Twin Cities Film Fest (Oct 19-29): The 2016 lineup is here!

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The Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is thrilled to announce its captivating and critically-lauded lineup for the 2016 festival. The 11-day marathon, running October 19 – October 29 and showcasing 100+ films, will for the first time expand to a second city; in addition to its core screenings and red carpet parties at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, the 7th annual TCFF will also feature a second screening series at the IFP Theater in St. Paul.

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Kate Nowlin – Blood Stripe

This year’s Opening Night film, Blood Stripe, is sponsored by Stephanie Dillon and will launch TCFF’s 2016 Social Cause: Military Veteran Mental and Physical Support. This locally-filmed PTSD drama directed by Remy Auberjonois, starring Kate Nowlin and top prize winner at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is a story of the trials and tribulations facing a returned female combat veteran and her intense battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four other veteran-related films have been selected to screen as part of TCFF’s “Changemaker Series,” including IRON Will: Veterans’ Battle with PTSD, a Billy Bob Thornton-narrated documentary produced by Minnesota native Tim VandeSteeg that will make its world premiere at TCFF on Oct. 22.

The official 2016 Centerpiece will be the Sundance Film Festival hit The Eagle Huntress (narrated by Daisy Ridley), which follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia, as she trains to become the first female in 2,000 years to successfully hunt with a Golden Eagle. The true-life adventure screens Oct. 24.

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Just some of the great films playing this year!

Two of the mostly highly acclaimed films coming out of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival will be making their regional premieres at TCFF. The critical sensation Moonlight will be the TCFF Closing Night film on Oct. 29 — a coming-of-age story about a young man in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era who finds himself coping with a dysfunctional home life. The story of his struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality, has been hailed by some critics as the year’s best screenplay.

Lion, also screening Oct. 29, is the story of 5-year-old Saroo who gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
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The festival will also include the family fantasy Trolls, the Michael Fassbender thriller Trespass Against Us, the Parker Posey comedy The Architect, the James Franco, Melissa Leo, Dominic Rains crime drama Burn Country and the documentaries My Scientology Movie, The Trans List and In Pursuit of Silence, which discovers that the second quietest place on Earth is a specially designed room in downtown Minneapolis.


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Tickets are now available for Members and Pass Holders. Tickets will open up to the general public this Friday, September 30th. To find out how to become a TCFF Member and for a full list of films playing at this year’s festival please visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

I’ll definitely be blogging more about TCFF in the coming weeks, especially in October leading up to the film fest itself!


Thoughts on 2016 TCFF lineup? Which of these movies have you been anticipating?

FlixChatter Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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The title of the film may sound like a superhero film but this indie drama is as far away from the ubiquitous genre as it can get. It made me think of The Sound of Music if Captain Von Trapp were to uproot his entire family to the Austrian Alps and homeschooled all his kids instead of hiring Maria.

Set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Ben Cash has been living off the grid with his six kids. The film opened with a deer hunting scene that’s quite graphic and intense, prompting the woman next to me to leave the theater and never came back. Perhaps she’s an animal lover or something, but I think it’s her loss that she missed out on this film because of it.

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It’s a provocative way to open a film, and an effective one as well as we get to see right away how Ben has raised his kids, Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai, with vigorous physical and mental training. They live their lives without any of the conveniences and daily luxuries most kids in modern society won’t be able to survive even for a day. Though the kids don’t follow common academic curriculum, they’re taught to be critical thinkers. Instead of playing video games or lying around listening to music all day, the Cash kids read books, play music, hunt for food, and actually spend time with each other.

It’s a really fascinating slice of an unorthodox life, anchored by a soulful yet physical role by Viggo Mortensen. There are numerous themes that are explored here. Parenting is a big one, and I think every parents (especially in America) would benefit from watching this. The scene when the Cash family visit their conventional aunt and uncle in the city (played by Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn), it shows a stark contrast of how their respective kids are brought up. The Cash kids are well-versed in the the Bill of Rights and know who Karl Marx is, while their cousins are far more knowledgeable about pop culture. If I were a parent, it certainly would make me ponder just how much (or I should say how little) kids are learning in school!

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Their lives take an unexpected turn with news of the death of Ben’s wife, Leslie. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that because that even it the catalyst to the journey the Cash family had to take. Ben didn’t spare their feelings when he revealed the news, and it’s certainly a poignant moment that’s beautifully portrayed. The Cash family have to leave their idyllic existence in order to attend Leslie’s funeral, and in the course of that journey, Ben is challenged with the idea what it really means to be a parent and brings into question all his philosophies/beliefs he’s taught his kids.

Now, one does not have to subscribe to his worldview to emphasize with Ben. I for one don’t see eye to eye with him on a spiritual level. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky Day. He also vehemently opposes Christian funeral traditions, claiming that his wife had become a Buddhist believer and would rather be cremated instead. Now, while one might admire Ben’s parenting style and what his kids accomplished, no doubt they’d run into issues given that they’ve lived such a sheltered life and away from society. The kids are respectful and bright, but lacking in common social graces. “You made us freaks!” one of the kids, Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), screamed at Ben. He’s got a point there and the film shows many examples of that. The scene where the eldest Bodevan (George MacKay) promptly proposes to a girl after kissing her at an RV campground is funny but rather sad as well. The film is peppered with funny and amusing moments, but a lot of the humor isn’t slapstick but laden with irony and poignancy.

