TCFF Awards & Top Five Film Picks from TCFF Bloggers

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Happy Halloween everyone! Pardon the late post for this folks, due to my traveling schedule to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding in NYC, naturally I had to put the blog on hiatus. But I’m back now, so here’s the summary of the 10-day film fest that ended with awards announcement during the Festival’s Closing Night Gala in St. Louis Park, MN.

Eight films were singled out for awards late Saturday night. Leading the pack was the critically acclaimed August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, which walked away with the festival’s coveted Best Feature Film award.

The indie horror hit Delivery, which enjoyed its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, won the festival’s inaugural “Indie Vision Award.” Twin Cities audiences championed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba, with the TCFF Audience Award (feature), and the Mason Makram short The First Date with the TCFF Audience Award (short).

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 10-day festival, which screened more than 75 titles – a mix of independent premieres and Hollywood sneak peeks – at the Showplace ICON Theatres. In addition to the annual October festival, the Minnesota-based non-profit organizes year-round programming, as well as industry networking events and educational opportunities. Learn more at twincitiesfilmfest.org.

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The complete list of 2013 winners:

Best Feature Film: August: Osage County (dir. John Wells)

Best Documentary: Antarctica: A Year On Ice (dir. Anthony Powell)

Best Short Film: Hot and Bothered (dir. Jake Greene)

Audience Award (Feature): Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (dir. Justin Chadwick)

Audience Award (Short): The First Date (dir. Mason Makram)

Indie Vision Award: Delivery (dir. Brian Netto)

TCFF Breakthrough Achievement Award: Emily Fradenburgh, actress, Nothing Without You (dir. Xackery Irving)

Congrats to all the winners! Now, naturally everyone’s going to have a different list of favorites, so I asked two of TCFF blog volunteers to list their own top five picks. Here they are:

Sarah’s Picks:

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  1. August: Osage County. Meryl Streep as the venom-spewing, drug-addicted matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma clan. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Nebraska. I’m a fan of Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) so I thoroughly enjoyed this funny yet poignant glimpse into a father-son relationship.
  3. Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon. This movie is what film fests are all about. I found myself pleasantly surprised by this independent tale of a heist gone wrong. And I got to meet the director in person as well, what’s cooler than that?
  4. Remote Area Medical. Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman managed to bring one of the hot button issues of our time into focus as a human story that allows the viewer to reach their own conclusion without sensationalism.
  5. Hot and Bothered. This one is just for fun- in 12 minutes, filmmakers Natalie Irby and Jake Green develop a plot that you wouldn’t mind watching again to catch the subtle nuances and enjoy the double entendres.

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Adam’s Picks:

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  1. The Gold Sparrow. This played in block one of the Best Of Minnesota Shorts. A spectacular animated film from Daniel Steesen, with only having music for its soundtrack, it is able to tell an intriguing story about a woman who steals the color of this animated world. It has an amazing score that is fast paced and keeps up with the vibrant colors used in the color stealing scenes.
  2. Honeymoon Suite. This film played before the feature presentation of “We Are What We Are.” This film tells the story of a difficult hotel guest who stays at a hotel once a month for a problem he can’t deal with at home. Originally planned as an extended commercial for a Chinese hotel that claims to be able to handle any type of hotel guest, it is able to take on a life of its own, and is a delight to enjoy.
  3. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. This film is a new bar on how biopics should be made. This movie aimed to be very ambitious in how detailed and extensive it is in telling the story of Nelson Mandela and it is able to accomplish it and show the good and bad of how Nelson Mandela has lived his life. Idris Elba turns in a top notch performance becoming Nelson Mandela during the course of this film. Audience will be amazed at how deep Elba goes to pull off this role.
  4. Antarctica: A Year On Ice. A Fascinating documentary about the men and women who work on the research bases in Antarctica. Director Anthony Powell had to build and test equipment he made on his own to capture long extensive footage and time lapses in Antarctica as most camera equipment already available can’t survive the harsh environment. A beautifully shot film and engaging documentary that gives insight to the people who are work in Antarctica.
  5. How I Live Now. This movie tells the story of an American teenage girl who is visiting her cousins in England when all of a sudden World War 3 starts. The movie stars Saoirse Ronan who turns a spectacular performance of a girl who has to grow and mature whil the world around her drastically changes. The physical and mental journey Ronan’s character endures in this movie is one rarely seen. The movie has some dark elements but is still a delight to watch as the film allows you to feel the same emotions as the main character has, the characters and stories are fleshed out so well in this film.

