Independent

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Ratings (out of five): *** 1/2

The Criterion Collection’s release of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture has been met with much consternation from a certain type of cinephile. Dunham – the argument goes – is too young, too amateurish and too privileged to receive the imprimatur of the venerated DVD label, especially with her first film. For many basement-dwelling film theorists, the Criterion label is sacrosanct – the equivalent of cinematic sainthood – and Dunham’s inclusion represents a type of apostasy.

I first caught up with Tiny Furniture after reading all the outraged blog posts (about a year before the actual DVD release) and braced myself for the worst. It wasn’t bad. Then, a year later, I received the reviled DVD in the mail and – before my second viewing – dove deep into the disc’s ample extras.

Blog entry 02/28/2012 - 3:20pm

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of five): * * *

The Human Resources Manager, released on DVD by the reliably interesting Film Movement catalog, won five major Israeli Ophir Awards (Israel’s Oscars). Directed by Eran Riklis, Based on A.B. Yehoshua's book "A Woman in Jerusalem," the film is a worthy if occasionally sluggish follow-up to his previous feature, The Lemon Tree. The film starts off a bit slow, but stick with it; when the story leaves Israel it resonates.

The titular employee (Mark Ivanir) manages Jerusalem's largest bakery, and his life is on the skids. He hates his job, his wife's left him, and he struggles to maintain connection to his young daughter. Then a foreign-born female employee, Yulia (interestingly, the only character in the film who is given a name), is killed in a suicide bombing, and he has to help the company make amends after negative news coverage, as well as make up for the fact that he basically knew nothing of the woman at all. The manager's boss (Gila Almagor) orders him to do damage control, and he ends up accompanying the victim's body to her homeland. She claims to want to take on the burden of guilt in this case but instead hangs him out to dry.

Blog entry 12/06/2011 - 6:02pm

Reviewer: Philip Tatler IV
Rating (out of five): ***1/2

Until I watched Kino’s new DVD special edition of David Holzman's Diary, I was only familiar with its significance as a hatch-mark on a film history timeline. Diary is often cited as one of the earliest mockumentaries, prefiguring (among others) Christopher Guest’s skewering of self-serious musicians, dog show denizens, community theater actors, etc.

In this case, director Jim McBride aims his satirical guns at a particular type of pseudo-intellectual, the eponymous Holzman (L.M. Kit Carson, who co-wrote the film with McBride). Holzman is a recently unemployed cinema obsessive who decides to film himself over the course of a week in July 1967. He cites Godard’s oft-repeated axiom that “film is truth 24 frames per second” as his mantra. As the film unfolds, it becomes abundantly clear that Holzman is a budding sociopath, documenting his own devolution. Holzman makes for insufferable company, both for his (soon to be ex-) girlfriend Penny (Eileen Dietz) and the viewer. 

Blog entry 08/16/2011 - 1:41pm

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): **

Simon Rumley's Red White & Blue is a half-step up from this writer/director's earlier The Living and the Dead, a slight tale about a very odd dysfunctional family which the filmmaker buried under a bundle of repetitive visual tics and back-and-forth time trips. Rumley and his well-cast lead actor offer some interesting situations and characterization before the film's raison d'etre – a raft of unpleasant tortures/murders – begins. From what I can gather, Rumley's themes encompass everything from America's sex/drug/rock-and-roll mentality to its current mid-east wars, general state of health (pretty sick) and employment opportunities.

Blog entry 05/10/2011 - 11:23am

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though the multitalented Tom McCarthy, 45, made his acting debut in Mike Binder's Crossing the Bridge (1992), the nineties gave him very little follow-up work. But in the 2000s things began to happen for him, including small parts in movies like Meet the Parents (2000), The Guru (2002), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), Syriana (2005), and Flags of Our Fathers (2006). However, McCarthy answered his true calling when he was able to write and direct his first film, The Station Agent (2003).

