Boyhood, written and directed by Richard Linklater

In a year with few truly memorable films thus far (Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida being one of the memorable ones and Oscar season still to come), the predictable summer gave us a bit of fresh air with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Shot over a period of twelve years with the same actors, including frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke, Boyhood allows us to witness the passage of time, focusing on Mason, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane, Fast Food Nation) who grows from 6 to 18 during the course of the film. Though by no means a documentary, framed as it is by a story in which Mason and his sister Samanatha (Lorelei Linklater, the filmmaker’s daughter) spend generally carefree weekends with their father (an outstanding Hawke) and home life with often-frustrated mother Patricia Arquette after the parents divorce, the film does allow us to see the actors age, creating a (mostly fascinating) opportunity to observe the fleeting nature of time and the “now.”

Part of what makes Boyhood work so well is the equal focus on small moments (bowling, camping, playing in a park) and milestones (first day at a new school, high school graduation, leaving home for college). In fact, it’s the little moments that are most convincing, moments that are casual on the surface yet mine frank emotion, such as the “talk about sex” that Dad gives Samantha over French fries in a public eatery, Lorelei Linklater truly shining as an embarrassed teen not wanting to hear about condoms from her father. Her nearly horrified laughter is not only infectious, it feels real and all the more infectious because of how real it feels. It hardly seems like acting.

The big moments, unfortunately, don’t fare quite as well, occasionally feeling forced such as when Arquette’s mother breaks down as Mason, Jr. packs to leave for college. Arquette seems distant throughout the film and her sobbing in this farewell scene is not entirely convincing. Perhaps it’s the just the struggle for art to replicate life showing its strain but throughout the film a certain level of empathy that should be present feels elusive. Part of the problem is that except for Mason, Samantha and Mason, Jr., most of the characters come across as people you wouldn’t really want to spend a whole lot of time with. And near the two-thirds mark, a certain fatigue and tediousness starts to threaten, just like in real life when we find ourselves spending too much time with a relative or friend who we love, certainly, but who have the distinct ability to drive us up a wall. Truly, familiarity can breed contempt, in life and in the movies, and one of the points one may take away from Boyhood is we are none of us perfect nor always a pleasure to be around, but you only have one family. The problem is, at a running time of 165 minutes, the film, like those friends and relatives, can tax our patience.

Yet it all pays off beautifully as the film ends on a wonderfully understated moment with Mason, Jr. in the rocky outdoors, away from home at college and stoned, tentatively connecting with a sweet girl he’s just met. The tone is of uncertainty mixed with hopefulness, a tone that informs the entire movie and, for many of us, our daily lives. Boyhood taps into that, that sadness and happiness, that regret and hopefulness, and reflects it back to us. Through it all, we get the evolving picture of Mason, Jr, a budding artist; through the early teenage years when he seems a bit more thoughtful than everyone around him to the pimpled high school days of purple fingernail polish (applied by his then-girlfriend/eventual first heartbreak) and, then, the beginning of the journey of finding himself.


Richard Linklater and the cast of Boyhood at Sundance, 2014

To whatever degree one can relate to the various characters, be it the divorced father, the single working mother, the children of divorce, Linklater has created a unique film that will lead thoughtful viewers to muse on the relationships in their own lives, the passage of time, and, ultimately, mortality – their own and that of those close to them. This is a film that should resonate for many people with moments in their own lives, working, as great films can, like a poem. A poem we once loved but haven’t read or spoken or thought about for years and that now lies buried in our consciousness. One of the few gifts of merciless time is that we can return to that poem, if we choose, and the feelings it once evoked, and for one brief moment all the years may drift away like fallen leaves. That a film that works on such a level was released in the middle of summer is a gift, one that should be relished in the theater while it still can. At home, on TV, with the cell phone nearby and thoughts of ice cream in the freezer waiting to be consumed, Boyhood will feel a lot more like television than poetry. Good television, certainly, but not poetry.

Mike Fishman

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Chef, written and directed by Jon Favreau

Based on the unsubtle trailer, I wasn’t expecting much when I took in Jon Favreau’s latest work as director, here also serving as writer and star, mostly due to the inevitable clichés I would have to digest along with the promised food porn. And it didn’t disappoint in this regard, Favreau’s schlubby chef, Carl, being ridiculously talented and his love interests played by the exuberant Sofia Vergara and the almost absurdly sensual Scarlett Johansson. And then there was Dustin Hoffman, spewing spittle all over the kitchen as his demanding boss. As expected, the story follows Carl who, after his kitchen creativity is stymied, walks out on the job and starts selling food from a truck on a road trip that gains fame on Twitter for his perfect Cuban sandwiches thanks to the internet savvy of his young son, Percy (an excellent Emjay Anthony).