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Ruth’s Picks

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Now, for my picks, I only include feature and documentary films, as I’ve listed my favorite short films in this post, which includes the TCFF winner Hot and Bothered, as well as the sci-fi-themed short A Better Life. Check out my interview with both filmmakers Jake Greene and Conor Holt. I missed a few films that I had planned on seeing as I was sidelined with a cold, but out of what I was able to see, here are my favorites in alphabetical order:

  1. August: Osage County
    With a cast like this one, naturally one has quite a high expectations but thankfully it delivers. Well to be exact, they deliver! Meryl Streep does it again, proving she is the acting legend of our generation and beyond playing a decidedly- unlikable role. The rest of the cast of this extremely-dysfunctional family does wonders as well, though as a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I have to admit his scenes are my favorites. He’s memorable even in his brief scenes, plus he sings beautifully too! Even though it’s tricky to adapt a play into film, I think the story actually translates pretty well thanks to John Wells’ direction. If you think your family is a mess, you probably would feel a heck of a lot better about it once you see this film.
    ,,,
  2. The Armstrong Lie
    One of the best documentaries I’ve seen, it’s so well-made, beautifully-shot and features an unprecedented access to its subject matter. The Lance Armstrong doping scandal resulted in perhaps THE biggest fall-from-grace of any celebrity athlete in the world. Yet, the doc is not done in a way to paint Armstrong as evil, I think it’s a pretty balanced account of the debacle as it starts out as a project about his come-back to Tour de France. In the end, it’s not so much about the doping but the abuse of power in covering ‘a lie that has become unbelievable’ that brought him down.
  3. Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (view my full review)
    Considering I’m not even a football fan, it’s a testament to how good this documentary is that I list it as my favorites. It’s eye-opening but also quite entertaining. In 90-min, it’s jam-packed with historical backgrounds, stats, and first-account interviews with various players, medical professionals, as well as some family members of the people suffering from the brain injury CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). An essential viewing for sports fan, but definitely worth watching even if you’re not.
  4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    There has been quite a lot of films involving Mandela, in fact I think I’ve seen three of them in the past five years. But this is perhaps the most comprehensive as it’s based on his own biography of the same name. I LOVE Idris Elba so he’s the main draw, but even so, I was a bit skeptical of his casting at first. But I think Elba did a fantastic job immersing himself into the South African hero, as what matters in the end is not the ‘look’ of the actor but his ability to embody the essence of the character. I also love the relationship between Nelson and his second wife Winnie (played wonderfully by Naomie Harris) and the two have a strong chemistry. At 146 min, the film’s editing could’ve been tightened a bit but Elba’s compelling performance has the gravitas to command your attention, every step of the way.
  5. Nebraska
    I knew this one would boast great performances but I was still surprised how much I enjoyed this film. Alexander Payne has a gift in creating a whimsical family drama, balancing comedy and poignancy in this father & son road trip film. Bruce Dern deserves all the kudos he’s been receiving for his performance (including his Cannes’ Best Actor win) as he holds the screen even without saying a word. SNL alum Will Forte is quite a revelation in a serious role, though it’s June Quibb as Dern’s wife is the real scene-stealer with her outrageous remarks. The film is also boast a marvelous black & white cinematography of Midwestern America.
    ….

Honorable Mention:
SearchForSimonI just had to include The Search for Simon, a British sci-fi comedy, directed by Martin Gooch who’s also the lead actor in the film. It’s a enjoyable little film that’s hilarious and quirky without being mean-spirited. It’s also doesn’t have a lot of crude language that’s typical of British comedies, and Mr. Gooch is so immensely likable! I hope this will be available to rent soon, I highly recommend it if you enjoy British humor. Check out the specially-made video from Martin Gooch if you haven’t already. Trust me, it’s a hoot!

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That’s it from TCFF 2013! Hope you enjoy our coverage this year.
It’s always been fun to be a part of the film festivities!

Join us next year on October 16, 2014!


Thoughts on any of our picks? Which one(s) of these have you seen?

TCFF Day 7 reviews: The Liability, Casual Encounters, How I Live Now

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Now that TCFF has wrapped, I’ll be posting some reviews from the last few days of the film fest, as well as which films won the TCFF Awards which was announced last night. Glad to see some of my personal favorites getting nominated. You can check out the list here.

Now here are some films from Day 7 that are worth checking out:

How I Live Now

by Ruth Maramis

I have not heard about this film until it was announced as a TCFF lineup. I was immediately drawn to it because of Saoirse Ronan who’s been excellent in everything I’ve seen her in so far. This time it’s no different. In this film adaptation of novel by Meg Rosoff, Ronan plays an angst-y American teenager Daisy, who reluctantly goes to spend her Summer vacation with her cousin in an English countryside. Once she’s there, the rural house is in complete mess as her four cousins, Isaac (Tom Holland), Piper (Harley Bird), Edmond “Eddie” (George MacKay) pretty much had to look after themselves as their mom is involved in a mysterious project, something about the ‘peace process,’ who’s quickly whisked to Geneva, never to be seen again.

What starts out as an idyllic vacation, complete with picnic, lake-swimming, and a blossoming teen romance between Daisy and Eddie, life is soon turned upside down for them as war suddenly broke out, seemingly out of nowhere. Whilst there are hints along the way that of what looks to be a World War III scenario, from news footage on TV, signs of military presence, etc., when nuke effect “snow” from a London nuclear attack falling on them, it still came as quite a surprise. As the country descend into a violent and chaotic military state, Daisy is given a chance to return to America, but yet she chooses to stay with Eddie.

