Oscars 2015: "1001 Grams"

How do you measure grief? Or guilt? Or love? These are some of the profound questions that you will find yourself thinking about while watching the gentle and heartwarming film “1001 Grams”, the new film from acclaimed filmmaker Bent Hamer and Norway’s entry to the Oscars this year.

It’s kind of a weighty proposition but the movie is actually a very entertaining and crowd-pleasing drama with a little romance and bursts of comedy mixed into the well-told story of a daughter trying to cope with her father’s untimely death while representing Norway in the international conference on the kilo. Yes, do not be put off by the title. It’s about weight, about the weight of the kilo to be exact, now that last sentence was a paradox, sort of.

At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Marie and Ernst. They are father and daughter scientists whose connections are limited to cigarette breaks in a cramped alleyway and an occasional weekend visits to Ernst’s farmhouse by Marie. Marie is dealing with personal issues on her own and as the story progresses we get to see that she is slowly losing her personal belongings yet we could feel that physically she seems to be burdened with some heavy stuff that she’s carrying in her heart. What could it be? Guilt? Frustrations?

There are layers to the title and the subject matter that, I fear, putting it down all here, would ruin the experience for the audience. I could easily rattle off the charming relationship between the title and narrative references and the connections it makes with real life but it has to be experienced by the audience first hand to be able to feel the gentle power of this movie.

“1001 Grams” is actually very subtle in layering out the various subtexts to the story and for an introspective moviegoer who likes to have a little laugh and a little entertainment while at the same time being challenged by the story, it is definitely a gift that deserves to be rewarded with vigorous applause.

The performances by the cast are amazing and the photography, splendid. I so love the parade with the blue umbrellas in the middle of the movie because it somewhat reminds the audience that there is life, there is color, there is order, there is beauty, in even the most boring stuff in the world.

Can i also tease you on why the title is 1001 Grams and not 1000 Grams if it is about the kilo? Hmm...

Rating: 5 stars

News: LA Premiere of "In Nomine Matris"

Award-winning Filipino movie to screen in Los Angeles on December 5, 2014!



“Will Fredo goes to those dark places artists live in day to day and also finds the comedy. He captures that fine line between passion, pursuit for our career and art, and our desire and need for a loving relationship. The trio of the mother [Tami Monsod], the mentor [Clara Ramona], and the female lead [Liza Diño] dance off is a must see but the meat stomp scene with Ava [Tami Monsod] is classic!” ~ Stephen Girasuolo, Actor/Producer NYC

"In Nomine Matris will be remembered as a stellar artistic breakthrough. But most of all, it will be honored as one of the few films that tries to understand the painful sacrifices women make either for passionate ambition or love for a man. And why most often, she cannot have both." ~ Marivir Montebon, NYC Executive Editor at OSM (Awesome Global Citizens online magazine)

“In Nomine Matris is a sensual, passionate glimpse into the world of flamenco in Manila. We're hypnotized by the rhythms of flamenco and beautiful dance captured on screen. The scene with Ava, Mara, and Mercedes (played by Tami Monsod, Liza Diño, and Clara Ramona respectively) in the dance off still gives me chills! Along with the beautiful dancing, I love love loved the mothers in this story. They are graceful fighters, embracing and protecting while guiding with their fierce gaze.” ~ Sanju Balasunderam, Solutions Manager, Integral Development Corporation (New York, USA)

"An inspiring narrative about a woman's love, her passion & sacrifice. The flair of flamenco fused with Filipino dance & music is simply remarkable. Most notable is the dance segment featuring Mara, Mercedes & Ava - it's a reflection of how these women's lives are very similar: failed relations fueled their internal conflicts, with struggles over personal motivations becoming more complex through motherhood. In Nomine Matris is a compelling showcase of Filipino talent, definitely a must-see movie!" ~ Rutchel Sajor, Banker and Proud Mother (New York, USA)

"The most pleasant surprise of the movie is Biboy Ramirez. As the less-favored son and the silent admirer of Liza Diño's character... His is clearly a case of an actor who has often been misused, even unused by an industry that puts premium on artificially-manufactured celebrities... Dalawang ulit akong pinaiyak nina Liza at Biboy -- first in the scene where BIboy finally reveals that he has loved Mara (Liza's character) all his life and the scene in the operating room... Wala na, reach na for a Kleenex from my bag." ~ Arnel Ramos, Entertainment Columnist

For Tickets: Call +1.424.232.6781 or visit http://www.thesgproductions.com/

Awards: 2015 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!

Lav Diaz' "Norte, The End of History" lands a Spirit nomination!!! 

"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night", "Birdman", "Boyhood", "Whiplash" all nominated!


(Award given to the producer, Executive Producers are not awarded.)

PRODUCERS: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

BOYHOOD - Predicted Winner
PRODUCERS: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland

PRODUCERS: Lucas Joaquin, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, Jay Van Hoy

PRODUCERS: Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey

PRODUCERS: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michael Litvak

(Award given to the director and producer)

DIRECTOR: Ana Lily Amirpour
PRODUCERS: Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah

PRODUCERS: Effie T. Brown, Ann Le, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Lena Waithe

DIRECTOR: Dan Gilroy
PRODUCERS: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

DIRECTOR: Gillian Robespierre
PRODUCER: Elisabeth Holm

PRODUCERS: Mollye Asher, Kiara C. Jones

(Award given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jeremy Saulnier
PRODUCERS: Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani

PRODUCERS: Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner

WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens
PRODUCERS: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

MAN FROM RENO - Predicted Winner
WRITERS: Joel Clark, Michael Lerman

PRODUCER: Chris Martin

ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
RICHARD LINKLATER – Boyhood - Predicted Winner
DAVID ZELLNER – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

J.C. CHANDOR – A Most Violent Year
DAN GILROY – Nightcrawler - Predicted Winner
JIM JARMUSCH – Only Lovers Left Alive

DESIREE AKHAVAN – Appropriate Behavior
SARA COLANGELO – Little Accidents
ANJA MARQUARDT – She’s Lost Control
JUSTIN SIMIEN – Dear White People - Predicted Winner

DARIUS KHONDJI – The Immigrant
EMMANUEL LUBEZKI – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SEAN PORTER – It Felt Like Love
LYLE VINCENT – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - Predicted Winner

