TWIN CITIES FILM FEST unveils 2019 lineup! 100+ Premieres + Critically-acclaimed award season favorites

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, TCFF pulls out all the stops in presenting a phenomenal lineup this year. I have been covering TCFF since its inception year and so to me, every year is truly special, but I have to say that this year’s lineup is absolutely phenomenal!!!

Featuring 100+ premieres and award season favorites (many of TCFF spotlight/opening night films went on to win Oscars!), it’s no hyperbole to say this is going to be the best TCFF year yet!!

OPENING NIGHT TO CELEBRATE LAUDED TORONTO WINNER JOJO RABBIT & ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE TALIA SHIRE

More than 60 percent of 2019 program driven by female filmmakers; other top festival darlings set to debut in Minnesota include Marriage Story, Waves, Honey Boy, Motherless Brooklyn, Just Mercy, A Hidden Life, The Aeronauts, Premature and Saint Frances


Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 19, 2019) — Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) announces its full schedule for their 2019 festival, set to take place October 16-26 at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End. Coming off an electrifying September gala that celebrated filmmaker and Minnesota native Jim Burke, the producer behind Green Book which took home both this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture and last year’s top festival prize, TCFF 2019 marks the organization’s 10th anniversary and arrives with a special focus on both female filmmakers and films that advance this year’s social justice cause: environmental sustainability.

Taika Waititi in JOJO RABBIT

Among the top awards contenders from the festival circuit set to land at TCFF next month are Taika Waititi’s Holocaust dramedy Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 16) which last weekend took home the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival — often considered an early harbinger of what could contend for Best Picture in the winter — as well as Noah Baumbach’s marital drama Marriage Story, headlined by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and recognized as this year’s TCFF Breakthrough Vision (Oct. 19), and Trey Edward Shults’s lauded family drama Waves, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Lucas Hedges and honored as this year’s Virtuoso Selection (Oct. 26).

Other notable studio entries include the new Eddie Redmayne-Felicity Jones hot air balloon adventure The Aeronauts (Oct. 17); Terrence Malick’s war epic A Hidden Life (Oct. 20); the star-studded Edward Norton-directed crime drama Motherless Brooklyn (Oct. 24); and the stunning Shia LaBeouf-penned biopic Honey Boy with Director Alma Har’el in attendance (Oct. 21).

This year’s kickoff double feature on Oct. 16 will spotlight both the lauded Jojo Rabbit and Robert Jury’s Working Man, the official 2019 Opening Night Selection. A humble and heartfelt independent feature about a Rust Belt town coping with the closure of its last factory and the emergence of an unlikely hero who partners with his neighbors to break his way back into the shuttered shop, the film stars Peter Gerety from The Wire and two-time Academy Award nominee Talia Shire (The Godfather: Part II and Rocky), who will both be in attendance.

TCFF’s 2019 Centerpiece is Inside the Rain, Aaron Fisher’s autobiographical directing debut about a bipolar college student facing expulsion over conduct violations who hatches a madcap scheme to prove his innocence. The film co-stars Rosie Perez and Eric Roberts. Both Roberts and Fisher will be in attendance Oct. 18.

The festival closes Oct. 26 with Premature, Rashaad Ernesto Green’s electrifying coming-of-age drama about a teenager in New York City navigating her last summer — and an unexpected romance — before heading to college.  The film has earned rave reviews on the festival circuit, particularly for its vulnerable and hypnotic lead performance from Zora Howard; the Hollywood Reporter hailed the film as “a stirring coming-of-ager with a knockout lead turn.”

A still from ‘Premature’

Howard will be present for the closing night festivities, marking the culmination of a program that has prioritized projects made by female filmmakers. More than 60 percent of this year’s TCFF selections were directed or produced by women, continuing the organization’s push to create a home for works from a more diverse range of artists.

“When I founded this festival, I said it would be a home for all visions, all audiences and all artists — and to see us cross the mark in our tenth year, of having the majority of our selections created by female filmmakers, is to see our original mission fulfilled,” said Jatin Setia, TCFF’s Executive Director. “What’s even more powerful, and what has kept us going through the decade, is hearing how our big tent of filmmakers has inspired and motivated the next generation of Minnesota artists, who tell us that they thought a film career might be impossible. To now see those high schoolers come of age, and to see them return to our festival as debut directors…it’s everything an arts organization can hope for. It fills my soul.”

