TCFF Day 4: Secretariat, Flourtown, Nature of Existence

TCFF day 4 has come and went, and we’re about to close the 5-day film festival with FAIR GAME later tonight. Executive Producer Bill Pohlad will be on-hand at this red carpet event to introduce the movie at 7pm. Do you have your tickets yet? The online ticket sales is closed right now, but you may still purchase tickets at the box office before the show using cash or check.

I volunteered again all afternoon yesterday, doing various tasks such as passing out schedules at the ticket booth, tearing out tickets of people going into the screening, and handing out rush tickets (or stand-by tickets) of Secretariat to people who might be interested. It’s kind of expected that people are cautious about strangers handing out stuff in a public area, you practically see ’em as they walk toward you. The best you can do is put on the best smile you can muster and try to use the word ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’ in there somewhere 😀 A mother & daughter were actually looking to see a movie and had been interested to see Secretariat, so their eyes lit up when we gave each of them a rush ticket. That really made the whole thing worthwhile.

One of the two main features of Day 4 is The Nature of Existence, directed by Minnesota’s own filmmaker Roger Nygard, who did TREKKIES back in 1997. This time he took on a more spiritual/metaphysical quest by traveling the globe to interview various people and start by asking the biggest question: “why do we exist?” After a four-year world-wide odyssey beginning in 2005, he had over 450 hours of footage to boil down to an hour and a half worth of feature-length documentary. You can check out the reviews of this at RottenTomatoes. I ran into Mr. Nygard during my shift but as I was wearing my volunteering hat, I didn’t get a chance to ask him any question of my own. I personally would like to know if he had learned anything from this journey, and what his real motivation was in making this. At first glance it seems that despite its thought-provoking appeal, it’d probably raise far more questions than answer… which makes me think that the tag line in the poster (every mystery of human existence… explained in one movie) is nothing more than wishful thinking.

After my shift, I checked out Secretariat, the ‘horse movie’ as everyone calls it, which was a rousing good fun. I don’t know much about the subject matter, but I really enjoyed it. The movie was preceded by a short movie Flourtown, about a couple who search for a reason to live after their boys die, and make a surprising discovery in their own lives as artists. It’s a really beautifully-filmed short, created by William Slichter who uses his background in Fine Arts in his storytelling. Check out the trailer:

Another volunteer shift beckons, so watch for my review of Secretariat and Fair Game hopefully tomorrow. Stay tuned!

First annual Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off tonight: 5 flicks I’m excited to see

The first ever Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) kicks off with a bang tonight with the critically-acclaimed film Waiting for “Superman” and an appearance from Academy Award®-winning director and producer Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The tickets are sold out for this, so it looks like it’s going to be a bustling and festive evening at the Mall of America! I’m scheduled to volunteer for a few hours, but hopefully I could get a glimpse of the film in between breaks. But if not, I might try catch it once it opens (exclusively) at the Landmark Uptown theatre starting Friday, October 1.

I’m hoping to see at least 4-5 films during the festival, but we’ll see if that’s possible given my work and volunteering schedule. For sure I’m going to see Nowhere Boy on Wednesday night. The movie chronicles John Lennon’s childhood, covering the time when he met Paul McCartney and how that leads to forming the Beatles. It boast a great British cast of Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Lennon, Kristin Scott Thomas as his aunt Mimi, Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey. Critics embrace Sam Taylor Wood’s directing debut, the film’s got 84% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer definitely got me intrigued:

It’s playing Wednesday 9/29, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15 (downtown Minneapolis). Tickets are still available at the film page on TCFF website.

After my shift on Friday night, I hope to catch Secretariat. It’s another movie based on a true story of the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time. It stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and James Cromwell. It looks like a good ‘ol rousing entertainment about triumphing against all odds. It’s playing Friday, 10/1, 7:00pm @ AMC Block E 15, which is one week ahead of the nationwide release date!

The other three I’m hoping to catch are:

The Two Escobars 9/29, 5:00pm | Theatres at Mall of America
When my soccer aficionado colleague Scot told me about the story I was intrigued.

Pablo Escobar was the richest, most powerful drug kingpin in the world, ruling the Medellin Cartel with an iron fist. Andrés Escobar was the biggest soccer star in Colombia. The two were not related, but their fates were inextricably–and fatally–intertwined.

Hollywood Reporter had some nice things to say about the documentary, saying that “…One doesn’t have to be a sports fan to respond to this true tale of soccer, politics, organized crime and murder” and a 8.9 IMDb user rating.

World’s Largest 9/29, 9:30pm & 10/2, 1:30pm | AMC Block E 15
I’m even more curious to see this after exec-director Jatin Setia said this was one of his favorite films he’s seen at the festival. Sounds like a whimsical and cheerful movie that’s guaranteed to put a smile on people’s faces.

Desperate for tourism, hundreds of small towns across the U.S.A. claim the “world’s largest” something from 15-foot fiberglass strawberries to 40-foot concrete pheasants. Odd, funny and sometimes beautiful, the statues stand as testaments to the uniqueness and importance – the largeness – that all people feel, and need to feel, about their communities and their own existence.

10/2, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15
On closing night on Saturday, I might try to catch this one after my volunteer shift is done. This movie won’t be released nationwide until November 5, so it’s cool that TCFF got it a month in advance! Now please don’t confuse this with the Cindy Crawford crapfest of the same name. This one is a political-thriller based on the autobiography of real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. According to, this is the only film from an American director in competition at Cannes, and the indie blog also has great things to say about director Doug Liman’s (Bourne Ultimatum) casting of Naomi Watts: “Watts is finely-tuned as Plame, a woman who tells lies for her country with ease but agonizes over speaking the truth for her own benefit.”

Now, I don’t always leap up to see this type of political thriller, nor am I the biggest Sean Penn fan (read: not really). But I like Naomi Watts, she is one darn good actress and the story sounds pretty intriguing. How accurate it really is to what actually happens I’ll never know, but hey, it sure makes for a compelling thriller and that is what I look for in this movie.

Check out other films offered @ TCFF, there bounds to be something that interest you. Look for my continued coverage of TCFF in the coming days!

Has anybody seen any of these films? If so, do share your thoughts in the comment section below.