Coming Attractions Trailer Night Winter 2015: May the Force Be With You!
By Cheryl L. Dixon, DC Film Society Member
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was selected as the best overall Film Trailer from the over 30 trailers in six categories shown at “Coming Attractions Trailer Night’s” Winter Edition program on November 16, 2015. Trailers covered soon-to-be-released winter/holiday movies, including the major film awards contenders. Over 75 program attendees filled the Landmark West End Cinema and cast their votes, both informally (applause) and formally (ballot). Host Tim Gordon led the always-spirited discussion on the trailers and gave the audience the full buzz on the effectiveness of the trailers themselves and a peek at the movies they represent.
The categories, the winners of each category, and general commentary follow. Whether by applause vote or official ballot, attendees are never shy about expressing their opinions. And they know that their vote counts. Audience feedback is handed over to the Studios and just might impact the course of future trailers and how they are used to more effectively market the films they represent. By now, many of the films associated with the trailers have been released, but remember that attendees at this event saw the trailers first! If you liked what you saw in the trailers, go see the movies! And if you missed the trailers, but like what you’re reading here, go see the movies!!
Here’s a summary of the winning films in each of the six categories and further discussion:
They Could Be Contenders
The Big Short
The Good Dinosaur
Spotlight - WINNER!
Tim began with general commentary about some of the movies based on these trailers that he had already seen. He confessed that he was not caught up in the Star Wars mania that many of us who grew up with the original movies were. He mentioned some of his favorites, including The Big Short, Spotlight, Carol, and Brooklyn. He commended Tom Hardy’s performance as the Kray brothers in Legend and said that Macbeth reminded him of Braveheart. He praised Victoria as a single-take movie that switches genre and for By the Sea devised the tagline “When pretty people make a really bad movie.” Adam Spector then shared his new role as Moderator of the monthly Cinema Art Bethesda film discussion group held at the Landmark Bethesda Row Theatre.
Spotlight handily won for its great story of the Boston Globe newspaper expose of child abuse by Catholic priests and the protections given them. The powerful story of theinvestigation and journalism savvy is well-told by such brilliant actors as Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.
Commentary: As the category clearly states, these trailers are for movies thought Oscar-worthy in the movie pipeline. The Big Short, about the housing market crash/foreclosure crisis, features an ensemble team of players: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling are in the mix. The Good Dinosaur is another animated, kid-friendly Pixar hit about the friendship between a cave boy and a dinosaur. Adorable. Legend chronicles the true-life story of the Kray brothers who were gangsters in 60s-era London. Tom Hardy portrays both identical twins with distinction. Double trouble. Discussion on the technical aspects of shooting double followed in the Q&A. Macbeth is a “bold’ and “inventive” adaption of the Shakespeare play with Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender. The Revenant features a scruffy-looking Leonardo DiCaprio as a wilderness man attacked by a bear in the forest and left for dead. This is yet another story inspired by true events. There was some confusion in the Q&A session as to what period this film takes place in, but settler period worked. Will Smith portrays an African doctor, who warned the NFL about the danger of football players’ repetitive head trauma in Concussion.
Brooklyn - WINNER!
The Dannish Girl
By the Sea
Brooklyn features the story of an Irish immigrant girl, played by Saoirse Ronan, coming to America in search of a better life in the 1950s. Based on the novel of the same name. Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and a young Brando-like Emory Cohen round out the cast.
Commentary: Carol, directed by Todd Haynes, is a tale of forbidden romance set in the 1940s and stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women who fall in love. One is in a conventional marriage. Victoria, as previously mentioned, is a one night, one takeshot movie, which Tim asserts is a cross between Run Lola Run and Birdman. Joy is Director David O. Russell’s latest work with a cast including regulars Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, and Bradley Cooper, in what looks like a story about what happens when a rich girl turns to crime and takes a walk on the wild side. The Danish Girl, based on a true story, features Eddie Redmayne as a man who undergoes a sex transformation. By the Sea, a story written and directed by Angelina Jolie features Brad Pitt and herself as a couple whose marriage is disintegrating while on vacation in the South of France.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - WINNER! BEST TRAILER OVERALL!
The Hateful Eight
The Secret in Their Eyes
Cue the orchestra. The Star Wars movie. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. C-3PO, R2D2, Han Solo, and Chewbacca return and join new characters. Ready your light sabers! Now, with nostalgia clearly in the mix, this is a real audience pleaser! May the Force be with you! “The Force is calling to you, just let it in.”
