My second year attending the Berlin Film Festival has come to an end. I caught another 14 films, which combined with the 32 I saw at Sundance, puts my tally at 46 brand new 2015 films screened in three weeks (yea I'm a bit exhausted, suffice it to say). But I saw some great films in the last week, including Terrence Malick's latest and Pablo Larraín's latest. Berlinale has been stepping up their game these last two years, bringing in a robust selection of top notch features to see and hosting an exciting festival for movie fans of all ages. I'm glad I could make it back, and I hope to keep returning (even with Sundance in January). So which films did I see and which were the best? Here's my final breakdown of all 14 films I saw at Berlinale.
After the news broke that Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had finally come to an arrangement on the Spider-Man franchise, Alex wrote an editorial about how he wasn't excited. I can't help but disagree. First of all, let's take a moment to soak in how utterly exciting it is that Spider-Man is back home – in a sense – with Marvel. It happened. It finally happened. After years of fans wanting it, two lackluster Spider-Man movies (that fans didn't want) and a studio leak that all but got fans' hopes up with discussions of a talk between Sony and Marvel – the studio behind The Avengers will finally be helping shape the cinematic future of Spider-Man. I can't help but spin this as great news for for Marvel, Sony and Spidey's fans alike.
This is definitely going to be the unpopular, you're-totally-crazy opinion but I should be totally honest - this Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe news doesn't excite me at all. In fact, at this point I think I'm over Spider-Man. I didn't grow up reading the character in comic books, so I don't really have that kind of deep connection to Spidey the character. But I did "grow up" watching the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, then later followed the newest iteration lead by Marc Webb after helping him breakout with 500 Days of Summer (originally a Sundance film). Maybe I'm also just a bit tired of Marvel these days, too. This is where Spidey belongs, in the Marvel Universe, I'll certainly agree to that, but I'm having trouble feigning any excitement.
In case you haven't heard by now, the character of Spider-Man is now being shared by Marvel Studios & Sony Pictures. Your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler will now be part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe appearing in a Marvel Studios release in the next couple years and will begin a new franchise of his own beginning on July 28th, 2017. And because this is a new Spider-Man, it has been confirmed that Andrew Garfield is no longer suiting up as Spidey, creating a major opportunity for an actor to gain superhero status. And I've rounded up my favorite picks as to who I would like to see shooting web around NYC now.
From one to another, the adventure continues. In 2014, I was lucky enough to be invited by Fox Searchlight to fly to Berlin to catch the world premiere of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel (here's my review). It was an unforgettable experience, and I had a blast attending the Berlin Film Festival, also known as Berlinale, one of the biggest festivals in the world (started in 1951). I am excited to reveal that Berlin asked me to return again this year as a press guest of the festival, meaning they really wanted me to come back and see more films. There was no way I could say no. So only five days after returning from the Sundance Film Festival, I am headed out again onwards to Berlin for yet another film festival. I'm ready, bring on the films.
"Good films make your life better." We smile. We cry. We laugh. We shudder. Here I am, at the end of another Sundance Film Festival, 10 days and 30 films later. What did we discover this year? What films left us in awe? Maybe it's festival fatigue and intense exhaustion, but every year by the end I feel like I've grown–or evolved–as a person while at Sundance. I feel like I return home a completely different person, wiser perhaps or maybe just rejuvenated, but nonetheless changed. It's these films, it's the power of cinema, the potential it has to inform us and shape us and guide us that always leaves lasting impressions upon me. I am happy to return, but even happier that I spent another year surrounded by the glory of film in Park City.
We've been here for 9 days so far, camped out in a lovely ski condo, watching films every day. And we're exhausted. Ethan and I have been working every day seeing films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, writing about them when we can, and trying to keep the site up-to-date with news as well. It's not easy, I will admit. We typically see 3 or 4 or sometimes 5 films each day, and have to spend time getting to each theater/venue, lining up, getting seats, and oh yea, eating food and sleeping (on occasion). Not to mention meeting up and chatting with friends/filmmakers and other cinephiles. But there's nowhere we'd rather be.