If a lot of this sounds predictable, it is. But at a certain point the food took over, as it must in a satisfying food film, as well as the more interesting sub-plot of the relationship between the gruff, tough-love Carl and the yearning Percy, culminating in a surprisingly moving montage of one-second video clips from their road trip edited together by Percy into a short movie. Damn if that montage wasn’t moving and heartfelt and, quite literally, the stuff great film moments are made of. In fact, that little montage took me back to a month earlier when I had re-visited Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece City Lights (1931). With all due respect to Mr. Favreau, I am not comparing the director of Elf and Iron Man to the director of The Gold Rush and Modern Times. But the sweet montage that Favreau caps his film with taps into the same reservoir of feeling, the same swelling in one’s heart that should and must occur during the final scene in City Lights, when the formerly blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) suddenly realizes that it was the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) who was her benefactor only after she feels his hands and touches his face.

He looks at her shyly and filled with love. “Now you can see?” She gazes back at him in wonder and with love, too, that starts to grow. “Yes, now I can see.” Seeing, of course, not only physically but also the truth, realizing how wrong she was to judge him by his physical appearance. That City Lights fades out immediately makes the scene even more potent. What will happen to these two? There could have been a whole other film: Cut to one year later, the Tramp is working alongside his love in their flower shop, the Tramp mucking things up but everything coming out all right in the end.

With that one little flourish, Favreau takes us from light fare into a tender and sweet place, utilizing the visual as much as the aural. Of course, silent film works on a different level than conventional cinema and the great ones, including most of Chaplin’s, are filled with memorable moments, not just capped with them. But viewers wary of Chef’s premise may find themselves surprisingly satisfied with this light meal.

And if you haven’t seen City Lights (available from the public library and out in a new Blu-ray from Criterion), definitely give that a shot. For a silent film, it has an awful lot to say.

Mike Fishman

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Sidewalk Traffic, written and directed by Anthony L. Fisher

Synopsis: When Declan, a 30 year old husband and new father is squeezed out of a promotion, he finds himself wracked by internal crises, including career envy, bitterness over bad breaks and the still-lingering fallout from the suicide of his former creative partner. Searching for salvation, Declan surrenders to the role of stay-at-home dad, and is forced to face his demons while pushing strollers, changing diapers and heating up bottles all the while working to resurrect his dreams.
Starring Johnny Hopkins, Erin Darke, Heather Matarazzo, Samm Levine, Dave Hill, Tom Shillue, and Kurt Loder.

“Sidewalk Traffic” will screen the Garden State Film Festival on Sunday March 22 at 12p in Atlantic City, NJ.

Visit the film’s website:http://www.sidewalktrafficmovie.com

Posted in Front Page

Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho

Posted in Front Page

Katja Loher’s “Bang Bang!”


Whimsically psychedelic, Katja Loher’s “Bang Bang!” offers up a colorful investigation upon man’s interaction with his ecological environment. The elongated space of the C24 Gallery houses what is a seemingly cold empty space, but with popping manifestations of scattered globes upon the ceiling, we’re warmed by constant moving projections of videography. At first glance, one simply assumes the interchanging colors rotating into words (like “Bang Bang!” or “Why” or “Hope”) are some sort of Photoshop rendering, but at a closer look, we see the words form by individuals dressed in monochromatic leotards shape-shifting their bodies into swift movements indiscernible by the untrained eye. Although, perhaps what’s most fascinating, intriguing, and unique about Loher’s work are the glass globes that encase her small video installations.

While some glasses remain open at the top for us to peer into, others close at the top, hinting at a delicacy that acts as subtle and breakable protection. The bulging imperfections of the glass (some are not holistically round, but rather protrude out mimicking the formation of a bubble), obscure our view of the video and make us rethink what we’re looking at. The “roundness” (if I could call it that) Loher gives to her video art, changes previous perceptions and classic renderings we have about how video is projected and how we consume it. On top of that, it’s a political statement about the ecological world she’s commenting on. Perhaps, it is man who lives in a bubble, not realizing the dire need to in fact, preserve, for example, the world of bees (check out the documentary by Markus Imhoof More Than Honey for a great in depth analysis of the world’s reliance on bees).