SANDRA ADAIR – Boyhood - Predicted Winner
TOM CROSS – Whiplash
JOHN GILROY – Nightcrawler
RON PATANE – A Most Violent Year

ANDRÉ BENJAMIN – Jimi: All Is By My Side
JAKE GYLLENHAAL – Nightcrawler
MICHAEL KEATON - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Predicted Winner
JOHN LITHGOW – Love is Strange

RINKO KIKUCHI – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
JULIANNE MOORE – Still Alice - Predicted Winner
JENNY SLATE – Obvious Child
TILDA SWINTON – Only Lovers Left Alive

RIZ AHMED – Nightcrawler
ALFRED MOLINA – Love is Strange
EDWARD NORTON – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Predicted Winner
J.K. SIMMONS – Whiplash

JESSICA CHASTAIN – A Most Violent Year - Predicted Winner
ANDREA SUAREZ PAZ - Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
EMMA STONE – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden) - DIRECTOR: Ruben Östlund
IDA (Poland) - DIRECTOR: Pawel Pawlikowski
LEVIATHAN (Russia) - DIRECTOR: Andrey Zvyagintsev
MOMMY (Canada) - DIRECTOR: Xavier Dolan - Predicted Winner
UNDER THE SKIN (United Kingdom) - DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer

(Award given to the director and producer)

DIRECTORS: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
PRODUCERS: Dan Bowen, James Wilson

PRODUCERS: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

DIRECTOR: Debra Granik
PRODUCER: Anne Rosellini

THE SALT OF THE EARTH - Predicted Winner
DIRECTORS: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders
PRODUCER: David Rosier

DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Orlando von Einsiedel
PRODUCER: Joanna Natasegara

(Award given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson
CASTING DIRECTOR: Cassandra Kulukundis
ENSEMBLE CAST: Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Kenneth Williams


WRITERS: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik
CAST: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum

Winners will be announced February 21, 2015, one day before the Oscars!

Raymond Lo

Awards: Gotham IFP Nominees

"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night", "Boyhood", "Still Alice", "Birdman" lead Gotham IFP nominees! 

Voting for the 24th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP, the first major awards ceremony of the winter awards season, began last week. Voters have until Wednesday, November 26th, to cast their ballots.

There are 24 independent films that received nominations this year in seven competitive categories including Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Actor, Best Actress , Breakthrough Actor, the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director award and the Gotham Audience Award.

In addition to the competitive awards, Gotham Award Tributes will be given to actor Tilda Swinton, director Bennett Miller and Industry Tribute recipient Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. The nominating committee for the Best Actor category also decided to award a collective Special Jury Award to the three leading stars of "Foxcatcher" – Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum – for their fine ensemble work.

As the first major awards ceremony of the film season, the Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP provide critical early recognition and media attention to worthy independent films. The awards are also unique for their ability to assist in catapulting award recipients prominently into national awards season attention, including recent winners and ultimate Oscar® contenders.

Nominees were selected by committees of film critics, journalists, festival programmers, and film curators. Separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers, editors and others directly involved in making films will determine the final Gotham Award recipients. Twenty writers, critics and programmers participated in the nomination process, considering 199 eligible submissions.

“Each year the Gotham Awards honor the best work from our independent storytellers and help new audiences discover their work. We congratulate this year’s nominees, from the master film artists to the talented newcomers, a true representation of the rich and diverse range of today’s independent filmmaking,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center. “We are grateful to our nominating committees of film critics, journalists, programmers and film curators for their dedication to selecting the nominees from so many worthy submissions.”

The Gotham Awards ceremony will be held two weeks from now on Monday, December 1st at Cipriani Wall Street. Good luck to all.

The NY and LA film critics will soon announce their nominations. The National Board of Review will follow along with the HFPA Golden Globes. Oscar nominations will not be known until January 2015.

The 2014 Gotham Independent Film Award nominations are:

Best Feature

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Boyhood - WINNER (My Prediction)
Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, producers (IFC Films)

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Love Is Strange
Ira Sachs, director; Lucas Joaquin, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer, director; Nick Wechsler, James Wilson, producers (A24)

Best Documentary

Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Robert Greene, producers (The Cinema Guild)

Laura Poitras, director; Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky, producers (RADiUS, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films)

Life Itself WINNER (My Prediction)
Steve James, director; Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, producers (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films)

Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, directors; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, producers (The Cinema Guild)

Point and Shoot
Marshall Curry, director; Marshall Curry, Elizabeth Martin, Matthew Van Dyke, producers (The Orchard and American Documentary / POV)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber) WINNER (My Prediction)
James Ward Byrkit for Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
Eliza Hittman for It Felt Like Love (Variance Films)
Justin Simien for Dear White People (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)

Best Actor
Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
Ethan Hawke in Boyhood (IFC Films)
Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year (A24)
Michael Keaton in Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures) WINNER (My Prediction)
Miles Teller in Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Actress
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)
Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)WINNER (My Prediction)
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24)
Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)

Breakthrough Actor
Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
Macon Blair in Blue Ruin (RADiUS)
Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (IFC Films)WINNER (My Prediction)
Joey King in Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (A24)
Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)

Gotham Independent Film Audience Award
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
BoyhoodWINNER (My Prediction)
Dear White People
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
The Grand Budapest Hotel
It Felt Like Love
Life Itself
Love Is Strange
Point and Shoot
Under the Skin

Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ Grant
For the fourth consecutive year, IFP is proud present the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, a $25,000 cash award for an alumna of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs. This grant aims to further the careers of emerging women directors by supporting the completion, distribution and audience engagement strategies of their first feature film.

The nominees are:
Garrett Bradley, director, Below Dreams
Claire Carré, director, Embers
Chloé Zhao, director, Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Raymond Lo

News: "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" teaser trailer is here!

UPDATED Nov. 28, 2014
Trailer is here! Happy Black Friday!

The countdown to the highly anticipated new installment to the "Star Wars" saga will reach its first significant milestone when Disney releases the first teaser trailer for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" on Friday morning.

The 88-second teaser will be shown in few select theaters during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and will go live on the web shortly thereafter.

But, if you want to be first, get to a movie house that's screening Disney's "Big Hero 6" because apparently it will be the first film that will screen the trailer.

