"Like any journey, it's not what you carry, but what you leave behind." Continuing our latest feature, the Monthly Must See profile, this time around I'm highlighting an extraordinarily beautiful film called Tracks, set in Australia directed by John Curran of We Don't Live Here Anymore and The Painted Veil previously. Tracks is now playing in limited theaters and first premiered at the fall film festivals in 2013, where I first caught it. Actress Mia Wasikowska stars as Robyn in the true story of an independent young woman who decides to hike 1,700 miles across the Australian desert on her own. Aside from her dog and three camels.
This past weekend it was New York's time to geek out. The New York Comic-Con took place at the Javitz Center on the west side, with over 100,000 geeks/nerds/fans of all ages attending. On Friday evening I was invited to participate in a panel called Your Opinion Sucks! Rotten Tomatoes Critics vs. Fans where a small group of "professional critics" sit in front of a room full of fans and argue about what they like/didn't like. This isn't the first time this panel has appeared, as Rotten Tomatoes has been hosting it in San Diego and at conventions like CinemaCon for years, but it was my first time on it. I really wanted to have fun, see what people wanted to debate, and enjoy the experience of being on a panel instead of covering it (for once).
There's a film festival that takes place down in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse (the one on South Lamar) every fall that is one of the best in the world. No it's not the overrated and overcrowded SXSW, it's a "genre" festival conceived by and run by Tim League, CEO and mastermind of the Drafthouse. The festival is called Fantastic Fest, now in its 10th year, and I have been attending since 2007, its 3rd year. For the last few years I've let The Golden Briefcase guys Tim and Jeremy (an Austin local) go wild and cover the fest on their own while I return from Telluride and Toronto back-to-back, but this year I had to go back. And I'm so glad I did. It was like coming back to my home again after years of being away. I missed you, Fantastic Fest.
"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job." It's very refreshing, and admittedly exciting, to watch a young filmmaker's career take off over the course of a year. At the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, the very first film I screened was Whiplash from writer/director Damien Chazelle. It blew me away. Now, almost 10 months later, the film is still playing strong at the New York Film Festival where I caught it for a second time. Over the last year it has also played at Cannes, Toronto, Deauville, Helsinki, Busan, and plenty of other films festivals/events/premieres all over the world earning rave reviews wherever it shows up. It deserves that praise because it truly is an outstanding, inspiring film.
It's your time New Yorkers! Don't miss out! Forget Tribeca, this the best festival in the city. Today is the first day of the 52nd New York Film Festival, the annual film festival run by the Lincoln Center. They have better films than Tribeca, better venues, better experiences, everything is better at the Lincoln Center. And if you've been waiting to see some of the best films of 2014, now is your chance. The festival kicks off with David Fincher's Gone Girl premeiring tonight (which we're screening this evening) and runs for over two weeks, highlighting the best that cinema has to offer from all over the world. Tickets are available online for anyone to buy, and they're worth hunting down if you're a cinephile from New York City with free evenings.
"You have no idea of the effect you have, do you?" It's time for yet another Monthly Must See feature film that we highly recommend you watch. This one may be one a few have seen already, considering it's rotating through the Top Movies list on iTunes. The film is titled Ida starring the lovely Agata Trzebuchowska, from Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski. This intriguing Polish drama first premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last year, before playing at festivals all over the world and eventually arriving in US theaters for a limited release back in May. Shot and presented in black & white in the 1.37:1 'Academy ratio', this stunning film tells the story of a young nun named Ida in 1960s Poland discovering herself and the world.
"It's the things we love most... that destroy us." Can we talk about how awesome the latest trailer is for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1? This sequel, only Part 1 of 2 (the second half is due November 2015) both directed by Francis Lawrence, hits theaters November 21st a few weeks after Interstellar. If I might say – this looks epic, I mean, seriously! The destruction, the stakes, the moments, Philip Seymour Hoffman!, freakin' Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence, the arrows, chills, Effie Trinket, President Snow, the White Rose, Peeta! It all looks so insanely awesome, yes yes yes. This is what we've been waiting for. I am so glad they went all out and are giving us the huge conclusion this deserves, even if it is two movies. Bring it on!