There is one great moment in her films that showcases a man trying to escape from a box filled with styrofoam peanuts. As a light-hearted fairy-esque gaming sound motif plays lightly in the backdrop of the gallery, we can only think of the irony of man’s struggle. Much of what we thrive off of would not exist in reality were it not for the much-avoided land of honey bees, bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds, that she displays for us in this world of fantasy. She places each upon their own respective “gaming” device in a juxtaposed room. Man’s game with his environment may look alarmingly bright and cheerful in Loher’s world, but it is, at best, her way of commenting through mixed media, performance art, video art, and blown-glass that we should step out of our own dream worlds, as colorful and perfect as they may be, and question, as the ever-changing human bodies do, “Why?”.

Although “Bang Bang!” is no longer on display at the C24 Gallery, please take a look at Loher’s work at: http://www.c24gallery.com/exhibitions/katja-loher/

Review written by Bebe Nodjomi (http://independentfilmnow.com/?p=920)

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Iran: A Memory, written and directed by Bebe Nodjomi

Bebe Nodjomi ‘s Iran: A Memory is a found footage, experimental, performative documentary currently featured on the website for the Farhang Foundation 6th Annual Short Film Festival (http://www.farhangfilmfest.org).

Oscillating between New York and Iran, Nodjomi searches for the meaning of home and identity through her father’s documentation of Iran, reflecting on the past that she otherwise could not remember were it not for the medium of film.

Nodjomi was born and raised in New York and has made frequent trips to Iran with her family but has not returned since 2009. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Film Studies at Columbia University. She plans on writing her Master’s Thesis about Post-Nationalist Iranian Cinema. Below are excerpts from a recent conversation between Bebe Nodjomi and IndependentFilmNow.

Mike Fishman: Bebe, in Iran: A Memory you utilize film footage that your father shot of Iran and of you and your family when you were much younger. Did the idea for your film grow out of that footage or did you have the idea for the film and realized that you could incoprorate the footage to explore your themes?

Bebe Nodjomi: I first began assembling this film for an experimental class back in 2012. I was inspired by a lot of work we were watching by filmmakers who explored their respective heritages. I decided to go and look back at what my father had filmed on your basic homevideo DV camcorder and came across footage of the roads, mountains, family outings, and of course myself as a younger girl. I think looking back at this image of a younger me inspired me to “find myself” and better understand who was in the past when I traveled to Iran and who I am now in New York, having not traveled back since 2009. The addition of my cousins footage came in a year later when I was looking through the completed short and I realized I needed something light to make it more relatable and comedic, however, the dialogue still ties into the general theme of blood shed in Iran.

MF: Is that where the images came from of you painting grass blades red?

BN: Yes, the grass sequence is a continuation of this blood shed in Iran theme. It refers specifically to the 2009 Green Wave Movement that attempted to outcast the fraudulent votes that made Ahmadinejad the president again for four subsequent years. The mini revolution was swiftly kept at bay with harsh violent sanctions from the government and I wanted to portray that as best I could without specifically referring to the event but rather subtextually referencing it in a poetic manner such as painting.

MF: As with most experimental filmmakers you utilize sound to comment and expand upon your images, such as the sound of cars on a highway and judicious use of music and ambient sound. Tell us about your approach to creating the soundscape for this film.

BN: For my soundtrack, I simply kept using snippets of pre-existing sound from the footage I had of Iran and constantly pasted them over various images. In particular I used the sound of cars zooming by to establish a sense of time and disorder, for example when I have the sound of cars passing by while my father dances with my cousin. Originally I had wanted to use a traditional Iranian pop song, but because of copyright issues I decided to use the car sound which perhaps even creates an alienative quality about the moment. I tried my best to use Godard’s sound technique of dropping sound down every now and then to help the viewer truly pay attention to what is happening on screen.

For more information about Bebe Nodjomi, please visit her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/bebe.nodjomi

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Bobby Miller’s first Feature Film! (Calling Vancouver Residents!)

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Bobby Miller’s Feature Film (calling all Vancouver residents)

Posted in Front Page

Stranger, written by Nadia Carmon, directed by Jeremiah Kipp

Stranger is a short film about a young woman on the verge of madness, paranoia and hallucination.

Status: Complete, as of March 2014

On May 10th it will premiere at Beyond the Beaten Path Film Festival in SoCal, sponsored by the SoCal Independent Film Festival.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Ida, written by Pawel Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Posted in Front Page

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