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"The Golden Bear goes to a film which has that rare and essential quality of a lasting art work. It captures on screen the very content and essence, the mind and body, the values and the raw flesh of our present moment in time." The 71st Berlin Film Festival (also known as just Berlinale) has wrapped up, and the small set of prizes were revealed this weekend, including the winner of the coveted Golden Bear for Best Film. That top prize was given to a Romanian dark comedy film called (in English) Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, directed by Radu Jude. The festival, usually held in February, transitioned to a virtual press + industry only event this past week, showing premieres online and in the cinema for the jury only. Jude's film is a clever, wacky, made-during-the-pandemic-so-everyone-wears-masks critical commentary about sex and society. It's a good win for originality, though not my fave film of the fest. Full list of 2021 prizes below.
"What if I choose death instead?!" "You're not ready to die, so fight for your life." RLJE Films has released an official trailer for a crazy body horror punk rock film called Spare Parts, now set for release in June this summer. Made by Canadian filmmaker Andrew T. Hunt, the film follows an all-girl punk band named Ms. 45 - they get kidnapped after a show in the wrong part of town. They wake up to find that they’ve had their limbs replaced with crude mechanized weapons, and their only chance for survival is to fight in a dirty arena for the amusement of a blood-hungry cult. The film stars Michelle Argyris, Emily Alatalo, Jason Rouse, Kiriana Stanton, Chelsea Muirhead, Ryan Allen, and Julian Richings. It's described as "if Sushi Typhoon's Machine Girl gets a make-over with the staging props of Mad Max." We featured the teaser trailer for this last year, and the film will finally be available to watch this summer. Get ready to rumbleee!!
"It's like they were trying to blend in." Check out this short film from animation filmmaker Joe Bennett, a strange animated trip into the world of Park Rangers. With an appearance by Bigfoot, too! Just wait until you see him. Derecho is a 10 minute short film, featured by Vimeo. It was originally presented by Cake on FX. As a slow building terror builds at a lonely park ranger outpost, two rangers are forced to test the limits of their humanity. Featuring the voices of Kate Berlant, John Early, Ted Travelstead, and Felipe di Poi Tamargo. The animation style is quite unique and it gets even better when the dashes of red show up. This is a must-watch-until-the-very-end short film, it all makes more sense once you get through it. Beware.
Be afraid, be very afraid. There's something going on out there, something stirring in the shadows, and it's something we need to be worried about. Fascism is back. It's reared its ugly head too many times in too many countries recently. And filmmakers definitely have something to say about this, especially German filmmakers. Je Suis Karl just premiered at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival, the latest feature from German filmmaker Christian Schwochow (of November Child, Cracks in the Shell, West, Paula) and screenwriter Thomas Wendrich, and it's an unnerving, frightening, realistic portrayal of the rise of fascism. From the moment it started, I immediately had knots in my stomach, knowing what was coming. Much like watching Titanic or United 93, you know what's about to happen and I felt that intense dread watching it all play out.
"This night… will open our eyes." RLJE Films has released an official trailer for an indie titled Shoplifters of the World, from a British director of music docs named Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, We Are X, If I Leave Here Tomorrow, Sid & Judy). Set in the summer of 1987 in Denver, Colorado, the film follows four friends. One crazy night in the life of four friends reeling from the sudden demise of iconic British band The Smiths, while the local airwaves are hijacked at gunpoint by an impassioned Smiths fan. Starring Helena Howard, Ellar Coltrane, Elena Kampouris, Nick Krause, James Bloor, Thomas Lennon, and Joe Manganiello. This isn't the only Smiths tribute film (also: The More You Ignore Me) but it does look like this'll be good. "Featuring an incredible soundtrack – including 20 songs from The Smiths – Shoplifters of the World is a glorious ode to the craziness of the '80s and the power of music to change people's lives."
"We've summoned Middle-Earth's finest to celebrate the cinematic experience…" In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Lord of the Rings (which kicked off with The Fellowship of the Ring in December 2001), and as part of their "Support Local Cinemas" campaign, the Alamo Drafthouse is hosting special event celebrations at their movie theaters around the nation coming up at the end of March / beginning of April. In addition to in-theater screenings of the three films, key members of the cast are participating in Q&As each night. The reunion Q&As will be initially exclusive to theatrical screenings of the new 4K remasters of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. However, as part of their new "Support Local Cinemas" campaign, Alamo Drafthouse is making these Q&A presentations available for all theaters around the globe entirely for free. Which is great! I love these films with all my heart and have been looking forward to revisiting them, they are timeless and still as extraordinary as ever. Frodo & Sam forever. More info on the events + Q&A below.