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The themes of parenting and coming-of-age blend seamlessly, and in a way it’s a coming-of-age of sort for Ben as well as a father. The main conflict arises between Ben and his father in-law Jack (Frank Langella), who sternly opposes Ben’s way of life and how his grandchildren are raised. It seems at first that Jack is painted as the *villain* of the film that threatens to separate the kids from their father, but fortunately the film isn’t so simplistic. Liberal sensibilities seem to prevail here, but writer/director Matt Ross doesn’t present things in a formulaic way, and there’s a vast thought-provoking themes being explored here. He boldly presents a compelling yet flawed hero, and chose an absolutely perfect actor in Viggo to do the job.

He’s the epitome of intellectual free spirit, a Renaissance man who’s set in his ways. The intensely charismatic Viggo Mortensen bared all for the role, mentally and physically. I’d hope to see his name popping up in the Best Actor race come award season. There’s a rather amusing nude scene, made more hilarious by the reaction of the people who saw him being so nonchalant about it, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. The challenge to normalcy seems to be what the whole movie is about, and it certainly gives you plenty of food for thought.

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The movie works largely because of the talented cast. In addition to MacKay and Hamilton, we’ve got Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell as the talented young actors who play Ben’s children. Each have their moments to shine and you believe them as a close-knit family. The only thing I wish were explored a bit better is the relationship between Ben and Leslie. The only flashback scenes we get are mere glimpses of the two gazing lovingly at each other, which doesn’t reveal anything about Leslie’s mental condition or suicidal tendencies.

It’s been a couple of months since I saw Captain Fantastic, which was my JULY Movie of the Month AND it’s also one of my fave 2016 films so far. It’s a beautifully-shot film with panoramic shots of the Pacific Oceans and the Rocky Mountains region. Certainly a film that subscribe to the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination that really matters. It’s certainly one of the most eccentric films I’ve seen this year, both amusing and haunting, but definitely indelible.

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Have you seen ‘Captain Fantastic’? Let me know what you think! 

Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’ (2016)

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Hello all! It’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, what with the TCFF gala on Thursday and also the MN filmmakers interviews on Saturday. But it was a good kind of busy and definitely excited for the 2016 TCFF lineup this year!

me_remyOne of the filmmakers I interviewed was Remy Auberjonois, whose film Blood Stripe, starring his wife Kate Nowlin who also co-wrote the film, will have its regional premiere at TCFF. The film won US Fiction Award at 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival this past June.

I’m excited to see the film, and it’s extra special for me to meet Remy because he’s also playing one of my fave characters of all time, Col. Brandon, in The Guthrie Theater’s 2016 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility! He’s still sporting the 18th century mustache for the role🙂

Well, I was so busy this past week I completely missed The Magnificent Seven‘s press screening last Monday, which I could’ve gone right after my dental appt. Oh well, my hubby & I will hopefully see it this Friday. I did finally watch this one…

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Ted has already reviewed it here, and I think I’d agree with the 3/5 rating. I’m not going to review it again so this is just my It’s pretty entertaining but overall it’s not a wholly memorable movie despite the competent two leads. Shane Black is known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and his directorial debut was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so he’s definitely got a knack for buddy action comedies. I have to admit though, this one isn’t as good as those movies.

Interestingly enough, this project was apparently proposed as a TV series but the pilot was going nowhere. I could see it working w/ the right script and cast, as buddy action comedies seems quite popular on TV at some point. Casting Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a mismatched pair of private investigators is inspired casting, and this is perhaps the first comedic role I’ve seen Gosling do. I’d say he succeeded, though I still don’t see what the fuss is about him. I just don’t think he’s that special of an actor, both in terms of looks and talent. Crowe on the other hand, has always been a supremely talented and versatile actor, and I’d love to see him do more comedic roles!

Overall the movie wasn’t as funny as I had thought, perhaps because the funniest bits (like these below) are already in the trailer!

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The tone of the movie is very light with zippy dialog, though at times the scenarios are overly silly that it was like a spoof or something. There’s also a surreal scene involving a giant bug smoking and talking in the back seat of their car just seems weird and doesn’t work as well as it could. The shootout at the end is quite bombastic, featuring another interesting casting of Matt Bomer, sporting a giant mole and bowl haircut, as the hitman hired by Kim Basinger‘s character. Some of the scenes with him seems deliberately over-the-top. Speaking of Basinger, well it’s a rather thankless role and she barely made any impact in the movie.

That said, I’m glad I finally watched it. If you like this action comedy genre, it’s definitely worth a watch. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

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Oh, I also rewatched one of my guilty pleasures, the 1997 action flick The Saint w/ Val Kilmer & Elisabeth Shue. It’s preposterous and corny but I still enjoyed it😉


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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FlixChatter Interview with Lea Thompson on ‘The Trouble With the Truth’, career longevity in Hollywood and her directing debut

Though it hasn’t officially starts until October 19th, the festivities of Twin Cities Film Fest has begun! Last Wednesday I got the chance to meet Lea Thompson just before her MN theatrical premiere of her indie film The Trouble With The Truth. I got to meet both Lea and the film’s writer/director Jim Hemphill, here they are at red carpet that night:


I’ve posted my interview with its director Jim here if you haven’t read it yet. I’m glad MN film fans got to see the film on the big screen, and they did a Q&A afterwards.


