Grand Jury Prize/ Int’l competition WINNER @ DOC NYC: ‘HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND’ is a final love letter spread across 12 years of filming.

HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND

The monster that is depression roars silently because, in Russia, depression is not allowed to have a voice. Putin has seen to that. In HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND, filmmaker Marusya Syroechkovskaya chronicles over a decade of her emotional roller coaster in life, love, and deep-seated despair.

Kimi was a history major with a brilliant mind, a great sense of humor, and a penchant for drug use. Marusya’s childhood was a bit more idyllic, but that didn’t stop her suicidal ideation. The two bonded over music, beliefs, and self-destructive ideas. They also filmed every waking moment.

Kimi’s traumatic childhood and Russia’s national political upheaval created the perfect ticking time bomb of existence. He and Marusya needed each other to stay alive, but unresolved trauma is a killer lying in wait. Through marriage, rehab, divorce, and Kimi on a headlong downward spiral, Marusya must find other ways to dull the inner chaos. She had to decide, make a plan to live, or join her innumerable friends in suicide.

Marusya Syroechkovskaya’s dedication and fearless openness make it easy to understand why this film won Grand Jury Prize/ Int’l competition at DOC NYC 2022. HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND is an intimate and unfiltered look at addiction, love, and attempts to survive one more day. It is a must-see film.



Saturday, November 12 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Director: Marusya Syroechkovskaya
Producer: Ksenia Gapchenko, Mario Adamson, Co-Producers Anita Norfolk, Alexandre Cornu
Cinematographers: Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya
Editor: Qutaiba Barhamji
Language: Russian
Country: Sweden, Norway, France, Germany
Year: 2022


DOC NYC review: David Siev’s ‘BAD AXE’ features hope pushing past hate. IFC will release one of the year’s best docs in theaters and on digital tomorrow!

BAD AXE

Synopsis: ​​After leaving NYC for his rural hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, at the start of the pandemic, Asian American filmmaker David Siev documents his family’s struggles to keep their restaurant afloat. As fears of the virus grow, deep generational scars dating back to Cambodia’s bloody “killing fields” come to the fore, straining the relationship between the family’s patriarch, Chun, and his daughter, Jaclyn. When the BLM movement takes center stage in America, the family uses its collective voice to speak out in their conservative community. What unfolds is a real-time portrait of 2020 through the lens of one multicultural family’s fight stay in business, stay involved, and stay alive.


The Siev family patriarch Chun is a Cambodian refugee who came to the US to attain the American Dream. He and his wife Rachel opened a donut shop named Baker’s Dozen. Times were hard, and money was tight, but the Siev family stuck together and thrived. In 2000 they opened Rachel’s, a family restaurant in their hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan.

Director and only son in the Siev pack, David had the foresight to capture the upheaval of his family and their community beginning in March 2020. Like many families, the Sievs found their adult children moving back into their homes to help their vulnerable parents. Bad Axe is a small, tight-knit town with two stoplights. It’s a nice place to raise a family. When lockdown begins, local tension boils over, and the Siev family becomes targets of racism and conspiracy theories.

The eldest daughter, Jaclyn, has palpable anxiety. She tries her hardest to protect her father. The tension and stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The family’s livelihood, quite literally, is on the line. Siblings, Michelle and Raquel, joined by Jaclyn’s husband Mike, Rachel’s boyfriend Austin, and a small handful of Rachel’s loyal employees, work day and night to feed the community and maintain a sense of normalcy while facing political and racial upheaval.

The intimate nature of Bad Axe is visceral. The Siev family could be anyone’s neighbors. They are friendly, hardworking, and respectful members of their community. They bug each other as much as they love each other. They remind me of my holidays when all four siblings invade our childhood home with inside jokes, arguments, and an unconditional adoration for one another.

Chun is a fascinating member of the family. He is a proud man. An opinionated individual, a responsible gun owner, and a survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, Chun’s unresolved trauma reveals itself in harsh words toward Jaclyn. He knows it and owns it. His emotional journey is everything.

The footage of the Black Lives Matter confrontation made my palms sweat. The aftermath of ignorant racist attacks will undoubtedly infuriate you. You will not believe the sheer terror these people have to endure. The courage of the Siev family makes my heart swell. Their bravery to move forward in the face of chaos is astounding. David’s commitment to telling their story gives audiences a peek inside the hatred stirred up by those in politics and the media that I refuse to give fuel by naming them. We all know who is responsible for the uptick of hate. May he lose again and again.

While we witness the many trials and tribulations alongside the Siev family, in the end, BAD AXE is a love letter to an ever-evolving community and an ode to a family that believes love conquers all. I can easily say Bad Axe is one of the year’s best documentaries.


BAD AXE — Directed by David Siev

New York Premiere — Winner’s Circle — IFC Films Release on Nov 18, 2022

Produced by ​​Jude Harris, Diane Quon, Kat Vasquez, David Siev 

Executive Produced by Daniel Dae Kim, Jeff Tremaine

Featuring Chun Siev, Rachel Siev, Jaclyn Siev, Skylar Janssen, Michael Meinhold

 

Screenings:

Online Screening Window – Sunday, November 13, 2022 12am through Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 11:59pm

Run Time: 102 minutes


 

DOC NYC (2022) review: ‘MY SISTER LIV’- one family’s story that speaks to millions.

