Monday, December 20, 2010

Finding the Christmas Spirit...kind of?



I always enjoy watching the Harry Potter movies around Christmas. I don't know if it is because for some many years one has been released around this time of year, though the most recent, Deathly Hallow, Part One, is far from Christmas-ey.
But seeing the halls of Hogwarts decked out in garland and glittery snow always gets me in the holiday mood.
As does my childhood classics...

How the Grinch Stole Christmas


and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. All of which make little or no mention of the Real Reason for the Season, that a Child was born unto us, grew, became a man and did his Father's work, dying on the cross for the sins of the world.
This morning I am trying to think of classic Christmas movies that even comes close to celebrating the true meaning of the season......got a few-

It's a Wonderful life- though God, Christ references are hazy- Joseph is the only name mentioned from Heaven in the conversation with Clarence-

Of course there are all the adaptations of A Christmas Carol, twenty one according to Wikipedia, including the Muppets and Mickey Mouse- where three ghosts convict Scrooge after he is warned by his old friend Marley, who is cursed to wander the world in chains, but like all other Christmas stories Dickens and the later screen adapters, scoot around the "Core" shall we say of what Christmas is all about. Gosh it is in the name- CHRIST- mas!
Most of these feel good stories will at some point declare we need to find the Christmas spirit, remember the real meaning, come to an epiphany that Christmas is.....according the Grinch, "more than ribbons and bows", but then the credits roll and it is up to us to figure out exactly what that is!
So what is the source of The Christmas Spirit, why is the hope of this holiday that we will put down our comforts and remember all the rest of the people milling around on the planet with us, what is really the source of this season's good cheer? Well, that God gave us the ultimate gift in his son and because it is a gift we cannot repay, he told us to love others as if we are loving him.
Not everyone believes in God, or the God who holds accountability in his son. There is no declaration in the Bible to remember or celebrate Jesus' birth- Christmas is an ancient "compromise" between the Church and the pagan holidays around the winter solstice. But apparently that is of little concern to most of us, often including me and the "residual" good cheer of the festive feel of the holiday, the pretty decorations and lights and musical cheer captured so well in our classic Holiday movies is sufficient this time of year and to get in to the Core- that this sweet baby would suffer an agonizing death on the cross- for our sins, and we do hold accountability for it, well that might just get in the way of the festivities!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Moguls and Movie Stars" now showing on TCM

video

The  new Turner Classic Movies documentary on the history of Hollywood  from the beginning of the invention of movie pictures -up through the 1970 when much of the power was lost by the Studios that I got to preview at the Telluride Film Festival is now showing! It started yesterday with the Episode- "Peepshow Pioneers"  - but is reshowing tomorrow-Wednesday, 10 PM Eastern- I will be Tivo-ing it!
The rest of the Episodes will debut  Mondays at  8:00 PM Eastern until December 15.


I did a pretty good job of  getting  my reviews of the films I saw up on my blog right away that week, typing away in the morning at The Steaming Bean Coffee shop- in fact so well that after I reviewed "Moguls and Movie Stars" I bumped into it's director- Jon Wilkman and his wife on a side street in Telluride and told him how much I enjoyed previewing the first two episodes and would be looking forward to see the rest.  He said thanks and that some movie blog- called " Popcorn and something" had already gave it a good review! That was pretty wild- he also told me I had spelled his name wrong- which really left me with no excuse cause he spells his first name just like my husband- "Jon" with no H.


Tape and watch "Moguls and Movies" it is fascinating stuff- the little steps that film made- from the early inventions of Edison and Kodak coming together plus a whole lot of help from other inventors!

TCM will be also showing some of the films the episodes are featuring through the month.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

There has to be a change...usually.