Thanks to Dallas & Jake for the great shots!


Meeting Lea was definitely the highlight of my week! I was waiting for her at the Showplace ICON lounge waiting to talk with her and was chatting with a couple of people when she approached us. Being from Rochester, Minnesota, she certainly still has the warm Midwestern manner. It’s so lovely meeting her, I mean I grew up watching her films in the 80s… All The Right Moves, Back To The Future, Some Kind of Wonderful, etc.  It’s been three decades since her big break in Back To The Future, yet she still looks as beautiful and youthful as ever, she didn’t look a day over 35! But it’s her wonderful, warm personality that will make me a fan of hers forever.

Speaking of Back To The Future, that very movie was playing on one of the TVs right above us. How cool is that! So here’s the transcript of my interview with the Lea:

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Let’s talk about The Trouble With the Truth. I love your role as Emily. I find that as a female audience, I find that there are so few meaty roles for women out there. She’s not just the girlfriend, or the wife of so and so.

It definitely was a meaty part. When I got the script, I couldn’t put it down. I just couldn’t believe someone had written a part that interesting. I mean, her perspectives keep changing. At times it seems like a male perspective, and sometimes he’s got the more female [perspective]… So it’s very interesting which is like real life, because people often want to put us into little pigeonholes, but all of us are a lot more complicated than that. So it’s very rare to get great parts like that.

lea_sally_cabaretI’ve had four really great parts in my career. One is Lorraine from Back to the Future, this one [in The Trouble With the Truth, I’ve done Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, and also the role in a TV movie called The Substitute Wife. So those are my great parts.

I also think Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful is a pretty great part. I mean initially you think she is this way but she has a certain depth the more you get to know her in the movie.

Yeah, Some Kind of Wonderful is close, but not as great as those other four. I do love that movie.

It is timeless. As a lot of John Hughes’ movies are.

It is. People love it. People love the music, the costume, etc.


So back to The Trouble With the Truth. Is it because of the strong female role that made you want to sign on as producer?

Yeah. I helped cast it, I helped getting it together in some way. So yeah, I’m proud of that. I’m really proud of this film. Y’know, it’s hard to get films that weren’t made by studios to be seen by people, so it’s great to have these independent film festivals where they embrace it. They get people a chance to see it, talk about it, discover new filmmakers and meet new filmmakers. It’s so exciting and I’m so happy that the Twin Cities has a film festival now I spent time at the Guthrie, the Children’s Theater, MN Dance Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, the MN Orchestra is wonderful, so it’s great to see films celebrated too in MN.

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There’s a lot of dialog and long takes in this film. How do you approach a role like this? Was there any improvisation or ad lib at all?

There’s hardly any ad-lib, it’s all script. There’s only tiny bit parts when we got up and move to a different location, there’s a bit of improv there, but we stayed to the script. The process was that we rehearse every day for like 2 hours. I mean the shooting was fairly simple but the takes was like 12 minutes long. The takes was hard but it was fun. They had a camera on hand and a camera on me, so it was easier to improv things, not on the words but on how you act it. I can laugh in one take, and cry in another in the same place. So I don’t have to do the same things all the time.

I have to mention Caroline in the City which I love.

Oh thank you, thank you.

You worked on another TV series, Switched At Birth [on ABC Family], which was on fairly recently.

Yes, I’ve been doing that for the past five years. We still have 10 more episodes they’re going to air in January.

Is that season 6?

Yes and I directed the 100th episode which was really nice.

Between working in TV and movies, which one do you prefer?

Oh I’m happy to get whatever job I can get. I mean, I’m directing TV stuff, I’ll be directing The Goldbergs [ABC] in two weeks, and I’m also acting in Scorpion [CBS]. I also just finished my own independent film The Year of Spectacular Men.

I was just going to ask you about that.

So yeah, my daughter Madelyn Deutch wrote The Year of Spectacular Men, she also starred it in and scored it. My other daughter Zoey is starring in it along with myself. It’s a family project and I spent the last year doing that.

Lea with her daughters Madelyn (L) and Zoey (R). Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Is it too early to talk about the synopsis of it?

It’s about a young girl struggling to figure out what life is after graduating from college. So it’s a Millennial movie. It’s also a story about sisterhood, it’s a love story between two sisters and five horrible boyfriends. Something everybody can relate to.

Is your husband [Howard Deutch, who directed Lea in Some Kind of Wonderful] involved at all in this movie?

He’s a producer, but he doesn’t do too much. I kept him out of the way.

Now that you have two of your daughters in the business. What tips did you give them when they told you they wanted to act?