MY SISTER LIV

Director Alan Hicks brings audiences the intimate story of sisters Tess and Liv through a letter from one the other. MY SISTER LIV is a tale of one family’s relentless journey to save their loved one by diving deep into the all-consuming chaos and shocking prevalence of depression. 

Liv’s personality explodes off the screen. Her bright-eyed energy catches you off guard and makes you smile. Her musical talents are an impressive saving grace. But, her thoughts of self-harm are a relentless monster exacerbated by sexual assault and body dysmorphia. Tess’ guilt is palpable. She and her mother did everything right. They researched medications and therapy and checked in on Liv. Ultimately social media and the need for acceptance lead to dark thoughts and self-medicating with alcohol.

Home videos, Tess’ narration, and Liv’s diary entries comprise a narrative that looks and sounds like so many young people. The doc plays out in two distinct halves; before and after. My Sister Liv begins with Tess telling the audience Liv’s story. The second is Tess and their mother’s emotional devastation and how the pandemic rolled into their already heavy grief, with videos of Liv replaced by videos of Tess. Then zoom discussions of Tess speaking with young people Liv’s age and mental health professionals, expressing similar feelings, coping mechanisms, causes, and statistics. 

Having lost one of my best friends from suicide after years of reaching out and quite literally talking them off the ledge, again and again, I understand the approach to mental health is sacred. My Sister Liv also served as a wake-up call for me as a parent of a five-year-old with OCD and anxiety. Can I prevent their mental health struggles from becoming all-consuming in a world that bombards children with negative thoughts and images 24 hrs a day? I’ve never wanted to predict the future more in my entire life. DOC NYC 2022 audiences have something special at their fingertips. If My Sister Liv gets viewers to start a conversation about mental health, that’s already a hugely important win for everyone. 

 thelivproject.org


Online Dates

Friday, November 11 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Director: Alan Hicks
Executive Producer: David J. Cornfield, Linda A. Cornfield, Ross Kauffman, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Curtis Pesmen, Dan Braun, Josh Braun, Rob Galluzzo, Steve Carpenter, Amy Carpenter, Bob Birch, Genie Birch, William Campbell, Alice Fiori, Co-Executive Producers Amy Batchelor, Brad Feld
Producer: Paula DuPré Pesmen, Camilla Mazzaferro
Editor: Andrew McAllister, Michael Mahaffie, Jordan Swioklo
Language: English
Country: Australia, United States of America
Year: 2022


DOC NYC (2022) review: ‘ CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET’ is an awe-inspiring film about the importance of theater and the ability to create.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET

CENTERPIECE SELECTION

*WORLD PREMIERE*

Cirque du Soleil’s “O” is the top-grossing show in the world. Enter Covid19 and the subsequent and heartbreaking release of 3400 employees. The show was down for 400 days. In April 2021, restrictions finally loosening Cirque announced “O” would be back. Eight weeks to reopen among health and safety restrictions. The doc spotlights a handful of their performers. We learn how they got to Cirque and follow along as they retrain their minds and bodies after more than a year of uncertainty. We also see the tech and artistic crews rebuilding, sewing, and revamping as quickly as possible to meet the reopening deadline. It is an intricate dance of trust. One slight human or machine error could spell disaster for the artists.

The cinematography is breathtaking, from underwater shots of the artistic swimmers to areal views of acrobatic acts. Ultimately, the film reminds us of the power and importance of performance. It’s an undeniably visceral viewing experience.

As a performer, this documentary feels deeply personal. One particular quote early on struck me immediately. “It’s really difficult to live without purpose.” What is humanity without creation? What is an artist without the ability to access their craft? Speaking from personal experience and the confessions of fellow performers when the lockdown began, it physically pained us not to be onstage. Cirque du Soleil: Without A Net is a celebratory exploration of a performer’s purpose and the joyous return of the world of theatre.


CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET had its World Premiere at DOC NYC on November 13 @ 2:15pm.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET tells the story of when the world shut down, its greatest Circus went into freefall. Within 48 hours Cirque du Soleil closed all its 44 shows; within a week it let 95% of its workforce go. The show seemed over for the billion-dollar brand. Now, more than a year later, a group of world-class artists, athletes and crew at “O”, Cirque’s flagship production, face uncertainty as they prepare to bring their show back to life. With unprecedented access, this film documents their extraordinary journey as they attempt a return to stage after one of the world’s greatest crises.

Director: Dawn Porter
Executive Producer: Dawn Porter, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Richard Bedser, Ailsa Orr
Producer: Dawn Porter, Summer Damon, Sadie Bass, Mark Burnett, Barry Poznick
Cinematographer: Chris Hilleke, Bryant Fisher
Editor: Jessica Congdon, Dave Marcus
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Year: 2022

Online Dates

Monday, November 14 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Short film review: ‘And I Miss You Like A Little Kid’ hits you square in the chest.

And I Miss You Like A Little Kid

From microaggressions to unapologetic emotional manipulation, And I Miss You Like A Little Kid sees a new relationship between strangers Jason and Clarissa begin during the pandemic. It isn’t long before power becomes the focus, and masterminded carelessness drive one of them to their breaking point.

Watching Jason endure ceaseless emotional abuse is visceral. It’s an interesting angle from the typical toxic grooming gender dynamic. Filmed in lockdown adds another layer, the relationship compiling with the isolation that was already a monster when Jason was alone. And I Miss You Like A Little Kid takes you by surprise, over and over.

Teri Reeves plays Clarissa with an edgy, ferocious energy. I loathed her. It is essential to understand this is a compliment. She is great.