Commentary: From the director of Fruitvale (Ryan Coogler) comes the latest edition of the Rocky franchise. Michael B. Jordan portrays the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s former nemesis. This time Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) returns to assist Jordan’s character. “Creed is good,” observed Martin. The Hateful Eight is another Quentin Tarantino western with a bounty hunter, that reminds me of Django Unchained. Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Channing Tatum, and Kurt Russell are amongst the cast. Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in The Secret in Their Eyes, a revenge tale abut a mother seeking justice after her daughter’s murder. Tim says that if you’ve seen the original movie, they’ve changed the story!
The Night Before
Sisters - WINNER!
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey continue to reflect comedic excellence and chemistry since their SNL days. This time in Sisters, they decide to have one last party in their childhood home before it is sold. The sisters return home for a farewell that left all program attendees LOL.
Commentary: Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are Dad v. Step Dad in this looks-very-predictable comedy, Daddy’s Home. Audience chuckles abounded. In Dirty Grandpa, Zach Ephron and his grandfather, portrayed by Robert DeNiro head down to Daytona Beach for fun with the co-eds. Creepy. What is DeNiro doing in this? queried one audience member. The Night Before is a holiday movie with Seth Rogan, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, madcap mayhem and gales of laughter!
In the Heart of the Sea
The Finest Hours
Race - WINNER!
The Jesse Owens story with his gold-medal win at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in front of a humiliated Adolf Hitler at its center in Race. Stephan James and Jason Sudeikis star. Wildly applauded!
Commentary: Director Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea depicts the story of the giant whale, “Moby Dick” with Chris Hemsworth at the helm. An attendee observed that we’ve seen lots of trailers, which Tim acknowledges is not a good sign for the movie. Point Break was a bit confusing; it’s a crime caper, with surfing amongst giant waves. The original version starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze was a cult classic. In The Finest Hours Chris Pine stars in a 1950s true adventure of a ship and a storm, actually it’s the U.S. Coast Guard on a rescue mission. The 33 is the story of the Chilean miners rescued from beneath 200 stories below ground. Lou Diamond Phillips, Antonio Banderas, Gabriel Byrne, and Juliette Binoche star in the below ground and above ground dramatic rescue of the 33 trapped miners. Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy star in a lush remake of the Frankenstein movie.
Lady in the Van
Trumbo - WINNER!
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Dalton Trumbo, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, is a writer in 1940s-era Hollywood. Classified as a Communist by the McCarthy Commission, he finds a secretive way to continue working by ghostwriting scripts, such as Spartacus. Another true story!
Commentary: Dame Maggie Smith stars as a homeless woman living in a van. Huge departure from Downton Abbey! Youth, about an orchestra conductor, features a top-notch cast including Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda, and Harvey Keitel. The Witch is a creepy horror film. There’s evil in the wood. Amongst the happenings, a baby disappears. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Everything you wanted to know about the Benghazi incident wiith the U.S. Ambassador and other Americans at risk in Libya and with Director Michael Bay you can expect lots of explosives.
Of course, the evening would be incomplete without the bonus trailers. We saw Deadpool, another installment in the Marvel Comics superhero franchise featuring Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson. Then Disney goes nostalgic with a remake of The Jungle Book in 3D. Finally, the Coen Brothers roll out Hail, Caesar! with “Gorgeous” George Clooney as the kidnapped movie star at an old Hollywood studio, back in the days of the studio system. Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and Tilda Swinton join as the comedic support. These trailers weren’t included in the audience voting.
And so, our very sated movie-going audience enjoyed a full evening of trailer film surprises and promotional giveaways and prizes just for showing up. Plus there were raffle prizes. Always nice to add a free DVD to one’s collection, and there were lots of t-shirts, books, movie posters and other assorted movie memorabilia to please any discerning movie fan. See you at our next trailer program, and at the movies!
Thanks to all of the DC Film Society Directors, Coordinating Committee Members, and Volunteers for putting together this twice-annual educational program. And thanks to our uber host, Tim Gordon, and special guest, Adam Spector, for providing their commentary and Tim for, as always, sharing his opinions and tolerating ours, Allied THA, Landmark Theatres, DC Shorts, Women in Film and Video, and Filmfest DC.
The 2015 BFI London Film Festival
By James McCaskill and Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Members
The 2015 London /Film Festival (October 7-18) began with highly acclaimed Suffragette, which continues its run in DC, and ended with Steve Jobs. Between the two were 240 films screened in 16 cinemas The number of ticket buyers continued to rise making picking up last minute tickets almost impossible.
