Sunday, November 23, 2014

Us Naked:Trixie and Monkey (2014) DOC NYC 2014

I have no idea what to say about the film- I had nothing to say about the film after I saw it so I sent a not to John and Hubert which read as follows:

serious review request-
would either of you guys want to take a pass at US, NAKED:TRIXIE & MONKEY
I have seen it
I have nothing to say about it.
except to say I have nothing to say about it-largely because I really didn't care about either Trixie or Monkey
Actually Its not a bad film but the pair struck me as the wrong sort of acrobatic hipsters-whose existence I kind of want to ignore....
I like the people around them and bits but as a whole I could have been doing other things.
If you guys don't take up the review I' guessing this note will be the review.

Salad Days (2014) DOC NYC 2014

SALAD DAYS is a look at the DC punk scene from 1980 to1990(roughly). Made by guys who were there, the director is one the boy journalist we see in the film, its filled with everyone who was anyone in the scene the film documents the days and nights of the various punk bands.

For me the film is annoyingly near great.

Taken on its own terms and as pieces the film is absolutely amazing. You’re placed in the DC music scene is a way that puts you in the clubs and houses where the music was percolating better than most films on any subject. We really are there just as if we were dropped into the say the 930 Club…

…and as good as that is its one of a couple of problems that keep the film from being truly great

First, as I said the film doesn't bring you into the story so much as drop you into it. There isn't a set up so much as a few statements and away we go with little context for things. What was things like before? We don’t know. Having Henry Rollins talk about how music had to be wonderfully produced until he heard the Ramones is okay but it doesn't say enough. What was the music scene like before? What about outside of DC? Were these guys and gals influenced by anything outside of DC? We don't know- the whole thing is a bubble.

Next the film kind of assumes you know what they are talking about. They mention bands and groups and members and unless you have a bit of knowledge you’ll feel a tad lost (more so because the band members moved around). At other times there are times where people are talking about events that I had no context for....

...which brings me to the last point the film will pick up a subject or jump through time with no ground work it just jumps into say the funk band or female bands- without really linking them into the narrative. We're just on to the next thing. I understand they want to stay away from a narrator or intertitles but some links are needed. We need to know more than we do…or at the very least we need the film to pull it all together in the end into a whole, it never does.

To be honest the problems could be solved if the film were longer-lord knows there has to be enough material, I mean dozens of people are interviewed, put more in and make it flow. I won't mind since what is here is so compelling I would have sat for another 100 minutes without a problem.

Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a bad film. It’s nowhere near being a bad film, it’s just that it’s so incredibly close to being a truly great all time classic film that I’m annoyed it just missed the target. Seriously everything that’s here is choice and amazing, with Dave Grohl's kick ass final statement about DIY sending us off with a cheer and being one of the best final statements in any film in the last five years.

Forgive the nitpicking but I want the thrill I had while watching the segments and sequences to carry over to how I feel about the whole film.

The screening at DOC NYC is long done but the film will be hitting theaters soon and is a must see for anyone who loves music especially punk.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Word out of the New York Film Festival press screening for Tales of the Grim Sleeper was that it was Nick Broomfiled’s best film. The people I talked to were bowled over by it. I even had one reviewer try to talk me out of my ticket so he could see it again.

I missed it at NYFF, laid low by an illness that had me missing several films, so its reappearance at DOC NYC made it a must see.

The film is the story of the Grim Sleeper, a serial killer so named because it’s believed to have gone to sleep for 15 years between killings. The problem is he didn’t go to sleep and Lonnie Franklin Jr, now believed to be the killer went on for decades racking up a total that is anywhere from 18 certain victims to a seemingly unbelievable total of well over 400. This is a look at a serial killer amongst us and how the police and society allowed the killing to go on for decades.

I’m in awe.

Broomfield, drawn to the insanity of the case goes into the South Central LA neighborhood and started to ask questions. Helped by people who wanted to talk or knew someone he should talk to, as well as a woman named Pam who is a great lady, Broomfield begins to unravel the case that went back over thirty years.

Revelation follows revelation as Broomfield really shows how the police did nothing, despite knowing a serial killer was operating thanks to ballistics. They told no one and let the killings go on because all of the victims were black, many prostitutes or drug users. The police cared so little that many times when a body was found it would be tagged NHI meaning no human involved.