Special 35th anniversary celebration of Purple Rain to headline festival on Wednesday, Oct. 23

October 23 will feature Purple Rain night at the festival, with a special free 35th anniversary screening of the Prince rock musical at 6:45 p.m. and a Prince-themed afterparty to follow. Albert Magnoli, the director of the 1984 hit, will be making a rare appearance after the screening to discuss the film. Although the screening is free, tickets are still required for the reserved seats and can be obtained at ShowplaceIcon.com.

Every year Twin Cities Film Fest identifies a Social Justice Cause and programs a special series of films to call attention to a specific social issue. This year’s cause is “environmental responsibility” and the film series kicks off Oct. 17 with Roger Sorkin’s documentary Current Revolution, which envisions the next generation of America’s aging electrical grid. The series continues with Juice: How Electricity Explains the World (Oct. 18); Youth Unstoppable (Oct. 19); Food Coop (Oct. 19); Salvage (Oct. 23); and Sustainable Nation (Oct. 23).  TCFF Changemaker Partner for 2019 is the St. Louis Park Non Profit, Matter.

A still from ‘International Falls’

Among this year’s slate of “Minnesota-connected” premieres are International Falls (Oct. 19), a look at the fragile life of a touring comic and his chance connection with a hotel worker in a dead-end marriage. The film was shot in northern Minnesota and stars comedienne Rachel Harris (Natural SelectionSuits). On the lighter side, Raising Buchanan (Oct. 25) is a caper-driven comedy about two working women trying to profit from stealing the dead body of President Buchanan, played by notable character actor Rene Auberjonois (Star TrekMadame Secretary). Rounding out the 18 titles in this year’s Minnesota-connected program is The Truth About Marriage (Oct. 18), the latest thought-provoking documentary from director Roger Nygard (Trekkies).


I’ll post the complete schedule later with some of my most-anticipated selections!

Tickets will be on-sale September 21, 2019 for TCFF Members and Pass holders and to the public beginning September 27, 2019.

Ticket prices are $13 for General Admission & $20 for Spotlight Films. Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $55 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $90 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $130 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Spotlight Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Spotlight Film).

The passes are such an incredible deal!! Get it soon so you can order your tickets right away. Trust me, it’s SO worth it!!

PLUS… All tickets guarantee admission to that evening’s afterparty in the TCFF Lounge located onsite at The Shops at West End.


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org


So yeah, TCFF 2019. BRING. IT ON!

2019 Oscars Winner Predictions – Who will win, who should win

The telecast is just one week away – and this year, the weeks leading up to it has been marked with one controversy after another. Starting with the plan to add a baffling Most Popular Film category (huh??) back in August (which is now delayed & hopefully gone forever); to the hosting debacle with Kevin Hart in December which leads to no host this year; to the audacity of actually planning to award four categories —Cinematography, Editing, Make-Up/Hairstyling and Live Action Short — during commercial time in order to shorten the telecast… boy it seems like the Academy is off its rocker!

Naturally there’s an uproar by the public as well as members of the Academy that made them to finally reverse the decision (d’oh!) so now ALL 24 Award categories will be presented on stage in the Dolby Theatre, and included in the broadcast. It was interesting seeing all the reactions on Twitter, this one illustrates it best just how ludicrous it is to exclude cinematography and editing category…


As for the no-host thing, I personally don’t mind that at all. I mean why is it necessary to have a big long opening monologue? They could even move one of the musical numbers to the beginning. If the goal is to shorten the telecast, the intro should be the one area to trim.

In any case, per usual, it’s time for me to post my predictions for the winner, as well as which one I’m rooting to win. Apparently 32 nominations went to 12 films on the list of the top 50 grossing movies of the year (per Useless Daily).

BEST PICTURE

Nominees:
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Who will win: ROMA
Who should win: A Star Is Born

Out of this list, I’ve only seen five but hopefully I’ll get to see Roma and BlackkKlansman before Oscar night. I have a soft spot for A Star Is Born and considering it’s from a first-time director, Bradley Cooper, it’s all the more astounding. However, though many thought that A Star is Born would be the favorite to win Best Picture, after the nominees were announced, the movie began to lose steam and the current favorite seems to be Rome from Alfonso Cuaron leading with odds at -110.