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The last half of the film becomes a journey for survival story as Daisy and Piper flee a forced-labor camp through the woods. The pacing of the film drags at times, and I find the film’s relentlessly-allusive storyline a bit frustrating. I like a good mystery but somehow this film felt more elusive than truly suspenseful. I also feel like the chemistry between the characters a bit lacking. The romance is far from gripping and the pairing of Daisy and Piper also didn’t quite mesh well, though both actors did a good job. Thus I didn’t feel as emotionally-involved with the characters as I otherwise would.

I do think the premise is intriguing though, and there’s enough going for it here that kept me engaged. The tone is dark and pretty grim, especially the last third of the film, with some gruesome doomsday scenes that warrants its R rating. Just like she did in Hanna, Ronan pretty much carried the film here and she’s more than capable. She easily outshines everyone else in this film, though Harley Bird as Piper has some scene-stealing moments. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, giving us a stark contrast between the serene and lush pastoral beauty and the sinister apocalyptic views of a doomed future.

As far as young adult stories go though, this one is certainly far more compelling than other ‘supernaturally-themed’ offerings out there. I quite like the hopeful but not ‘too neat’ ending, though some might feel it’s a bit anti-climactic. It could’ve been a bit more compelling, especially coming from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), but I’d say it’s worth a rent though if you’re a fan of the talents involved.

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Casual Encounters

by Adam Wells

Casual Encounters is an anthology film about people who meet other people online for a casual night of love. The movie shows five different people’s experience with a casual encounter and they do intertwine as some characters show up in multiple storylines. The film is really 5 short films and in some cases they have been shown separately in some cases but Casual Encounters has them shown altogether.

The movie has excellent performances all around, the actors and actresses in this film handle the maturity of the content of this nature. In particular the character of Eric who is the only one to appear in three storylines including his own, his character has many levels of depth to him as his life is a bit complicated. Eric is portrayed by Aaron Mathias (who was also the star of Things I Don’t Understand which premiered at TCFF last year), and he is definitely an actor to keep on your radar.

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The movie has many settings that take place at night, but despite that the cinematography is done very well, while also different color palettes for lighting in each story’s setting. As each story differs in its nature of intimacy and sexual orientation, the colors of the lighting seem to change, and that shows the producers and director really thought through the composition of the shots wanted the viewer to associate certain colors with certain interactions, as Eric’s story is the final one in the film and has multiple settings as opposed to the other stories that have one or two.

Overall, Casual Encounters is an excellent film and comes highly recommended due to its amazing performances, elaborate world it creates with intertwining storylines, and its content that is usually not shown in films. The film plays against the viewers expectations as it has romantic movie plots but they don’t play out as most romantic movie plots usually play out, which is always pleasant to see.
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The Liability

by Sarah Johnson

A movie with good plot twists that also wraps up all the loose ends by the time the credits roll? The Liability, the new crime tale directed by Craig Viveiros and written by John Wrathall, does just that. It stars Tim Roth as Roy, a world weary hit man who only wants to retire so he can attend his daughter’s wedding, and Jack O’Connell as Adam, the 19 year old stepson of Roy’s gangster boss Peter (Peter Mullan). When Adam wrecks Peter’s car he gives him a job of becoming Roy’s driver as a way to work off his debt. “It’s either that or the septic tank,” Peter says.
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Of course things don’t go according to plan. A bizarre string of events involve a girl, a hippie van and the true reason Adam was paired with Roy. Suffice it to say, when I heard a nearby audience member gasp at one of the plot twists, I knew the filmmakers had done their job. Casting Tim Roth in one of the starring roles was a good choice as his wry acting style is a good mix with the sexy edginess of the movie. (“I haven’t killed a woman since 1983,” he proclaims.)
The one thing I found slightly lacking was the chemistry between O’Connell and Roth- it would have been nice to see them play off each other more. Some might say the movie is a little too by-the-book in wrapping it up at the end. I appreciate movies that keep you guessing as well but is walking out of the theatre feeling like you understood everything so wrong?

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So that about wraps up our Day 7 reviews. Any thoughts about any of these films?

TCFF Short Films Spotlight: Interview with ‘Hot & Bothered’ & ‘A Better Life’ filmmakers Jake Greene & Conor Holt

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HotBotheredLogoDesperate singles get all tangled up when a compulsive internet dater loses track of her accounts.

Directed by: Jake Greene and Natalie Irby

Interview w/co-director Jacob ‘Jake’ Greene:

1. Tell us about your filmmaking background, how you got started in the business.

I started making independent shorts and web series when I lived in Nashville, TN, which is also where I met my directing partner, Natalie Irby. The first project we worked on together was an experimental short that I wrote and she starred in. We had so much fun working together on that project that we decided to collaborate again after I moved to L.A. in (late 2011). Hot and Bothered was our first project as co-directors and we’re already plotting the next (several).