Well it’s an ongoing thing. I’m always giving them advice, I’m kind of their acting coach. Y’know, we’re kind of contemporaries, we’re at times doing the same job. I’ve been through what they’ve been through or what they’ll go through. I know the ups and down of the business, so it’s nice in that way. I think a lot of people like to hire children of people who have had some success as the kids know it’s work and you have to keep at it. You never just get your big break and everything’s gonna be great. Look, we’re doing an interview under Back to The Future playing on TV right now. I did that 31 years ago and I’m still out here handling my movie that I’m doing.

It’s a testament to your talent and the fact that you’re so prolific in the business!

It’s about the work. It’s not about the fame and all that stuff that’s fake. It’s all about the people you meet and get to meet, the audience. I mean without art, the world is gonna be a complete disaster. We need to make people compassionate, we need to make people feel things, to help people understand how another person live and not be so quick to judge. Artists and stories are super important and I feel that it’s a noble profession. I feel honored that I get to do this for 32 years… no actually I started my first ballet I did here in MN when I was 11. So it’s been 40+ years that I’ve been in the biz.


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THANK YOU so much Lea for taking the time to chat with me.
It’s such an honor and privilege meeting you!


Hope you enjoyed the interview! What’s your favorite Lea Thompson role(s)?

FlixChatter Review: The Light Between Oceans (2016)

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I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for romantic dramas. Not rom-coms, but a genuine heart-wrenching love story that’ll get me to cry my eyes out. Well, this film certainly fits into that category. Based on an Australian novel of the same name by M. L. Stedman, we’re first introduced to Tom Sherbourne, a World War I veteran. He resorts to taking a lonely job as a lighthouse keeper as he wants to be as far away from people as possible. He then meets a beautiful young girl Isabel Graysmark who’s drawn by his stoic, resigned demeanor. A courtship by correspondence slowly defrosts Tom’s heart and the two did get married. Off they go to live together in Janus Rock, a secluded island off the coast of Western Australia.

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The film takes a good sweet time to introduce us to Tom (a taciturn, reflective Michael Fassbender) and Isabel (the lovely Alicia Vikander). There’s a compelling realism to how their relationship and perhaps the fact that the two actors fell in love on set made their chemistry even more believable. But Tom and Isabel’s seemingly blissful union doesn’t last long. They’re driven to the point of despair after Isabel’s miscarriages, happening one after another. The two main actors convey the heartbreak believably, especially Isabel who was such a innocent, happy-go-lucky sweet girl when she first met Tom. Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance seems to have set up the long buildup to illustrate the mental state of the characters and so even though it was a s-l-o-w process, it didn’t feel tedious, at least to me.

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There’s something so ethereal yet mysterious about the setting at Janus Rock, the long lingering shots of the ocean and those big waves hit the rocks seem to hint of something ominous that’s about to happen. Sure enough, one day a rowboat carrying a baby and a lifeless man is adrift. Isabel sees it as a gift to their family, that the baby is hers to keep. Tom on the other hand, feels compelled to do the right thing. The moment the two contemplate this decision is quite heart-wrenching to behold. You know these characters are making a terrible decision that will haunt them in the end. At times I sympathize with them given what they’ve gone through, but towards the end it was quite frustrating.

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The emotional wallop and melodrama seems to be too much for some critics, the Rotten Tomatoes consensus says that it ‘… ultimately tugs on the heartstrings too often to be effective.’ I remember thinking that as I left the theater, that perhaps the film is a tad overly-manipulative, what with the decidedly somber scenery, sad faces and sad music. It made me recall a line from a Scottish rom-com where the protagonist is prone to ‘worshipping her own pain.’ I think you could say that about this film and the fact that there’s very little humor throughout, it can be overwhelming. I also feel that the scenes with the little girl seems rather trite as it didn’t feel true to me.

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That said, I actually think the film is made with care and the actors are committed to their roles. I also have to mention Rachel Weisz here, who appears midway through the film in a key role. This is the first Cianfrance film I’ve seen so far, but this isn’t the first time he deals with films about intense heartbreak (i.e. Blue Valentine). I can’t form an opinion yet about his skills as a filmmaker, but I think a bit less indulgence would do this film some good. At 2 hrs 13 minutes, the film drags quite a bit and trying your patience even those who are invested in the story. I think even if you’re a fan of Fassbender or Vikander, you might just wait to rent this later. One thing for sure, I’m even more impressed with the skills of the two actors and their performance made this film well worth my time.

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Have you seen ‘The Light Between Oceans’? Well what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Blair Witch (2016)

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The original Blair Witch Project came out almost 20 years ago and it ignited the found-footage genre. Personally I was never a fan of the original movie or the genre itself. I found the concept to be idiotic and lacking creativity. Initially, I wasn’t that interested in seeing this sequel/remake but when I found out that it’s directed by Adam Wingard, I was curious. First it was titled The Woods, then a few weeks before its release date, the studio revealed that the movie’s actually a sequel to 1999 hit movie.

The setup of this new movie is basically the same as the original version. James (James McCune) discovered a video showing what he thinks is his sister’s experiences in the woods of the Blair Witch. So he and his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) decided to head out to the same location where his sister disappeared. They equipped themselves with more technology than the original group, each of them wears digital camera that’s attached to their ear and they also have a camera drone. Tagging along with them are two people who lives near the woods, Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry).
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Of course once they go deep into the woods, weird things start happening. On their first night, they hear weird noises and then in the morning they see a bunch of Blair Witch sticks all around their campsite. Freaked out, they decide it would be a good idea not to spend another night in the creepy woods; they start to head back to their cars but got lost. They end up arguing with one another and more weird things start happening. So basically nothing new happened in this movie, if you’ve seen the first movie then you know what’s going to happen next.