This year a special focus was on the quality films of great women directors. Deepa Mehta, Ondi Timoner, and Lucile Hadzihallovic brought their highly distinctive films to the festival. Esther Mau Campbell, Eva Husson and Mai Masri debuted their voices and creative films. Almost 50 films directed by women appeared in the festival, a record for any festival but still only 20% of the program.
AND THE WINNERS ARE
Official Competition Winner Best Film:
Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari). Recognizing inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, the winner of the Best Film Award, went to Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Chevalier, a biting, playful dissection of the male ego, featuring six men on a boat. The award was announced by the president of the Official Competition jury, Pawel Pawlikowski, whose Ida won the LFF Best Film prize in 2013.
Pawel Pawlikowski said, “Chevalier is a study of male antagonism seen through the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker. With great formal rigor and irresistible wit, Athina Rachel Tsangari has managed to make a film that is both a hilarious comedy and a deeply disturbing statement on the condition of western humanity”.
Pawlikowski’s fellow jurors were Christine Vachon (producer of Carol, this year’s American Express Gala), the BAFTA-winning and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the BAFTA-winning and Oscar nominee Kristin Scott-Thomas, and Chinese director and screenwriter Mabel Cheung whose A Tale of Three Cities was featured in this year’s programme.
The Witch (2015). The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year’s winner is Robert Eggers’ The Witch about a 17th century New England family torn apart by tension and the suspicion of witchcraft. The nominations were introduced by actor Allen Leech and the winner announced by jury president, director/screenwriter Desiree Akhavan, whose feature debut, Appropriate Behaviour featured in the 2014 LFF programme.
Desiree Akhavan, said, “This year’s Sutherland Award nominees were a bold group of beautifully crafted first features. Of the nominated films, one stood apart as the announcement of a new voice in contemporary cinema. A horror film that felt as though it were reinventing the genre with each frame and truly shocking moments that evoke both terror and empathy. With an impressive command of cameras as well as truly heartbreaking performances - it presented a fresh, feminist take on a timeless tale.”
The jury also commended Martin Butler & Bentley Dean’s Tanna saying, “It’s a rare skill to give a voice to a typically marginalized community that doesn’t condescend or patronize and for this reason the jury would like to give special mention to Tanna.”
Sherpa (2015). The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognizes outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award went to Jennifer Peedom’s gripping and urgent documentary which indelibly captures tragedy and mayhem on Mount Everest. Grierson trustee and documentary filmmaker Alex Cooke announced the winner.
The jury said, “We are taken into the lives, homes and families of the Sherpas, who have for too long been overlooked and exploited, dependent for their livelihoods on an increasing number of tourists who sometimes regard them as little more than owned slaves. We’re left with an appreciation of the sacrifices the Sherpa community have made for over six decades. We applaud this impressive film for giving voice to a previously voiceless community, and we hope it reaches the wide, general audience that it deserves.”
The Documentary Competition jury were documentary filmmaker and ex-director of EIFF Mark Cousins, whose I Am Belfast was presented at the Festival, with fellow jurors, award-winning documentary filmmaker Brian Woods, Guardian head of documentaries and previous deputy director of Sheffield DocFest, Charlie Phillips and London-based artists and filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, whose first documentary feature 20,000 Days on Earth, won directing and editing awards at Sundance last year and the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director at the BIFAs.
MUST SEE FILMS
Black Mass (Scott Cooper, US, 2015). Johnny Depp as the gangster Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger who terrorized South Boston but also was an FBI informant. This film has already played in the DC area.
Brooklyn (John Crowley, UK/Ireland/Canada, 2015). A shy young Irish woman leaves her hometown to travel across the Atlantic for a job in 1950s Brooklyn, based on Colm Toibin’s famous novel. Already in DC metro theatres. Saoirse Ronan as the girl Eilis and the film should receive Oscar nomination. Check out the Q&A in the November Storyboard.
Carol (Todd Haynes, US/UK, 2015). Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as lovers in 1950s Manhattan based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. Oscar predictions for this film are high. The cinematography and period look are amazing.
Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece, 2015). Six men in a boat. A late night card game turns sour as the winner gloats and one loser turns bitter. "You may be the best at that one thing, but that does not mean you are the best in general." A series of tests to judge each other leads to an exploration of the male ego. The films palette of grays and the films absurd style make a superb film.
