Beasts of the Southern Wild

While the story is fundamentally flawed, it’s still a great one to tell. And while the artistic execution isn’t completely flawless, its intention was well portrayed. In other words, I really enjoyed this beautifully shot Oscar-nominated film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is the first feature-length film of director Benh Zeitlin, whose film is criticized for being too allegorical in some scenes. I did just fine, though. I didn’t mind the overt trying-a-little-too-hard artisticness, especially because the film is completely stolen by its Oscar-nominated actress, Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only 6 when the film was shot. Not only is she absolutely adorable as Hushpuppy, of course, but her charisma and strong facial expressions were simply magnetic.

Dialogue between the characters is sparse at best which doesn’t allow for much character development besides that of Hushpuppy’s – duh, she’s the main character. But her narration throughout the film was well written – it was at times funny but mostly incredibly reflective and poetic for a 6-year-old. Moreover, it was well orated for a 6-year-old. (Can you tell I’m just floored by Wallis’s performance?) But as a kid living in the “Bathtub,” you grow up pretty quickly. Her dad and the other adults in the micro community made sure of it.

The story is a simple allegory which I believe the director tried a little too hard to disguise, but I appreciate his craft.

Amour

I challenge the Academy to award Best Picture to the one foreign film nominated this year – Amour, directed by Michael Haneke. The acting is superb, the subject matter brutally honest and uncomfortable, and the dialogue so real. While I haven’t seen all 2013 nominees for Best Picture, I doubt any will move me as much as the story of George and Ann has.

Ann, played eerily well by Emanuelle Riva (who is rightfully nominated this year for best actress, the oldest in the Academy’s history), suffers a stroke. Her husband George, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant (also a great performance and a real oversight by the Academy), brings her to the doctor despite her refusal for medical care. With her deteriorating health, George becomes her main caregiver, all through another stroke and through his  immense struggle to decide what she really needs.

I challenge the Academy to award Best Picture to a film without big explosions, without lavish movie sets (in fact, it’s almost entirely shot in the couple’s French flat), or without beautiful bombshells or hunky macho men. To one with major heart and true dialogue about living and dying.

Thanks to J-Dawg for the recommendation. Any credit for my awareness of the film goes completely to him.

Must-do in LA – Cinespia Screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

It’s been at least 2 years since I signed my email up for Cinespia updates and I finally made it out last Saturday for the James Cameron classic, “The Terminator”. (I mean, c’mon – Sarah Connor’s big hair; Schwarzenegger’s one-liners; state of the art robotics – all the makings of a classic, no?)

A screening by Cinespia is definitely one of the best things to do in LA during the hot summer, particularly because the cemetery is such a beautiful venue. Plus, their repertoire appeals to almost any audience so you’re bound to find a movie you’d love to see on the big screen. For my next screening, it has to be a Cary Grant film – hands down.

The only downside (or upside, depending on how you look at it) is the long waiting time. To get good seats, it’s recommended that you wait in line at 5PM at the earliest. Cinespia opens the doors at 7PM, and the movie starts at 8:30PM. In all, that’s at least 3 1/2 hours of downtime. So here are some tips that will help make your future trip to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery a memorable one.

Silence Interrupted- Written and Directed by Julie Ann Paholio

A very good friend of mine is doing it big in grad school at Chapman University, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, with a focus on cinematography. I had the great pleasure of visiting her a few weeks ago and had the privilege of seeing this work in progress, a semester-end project called 3-2-1.

I also met some of her crew (both of this film and in her graduate life)- Gerald, Daniel, and Jason. All super funny, insanely creative folks.

Logline: A man from a Philippine tribe is forced to confront the truth about recent crimes made against his village and the people closest to him. What he learns is not what he expects.

(Watch it in full screen for full experience.)

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

I’ve never heard of the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival until recently, but thanks to the flyer I came across at the UCLA PAA Banquet, I can’t wait to go out and see at least a few of its many featured short films, documentaries and narratives. The festival, running May 10-20, is presented by Visual Communications (VC), which

established the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival in 1983 as a vehicle to promote Asian and Asian Pacific American cinema. The Festival has grown from its humble beginnings as a weekend-long series into a major annual showcase presenting the best of Asian Pacific American and Asian international media in the United States. Along the way the Festival has taken up residence in various local venues before settling into its signature venues, the Directors Guild of America and the Aratani/Japan America Theatre.

Besides the festival, VC programs quarterly community films screenings; funds and facilitates the Armed with A Camera Fellowship in which they mentor emerging filmmakers; hosts VC Academy, an education program staffed by industry professionals; and is “home to one of the largest photographic and moving image archives on the Asian Pacific experience in America.”

Unfortunately, I’ll be on the east coast for a good chunk of its run, but I hope to see these films eventually if not at the festival. Here are some highlights I found on their well managed website:

“Valley of Saints”, directed by Musa Syeed – May 11, 7:30PM, Director’s Guild of America

“Give Up Tomorrow”, directed by Michael Collines – May 12 & 18, 5:00PM, Director’s Guild and Art Theatre of Long Beach

“Yes, We’re Open”, directed by Richard Wong – May 12, 9:00PM, Director’s Guild; May 19, 9:30PM, Art Theatre of Long Beach

The best part of “The Lucky One”…

…Was when Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” started playing during the ending credits. I think this song could make any bad movie at least slightly better.

There were some good parts to the movie, of course. I mean, it’s never a chore to look at a pretty boy like Zac Efron but that’s all he was in the movie – a pretty boy. Trying to act like a marine. It just didn’t work for me, Karen, or Jen who all braved the movie with me. And Taylor Schilling’s horrible dress at the end of the movie: C’mon, costume designer – you’re not supposed to age her! She already looked 10 years older than Efron (who is 19 until he turns 45), why age her even more with that awful granny frock?

Some things I did like about the movie: shirtless Efron scenes, the clever chess scenes, Blythe Danner, and Ben played by Riley Thomas Stewart, the last being my favorite of all. What a great child actor – his acting was natural and effortless, and he’s only 10! Without those elements, the movie would have been hard to sit through.

In any case, thanks to Jen for hooking it up with the reserved seats! It’s hard to say no to a free screening, and it’s always fun to go with some girlfriends who enjoy looking at Efron as much as I do.