ENJOY THE SHOW
What a year so far. I had an amazing time at Berlinale this year. Not because all of the films were amazing, but because I met incredible people in Germany. I even met a very nice guy who works in film distribution while riding the train from Berlin down to Prague on my way out, and we talked for hours about films and distribution in the Czech Republic (where he works). Over the last week, I've encountered and talked with so many wonderful people - discussing films and the world. This is what festivals are all about, bringing people together, encouraging discussion. And yes - there are films to see. Plenty of them. I saw a grand total of 16 feature films at the Berlin Film Festival this year - here's my final recap with thoughts on each one below.
The best of the best - that you didn't see last year. We have returned with another set of worth watching, underseen films from 2015. Back again is our ninth annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2015 (past lists here: 2014, 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 2015 recap. Read on for the full list!
"With comedy, the rules are always changing. I don't even know any of the rules. It's probably better to not even know the rules." I love Taika Waititi's movies. At my very first Sundance in 2007, I flipped for a little New Zealand comedy called Eagle vs Shark. It was my first introduction to Taika Waititi and actor Jemaine Clement, and I've been a fan of both ever since. Ten years later and Taika is back at Sundance with his latest film, titled Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an adventure in the New Zealand bush starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. The film was one of my favorites of the festival, it's hilarious and so much fun to watch. I'm looking forward to the film opening in theaters so everyone else can see it and enjoy it, too.
In production now is Luc Besson's biggest sci-fi epic since The Fifth Element and I am crazy, crazy excited for it. I don't know if it's going to be any good, but I'm just really happy that Luc Besson is making another big, huge sci-fi space opera movie. Valerian, originally titled in full Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets, stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne (seen below) as time-traveling agents investigating a galactic empire. Besson started filming in January and has been posting photos every day to his Instagram. They're shooting for 115 days in total, with 420 crew members working on the production in France (via Instagram). None of these photos are major reveals, but I love that filmmakers are open to sharing images while they're in the middle of making a move. It's exciting to get a glimpse of the process. Take a look below.
"Why don't we have more of a riotous disposition toward injustice?" I had a good feeling about this before the festival even started. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, The Birth of a Nation won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize, and was picked up by Fox Searchlight in a record-breaking sale. This powerful film is the directorial debut of actor Nate Parker, who not only stars in and directs the film, but he also wrote the screenplay and produced it as well. I had the honor of meeting Nate after his premiere and talking with him for 10 minutes about making the film and returning to Sundance as a filmmaker, not just an actor. It's one of the best interviews I've had at Sundance - he's so intelligent and delightful to talk with.
"There is no limited to what desperate men will do when pushed." Today FirstShowing gets to exclusively debut a new TV spot for John Hillcoat's heist film Triple 9, starring an impressive cast including Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr. and Chiwetel Ejiofor. This TV spot focuses primarily on Kate Winslet's character, who provides most of the dialogue heard in this, seemingly being one of the main coordinators behind the heist. Winslet is also nominated for an Oscar this year. There's quite a bit of intriguing footage in this, but I'm still excited to see the film. "It is about brothers betrayed by the secrets they keep for others." Watch it below.
"The poet might know what he wanted to write, but he will never know what he wrote…" Whether or not you like the film, Iñárritu's The Revenant is an example of filmmaking at its finest. The intense attention-to-detail, filming only with natural light at the right time of the day (and the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki), the amount of work that went into making it, the performances, it's all extraordinary. To celebrate this achievement, 20th Century Fox has released an extensive 45-minute documentary about the making of the film that they say uncovers "the parallel between the lost era and its relevance for our world today." If you truly want to appreciate how hard it was to make this film, and get a glimpse into the process of making a feature film, this is a must-see documentary. Plus it's fascinating to hear so much from Iñárritu directly.
This year's Oscar race for Best Cinematography is really all about two of the finest cinematographers working today - Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, and Roger Deakins. While the rest of the nominees are also very talented, it will be one of these two taking home the golden statue. As an avid photographer, I have an immense appreciation and respect for the art of cinematography. There were some truly gorgeous films in 2015, including The Revenant which was shot using only natural light. This video mash-up features some of the very best shots from all five of this year's Best Cinematography nominees. It's breathtaking to watch.
The 2016 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. This year it was only me (Alex) covering Sundance for FirstShowing, so I decided to simply reveal my own 5 favorite feature films and 5 favorite documentaries. There are always a couple of films that I didn't have time to see (The Intervention, Eyes of My Mother) that seem to be getting great buzz, just can't make it to everything. But I am very happy to say that I ended up seeing amazing films at Sundance this year that will be on my mind for a while. At least one (or maybe two) of these will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Let's get right into it.
When you really think about it - film festivals are a bit crazy. They gather up 100+ films, show them all 3 or 4 times over the course of 10 days, invite thousands and thousands of movie fans to town, and most of us (at least many of my colleagues) watch as many of them as we can. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we all get to tweet and discuss these films instantly, spreading the word about what's good (or bad) to fellow film fans who are not in attendance. While everyone else around the world is going about their normal day jobs, thousands of us (various members of the press, industry, cinephiles and beyond) are packing in 3, 4, or 5, sometimes even 6 films every day. We're desperate to see something that leaves us in awe. I adore festivals.
Now this film is a true classic! The BFI (British Film Institute) has announced a digitally restored re-release of Abel Gance's 1920's epic Napoleon, about the French conqueror. This project has been in the works for 50 years, with Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow traveling the world collecting old prints of Gance's Napoleon in order to piece together this fully-restored version. The silent film runs a full 5 1/2 hours in total, and is accompanied by a live orchestra score. Ever since the previous restoration in 2000, the film version has only been screened 4 times in the UK. This announcement from the BFI is only for a UK re-release so far, but we also expect it to show up over here soon, too. It will premiere in November of 2016.
This is badass! The Raid 1 & 2 director Gareth Evans has released a short film online that he produced entirely on his own. It's a short samurai film shot in Wales that is a test sequence to prove that they can film action similar to The Raid films but with a PG-13 rating. The main cast includes Hannah Al Rashid, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman. This isn't anything more than a test sequence, but it's awesome to see and hopefully good inspiration for filmmakers trying to figure out how to shoot action. I dig the black & white style, as it allows the viewer to appreciate the composition. I'm a fan of Gareth Evans (watch my interview from a few years ago) and I think he's one of the most talented action directors making films today. Enjoy!