Dheepan (Jacques Audiard, France, 2015). To escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a former soldier, a young woman and a little girl pose as a family. Refugee families arrive in received housing. They end up settling in a housing project and try to build a life together. The screenwriter, Jesuthasan Antonythasan was conscripted in the Tamil Tigers where he trained and fought as a boy soldier. At age 19 he fled to Thailand where he lived for four years before reaching France where he obtained political asylum. He worked odd jobs while writing under the pen name Shobasakthi. Dheepan is shown in the upcoming EU Film Festival, on December 5 and 8.
The Lady in the Van (Nicholas Hytner, UK, 2015). Had you walked around the Camden section of London, passing a sweep of glorious Victorian houses on a pretty, leafy street you would have passed an old lady of indeterminate age living in a unlovely dirty van parked in its drive. The van stood among layers of detritus, old shopping bags and bits of carpet. This well known character was mocked and tormented by passers-by. Who was she? Surely the owner of the majestic house did not keep his mother in the van. The owner, the multi-talented Alan Bennett, said, "She used the loo once or twice, which appalled me really and I think she used the telephone. But she didn't want anything, not food or anything like that." Eventually the Camden authorities wanted to move her out. "At that point I said she could put the van in the drive, thinking it would be for a few months. It turned out to be 15 years." Bennett wrote an article on her for the London Review of Books that became the stage play, The Lady in the Van that starred Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd. It became a film when, after The History Boys, the team was looking for another project. It came to fruition when they got Maggie Smith. The Lady in the Van is a portrait of a powerful but puzzling, extraordinary woman who arrived from nowhere and completely took over Alan Bennett's life. Most of this story takes place on a tiny patch of land, a little drive outside a particular house in North London. When Bennett writes about her he realizes important thing about himself.
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece, 2015). A love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obligated to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released in The Woods. A desperate man escapes into The Wood there and against The Rules he falls in love. Lanthimos said, "The idea for this film came about from how people feel like they need to live. The Lobster describes two different worlds. One world where couples live, as opposed to a world where loners live. The main theme is love." Ben Whishaw, who plays the Limping Man, said, "because it is open to a range of interpretations it is very accessible in its storytelling, however mad it sort of is, it's very wide ranging in resonance. It's got a beautiful poetry about it; a provocative film, a challenging film." The last word belongs to the director, "Every person who watches it should hopefully engage and start thinking about various things in their own way and terms." "What excites me about this film is its originality, its freshness, its provocativeness, its dangerousness, its comedy, its edge, its romance." Colin Farrell is sure that people will be, "provoked into some reaction. That much I know." he concludes. "I don't think anyone will leave this film feeling apathetic.
Room (Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland/Canada; 2015). Winner of the audience award at TIFF, it is hard to believe this is the same director that did last year’s Frank. Based on best-selling Irish Canadian novelist Emma Donaghue, Room is a story of a kidnapping, rape and later a child raised in a small shed for several years. Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the five year old Jack have been lauded with much praise for their acting.
Sherpa (Jennifer Peedom, Australia/UK, 2015). A fight on Everest? It seems incredible. But in 2013 news channels around the world reported an ugly brawl at 21,000 feet as European climbers fled a mob of angry Sherpas. In 1953 New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit in a spirit of cooperation and brave optimism. Now climbers and Sherpas were trading insults - even blows. What happened to the happy, smiling Sherpas and their dedication in getting foreigners to the top of the mountain they hold so sacred? Determined to explore what was going on, the filmmakers went out to make a film of the 2014 Everest climbing season, from the Sherpas's point of view. Instead they captured a tragedy that would change Everest forever. At 6:45am on April 18, 2014, a 14 million ton block of ice crashed down onto the climbing route through the Khumbu Icefall, killing 16 Sherpas. It was the worst tragedy in the history of Everest. The disaster provoked a drastic reappraisal about the role of the Sherpas in the Everest climbing industry. Sherpa tells the story of how, in the face of fierce opposition, the Sherpas united in grief and anger to reclaim the mountain they call Chjomolungma.
Son of Saul (Laszlo Nemes, Hungary, 2015). First, this harrowing film is not for everyone. Its brutality during the Holocaust will be far too difficult for some people to watch. Laszlo Nemes' brilliant debut film follows a Sonderkommamdo at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to assist in the grisly day-to-day management of the exterminations. Saul recognizes a dead boy as his son and wants him to have a proper burial. For this he needs to find a rabbi to recite the mourner's Kaddish which places his life and the escape plan of fellow inmates in jeopardy. The unforgettable blurred opening shot makes an early statement of the brilliance of this film. Sault slowly walks into focus as all else remains blurred. Saul, played by the poet Geza Rohrig, travels throughout the camp to find a rabbi while the brutality and barbarity remains off camera. Son of Saul is Hungary's Oscar pick and will be shown at the EU Film Festival December 7 and then in local theaters.
Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, US, 2015). The closing gala has Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs and Kate Winslet as his Apple marketing chief Joanna Hoffman in Oscar worthy performances of the man and company based on Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. This film already played in DC theaters.
Suffragette (Sarah Gavron, UK, 2015). The opening gala has Carey Mulligan as the laundry worker who slowly becomes more embroiled into the Women’s Movement which risks not only her job, but home, marriage, and children. Banners around the screening were bravely hung proclaiming “Votes for Women.” This film is still playing in DC.
Sunset Song (Terence Davois, UK/Luxembourg, 2015). From the pen of one of Scotland's greatest writers, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, comes a powerful story symbolizing Scotland torn apart by The Great War. The powerful yet delicate film uses the subsistence farm in Aberdeenshire and the Guthrie family to show the end of an era. Music is crucial in making this point. From simple pipes and accordion played at weddings with the Scottish voices singing melancholy airs of old times to the lament for the dead, Flowers of the Forest, and the stirring Auld Robin. Times are cruel and those who begin as young and full of hope, and the harsh beauty of the land gives way to old age. The song is heard with quiet courage in the face of death. Chris marries the happy Ewan but war changes him into a wife beater. She is led to believe that he died thinking of her. Chris watches as the new minister dedicates the War Memorial at the Standing Stones above her home. The sun sets to the music of Flowers of the Forest, bringing to an end their way of life.
Truth (James Vanderbilt, Australia/USA, 2015). What is the risk of reporting what you consider truth? For Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) reporting on problems of George W. Bush's Vietnam draft status it meant the end of their broadcasting careers. Reporting on inconsistencies in the President's military records brought the President's supporters into action and caused CBS to suspend Mapes and investigate possible political bias in their 60 Minutes report. This film is a tightly directed political drama. Truth is still in a few DC theaters.
Trumbo (Jay Roach, USA, 2015). Bryan Cranston gives an outstanding performance as Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter who refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 and not only went to jail but was blacklisted as well. Trumbo won Academy Awards for Roman Holiday and The Brave One, screenplays he had been forced to write under pen names. Helen Mirren is superb as the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. At the London press conference Cranston said, "The message resonates internationally when a government overreaches, that's a cause for alarm." Trumbo recently opened in the DC area.
VERY GOOD FILMS
Closet Monster (Steven Dunn, Canada, 2015). Oscar Madly is a very creative but troubled teen living with his often violent father and fantasizes about talking to his pet hamster (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). He has problems at school and at his work when he is confused by a crush he has for a new co-worker boy. The film aptly captures the coming of age feeling of being an outsider in many ways and uses very creative film techniques.
The Club (Pablo Larrain, Chili, 2015). Four defrocked priests and a nun along with a greyhound that's being trained to race reside in a large house that's in a sleepy Chilean coastal town. The director brings out uniformly outstanding performances while Larrain's signature murky scenes mirror the casts motives. This film showed recently as part of the AFI's Latin American Film Festival.
Departure (Andrew Steggall, UK/France, 2015). Director Steggall's first film shows great potential in his well-crafted melancholic story of a mother and son closing down their country home. The son, Elliot (Alex Lawther who stared in X + Y) is more interested in hanging out with his new friend.
Desierto (Jonas Cuaron, Mexico/France, 2015). A group of illegal Mexican immigrants is met with a gun toting racist who has taken border control into his own hands. Cuaron has crafted a nail biting film of shoot-outs and chase scenes.
Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, US, 2015). A moving reflection on love, death and language inspired by Anderson’s beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, who died in 2011 and some reflections on her husband Lou Reed. A multidisciplinary presentation voiced by Anderson herself recently played at Landmark's Bethesda Row.
High Rise (Ben Wheatley, UK, 2015). Based on J.G. Ballard's classic novel, director Wheatley has come up with a satire of 1960s social realism and Thatcherite values. The film opens with a disheveled man sitting on his balcony eating Barbecued dog. A film of nihilism, drugs and alcohol feed into wanton sex and destruction. Clint Mansell's score reinforces the mood of the film.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones, France/UK, 2015). A Must See for film aficionados. Jones' film is based on Francois Truffaut's book based on his week-long recorded interview with the great English master. Hitchcock shared with his young admirer the secrets of his cinema. Hitchcok's singular vision is brought vividly to life by today's leading filmmakers who have been influenced by the British auteur. The film is scheduled to open at Landmark's E Street Cinema on December 11.