Went and saw the new movie The Town, starring and directed by Ben Affleck.
The movie opened strong and has gotten great reviews, but I actually thought it sort of....fizzled, meaning it really did not have much of a story arc to it, the main character played by Affleck, Doug MacRay, really didn't change much- essential, in my opinion to a good story.
A story is usually the literal and internal journey of a character- first he is in his life, not knowing another way to be- MacRay is nestled deep in a subarb of Boston- Charlestown, where bank robbing is a family business helped by the Irish mob. He knows no other life and desires no other life.
Then something happens- MacRay finds himself caring for the Bank Manger he has to kidnap to get away from the police and he tells his cohorts he will keep any eye on her, to make sure she doesn't know anything about them.
He is intrigued but nothing has happened to prevent him from living the life he has always known....until while he is watching her, she approaches him, unaware of who he is and they start a relationship....now he is in unsure waters, though he has done nothing to keep him from the life he knows, until....she tells him she remembers a tattoo one of the bank robbers had on the back of his neck- now he has a choice, a can't go back to his life choice- let his gang kill her or not tell them and protect her.
This is where I think the town fall short- MacRay kind of stays in the middle- even though his gang does find out about his relationship with a witness that could "screw" them all- he doesn't have to fight very hard to keep them from killing her, he tells the Irish mob he's "out", they put some pressure on him and he does the "Big Job" - and when it goes south- when everything goes south, him not really saving the girl, not in any big way- he saves himself, basically.
No real plot twists, no real plan- from a guy who is "the architect" of the bank heists- the one who figures out how to get it done-expected more of a "twisty", roller coaster ending then what I got.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review: Starz's Pillars of the Earth Miniseries



Haven't been able to be working in the studio much lately with all the traveling- but when I was I enjoyed the Starz miniseries-Pillars of the Earth about the logistics of building a Cathedral in the dark ages of England- about 1300 AD- when England was in utter turmoil and the Feudal system ruled. Unbelievably interesting time, when Class meant everything and peasants were hacked to death in the streets without much notice.
The miniseries stars two of my favorite British actors- love listening to them talk-


Rufus Sewell ( Tristan and Isolde) who has had many secondary roles in many movie, really shines in this one as the Master Builder- who declares to his two sons- that he will not, nor probably they- live to see the completion of such a great work as a Cathedral.

Another British actor I like- Matthew Mcfadyen ( Pride and Prejudice) is the priest trying to navigate the political and religious waters to get the church built- lines that were very very blurred at the time.

Eddie Redmayne, an up and coming actor with a wonderful voice- stars as the gifted and dangerous apprentice;

Have not read the book the movie was based on-many of my friends have and were recommending it to me, with my obsession of old churches and architecture.
I remember in Art History in college I had to memorize all the parts of a Cathedral and we studied different churches through the different movement- I am guessing Pillars would be in the Gothic era- someone can correct me. The inventions of Buttresses is fascinating- my children always giggle at anything with the word "butt" in it- but someday they will appreciated the mini architecture lesson on our road trips.
Whether in Medieval Europe or the badlands of the Southwest it was a regular practice to build a great church for the local masses to be in awe of- see my musing on touring San Xavier Del Bac near Tucson Arizona.
The psychology of walking into such a massive structure- the stain glass, the great reliefs on the massive doors, all more important that the masses were illiterate, the Priests the only means to the Word of God, the illustrated stories of the fresco panels played an even more important part.


Superstition played a large part of things also - if Pillars of the Earth is accurate- the why- behind the money and labor being there to build the great Cathedral- makes me want to go back and read up on the buildings of these great churches.

Pillars of the Earth
available on Netflix Downloads

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coming to a Theater Near You- a Movie in a Box.

Not a DVD box- but the  actual movie, the setting, the story takes place in the span of about 6 feet-
 Devil- shot almost entirely in an elevator ( release date: Sept. 17, 2010)

Buried- shot entirely in a coffin ( Release Date: October 8, 2010)

 127 Hour- (Release Date: November 5, 2010)
was shot almost entirely in a slot canyon- in a span of about oh.... what is the span of a medium guys reach when his hand is stuck by a big rock?

One could say that filming a movie in such a small space is revolutionary- I can't think of any other movies that take place in such a small space, can you, but now we have three this fall.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Telluride Film Festivial: The Ending of the Show



It had to come, after four days, and to be frank I think my brain was ready. The yummy Labor Day picnic provided by Omaha Steaks- was at the Town Park, at the end of town where a lot of the other popular festivals and concerts are featured in Telluride like the Blues and Brews.
Along with the food, there was one last panel -"If You Could See What I See": How do filmmakers
conceive the look of a film and translate it into visual terms?
With Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) , Colin Firth, Tom Hooper- ( The Kings Speech) Olivier Assayas (Carlos), Mark Romanek ( Never Let Me Go) and ; moderated by Annette Insdorf (Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, New York)

As an artist, the discussion was really interesting- Hooper, the director of "The King's Speech" talking about his use of negative space to set the mood of the film and another director talking about his use of Japanese "Wabi Sabi". All the directors were very interested in color- Aronofsky using black and white- in line with the theme of ballet and dashes of pink and its complement of blue green. Romanek, in Never Let Me Go, banded primary colors and muted the English country side.
Leaning against the chain link fence, with many nonpassholders listening on the other side, I found myself drifting my view up from the panel discussion to the rocky box canyon above us.