Yea they didn’t care.

But some of the women in the neighborhood did and they formed a group to try and get word out. Not many listened…

…and weirdly until Broomfield started to get people thinking and talking many people many of of the friends of accused killer Franklin didn’t think he could have done it, until the stories of his darkness came out…

This film will rock your world as you see how not only institutions failed (well before the killings to the point one woman tells her son if anything ever happens never call the police) but in away so did the people who should have known better- I mean despite professing that Franklin was a nice helpful guy, they all knew he was a sick man.

This film is so good that I really need to see it again to be able to write on it since so much happens and there are so many revelations I didn’t catch everything.

After the film Broomfield did a Q&A.

I asked the first question asking him why he did the film or what drew him to it. He said it was the enormity of the crime. The number of those killed could be so huge that there never will be an accounting since many bodies are believed to be in landfills (Franklin worked as a garbage man for a time)

Other questions deleved deeper into the twists and turns of the case. One woman asked if Broomfield paid anyone in the film. He said Pam was paid because she was doing so much, and he gave some money to other people, but he said most people weren’t or wouldn’t take it. He said that it was opposite to the rich and famous who he dealt with, all of whom wanted to be well compensated.

Broomfield also explained that the reason he’s in the film was that by doing so we took the trip with him. We saw what he did and it makes us part of the film.

He also said that a recent screening in LA brought together the families of the victims, people in the film, the police, prosecutors and legal defense team. Broomfield said that after years of trying to get an interview with authorities they were asking for tickets to the film (prompted he said by needing to see the film that was being extensively written about and causing waves). Broomfield said that one of the retired detectives was impressed with the film.

I’m not only impressed by the film but in awe. The film kicked me all over the place and gave me much to think about.

You owe it to yourself to see this film.

The film is getting a brief run in December for Oscar qualifying before showing up on HBO in early 2015, which means you’ll have plenty of chances to see it.

SAIFF 2014: Dukhtar (2014)

Pakistan's entry for the Oscars is a treat for anyone getting it to see it at The South Asian International Film Festival this evening. I've seen a good number of the Oscar hopefuls and this is only the second one that deserves to be considered for the award. Its one of the rarest of the rare a touching drama that is also a kick ass thriller. This may very well be the best film at SAIFF and it may very well end up on my best of 2014 list as well.

The film is set in motion when a father makes a deal to seal peace with another tribe by giving the hand of his daughter in marriage to another tribal leader. This doesn't sit well with the girl's mother who was given in marriage when she was fifteen, especially since the groom is many decades older. Grabbing her daughter on her wedding day she bolts out of the village in a desperate run for her family o the other side of the country.  Things take a possible hopeful turn when they fall in with a truck driver named Sohail which means God Protects.

Working on several levels the mixing of drama and action films allows the film to do several things that shouldn't work. First it heightens the the tension and the sense of drama in ways that shouldn't work. The sense of good and bad and right and wrong are made very black and white even though we can see the grays. We know who's good and bad but we also see the levels of emotion and thoughts with in them.

The mixing also allows corners to be cut. We can jump to conclusions and not mind because what under normal circumstances could have been a talky film about child marriage and the rights of women are now in a chase frame work where we don't need long explanations and short hand notes are completely fine with the audience. The who's and the whats can be reduced to bullet points because there is no time for long winded discussion.

Helping everything is gorgeous visual style and driving score that makes everything move like the wind and fear for our heroines.

This is a great great film...

....and its so good looking you'll want to see this on the BIG screen when it plays tonight.

An absolute must see.

For tickets and more information go to the films festival web page

SAIFF 2014 Killa(aka The Fort) (2014)

Sometimes you walk down a path a thousand times and see nothing new. Some times you walk down the path the one more time and find the entire world is suddenly something unexpected. That unexpected trip is what The South Asian International Film Festival has given us with KILLA, which is playing this afternoon.

The plot is nothing new, a young boy and his mom move to a new town because her job has sent them there. They are still reeling from the death of the father/husband a year before. How will they deal with their new life in a small town?


Avinash Arun, a cinematographer making his directorial debut has given us a beautiful looking film full of wonderfully real people and situations. Its a film that follows a well worn cinematic path but doesn't walk in it, instead it stays off the path just far enough so as to keep things interesting.