Chris Zylka‘s vulnerability is award-worthy. The performance reminds me a lot of Cooper Raiff in Sh*thouse. It is not often we see the softer side of men. Zylka brings freshness. His sadness and overwhelming confusion are palpable.

As someone who had three separate college roommates that were cutters, And I Miss You Like A Little Kid is especially challenging to witness. I had forgotten the impact of catching someone bleeding with a knife in one hand, bleeding from the wrist or forearm, or inner thigh. But, in this film, Jason’s ability to recognize his breaking point is the catharsis necessary before the audience loses all hope. And I Miss You Like A Little Kid hits hard and leaves scars. It will take me a long time to shake. Writer-director Benjamin Hosking strikes a raw nerve and presents us with a clear artistic voice. Whatever comes next, I’ll have my eyes and ears waiting.


And I Miss You Like a Little Kid (TRAILER) from Benjamin Hosking on Vimeo.


Audiences can see the film today at  AFI Film Festival Conservatory Showcase 6. It will screen in a block with other short films beginning at 3:45 PM at TCL Chinese Theater. 
The entire film festival will run Wednesday, November 2-6th, 2022.

AND I MISS YOU LIKE A LITTLE KID is a short psychological drama displaying the spiraling and abusive domestic relationship of Jason (Chris Zylka, The Amazing Spider Man (2012), 90210, Hannah Montana and Cougar Town) and Clarissa (Teri Reeves, The Punisher on Netflix, ABC’s Once upon a Time, Hulu’s Battleground and NBC’s Chicago Fire) in Covid-era Los Angeles.


Film’s website: https://www.andimissyoulikealittlekid.com

Instagram: @andimissyoulikealiitlekid

Facebook Page: And I Miss You Like a Little Kid


 

Review: ‘Something In The Dirt’ is the latest mindf*ck from the filmmaking team Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.

SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

I’ve been waving my arms and shouting their names from the rooftops for years, pushing their films on fellow indie genre fans. Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are unquestionably one of the most intriguing filmmaking teams. It is impossible to predict their endgame. They thrive on the unexpected. Their latest film killing it on the festival circuit, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, is no exception. Welcome to one of the weirdest head trips in cinematic history.

Levi and John form a fast friendship when a strange occurrence in their LA apartment building inspires them to make a documentary. Walking a fine line of admiration and distrust, the two get deeper into the mystery and the lies they tell one another.

Benson and Moorhead’s use of science is a running theme in their films. It is always clever. In SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, history and math (specifically the Pythagorean theory) are quite literally written on the walls. The quick-take editing holds your attention like a vice with a mix of home videos, documentary-style sit-down interviews, visuals of whatever topic Levi and John reference, and handheld cinematography allow the audience to teeter on the edge of doc and sci-fi narrative. This is what Benson and Moorhead do; keep you on your toes from start to finish.

The sound editing is a character. Audiences might suddenly find themselves imitating Levi’s stillness and neck craning to get the full effect. Justin Benson wrote the script, while Moorhead tackles the eclectic cinematography. Directing side by side, Benson and Moorhead share a chemistry that is something of the gods. They cannot escape likeability. The dialogue sounds so natural it could be improvised around the main outline. I constantly smirked as they effortlessly bounced between science, humor, casual conspiracy theories, and the idea that nothing is a coincidence. A meta film within a film, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT is here to mess you up and keep you guessing. I need to watch it again. I need to.


SOMETHING IN THE DIRT
The Fifth Mind-Melting Feature from Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (THE ENDLESS, “Moon Knight”) 
Opens in Theaters November 4 via XYZ

GRIMMFEST 2022 review: Ramiro Blas wins Best Actor for ‘THE PASSENGER’

THE PASSENGER

Notable framing and beautiful aerial shots get us settled into an eclectic mix of folks on a journey in Blasco’s vintage van he calls Nessa. Young Marta, her mother Lidia, and religious but progressive Mariela are not exactly enjoying the ride. Blasco is a brash misogynistic conspiracy theorist. After spotting something strange on the side of the road, an accident transforms the group quite literally. What stalks them is gruesome and otherworldly.

The camera work from Ignacio Aguilar gets exponentially cooler as the chaos ensues. Fantastic editing and sound design add to the gloriously gory SFX makeup. It must have been one of the most gag-worthy sets to work on. I almost lost my lunch during one closeup.

The Passenger’s cast blew me away. Each actor brings something unique to the film. Actress Cristina Akcázar launches an outrageous physical performance filled with violent movements and wild energy.

Paula Gallego plays Marta and brings everything we need from sass to “final girl” greatness. Her chemistry with Ramiro Blas takes you by surprise. It is one hell of a pairing. Speaking of Ramiro Blas, as Blasco, he manages to be slimy and loveable all at once. There’s a reason he won The Grimm Reaper award for Best Actor. You’ll love to hate him and hate and love him.

The Passenger brings the best tropes of creature feature films. The final shot is slow-clap-worthy goodness. GRIMMFEST 2022 audiences and beyond will lap this up while simultaneously gagging.


NYFF60 review: ‘SHE SAID’ is retraumatizing and revitalizing. It’s a must-see.