BEST ACTOR

Nominees:
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Who will win: Christian Bale
Who should win: Christian Bale

I actually don’t mind anyone else winning in this category, though I have only seen Rami Malek in Mr. Robot and though he’s good there, I’m just not enthused about seeing Bohemian Rhapsody. VICE is not a perfect movie but Christian Bale’s performance was simply astounding, such a chameleon actor who once again proved his chops in disappearing into a role.


BEST ACTRESS

Nominees:
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Who will win: Olivia Colman
Who should win:  Olivia Colman

I have been a longtime admirer of Olivia Colman and she’s truly astounding in The Favourite. Having won Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG (pardon my error, Glenn Close actually won SAG this year) but Colman also won British Independent Film Awards. I think it’s safe to say she’ll go home w/ the Oscar statuette this year too!


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Who will win: Sam Elliott
Who should win: Richard E. Grant

This is the first nomination for Sam Elliot, which I find hard to believe. I thought he was terrific in A Star Is Born, and I have a feeling he’d get the most Oscar votes. I was wowed by Richard E. Grant’s performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? which mixes repulsion and pathos perfectly.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Nominees:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Who will win: Regina King
Who should win: Amy Adams

I can’t believe this is Amy Adams’ sixth Oscar nomination!! Now I don’t want her to win simply because of that, but I think her performance as Lynn Cheney is a worthy one. I have a feeling this might not be her year again, somehow I feel like Regina King would win this category. I don’t have a problem with that, she’s definitely memorable in If Beale Street Could Talk.


BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees:
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Who will win: Spike Lee
Who should win: Spike Lee

Firstly, I think Bradley Cooper is SNUBBED!! Apparently A Star Is Born directed itself as it garnered Best Picture nom and seven other categories 😉  Now, out of this list, the one I don’t think deserved to win is Adam McKay as VICE is such an uneven film, but my gut says first-time nominee Spike Lee (finally!) is likely to win Best Director.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees:
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Who will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who should win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

After watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I knew it would get major award nominations and really it’s the best of the bunch! In terms of technicality, the unique animation style AND the engaging, moving story, it kind of leads the pack by a long shot.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Who will win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Who should win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

It’s always so tough to predict the screenplay category, and I haven’t seen the first two on the list. I’m not as enamored with If Beale Street Could Talk as I did with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. I love A Star Is Born, which absolutely moved me, but Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which centers on celebrity biographer Lee Israel, has such sharp wit and makes for such a compelling story of a flawed character. It’s won Writers Guild Award which usually is a good predictor for the Oscars.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
The Favourite, Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Ethan Hawke in ‘First Reformed’

Who will win: The Favourite
Who should win: First Reformed

Now, I haven’t seen First Reformed yet, but again, I’m astonished that Paul Schrader has never been nominated for an Oscar before. I mean he’s written such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, etc. It seems unlikely however, I think it’ll come down to between The Favourite and Green Book.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Cinematography:
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

A Star Is Born – shot by Matthew Libatique

Who will win: A Star Is Born
Who should win: Cold War

I have yet to see Never Look Away, but six-time nominee Caleb Deschanel should’ve won for his work in The Passion of the Christ (which also should’ve been nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, etc). Out of the ones I have seen, I thought A Star Is Born and Cold War were visually ravishing. I put down Cold War as the one I’m rooting for, but I’d be equally thrilled if A Star Is Born wins.


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees:
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

A still from ‘Shoplifters’

Who will win: Shoplifters
Who should win: Cold War

I feel like if Roma won Best Picture, then the award in this category would go to Cold War. I have heard great things about Shoplifters however, so I have a feeling that one would be Cold War‘s biggest rival.


BEST FILM EDITING

Nominees:
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin

Who will win: BlacKkKlansman
Who should win: BlacKkKlansman

I feel like this is such an important category that no doubt people were livid that they were going to exclude this from the broadcast! I mean, people often say that in the editing room is ‘where the magic of filmmaking happens.’ Out of the ones I have seen, I really have no preference/inkling who’d win, so I picked BlacKkKlansman simply out of what I’ve read so far about it and pure gut feeling.