"I need you to do something for me…" An early festival promo trailer has debuted for a mysterious indie thriller titled Drive All Night, marking the feature directorial debut of the Bay Area's Peter Hsieh, most known for his stage plays. The film follows Dave, a reclusive swing-shift taxi driver, whose night takes an unexpected turn after he picks up a mysterious passenger, Cara, a young woman hiding a dark secret. As she makes him drive through the city on a series of bizarre excursions, things get increasingly more surreal the further into the night they go. Very cool. "I wanted to develop a complex and layered narrative that became increasingly more dream-like and surreal as the story developed. My goal is to take the audience down the rabbit hole on a fever dream trip through wonderland and hopefully have them come out the other side both baffled and entertained," says Hsieh. This stars Yutaka Takeuchi, Lexy Hammonds, Sarah Dumont, and Johnny Gilligan. I like the hyper-stylized look of it, even though I have no idea what's going on here.
"When you're a superhero, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for…" Gravitas has revealed an official trailer for an indie drama My True Fairytale, marking the feature directorial debut of D. Mitry. The short synopsis sets this up quite well: Angie Goodwin runs away after a horrific car crash to make her dream of becoming a superhero come true. The other synopsis says after the crash, Angie "decides to fulfill her childhood fantasy and embarks on a mysterious journey." Her recovery process is very strange. Starring Emma Kennedy as Angie, Darri Ingolfsson, Corin Nemec, Taylor Cole, Alyshia Ochse, Arnold Chun, Hector Hugo, Morgan Lindholm, BJ Mitchell, Juliana Destefano, and Mark Daugherty. This looks quite odd, not exactly as the description explains, but it might still be a worthwhile story to tell.
"We can't afford any mishaps." Prankster Ent. has released the official trailer for the indie comedy titled Free Byrd, an amusing road trip adventure from filmmaker Tony Vidal. Arriving on VOD this April. Jay Butler is a lovable underachiever who works as a van driver at an assisted living community. Harry Byrd is being kicked out for general irascibility. Jay is assigned to drive Harry to a new home. Along the way, they have a variety of misadventures, including being picked up by a troupe of burlesque dancers and performing an impromptu comedy act. An entertaining & enlightening journey where the older Harry gives middle-aged Jay perspective on life. With Raymond J. Barry, Randy Nazarian, Shondrella Avery, Bob Turton, Jeanne Young, Toktam Aboozary, Teruko Nakajima, & Bettina Devin. Looks like some kooky fun.
"The loner as a character acts our gateway into a complicated, unfeeling world." If you haven't seen it yet, Ross Glass' gem Saint Maud is one of the best horror debuts in years and pretty much every last critic has been raving about it. It's finally available to watch via Epix for streaming in the US. Studiocanal in the UK has posted a video essay on their YouTube featuring words and narration by film critic Anna Bogutskaya, talking about the theme of loneliness. Specifically how Saint Maud fits within loneliness cinema, and also how it connects with other lonely films, including You Were Never Really Here + A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It's a compelling rumination on loneliness and it's nice to hear her discussion with all the footage.
"It's your own responsibility to get out." Samuel Goldwyn Films has debuted the official US trailer for the Norwegian disaster movie called The Tunnel, from Norwegian filmmaker Pål Øie. Not to be confused with the Norwegian sci-fi short film also called The Tunnel, this one is a real-life thriller similar to the 90s action blockbuster Daylight. When a tanker truck crashes inside a tunnel, people on their way home for Christmas are brutally trapped in a deadly fire. With a blizzard raging outside, and the first responders struggling to get to the accident, it's every man for himself. Will the help get there in time? Starring Thorbjørn Harr, Ylva Lyng Fuglerud, Lisa Carlehed, Mikkel Bratt Silset, Peter Førde, Daniel Alexander Skadal, and Per Egil Aske. This orignially opened in theaters in Norway in 2019, and is just now finally getting a VOD release in the US starting this April. Might be worth the wait as this looks seriously, intensely thrilling.
"Take them off! Take them off!" Trinity Creative has released an official trailer for a feel good buddy comedy titled Running Naked, which arrives on VOD this spring after first premiering at the Beijing and Portland Film Festivals last year. From Emmy-winning director Victor Buhler, comes a heartfelt and moving tale that draws upon writer Jennifer Knowles personal experience as a cancer survivor. "In a world where cancer affects so many lives, Running Naked brings a positive and hopeful message to everyone and anyone whose life has been touched by the disease." The story follows cancer survivors Ben and Mark, whose friendship is tested when some news forces them to change their perspectives. Starring Matthew McNulty, Andrew Gower, Rakhee Thakrar, Tamzin Merchant, & Kiran Sonia Sawar. Looks like quirky, heartfelt fun.