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Adam Wingard’s previous two movies You’re Next and The Guest were very entertaining and I thought for sure he’d bring something new and creativity into this one. Sadly he just remade the original movie; there are no scares or surprises. For those hoping to see the evil witch, well you might not be disappointed. But by the time the real evil shows up, I just didn’t care and wanted the whole ordeal to be over with.

None of the actors stood out and clearly they’re all amateurs. If the actors in the original movie annoyed you, then you’re going to get annoyed by these guys too.

It’s very disappointing that the filmmakers didn’t come up with anything new since I believe they can expand the story and make it scary. I don’t remember much about the other sequel, Book of Shadows, but at least they tried to do something new with the myth of the Blair Witch.

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So have you seen Blair Witch? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: RIP Charmian Carr – My tribute to her performance as Liesl in ‘The Sound of Music’

Happy Monday all! How’s your weekend? Mine was quite a busy one and given the glorious weather on Saturday, my hubby and I tried to be outside as much as we could. We made a stop at the Guthrie Theater as we love to visit the endless bridge and get a great view St. Anthony Main & the Stone Arch bridge over the Mississippi River. It’s the second week run of Sense & Sensibility there and I actually caught a glimpse of a couple of the actresses during intermission of the 1pm performance! I’ll be seeing the play on Oct 14, can’t wait!

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On a sad note, Charmian Carr, best known as Liesl in The Sound of Music just passed away this weekend at the age of 73😦

I felt such a pang in my heart when I heard the news Sunday night. I was writing a review of the film I saw this weekend, but when I heard of her passing, I felt compelled to do a tribute for her instead.

The Sound of Music is one of the three major Hollywood classics that my late mom first showed me. She brought home three VHS from her trip to the US: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady and The Sound Of Music. Those three films hold a special place in my heart (as those are amongst a handful of films that defined me)… so I get sentimental whenever I hear news about the film and/or the cast.

But more than that, since I saw the film when I was in my early teens, I so identified with Liesl and Carr’s performance is so beautiful and indelible. Her Sixteen Going On Seventeen rendition (with Daniel Truhitte’s Rolfe) is such a joyful and sweet celebration of young (and oh-so-innocent) romance that never fails to put a smile on my face.

I also love the reprise of the song later in the film with Julie Andrews‘ Maria. Even though Maria wasn’t Liesl’s real mother, there’s such a formidable bond between them.

It wasn’t just that Carr was beautiful and could sing beautifully, she brought the character of Liesl to live in such a wonderful way. The Sound of Music is as beloved and memorable as it is today because we all root for the Von Trapp family, and as the eldest, Liesl is certainly the most developed character of the seven children. She fell in love, went through a heartbreak, and later had to face the harsh realities of war when the boy she loved joined the Nazi party.

This Edelweiss scene where Liesl sings with her father (Christopher Plummer) always gets me all teary eyed. It’s perhaps one of my favorite on-screen duets of all time.

Though Charmian Carr only had a single film credit in her career, her contribution to film is so tremendous. I think it’s only fitting that I ended with this delightful farewell scene performed by the Von Trapp children…

Farewell Charmian Carr and rest in peace.
Thank you for your beautiful performance as Liesl…
your iconic performance shall live on.


 

Indie Film Spotlight: ‘The Trouble With the Truth’ + Interview with writer/director Jim Hemphill

Just a month away until the film festivities begin, Twin Cities Film Fest is hosting a Minnesota theatrical premiere of the indie drama The Trouble With The Truth. 

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Starring Minnesota native, Lea Thompson and written and directed by Minnesota native, Jim Hemphill. Both Ms. Thompson and Mr. Hemphill will be present for a Q&A session following the screening!

Date: Wednesday, Sept 21st @ 6:30pm
Location: Showplace ICON Theatres, The Shops at West End

$20 per ticket
(click image for more info & to purchase tickets)

Synopsis: Musician and starving artist Robert reconsiders his own failed marriage to Emily after his daughter announces that she’s engaged.


I had the pleasure of seeing the film last week and I really enjoyed it! The key to creating a film set in a single night with just two characters is that the script has to be extra sharp to keep your attention. Kudos to Jim Hemphill as The Trouble With The Truth certainly accomplished that. The dialog feels very effortless and natural, and I found the conversations engaging. The story gets even better as the film progressed and never overstays its welcome. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they have to charming leads in a role that utilized their talents and charisma.

jimhemphillJim Hemphill is an award-winning screenwriter and director whose films include THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH and BAD REPUTATION. In addition to his filmmaking endeavors, he is a regular contributor to American Cinematographer, Filmmaker Magazine, and the Talkhouse Film site, among other outlets. He is also a programming consultant at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, where he has moderated discussions with Peter Bogdanovich, Jane Campion, William Friedkin, Elliott Gould, Barbara Hershey, Michel Legrand, Adrian Lyne, David Mamet, Paul Mazursky, Ron Shelton, Jim Sheridan, Paul Verhoeven, Wim Wenders, Haskell Wexler, and many others.

