Top 10 Films of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

HAPPY NEW YEAR … and welcome to a new decade!

(I think you can still say that until end of Jan right? 😀 )

Well, it’s time for the obligatory Top 10 Best list. I usually post mine a bit later in January, but this year, time ran away with me as next week is already February! But hey, I think it’s still fine to post one’s top 10 list before the Oscars anyway.

Since there are still plenty of 2019 movies I have not seen yet, I should preface this post with the fact that I haven’t seen The Lighthouse, The Two Popes, Dolemite Is My Name, Uncut Gems, Honey Boy, The Irishman, etc. which might alter my current Top 10.

It goes without saying of course, that it’s my list… my criteria is that a film makes a lasting impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Replay-ability is a factor I take into consideration as well, though I don’t necessarily want to rewatch every single film on my list.

Well without further ado, here we go… 

Top 10 Films of 2019

(In alphabetical order)

1. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

I just remembered that the Mr. Rogers’ documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was on my Top 10 of 2018. I didn’t even grow up watching his show, but I do know of his legendary kindness and iconic red cardigan. I love that Marielle Heller’s heart-rending film isn’t really about Fred Rogers himself, but more about his friendship between him and journalist Lloyd Vogel. Tom Hanks is an obvious choice to play Mr. Rogers given his also legendary ‘nice guy’ reputation, but Matthew Rhys and Chris Cooper are also exceptional in portraying a combative relationship between father and son. The film definitely captures the essence of Mr. Rogers and how kindness is always on trend.

2. A Hidden Life

I have to say that Terrence Malick is a hit and miss filmmaker for me, but I was immediately intrigued when I heard about Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis in WWII. It’s an undeniable s-l-o-w film but it doesn’t feel tedious or boring to me as the reflective style is absorbing, boasted by the performances of August Diehl as Franz and Valerie Pachner as his wife Fani. You truly feel for them as they struggle to stand by their Christian principles to oppose the Nazis, despite being clearly hated by the community and seen as traitors of sort. The stunning visuals are to be expected in a Malick’s film, but it never overshadows the narrative. Definitely an emotional experience and an inspiring one about what it means to courageously stand firm in one’s faith.

3. The Farewell (my review)

If you’ve read my review from last Spring, you’d already know how much I adore this film. I’m dismayed that the Oscars completely snubbed the film, director Lulu Wang and Awkwafina‘s performance, but hey it’s definitely NOT the end of the road for everyone involved. It’s such a compelling, specific-yet-universal story told in a brilliant way, funny and heartbreaking. As an SE-Asian woman living in the US, the story struck a chord with me and it made me think of my own family and the cultural clashes I sometimes face as an immigrant. The Farewell has a deceptively simple premise but one that packs a wallop, I sure hope Wang will continue to make films in the future!

4. Fighting With My Family

What a year for Florence Pugh! I didn’t even know who she was a year ago and this year she’s got not one but TWO films on my Top 10 list! I remember hearing from someone that this is a good movie, and despite not being a fan of wrestling at all, I decided to rent it. I’m SO glad I did. Pugh is absolutely mesmerizing as a small-town UK girl who dreamed of being a WWE superstar. But the supporting cast is wonderful as well, including Jack Lowden, Lena Heady and Nick Frost who made up her family. Thanks to a fantastic script and direction by the multi-talented Stephen Merchant, this is such a hidden gem that should’ve gotten more love. It also boast one of the most memorable performances from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson playing himself!

5. Jojo Rabbit (my review)

This is one of the three movies I saw at Twin Cities Film Fest that ended up in my Top 10 (the other two are Marriage Story and A Hidden Life). I had been a fan of Taika Waititi, as he’s got such a gift of mixing humor and pathos. He’s done it again this time with this rather controversial film, with the filmmaker portraying Adolf Hitler, no less! It’s always tricky to make a satire, especially involving the Holocaust. But Jojo Rabbit is a deceptively flippant film as it tackles a deeply emotional story and there’s SO much more than meets the eye. Taika’s gift in casting child actors makes brilliant use of Roman Griffin Davis as the lead, and Archie Yates as his hilarious BFF Yorki. I doubt it’ll win Best Picture, but it sure deserves its nomination.

6. Knives Out (my review)

I’m SO glad I got to see this before the end of the year in the theater! As it turns out, this film’s got legs as it’s still playing in some cinemas, more than two months after it’s released around Thanksgiving! Perhaps some people went to see it multiple times, and it’s easy to see why. Rian Johnson‘s delightful whodunnit has a brilliant script and a fun ensemble cast who seem to have a blast in their roles. Apparently Daniel Craig loved playing detective Benoit Blanc so much there’s rumor of a sequel with him reprising the character. It’s definitely a breakout role for Ana de Armas who proves that she’s quite a versatile performer.