BEST SOUND EDITING

Nominees:
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Who will win: First Man
Who should win: First Man

First Man is one of those films I saw this year that was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps because I had such a high expectations. But technically I thought it was a marvel so I predict it’ll win the two sound categories.


BEST SOUND MIXING

Nominees:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

Who will win: First Man
Who should win: First Man

It’s always a challenge predicting the sound category, I just don’t feel I have the ear for it. So based on what I said above, I think First Man would get this one as well.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Nominees:
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler
First Man, Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: Black Panther

I have to say that even from the first time I saw Black Panther, I was in awe by its production design. It’s truly something to marvel at even the 2nd and 3rd time I saw it! The world of Wakanda is futuristic but still has the beauty and texture of Africa, I especially love the look of Shuri’s state-of-the-art lab. The world building in this fictitious country is truly astounding as it also looks and feel organic and real.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees:
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: If Beale Street Could Talk

I love, love Black Panther‘s score and was humming it over and over after I saw it for the first time. But I thought Britell’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk is truly moving and adds so much to the romantic as well tragic moments of the film.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Nominees:
All The Stars from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Who will win: Shallow
Who should win: Shallow

Despite not being a fan of Lady Gaga (I just don’t pay attention to her music before this), I absolutely love Shallow. I couldn’t stop humming it weeks after I saw it. Having won a bunch of awards already (including Golden Globe and BAFTA, also nominated for a Grammy), this seems to be the one to beat this year. The Place Where Lost Things Go is my favorite from Mary Poppins, though overall the movie itself didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me.


BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING

Nominees:
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

Who will win: Vice
Who should win: Mary Queen of Scots

I wish Mary Queen of Scots would garner more nominations than this, but they truly deserved to be nominated just for the makeup on Margot Robbie alone, especially the chicken pox scene! I do think Vice might win this category though, for making Christian Bale look believable as Dick Cheney!


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: Black Panther

I kind of have a feeling this category would come down to The Favourite and Black Panther. I love the look of Black Panther and the costumes are definitely intricate and unique, plus it doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen. Like the production design, it’s fitting that the clothes from a country with such cutting-edge technology would look revolutionary and futuristic, yet faithful to the African roots.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Visual Effects:
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Who will win: Avengers: Infinity War
Who should win: First Man

It’s the only category Avengers: Infinity War is nominated for and with a budget that’s practically infinite, it’s no doubt the visual effects is astounding. It’s entirely possible the Academy would give this one award to Disney, though I thought First Man did an astounding job making the journey to the moon so believable and so visceral.


Well, those are my predictions. Feel free to let me know who you think would/should win in the comments!

Musings on 2019 Oscars nominations

Well it’s one of those mornings that cinephiles always wait for year after year… the morning Oscar nominations are announced. I for one don’t go out of my way to wake up early to see it live, but when I woke up, of course I immediately tried to see who’s shortlisted.

Right away I noticed that it’s perhaps the most diverse lineup of nominees… though it’s by no means perfect. The Academy’s more-inclusive picks would likely keep those #OscarsSoWhite hashtags at bay… at least for now.

So here are some obligatory random comments (good & bad) about 2019 nominations:

• Not a single female directors nominated?? 😦

The UN Women twitter pic above is downright disheartening, especially since I think there are a bunch of worthy films from female directors… Josie Rourke with Mary, Queen of Scots and Debra Granik with Leave No Trace, among others. While you’re at it, check out my interview with Debra on making the film.

Granik directing Thomasin McKenzie in LEAVE NO TRACE

Netflix is becoming even more of a force to be reckoned with… rivaling big studios in raking in nominees. It’s got 15 nominations thanks to Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA leading with 10 nods, including the coveted Best Picture. How awesome that first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio got a nod in Best Actress, she’s apparently a preschool teacher who didn’t know much about the film industry and barely spoke any English at the time. [Note to self: gotta watch ROMA this weekend!]

Speaking of a Foreign Language film that’s highly-personal to the filmmaker AND set in black & white, glad to see COLD WAR getting recognition with 3 Oscars, including Best Director for Paweł Pawlikowski.