Ingrid Bergman-In Her Own Words (Stig Bjorkman, Sweden, 2015). A collection of Bergman’s home movies, personal letters and other diary extracts covering her full life including her fall from Hollywood grace for leaving her husband for Roberto Rosellini. Interviews with her children and friends paint a wonderful picture of a pioneering courageous woman who was neither wanton, nor saintly. It has played already at Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema.
Ixcanul-Volcano (Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/France, 2015). Winner of a Silver Bear at the 2015 Berlinale, this astutely drawn drama on the clash of civilizations uses a real Mayan farming community in the Guatemalan highlands. A young Mayan woman becomes pregnant by someone unworthy of her while her family wants her to marry the coffee plantation foreman, bringing about the harsh transition to an urban life.
I am Belfast (Mark Cousins, UK, 2015). Cousins brings to the screen a love letter to his home town. This 10,000 year journey of this grand city reveals its rich, complex and sometimes tragic story. Told through cinematographer Christopher Doyle's journey through today's Belfast and augmented with film clips and archival footage.
Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amy Berg, USA, 2015). Berg spent seven years working on this fact filled film of this revered Port Arthur, Texas rock star. Using archival material never made public before she has come up with a film of someone who struggled to connect with both individuals and audiences then rejoiced when she made those bonds. Berg's film offers new insights into a bright, complex woman whose surprising rise and sudden demise changed music history forever. It will open in early December at the Angelika Pop Up theatre.
Lamb (Yared Zeleke, France/Ethopia/Germany/Norway, 2015). Nine year old Ephraim is the focus of this film. He is taken from his drought-stricken home to live with an uncle when his father goes to Addis Ababa to look for work. His pet lamb is the only friend the child has. When told that the lamb is to be ritually slaughtered at the next festival Ephraim takes drastic action to save his pet.
The Measure of a Man (Stephane Brize, France, 2015). This intelligent drama looks at the dehumanizing effects of two years unemployment on Thierry (Vincent Lindon). He must now take any job, even one that has his very identity examined by corporate standards. Lindon gives a quiet performance that gives Thierry emotional depth.
The Program (Stephen Frears, UK/France, 2015). The true story of the rise and fall of cyclist Lance Armstrong. Armstrong was world celebrated due to his winning the Tour de France seven times. Sadly it was with the help of the infamous Italian doctor Michele Ferrari who concocted the most sophisticated blood doping scheme in history. British reporter David Walsh had his doubts. Walsh was initially disgraced but in time several insiders came forward and revealed one of the greatest deceptions of all time.
One Floor Below (Radu Muntean, Romania/Germany/France, 2015). Muntean has directed a taunt, tension filled story of two men and the death of a young woman in the apartment below Sandru Patrascu's. This film will keep you guessing from beginning to end. One Floor Below will be shown at the AFI's European Union Film Festival December 15 and 17.
Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Japan, 2015). In this film, unlike his last two, Kore-Eda focuses on the lives of four women. The director wisely stays away from melodrama and that results in a most refreshing tale of sisters helping each other. The slow reveal of their lives brings about a lovely, touching film.
An (Naomi Kawase, Japan/France/Germany, 2015). The title refers to the red-bean paste used to fill the dorayaki pancake served a chef at a small dinner. He reluctantly takes on a very old woman (Kirin Kiki) as his assistant, who teaches him how to make better dorayaki but also to live more in harmony with others and nature. A quiet film with surprising twists and ties to Japanese history.
Celestial Camel (Jury Feting, Russia, 2015). Essentially a children’s film, but one a viewer of any age can enjoy. Bayir, a 12 year old who lives with his family in Kalmykia has a new young camel that could be the famed Celestial Camel born under a camel-shaped cloud who brings good fortune to its family. When his father sells the young camel, Bayir travels the steppes to find the camel and return it home and to bring his family good luck again.
Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Argentina/Venezuela). Beautiful black and white cinematography showing two time periods (1909 and 1940s) when two different Europeans come to the Colombian Amazon and meet shaman Karamakate. They are looking for a plant or flower that is alleged to have magical healing powers. Another film that shows the indecency of colonial ideals of civilization versus the natives’ communication and harmony with Nature. This is Colombia’s Oscar nominee for best foreign language film.