You'll have to forgive me but I don't know how much to tell you. I'm in this weird place where I want to tell you everything, but with a film like this, which looks familiar but isn't, the joy in seeing the film is discovering how different something familiar can be.

I feel bad refusing to tell you more but this is one of those times when I'd rather be a pointer instead of a spoiler.  Go see KILLA. Go see something great and discover its charms for yourself.

The film plays at SAIFF at 2:30 this afternoon and is worth hustling down to the SVA theaters to see it. For tickets and information go here.

Wondering how Sex and Broadcasting: A Film About WFMU (2014) will play in Peoria DOC NYC 2014

A radio station should not be a hole in the universe for making money, or feeding an ego or running the world. A radio station should be a live place for live people to sing and dance and talk...and know they they (and the rest of us) are not finally and irrevocably dead- Lorenzo Milam Sex and Broadcasting

This is the story of New Jersey based radio station WFMU, a completely independent and totally unique radio station where anything can happen at any moment. Its a station that has a huge cult following that also includes a huge array of celebrities. The film focuses on station manager Ken Friedman as he tries to get enough money to keep the station going

At times this film is a joyous collection of wonderful moments arranged as scattershotly as WFMU's programming. Things happen all over the place as we watch artists perform, fans, such as Matt Groening and Patton Oswald  wax poetic, and the station tries to get enough money just to stay on the air.

And the scattershot nature of the film is what diminishes the greatness of the parts into a just okay whole. The problem is that it doesn't take shape and have a through line-or at lose its WTF is going on until the last half hour where we get the history of the station and of manager Ken Friedman. Once we're finally told whats going on the film clicks to life and it all starts to make sense...until the momentum is lost in yet another marathon to get money.

I wanted to scream. Worse I was tempted to shut the film off...and I would have had the bits not been so strong. The bits, the musical performances and the great people made dealing with the piss poor organization worth it for me.

The one question I was left with when I finished the film was what will people who don't know WFMU think of the film? I know of it because a number of the writers here at Unseen wax poetic about the station. On the other hand what is this going to mean to those who don't know the station, who say don't know what the Best Show was? I don't know.

Then again I get the sense that the film wasn't made for them or for people like me with only a passing knowledge of the station.

Do I think you should see the film? If you're an WFMU fan, absolutely. If you're not a fan or have no knowledge of the station I say you can give it a try, if only for the wonderful moments.

Of note -watching the screener with headphones on- I noticed there are a lot of police sirens in the background I doubt you'll hear them in the theater, but they are there if you listen

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014) DOC NYC 2014

A look at Studio Ghibli, it's staff and creators, as they prepare a couple of their most recent films THE WIND RISES and THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA and promote them. Its  loot at how their films are put together and sent off into the world.

How you react to the film will depend upon how much you know about Studio Ghibli and their films
- If you don't know a great deal about either but love them then odds are you'll enjoy this a great deal. - If you know nothing about the studio and their films you may feel a little lost since the references come fast and furious.
- If you are a huge fan of Ghibli and know the studio and the films you'll enjoy it but you'll wonder why is this two hour long.

I'm in the last group. I've seen all the films they've produced (except KAGUYA), I've also  seen several documentaries, tons of clips, read interviews and books. I'm reasonably well versed in things Ghibli, though I'm not obsessive compulsive. I like the film, but I'm still wondering why the film runs just under two hours.

You have to forgive me but the details of running the studio and promoting the films only held  my interest to a point. I did  enjoy watching Miyazaki drawing and being cranky. I love his discussion of what he does and how he puts his films together-there is no script it seems he simply draws and lets the stories flow.

This isn't a bad film, but I'm not sure who the audience for this is. You really have to have a certain love of Ghibli for this film to work.

I can neither recommend nor dismiss this film since this is one of those films you'll have to decide for yourself if you want to see it.

The film is being released in the US by GKIDS and opens November 28th

SAIFF 2014: Jigarthanda (Cold Heart)(2014)

Call Jigarthanda SAIFF 2014's cult film. A genre bending "gangster musical". Its a weird mix of nasty violence, music and comedy.

This is the story of Karthik (who shares the same first name as director Karthik Subbaraj) is a down on his luck film maker. Spinning a plot to a producer, he's told it's old hat. If he can come up with a really good gangster film he'll finance the film.  Desperate to make a film he begins to look at old newspaper clippings, only to find the best ones have already been made into films. Realizing the only way to get material for a film would be to follow an up and coming gangster Karthik decides to follow Assault Sethu, one of the baddest of the bad. That works fine for a while until an unfortunate turn of events puts his life in danger.