SHE SAID

Sex, lies, power, and scandal, SHE SAID wowed audiences into silence at NYFF60. We all think we know the story behind the takedown of Harvey Weinstein. This new film, based on the explosive investigative reporting from New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, gives us an inside look at the delicate process of relationship building and the truth. She Said is directed by Maria Schrader, with a screenplay from Rebecca Lenkiewicz based on the 2019 book by Kantor and Twohey of the same name. The film depicts two colleagues coming from two different places in their personal life; Kantor, the mother of three children, and Twohey enduring PPD after the birth of her first child. The film opens brilliantly, with Twohey addressing the infamous Access Hollywood tape. We all know what happened after that, and any sane human can agree it was a disaster for women and the entire world. Once payouts for sexual allegations became a headline, and after the firing of Bill O’Reilly, the NYT floor was abuzz with thinking. How far does this problem go?

The legwork done by these women is mindblowing. The all-hours phone calls, the messages, the threats, and the intimate and honest way they approached anyone connected with Miramax and The Weinstein Company. The film conveys the emotional exhaustion of it all. Story after story of similar allegations and subsequent NDAs sucker punch you, over and over. As these cases now play out in real-time, it is fascinating to witness how to reach a victim and what compels an enabler. One particular detail I found interesting was Weinstein’s obsession with whether the team had spoken to Gwenyth Paltrow. It comes up three to four times at Harvey’s behest. I am dying to know what that story entails because it was clear from the voice reenactments Harvey feared her in a way he did not fear others. Seeing Ashley Judd play herself was undeniably powerful. I can only imagine the feelings of catharsis that must come with that decision. 

Andre Braugher as NTY executive editor Dean Baquet gives a standout performance. He is a no-nonsense fighter, and the entire audience loved him. Braugher represents what every female employer needs in their corner daily. He is spectacular. Jennifer Ehle is heartbreaking as Laura Madden, one of the first women to agree to go on the record. Samantha Morton is an absolute ass-kicker playing Zelda Perkins, who handed over the negotiations from her NDA. She brings the fiery energy that skewers Miramax.

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, respectively. Chasing down uncooperative leads and racing against Ronan Farrow, while balancing personal turmoil and home life, Mulligan and Kazan perfectly balance one another. Mulligan brings a similar edge that we saw in Promising Young Woman. Do not for a minute think this is a one-note performance. Never doubt Carey Mulligan’s ability to be soft and vulnerable. Kazan plays Kantor with an elegant passion and determination to reveal the truth. Together, they support one another from scene to scene. Some of my favorite moments occurred when only the two of them played opposite one another. While these were generally brief, believe it or not, they were magnetic together. I would watch seven more films about Twohey and Kantor’s work as long as Mulligan and Kazan do them justice. 

Ultimately, SHE SAID is both retraumatizing and revitalizing. The work continues. We can thank two brave and tirelessly devoted women for letting us into a world we did not want to admit ruled supreme for far too long. SHE SAID will undoubtedly be on everyone’s lips as we keep our fingers crossed that men like Harvey Weinstein, and anyone who enabled his behavior, are held accountable. Survivors demand it, and allies demand it. Something has got to give. Let the dominoes fall, and let them rot in jail.

She Said – Only In Theaters November 18.

Social Handles

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shesaidfilm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shesaidfilm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shesaidfilm

Website: https://www.shesaidmovie.com

#SheSaidMovie


 

NYFF60 review from Unseen Films: ‘NO BEARS’

NO BEARS

Jafar Panahi travels to a border town in order to direct a movie remotely. The actors and film crew are across the border and are taking directions via Zoom.  As Panahi struggles to get the film finished he becomes involved with two sets of lovers, two of the actors, and two people in the village where he is staying. Both pairs want to flee to somewhere safe, something that might not be possible

Panahi is not loved by the Iranian government. As this film was hitting the festival circuit the director was being put into prison. Prior to that, they had tried to restrict his ability to make films but he managed to work around the obstructions. The result has been a unique series of films where the filmmaker is the subject and the films transcend the notion of autobiographical cinema.
This time out Panahi has made one of his most affecting films. Forget his personal situation, this story of life in a small town and in a repressive country will leave you shattered at the end. Panahi is juggling a lot of balls in the air and manages to manipulate them perfectly. First, we have his situation which is basically hiding out in a small town to make a movie he shouldn’t be making. In showing us what it takes to make his film we see how the small minds of the village express an openness that really isn’t. there This ties into the story of one of the couples, a doomed romance Panahi captures in a photo, that everyone wants to see, but which he deletes and denies having. It seems the young woman has been promised since birth to someone she doesn’t love and that someone needs proof to hurt the girl’s true love.  At the same time, the lead couple in Pahani’s film is making a film based on their lives and their efforts to flee to the West. However, the need for official documents complicates things. All of the threads end in darkness for the characters and soul-searching for the audience.
I love Panahi’s films. I make every effort to see everyone I can because he always speaks a truth that needs to be heard. I also find that how he is forced to make films ends up making films that are much more real than if he were making just a straight narrative.  They are so much more interesting because we have to think about how he did what is up on the screen. His are films that are alive and in the moment.
I was rocked by this film. I did not expect the turns, and yet every one is perfectly placed.
One of the best films I saw at this year’s New York Film Festival, it is a must for anyone who loves humanity.

 

For more of Steve’s NYFF60 coverage and all the rest of the movies in the world, (because the man is a machine) head to Unseen Films.


Brooklyn Horror FF review: ‘The Weird Kidz’ features adult animation and horror? Hey Girl, I’m listening.