He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2015). Malala Yousafzai, a girl shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan became the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. Guggenheim uses archival and interview footage with animation to tell her story of championing girls’ rights for education. The film recently played in DC metro theatres.
Krisha (Trey Edward Shults, US, 2015). A troubled family reunion with Krisha as the middle-aged woman trying to hold it together for a few days without drinking too much. Played by the director’s own aunt Krisha Fairchild, this is another well-acted and claustrophobic film about family holiday get-togethers.
The Mud Woman (Sergio Castro San Martin, Chile/Argentina, 2015). Maria (Catalina Saavedra, star of The Maid) to make money for her daughter joins a far off group of laborers who pick grapes and do other jobs. She has not been back to this place in 10 years and Raul, a reason she left is still there, but now is a foreman with more power.
Office (Johnnie To, China/Hong Kong, 2015). A stylish Hong Kong musical based on Sylvia Cheung’s play of corporate culture tricks and life in the new China.
Partisan (Ariel Kleiman, Australia, 2014). A psychological thriller starring French actor Vincent Cassel as the head of a commune, who takes in women and children and fathers his own children within the community that must abide by his rules.
Truman (Cesc Gay, Spain/Argentina, 2015). Actors Javier Camara (Tomas) and Ricardo Darin (Julian) are old friends. Tomas leaves Canada and his family for a visit to Tomas who is ailing and has terminal cancer. Over a few days the friends catch up with their lives and try to find what to do with Julian’s beloved pet dog Truman.
Very Big Shot (Mir-Jean Chaaya, Lebanon/Qatar, 2015). Three brothers in Beirut have a bakery but one brother goes to jail for another brother’s crime and has just served his sentence. He wants to go straight but must face conflicts within and outside the family.
We did not see a single film that fell into the See At Your Own Risk category. Every film here has something worth seeing. That says something about the vetting on today's film festival circuit.
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Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
The 28th European Union Film Showcase (December 1-20) includes films from countries in the European Union. More than 50 films are shown, many are award-winners from international film festivals, local box office hits, and official Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Language Film. Many films will have special guests and Q&As. The Opening Night film is A Perfect Day (Fernando Leon de Aranoa, 2015) from Spain with the director present for Q&A and a reception following the film. The Closing Night film is The Treasure (Corneliu Porumbuio, 2015) from Romania. Festival passes are available, see the website.
Holiday films are shown December 4-24. Titles include Holiday Affair, A Christmas Carol (1951), It's a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Remember the Night, The Shop Around the Corner, Quai des Orfevres, Tangerine, Die Hard and A Christmas Story. Author Steve Taravella will introduce White Christmas (1954) and sign copies of his book.
Freer Gallery of Art
"Action, Anarchy, and Audacity: A Seijun Suzuki Retrospective" takes place October 9-December 20. On December 4 at 7:00pm is Zigeunerweisen (1980); on December 6 at 2:00pm is Kagero-za (1981); on December 13 at 2:00pm is Yumeji (1991); on December 18 at 7:00pm is Pistol Opera (2001); and on December 20 at 2:00pm is Princess Raccoon (2005). There are two more Seijun Suzuki films shown at the Japan Informationa and Cultural Center, see below.
National Gallery of Art
"Twenty-Five Years of Milestone Film" which began last month, ends in December. On December 5 at 1:00pm is Ornette: Made in America (Shirley Clarke, 1986), about the jazz musician Ornette Coleman. On December 5 at 3:00pm is The Connection (Shirley Clarke, 1961). On December 12 at 2:00pm is the restored Strange Victory (Leo Hurwitz, 1948). On December 12 at 3:30pm is Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982). On December 19 at 2:00pm is the restored Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960). On December 26 at 12:30pm is A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China (Philip Haas, 1988) and on December 27 at 4:00pm is I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira, 2001).
Special events this month include a lecture and short films "Technicolor at 100" with James Layton and David Pierce, authors of The Dawn of Technicolor. Three early Technicolor short films will be shown: Manchu Love (1929), The Love Charm (1928) and Sports of Many Lands (1929).
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On December 3 at 7:00pm is Alice (Jan Svankmajer, 1988).
Museum of American History
On December 5 and 6 at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm is Pal Joey (1957) starring Frank Sinatra, shown in the Warner Bros. Theater, part of the Smithsonian Holiday events.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On December 1 at 7:30pm is the documentary Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish (Will Farley, 2015). On December 8 at 7:30pm is the Swiss film The Last Mentsch (Pierre-Henry Saifati, 2014). On December 15 at 7:30pm is Son of Saul (Laszlo Nemes, 2015) from Hungary and on December 29 at 7:30pm is The Man in the Wall (Evgeny Ruman, 2015) from Israel.