I LOVE this sultry, intensely-passionate romance drama, which was inspired by the love story of Pawel’s own parents!

Whoa! Sixth nominations!! I thought her performance as Lynne Cheney in VICE (once again co-starring with Christian Bale) was terrific. Sadly I don’t think this is Amy Adams‘ year yet, I’m convinced Regina King will take home the statuette.

Happy to see documentary filmmaker Bing Liu getting an Oscar nom on his first film Minding The Gap, wow! I got to meet him last year when he received an award from MSPIFF, here he is with Minnesota’s own film legend Al Milgrom. I actually missed his film at the fest, that’s one I gotta watch real soon!

I know there’ll be all kinds of people hating on Black Panther getting a nomination. But you won’t be hearing it from me. I think it’s well-deserved… a masterful work by director Ryan Coogler that made it so much more than a superhero movie. I highly doubt it’ll actually win Best Picture though, but it’s already made history for being nominated. Oh and with seven nods, I have a feeling it’ll win a couple forBest Costume Design (Ruth E. Carter) and Best Production Design (Hannah Beachler). How awesome would it be if both black women win in those categories!!

It’s no surprise Bradley Cooper is an Academy’s favorite, but I thought he deserved a Best Director nod as much as his acting one. Can you believe it he’s been nominated for an Oscar four times?? Just like his former co-star Amy Adams though, I don’t think this is his year to win an acting Oscar.

Where’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for Best Documentary??? The Mister Rogers biopic seems poised to be shortlisted… it certainly one of the most moving films I’ve seen all year! I’d say that’s one of the biggest snubs this year.

I know some people are outraged that If Beale Street Could Talk and First Man didn’t get more love. Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle were each other’s biggest rival two years ago with Moonlight & La La Land, and I heavily championed Moonlight to win. But this year, I wasn’t as in love with If Beale Street Could Talk though I find it far more moving and memorable than First Man. So no, no complaints from me that neither one of those movies get a nod.

Now I haven’t even seen You Were Never Really Here but based on what I read so far, sounds like Joaquin Phoenix AND writer/director Lynne Ramsay are both snubbed this year.

I have to catch up on three Best Picture nominees… BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Roma. Of the five I have seen, my least favorite is actually The Favourite [gasp!] Now, I didn’t hate the movie [please don’t resort to hyperbole like the rest on social media], I just don’t think it was as great as the critics made it to be and I actually find it irritating at times. My friend Cindy just did a post about it which highlights some of the things that bothered me. I do think all three actresses are terrific playing such hard-to-root-for characters. I’m especially thrilled to see Olivia Colman finally getting the recognition she deserved!

Olivia Colman in The Favourite

My last comment is on a highly controversial movie Green Bookwell, I’m glad it got nominated! I’ve mentioned it on my Top 10 list post that I see this movie as a beautiful story of friendship set during the dark times in American South ripe with racial discrimination. I’m also thrilled to see Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali each get an acting nod! I’ll be torn between Viggo and Christian Bale in the Best Actor race… my gut says this will be Bale’s year to get another Oscar.

Well, there are more that could be said about this year’s nominees but if I continue, I’ll never post this thing.


The 91st Annual Academy Awards will air on Feb. 24 on ABC.


Well, everyone’s got an opinion. What are your thoughts on the Oscars nominations?

AND THE WINNERS OF TWIN CITIES FILM FEST 2018 ARE…

 

Following accolades in Toronto, Peter Farrelly’s drama GREEN BOOK tops TCFF’s 2018 winners. Twin Cities audiences honor local productions “The Lumber Baron” & “Small Town ROBOT” alongside the electrifying documentary “United Skates”

 The Twin Cities Film Fest announced its 2018 award winners Saturday evening, recognizing films in ten top categories. The 11-day marathon of movies, educational sessions and industry events, which showcased more than 130 titles and facilitated a broader conversation around the social cause of animal welfare, named Peter Farrelly’s Green Book the year’s Best Feature Film.

When Jeff Tried to Save the World, a lighthearted drama that served as the official 2018 centerpiece, was one of the year’s most honored titles, named as a finalist in three separate categories (Best Feature Film, Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance, Indie Vision Debut Director). Star Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) walked away with the year’s top performance award.

