2013 Best Films List – Brendan Rose

2013 was a remarkable year in movies, with strong offerings across all the major sectors that attain American distribution – Hollywood; American independent; international art-house; and documentary. Bright spots abounded. An unusually high number of award-season Hollywood films, for instance, were of stellar quality (and could not all make this list). Moreover, a handful of the world’s cinematic masters made movies that lived up to the lofty reputations of their creators.

As with any year, there were also big-budget clunkers, half-baked indies and overhyped stocking stuffers, but 2013 will certainly be remembered for what it achieved rather than for which films disappointed. And as with any year, I have completed this list without having seen every promising film. To name a few: Bastards (Claire Denis); The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer); Ceasar Must Die (Paolo & Vittorio Taviani); The Square (Jehane Noujaim).

Without further ado, here is the 2013 list:

TOP TEN
1. 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen): In many respects, this is the preternaturally talented McQueen’s most traditional film, but it likewise stands as his most perfect work. Breathtaking performances, a ruthless script, and uncompromising direction make 12 Years the best film we’ve had about the scandalously under represented cinematic subject of United States slavery.

2. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke): Another in ways conventional turn from one of world cinema’s true innovators, Jia’s rigorous exploration of straight-from-the-headlines violence within the underclass of industrial, rising China makes for a gripping action-drama as well as a cri de coeur for a more humane form of economic development.

3. Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas): Assayas’s melancholic, mesmerizing film drifts through the post-Soixante-Huitard malaise in France. The film’s lack of retrospective sentimentality along with its non-judgmental approach to the portrayal of youthful exuberance and political conviction are marks of its power.

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche): Yes, one particular romantic scene shifts from necessarily revealing to perhaps male-gaze pornographic, but Kechiche’s latest is a masterpiece nonetheless. As a piece of cinema dedicated to the examination of young love as it evolves (and devolves) over time, few movies on the subject stand above it. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos captivate in their lead performances.

5. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater): The dynamic trio of Linklater-Delpy-Hawke once again astound with their through-the-years Jesse-Céline tale. This just-middle-age third installment captures spot-on truth-telling sequences amidst crumbling Peloponnese ruins and glimmering Aegean seascapes.

6. Reality (Matteo Garrone): If only everyone who watched Big Brother viewed this haunting but bountiful film about spectacle, reality television and celebrity-consumer obsession. Garrone, the director of the sensational organized-crime study Gomorrah, this time reveals the troubled, entertainment-addled heart of his country, and also of ours.

7. Her (Spike Jonze): The cyber tryst between Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly and the Scarlett Johansson-voiced “Samantha” computer operating system plays out magically while Jonze’s anodyne, pastel-toned near-future metropolis secretly screams out in despair.

8. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-Wai): Hong Kong master Wong reinvents the martial arts genre with this tight-focus, idiosyncratic tone poem of a film, one that feels more wistful expressionist painting than high-octane kung-fu flick.

9. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach): Mumblecore star Greta Gerwig shines in Baumbach’s whimsical study of post-collegiate New Yorkers struggling to find purpose and recognition in a world indifferent to their carefully cultivated uniqueness.

10. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler): First-time feature director Coogler and essential actor Michael B. Jordan take a tragic piece of news – the New Year’s 2009 murder of Oscar Grant III on an Oakland BART platform – and create a remarkably authentic, complex portrait of a young man whose life ended all too soon.

HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order): American Hustle (David O. Russell); Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola); Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen); Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski); Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée); La Grande Belleza (Paolo Sorrentino); Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami).

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

SEEKING FILM DIRECTORS -NY Shakespeare Exchange

SEEKING FILM DIRECTORS – www.SonnetProjectNYC.com/directorsignup

NY Shakespeare Exchange seeks up to 154 film directors to participate in a groundbreaking exploration of film, theater, and mobile technology. The Sonnet Project is a massive multi-artist, internet-based interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets that will put these astounding poems quite literally into the pockets of people across the globe. We will bring together an adventurous group of filmmakers and actors to create film versions of all 154 sonnets that will live on the Internet and be delivered to the public by way of a specially designed Sonnet Project mobile app.