2. How does the concept for your short film come about? Have you been interested in doing a comedy?

The concept for “Hot and Bothered” came out of a conversation that Natalie and I had with my wife, Sarah, at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. We were talking about people we knew who were accomplished, attractive, and desperate. It seemed like we all knew a lot of people who seemed unnecessarily frantic, people prone to needless self-sabotage – especially those who were also single and overwhelmed by the online dating scene. I went home from that dinner and started writing.

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Check out the trailer on youtube

3. I thought the casting was great, everyone fit the roles perfectly. Please tell us a bit about the casting process.

This project really took off after our Casting Director, Scott David, signed on. Scott casts the show “Criminal Minds” and has tremendous access to talent. Our cast was amazing and professional and each one of them brought unique depth and mischief to their characters.

4. How was working w/ your co-director Natalie Irby? Did you both come up w/ the film concept?

Natalie is a visual artist and I like to crack dumb jokes so we had a pretty great division of labor. She took “Hot” and I handled “Bothered”.

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Natalie, me, and Chia-Yu Chen, our DP, shooting the restaurant scene in H&B

5. Are you planning on working on a feature film in the future? If so, do you have an idea in mind?

We are absolutely talking about making a feature at some point in the next two years. It’s just a matter of finding the right story and characters.


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A new treatment for her comatose husband compels Diane to reexamine their relationship.

Interview with director Conor Holt:

1. Tell us about your filmmaking background, have you worked on other films (shorts/features) before this one?

I graduated this spring from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a Bachelors in Film Studies. MSUM is the only University in Minnesota that offers a four-year program in both film production and film history & criticism, and I had a terrific time there. I’ve been making short films and whatnot since High School, and I wrote, directed, edited and/or produced almost a dozen films at MSUM. My films have been accepted to 11 different film festivals, most of them in the Midwest. The Librarian’s Assistant, which I wrote, shot, edited & directed, won Best Acting at the 2010 Quiet on the Set short film competition in Minneapolis and Best Family Film at the 2010 South Dakota Film Festival; A Better Life won Best in Show and Best Screenplay at the Spring 2013 Juried Film Exhibition at MSUM.

2. How does the concept for your short film come about? Were you intent on doing a sci-fi story?

I’ve been a really big fan of science-fiction films since I took a class on them at MSUM, which is also where I wrote the first drafts of the script. A class assignment was to write a short science-fiction screenplay, and I wanted to tell a minimalist, character-driven sci-fi story, in the vein of such great films as Primer and Moon. The idea came from seeing multiple films and TV shows featuring patients in comas, and dealing with the constant supervision and financial difficulties in caring for them. I thought, what if in a few years, we developed a new technology that could let families care for their comatose loved one by controlling them via a remote control, using it to keep them active, feed them, etc? How would this technology impact people and their relationships with their loved ones, and how could it be abused? The idea seemed perfect for my desired story scope and ripe with interesting subtext, so I set about writing it with my classmate Ben Grell. We wrote several drafts over the course of the class, but afterwards I kept re-writing it and re-writing it. Eventually, after suggestions from friends, I reworked the film with a non-linear structure, inspired by non-linear films like Memento. This new structure helped tighten the script and increase the visual storytelling, and after a few more drafts – 15 or so in total – the script was ready to shoot.

Check out some behind-the-scenes photos of A Better Life:

3. Tell us a bit about the budget and how you came up with the resources to make this film. I remember you talked about how you came up w/ the clear iPod looking device the wife used to control her husband’s movement, so feel free to elaborate on that as well. 

As a student filmmaker, I’m very used to making a film with little-to-no money, paying the actors and crew with food and using whatever props and locations we can get for free. We followed that formula on A Better Life as well, but we also had some help. Every year, the Minnesota Film & TV Board graciously awards a $1500 grant to one student at MSUM. To apply, I had to submit a finished script, a budget, and a rough crew & location list. I was very honored to win the grant that year, and that money allowed us to rent specialty equipment for the shoot, buy better food for the cast & crew, purchase props & costumes, and pay for submission fees to film festivals. The film could not have been made without the involvement and hard work of a truly wonderful cast and crew, and a number of terrific people willing to let us film in their homes and places of work.

4. What was your biggest challenges in making this film and how you figure out a way to overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges on this film was the remote control. This is the key prop for the film, and the most obvious element of science-fiction in the story. My very talented Production Designer Mallery Mohn and I discussed the design, how I wanted a sleek, modern feel to it, and she created a wonderful prop out of a plastic picture frame. The digital interface of remote came in post-production, thanks to the fantastic Special Effects wiz Ben Stommes. Ben was able to design a logical, functional interface that matched the finger movements of the lead character, and fit it to every needed shot in the film. In filmmaking, the key to success is surrounding yourself with talented people. If I did one thing right on this film, it was hiring enormously talented people like Mohn, Stommes, Cinematographer Shane MacKinnon, Editor Chance Cole, Producer Patrick McKeown and Composer Greg Albing to help bring this film to life and make the filmmaking process so much easier.