Check out my Q&A with Jim Hemphill below on how the story came about, the casting process, challenges of making the film, and more!

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So you started out as a critic and script reader for David Fincher, did you start writing then? What inspired you want to make your own films?

Directing was always the primary goal, from when I was around nine or ten years old. I was a movie nut from a pretty young age, and as a little kid I was particularly obsessed with Clint Eastwood. At some point I realized that I was responding to something in his movies beyond his on-screen persona…I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it this way at the time, but I was connecting with his philosophy as a director.

At around the same time that I became conscious of Eastwood’s role behind the camera as well as in front of it, I also discovered the movies of filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill, and John Landis – I didn’t completely understand what a director did, but I could feel continuities in their movies that made me aware of the fact that there was an author responsible for the ideas I was responding to. By the time I was in high school the floodgates had completely opened and I was studying directors constantly – via their movies, interviews, books, etc. – and I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my heroes. Script reading was just a way of paying the rent, and I wouldn’t really call my writing about films criticism… I’m not a critic the way that somebody like Matt Zoller Seitz or Violet Lucca is. I’m more of an enthusiast – or even a kind of evangelist, beating the drums for movies I feel passionate about. It’s a little more personal and less analytical than what a real critic does, though obviously some of our best critics are very personal writers.

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Jim (center) filming with John and Lea

How did the idea of The Trouble With The Truth come about for you? Can you share what inspired you to the story and/or the characters?

First off, I wanted to avoid the mistakes I made on my first movie, which was a teen horror flick called Bad Reputation. On that film I was straining against my resources the whole time – I was trying to make what should have been a $5 million-dollar Blumhouse or Screen Gems movie for ten grand. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in that movie, but it feels very, very ragged, and the unpolished look of it always bugged me. So for my second film I wanted to write something that I knew I could make look great even if I didn’t have an enormous budget. That meant minimal characters and minimal locations, because the fewer people and company moves the faster I could shoot the movie. So I knew off the bat I wanted to do something like My Dinner with Andre or Talk Radio, where you’re essentially in a few rooms the whole time.

In terms of coming up with the characters, Robert is slightly based on my grandfather, who was also a jazz pianist who kicked around playing in hotels and things and lived the life of the bohemian – some might say starving – artist more or less until the end. But really both characters are different sides of me…I certainly have a lot of the same fears and interests and feelings, though John Shea’s character represents my more realistic, cynical side and Lea is kind of the less rational, romantic part of me.

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How did the casting of Lea Thompson & John Shea come about? Their chemistry is amazing and totally believable. Lea is the producer also, did you know her prior to making this film?

My only interaction with Lea prior to the movie came when I interviewed her on stage at a Back to the Future screening in Hollywood – I moderate these Q&As at the American Cinematheque, and Lea came to speak during a Back to the Future marathon. I always fantasized about making a movie with her, because when I met Robert Zemeckis in film school he said Lea was his favorite actress he ever worked with. This guy’s made movies with Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster, and other pretty major actresses, so that statement always stuck with me. I gave her the script for The Trouble with the Truth in the usual way, sending it to her manager or agent or somebody, and after we talked a little and I convinced her I wasn’t insane she agreed to do the movie.

The producing thing came about because over the course of the project she became more and more involved both creatively and just getting the damn thing out into the world, which is tough these days if you don’t have a multimillion-dollar marketing budget. Probably the most important thing she did was suggest John Shea – I have to give her full credit for that. When she came on board we talked about potential male leads and she gave me a list of four or five guys she thought would be good. John was at the top of her list, and I immediately loved the idea.

I had been a fan of his since Missing and was particularly fond of a movie he made with Alan Alda called A New Life, which as a great movie about marriage and divorce kind of influenced The Trouble with the Truth. John had worked with Lea before on a miniseries and was eager to do so again, so he agreed to do the movie and we were off. The fact that they knew each other saved me a ton of time and work, because they just jumped right in and, as you say, had instant chemistry.
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The conversations, all the bantering between Robert & Emily is engaging right from the start. How long does the writing process take for you from the time you came up w/ the idea?

This was probably the fastest I’ve ever written anything in my life, aside from a couple for-hire writing gigs where I was under a tight deadline. It’s certainly the fastest I’ve ever written anything good. Once I had the general idea mapped out I gave myself a rigid schedule of writing four pages a day, no matter what – that way I knew I would have a first draft in a month. I wouldn’t be able to do that on every script, but for this one I could because everything was coming more or less out of my imagination – there was no research or anything like that. After that first draft that took me a month I rewrote a little, but the script didn’t change that drastically…I would say altogether it was a few months of writing.

I always think that films that take place mostly in a single night & a single location are tricky. What’s the biggest challenge as well as inspired moments of making the film for you?