Each sonnet video will be filmed in a unique location throughout the five boroughs of New York City, the birthplace of American cinema. From the iconic to the forgotten, we’ve chosen locations with deep cultural significance. In this way, we juxtapose the poetry of the city with the poetry of the Bard, and find a deep contemporary relevance for Shakespeare’s sometimes elusive language.

The project launched in 2013 on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday and culminates in 2014 on his 450th. Throughout the year we release a new sonnet video every 2-3 days. The videos and all supporting materials will be available free of charge to anyone in any sector of the population and foster an unprecedented level of access to Shakespearean performance.

Creative Parameters for The Sonnet Project

• The “starring roles” in each video are Shakespeare’s language, the specific NYC location, and the director’s interpretation (teams of film makers are welcome to submit – please choose one person to serve as the primary contact on the submission form. www.SonnetProjectNYC.com/directorsignup).
• Director is responsible for equipment needs.
• New York Shakespeare Exchange will assign the sonnet location.
• Highly skilled classical actors from the files of NYSX will be cast based on each particular sonnet. Director requests for basic actor types (e.g., gender, age-range, etc.) will be taken into consideration when possible. Requests to work with specific actors will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
• An NYSX text coach will work with each actor on interpreting the language, and will be present “on set” to assist with rhetorical technique and clarity of Shakespearean thought. The text coach will also be available to the director for any textual analysis questions.
• Video length must be 120 seconds or less.
• Submitted footage must be fully edited and in an “audience ready” form. NY Shakespeare Exchange will provide logos and specifications for titles and credits.
• The delivery format is 1080 HD 23.98P with sync sound.
• Video must be delivered no later than March 31.
*Once a director has submitted one video, he/she may submit to take on a second, third, even fourth. For all secondary videos the deadline is July 31.
Within these constraints, we challenge each filmmaker to express a personal cinematic style.

Take a look at the video we’ve been using for our pitches: http://vimeo.com/40493664.

WHAT WILL YOUR SONNET LOOK LIKE?

Because NYSX is a nonprofit organization and this program will be free to all audiences, we are looking for contributions of time and talent. There is no pay for involvement. Directors will be fully credited for their work.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Tee’d Off, written by Chris Federico and directed by Nicole Michaelis

Tee’d Off is a independent B&W short about what it takes to hold down a horrible survival job while you pursue your dreams. The characters have some unique ways of dealing with both their friendship and the challenges of being a starving artist in NYC.

Tee’d Off won the audience choice award at the Lake Placid Film Forum and screened at Tribeca Cinemas as part of the Big Apple Film Festival. It’s currently screening as Film Festival Flix National Short film Competition Winner and will be screening at the Landmark theater in Denver CO on DEc 18th.

Watch the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/52335805

Visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Teed-Off/382606175100560

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Pacific Rim

There is an image in Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s live-action update of the Japanese mecha genre, where the huge head of Gipsy Danger, the giant mechanical robot (called a “Jaeger,” German for hunter) built to combat alien “Keiju” monsters, is on par with the tops of skyscrapers as Gipsy Danger moves through the rain-soaked streets of Hong Kong. It is an image that hypnotized me as if from a dream and kept me returning to the theater to see the film two more times. I had to see that image again; I longed to re-enter that film-dream just as when I awake from an actual and particularly interesting dream I’ll hit the snooze button to try and get a few more minutes with it. And that image from Pacific Rim had, in fact, invaded my dreams, speaking to me not of violence and a world at war with aliens but simply of pure awesome power. I’m still not sure if I wanted to be the robot, control the robot or simply watch as it lumbered through the dark city. But not since James Cameron’s Avatar had film images so invaded my conscience that I felt unavoidably drawn back to the images, actually felt a need to experience them again, and again.