Weird mix of comedy, drama, gangsters, violence and music is in the words of one other reviewer a "whiplash kind of mixture". Constantly shifting styles and genres this is a film that you're either going to go with or walk out of. I don't mean that in any bad way other than if you don't want your film to bounce from comedy to drama to violent encounter to black comedy, stay away. On the other hand if you don't mind your genres mixed by all means dive in.

For me the mixing of genres (and an occasionally annoying musical score) had me fighting to stay with the film for most of the first third of the film. The bouncing between nasty violence and comedy or the mixing of the violence with the humor made it tough for me to know what was a supposed to feel? When a man is burned a live and  going through his death throes we should feel horrified but the music makes it feel like a circus. Another time the violent stabbing of a man to death during a silly argument about who's going to kill him left me feeling weird. Its funny but also kind of like WTF.

I completely applaud that writer director Karthik Subbaraj wants to mess with our heads and emotions but I don't think it's always the way he wants. I think the shifting of tones works against the film having the complete gut punch it seems to be going for.

Ultimately I like the film a great deal, partly because the pieces are so good and partly because I love any film that is ballsy enough that it forces you to engage it wholeheartedly.

The film plays tonight at 1030 and if you don't mind staying up late I recommend you take in the screening. Also recommended who want to see a variation on themes explored in Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell

(A word of warning.The SAIFF version of the film has the run time as 150 minutes. This is a festival version of the film that trims a song and some scenes which reduces the run time down from its listed time at IMDB and most other places as 171 minutes.)

SAIFF 2014: Titli (aka Butterfly)(2014)

If you want to take a walk on the dark side, at The South Asian International Film Festival might I suggest TITLI?

Titli is the name of our hero. One of three brothers in a family of carjackers he wants out of the life. He's hoping to get enough money to buy into a new parking garage that's going up. The trouble is he doesn't want to let the family to know until it's a done deal.  His brother don't want him to leave, so they marry him off to Neelu, a beautiful girl with her own agenda. The pair make a bargain with each other to get what they want but the lies and crimes have a price and it has to be paid.

The film sucked me in from almost the start, I was very curious to see what was going to happen especially since the film has a dark cloud hanging over it from the first moments. The promised deal to buy the garage is complicated by a sudden rise in price. From there we see the violent and dog eat dog world Titli lives in, and we know why he wants out. Titli's family draws the line at murder  that doesn't mean there isn't room for other forms of violence with physical or psychic. Everyone is abusing everyone

This search for a better life is a dark tale tinged with hope. There may be a better life, but what will you do to get it, and if you do get it will it have been worth selling your soul to get it? And what if what you want isn't really what you thought?

You'll forgive the lack of detail and words but the film is still banging around in my head and heart. While I can tell you what it is and that I liked it, my ability to pull it apart and be critical isn't really there. I need time to sit and reflect on the film, which as I write this about two weeks before the screening is not something I'm really able to do since I'm about to dive into another film. I know once I see the next film my thoughts for this one will get jumbled.  Such is the peril of being a film writer.

Do yourself a favor and if you see TITLI,which you should do, don't see something after it. See the film on it's own and let it work you over for a while before you see something else. This is a film that deserves careful consideration.

For more information and tickets go to the film's festival page.


Video thanks to Chocko


Video thanks to Chocko


Video thanks to Chocko


Video thanks to Chocko


Video Thanks to CHocko

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A very few words on Haunters (2014) DOC NYC 2014

Documentary on the making of the Phobia House haunted house attraction in Michigan follows the people behind it from July through the opening. We watch as the group tracks down their new location, put it together and then open it up.

Profoundly bland and unremarkable film about the making of a haunted house is easily the weakest film I've seen at DOC NYC this year. Its also the weakest film on the making of a haunted house I've seen- and I've seen a bunch of them. The only area where it scores over better films like MONSTERS WANTED, is in showing bits from inside the attraction. Outside of that this is a big yawn, thanks in large part to its scattershot  march through time and showing of events. There is no order to anything things just happen.

I'm so glad I didn't go see this at midnight.

As much as I hate to say it you can skip this one.