5. Who are your biggest filmmakers and/or films influence? In other words, where do you draw your inspiration from?

For this film, I drew on other small-scale science fiction films like Moon, about an isolated miner on the Moon who uncovers a dark secret on his base, and Primer, about two computer geeks who build a time machine in their garage. I studied how they were able to find drama and philosophical depth in character’s dealing with dangerous technology and ethical dilemmas, without the need for space battles or alien monsters. As a filmmaker, I have several directors that I adore, as well as shamelessly copy in my own directing style.

I love Christopher Nolan’s deft hand at weaving complicated stories, such as Memento and The Prestige, and his fascinating explorations of deep, philosophical ideas. Quentin Tarantino’s hilarious, insightful scripts are a constant joy, and his visual flair is wonderful to behold. And Hayao Miyazaki, the master Japanese anime director, is truly inspirational, a genius at telling quiet, powerfully intimate stories as well as sweeping, emotional epics. These filmmakers, and many more, inspire me as a filmmaker and compel me to strive for honest, emotional storytelling and visual distinction and impact.

Check out A Better Life on facebook for more info and view the trailer on Vimeo.


THANKS SO MUCH Jake and Conor for the interview!


Hope you enjoyed the interviews. I wish both Jake and Conor all the best in their future filmmaking endeavor!

TCFF Day 9 and Closing Day Film Highlights

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Happy Friday everyone!! We’ve still got a couple of days worth of festivities before TCFF wraps, but sadly today is my last day covering the film fest as I’m flying to NYC on Saturday morning to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding. No fret though, I’ll still be posting some of the reviews from both days, as well as the interviews with two short film directors I’ve promised you by the week’s end. Before I get to that, check out some photos from the last 8 days:

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October 25 – Day 9 Films


Antarctica: A Year on Ice
Friday, October 25th at 11:30 am
A visually stunning chronicle of what it is like to live in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, while enduring months of unending darkness in the coldest place on Earth.


Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football
Friday, October 25th at 1:45 pm (2nd screening)
An historical film that tells the story of a game that was always dangerous, and whose dangers, though controversial, were also desired.  View my full review

Tapia
Friday, October 25th at 4:00 pm
TAPIA takes us inside the tortured soul of Johnny Tapia, the 5-time world champion boxer whose unprecedented success was overshadowed by a volatile drug addiction brought on by the brutal rape and murder of his mother at the young age of 8 years old. Director Eddie Alcazar candidly reveals Tapia’s public struggles through his intimate last interview, archival footage, and photos that showcase his vivacious personality ad child-like gusto.

The Bloom: A Journey Through Transformational Festivals
Friday October 25th at 6:15 pm
Special Guest: Dave Schnak, Director of Photography
THE BLOOM series explores the emerging culture of transformational festivals in 4-parts including over 23 festivals during 2012-2013. Each episode examines three themes that contribute to the transformational effects of the festivals.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom view trailer
Friday October 25th at 6:30 pm
Special Guests: Representatives from Minnesota African-American Museum
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society.


A Method

Friday, October 25th at 9:00 pm
Special Guests: Director Paul Von Stoetzel and Cast and Crew
A METHOD follows the acting process of Andrea (Jane Froiland), a young and successful theatre performer in the Twin Cities who has been cast in her first major role in a feature film. Andrea’s progress is being recorded by Nina (Shelli Manzoline), an ambitious documentary director driven to create her next successful project. Andrea’s process becomes more and more dangerous as Nina encourages her to delve deeper into the dark reality of her character.

Delivery
Friday, October 25th at 9:45 pm
Special Guests: Brian Netto, Director and Co-writer & Adam Schindler, Co-writer

In this unnerving chiller, Kyle and Rachel Massy are a young couple who have agreed to document their first pregnancy for a reality show. During the production, a series of unexplained phenomena start plaguing the couple, eventually derailing the production of the show. Rachel, growing increasingly paranoid, starts to believe that there might be something seriously wrong with their unborn bundle of joy.


Closing Day Highlights

Here’s what the Saturday schedule looks like when you visit TCFF official site:

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Our artistic director Steve Snyder said this is THE best day he’s ever scheduled in the entire four years programming for TCFF. Nine feature films/documentaries and a myriad of educational panels/events to enjoy all day long! Here are some you don’t want to miss:

Remote Area Medical documentary

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10:45am

Directed by Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman

A debate over health care has been raging nationwide, but what’s been lost in the discussion are the American citizens who live day after day, year after year without solutions for their most basic needs. REMOTE AREA MEDICAL documents the annual three-day “pop-up” medical clinic organized by the non-profit Remote Area Medical (RAM) in Bristol, Tennessee’s NASCAR speedway. Instead of a film about policy, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL is a film about people, about a proud Appalachian community banding together to try and provide some relief for friends and neighbors who are simply out of options.