Personally I’m not hot on films where actors don suits and save the world with super-powers. I was not a huge comic book fan growing up, save for Heavy Metal magazine which featured futuristic landscapes and fantastical pasts as opposed to superheroes. Usually the sight of an actor in a cape and mask, whether human (Batman) or alien (Superman) makes me have to fight to keep from laughing, though I admit I was swept up in some of the sequences of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Still, this past summer I slogged through Man of Steel, Wolverine, etc., partly out of my desire to simply see every film I can in an actual theater and partly hoping to be swept up in the pure visuals. But I found myself underwhelmed with the 2013 summer blockbusters until, finally, September was closing in and there was only one big one left: Pacific Rim, with its dubious tagline of “To fight monsters we created monsters.” So there I was, on one of the last precious weekends of the summer, popcorn to the left, soda to the right, trying to remain hopeful as the first images of Pacific Rim came on the screen.

What unfolded was more like a dream than any Hollywood big action movie I’ve seen in years (Avatar, 2009). If anything, Pacific Rim reminded me more of the great silent films (Intolerance, Ben Hur) that created utterly believable realties in the biggest most visual way. Perhaps it was the fact that the heroes of Pacific Rim are not super-heroes; they’re normal humans (albeit highly trained at kicking ass) with flaws whose “suits” are machines they control. No magical powers here. Perhaps it was the dark and intense palette del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro employed, one might say too dark at times during some of the fight scenes but isn’t that how dreams are when you try and remember them? Alternately sharp as reality and fuzzy at the edges. In fact, in addition to the image mentioned above, I found other images pleasantly invading my dreams, such as the robots being air-lifted and dropped into the churning ocean to do battle, or Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) losing control to the drift (the neural connection between the two pilots needed to operate each huge Jaeger) walking in an ethereal landscape into the memory of a nightmarish experience with a Keiju she experienced as a child.

This is the stuff move theaters were made for. Grand scale and a world that is fantastical but believable. And it all starts with a 16-minute pre-credit sequence that brings you immediately into that world. When the title finally comes up in a borderline-cheesy font, you just know you’re in for a fun and intense ride à la John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. Within days of seeing the film, I wanted to be on that ride again and so within the week I returned to the theater and amazingly, enjoyed it even more, knowing the story now, able to focus more on the details. By the third time, it was like going to see a band perform whom I had seen many times before; I knew the “music” so well I could take time to focus on the edges of the screen, the edges of the scenes. A fourth time would have been absurd and I didn’t want to wear out that warm feeling, but now that Pacific Rim is out on DVD, I am trying to convince all my friends and film-goers who avoided it to give it the chance it deserves.

Is Pacific Rim a perfect film? No. Problems that were apparent in the first viewing only magnified upon subsequent viewings: the main character has no real arc; the greatest moment of victory comes during the penultimate fight not the climax. And why, if the aliens are clones, is one pregnant? These are hiccups along the way (and perhaps that pesky clone question will be answered in the sequel) but they fall away compared to the visual splendor, the pure visual excitement that del Toro and his team have created. Pacific Rim will be much smaller at home and for those who will only see it that way it will not have the impact it did in the theater. But for those who love action films, who truly love movies that take you into another world, I hope you’ll see it at least on DVD. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised.

Although Pacific Rim is not an independent film, as one of the most enjoyable films of the last five years or so I thought it worth writing about. Mike Fishman

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

The Stream, directed by Estlin Feigley

Brief Synopsis:

A long time ago… In the summer of 1981…

A tragedy of epic proportions sends five friends on an epic adventure. All they have to do is follow The Stream and back. What could possibly go wrong? Encountering bullies, a nasty storm and mystical creatures, the friends will need the force of friendship to prevail.