The festival’s top non-fiction award went to Who Will Write Our History? Roberta Grossman’s harrowing account of the journalists, scholars and community leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto who risked everything to secretly document the daily atrocities committed against their Jewish neighbors. The film screened in partnership with the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival.

The 2018 Audience Awards went to Barry Andersson’s The Lumber Baron, a period drama about the heir to a failing lumber business and the enduring rumors of a treasure left behind by his grandfather; Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s “United Skates,” a documentary about the art, economics and underground subculture of American roller skating; and “small town ROBOT,” a locally-produced short film about the acclaimed robotics team at Greenbush Middle River High School and their journey to a world championship to compete against 300 other teams from around the world.

Director Mark Taylor took home the Indie Vision — Debut Director trophy, for his drama Saving Flora, which had its U.S. premiere at the festival last week. Starring Jenna Ortega, David Arquette and Tom Arnold, the film’s story of one girl’s unbreakable bond with an elephant, and her mission to save the kind creature, marked the highlight of this year’s TCFF Changemaker Series. Several of the leading stars were in town to celebrate the debut.

“One of this year’s unforgettable highlights was ‘Saving Flora,’” said TCFF Executive Director Jatin Setia. “The passion of that filmmaking, the broader mission behind its story, and the electricity that was on full display that night in the movie theater, between the audience and the advocates and the visiting filmmakers….that’s everything that makes a film festival special. It’s not just watching a movie — it’s being part of a transcendent experience. It changes you as a person.”

Minnesota filmmaker C.J. Renner was honored with the Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement award for his direction of American Tender, a widely praised drama about a robbery, a double-cross and one memorable first date.

“C.J. Renner exemplifies the talent, commitment and energy to be found in the Minnesota filmmaking community,” said TCFF Managing Director Bill Cooper. “And ‘American Tender’ is exactly the kind of homegrown independent project that we’re so proud to celebrate and showcase here at TCFF. C.J. always surprises us, he’s going places, and we’re so thrilled that so many smart filmgoers from across the country discovered his talent right here at the festival this year.”

The 2018 Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award went to Matt Hirst’s hilarious 12 Sips to Glory, about one man’s epic orange soda taste test.

Here’s the complete listing of 2018 award winners:

2018 Award Winners

Best Feature Film: “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly

Click image to read FlixChatter’s review

Best Documentary: “Who Will Write Our History?” directed by Roberta Grossman

Best Short Film: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich

Audience Award, Feature: “The Lumber Baron,” directed by Barry Andersson (Runner-Up: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” directed by Barry Jenkins)

Audience Award, Non-Fiction: “United Skates,” directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler (Runner-Up: “93Queen,” directed by Paula Eiselt)

Audience Award, Short Film: “small town ROBOT,” directed by Joe Brandmeier (Runner-Up: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich)

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Jon Heder (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”)

Indie Vision — Debut Director: Mark Taylor (“Saving Flora”)

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement: C.J. Renner (director of “American Tender”)

Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award: “12 Sips to Glory,” directed by Matt Hirst

TCFF 2018 Changemaker Award: Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of Secondhand Hounds


CONGRATS to all the winners!!


Stay tuned to my TCFF recap post (with my own picks of FlixChatter favorites) as well as more reviews + interviews from some films screened at the film fest!

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Twin Cities Film Fest’s 2018 OPENING NIGHT: Time For Ilhan Documentary & Green Book Reviews

What a day! What a night! It’s the ninth year I’m covering TCFF (yep that’s right, I’ve been with this amazing film fest since its inception) and they’ve done it again. They had not one but TWO opening night film and they’re both amazing! (scroll down to view my brief write-up of Time For Ilhan and Green Book below).

I had an early start this morning and was greeted by a beautiful blue sky in a crisp Autumn day (welcome back sunshine, we’ve missed you!!) I had a chance to hang out with Michael Driscoll, the filmmaker of the gorgeous b&w noir short film Two Black Coffees (which you can read all about it here). He’ll be here for the duration of the fest on his first visit to Minnesota! If you want to see his film, along w/ many other great shorts, be sure to get your tickets to the Thrilling, Tingling Tales on Thursday, 10/25 at 9:15pm.