Pollywogs

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 1:00pm (Filmmaker/talent attending)

Directed by Karl Jacob & T. Arthur Cottam

On the heels of a bitter breakup, Dylan travels home to Minnesota for a family reunion. There, he runs into his childhood sweetheart, Sarah, who was relocated to a religious compound when they were young. In the very place he discovered love for the first time, Dylan confronts the fantasies of his youth and realizes that the past may hold the key for what lies ahead.

Last Vegas

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 3:00pm

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Starring four legends like you’ve never seen them before, LAST VEGAS tells the story of Billy, Paddy, Archie and Sam (played by Academy Award-winners Michael Douglas, De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline), best friends since childhood. When Billy, the group’s sworn bachelor, finally proposes to his thirty-something (of course) girlfriend, the four head to Las Vegas with a plan to stop acting their age and relive their glory days. However, upon arriving, the four quickly realize that the decades have transformed Sin City and tested their friendship in ways they never imagined. The Rat Pack may have once played the Sands and Cirque du Soleil may now rule the Strip, but it’s these four who are taking over Vegas

Wild Blue

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 5:45pm (Filmmaker and select cast member attending)

Written and directed by Josh Hope

After his release from the foster care system, a young man leaves his small Oklahoma town for the first time to travel across the country with a strange woman he meets by chance.

Nothing Without You

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 8:30pm

Special Guests: Xackery Irving (Director) and Emily Fradenburgh (Lead Actor)

Jennifer Stidger, a young psych-patient, is accused of killing the wife of the man she is stalking. No one, including her court-appointed psychiatrist, Charlie Branham, believes she is innocent. When she breaks out of the psych ward, Charlie becomes her only connection to reality as she struggles to prove her sanity and find the “real killer”. This fast-paced thriller will keep you guessing until the very end, what is real and what is Jennifer’s delusional fantasy?

Oh and there’s another screening of

August, Osage County – Saturday at 6 pm

AugustOsakeCountyPosterAUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwestern house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name made its Broadway debut in December 2007 after premiering at Chicago’s legendary Steppenwolf Theatre earlier that year.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is directed by John Wells (The Company Men) and features an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.

It’s the kind of film you see just for the cast… but after seeing it last night, I can confidently say that the film is as stellar as the cast. Well the film is stellar because of the cast’ amazing performances. Meryl is in top form as always. As much as I’d love seeing other actors being nominated, let’s just say I won’t cry foul if I see her name amongst the nominees. ALL the performances were excellent, but the stand outs for me were Margo Martindale, Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch. I have to admit Benedict was another main draw for me to see it despite his small role, but it was well worth it! I thought he was excellent playing completely against type and his American accent is pretty darn good. Oh and he sings too!!


TCFFTickets

There’s still time to get your tickets!
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for TCFF reviews and interviews. So which films featured above you’re looking forward to most?

TCFF Day 8 Film Highlights and Interview with ‘The Big Noise’ director Dominic Pelosi

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It’s already Day 8 of TCFF! Boy, time flies when you’re having a blast! We’ve got a bunch of great films screening today, check out our host Ingrid Moss introducing what’s playing today:


I’m excited for The Big Noise and One Chance (aka the Paul Potts movie), which couldn’t be more different in terms of story and tone. But hey, the eclectic schedule works for me!

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I’ve posted the premise and trailer of One Chance in this lineup post. Now here’s the premise of The Big Noise which plays at 4pm today:

Morris Falzon works with his father George in a small law firm in Sydney’s Inner West. With his personal life a mess and the business falling apart, Morris is thrown a lifeline when a dying client reveals he is leaving Morris a small fortune in his will. It seems his luck is about to change. However, when his client stages a miraculous recovery, it seems it’s back to the grindstone… or is it? Morris and George hatch a plan that will either make or break them – literally.


Director Dominic Pelosi kindly granted me an interview about his film. Check it out below:

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1. I just saw the film Nebraska by Alexander Payne at TCFF that’s also filmed in black and white. So I’m curious what made you decide to shoot your film in b&w?

Black and white for me gives a separation from reality that I find to be a more traditional approach to cinema and seems to be somewhat under-utilised these days. Whilst aesthetically black and white appeals to me greatly it is also highly dependent on the script – the muted image can often aid in the tone of a film, given that The Big Noise has dark undertones it seemed a logical choice for the story telling. In addition having a very limited budget, scenes were often shot months apart allowing the black and white hopefully, to smooth any inconsistencies in the footage.

2. I read that your cast are largely unknown. How did the casting come about for your film?

Casting nonprofessionals was a choice made very early on, which made the casting process much easier in a sense. If the script called for a lawyer, then we would approach a lawyer, or if it required a real estate agent then we would try convince a real estate agent to do the part. This was a process that heavily borrowed from the Italian neo-realist filmmakers which to me can provide an organic performance; the actor doesn’t have the tools to rely on, the tools that modern viewers have become accustomed to seeing. This can obviously have varying results, but the overall tone is something that I think is unique to this process. We did however cast a couple of professional actors in minor roles to try and better balance some of the more dialogue intensive scenes.

