of movies. It's a testament to just how strong a year is for movies that the Best Of lists are so diverse (view Adam's here).
Over the last 12 months, I've seen more than 100 new releases — that's over eight days of time in total spent watching new movies — and I'm happy to report that it's been another incredible year at the cinema, despite claims that "film is dead." This year, I was lucky enough to see vital new work by visionary filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, and Darren Aronofsky. I witnessed soul-stirring performances by Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Mary J. Blige, Willem Dafoe, Sally Hawkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg. And I was thoroughly entertained by emotionally engaging, visually impressive blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049. So which films did I enjoy the most? Which are my favorites? Let's find out.
If two of the most anticipated movies from this year – Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 – have anything in common, it's that they are both science fiction and fantasy movies rich with new ideas. In addition, they are also both polarizing films, garnering a divisive response from both hardcore Star Wars devotees and mainstream audiences. In this editorial, however, I want to examine another common thread that binds both movies: how they both deconstruct decades of shared franchise history to show how a hero can be anyone. Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049 have something characteristically in common. You might not have noticed this at first, but both films feature heroes, Daisy Ridley's Rey and Ryan Gosling's Officer K, that are more similar than you might think.