Selfies: 2014 SBIFF

Here are some of the favorite pics and selfies I took during last month's Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Top pic: The crowd gathering outside of Metro Theaters in Downtown Santa Barbara.

2nd pic: Swiss filmmaker Elena Hazanov and her son Sasha Guerreiro who was the lead star in her movie, "Sam".
3rd pic: My selfie
with Czech filmmaker and the director of my favorite movie at the festival, "Clownwise"

4th pic: My selfie with Hollywood actor Scott Speedman after the world premiere of his latest film, "Barefoot."

5th pic: My selfie with Anne Heche outside Metro Theater. We chatted for a little bit about Philip Seymour Hoffman who died unexpectedly that day.

Raymond Lo

Movies: February 2014 List

I started the year going to a couple of film festivals in January and that continued throughout February.

During the first weekend of February, I drove some 100 miles north to the beautiful seaside town of Santa Barbara to attend their annual film festival. I saw some great movies and several bad ones during my two-day excursion. The most memorable for me was the Czech film "Clownwise" (dir. Victor Taus) which brought me tears for its poignant story of enduring friendship and the spiritual healing true forgiveness brings to all of us. 

I also liked the Swiss film "Sam" (dir. Elena Hazanov) and the powerful Lithuanian drama "The Gambler" (dir. Ignas Jonynas). I felt so lucky to have met many filmmakers and actors during the two days I was there. I chatted with Anne Heche and Scott Speedman after the screening of Scott's latest film, the romantic-drama "Barefoot". I had several selfies taken with the directors of "Clownwise" and "Sam", too!

During the month, I also decided to finally watch several DVDs that a good friend loaned to me and some that I have owned for sometime now.

I watched a '60s Cuban film called "Los Dias Del Agua" but it had not subtitles, hence the "Qualified Rating" --- I liked the imagery and I think I was able to follow the story somewhat which has some resemblance to the classic Filipino movie "Himala" (dir. Ishmael Bernal.)

Here are the movies that took so much time from me during the month of February 2014.

Mount Joy (US) - 3 Stars
Sam (Switzerland) - 4 Stars
Cold Eyes (Korea) - 4 Stars
Night Has Settled (US) - 2 Stars
The Gambler (Lithuania) - 5 Stars
Barefoot (US) - 3 Stars
Clownwise (Czech Republic) - 5 Stars
Late Spring (Korea) - 2 Stars
Algunas Chicas (Argentina) - 1 Star
Short Term 12 (US) DVD - 4 Stars
Enough Said (US) DVD - 3 Stars
A Hijacking (Denmark) DVD - 5 Stars
Philomena (UK) - 5 Stars
Los Dias Del Agua (Cuba) DVD - Qualified Rating
The Imposter (UK) DVD - 5 Stars
Don Jon (US) DVD - 3 1/2 Stars 
Enemy (US/Canada) - 5 Stars
The Breakfast Club (US) Streaming - 4 Stars
Bona (Philippines) DVD - 5 Stars
The Lone Ranger (US) DVD - 2 Stars
The Counselor (US) DVD - 2 Stars
My favorite movie this month is "Clownwise." I loved the filmmaking and the measured approach to the storytelling. I was also impressed by the brave artistic decision not to resort to the lazy storytelling trick of inserting flashback scenes to a conversation. Amazing film! 

My other favorites this month include "The Gambler" --- my good friend and super film buff, Georges, and I debated lengthily on what the final scene meant. I took it as a good one while he picked the opposite. We were not able to arrive at a common conclusion but we both loved the movie. Our debate proves that a good film can have many meanings to a truly invested audience. 

"Enemy' --- the bewildering new film from Canadian filmmaker Denis Villenueve and "A Hijacking" --- a suspenseful, truly riveting film from Denmark, a much better movie than "Captain Phillips" - not that I should compare any movies at all, complete my runner-up list.

Raymond Lo

Quick Film Review: Nymphomaniac, Volume 1

Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier has done it again! "Nymphomaniac" delivers everything that it teases --- and I have seen only the first part! (The 2nd volume will come out April 4th.)

The movie has all the hard-core sex and graphic nudity to embarrass just about anybody but Von Trier himself yet the movie never feels tasteless at all. Not a minute! What the audience gets is an almost spiritual examination of that interconnectivity between sex and depression, lust and love, death and freedom... It is profound, funny and is as informative as it is instructional, wink!

Truly a work of a mad genius!

All the chapters in the first volume are memorable but my favorite one, oddly enough, is the one with zero flesh exposure at all. The 3rd chapter, "Mrs. H", tells of Joe's (Stacy Martin) encounter with a married man who left his family to be with her. It's a hilarious episode highlighted by Uma Thurman's hysterical performance as the abandoned wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Rating: 4 and 1/2 stars.

2014 Spirit Awards Winners

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" was expected to dominate and it indeed dominated the awards winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won as expected for their roles in "Dallas Buyers Club" while Cate Blanchett and her phenomenal performance as "Blue Jasmine" is just one day away from winning the biggest prize of the year. She won the Spirit for Best Actress.

Here's the complete list of winners:

BEST FEATURE :12 Years a Slave

BEST FIRST FEATURE: Fruitvale Station
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM: Blue Is the Warmest Color (France)
BEST DOCUMENTARY: 20 Feet From Stardom

BEST FEMALE LEAD: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
BEST MALE LEAD: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
BEST SUPPORTING MALE: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Sean Bobbit, 12 Years a Slave

BEST EDITING: Nat Sanders, Short Term 12

Raymond Lo