THE WEIRD KIDZ

This raunchy hand-drawn animated feature set in the 80s features three twelve-year-old “Dug,” his two buddies, Mel and Fatt, older brother Wyatt, and his brother’s girlfriend, Mary. On their way to an overnight camping trip, a gas station owner tells Dug to be careful of “The Night Child”, a creature that allegedly tore her brother to pieces years ago. But this BHFF 2022 creature feature has a second act you won’t see coming.

The character Mary is a badass feminist horror icon. Did I yell, ‘Hell, Yeah,” at the screen every time she surprised me with her choices? You know it. Horror legend Angela Bettis voices Duana, the gas station owner. That was quite the treat. Ella Coltrane is Wyatt. Walking a fine line between loathsome, cliche, and redemptive, it’s a memorable turn. The best voice performances come from Glen Bolton and Brian Ceely as Mel and Fatt. They stand out way above the rest with pitch-perfect tone and timing.

The era jokes and visual cues are kickass. Wyatt says, “Penis wrinkles,” a phrase I know from my first feature film in theaters, E.T. High five for the obscure homage. Also, the fact that I can remember the lyrics to, “Hey Girl,” days later, says a lot. 

There’s an overall snappiness that’s missing from The Weird Kidz. Even if the runtime currently stands at an hour and fifteen minutes, it feels much longer. It might benefit from some editing and a few 80s metal tracks. Writer-director Zach Passero does an excellent job flipping the script on the classic monster. The work is there, and Gen X will thank you.


  • Runtime:
    80 minutes
  • Country:
    USA
  • Premiere:
    World Premiere
  • Director:
    Zach Pass

NYFF60 capsule review: ‘Will-o’-the-Wisp’ has one great dance scene.

Will-o’-the-Wisp

With roughly a 60-minute runtime, I was bewildered by this film. NYFF60 got an eyeful with Will-o’-the-Wisp, a Portuguese musical romcom that exploded with themes from climate change, colonialism, and an LGBTQ love story, all wrapped in an unapologetically erotic package. As a man lay on his deathbed in 2062, he reminisces about his love affair with a fire brigade colleague in 2022. The film begins with sold humor in its historical tableaus, garnering laughs in breaking the fourth wall in Shakespearian aside style. Our lead is the reluctant crown Prince Alfredo, whose passion for the environment and his fellow fire brigade members takes precedence over his royal duties. With long takes and genre-jumping comes an uneven pace as we bounce through time, from theme to theme. The film features a pornographic mutual masturbation scene and numerous projected images of penises. One particular scene stands out above all else. To call it a musical feels untruthful were it not for one singularly spectacular choreographed number. This lengthy scene manages to be beautiful and funny all at once. I was longing for more of this. I was mesmerized. Once finished, I was heartily disappointed with the remaining narrative.

NYFF60 review: ‘BONES AND ALL’ is a cult classic in the making, boasting stellar performances, morbid humor, and visceral visuals.

BONES AND ALL

Lucky audiences at NYFF60 had the chance to experience BONES AND ALL, one of the buzziest films to come out of the Venice Film Festival, with its eight-and-a-half-minute standing ovation. At this point, it is hard to imagine that you haven’t heard about it. It is thoroughly accurate to describe it as the following: “A coming-of-age romantic cannibal road film” Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Bones and All comes from a screenplay by David Kajganich, based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis. It centers on Maren’s father abandoning her at age eighteen, leaving behind an audio tape as her only guidance and explanation. This narration is an overarching theme during Maren’s journey. Left to fend for herself after years of life on the run with her father, she stumbles across another “eater” named Sully. When he makes her uneasy, she runs again, only to bump into Lee on the road. The two form a bond based on survival and their need to consume flesh. As they travel cross country, the menace from other eaters proves to be the most spine-chilling aspect of their relationship. 

Part of this story features Maren tracking down the mother she’s never met. In what would essentially prove to be a brilliant monologue, Chloë Sevigny‘s brief screentime makes you sweat. Michael Stuhlbarg is incredibly unsettling as fellow drifter Jake. When you discover that he’s teaching a non-eater how to do what they do, it feels wrong and so very right. Stuhlbarg crushes every role. Here, it took me a few minutes to realize it was him. Jake is a dirty, overalls-wearing backwoods soul and proud of it. It’s scary good.

Mark Rylance, who I have had the privilege of seeing on Broadway in Twelfth Night (yes, I had the coveted seats onstage), is hands down the most uncomfortable aspect of Bones and All. His performance borders on caricature and yet somehow works like gangbusters. From his straggly ponytail and fedora to his flair-spangled jacket, Rylance will have you eating out of the palm of his hand, whether you want to or not. Pun intended.

Timothée Chalamet as Lee is nothing but charming. He oozes casual suave. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows his work. Bones and All reconnects Chalamet with Luca Guadagnino. One could argue that Call Me By Your Name was Chalamet’s star vehicle at NYFFF55. Bones and All is just as bold. Chalamet brings a punk edge and a caring nature opposite Taylor Russell. As Maren, she’s measured and soft. Her approach to adults shows a curated maturity. It’s a perfect balance to Chalamet. Together, they capture the innocence of young love, even if they’re pulling the wool over people’s eyes for a meal.

Bones and All is one of the most visceral films in history. As a horror fan (one might even call me a fanatic), I have seen and heard it all. Bones and All had me squirming and gagging and utterly entranced. It gives new meaning to “a visual feast for the eyes.” It will not be a film for everyone. It is best to go into your viewing experience with little to no knowledge, but that may feel like a bait and switch to some viewers. You can find out if you have the stomach for BONES AND ALL when A24 releases it on November 18th. Bring an open mind, and leave the snacks at home.