The Stream is a completed film. It has its red carpet premieres in Union Square, NYC on Oct. 15th, and at LA Live, LA on Oct. 16th. The movie premieres in select Regal Cinemas nationwide on Oct. 18th.

The movie’s website is : www.thestreammovie.com and movie times can be found at regmovies.com

Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/JacobMatthewWilliams or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dreaming-Tree-Films-Dreaming-Tree-Foundation/216181508472792?fref=ts

IMDB pages: www.imdb.com/name/nm5290626/ or http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2752736/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jacob_Williams8 or @dream_tree

Movie Theaters Showing the Film :

NEW YORK:
UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas 14 & RPX
35-30 38th St., Astoria NY 11101
Regal New Roc Stadium 18 & IMAX
33 Le Count Place, New Rochelle NY 10801

CHICAGO:
Regal City North 14
2600 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL
Regal Cantera Stadium 17 & RPX
28250 Diehl Road, Warrenville IL 60555

PHILADELPHIA:
UA Riverview Plaza Stadium 17
1400 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia PA 19147
UA Washington Township 14
121 Tuckahoe Rd, Sewell, NJ 08080
Regal Peoples Plaza Stadium 17
1100 Peoples Plz, Newark, DE 19702

BOSTON:
Regal Solomon Pond Stadium 15
591 Donald Lynch Boulevard, Marlborough MA 01752

LOS ANGELES & ORANGE CO.
Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26 & IMAX
7501 Carson Blvd Long Beach, CA 90808
Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 IMAX & RPX
65 Fortune Dr.,Irvine,CA,92618

SAN FRANCISCO / OAKLAND:
UA Emery Bay Stadium 10
6330 Christie Ave Emeryville, CA 94608

SAN DIEGO:
Regal Parkway Plaza Stadium 18 & IMAX
405 Parkway Plaza, El Cajon CA 92020

WASHINGTON DC / BALTIMORE / VA:
Regal Majestic Stadium 20 & IMAX
900 Ellsworth Drive Silver Spring, MD 20910
UA Snowden Square Stadium 14
9161 Commerce Center Drive, Columbia MD 21046

ATLANTA:
Regal Hollywood Stadium 24 @ North I-85
3265 NE Expressway Access Rd, Chamblee GA
Regal Atlantic Station 16 IMAX & RPX
261 19th Street NW, Atlanta GA 30363

MINNEAPOLIS:
Regal Brooklyn Center Stadium 20
6420 Camden Ave North, Minneapolis MN 55430

DENVER:
UA Colorado Mills Stadium 16 & IMAX
14500 West Colfax Ave., Lakewood CO 80401

DALLAS / FT. WORTH:
UA Grand Prairie 10
510 Westchester Pkwy, Grand Prairie TX 75052

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Chance of Rain, directed by Philipp Wolter

AWARD WINNING BROOKLYN BASED PRODUCTION COMPANY BRINGS ITS MOST RECENT FILM TO SAN FRANCISCO

The FilmGym, an independent film production company based in Brooklyn, New York, will have its second west coast screening next month of the award winning film Chance of Rain, at The San Francisco Festival of Short Films. The film debuted and took home the award for Best Short Film at the prestigious Sonoma International Film Festival in April.

Chance of Rain is directed by Philipp Wolter and stars Wolter and his wife, Michelle Glick, who are the driving force behind FilmGym. As succinctly described by Roger Ebert writer Anath White, “they possess the sort of beauty which could easily inspire envy in others, yet they’re also down-to-earth and instantly likable. Their moody, atmospheric film takes us into a world we’d willingly spend more time exploring with its intriguing characters. When it wins Best Narrative Short (at Sonoma), the applause is heartfelt.”

Chance of Rain is a dramatic love story, beautifully shot by cinematographer Eun-ah Lee. “I saw this piece as a play several years ago,” says Wolter, “and the story always stayed with me. So I contacted the writer, Chisa Hutchinson, and we collaborated on a screenplay version of her story.” Chance of Rain is FilmGym’s follow up to The Bridge, another short film that played at Sonoma in 2011, winning the festival’s Audience Award and later going on to qualify for an Oscar.