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Maurice Marshan as Morris Falzon


3. Would you speak a little (or a lot) about the Italian-Australian community depicted in your film? Does this film stem from a personal experience? I’m also curious what was the significance of the title.

Many Italians migrated to Australia in the 50’s and much like anywhere else set up pocket communities that maintained much of their heritage. My brother Andrew (screenwriter) and I have grown up around that type of community as our father arrived in Australia from Italy in the mid- 50’s. The Big Noise borrows heavily from those experiences. That element of the Italo-Australian community has somewhat faded in recent years and in a way The Big Noise depicts the struggle for that 1st generation to adapt to that change. The sense of uniformity in Australia has been slowly blanketing these pockets and there was certainly an attempt to present this in the film. To comment or have an opinion on this point wasn’t my intention, rather to show the consequences of big societal changes on the individual – this particular story was something both Andrew and I know well so the Italian-Australian angle became a good vehicle for us.

4. The writer of your film, Andrew Pelosi, I presume he’s related to you? Did you both come up with this film concept and how was your experience working with Andrew?

TruffautShootPianoPlayerWe both share very similar interests and love, for the most part, the same movies. One of our favourite films is Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, so we spoke about someday possibly making something in that type of framework and tone. Andrew gave me a script that he has been able to evolve over time to suit our actors and budget restraints that I felt had a similar spirit to Truffaut’s film. He was able to conceptualise ideas that we had expressed to each other into a much more digestible screenplay with regards to plot etc. We would then work together in fleshing things out throughout the filming process. We are extremely close anyway so making a film together was fairly seamless, there were times like any relationship where I’m sure he’d had enough me. We will no doubt continue to make films together.

5. Since this is your debut and your film was made on a small budget, what was the biggest hurdle/challenge, as well as rewarding moments, that you faced when you made this film?

Not having a great budget meant undertaking many of the necessary technical aspects of filmmaking whilst trying to direct. This probably proved the most difficult aspect for me personally. Learning the camera and pulling my own focus whilst trying to get a performance from a nonprofessional actor definitely had its moments. But was also the most rewarding aspect. I’m not sure if we could have made the film any other way. For many of the actors this being their first time performing in any capacity meant that having a crew of two or three people (at most) allowed for a level of comfort that wouldn’t be found on many film sets.

The film is also around 50% in Italian which made it extremely difficult for me as I don’t speak a word. Our father translated those scenes for us as Andrew is very limited in the language as well. There are two key actors that don’t speak a word of English so trying to direct them was challenging, I would attempt to direct them by physically showing them what to do. Editing the film was a real process, trying to correct technical errors and cut a film that was true to the script took a very long time, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Working with nonprofessional actors and having them be involved with something that they wouldn’t have ever thought of being involved in perhaps provided the greatest satisfaction. It is certainly something I hope to continue on future films.

THANK YOU Dominic for the insightful interview!! Hope you’ll check out The Big Noise when it plays near you!


Second screening added for August, Osage County
Tonight (Oct 24) at 9:15 pm!

Now, another film I’m super stoked about is August, Osage County. Since I’m flying to NYC on Saturday morning, I couldn’t see the original screening at 6pm. Fortunately TCFF just added a second screening tonight, wahoo!! Check out the latest poster w/ Julia Roberts attacking Meryl Streep, that about sums up the dysfunctional family plot, doesn’t it? Plus the cast is just killer! Check out the trailer on this post.

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TCFFTickets

There’s still time to get your tickets!
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage. So any of the films above that caught your eye?

TCFF Day 7 Highlights: MN Shorts 2, The Liability, Casual Encounters, How I Live Now

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Only four more days left at TCFF but there are no shortage of great films to look forward to. Between my two volunteer staff and I, there’s a myriad of shorts, documentary and feature films we’re planning to catch tonight:

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 4:00pm

Directed by Lekha Singh & Roger Spottiswoode

BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG follows the stories of survivors, like Beata, whose children were murdered in the Rwandan Genocide; Bassam and Rami, who each lost a daughter in the conflicts in Israel and Palestine; and Jo, whose father died in the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Relying on the survivors’ own words, BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG does not dwell on the violence and loss, but highlights healing through forgiveness, as victims and perpetrators alike begin humanizing the people they once perceived as enemies or animals. By sharing their experiences of loss and anger, their struggles with forgiveness, and their efforts for peace, these survivors have opened a discussion on the role of forgiveness in the search for justice.

This premise of this documentary intrigues me. It’s a tough subject that promises to be a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking one.


MN Shorts Part II

Another collection of great short films shot in the state of Minnesota!


Panhandler – 25 minutes

Go Home – 13 minutes 

PROTOS – 17 minutes 

Public toilet – 2 minutes 

The Information Thief – 11 minutes 

3 Bullets – 14 minutes


The Liability

Showing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 6:30pm

Directed by Craig Viveiros

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Dark comedy thriller starring Tim Roth and Jack O’Connell. When Adam (O’Connell) is asked to be the driver for a business associate of his mother’s crime boss boyfriend, he soon finds out that this business associate is Roy (Roth) – an aging hitman on the eve of his retirement. While Adam drives Roy to what he hopes are his last ever jobs, a series of unexpected events lands the pair in a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious Latvian woman (Talulah Riley).