That film may have seemed on the surface a slight, indie comedy, but had subtle depth of character in addition to sharp writing, clever casting, and strong performances, and it was a modest success story. The same thing happened with McCarthy's second film, The Visitor (2008), which still serves as a model for cross-cultural Hollywood tales. An achingly good Richard Jenkins earned an Oscar nomination for his lead performance. McCarthy himself earned an Oscar nomination the following year for contributing to the screenplay of Pixar's Up (2009). Now comes McCarthy's third movie, Win Win (opening today in select theaters), which is a good deal messier, but perhaps even deeper than his previous works.

Blog entry 03/18/2011 - 10:14am

SFIAAFF 29GreenCine is a proud media sponsor for this year's San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), which will be held from March 10-20, 2011 in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose!  In addition to noteworthy international and Asian American films at the Festival, there will be events such as Festival Forum (FREE, outdoor live music and performances), Directions in Sound (The Bangerz, Silver Swans, Taiyo Na & more!), Social Club (have a few drinks and meet other festival-go-ers), and various engaging panels and events.  

Be sure to check out one of their biggest events, San Francisco Opening Night this Thursday featuring the film WEST IS WEST followed by Gala Reception at the Asian Art Museum. Other SFIAFFscreenings we're excited about:  the world premiere of the romantic comedy Almost Perfect, the chance to watch The Man from Nowhere on the big screen (vengeance flick from So. Korea), and the sci-fi shorts program FUTURESTATES
 

 

Blog entry 03/08/2011 - 4:46pm

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***

Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of our great living actors, and has proven himself over the years in a number of supporting roles, ranging from sweaty and snarky to snaky and charming, to both funny and heartbreaking. Even his lead roles, such as Capote and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, have managed to use his skills well. He's always pushing and allowing himself to be pushed, looking for fresh angles and daring ideas. Unfortunately, Hoffman does not bring much of this energy to his directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating, which is based upon a 2007 play by Bob Glaudini, but it's worth a watch.

Hoffman stars and recreates his stage role, and perhaps not surprisingly, the result is more character-based than it is flashy or visually astute. It would almost come across as a fairly routine Indie/Sundance-type movie, were it not for the superior acting and subtle characterization.

Blog entry 01/20/2011 - 1:11pm

somewhereposter Somewhere won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival. From Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette), Somewhere is a witty, moving, and empathetic look into the orbit of actor Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff). Filmed entirely on location, Somewhere reunites the writer/director with Lost in Translation editor Sarah Flack and production designer Anne Ross. Stacey Battat (Broken English) is the costume designer, and Harris Savides (Elephant) is the director of photography, on Somewhere. " "Original and smartly funny with top performances," says Empire Magazine. And now you have a chance to win a cool Somewhere prize package thanks to a giveaway sponsored by GreenCine and Focus Features.

Blog entry 12/17/2010 - 2:27pm

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

How unusual to see a love story for adults, one that takes its sweet time (yes, the Cairo Time of the title) while it alternately surprises, soothes and shakes you up. But quietly. Though it seems aimed at older audiences, it was made by a youthful filmmaker: Ruba Nadda, a Canadian writer/director with Middle-Eastern roots who is still in her 30s. To reap the full benefits of the film, you must be willing to enter the soul of the protagonist, a happily-married, middle-aged woman (Patricia Clarkson) arriving in Egypt for a vacation with her husband (employed by the United Nations and posted in Cairo).

Blog entry 11/30/2010 - 1:20pm

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): **½

American eccentrics overflow the work of film-making duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, from what you might call the eccentric celebrity-dining pictured in their 1997 debut film Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's to their masterpiece -- one of the more original American films in recent memory -- American Splendor. Even their so-so, somewhat misfired adaptation of The Nanny Diaries was saved by the eccentricities of its lead character (and the fine performance by Laura Linney, an actress who finds the latent oddities in all her characters). Berman and Pulcini seem more than intrigued by and attracted to the oddballs among us; they actually champion them.

Blog entry 11/29/2010 - 1:08pm

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