Wish I still had enough energy to attend the Opening Night party… but it’s already almost 11pm by the time the Green Book screening + Q&A and I still have to do my blogging duties. Well, there’s still 10 more days left at TCFF, it certainly was off to a smashing start!!


TIME FOR ILHAN

“Time For Ilhan” is an eye-opening documentary that follows the 2016 Minnesota House of Representatives campaign of Ilhan Omar, a Somalian immigrant who sets out to unseat a 43-year incumbent and other challengers.

I love when a film title captures the essence of the film so perfectly, and Time For Ilhan is one of those films. Many of you know Ilhan Omar as the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States and there are certainly many ‘firsts’ in regards to her life and career, and what she represents. In fact, one audience member asked her how it feels like to represent not just her Democratic party, but SO much larger than that… that is her Somali-American community, the Immigrant community, her race, Muslim women, and women in politics in a very much white-male-dominated world.

Interestingly though, at the time she was running in the DFL primary for the Minnesota House of Representative, she was running against a 43-year incumbent (Phyllis Kahn, who happens to be a Jewish-American) and a fellow Somali-American Mohamud Noor. Though we know the outcome already (she is now the DFL nominee for U. S. Representative), the film was still quite suspenseful as well as heart-wrenching in the way they depict a political race, especially involving the underdogs.

I appreciate and admire filmmaker Norah Shapiro‘s astute directorial sensibility in making an important film that’s also entertaining to watch. I love that aside from the political campaign, she took the time to show Ilhan’s family life… her playing with her three kids, having dinner with her family and interacting with her supportive Somali-American husband, Ahmed Hirsi. There’s more than just Ilhan the politician, but we see her as a well-rounded, complex, layered individual who has the courage and drive to fight for what she believes in. Additionally, the film also gives insights, especially for people like me who aren’t much into politics, just what goes into campaigning and how intricate that process is.

Naturally, given the nature of Ilhan Omar’s ethnic background and who she represents, this is quite an unprecedented political race that makes for a fascinating documentary. I have to give a shout out to DP Chris Newberry (who’s also the film’s producer) for the wonderful visuals showcasing the beautiful state of Minnesota.

What a treat it was for those attending the TCFF screening to see Ilhan Omar herself up on stage with director Norah Shapiro. She was as cordial and well-spoken as you see her on the media. As a woman of color and US immigrant myself, she certainly inspires me to be courageous and pursue my dream, no matter how seemingly-impossible that is.

Ilhan Omar & Norah Shapiro at TCFF Q&A after the screening

Check out the TCFF red carpet interview with Ilhan Omar:


GREEN BOOK

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

I have to say that this film had me hooked right from the poster and the trailer. But when I first saw that the director is Peter Farrelly, I had to do a double take. I mean he’s known for his comedies like Dumb & Dumber, Something About Mary, etc. and I expected this to be a drama. Well, this is one of those films that play with your expectations… and Farrelly certainly succeeds in finding the perfect balance of comedy and drama in capturing a poignant and heart-warming true story.

The film is based on a screenplay written by Nick Vallelonga, who happens to be the son of Tony Lip, one of the two protagonists of the film. It’s a tale of unlikely friendship as they embark on a journey that changes their lives forever. I knew that they had a winner when they cast Viggo Mortensen (a Danish thespian who’s completely believable as an Italian) and the oh-so-regal Mahershala Ali as a Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley, a musical genius. The title refers to an actual book, a road-trip guide to services and places that’s open to Blacks during a time of pervasive racial discrimination. Without giving too much away, the film touches on the reason Shirley chose to do the tours in the Deep South in the 60s, when he could’ve easily chosen to stay relatively safe in the North. I’m not going to write the line here as it’s better for you to discover it for yourself when you watched it. It’s one of the moments I teared up in this film.

The racial injustices Shirley face is a deeply serious subject that’s maddening and heartbreaking, and the film doesn’t shy away from that. Yet there’s a lightness to the film that comes from the script AND the performances of the two actors. Some scenes, like the KFC scene in the car, is a riot. Yet the hilarity doesn’t undermine the gravity of the subject matter. There are many memorable moments where these two extremely-different people clash day in and day out. But much to their surprise, each of those moment actually brought them closer to each other. Each of them is a changed-man after the trip, and that transformation feels real and believable, not at all tacked-on.