The biggest challenge is convincing everybody else that it can work, to be honest with you – there were times where I think the actors and crew were skeptical that the movie would remain interesting from beginning to end. But, you know, I don’t think you need a lot of locations or razzle-dazzle to make something interesting if the writing and acting is solid – I mean, that movie where Ryan Reynolds spends the whole thing in a box buried underground [Buried – ed.] is great! I think the upside of doing a movie like this is there’s a kind of concentrated emotional power; if the movie works on you, it’s because you’re so intensely focused on these two people and their issues, with no distractions.

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There’s a lot of dialog in this film, which I found very natural and has an effortless flow about it. But I notice there’s no background music at all when they’re talking, despite the fact that Robert is a musician. Is that a deliberate decision? If so, why?

That sort of speaks to the no distractions idea; we actually had more music in the movie, and it was all terrific – the composer, Sean Schafer Hennessy, is incredible, and I’m hoping maybe he’ll get some of the unused cues out on iTunes as a soundtrack album or something. But throughout the post-production process, my editor Michael Benni Pierce kept stripping things away to focus on the essential, and I think it was the right choice – we had two great actors, and I felt like the way to go was to follow Ingmar Bergman’s example and just make the movie about these people and their faces and voices. So a lot of the music got dropped in the mix, though there is a lot of great jazz throughout the opening bar scene if you listen closely – you can hear it better in a theatre, where the sound mix comes off the way it’s supposed to.

You’ve directed and written your last two films. Which one do you enjoy the most?

Directing, by far. I don’t really like writing, but it’s something you have to do in order to have something to direct. But to be honest with you, the only part of the filmmaking process that I actually enjoy is being on a set and working with the actors and cinematographer. Everything else is kind of an ordeal.

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You’ve tackled horror, drama and your next one is an adventure fantasy. Is there a genre you’d love to work on?

Well, I’m not doing an adventure fantasy, though I did work as a writer on a Hercules movie for, as Nicholas Ray would say, bread and taxes. Without question my bucket list genre is the Western – I have one I’ve written that I’d like to make if I can raise the money, and I might write a few more in the near future. I like all kinds of movies, but if I had my way I’d probably do nothing but Westerns, melodramas, and musicals – I’d have been a lot better off working in the Hollywood of the 1950s!

As a writer/director, who have been your inspirations (is Fincher one of them)? Would you share your top three fave films of all time?

There are so, so many, and certainly Fincher’s one of them – I think Gone Girl and Zodiac are two of the greatest movies ever made. Aside from the people I listed above, I’m inspired by the work of Francis Coppola, Oliver Stone, Sam Peckinpah, Ron Shelton, Paul Schrader, John Ford, Yasujiro Ozu, Kathryn Bigelow, Blake Edwards, David Lynch, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, Budd Boetticher, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Cimino, Nicholas Ray, Joe Dante, Elia Kazan, Steven Soderbergh, Alfred Hitchcock, John Cassavetes, George Romero, Terrence Malick, Michael Powell, Paul Verhoeven, Orson Welles… God, the list never ends. I hate to make one since I leave so many people out.

As far as my top three favorite films of all time, that’s a little easier: Boogie Nights, The Age of Innocence, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.


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The Trouble With the Truth is currently available on DVD from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as streaming on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Vudu.
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Thank you Jim for taking the time to chat with me about your film!


Hope you enjoy the interview! Thoughts on The Trouble With The Truth and/or the interview?

Music Break: The Age of Adaline soundtrack & interview w/ composer Rob Simonsen

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I’ve been featuring various soundtracks on my Music Break Feature, so I’m thrilled that on my 71st Music Break post, we actually get insights from the composer of the piece I’m featuring: Rob Simonsen!

I’ve mentioned in my review of The Age of Adaline how much I adore the music. I’ve been quite obsessed with the dreamy, ethereal sound, listening to it for days on end from start to finish. I think the last romantic drama’s soundtrack that prompted a similar reaction was John Williams’ Sabrina (1995), it’s one of the rare soundtracks where I love every single track, just like this one.

Here’s a sampling of The Age of Adaline soundtrack:


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image courtesy of IMDb

Rob Simonsen is an American composer based in Los Angeles. When you look at his IMDb page, surely you’ve listened to a few of his music. He’s not only super talented but also prolific, with over 50 credits under his belt since his first film he worked on in the early 2000s.

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Image courtesy of IMDb

 

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The first film you did music for was a medieval fantasy Westender (in which you also starred in). What led you into working on that project?

Westender was a film I made with my best friends from high school. We initially intended to make a short, but the endeavor expanded as we started and we decided to turn it into a feature. I mentioned to the director, Brock Morse that I wanted to score the film and he was excited about that. It was nearly a 3 year process from beginning to end with the ongoing edits and reshoots. I wrote about 1.5 hours of orchestral music and that was my jump into film scoring. It premiered at Seattle International Film Festival, where I met Mychael Danna, who was a guest speaker of the festival. We hit it off and a year later we both moved to LA and I began assisting him.

As for The Age of Adaline, how did that project come about for you?

Lee Toland Krieger [the director of The Age of Adaline – ed] heard the score to The Spectacular Now and really liked it. He reached out to me with interest for Age of Adaline, I watched the film and loved it, then met Lee and we hit it off. It was a really great collaboration with him, and I consider him a good friend. We worked really hard on Adaline and I can’t wait to work with him again. He’s a fantastically talented guy.