This J.J. Abram's directed film will hit the cinemas on Dec. 18, 2015 and features numerous returning characters from the original Star Wars trilogy including Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). New cast members Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Max Von Sydow, Andy Serkis and Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o.

Watch the trailer here... Soon!

Raymond Lo

Film Review: Mike Nichols' "Closer"

(This review first appeared in December 2004 and i thought it best to reprint it today as a form of tribute to Mike Nichols. Rest in peace to one of America's master storytellers.)

There is a big revelation at the end of "Closer" that puts in perspective all the events that transpired in Mike Nichols' caustic tale of love, lust, betrayal, deception and the vagaries of easily told truths.

This film, adapted from a Tony-winning stage play, brings to screen four of the handsomest people working in Hollywood today.

Natalie Portman is Alice. She is a New York stripper who moves to London to mend her broken heart. An accident leads her to meet Dan (Jude Law), an obituary writer in a local newspaper. They easily take a liking of each other and live in apparent bliss for the next few months.

A year passes and come enters Anna (Julia Roberts) into their lives. She is the photographer commissioned to do Dan's cover jacket photographs for his new book detailing his love story with Alice. This series of photograph sessions and, at first, innocent flirting leads to a deeper relationship that hooks Dan and alienates Alice.

Dan's obsession with Anna triggers him to do extreme acts. In one of the films best written scenes, Dan logs into a cybersex webpage pretending to be Anna and indulges Larry (Clive Owen), a Dermatologist to come meet her in a local Aquarium. This innocent and lusty playfulness backfires as the real Anna falls in love with Larry and abandons Dan.

Alice, in all these events, remain in the shadows of Dan, faithful and trusting, loving and understanding.

This is a film that puts into focus how adults make a mockery of love and relationships. After Anna abandons Dan and marries Larry, the films spirals into a terrible series of betrayals and deceptions that ultimately leads to painful breakups and reconciliations.

This masterful love quadrangle is perfect in its triumphant evocation of how lovers tend to lose focus on gentle truths and sometimes demand painful honesty from their partners not to assuage their hurt feelings but to hurl back to the offending party the same pain their acts have caused them. It is very apparent here and so in real life that oftentimes people can easily promise their i-love-you's without taking the consequences of what they are inviting their partners into.

It is also significant to note that the professions of the characters here (that is the reason why i patiently jotted them down) reflect how they are in real life (it is not apparent though that they are able to grasp the ugly pictures they are painting of themselves). Anna is a photographer who was accused early on by another character of stealing her subjects life and using them for her own personal comfort. Larry is a dermatologist who is preoccupied on physical beauty but is hiding an ugly wrathful self. Dan is an obituarist whose main occupation is to write about the ideal lives he paints of his subjects which blurs his own beliefs and make him blind to the ideal life he actually has. Alice is a stripper who allows her patrons to disrobe her without letting them touch her. She goes naked, bares all her body but does she really open up everything about her? hmmm...

In the end, the revelation about Alice, the stripper, will finally unmask her and lovingly define her and puts a mean ending to this rollercoaster of a love quadrangle that doesn't end happily ever after for some.

And Isn't it a fact that in every love stories that begin there is always one person, the one abandoned and left behind, hurting in the background? But, how can one empathize with the character who so bravely declares his love for someone and yet carelessly not try to even know the real person he is supposedly in love with and when he is left abandoned, can the audience be blamed if they don't feel an ounce of sympathy - or for that matter the party who abandons him - for the sad predicament he put himself in?

Closer is one of the very best films of the year. All the actors do good here but special kudos goes to Natalie Portman who, while she vibrantly bookends this tale, despairingly shines as Alice. She acts so good that even when she goes naked the viewer is not a bit distracted. Clive Owen is also very effective in his role that is so easy to like and hate as swiftly as his chameleonic character changes from being nice to being vicious.

The haunting music used at the start and end was never more inspired while the writing witty and crisply naughty.

Raymond Lo

Music: "Chick Chick"

I was at a CBS junket last weekend at the Beverly Hilton when I first encountered this video. There was a lull in between the press conferences we had on Sunday when I heard a couple of journalist friends from Brazil giggling to a video they were watching.

I got mildly curious and thought they were watching some videos posted on Facebook or whatever. But their giggling never stopped and became even louder. Soon, the journalists from Argentina and France joined them in their giggling. That got me intrigued to finally stand up and ask them what they were watching. They told me it was a video of some chicken dancing. Chicken dancing? What was funny with it? I decided to join them and watched with them --- and, true enough, seconds later I was laughing with them.

Here's the video from Korea. Some are saying this is the Gangnam equivalent of 2014. Enjoy!

Trailers: "Project Almanac"

A brilliant high school student and his friends uncover blueprints for a mysterious device with limitless potential, inadvertently putting lives in danger.

In theaters January 30, 2015.

Cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner
Executive Producers Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Vicki Dee Rock
Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Written by Jason Harry Pagan & Andrew Deutschman
Directed by Dean Israelite

Official Site: http://www.projectalmanac.com

Watch the trailer below:

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

News: Swiss film "The Circle" starts US theatrical run this November

"The Circle", Switzerland's official entry to the Oscars this year started its US theatrical November 14 in Palm Springs and will have a steady roll-out through 2015.

Screening schedules:

Nov 14-20: Palm Springs (Camelot Theatres)
Nov 21-27: New York City (The Quad)
Dec 5-7: Wilmington, DE (Theatre N)
Dec 5-7: New Orleans (Zeitgeist)
Dec 12-18: Fort Lauderdale (Cinema Paradiso)
Dec 12-18: Miami (Tower Theater)
Dec 14: Philadelphia (Philamoca)
Dec 18-24: Los Angeles (Laemmle Music Hall 3)

Jan 2015
Santa Fe (CCA Santa Fe)
Hudson, NY (Time & Space Limited)

The movie is set in 1958 Zurich and based on the true story of a bashful teacher Ernst Ostertag and a German cabaret artist Robi Rapp who met and fell in love after meeting and knowing one another in the Swiss underground organization called “Der Kreis.” (The Circle). As the two dissimilar men defend their love, they witness the heyday and decline of this Europe-wide pioneering organization for gay emancipation.