It’s the kind of film that sparks conversations about race and economic disparity, even ‘class’ system if you will, without being too heavy-handed. One thing that touches me deeply is how the film depicts loneliness. As they say, it’s ‘lonely at the top’ but it’s even more lonely for those who don’t feel like they belong anywhere. Despite his amazing talents and accomplishments, and also because of it, Don Shirley never felt like he can fit in any racial group, and that’s harrowing to watch. It’s one thing to depict racial inequality by presenting facts, which is all fine and good, but it’s truly a moving experience when it’s told in such a personal level and see how hearts are being transformed by personal relationships.

Producer Jim Burke spoke at the Q&A afterwards and shed a light about some details about the film. One thing that caught my eye in the credits is that Octavia Spencer is listed as Executive Producer. Well, Burke said that she was asked to collaborate given that she grew up in the South during that era, in order to give an authentic depiction of the story. Burke also mentioned that Mahershala Ali gave a lot of input about the ending, which is definitely a memorable one.

Go see this movie when it comes out near you. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sometimes both at the same time… but one thing for sure, you’ll come away feeling grateful you get to know a little bit about Don Shirley and Tony Lip, and their incredible journey together.


Check out the TCFF red carpet interview with producer Jim Burke:


Any thoughts about the two films I mentioned above? Let’s hear it!

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST announces a star-studded 2018 lineup!

TCFF announces a diverse and inspiring lineup of films for their 2018 festival, to be held October 17-27 at Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End with ICON•X. Coming off of a successful September Gala that honored Steve Zahn with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Rachel Mairose from Secondhand Hounds with the Changemaker Award, this year’s festival will officially open their ninth year with Peter Farrelly’s Green Book (November 21, Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures).

When Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

Green Book recently won the Toronto International Film Festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award this past week! Producer Jim Burke, Academy Award nominee for “The Descendants,” will be attending.

Opening night festivities will also include a screening of Time for Ilhan, a documentary about State Representative and Federal House candidate, Ilhan Omar, who will be in attendance along with director Norah Shapiro and cinematographer Chris Newberry.

The Centerpiece Highlight on Friday, October 19 is the Newport Beach Film Festival hit comedy When Jeff Tried to Save the World starring Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite). Heder and director Kendall Goldberg will be in attendance. United Skates, a documentary about roller skating and a community’s battle to save an underground subculture will close out the festival on October 27, with producer and Minnesota native Tiffany Fisher-Love in attendance.

Other visiting guests this year include David Arquette and Tom Arnold with the U.S. premiere of Saving Flora, the story of a 14-year-old girl who kidnaps an elephant from a circus to take it to a nature reserve, screening on October 22. Chef Andrew Zimmern will also be in attendance on Thursday, October 25 for the Midwest premiere of Chef Flynn, a documentary about a ten-year-old who transformed his living room into a supper club and achieved sudden fame.

TCFF is also thrilled to feature Widows (20th Century Fox) a modern-day thriller from Steve McQueen starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Melissa McCarthy, Boy Erased (Focus Features) starring Joel Edgerton and Nicole Kidman and The Favourite (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

In addition to their regular programming this year, TCFF is pleased to collaborate with the Jewish Film Festival and the Northstar Science Film Festival, showing a slate of thought provoking films while launching a brand new initiative, TCFF Tech. TCFF Tech is a one-of-a-kind 3-day event spotlighting the impact of technology on social issues, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

I’ll post the complete schedule later with some of my most-anticipated selections!

Tickets are on-sale this weekend for TCFF Members and will be open to the public next week beginning Friday, September 28th, 2018. Ticket prices are $12 for General Admission & $20 for Gala Tickets.

Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $50 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $80 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $120 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Gala Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Gala Film); and the All Access Pass – $500 (Guaranteed seat in premiere row at ANY screening +more!).


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit the newly-redesigned twincitiesfilmfest.org

 


Oh and as if great films aren’t enough for the 11-day festivities, check out the amazing lineup of FREE EDUCATIONAL events!!


So yeah, TCFF 2018 can’t come soon enough!