As the high school auditorium converted to a movie palace begins to fill, I glance around. Behind me sits the entire executive team of Fox Searchlight, in front of me the entire cast & crew of the movie we're about to see. A few seats over are two writers for Rolling Stone; amongst the crowd are all of my other critic/blogger/movie friends – from the lead reviewers at industry trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter, to my pals Peter from SlashFilm and Neil from Film School Rejects, and Ethan Anderton, too. We're all here, sitting together, all about to experience the world premiere of a movie no one has seen yet. This is what I love about film festivals. It puts us all on the same level, and together we get to experience cinema.
It's time. We've packed our winter jackets, long underwear, a pair of boots and gloves/hats galore. The 2015 Sundance Film Festival is about to kick off in the mountains up in chilly Park City, Utah and we're back, ready to fire up the festival and watch films. This is FirstShowing's ninth year in a row covering Sundance. It all started back in 2007, when I made the trek to Park City by driving from Colorado, seeing an impressive 31 films by the end of my first year. I've returned here ever since; I can't help it, I love this festival with all my heart and have grown to appreciate films of all kinds by coming back every year. And I'm ready for more.
Nothing like seeing movies in the mountains. Kicking off this week in snowy Park City, Utah is the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see fresh new indie films non-stop. To help get everyone up to speed on some of the films we're interested in, here are 10 Sundance 2015 films that we're excited for, a small look at some of the films we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at any earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen five he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's ready to enjoy from the diverse and hopefully impressive 123-film line-up this year. Whether it's horror or drama or comedy or a documentary or something else entirely, we seek great movies to fall in love with.
The best of the best - that you didn't see last year. We have returned with another set of worth watching, underseen films from 2014. Back by popular demand is our eighth annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2014 (past lists: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007). Featured below is a hand-picked line-up of the best independent and/or mainstream films that were either quietly dumped, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well enough. So to give them extra attention in the spotlight, and to support some of the finest filmmakers out there, here is our best of 2014 recap. Read on for the full list!
"It's not where you take things from—it's where you take them to." (-Jean-Luc Godard) There is a moment in Xavier Dolan's film Mommy, officially my #1 film of 2014, that took my breath away. It's the kind of moment all cinema enthusiasts live for, the kind of visceral surprise that leaves you in such awe that you end up holding your breath until that moment – the scene – ends. The more I think about it, the more it grows in my mind, and upon further reflection I believe it is one of the defining moments in cinema in 2014. That no one is talking about… yet. I can't get it out of my mind, and out of everything I saw in 2014, it's one of the most brilliant cinematic decisions any filmmaker made. Xavier Dolan showing the rest how it's done.
"Our motivation was simple: revenge. We loved womping fuzzy-cheeked college-bonus-babies owned by the Dodgers, or Phillies." We're well into the New Year which means it's time for another Monthly Must See feature highlighting a great film to watch this month (or instead of/while waiting for the Golden Globes on Sunday). It's the perfect time of year for documentaries, so this month's pick is The Battered Bastards of Baseball from directors Chapman Way & Maclain Way, a Netflix documentary that runs a brisk 79 minutes telling the story of the Portland Mavericks, an independent baseball team started in the 1970s. This light-hearted, highly entertaining film is easily available on Netflix for your enjoyment anytime. It's good.
Just earlier today, we ran out last retrospective video looking back at the films of 2014, and today I'm chiming in with my final year-end list with my Top 10 Films of 2014. This year I had a hard time narrowing down my list, and I almost broke down and decided to do a Top 15, but I promised myself to be a little more disciplined to pick my absolute favorite films of the year. You can see how hard it was just by taking a glimpse at all the honorable mentions that could have made the list, and the ones that made the cut are a hodgepodge of indies, blockbusters, comedies, dramas and a couple more. So let's get to the actual list.