Founded in the early 1940s, the network around the magazine ‘Der Kreis’ (’The Circle’) was the only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime. It blossomed during the post-war years into an internationally renowned underground club. Legendary masked balls at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich provided 800 visitors from all over Europe with a secret and safe space to act out their ‘otherness’ in a self-determined way. It is there that timid teacher Ernst Ostertag falls in love with drag star Röbi Rapp. Ernst searches for a way to fight for his gayness to be accepted as normal outside the boundaries of ‘The Circle’ network without losing his employment as a teacher. Röbi champions the joint fruition of their love. Following a murder in the gay community, violent repression against gay people also endangers ‘The Circle’ network.

Stefan Haupt’s new film uncovers the fascinating universe of one of the first gay liberation communities. Enriched by impressive conversational records with Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, the film depicts a decades-long love story—made taboo by society—and reveals the couple’s inspiring self-knowledge and courage.

Watch the trailer below:

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

Film Review: "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"

I waited eleven months for this movie and I finally saw it over the weekend. The wait was worth it! I love it! I adore it! And I think it's a masterpiece!

"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" is a triumph of contemporary cinema. Every frame, every minute of the movie satisfy in all levels. There's comedy, drama, theater, thriller, horror, romance - even music, oh, how I love the score! The film is a mash-up of several genres that only someone who lives and breathes movies could have ever done. Think Quentin Tarantino but less gory and less revolting. Think Robert Rodriguez but with better storytelling. I am never a big fan of the horror genre but this movie made me reconsider that (for how long, i really can't tell because there are just so many bad ones squeezing every tricks that may have worked before thus rendering the entire genre an afterthought to me.)

But, no, this one is not. This assured film debut by Ana Lily Amirpour is hailed as the first Iranian Vampire Western ever made and the audience can sense that she had fun doing the movie. It is like listening to a film buff rattle off all the movies she loves, the film styles she wants to emulate, the directors and genres she fancy and how dear she holds her motherland in her heart. And she pulled this off without letting go of her grip on the core romance between her two protagonists that holds the entire movie together. Yes, there's a girl in this movie but there is also a guy. I will not dwell on this because I would want the reader to have the same joy I had in discovering this one aspect of the film that I tremendously enjoyed.

I always find myself rambling when I write about a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and loved that I tend to forget a lot of things. I will not allow that for this film. I will start with the gorgeous black-and-white photography that lends the film an edgy atmosphere that makes the audience feel what it feels like to be alone, to be unseen. And the performances by the ensemble are glorious! Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi are just so perfect in their roles! Mozhan Marinó is terrific.

The film is not short on subtexts as well. Every movie is an allegory for something and if you are in a particular mood to brood about it, this movie offers a lot to think about. Some are obvious, some obscure but what is certain about this film is that it offers pure cinematic pleasure!

Rating: 5 Stars

Writer and Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Producers: Sina Sayyah, Justin Begnaud, Ana Lily Amirpour
Executive Producers: – Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Nick Moceri, Ben Conrad, Alexei Tylevich, Reza Sixo Safai, Daniel Grove, Patrick Grove
Cast – Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marinó, Dominic Rains, Milad Eghbali, Rome Shadanloo, Marshall Manesh
Website: http://films.vice.com/a-girl-walks-home/

News: Unlimited "Interstellar" at AMC!

"With moviegoers around the country raving that INTERSTELLAR is a movie they want to see again, AMC Theatres and Paramount Pictures offer AMC Stubs members an out-of-this-world opportunity with a ticket to see INTERSTELLAR as many times as they want" 

Are you a big "Interstellar" fan? Paramount and AMC have a pre-thanksgiving gift for you! You can watch the hit film for as many times as you like for two weeks. Popcorn and soda excluded, I believe.

Release >>> AMC Theatres and Paramount Pictures are excited to offer AMC Stubs members a first-of-its-kind INTERSTELLAR Unlimited Ticket, which allows AMC’s loyal moviegoers to see the film as many times as they’d like for one price. AMC Stubs members who have already seen the movie have an option to upgrade to the unlimited ticket at AMC.

For two weeks, movie lovers have flocked to AMC Theatres to experience Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster, INTERSTELLAR. Guest feedback indicates that guests not only love the movie, many are expressing a strong interest in seeing it again in the theatre.

“Christopher Nolan has created a masterpiece that movie fans are saying gets better every time they see it,” said Elizabeth Frank, executive vice president and chief content and programming officer, AMC Theatres. “The INTERSTELLAR Unlimited Ticket gives these fans an opportunity to experience the spectacular cinematography and heart-warming stories as many times as they would like – at any AMC location, any showtime, in any format, including IMAX.”

INTERSTELLAR Unlimited Tickets are available for sale to AMC Stubs members at AMC box offices in 330 locations across the country. The INTERSTELLAR Unlimited Ticket price varies by location, ranging from $19.99 to $34.99. All AMC Stubs members who have already purchased a ticket to the movie can upgrade for $14.99.

A commemorative INTERSTELLAR pass will be issued, which can be used at any AMC location playing the film. While the ticket is unlimited, quantities are not, and guests are encouraged to get their Unlimited Ticket while supplies last.

“INTERSTELLAR” stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow and Michael Caine. With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars. Directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, and produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Lynda Obst.

“INTERSTELLAR” is playing in theaters nationwide.

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

Brazil: 6th HBRFest at Montalban Theatre this month!

"Bringing the best and most daring cinema from Brazil, we proudly invite you to come enjoy our FREE public screenings!"

There you go! Free movies from Brazil at the Montalban Theatre!

The full line-up has not been announced yet except for two interesting titles:

A Wolf at the Door

Love turns to hate and panic breeds suspicion as two parents deal with the kidnapping of their child. ”A Wolf at the Door” a film by Fernando Coimbra, promises lots of drama and tension, who is coming watch it with us?

Casa Grande

"Casa Grande" one of the selected for this years festival. Fellipe Barbosa, Director and Writer. tell us a story of a teenagers last year on high school while his family goes true a financial struggle. 

Friday and Saturday slate are now posted in the website:

Friday, November 21
07:00 Red Carpet 30 min
07:40 Inauguration Cerimony 20 min
08:00 A Wolf Behind the door 80 min
09:40 Opening Party

Saturday, November 22
02:00 River’s Memory 14 min
02:30 Geru 23 min
03:00 Tales of the Tide 17 min
03:23 Actresses 29 min
04:00 Guida 11 min
04:30 Quase Samba 90 min
06:00 Dentro 15 min
06:30 Casa Grande 115 min
08:30 Shark 13 min
10:32 Tatuagem 110 min (Saw this at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January this year. 1 of 5 stars.)

