20th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival Coverage 2011 Part 1 of 3

Friday, October 21, 2011


Everything appeared to go as planned last night at the opening of the 20th Anniversary Philadelphia Film Festival. The spacious Zellerbach (Annenberg) theater felt full and the mood was light as we were welcomed by PFS Executive Director Andrew Greenblatt, Artistic Director Michael Lerman and Mayor Michael Nutter.

The film chosen to set off this milestone occasion, would seem an insignificant choice by the description - basically a romance involving two recent college grads, Anna an accessibly pretty, unaffected young woman (Felicity Jones) who is in the US on a student visa from the UK and must return upon graduation. Jacob (Anton Yelchin) is an adorable, curly-haired, furniture maker. The two fall for each other in touching and simple ways. Their only obstacle being Anna's obligation to return home to England, until a work permit can be arranged. When things go horribly wrong in this regard, the film becomes about their attempts to hold onto a long distance relationship, even when all signs point to being better off letting go.

Like Crazy is co-written and directed by Drake Doremus who received the Dramatic Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2011 with Felicity Jones receiving Dramatic Special Jury Prize. We were treated to the attendance of both director and actress at last night's opening. (see slide show above) what you can't see in the pictures are the wonderfully comical, bright lime green shoelaces adorning Doremus' sneakers.

Doremus a graduate of the famed AFI, wrote the outline (50 page scriptment) in March of last year and starting shooting in June; although the story (inspired by true events) had been rattling around in his head and heart for 10 years before being written down, without dialogue, as all the lines in the film were improvised by the actors themselves. This, along with a lot of hand held camera work, gives the film an intimate, natural effect, that the critics are responding favorably too.

Below is a video excerpt of the Q & A. (Please excuse the distance of the shot, I admit to being lazy and shooting from my seat):

And this is a video of a Opening night party attendee giving her feedback on the film:

 And for more on the film, interview with Felicity Jones:
C: Could you tell on set that something special was happening with the film?

FJ: Because of the method of making it, it felt very special.  We didn’t really think about it coming out, but it felt like we cared, and every single person cared.  It was a really small crew and people were prepared to give up their lives for the duration of the film... READ MORE

Michael Fassbender has a Dirk Diggler size schlong!  And an Adonis rear-end. Beyond that, I don't remember anything about the film Shame.  Just kidding. Well, about the film resonance, not about Fassbender.  In actuality, the film stayed with me for quite awhile.  Seeing two people in so much pain with no clue how to get relief, yet basically from the outside, look as if they are managing the day in and out of life.

Director Steve McQueen (Hunger), (why doesn't he go by S. McQueen or use his middle name, Rodney or Stephen?) has created an intense character study of a sex addict without really having to go overboard on graphic content.  Not that there isn't a lot of very visual sex scenes, but it's not gratuitous. With that being said, it was still however, embarrassing to watch the film with so many senior citizens. The audience was very mixed in age and race; but I just happened to be sitting next to a group of grayed haired people to my left and right, making me grateful that movies take place in the dark.

I really don't want to give too much away, it's one of those films where you have to bring your own conclusion to what these two characters Brandon (Fassbender) and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) have been through in their past to bring them to this place in their lives.

On both a food in film, and an ever watching to see good roles for African American women note: this restaurant scene of Brandon on a date with Marianne (Nicole Beharie) both lightens the mood and represents a momentary glimmer of hope for Brandon.

I can also say, Shame has a beautifully shot, sophisticated uptown New York City feel in the beginning, and slowly dissolves into a more gritty, desolate New York. Very subtle, but effective.  The scene depicted in the picture at the top, Brandon and Sissy's with their backs to the camera, while waiting for a subway, is such a great shot and a touching exchange without being the least bit schmaltzy. There's another scene with them shot in profile against a backdrop of Looney Tune cartoons that's incredibly intense and should earn an Oscar nomination for them both.


If I owned an incredibly elegant, picturesque, stately castle with an 18 hole golf course and stable full of horses, I'd too would be sad and scared to see the end of the world, because you gotta figure life on the other side might not be as good.

In writer/director Lars von Trier's film, Melancholia is a planet that has been hiding behind the sun for eons and has suddenly made its appearance known as it starts traveling through the galaxy. During its rotation, it has come close, but not hit other planets in the solar system; therefore, the scientist on earth predict Melancholia passing by the earth will be an incredible site to witness and presents no danger of collision.