I love the ethereal, dreamy sound of The Age of Adaline. What have been some of the inspirations for writing the score?

Ah, thanks! Lee and I talked a lot about the story of this woman trapped in time and the mysterious, supernatural angle of the story. So there were a lot of musical ideas born of conversations about story and character with him- about the way we wanted her and her world to feel. Musically I was listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ instrumental version of Serenade to Music, which is a piece that blows me away every time I listen to it. Also Holst’s Neptune, from The Planets.

The song Start Again (featuring Elena Tonra) has become one of my favorite songs now. Did you also write the lyrics for that?

Thanks again! No, the lyrics were by my good friends Nathan Johnson and Katie Chastain. They have a band project called Faux Fix, and they write great tunes together and I love their storytelling and perspective in their lyrics. I called them up and said “I have the opportunity to write a song that might go in the end credits of this film. It has to be done in 48 hours. You guys free this weekend?” They came over and we workshopped a little bit based off of a kernel of a tune idea I had put together from a piece of score.

We worked for a few hours and then they went home. 24 hours later they showed up with all the lyrics and a song structure and it was so perfect. We demoed the song and eventually had Elena Tonra sing the vocal. I’ve been a big fan of Elena’s for a while and she was gracious to lend her talents to the song.

I’ve been curious about the process of music composing. How early in the filmmaking process did you start writing the score? For example, does the script have to be completely finished before you can start, or do you work on it as the film is being shot?

It depends. Some films I’m brought on in the script phase, other films it might not be until near the final cut that I’m brought in. Each film has it’s own landscape and evolution of how the elements come together. Oftentimes the first thing I do is sketch out themes and send them to the director- kind of a general vibe check to make sure we’re in sync. That material then begins to find it’s way into the edit and scored cues and the boxes slowly get checked off as we progress.

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Is there a specific genre of film you enjoy working on? Was there any film you saw recently that you wish you had written the score for?

I love sci-fi films. It’s been great working on Adaline and other films like Nerve, both of which have a fantastical and slight sci-fi quality to them. I loved Ex Machina. I’m very excited to see The Arrival and excited for all the work my friend Johann Johannsson is doing.

Lastly, who are some of favorite composers who have inspired you?

So many! Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, Bjork, John Barry, Philip Glass, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner. Of course John Williams. My mentor Mychael Danna. We live in such a marvelous time where we can devour music of all genres and times. I find so much music that’s inspiring.

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A photo of Rob when he recorded the score to Marc Webb’s “Gifted” in London last May

THANK YOU so much Rob for taking the time to chat with me about your beautiful work!


Hope you enjoy this week’s Music Break! Thoughts on The Age of Adaline‘s score and/or the interview?

Everybody’s Chattin + Most-Anticipated Movies from TIFF 2016

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Happy Wednesday everyone! Hope you’re all in good health. Well, my Rheumatoid Arthritis flared up again earlier this week that I had to stay home Monday as I could barely lift my water bottle, let alone drive. My left hand is still swollen which makes typing a pain but thank goodness for Aleve!

In any case, I did have a blast watching Bridget Jones Baby last night…

 

Ok how about those links!

Well if you’re paying attention to film festivals like me, you’re likely been following Toronto International Film Festival that’s going on this week through this Sunday.

Lucky Jay & her crew have been covering TIFF this year, check out her blog for reviews, including La La Land!

Courtney just posted her thoughts on the highly-anticipated The Birth of A Nation, one of those films that I still want to see and judge for myself.

Another Torontonian Ryan also attended TIFF, check out his review of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey

Margaret is back with her phenomenal visual parallel posts, this time on Neon Demon vs. Black Swan

Meanwhile, Nostra just caught up with Kevin Costner’s crime flick Criminal 

Jordan just reviewed the YA thriller Nerve, whose composer Rob Simonsen I’ll be featuring later this week!

Allie reviewed an early 2000s comedy that I happened to enjoy quite a bit, Napoleon Dynamite

The Sea of Trees has been completely lambasted by critics, well looks like Khalid agreed w/ them

Paul just talks about the classic rom-com The Philadelphia Story 

Hey it’s back to school season, so check out Michael‘s answers on his Back-t0-School Movie Quiz!

Last but not least, check out Cindy‘s latest Lucky 13 on the topic of Al Pacino the Mentor


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So, speaking of TIFF, I’ve been reading a bunch of TIFF reviews the past week. There are some I’ve been anticipating (i.e. Free Fire which sounds like a blast), but some new ones I just heard about that intrigued me (Korean crime drama The Age of Shadows, British WWII drama Their Finest). ELLE starring Isabelle Huppert sounds brutal but then again what do you expect from agent provocateur Paul Verhoeven. It’s also one of the films my crush Sam Riley saw at Cannes last May😉

Of course the buzz surrounding the musical La La Land and sci-fi drama Arrival have been incredible, I sure hope they both lived up to the hype! So if I were to list my top 10 most anticipated movies out of TIFF, this is what it’d look like:

You can check out IMDB’s TIFF mini guide or The Hollywood Reporter‘s coverage for a list of movies screened at TIFF.
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So what’s YOUR most anticipated movies out of TIFF 2016?