NYFF60 review: Charlotte Wells brings us a triumph in ‘AFTER SUN.’ It will make you want to call your Dad.

AFTER SUN

One of the most surprisingly intimate NYFF60 films centering on a father-daughter relationship, Charlotte WellsAFTER SUN, hits you square in the chest, over and over. Eleven-year-old Sophie and her father, Calum, go on their annual holiday. A resort in Turkey is the backdrop of a screenplay that has three distinct narratives playing out simultaneously. By which I mean AFTER SUN is a coming-of-age film, a story of depression and the unbreakable bond between a parent and their child.

It is quickly apparent Calum is struggling with his mental health but attempts to make the most of his time with Sophie. Like most kids, she is keenly aware of her father’s tendency to please, regardless of his financial circumstance. Their vacation, while average to Sophie, proves to be their last.

The film utilizes camcorder footage. Sophie is behind the camera. The film’s cinematography also lends to the intimacy, with close-ups of hands and faces, as well as the use of reflections, in everything from mirrors to glass doors and television sets. Besides the fantastic costumes marking the 90s, the soundtrack makes it loud and clear while subtly enhancing the story. Carefully chosen tracks like “Under Pressure,” even though it’s from 1981, speak volumes.

There are moments in the film that appear unusual until you realize the larger picture. Calum frustratingly attempts to teach Sophie a self-defense technique that feels inappropriate for her age. He is unbothered by her confession of a first kiss and more focused on the fact that she felt comfortable sharing about her life. He offers her a sip of beer. What draws us into the screenplay is an intoxicating mix of awkward moments juxtaposed by a relationship one strives to have with their offspring. The care Calum expresses, the time feels weighted and invested.

Paul Mescal is extraordinary. The emotional highs and lows draw you into the film. If you’re a parent, they also cause concern for Sophie’s well-being Frankie Corio is a revelation as Sophie. She is funny, spontaneous, observant, and fearless. Mescal and Corio share an onscreen bond that feels genuinely familial. I was blown away by their chemistry. Charlotte Wells has an undeniable gem here in AFTER SUN. You must seek it out.


From writer/director Charlotte Wells and starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio. AFTERSUN – Only in Theaters October 21. #AfterSun
 
DIRECTOR: Charlotte Wells CAST: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall

 

Review: ‘CAT DADDIES’ is a surprisingly purrfect family film.

Man has found a new best friend: Tora, Pickles, Lucky, Zulu, Toodles, Flame, and GoalKitty. These are just some of the lovable feline stars of director Mye Hoang’s debut documentary film CAT DADDIES. A heartwarming and tender portrait of a diverse group of men whose lives have been forever changed by their love of cats, CAT DADDIES takes us on an inspiring journey all across the United States during the challenging early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when people desperately needed hope and companionship. These nine “cat dads” come from all walks of life – a firefighter, a truck driver, a Hollywood stuntman, an ad executive turned cat rescuer, a police officer, a software engineer, an actor/Instagram influencer, a school teacher and an undocumented and disabled immigrant living on the streets of New York City. They couldn’t be any more different, but each of them has a compelling story to tell and share an unconditional love for their beloved cats. A refreshing and timely exploration of modern masculinity, CAT DADDIES shows us how being a “cat person” has no gender, and that the unlikely bond between man and cat is here to stay.

A bit eccentric, incredibly fun, and entirely sweet, CAT DADDIES spotlights male cat owners and their feline friends. Following the lives of nine cat dads, Mye Hoang‘s documentary film shows audiences the unconditional love between owner and pet and subtly dismantles outdated stereotypes about masculinity and cat ownership.

David and Lucky live in the streets of NYC. A former construction worker originally from the country of Georgia. After rescuing an injured kitten and the ASPCA ignoring his pleas, David and the kitten that survived are now inseparable. David has Cerebral Palsy, and his medical needs are a roadblock to his desire to provide the best life for Lucky. Their story is the greatest through line in CAT DADDIES. We follow their journeys through David’s surgeries and Lucky’s adjustment into temporary care with a friend.

Tora the Trucker Cat, truck driver David, and girlfriend Destiny travel together from state to state for months. Tora has a leash to explore national parks and a seat in David’s backpack when she needs a break. Tora has become the focus of David’s newfound photography skills. She’s a bit of a celebrity that’s allowed David to express himself in ways he never thought possible.

These are just two men featured in the film, but their relationships speak volumes about their feline friends’ impact on their lives. Each story is darling. Filmmaker Mye Hoang creates a beautiful arch of the bond between animals and the men who love them. The doc also brings awareness to the stray cat population and how we can help. You’ll fall in love with these little friends. If you thought you were strictly a “dog person,” think again. I watched the film with my five and six-year-old children, and they were enamored. These kids have been begging for a dog since they were two. CAT DADDIES is here to change minds and capture hearts.


In select theaters beginning October 14th in New York (at Village East by Angelika), followed by Los Angeles (at Laemmle Glendale), Dallas (Angelika Film Center) & San Diego (Reading Cinemas Town Square) on October 21st. The film will then expand into additional theaters/cities later this fall.