All this is going on in the background while we are brought into the lives of a young couple on their wedding day, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are in a limo heading to their reception, which takes place at the previously mentioned mansion/resort, owned by the bride's sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland). Other than being late to the reception because the white stretch limo can't make the bend in the road that leads to the stately grounds; all seems happy with the couple, until we witness awkward, hostile toasts from both Justine's mother (Charlotte Rampling) and father (John Hurt). Then Claire take Justine aside and warns her to keep it together, no scenes. A warning that does no good, the bride's erratic behavior deteriorates so much that her newly wed husband leaves her before the honeymoon begins.

It all sounds wonderfully dramatic and soap opera like, but it isn't. The scenes are rather moody and distant. You're watching the action from afar and the pace is so slow, action doesn't seem an appropriate word. The film is structured in three acts. The first part a preamble, long, slow motion foreshadowing, very similar to the beginning of Terrence Malick's Tree of Life (links to T & T commentary).   The second part is from the perspective of Justine, the bride, suffering from depression, which she describes as trudging through gray yarn weighing down her steps. The third part is told from the perspective of Claire as a wife, mother, caretaker to her sister and the only one worried about the possibility of Melancholia hitting the earth.

Despite the slow pacing, Melancholia is interesting. I had a fun time discussing the film with a group of people in the lobby of the Prince after the screening.  None of them were willing to do a video review, because it's a movie that you leave the theater not quite knowing how you feel about it.  There's a lot of unanswered questions, some having to do with plot points, others having to do with the psychology of the film, like is Justine's illness due to a metaphysical connection to the planet Melancholia? And other minor points like, why is everyone in Justine's family British except Justine?

The best part of the film for me was the incredibly sweeping, colossal score, aptly entitled End of the World by Tristan and Isolde. I feel lucky to have been able to see this movie in a theater with an awesome sound system. The opus rumbled throughout my body and almost transported me to another place and time.


I had seen the trailer for A Dangerous Method months ago and was highly anticipating its release. My excitement increased learning I'd get to see it early as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival. But just like when you're in a restaurant and there's an item on the menu that sounds perfect, you envision how it will come presented, the moment of satisfaction when it hits the pleasure center of the brain... but upon arrival to your table, it's dry or watery or small or tasteless or just not what you had in mind.

And such was the case with David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. In my opinion, the film is lifeless, it's just lays there on one level. You keep waiting for the hit to your brain that never comes. Yet the elements were all there, two of my favorite, stellar actors (Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender) playing two fascinating figures from history - Dr. Sigmund Freud and Dr. Carl Jung, presenting us with the origins of Psychoanalysis, duking it out (via the postal service) when their beliefs and methods took on differing approaches. And best of all, Jung's torrid love affair with an insane patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).

And the acting is good. I'm now convinced Michael Fassbender, is one of those shape-shifting actors that has no real form of his own, he just morphs into any character he's playing.

Viggo Mortensen has aged with season and feels comfortable in the role of father figure.

And I knew Keira Knightley would put that under-bite, flashing eyes and lithe figure to good use, playing someone who's mental faculties weren't all there.

One thing I found interesting, which didn't really come to light in the movie, but I read about in reference to the background material - many women of the late 19th and early 20th Century suffered from a mental illness called Hysteria. I've heard of this, but never really knew what it meant, or rather the cause.  It seemed women had so much pent up frustration over not using all their capabilities, that it would result in a fit of hysterics.

Funny, I feel it's the opposite now, women have to be such multi-taskers, expected to do so much everyday, that the stress of it all is sending many over the bend.  

Perhaps the problem with A Dangerous Method is that the script got watered down through too many adaptations; as the screenplay was adapted by Christopher Hampton's (Atonement) 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, which itself is based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method.

I do like that The Philly Film Fest is pairing many directors current work with a film from their past, however, I also didn't care for Cronenberg's Naked Lunch - monster typewriters, bugs a plenty, homophobic themes, writer's anguish, all in an incomprehensible soup of yuck!

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15 Top Food in Film Flicks

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Cozy Quilt of Food Movies, we'll add more patches as T &T discovers more films where food plays the biggest "roll"

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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