"Kino 2003–2015: Your Favorite Films" (November 2-December 7) is a selection of favorite films shown during the past 12 years. On December 2 at 6:30pm is the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2010) shown in 3D and on December 7 at 6:30pm is the documentary Pina (Wim Wenders, 2011) shown in 3D.
The Goethe Institute hosts the second annual "Art in Exile" film festival, showing films from Syria and Palestine. On. On December 8 at 6:30pm is A World Not Ours; on December 8 at 8:00pm is We Cannot Go There Now My Dear; on December 9 at 5:30pm is Our Terrible Country; on December 9 at 8:00pm is Queens of Syria with filmmaker Mohammad Ali Atassi present for discussion; and on December 10 at 6:30pm is On the Bride's Side with the filmmaker and one of the film's actors present for discussion.
National Geographic Society
On December 1 at 7:30pm is a lecture "The Making of Meru." with filmmaker Chai Vasarhelyi and climber Jimmy Chin.
A tribute to French-born William Wyler includes The Children's Hour (1961) on December 1 at 6:30pm, followed by a reception with Catherine Wyler attending; Friendly Persuasion (1956), winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes on December 9 at 7:30pm, and Roman Holiday (1953) on December 10 at 7:00pm.
On December 8 starting at 6:00pm is "Green Night," films, photo and art exhibitions, music and conversations with major actors in the environmental sector, all exploring the theme of climate change. Films include Planet Ice: Greenland, A Journey Under the Ice (Thierry Berrod) at 7:00pm and Planet Ocean (Yann Arthus-Bertrand) at 9:20pm.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
Two films are shown as part of the Seijun Suzuki retrospective (See above. On December 2 at 6:30pm is Man with a Shotgun (1961) and on December 3 at 6:30pm is The Breeze on the Ridge (1961).
On December 11 at 6:30pm is Kano (Umin Boya, 2014), about a multiethnic baseball team in Taiwan and their participation in the 1931 Koshien Baseball Tournament in Osaka.
The Textile Museum at GWU
On December 17 at noon is Through the Consul's Eye (1999), a documentary about Auguste François, a little-known French consul in China, who saved a handful of French citizens during the Boxer uprising.
On December 5 at 2:00pm is My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, 1982) starring Peter O'Toole.
Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema
"Movie Rewind" is a new series of classic films on Wednesdays. On December 9 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is Eight Crazy Nights (2002); on December 16 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is Love, Actually (2003); on December 23 at 7:00pm and 9:30pm is Die Hard (1988) and on December 30 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is The Wizard of Oz (1939).
On December 2 at 8:00pm is Welcome to Leith (2015), about white supremacist Craig Cobb, shown as part of the Avalon Docs series.
On December 9 at 8:00pm is Us 2 (Slobodanka Radun, 2014) as part of the "Czech Lions" series.
Italian Cultural Institute
On December 21 at 7:00pm is "Italian Short Film Day 2015," a collection of short films from various genres and on different formats.
Anacostia Community Museum
On December 9 at 1:00pm is the documentary Soundtrack for a Revolution (2009), about the music of the American civil rights movement. Discussion follows the film.
On December 20 at 2:00pm is the documentary Melvin and Jean: An American Story (2012) with filmmaker Maia Wechsler present for discussion.
On December 13 at 4:00pm is the documentary Autism in Love (Matt Fuller) with Q&A afterwards with one of the couples featured in the film.
On December 6 at 1:00pm is the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Reel Affirmations XTra
On December 4 at 7:00pm is the documentary Desert Migration (Daniel F. Cardone), about AIDS survivors, followed by a Q&A and panel discussion with members of the cast and the director.
Busboys and Poets
On December 1 at 7:30pm is Home Alone shown at the Shirlington location.
The Jerusalem Fund
On December 17 at 12:30pm is a program "It's Not Just Documentaries," films from the aftermath of the 2014 war in Gaza. Four short films are to be shown: Memory of Homes (Khalil Al-Mozian); Honorable Judge (Muhammed Nayef); The White Flag (Zuheir Al-Belbeisi), and Al Wafaa (Yassir Murtaja).
George Mason University
On December 2 at 7:00pm is a screening and discussion of We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011). Open to the public.
Logan Fringe Arts Space
On December 12 at 8:00pm is The Kid (Charlie Chaplin, 1921) with guitar music accompaniment by Mark Ribot.