“The Audience Award really meant a lot to us,” says Wolter, “because we didn’t know a soul in the audience, and Sonoma has packed out screenings, even if you have an early morning time slot, the crowds really show up for the films.”

Since 2004 FilmGym has been based in Brooklyn, and grown from an arena for actors and filmmakers to collaborate and work on their craft into a production house boasting films and commercials that have won awards at both the local and international level. In addition to building an impressive portfolio of work, the duo hosts International short film screenings, a monthly screenplay reading series and have become accomplished actors in their own right. Wolter will be seen later this year in Blood Ties, starring Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard and Mila Kunis; and Glick continues to tour with her autobiographical one woman show, Asian Belle.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to bring our work to San Francisco,” says Glick. “We look forward to sharing our stories with festival audiences and beyond.”

Contact: Sarah Baskin
Email: SarahBaskinPR@gmail.com
Website: www.filmgym.com

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Double Victory: Two Warriors in the Fight for Civil Rights During WWII, produced and directed by Faith DeVeaux

Synopsis: Double Victory: Two Warriors in the Fight for Civil Rights During WWII, a feature-length documentary, tells the story of the struggles black Americans faced in trying to obtain their rights as citizens during this pivotal war. Through footage from the U.S. National Archives, newspaper articles, photographs, and interviews, this piece of history and its political challenges is explored. Locations cover the Pacific and European war fronts, as well as Chicago, Ohio, and South Africa. Interviewees include the official historian of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, former U.S. Ambassador to Australia, the former Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War during WWII, Australian Red Cross volunteers, a WWII vet, historians, and professors.
Bishop John A. Gregg, and military escort Chaplain (Major) John A. DeVeaux are the men chosen to take a worldwide tour on behalf of FDR, to check and report on the status of black American soldiers. This takes place in 1943 and 1944. Gregg and DeVeaux continue the work they began with the tour, as well as their friendship. The bishop personally makes a full report to the President.

Lastly, a recap of the progress of black Americans, other minorities included, in the military is presented, spotlighting General Colin Powell and current Commander-in-Chief President Barack Obama. Wrap-up comments from interviewees which connect the work of Gregg and DeVeaux to the present day bring the story full circle.

Current state of development: This film is in post-production. We are currently raising funds to complete post-production at: http://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=8759

Short bio: Faith DeVeaux has produced three shorts, The Visit, Backstage Craft, and Life and Time. She has training from AFI and UCLA Extension, and has worked in the music industry, an animation company, and a film distributor, in addition to crewing on various films. She is a member of IDA, Film Independent, and Women in Film and Video.

Website: http://www.doublevictorydocumentary.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DoubleVictory?ref=hl

Twitter: @DoubleVictryDoc

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Hauntings of the Heart: Update

Hauntings of the Heart (http://independentfilmnow.com/?p=490) is a new costume drama that’s breaking all the rules.

Hauntings of the Heart is a scintillating and modern new costume drama currently in development. Crystal Nicole Marcano, the writer/producer of the film, wants to make a costume drama that appeals to today’s audience and strives to defy the conventions of the classic period movie.

“I want to challenge the idea that costume dramas are stuffy and boring. I want to vamp it up, make it more modern and exciting, while still saying true to the integrity of the costume drama genre. It’s a glimpse into the Victorian era, but we’re loosening the corsets so to speak.”

The film also intends to portray strong female characters – “that aren’t necessarily well-behaved or sexually repressed or needy or weak. The strength and complexity of a woman is universal, but also something that is rarely portrayed in modern films much less in period dramas.”