About the filmmaker MYE HOANG: 
Mye Hoang is a Los Angeles-based film producer, writer, and director. Her work as a producer includes the award-winning noir thriller MAN FROM RENO (Best Feature, LA Film Festival & Spirit Award nominee 2015) and I WILL MAKE YOU MINE by Lynn Chen (SXSW 2020). Mye has directed several narrative short films that have screened at festivals around the world. Her narrative feature film debut as writer/director, VIETTE (a Vietnamese American coming-of-age story), premiered in 2012 and screened at dozens of film festivals, including the Asian American International Film Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Mye is also the founder and former Executive Director of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, and the former Artistic Director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival. She has a BA in Cinema from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX where she was born and raised. CAT DADDIES is her first documentary feature.

Beginning this Friday, both in-person in NYC and virtually, The 15th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival is ready to blow your mind.

15th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival
(October 14-21)


Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s Utama opens the festival
with a gala screening at the Museum of the Moving Image


Spotlight screenings include Godard’s classic
Alphaville, Ali Cherri’s The Dam (Le Barrage),
Jacqueline Mills’ Geographies of Solitude,
and Signe Baumane’s My Love Affair with Marriage



This year’s festival is overflowing with cool. Here are a few of the films we’ve previously covered. 

My Love Affair With Marriage

Fire of Love

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy 

Of Medicine and Miracles

For more information on this year’s edition, continue below!

 

New York City’s Imagine Science Film Festival
announced the lineup of films and events for the hybrid presentation of its 15 th edition, taking
place October 14-21. Screenings will kick off with the Opening Night presentation of Alejandro
Loayza Grisi’s Utama, and Spotlight Features including a special presentation of Jean-Luc
Godard’s classic Alphaville: The Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution, Ali Cherri’s The
Dam (Le Barrage), Jacquelyn Mills’ Geographies of Solitude, and Signe Baumane’s My Love
Affair with Marriage. Read More →

NYFF60 review: James Gray’s most personal film, ‘Armageddon Time’ is a relevant and searing character study.

ARMAGEDDON TIME

Writer-director James Gray brings his childhood to life in NYFF60’s feature Armageddon Time. The story centers on twelve-year-old Paul, his familial chaos entering sixth grade, and the global backdrop of 1980 running up to Reagan’s election.

In the press conference that followed the screening, Gray explained the complexity of telling what he described as a “ghost story.” His production design team worked off Gray’s memories; what his china looked like, how his father was always concerned with lights being left on, leading to the actors being lit from adjacent rooms. He admits to telling an honest story, one in which he showed himself as the shithead he was at that age. While I’m not satisfied the film has the climax it needed, it’s Gray’s genuine portrayal of his characters that will stick in my gut.

Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Paul’s grandfather, Aaron. Hopkins nails the role with charm and grace. He is a crucial moral compass for Paul but is also part of the broader problem. Gray explains how this microcosm of one family is just as relevant today, stating that one can be oppressed and still be an oppressor. This idea is never more true as we watch Paul begin to understand white privilege while simultaneously wrestling with his desire to be an artist and feeling unsupported, behavioral acting out, and the subsequent physical discipline.

I asked the cast to discuss their approach to the several physically confrontational scenes in the film. Anne Hathaway plays Paul’s mother, Esther. She shared the importance of building a safe environment while portraying violence. Once trust existed between the cast and crew, it was easier to go to a darker place because they cared for each other like family. Jeremy Strong plays Paul’s father, Irving, a contradictory man who has typical dorky dad moments but also possesses a violent temper. He acknowledged that he and young lead Banks Repeta had a safe word. Jaylin Webb, who is extraordinary as Johnny, discussed his excitement with his work in perfect child actor form, sharing that he and his fellow actors would frequently check in on his comfort level.

Let me explain why the cast’s explanations became of great significance. The most successful aspect of Gray’s script is the nuance in character building. These are not sugar-coated versions of people, but characters in volatile times, racially and economically. Their flaws are exponentially recognizable, regardless of the year. Armageddon Time could be happening right now. The cynical nature of history and generational trauma will have audiences’ hearts in their throats, shaking their heads in shame for much of the film. Therein lies the film’s strongest achievement.

  • James Gray
  • 2022
  • U.S.
  • 114 minutes

Showtimes

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12

6:00 PM

Standby Only

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13

9:00 PM

Buy Tickets

VIEW MORE SHOWTIMES 

GRIMMFEST 2022 review: Here’s a warning, DO NOT eat while watching ‘FEED ME’

FEED ME

GRIMMFEST 2022 film FEED ME is perhaps the most fucked up buddy comedy of all time. Let me clarify. Somehow, after the death of his wife, falling into a deep depression, and enduring relentless night terrors, Jed finds himself agreeing to die at the hands of a cannibal named Lionel. Jed is trapped by enigmatic visions of his wife and by Lionel’s flippant whims. 

The production team deserves all the awards for their sets and costumes. If The Saw Franchise and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a baby set, it would be that of Lionel’s house. It’s the filthiest, most bizarre thing. Looking in every direction makes you gag and/or want to book a tetanus shot. The attention to detail is chef’s kiss.

I cannot be the first person to say that Lionel is essentially a cannibalistic version of Ted Lasso. Not only does Neal Ward sound like him, but he could be related to Jason Sudeikis. His comic timing and wildly weird behavior make FEED ME as successful as it is. Whereas Christopher Mulvin, as Jed, plays the straight man, tortured physically and haunted psychologically. They balance each other. 

FEED ME is infinitely unpredictable and isn’t that what we want in a year where horror has been on everyone’s lips? This film is deranged. Writer-director Adam Leader and Richard Oakes leave the audience simultaneously gagging and begging for more. 