See you at the festival!

Raymond Lo

News: New "Fifty Shades of Grey" trailer is here!

We are getting close to Valentine's Day Universal and Focus wants to remind us that with the release of a brand-new "Fifty Shades of Grey" trailer.

The new trailer gives us still a glimpse at the realized world of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and the whole world is again expected to drop everything and devote a good two minutes or so of their existence to watch the most-awaited 2nd trailer of the most-awaited movie in many years!

The first trailer can be found here: http://raymonddeasislo.blogspot.com/2014/07/trailers-50-shades-of-grey.html

Here's the new trailer:

Raymond Lo

Argentina: New Cinema 2014 at the Egyptian this month!

Following the success of previous years, the Argentina: New Cinema series returns with some of the best films to emerge from Buenos Aires and beyond in 2013 and 2014.

The annual event has drawn large crowds from both the local Argentine community and foreign-language film fans, and this year's 13th installment promises to be no different, with an impressive lineup including several Los Angeles premieres. 

This has been a very good year for films from Argentine directors. Four were screened  at Cannes: Damian Szifron’s WILD TALES, Lisandro Alonso’s JAUJA, Pablo Fendrik’s EL ARDOR and Pablo Lerman’s REFUGIADO; and four more at the Berlin Film Festival: Benjamin Naishtat’s HISTORY OF FEAR, Celina Murga’s THE THIRD SIDE OF THE RIVER, Ines Maria Barrionuevo’s ATLÁNTIDA and Matias Lucchesi’s NATURAL SCIENCES.

At the Egyptian, some of the finest recent Argentine cinema, ranging from thrillers (BETIBU) to comedies (THE PRINCESS OF FRANCE) and dramas about family (NATURAL SCIENCES), romance and friendship (THE MYSTERY OF HAPPINESS, and the need to find direction in life (Sundance favorite LOCK CHARMER) will be screened.

The powerful Cannes Film Festival selection REFUGIADO adds to the breadth and depth of selections.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see South America’s first home-grown film industry come of age on the big screen! All films are in Spanish with English subtitles unless otherwise noted. Series compiled by Pablo Maseda and Gwen Deglise. Program notes by John Hagelston.

This series is presented by the American Cinematheque and the Consulate General and Promotion Center of the Argentine Republic in Los Angeles. All screenings are at the Egyptian in Hollywood and will run from November 21 through 23.

A Grand Jury Prize nominee at the Sundance Film Festival, charming drama LOCK CHARMER explores the human need for direction by employing a touch of magic realism. The “Smoke Days” of 2008 in Buenos Aires leave Sebastian (Esteban Lamothe) with an unusual ability to see into peoples’ lives as he fixes their locks. The commitment-phobic locksmith is also dealing with a pregnant girlfriend and an unexpected house guest, and his strange new power may be the key to putting his own life in order. Screens Saturday, November 22.


12-year-old Lila (Paula Hertzog) is struggling with a lot of questions - most of them about her long-absent father. Enlisting a sympathetic teacher (Paola Barrientos), she sets out from her school in rural Argentina in search of answers. Director Matias Lucchesi’s feature debut NATURAL SCIENCES (CIENCIAS NATURALES) screens on opening night, Friday, November 21

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

AFIFest 2014: Winners!

AFIFest 2014 concludes today with the announcement of the winners. The announcement is currently going on at the cinema lounge inside the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

Audience Award Winners

World Cinema Audience Award
Country: USA | Russia
Year: 2014
Director: Gabe Polsky
Producer: Gabe Polsky
Executive Producers: Werner Herzog, Jerry Weintraub, Liam Satre-Meloy
Directors of Photography: Peter Zeitlinger, Svetlana Cvetko
Editors: Eli Despres, Kurt Engfehr
Music: Christophe Beck, Leo Birenberg
Featuring: Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Scotty Bowman, Vladimir Pozner
New Auteurs Audience Award
Country: Mexico
Year: 2014
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Screenwriters: Alonso Ruizpalacios, Gibrán Portela
Producer: Ramiro Ruiz
Director of Photography: Damián García
Editors: Yibrán Asuad, Ana García
Production Designer: Sandra Cabriada
Music: Tomás Barreiro
Cast: Tenoch Huerta, Sebastián Aguirre, Ilse Salas, Leonardo Ortizgris

American Independents Audience Award
10,000 KM
Country: Spain | USA
Year: 2014
Director: Carlos Marques-Marcet
Screenwriters: Clara Roquet, Carlos Marques-Marcet
Producers: Tono Folguera, Jana Díaz Juhl, Sergi Moreno
Executive Producers: Mayca Sanz, Pau Brunet, Danielle Schleif
Director of Photography: Dagmar Weaver-Madsen
Editors: Julia Montañés, Carlos Marques-Marcet
Production Designer: Laia Ateca
Cast: Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer

Breakthroughs Audience Award
Country: USA
Year: 2014
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Screenwriter: Sarah Adina Smith
Producers: Jonako Donley, Mary Pat Bentel
Executive Producers: Jennifer Wilson, Steve Pearson, Samuel T. Bauer
Director of Photography: Shaheen Seth
Editor: Sarah Adina Smith
Music: Ellen Reid
Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Aleksa Palladino, Jennifer Lafleur, Ross Partridge, Beth Grant, Michelle Hutchison, Shirley Venard 


Jury Award Winners
  • Special Jury Prize for Collection to David O'Reilly for his three films: CHILDREN'S SONG, NDA, WRONG NUMBER
  • Grand Jury Award Animated Short winner: YEARBOOK
  • Special Jury Mention for Breakthrough Filmmaker winner: GRAY HAS AN AIDS SCARE
  • Special Jury Mention for Vision winner: SOUND THAT
  • Special Jury Mention for Direction winner: SHIPWRECK
  • Grand Jury Award Live Action Short Film winner: BUFFALO JUGGALOS
  • Special Jury Mention for Screenwriting: GUEROS
  • Special Jury Mention for Cinematography: VIOLET
  • The @VIZIO Visionary Special Jury Award: THE TRIBE
  • New Auteurs Critic's Award: SELF MADE
Congratulations to all the winners!