Hauntings of the Heart is a film about love, lies, and scandal all within the context of a murder mystery. It’s been described as a “love story, and a ghost story.” It is also the coming-of-age story of a young woman named Emily caught in a whirlwind of scandals and secrets in Victorian era society. But though the story is centered on this character, she isn’t necessarily the protagonist.

“Without giving too much away, the character Emily is the centerpiece of the film being that the story is told through her point of view, so she’s the protagonist in that sense. But she is also unwittingly the cause of the conflicts that kickstart and drive the plot, and in that sense she is also an antagonist. The story is just as much hers as it is Victor Worthington’s, who is at first glance a villain but also an antihero. So really, the story has two protagonists. I’m pretty much breaking all the rules with this film.”

What do you want audiences to take away from the film?

Hauntings of the Heart is a love letter to the classic costume drama, but it’s also unconventional in every way. It’s smart, it’s sexy, and it’s a lot of fun. We’re incorporating the Steampunk trend into the film, especially with the costumes. It’s also got the elements of gothic horror and the classic ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery, very Sherlock Holmes style. And of course, at the center of it all is a love story. I’m hoping the film definitely keeps viewers on their toes and challenges their expectations and preconceptions of what the costume drama is, and can be.”

You can find out more and stay up-to-date on updates on Hauntings of the Heart at hauntingsoftheheartmovie.com.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Awake, written and directed by Mark Finguerra

Synopsis: Eddie is at the end of his rope. His girlfriend is pregnant, and he’s retreated into binge drinking after he discovers that his mother conceived him with an anonymous sperm donation. He commits to tracking the donor down, succeeds, and in desperation ventures out to meet him.

He’s an incredibly rich recluse, Lawrence Watkins. Thinking Eddie has been sent to kill him, he takes Eddie hostage.

During the subsequent interrogation, Eddie discovers his biological father is not only insane but that he’s also suffering from a rare disease: fatal familial insomnia. There’s no cure, and those whom it afflicts lose the ability to sleep, then lose their minds before eventually dying. A battle of wills between the two men follows, and the trajectory of both lives is permanently altered.

Cast:
Eddie – Donovan Patton
Lawrence – Chris Kerson
Maria – Cristina Doikos
Mother – Karen Giordano

Cinematographer – Wayne Arnold
Editor – Dan Simon
Music – Tom Ashton

Awake was developed at “The Indies Lab,” www.GeorgeKatt.com

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Cartoon College, directed by Josh Melrod and Tara Wray (update)

Special screening of Cartoon College coming up in NYC at the Society of Illustrators on July 23: http://www.societyillustrators.org/Events-and-Programs/Films/2013/Cartoon-College/Cartoon-College.aspx

Hi!

We’re pleased to announce that at long last Cartoon College (http://independentfilmnow.com/?p=406) is available everywhere! FilmBuff has released the movie on all leading VOD platforms including iTunes, Xbox, Amazon Instant Video, Cinema Now, Playstation, and Vudu… Here it is on iTunes!

Furthermore, the Cartoon College DVD is available now for pre-order! The region-free DVD, which includes exclusive bonus features not found anywhere else, comes in an amazing artfully designed digipack by the great Gabby Schulz (who also appears in the film for about ten seconds)! The first one-hundred pre-orders also include Joe Lambert’s incredible 11×17 Cartoon College poster, absolutely free. Orders will be shipped out on July 9. Click here to see the cover art and place your order!

We are beyond excited to finally share the film with everyone, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP! We humbly ask you to help us get the word out…

How can you help? Simple:
-Share the news on your social media with links to the film’s webpage or iTunes page
-Send an e-blast
-Request a local screening through Tugg
-Include a link on your website or blog
-Write nice reviews
-Tell your friends
-And of course…watch the movie yourself!

Please, please share the movie and help make it a success!

To learn more about the film, visit cartooncollegemovie.com and connect on Facebook and @Cartoon_College. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at info@cartooncollegemovie.com. We’d love to hear from you!

All best,
Josh & Tara

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

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