The power in that park was bigger than huge- movie stars, Hollywood directors with $180 million movie budgets, Studio executives. I even caught one of our Colorado Senators, Bennet having coffee at the Steaming Bean.
These were some of the most influential men in the world- the power of media not to be overlooked spending their weekend in Southwest of Colorado. Unfortunately there was not one women I could name that I saw that's influence came close- not they were not there, I just did not see them.
So here I sat against the fence as the panel discussion was over and the actors and directors were whisked off to their waiting black Escalades to head to the airport or other parts of Telluride and the funniest thing happened...Michael Ondaatje, the guest director of the festival and author of novel The English Patient, rushed after Tom Hooper, the much younger director of The King's Speech ( he has also directed John Adams and Shakespeare in Love) to shake his hand and oh and ahh over Hooper's films. I have observed one famous author gush over another famous author at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in LA.
It is such a testament- to really, we are insecure softies.
But the lasting impression I had, sitting there under this....

Was I wondered if the big time directors were moved by the scenery, if the Studio Ex, looked up at the "Ahh" inspiring rugged San Miguel's and felt small- because they were in God's country and was it easier here than in the glitz of Hollywood or London to "Know there is a God!"

Post Script: Alas that Brad Pitt was here was a mean mean rumor by some Hotel worker!

Post Post Script: That is that from me- I am tired of writing and you must be tired of reading about Telluride- be back soon with more movie stuff, cause amazingly am planning to watch a few more in the comfort of my studio as I happily unwind by stitching- let you know what I see....but later.

Post 3x- it was a delight to spend the festival with a friend and her aunt and her friend- I had a great time and thanks a bunch for the use of the bed and the yummy dinner and soup!

Telluride Film Festival: UCLA Film and Television Archives

My Acme ticket got me into everything up at the Chuck Jones theater up the gondala in Mountain Village, which is dedicated to a long time support of the festival and yep, the creator of Bugs Bunny!

I did have two passes to downtown venues, which were in the old historical building around Telluride like the  old Masonic Hall
But, the one venue, the Sheridan Opera House where so  many of the big premieres are- click here for some history of the building in Telluride, was excluded. So when one of the free showings to the public was scheduled in the Historical Opera House, I was thrilled.

                                            
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)  is  well known for their film and televison retoration.
Jan-Christopher Horak was given a special award for his work and led us through several of UCLA recent restoration efforts including The Red Shoes
Part of the Festivals tribute to Claudia Cardinale- a star of Italian screen in the 1960s

Horak took us through the restoration process of the classic ballet film, showing a copy that had severe mold and then the restored version and empasized the great volume of work still needed to preserve these cellilod strips of film.

                                         
Interesting note- it is how many times a negative is used to make copies that really deteriates it, so it is the popular movies that are in great need of restoration.

Telluride Film Festival: What a Coincidence?!

There are about forty feature length films that are viewed at the TFF, "The King's Speech", "Black Swan", "127 Hours" to name a few. I was surprised that in such few movies this logline could apply to two of them-

"Disarming beautiful woman cause three men to fight over her to point of death."

The very modern Tamara Drewe which you can click on for my review


and The Princess of Montpensier...

by director Bertrand Tavernier, a French period piece set during the French Wars of Religions ( 1562-1598) when the Catholics and the Protestants basically hacked at each other in the name of God but really for political power.
                                  
The main character- Marie de Mézières, played by French actress Mélanie Thierry, is given away in marriage, contractually by her father in exchange for alliances with the right people and well a nice allotment of land for his hunting hobby.

Her lover, her husband, the kings brother and her tutor all fall madly in love with her, and as their country of France is in a bloody useless conflict, so are they in their own conflict over Marie.