Raymond Lo

AFIFest 2014: "From What is Before"

Lav Diaz's award-winning film "FROM WHAT IS BEFORE" finally had its US premiere today at the AFIFest. There were about 40 in attendance. By the 2 hour mark, about 5 left the screening. By the 4th hour, a third of the audience were gone.

When the film ended, a handful politely applauded the movie. A few left in a hurry. And my eyewitness source? She was disappointed with the film but praised the cinematography.

Her final text: "Very few clapped. Bitin ang ending." That's something for a movie that lasted nearly six hours!

The audience were provided with free refreshments and chips. Someone asked if there would be an intermission. The festival programmer introduced the film as "One-of-a-kind" --- literally, I guess.

The movie will have another screening tomorrow, November 13.

Raymond Lo

HIFF 2014: "What We Do in the Shadows" wins top prize!

The Hawaii International Film Festival Audience Award winners, presented by Hawaii New News Now, were announced on November 11, 2014. During this 34th edition of the festival, audiences voted on their favorite narrative feature, documentary feature and short film. Ballots were distributed for the screenings of every eligible film during the festival.

The audience award for Best Narrative Feature goes to WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, directed by Taika Waititi (BOY) and Jemaine Clements (EAGLE VS. SHARK). Audiences delighted in this first-hand look into the living quarters of vampires. The end result is a hysterical docu-style ride that unearths a secret, supernatural society where friendship and camaraderie are just as important as feasting upon the flesh of mortals.

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is also currently screening at the AFIFest in Hollywood. The AFIFest website describes the film as: "A New Zealand “documentary” crew gets unprecedented access to a house shared by five vampires in the latest from AFI FEST Audience Award winner Taika Waititi (BOY, AFI FEST 2010). First there’s Viago (Waititi), a Baroque-era dandy who struggles to get his housemates to do their chores. Joining him are Vladislav (co-director/co-writer Jemaine Clement), a Middle Ages sex addict, and Deacon, a Civil War-era newbie. The inhuman and distant senior member of the group is Petyr, an 8,000-year-old dead-ringer for Nosferatu. When Petyr accidentally turns human hipster Nick into a creature of the night, it causes an uproar in the flat-mates’ happy home. Nick isn’t used to living his life under cover of night, and he has a hard time not bragging about his newfound immortality. Can this motley crew get their act together enough to acknowledge their burgeoning but begrudging friendships – or at least to do the dishes? —Lane Kneedler"

The audience award for Best  Documentary Feature goes to RISE OF THE WAHINE, directed by Dean Kaneshiro. Set in the 1970’s, the film is centered on a small band of minority pioneers from Hawaii who battled through racial and gender barriers--locally and nationally, socially and legally--that wouldn't allow girls to play sports.

The audience award for Best Short Film goes to LAVA, an animated short film directed by James Ford Murphy. Pixar’s latest musical love story LAVA, pays homage to the beauty of tropical islands and ocean volcanoes, The film follows the million-year love affair between two volcanoes and features voice acting and music by local talents Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig.

The Hawaii International Film Festival celebrated their closing night on November 9th, but continues on November 13-16 with encore screenings in Big Island and Kauai. For more information, please visit www.hiff.org

Raymond Lo

News: Filipino comedy "Edsa Woolworth" opens in US and Canada Nov 14!

ABS-CBN TFC's holiday offering "Edsa Woolworth" will open in US and Canada theaters on Friday, November 14.

The film stars Filipino comedian Pokwang in the titular role. “Edsa Woolworth" is a film that looks into a blended Filipino and American family whose members, at first glance, have everything clashing – personalities, lifestyles, life goals, name it. If you were to match a whole family, this one’s a mismatch. But the journey each member takes to look beyond what doesn’t work and focus on what does – within themselves and with others - is a story that will resonate among many families nowadays. In the end, it's all about love and values.

With the always brilliant funny girl, Pokwang, in the title role, expect generous moments of laugh-till-it-hurts hilarity in EDSA Woolworth. Expect some daring, too, especially with her character’s relationship with charming Chad Bauer, played by American actor Lee O’Brian. Their easy chemistry ignites onscreen and brings the audience into their private space, whether to swoon, laugh or cry.

The interesting family dynamics come into full play through the spot-on acting by the very capable supporting cast. The film assembled the dignified Stephen Spohn as Papa Frank Woolworth, the talented Ricci Chan as Boni Woolworth, and Prince Saruhan as the angst-ridden twentysomething Paco Woolworth. Enriching (or complicating) their lives are popular “Adobo Nation” co-host Lee Robin Salazar as Patrick and Princess Ryan as Shayne.

“Edsa Woolworth as a character is Pokwang. In her name alone, you can see already two cultures, two races, put together. It stands out; so do Pokwang’s character and her family in this film, in more ways and reasons than one,” said director John-D Lazatin.

Watch the trailer below:

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

Awards: 2015 Spirit Award Nominations on November 25

The nominations have been announced! Click here for the full list: http://raymonddeasislo.blogspot.com/2014/11/awards-2014-independent-spirit-award.html

The 2014-2015 awards season is slowly heating up. Film Independent announced today that the 2015 Spirit Award nominations will be held two weeks from now on November 25 at the W Hollywood in Hollywood. Rosario Dawson (Top Five, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Cesar Chavez, Rent) and Diego Luna (The Book of Life, Cesar Chavez, Y Tu Mama Tambien) will host the event in a press conference style at 10:00 am PT.

“We are so thrilled that Rosario Dawson and Diego Luna are teaming up once more to join Film Independent in announcing this year’s Spirit Award nominees,” said Josh Welsh, President of Film Independent. “This year marks our 30th anniversary and we look forward to celebrating with the independent film community on the beach on February 21st.”

Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, will announce the winners on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at the 30th Film Independent Spirit Awards. The live event is held under Film Independent’s signature tent on the beach in Santa Monica and will broadcast live exclusively on IFC at 2:00 pm PT/ 5:00 pm ET.

The organization also announced that Maggie Mackay has been promoted to Director of Spirit Awards Nominations. Mackay was formerly Senior Programmer at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Announced earlier this month, Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions joined the team as executive producer and producer Shawn Davis returns for his 13th show.