Casual Encounters

Showing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9:00pm

Directed by Will McCord

No matter how alone or strange one may be, internet sex personals provide an anonymous setting to divulge one’s most secret and intimate desires. Post an ad about your kinkiest desires and you’re bound to receive dozens of replies from like-minded people – some genuine and real and others deceitful and predatory. CASUAL ENCOUNTERS tells five stories where each character meets their online respondent for what they think will be a simple encounter. What they discover is very different.


There’s also another screening of Hot & Bothered short film tonight. Stay tuned for a spotlight post on that with review and interview with director Jake Greene!


How I Live Now

HowILiveNowShowing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 8:30pm

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement, Hanna and The Way Back) and based on the popular Meg Rosoff novel, HOW I LIVE NOW tells the story of an American girl on holiday with her family in the English countryside, who finds herself in hiding and fighting for her survival as the third world war breaks out. A powerful tale of battlefield heroics, shattered innocence, and how love enables us to endure.

I’ve been a huge fan of Ronan since I saw her in Atonement, and one of my favorite Irish actors. She’s easily one of the most talented young actress working today so she’s the main draw for me here. I also like the Scottish director Kevin Macdonald’s previous work State of Play. Sounds like the role is tailor-made for Ronan, I hope this film is worthy of her talents.


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


So that’s Day 7 highlights. Any one of these piqued your interest, folks?

FlixChatter Review: Escape Plan

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Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the box office throughout the 80s and most of the 90s but have never shared a screen together until they appeared in the two Expendables films. But Arnold’s appearance was more of a cameo in those films, now finally the two action hero icons are together for the first time in a prison set action thriller that reminded me of Lock Up, Tango & Cash and John Woo’s Face/Off.

Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a structural-security expert, what he does is basically pretends to be an inmate in some of the highly secured federal prisons in the country, he breaks out and tells the warden that his prison has security flaws. So after another successful breakout to start the film, Breslin and teammates which includes his partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), his lover Abigail Ross (Amy Ryan) and a computer hacker expert Hush (Curtis Jack aka 50 Cents), were approached by a CIA lawyer named Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) for another big project. Miller wants Breslin to go into a highly secured prison known as The Tomb, a place so highly secured that not even the US government knows about it. Miller suspects that there are some security flaws and wants Breslin to find them. Breslin and his team were hesitant at first since they fear it might not be safe for him to go there but when Miller offered a payday of $5mil, they all said yes.

Once Breslin arrived at The Tomb, he realized he’s in over head and have to deal with the sinister warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his right hand man Drake (Vinnie Jones). Knowing that he might not be able to get out, he decided to partner up with another inmate named Emil Rottmayer (Arnie), it seems Rottmayer has something that Hobbes wants but he refuses to give it to him. Most of the movie took place at the prison and both Breslin and Rottmayer are trying to figure a way to escape the place. I think anyone who have seen prison set action thrillers in the past will know what you’re getting into. Expect to see lots of fist fights, shootouts and big explosions. Originally the film was called The Tomb and was supposed to open back in August but with the box office failures of The Last Stand and Bullets to the Head, the studio decided to push the release date back to the less crowded fall season. I think it’s a good decision to change the title since The Tomb sounded like a movie about super natural or something.

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Since this is a film starring two of the biggest action heroes, you don’t expect to see any Oscar caliber performances here. And I thought Sly and Arnold did a great job of playing their roles, Sly did try to be this super smart kind of person but of course he’s still Sly aka Rambo aka Rocky to me. As for The Terminator, he appears to have a great time playing his part, he’s sort of the side kick to Sly’s character. Some people in the crowd at the screening I went to actually started cheering when the two started kicking ass and shooting down bad guys. Caviezel was convincing as the main villain but again he’s the usual one-dimensional character in an action flick so don’t expect much from him. As for the rest of the cast, well they didn’t have much to do, just fillers. Although I think 50 Cents needs to take some more acting classes since he seems to just have one facial reaction throughout the movie.

Swedish director Mikael Håfström did a good job with the pacing, there’s no slow moment in the film that you may have to look at your watch. I did like the way he shot the action scenes, no shaky cam or fast editing which always a big plus for me, as most of you know most action films today seems to go overboard those shaky cam sequences. But I did think he should’ve staged some of the shootout scenes with more creativity, there’s too much standard shootouts that we’ve seen way too many times in the past but they’re still fun to watch. Since this is an R-rated movie, there’s blood, torture and of course lots of f-bombs.

I’m a huge fan of both Sly and Arnold so to finally see them teamed in a big action picture, it’s a real treat. If you’re a fan of both then you’ll likely enjoy this movie too. It’s pure fun and you won’t be disappointed by spending an hour and a half in the theater.

3 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of Escape Plan and the pairing of Sly and Arnie?