  • Year:
    2022
  • Runtime:
    96 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United Kingdom
  • Premiere:
    UK Premiere
  • Rating:
    18
  • Director:
    Adam Leader, Richard Oakes
  • Screenwriter:
    Adam Leader, Richard Oakes
  • Cast:
    Christopher Mulvin, Neal Ward, Hannah Al Rashid, Samantha Loxley


GRIMMFEST 2022 capsule review: ‘MALIBU HORROR STORY’ – righting past wrongs with social relevance and revenge.

MALIBU HORROR STORY

In GRIMMFEST 2022 feature Malibu Horror Story, a young filmmaking team and series runners for a paranormal investigative show attempt to solve a seven-year-old mystery of four missing teens. A social commentary on colonialism, Malibu Horror Story is revenge horror goodness, chock full of intrigue, Native American culture, and spiritual portals.

With a little bit of The Blair Witch Project vibe, writer-director Scott Sloane takes on exploitation in a unique and relevant way. Performances are solid across the board. The first half of the film is tightly structured. While the second half is a touch predictable, it is still fun, filled with gore and revenge. If you’re a ghost hunter/paranormal/ true crime/ horror nerd like me, you will appreciate the legit editing. Special shout out to the incessantly creepy contortionist work. Bravo.


  • Year:
    2021
  • Runtime:
    85 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United States
  • Premiere:
    International premiere
  • Rating:
    15
  • Director:
    Scott Slone
  • Screenwriter:
    Scott Slone
  • Producer:
    Dustin Harris, Scott Slone
  • Executive Producer:
    Henri M. Kessler, Brandon Edgley, Ricardo Emanuel Gonzalez
  • Cast:
    Tommy Cramer, Dylan Sprayberry, Jacob Hughes

NYFF60 review: ‘Master Gardener’ withers on the vine.

MASTER GARDENER

Paul Schrader’s latest film, Master Gardener, confounded me. The plot revolves around Narvel, a straight-laced, committed gardener with an oddly slicked-back haircut and a penchant for journaling. When the mistress of the grounds he cares for asks for a personal favor, he is quick to relent. The request requires him to take her estranged grandniece as an apprentice to ensure the gardens’ legacy and to fill a sense of familial responsibility. Once Maya arrives, so too does trouble from her past. 

Here is where we slowly get insight into Narvel’s background. Through various flashbacks, meetings with a witness protection officer, and some large-scale tattoos, things get complicated when attraction grows between teacher and student. 

Sounds relatively straightforward in the way I’ve described it. In reality, Master Gardener is a jumbled mess. Sigourney Weaver plays Mrs. Haverhill, a role I can only assume is meant to be an old-school Southern grandam. Instead, she is a racist elite taking advantage of Narvel, throwing a hissy fit when something doesn’t go her way. Weaver is a legend. Somehow this performance is horrendous. It’s an overblown theatrical version of a person. It’s unlikely this was her own doing. 

Joel Edgerton plays Narvel with an understated aura. His chemistry with co-star Quintessa Swindell feels bizarre, not to mention the egregious age difference. That has everything to do with Schrader’s script. I’m sure the film is supposed to be a redemption story. I’m sure of it. But the way it goes about that narrative feels half-baked. 

While watching the film in a room full of NYFF60 critics and patrons, the groans were audible. The laughs at the absurdity were embarrassing. No one seemed to understand what Schrader was thinking other than an out-of-touch attempt at tackling socially relevant themes in a tacky manner. The editing doesn’t do the film any favors, either.

The best aspect of Master Gardener is the grounded performance from Quintessa Swindell. Her raw openness reads as natural as can be. Brave to her for committing to dialogue that was all over the place. No doubt she’s a star. 

In the end, Master Gardener had me shaking my head. Bury this one in the ground. 


For more information on NYFF60 click here


GRIMMFEST 2022 review: ‘MOON GARDEN’ gave me goosebumps.

MOON GARDEN

One of the most extraordinary and exciting cinematic experiences of the year, GRIMMFEST audiences got a taste of the uniqueness of Moon Garden. A five-year-old girl’s trauma manifests as bizarre and visceral images as she sits in a coma. The audience hears the real-time action as the doctors and her parents navigate their tumultuous relationship. Guided by her parents’ voices, Emma attempts to escape her mysterious prison world, wading through creatures of good and evil. Moon Garden is an industrial steampunk fairy tale that is relentlessly haunting and undeniably riveting.

Moon Garden is character and world-building at its best. Fascinating and terrifying all at once, we are right alongside Emma in this frightening in-between existence. A bit of Return To Oz with a touch of Pan’s Labyrinth, the magic of Moon Garden grows with each passing second. The editing is stunning. In addition to the monstrous action, writer-director Ryan Stevens Harris incorporates memories, giving Emma the tools to survive in her strange surroundings. It’s a beguiling screenplay tackling love and fear.

Haven Lee Harris plays Emma with authentic fear and wonder. She is darling. As a mother of two children around her age, Moon Garden made my palms sweat. My pulse elevated, and I simply could not take my eyes off the screen. Harris is nothing short of captivating. I cannot wait to see what she does next. What a star!

Ryan Stevens Harris cleverly utilizes cinematic homage and fantasy to express childhood trauma. This gothic fairytale surprises at every turn. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite films of the year.

 

  • Year:
    2022
  • Runtime:
    95 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United States
  • Premiere:
    International premiere
  • Rating:
    12A
  • Director:
    Ryan Stevens Harris
  • Screenwriter:
    Ryan Stevens Harris