Spirit Awards are given out in the following categories: Best Feature, Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Director, Best Screenplay, John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, Best Cinematography, Best International Film, Best Documentary, Best Editing and the Robert Altman Award. The Filmmaker Awards include the Piaget Producers Award, the LensCrafters Truer Than Fiction Award and the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award.

In addition to celebrating the broad spectrum of independent filmmaking, the Spirit Awards is also the primary fundraiser for Film Independent’s year-round programs, which cultivate the careers of emerging filmmakers and promote diversity in the industry. To learn more about table sales and attendance, please contact jmurby@filmindependent.org or 310.432.1253.

About the Film Independent Spirit Awards
Now in its 30th year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards is an annual celebration honoring artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody independence and originality. The Spirit Awards recognizes the achievements of American independent filmmakers and promotes the finest independent films of the year to a wider audience. The winners of the Spirit Awards are voted upon by Film Independent and IFP Members. Awards are given in the following categories: Best Feature, Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Director, Best Screenplay, John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for a budget under $500,000), Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Supporting Male, Best Supporting Female, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best International Film, Best Documentary and the Robert Altman Award. The Filmmaker Grants include the Piaget Producers Award, the LensCrafters Truer Than Fiction Award, and the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award. The Film Independent Spirit Awards are sponsored by Premier Sponsors Piaget, The Lincoln Motor Company, Bank of America, Heineken and IFC. FIJI Water is the Official Water of the 2015 Spirit Awards. WireImage is the Official Photographer of Film Independent.

About Film Independent
Film Independent is a nonprofit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.
In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year- round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.
For more information or to become a Member, visit filmindependent.org/membership.

View the special Happy Birthday message from John Waters below:

Raymond Lo

AFIFest2014: World Premiere of "American Sniper"

The AFIFest has revealed that the secret screening they teased last week would be the world premiere of "American Sniper", Clint Eastwood's latest film starring Bradley Cooper. The screening is scheduled on November 11, 2014 at 9PM at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Free tickets are still available at the AFIWebsite: http://afifest2.afi.com/sections/T3487

"American Sniper" is one of the few unseen films that are being considered by many as strong contenders at the Oscars this year. Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" and the civil rights movement drama "Selma" starring Oprah Winfrey.

In the film, Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. But there is much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter. U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname "Legend." However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to "leave no one behind." But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.

The movie will open in limited release on December 25, 2014.

Watch the explosive and intense trailer here:

See you at the festival!

Raymond Lo

Oscars 2015: "Life in a Fishbowl"

There are three interlocking stories in Icelandic filmmaker Baldvin Zophoniasson’s “Life in a Fishbowl” that are by itself interesting and compelling but together feels contrived and implausible.

There’s the story of Mori, an alcoholic writer who is drowning himself in liquor over an incident some twenty years before. Another story is about Eik, a young single mother who is heavily in debt and who moonlights as a prostitute to support her daughter. The third story belongs to Solvi, a young and charismatic former soccer player who finds himself trapped in the cutthroat and sleazy business of capital financing.

Their lives will surprisingly intersect (with relative narrative ease!) and each one will somewhat influence the course of the other’s life. The storytelling is deliberately slow and the director takes a long time to setup what I expected would be an explosive finale only to pull back and return to his easy, comfortable narrative style just when the movie is almost ready to take off. A quiet and reasonable melodrama, there are secrets that will be revealed close to the end of the film that would have otherwise heightened the drama but only managed to stir a nod from this writer because it only confirmed what is already obvious.

When I watch a movie, I want to somewhat feel what the protagonists are feeling but sadly, in this movie, that did not happen – there are moments when you feel like you are ready to be taken by the story but find hindered ironically by the same storytelling style that the filmmaker thought would work. It is so frustrating to watch a movie that you know wants to provoke a sense of empathy from you but somehow you can feel that there’s a hidden barrier that the director neglected to remove and his characters are left trying helplessly to breach the imaginary wall and connect with the audience who remain steadfastly detached.

I am writing this review a few days after I’ve seen the film and as I look back now and try to understand the film more, I am somewhat struck, right at this very minute, by the irony in the title: The characters and the audience never got to build a cohesive relationship in the two hours that they were together inside the theater because the audience never got to go inside the proverbial fishbowl that these characters were sadly stuck in.

“Life in a Fishbowl” is the entry of Iceland to the Oscars. I watched the film at the screening organized by the European Film Promotion.

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

Oscars 2015: "Kauboji (Cowboys)"


There are movies that you fall instantly in love with after just a few minutes of watching it. Last week, I saw Croatia's entry to the Oscars this year, "Kauboji" ("Cowboys"), during a screening sponsored by the European Film Promotion and I loved it instantly!

It’s a funny and endearing film set in an industrial town in Croatia. It tells the story of Sasa Anlokovic and his troupe of wannabe actors as they try to mount a stage play in a town that has not seen one in over a decade.

Sasa is a successful theatre director who was lured back to his hometown to help revitalize the town’s arts and culture scene. And everything would have been perfect if only there were more actors who showed up during the audition process.

By some curious incident, only a handful of people showed interest in the production that Sasa was mounting and he was left with no choice but to take every single of one of them in as his actors. This group of wannabe actors is composed of a down-on-his-luck deodorant salesman, an unsmiling ex-convict, a confused young man, a handsome easy-go-lucky man, a woman and her mentally-challenged brother who speaks a dialect nobody could understand and one real actor whose dreams of headlining his own show is matched only by his pushy mother’s overbearing expectation of her son’s stardom.

"Cowboys" is a loving tribute to all the actors and directors who all struggle to realize their dream projects. For the director, the challenge was to mount a play because he needed to satisfy his commitment to his art. For the actors, they needed to ultimately prove to themselves that they could do and create something if they only set their hearts into it.

It is such a joy when the characters discover that even though they may not have the biggest talent for acting, each one sure has a talent suited for some specific part in the play. If we go deeper and examine the allegorical implication of this we can actually conclude that everyone is an actor just waiting for the right part to come along. That we all possess some form of creative talent that can be tapped anytime with just the right motivation.