At the end of another festival. Over the last weekend I traveled up to Toronto to attend my 8th year at TIFF, or the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the major festivals every fall. TIFF is now best known for scheduling over 300 films in their line-up, from tiny international discoveries to mainstream premieres, which means there's no way any hardcore critic/blogger/cinephile is missing this fest. There's just too many films to see, from various Sundance and Cannes holdovers that I've been waiting for, to major unveilings like the latest films from directors Jason Reitman and Mia Hansen-Løve. This year I was able to see 19 films as part of TIFF 2014, complimenting everything else from Cannes & Telluride. Which ones stand out?
This is a nightmare. And the only way to wake up and escape from the horror is to pull out that shiny piece of plastic and become a slave to capitalism once again. My apologies to anyone awaiting our coverage of the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, which kicked off on Thursday, as things have been a bit rough since I caught my 6:30AM flight up to Canada. After arriving and meeting with my flatmate Jason Whyte, the first thing I did was open up my laptop–my MacBook Air–to write some notes for a review. Only to discover that after three years of (intensive) use, its time had come. The flashing question mark of death meaning–it's a goner.
Out under the stars, breathing quietly, staring up in awe wishing they'd never go away... Aw yes, Telluride. I've spent the last five days in the mountains of Colorado at the Telluride Film Festival reminiscing with friends and colleagues every night over whether I should just drop everything, stay here, and move in. It's so damn beautiful. But besides all the stunning nature surrounding us, we're all here for cinema, for the love of film and the power it has to inspire us, transform us, define us, and entertain us. It always ends too quickly (one weekend is not enough!) and suddenly just like that it's over, I'm headed back to New York City for a few days before continuing up to Toronto for TIFF. What films did I see and love this year? Let's find out.
Over the mountains, and into Telluride. Here we go again. I'm back in Colorado, where I grew up as a kid (I now live in New York City) for my seventh time back to the Telluride Film Festival. The line-up has been unveiled (view the selections in full here), and I can't wait to start watching films. I'm always intrigued by Telluride keeping the line-up a secret until the day before the fest and I was curious how things would shake up with TIFF and Venice complaining about world premieres this time. Why does there have to be so much fighting over what to call a premiere? I'm just here to see good films. Premiere or not, I want to be moved.
This is the moment it all begins. The awards season (if we have to give this time of year a label) starts now, right here at the end of August, at the beginning of September. While officially it doesn't become "autumn" until September 22nd, the "fall film festivals" kick off this week - with the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals underway. Next we head right up to the Toronto Film Festival, with its 300-film line-up, and then we head to the always entertaining Fantastic Fest down in Austin, before continuing with the New York Film Festival throughout October. It's an exciting time of year - especially with the line-up for 2014.
There are prison movies, and then there are prison movies. David Mackenzie's Starred Up is a harrowing, violent, bold new take on the "prison movie" that is worth your time to take a look at, playing in theaters now and also available on VOD. The film also introduces the astonishing Jack O'Connell (now well-known thanks to Yann Demange's '71 and 300: Rise of an Empire, plus he stars in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken), who stars as the lead character Eric alongside Ben Mendelsohn, another badass we've already seen in the likes of Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly, The Dark Knight Rises and The Place Beyond the Pines. Together they take on an entire prison in Starred Up, and it's a hell of a ride. It's our next Monthly Must See film.
There is a film festival, nestled in the mountains of Switzerland on the corner of Lake Maggiore near the Italian border, that boasts one of the best venues to watch films in the entire world. It's called the Locarno Film Festival, or Festival del film Locarno, now in its 67th year (only Venice, Cannes, Moscow have been around longer). The Piazza Grande is its famous venue, a plaza in the middle of town that is converted into a 8,000 seat open-air cinema every night, showing old and new films every evening during the week and a half the festival takes place in August. Having attended festivals like Cannes, Telluride and Sundance for years, I decided to make my first trip to Locarno this year, and it's truly as unforgettable as described.