Really?

Two movies of a women basically standing there- dolled up and men falling over each other to possess her. Are there only two kinds of stories involving women- the young disarmingly beautiful "ingenue" or the shell of a once beautiful women as portrayed in Another Year by Lesley Manville.


We really haven't come that far have we?

I loved the festival- but I have to give it a pretty bad rating on the "Girl" scale- no really positvie movie about women, no real women of power there- that is a bummer!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Telluride Film Festival: 127 Hours

The men in my family have always been in love with the wilderness. My father was a Forest Service ranger and we have in our possession a letter written in fancy script of my Great, Great, probably Great Grandfather imploring his son to forget his wanderlust of going into the Wild to hunt and settling down into respectability.
I remember my mom declaring to my brother "You can't make a profession of hunting!" Well he proved her wrong- developing a long range rifle, working with Leopold Rifle Scopes and Cabela Outfitters and hosting a Hunting show on cable that takes him to parts unknown, well unknown to his family.
My brother did have a run in with a rattlesnake, who didn't appreciate being picked up and bit my brother on the hand- He had to horseback ride 5 hours to get to the trailhead where the search and rescue were waiting for him.

So needless to say, 127 Hours hit a little bit too close to home. I was expecting to not like it for the "sensational-ness of the story" Cayonlands, where Ralston was caught is just over the border into Utah, near Moab- where we often hike and mountain bike and in fact this last weekend the rest of my family was backpacking there. So I have heard the hype about this story since he was found walking out on his own.

To say Ralston was careless was an understatement- not telling anyone where he was going was the least irresponsible thing he did on that trip- in a place, covered in red rock and sand where in a given year there are always deaths of people doing the right things and just having bad luck.

But something I realized watching the movie- was the buzz discussion leading up to the viewing of the movie- of " could you cut off your own hand, I couldn't" - is really a mute one.
I should note here that Ralston introduced the film and emphasized that as much as possible the movie is exactly the progression of events as he remembers them.

Ralston did not cut his hand off an hour after he got caught- if movies, a story is the arc journey of a character, the progression of a three act structure- where a character is freewheeling, events happen to commit him to a journey and then he takes that journey- then 127 Hours if the perfect three act structure story- pretty amazing in a movie where three fourth of it is of a guy not moving or talking much in a slot canyon in Utah.

It took five days, of a mental journey including flashback and hallucinations for him to get to a place where the only resolution WAS to cut his arm off.

One of the most profound flashback is the back of his truck, with a girl,
GIRL: What's the combination?
Ralston says nothing, just smiles.
GIRL: What's the combination?
Ralston still only smiles.
GIRL: You're not going to tell me, are you?
RALSTON ( with not so big smile) If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

His fierce independence comes out beautifully- the movie opening with him throwing supplies in a backpack and ignoring the call from his mother being taken on the answering machine.
His laid back view of life is also well established- wiping out on the slick rock on his bike and the first thing he does is take a picture of his "wipe out"
I have to say that getting your hand caught by a boulder in Canyonlands could not of happened to a guy that was more prepared- not in equipment- Ralston was munching on muffins from the grocery store and a burrito from a gas station, no high tech gear for this guy- but I mean prepared mentally and with the right mind set to survive that long and be able to well.... cut his own arm off.

I don't want to give the ending away - yeah I know he cuts his arm off- but what finally sealed the deal for him- but getting back to how do you love a man who loves the wilderness like many men in my family- unfortunately you can only love them on their own terms and take the time they give you.

But also like my brother,  Ralston then, had no attachment, no wife, no children and no mortgage, so if he died his family would grieve for him of course, but he wasn't leaving anyone behind that depend on him.

Telluride also does a Mountain Film Festival, on Memorial Day each year " Celebrating the Indomitable Spirit" of wild places and extreme sports. They tour the previous year's show and that is where I saw the heartbreaking and useless film "Solo" of the obsession of Kayaker Andrew McAuley's attempt at a 1,000-mile crossing of the Tasman Sea between Tasmania and New Zealand in a Kayak.

The difference between McAuley and Ralston- McAuley drown and left behind a four year old little boy and wife. For what?