The film’s biggest strength lies beyond the obvious comedy or the talented ensemble of actors whose performances I really enjoyed, and, although it may not be too apparent to casual moviegoers, there’s a powerful element in the film’s final act that highlights the lasting power of art: that no matter how dire things get, art, when it has taken form, will endure and continue to live on in the new set of talents it has taken roots in.

Why the movie is titled “Cowboys” is something that has been revealed in the press notes for the film but I would rather be vague about it and let the audience discover for themselves the reason behind the title because the scene that sets up the title – and the course of the story, for that matter, is a funny, if not poignant, homage to one of the universally-loved genre in movies.

I also wish to point out that director Tomislav Mrsic’s use of iconic songs from a different era and his decision to play them in their entirety to score key scenes is one of the main reasons why I so loved his film. I loved the nostalgia it evoked and how it made the film somewhat timeless.

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Oscars 2015: "See You in Montevideo"

Milos Bikovic

World Cup soccer now rivals the Olympics in popularity. Some would even argue that the quadrennial competition of the sport many fans fondly call “The Beautiful Game” is the biggest sporting event in the world but I doubt if many of the present-day fans of the sport are aware of the game’s humble beginnings.

“See You in Montevideo”, directed by Serbian filmmaker Dragan Bjelogrlic, takes us back to 1930 to the first world cup competition held in the Uruguayan city of Montevideo. The film is based on the experiences of the Yugoslavian team as they compete against powerhouses Brazil and Uruguay.

But the movie is not just about soccer. It also tackles personal stories of some of the players on the team. One team member falls in love with a local woman. Another ambitious player chases after a notorious scout so he could play in America. There’s also the side story of the team’s star player who loses his love of the game when he encounters a group of children afflicted with leprosy. On top of the all these, the film also suggests that the first world cup was rigged in favor of the home team.

The film does not lack any entertainment value but one week after watching the movie it curiously does not invite much affectionate recollection from this writer. Sure, it offers a lot of scenes that are genuinely funny although some are bordering on slapstick thus rendering a few of the characters as mere caricatures. The subplot about Tirke and his girlfriend was hilarious and had moments of palpable tension but it, too, ultimately did not resonate much after.

The highlights of the film are the soccer matches and it is where I found the movie most wanting. The filmed sequences did not offer anything than just a mere retelling of what happened in real life. The camerawork and editing are not that memorable and no real suspense can be felt. For a movie that is supposed to celebrate the sport it depicts, it is rather expected that the matches be the best parts in the film.

The performances of the cast are admirable. The actors who portrayed the players looked their parts – I don’t know what I mean by this but they looked like they could play soccer. The production design and the costume seem authentic and are truly impressive.

"See You in Montevideo is the Serbian submission to the Oscars this year. The screening was organized by the European Film Promotion.

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

News: "Toy Story 4" to be released in 2017!

Disney shared a great news to fans of Woody and Buzz this afternoon. There's going to be a "Toy Story 4"!!!

The picture above shows director John Lasseter with his crew. Below is the actual text of the announcement made on Disney's Google+ account:

"Rootin', tootin' news from the playset: Woody, Buzz, and friends are back for Toy Story 4 on June 16, 2017 with director John Lasseter."

Now, are you excited as i am?

Raymond Lo

Film Independent Announces Call for Entries and New Hires for 21st Los Angeles Film Festival

Attention: Filmmakers!

LAFF Festival Director Stephanie Allain today announced that the 21st Los Angeles Film Festival is now accepting submissions. The Festival will take place June 10 – June 18, 2015 in downtown Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE. The early deadline for submissions is December 2, 2014, the official deadline is January 6, 2015 and the late deadline is January 30, 2015. Please visit www.lafilmfest.com for submission guidelines and forms.

Also announced, Funny Or Die will return for a second year partnering with the Festival on Make ’em LAFF, a talent contest to identify and promote underrepresented comedic voices. Additionally, the Festival will add a new section in partnership with BET EXPERIENCE to showcase work by filmmakers of color. Selection for the LA Film Fest qualifies feature-length films for a Spirit Awards nomination and short-films for an Academy Award nomination.

The 2015 LA Film Fest poster art has been created by the acclaimed Los Angeles-based artist Noah Davis. “Noah captures the glamour of L.A. at night and the endless promise of Hollywood dreams,” said Stephanie Allain, Festival Director.

“The late, great New Yorker critic Pauline Kael once wrote about the moment in movie theaters when the lights go down and all our hopes are concentrated on the screen. That anticipation, that exhilaration, that hunger to dream – it’s what movies capture, no matter the venue or device, or how ubiquitous they are. And those are the feelings I want the LA Film Fest to remind audiences of – they're the reason we seek out film," said Film Independent Curator Elvis Mitchell.

Under Mitchell, the Festival has added new members to the programming team:  Roya Rastegar has joined as Associate Director of Programming and Curated Content and Jennifer Cochis has joined as Senior Programmer.

Rastegar is an acclaimed writer and filmmaker with a wealth of curatorial experience in both film and art, having previously worked at the Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. She has a background in finance and holds a PhD in the History of Consciousness. Cochis, formerly of Sundance, is an award-winning producer of fiction and documentary feature films, including Smashed (2012) and Los Wild Ones (2013). She is also a writer and director.

About the Los Angeles Film Festival

Now in its 21st year, the Los Angeles Film Festival, produced by Film Independent, offers unparalleled access to creative voices through film programming, master classes, live performances and conversations with the most compelling artists working today. The Festival is a chance to discover new voices, experience buzzed about films, as well as to explore TV, web series and alternative media. Be the first to catch the summer’s blockbusters and rekindle the excitement and glamour of storytelling at the LA Film Fest – only in LA.

The Festival’s signature programs include the Filmmaker Retreat, Music in Film at The GRAMMY Museum®, Celebrating Women Filmmakers, Coffee Talks, Master Classes, Spirit of Independence Award, LA Muse and more. The Festival premieres nearly 200 features, including short films created by high school students. The Festival hosts a number of juried cash awards, as well as audience awards.

The Los Angeles Film Festival’s Official Host Venue is Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14. Jaeger-LeCoultre is a Platinum Sponsor. The University Sponsor is Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. WireImage is the Official Photography Agency of Film Independent. More information can be found at lafilmfest.com.

About Film Independent

Film Independent is a nonprofit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.
In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year- round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.
For more information or to become a Member, visit filmindependent.org.

Raymond Lo