From the very snowy streets of Park City, to the freezing streets of Berlin. Kicking off this week is the 67th Berlin Film Festival, better known as Berlinale. This is my 4th year in a row covering the Berlin Film Festival, this time as a local resident of Berlin, but it's still just as exciting. Taking place only two weeks after Sundance, this picks up where that left off and continues the enthusiasm and excitement for new cinema by offering a fine selection of European films. This year's biggest world premiere is perhaps James Mangold's Logan, at the very end of the festival, though there are plenty of other films showing over the next 10 days. I may not be recovered from Sundance yet, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to jump into another fest.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end and to put a wrap on things and finalize our nearly two weeks of coverage, it's time to present our Best of the Fest list. I was able to see a total of 36 films across 10 days, but I couldn't catch everything and missed a few films getting lots of buzz (Novitiate, Where is Kyra?, Thoroughbred). I saw a total of 8 documentaries, so instead of separating docs and features this year, I decided to present one big list of my 7 favorite films (in honor of it being 2017). My #1 by a mile is Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, I love this film so much. It will likely end up on my Top 10 of the year, but many other films from this fest are worth seeing when they come your way. Let's get into it.
The trades were predicting it for a few weeks. Ben Affleck was even hinting at it for a while. Now it's official. Warner Bros and Ben Affleck announced together on Monday night that Ben Affleck will not be directing The Batman movie as previously planned. Affleck will remain on the project as a producer and star. With Affleck no longer directing the film, there's already a long list of possible candidates who could replace him. Variety reports that Warner Bros already has a shortlist, and there's going to be immense speculation as to who will be on that list. So we decided to put together our own dream list of directors who could replace Affleck on The Batman and make a kick ass, dark, yet different movie about the World's Greatest Detective.
Another 34 films screened. Lots of tacos (hat tip to El Chubasco). Tons and tons of snow. Good friends. Fun interviews. One blogger party. I love Sundance so much. I just wrapped up my 11th year at the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford's snowy film festival in Park City, Utah. January is a tough month for most people. After the joys of the holidays in December, the first month of the year is so cold and quiet and depressing. But I'm lucky to be able to attend Sundance, which helps me get through January quickly. I get to watch some of the best films made by some of the most passionate, dedicated, ingenious filmmakers, and spend 10 days romping through the snow, catching up with some of my best friends and freezing my ass off.
The snow first started falling in Park City on Thursday, and it didn't stop until Tuesday. I was hoping for a snowy Sundance this year, but not this much snow. The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has been one of the snowiest Sundances in a long time. I've been attending for 11 years, and I can't remember it being as snowy and wet and cold as this year. Everyone is talking about it, even Sundance Director John Cooper, and pretty much every last attendee who has to trudge through the piles of snow and slippery sidewalks to get to screenings around Park City, Utah. But, of course, it's the snow that makes this a magical festival unlike any other and no matter what, the show must go on. So we bundle up, throw on some boots, and head back out.
More often than not a good soundtrack in a movie can be just as captivating as the visuals in which it accompanies. We live within the world of that film as we experience watching it, but a good soundtrack – composed score or curated list of songs – can allow us to reengage with the film on a purely auditory level sometimes even offering up an entirely new perspective. It's why this list is always such a joy to put together at the end of any year (review my previous soundtrack picks for the Best of 2014 and Best of 2013). Listed below are my Top 10 Soundtracks/Scores of 2016, and, as always, it's a fun list to put together. These are the scores and song lists I will surely be listening to in the coming months, the soundtracks that are every bit as memorable as the films themselves. (You can also find my Top 10 Films of 2016 here.) Enjoy!
At the climax of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman has literally fallen into the arms of his love, Lois Lane. The ending is far from romantic, however, as Batman and Wonder Woman stand beside the slain hero, heads bowed mournfully. Who knew this downer of an ending would signify more than just defeated heroes, it also acts as an analogy for the entire trajectory of DC Comics on film. By the time Suicide Squad rolled around, you could argue the DC Extended Universe had been put on suicide watch. For Ben Affleck, what started as a co-starring role has morphed into possibly being the DCEU's only saving grace.
It was another stellar year at the cinema, and don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise. While some are crying shouts that the cinema is dead the art form is doing all it can to prove otherwise, and it's easy to see how the industry is doing. Below are my Top 10 Films of 2016, but it could just have easily have been 10 completely different movies on this list. The impressive list of honorable mentions (found at the end) should give some credence to that. These are the 10 films, though, that moved me most of all, the films with which I most engaged, the films I believe the cinema community will be talking about for many years, beyond 2016.
Jim Jarmusch's new film about a poet in Paterson, New Jersey is one of my favorite films of 2016. I saw it twice at the Cannes Film Festival, wrote a glowing review (calling it "the rare perfect film"), and caught it again in Berlin a few weeks ago. As expected with pretty much every film that premieres to rave reviews at a festival, there will be a backlash. One of the most vocal complaints I've been hearing about Paterson has to do with the lead woman in the film, the wife of Adam Driver's bus driver character. She is played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani and has a major role in the story, as he wakes up with her every day and she encourages him to publish the poems he is writing in his notebook. I believe she is the perfect character, in a way that is off-putting perhaps (she's "too" perfect), but it still works for this particular film. Let me explain.
DC's biggest heroes have been facing an adversary even bigger than Doomsday or Kryponite as of late: their own studio, Warner Bros. It was last month when it was revealed that director Rick Famuyiwa dropped out of directing The Flash, citing creative differences. This was a sizable loss for the film, as Famuyiwa's hiring was considered a major coup. His departure hints at trouble for DC on film, who has stumbled out of the gate when their films should be leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. Along with countless mixed to negative critical reactions to their last two offerings, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, it's become clear Warner Bros is struggling to bring DC's finest to the big screen. But why?
When you think of auteur filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, you probably think of Requiem for a Dream or Black Swan. However, when I think of Darren Aronofsky, I can't help but gravitate toward what I think is his most underrated film: The Fountain, released in 2006. The science fiction love story, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz playing essentially the same characters over three timelines, was released ten years ago today with little fanfare. The film was blasted by critics and made very little at the box office. However, I fell in love with the film from the moment I gazed my eyes on the first frame ten years ago. Let's explore why I think the film is an underrated masterpiece and one of Aronofsky's best in his filmography.
There are film festivals, and then there is Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The time of year die-hard film fans liken to Christmas is once again upon us, and we’re only moments away from this year’s batch of cinematic craziness and insane experiences being unleashed. If the last couple of years are any indication, 2016 is going to be a virtual madhouse in Austin thanks in large part to that special brand of madness only the Alamo Drafthouse can deliver. The movies are just the beginning, too, as the programming during the week of Fantastic Fest always seems bigger and better than the previous year. Movies and TV premieres; a Satanic escape room; a special, horror VR experience; and countless hours of additional insanity are just a few of the items that have piqued our interest for this year so far. And it’s only getting started.