My own husband also is in love with the wilderness- he took me deep in it and leaning against the tailgate of his GMC truck, asked me to marry him- then the first things he said after I said "Yes" was "...and you know I like to hunt?"
He has hunted, raft, hiked, backpacked, camped and mountain biking in the twenty years of our life together but his focus has changed and now his greatest delight is taking our girls out to the wilderness he loves.


I hope and pray, Ralston learned his lesson- because now he also has a wife and a new son that depend on him!

Telluride Film Festival: The Talks

Something I enjoy at the Festival just as much as the films and is free to the public, if there is room, which there always seems to be is the talks. Both in the historic Telluride Courthouse- I attended the talk with Geoffrey Rush  and Tom Hooper, and in Elk Park across the street...
Where I attended the talk with James Franco. The park also hosts a movie at dark, also free to the public.

The funniest event happened in the park, when Franco was subjected to the real Aron Ralston impersonation of dignified actor- who is a painter, poet and now attending Yale- it was pretty good!


James Franco was laughing all the way to his posh black Escalade that was whisking him off to the airport for part unknown.

Will be reviewing 127 Hours next- and by the way- a few people fainted in it and by the time I saw it- Ralston adviced us is we did feel a little sick- to not stand up, because that is what lead to the fainting.
Also, the movie was so hot off the pressed there was actually a security firm scanning the audience the whole time with night vision goggles to see if anyone was trying to pirate it. We were warned that even the glow from a digital watch brought up to our face would be enough for them to pick up and whisk us from the theater.
Granted Danny Boyle's, the director, last success was the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire...I guess the powers that be take this movie stuff pretty seriously.

I followed an executive from Fox Studios around to a lot of the movies, would not of known him unless someone hadn't pointed him out to me and I was sitting in the Steamming Bean coffee house and slowly realized one of the guys sitting next to me was actually one of our Colorado Senators- Michael Bennet taking in some movies or doing a little campaigning in Southwest Colorado.
Yeah.... the view ain't bad either!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Telluride Film Festival: Another Year



I saw the British movie Another Year, directed by Mike Leigh, who I confess going down his list of movies at IMDB I have seen nothing of his. I went to this movie not so much because I wanted to, but because it was in a slot of time where the pickings were not great and I had the same confusion with it as I did with Tamara Drewe another British movie- wondering in the ensemble cast of character protrayed so well by again a few Hogwarts alum-- was whose story is it really?
The movie opens in a clinic where a housewife, played by Imeda Staunton ( a.k.a. Dolores Umbridge)

 being interviewed by the doctor- in a long conversation, but neither are main characters, then the doctor refers the housewife to a therapist, for a long conversation, excellently acted by Ruth Sheen ( not a Harry Potter alum, but a delight to watch) and she is also a  supporting character.

Then we see Sheen with her husband, another HP alum, Jim Broadbent ( a.k.a. Horace Slughorn)

in a lovely setting building scene of tilling their allotment in a communal garden that will be followed to mark the season in Another Year- but he also is a supporting character though acted wonderfully.
Finally we see whose story it is- when Sheen's colleague is introduced-

a glitzy, aging, insecure secretary who happens to have a "thing " for her friends adult  lawyer son. This is her story- how she longs for the rich full life Sheen, her friend has.

Lesley Manville was at the showing and she was very sweet, but in the movie I thought she pushed the dipsy-ness a little too much, with a lot of physical ticks and a lot of guzzling wine- one thing I have become aware of and am exploring is minimalism- showing just as much as you need to in the editing to get the point, mood across and yes it is an art.
The film progress through the year, the couples communal allotment keeping track of the season and in the winter, Broadbent's brother's wife dies and the family goes to the funeral and here is another main character that is not introduced until the very end of act two, played very straight by another HP alum- David Bradley ( a.k.a Argus Filch)

Spring comes, but no resolution for Manvilles sad character whose beauty is fading, and she is coming to the realization she has nothing to replace it with- unlike Sheen character who has a rich life with a loving husband and son that has found his own girl to bring home.
I haven't seen enough British movies to know if the lack of a focal character is typical but I did enjoy the fine acting  and quirkiness of these British thespians.

Another YearUSA release in Theaters: December 31, 2010
"Don't understand British slant on movies, but want to see more and figure it out!"