“The Los Angeles Film Festival has long catered to all kinds of movie lovers,” writes Amy Kaufman in the Los Angeles Times, a sponsor of the fest. “This year, the event will open with art-house staple Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy [To Rome With Love] and close with Channing Tatum writhing around in his skivvies in Steven Soderbergh’s stripper picture Magic Mike.” LAFF 2012, opening today and running through June 24, “will feature more than half a dozen movies dealing with African American themes, two of which—Beasts of the Southern Wild and Middle of Nowhere—will be spotlighted as gala screenings with the full red carpet treatment. The selections were culled from more than 5,000 submissions and come from 30 countries, eight of which are in Latin America. The lineup includes 19 feature films directed by women, and the festival also will convene a special panel discussion among women in the animation business.”
The LA Weekly‘s got quite a preview package, opening with film editor Karina Longworth‘s backgrounder on Vampira and Me, R.H. Greene’s portrait of Maila Nurmi, who not only “dallied, professionally and/or personally, with the likes of Man Ray, Orson Welles, Marlon Brando and Liberace” but was also more or less immortalized in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Also: Mark Olsen on LAFF’s Summer Showcase, “mostly a perch for films that premiered at other festivals and have already secured distribution,” Ernest Hardy on the documentary lineup, Doug Cummings on highlights from the International Showcase, a few capsules from Veronika Ferdman—The History of Future Folk, a “sweet, cheapie, sci-fi comedy,” Spencer Parsons’s horror-comedy Saturday Morning Massacre, a special screening of Michael Curtiz’s The Breaking Point (1950), and “the hip-swaying romantic neo-classic Dirty Dancing” (1987)—and Michael Nordine on the Narrative Competition.
Because the trailer’s just out, I’m plucking out this paragraph on Alex Karpovsky’s Red Flag: “Playing a fictionalized version of himself, Karpovsky (known for his work in Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture and Girls) at one point explicates the theme of his second feature, Woodpecker, in order to key us in to what this one is about. The self-reference is somewhat incidental, however, as Red Flag ultimately is about second chances—or the lack thereof—and haphazard love and friendship. It’s also the funniest film in the competition, by far.”
“The occasional shot would have benefited from another take, but Red Flag has the exciting feel of grab-and-go filmmaking,” writes Paul Sbrizzi in a robust overview of his top picks at Hammer to Nail. For the Playlist, Katie Walsh talks with Julie Stiles about It’s a Disaster, “an apocalyptic dramedy” seeing its debut at the festival. And indieWIRE‘s been interviewing directors with films at LAFF.
Updates, 6/15: At Hammer to Nail, Michael Tully previews “a small sampler of work that will be screening in shorts blocks and in front of features.”
Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema: “Director Joshua Sanchez has chosen excellent material to adapt for his film debut, Four, based on the play by Obie award winning (and Pulitzer short finalist) playwright, Christopher Shinn. At times, simplistic in its familiarity, the film manages to create a brooding atmosphere that slowly tightens its grip, sloughing off familiar tropes concerning race and sexuality and hitting enough subtle notes to become more intense the more quiet it becomes.”
“After a string of movies about narco gang wars and desperate migrants, the Los Angeles Film Festival is presenting a different side of Latin American cinema: Cuban zombies, Chilean family road trips, Buenos Aires Elvis impersonators and the flying bird men of Veracruz.” An overview from Reed Johnson in the LAT.
Brian Brooks presents Movieline‘s previews of three titles in the Documentary Competition—Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu, Adi Lavy and Maya Stark’s Sun Kissed, and Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore’s Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives—and Laura Colella’s Breakfast With Curtis, screening in the Narrative Competition.
Update, 6/16: “Whether truly narcissistic or an eloquent portrait of narcissism, Alex Karpovsky’s Red Flag is an utterly hilarious ode to the modern struggles of the microbudget American filmmaker,” writes indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn.
Updates, 6/17: For the Playlist, Emma Bernstein reviews Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us, “a schmaltzy tearjerker masquerading as a psychological thriller,” and Katie Walsh asks, “In the age of digital everything, might independent film, at one time the dominion of digital, be the savior of celluloid? Dead Man’s Burden (the directorial debut of Jared Moshé) demonstrates just why film is important, simply by being beautiful. But beyond that, it’s also a moody, violent, classic, yet modern Western.”
And for Twitch, Lainna Fader talks with Alex Karpovsky about Red Flag.
Updates, 6/19: “Film Independent chose 19 filmmakers for its 10th Annual Fast Track program last night at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Reception in Los Angeles,” reports Srimathi Sridhar. “The non-profit arts organization, which produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and Spirit Awards, also awarded a $15,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, and for the first time this year, a $10,000 grant from Millennium Entertainment.”
Also at indieWIRE: Eric Kohn on Dead Man’s Burden (more from Justin Lowe in the Hollywood Reporter) and: “Musician-turned-filmmaker Cory McAbee’s first two movie musicals, The American Astronaut and the episodically-distributed Stingray Sam, brilliantly melded a concept album approach with expressionistic science fiction imagery for a unique form of pop art. At just under an hour and driven by the thinnest of stories, his third feature Crazy & Thief is stylistically distinct from the earlier efforts but still hails from the same enjoyable realm of musical fantasy.”
At the House Next Door, Oscar Moralde reviews Rolando Colla’s “Swiss coming-of-age film” Summer Games, Dominga Sotomayor’s debut feature Thursday Till Sunday (“her style is beautifully indirect and understated”), Pocas Pascoal’s All Is Well (“precisely and analytically captures the precariousness of being a stranger with no safety net to fall back on”), and Juan of the Dead, “a zombie comedy that ticks off all the boxes of the genre template, but writer-director Alejandro Brugués got some laughs at the Q&A when he admitted his influences were less from the Romero ouevre and more from ‘movies about doing business when times are tough, like Ghostbusters or Schindler’s List.'”
Michael Nordine for Filmmaker on David Fenster’s Pincus: “the thirtysomething title character (David Nordstorm) lives with, and cares for, his ailing father in a way that negatively impacts his own social life… Pincus does its thing naturally, even lackadaisically, but rarely without a certain tension belying the otherwise placid proceedings. Living with a father who can’t fully take care of himself imbues every ordinary moment of Pincus’s life with a sense of dread—waiting for the other shoe to drop, more or less—and his forays into yoga, meditation, and alternative medicine betray desperation more than new-age leanings.”
“In a modern world, with all the connectivity our technology and our society have to offer, we may still be confronted by the looming threat of isolation,” writes Emma Bernstein. “This condition of being alone, of lacking a friend, lover, or confidant in which to share your most personal self is the subject of Four, written and directed by Joshua Sanchez. In its relatively brief 76 minutes, the film provides a beautiful commentary on this state, a quiet and poetic meditation on the solitude of the human condition.”
Also at the Playlist, Katie Walsh: “It’s been six long years since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s narrative feature debut, the much beloved Little Miss Sunshine. But the directing duo is back with a new film, Ruby Sparks, and with it, prove that some things are worth the wait.” Amy Kaufman in the LAT: “Zoe Kazan was midway through writing the screenplay for the new film Ruby Sparks when her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, raised an important question: ‘You’re writing this for us, right?’ ‘I guess I am,’ Kazan replied.”
Updates, 6/21: “The debilitating genetic disorder Xeroderma Pigmentosum makes sunlight fatal to those afflicted with it from a young age and leads to a dwindling neurological condition that eventually culminates with death,” writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE. “Medical specialists usually discuss it as an extremely rare condition that surfaces among one in a million people, but compared to the larger population, its occurrences among descendants of Navajo clans virtually form an epidemic. The American Indian has never had it easy, which makes the recurrences of XP into an eloquent distillation for the greater struggles of a long-suffering minority. Maya Stark and Adi Lavy’s documentary Sun Kissed does just that to extremely powerful effect, as it follows a couple in search of the cause for their children’s fatal condition and forced to confront the nature of their entire history.”
Brian Clark reviews Yuen Sang-Ho’s The King of Pigs, a “complex allegory that examines societal problems, power dynamics and the human capacity for malevolence.” Also at Twitch, Lainna Fader talks with Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino, directors of A Band Called Death, “the story of an all-black proto-punk band from Detroit who waited over thirty years to get their due.”
Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema: “Swiss director Ursula Meier returns after her solid 2008 debut, Home, with Sister (or L’enfant d’en haut), a powerful survival tale of a young child, navigating through his world as a hustler of stolen goods.”
At the Playlist, Emma Bernstein finds Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young Journeys to be an “electrifying rock doc.”
Updates, 6/22: “It’s a Disaster is an absolute gem of a doomsday movie, about four couples who meet for brunch and find themselves in the middle of a chemical warfare attack, coping with their last few hours as best they can.” Lisa Marks for the Guardian: “Julia Stiles and America Ferrera star alongside [David] Cross, but the project was born out of the mind of [Tom] Berger, and brought to life with the help of producers Kevin Brennan, Jeff Grace and Blaise Miller, who also star.” More from Nicholas Bell (Ioncinema, 4/5).
At the House Next Door, Oscar Moralde reviews Ursula Meier’s Sister (“slow and reserved and poetic”), Sheldon Candis’s LUV (“If the concept up for grabs here is masculinity, especially African American masculinity, Charles S. Dutton, Danny Glover, and Dennis Haysbert all contribute forceful arguments to the conversation”), and Malaysian writer-director Dain Said’s Bunohan (“a story of men’s isolation, of a crisis of masculinity, clawing at each other and grinding each other into the dirt”).