7. Little Women (my review)

I have to admit that when everyone was swooning over Ladybird, I was a bit skeptical. When I finally got around to it, I wasn’t really wowed by Greta Gerwig‘s writing nor direction. But her sophomore effort won me over, and her Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominations are well deserved. Once again starring Saoirse Ronan in the lead role, Gerwig did a beautiful job adapting Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel. The non-linear narrative is a bold directing choice but somehow the film flows nicely and has an immersive quality. I love how each character has a proper arc with its own ups and downs. It’s an inspiring story for the ages and it’s infused with wonderfully memorable scenes that I know I’ll enjoy again and again.

8. Marriage Story

I’m doing this list in alphabetical order, so it’s interesting that the next film on the list is written/directed by Gerwig’s life partner, Noah Baumbach. I’ve actually only seen one film he’s directed, While We’re Young, which I like but not love. But I can say with confidence that I LOVE Marriage Story. If someone were to ask me which 2019 movie that made the most impression on me, I’d say it’s this one. I tip my hat off to Baumbach for creating such a marvelous script that feels so natural and incredibly immersive. The story about the dissolution of a marriage is nothing new, but the genius is in the execution and the way the story is told. I felt like I was watching the characters Charlie and Nicole on screen instead of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, which are a testament to their acting prowess. I sometimes think using letters to convey an emotion can be such cliché, but not only did Baumbach make it work beautifully, the scenes are pivotal to the story. Needless to say, I am rooting for this one to win Best Original Screenplay (I certainly hope it would NOT go to Tarantino!!)

9. Parasite

Parasite made Oscar history with six nominations, the first Korean feature to compete at the Academy Awards! I think many fans of Korean cinema know the power of Korean films, and Bong  Joon  Ho is definitely one of its best filmmakers. The story about a destitute clan injecting themselves into a wealthy family is a shrewd blend of black comedy, social satire, and Hitchcockian thriller. It’s definitely one of the most indelible films I’ve seen in a while, not just last year. Greed, class system, and familial loyalty are all universal themes even when it’s told in a specific culture and time. The film is full of surprises and some even made me gasp out loud, I know some scenes would be tough to forget. Now, it’d be a total surprise to me if Parasite would go on to win the coveted Best Picture, but this masterful piece of cinema certainly deserves a place amongst the nominees.

10. Toy Story 4

I never thought I’d include this movie on this list as honestly, I thought Toy Story 3 was a perfect ending to a fantastic trilogy. I almost didn’t even want to see it, but I’m glad I decided to give it a go. Well, leave it to director Josh Cooley and the Pixar team to craft yet another heartwarming tale of adventure that’s not just a soulless cash grab. Woody, Buzz and the ‘ol toy gang are back together again… who doesn’t love a good reunion story? But they run into new toys such as Forky and Duke Caboom who enliven their adventure and prove to us once again that this is truly the best animated franchise ever. For a movie about toys, Toy Story 4 (and its predecessors) carries such an emotional poignancy and deep humanity for anyone of all ages.


20 Honorable Mentions

(in random order)

Some of the movies here I like very, very much and I have actually enjoyed more than the ones on my main top 10. Some I appreciate but I don’t really feel like watching it again.

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  1. Aladdin 
  2. Always Be My Maybe
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Blinded By The Light
  5. Captain Marvel
  6. Ford Vs. Ferrari
  7. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 
  8. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
  9. John Wick 3: Parabellum
  10. Joker
  11. Late Night
  12. Motherless Brooklyn
  13. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  14. Peanut Butter Falcon
  15. Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct
  16. Spiderman: Far From Home
  17. The Report
  18. Triple Frontier
  19. Wedding Guest
  20. Yesterday

Best Series I saw in 2019:

  • Killing Eve – season 1
  • The Crown – season 3
  • The Man In The High Castle

Well, what do you think of my Top 10 list? Any of your favorites on the list?

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST announces 2019 Awards Finalists

Hello FC readers, it’s Ruth here!

It’s the last day of Twin Cities Film Fest and TCFF has unveiled more than 25 finalists for its top awards. Among the 2019 contenders for Best Feature Film are Taika Waititi’s provocative anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbitwhich recently took home the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama Marriage Story starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, Trey Edward Shults’ ravishing family portrait Waves, and Alex Thompson’s Saint Francesa surprising story about a six-year-old who forms a close bond with her deadbeat nanny.

Limited tickets remain available for Waves and Saint Frances, both screening this afternoon.

Other notable 2019 finalists include PrematureRashaad Ernesto Green’s romantic drama nominated for this year’s TCFF Indie Vision Award for Zora Howard’s remarkable lead performance, and Rebecca Stern’s Well Groomeda film that goes inside the world of competitive pet grooming and is nominated for this year’s Robert Byrd Best Documentary Award.

Rounding out this year’s Best Feature Film nominees are Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, an autobiographical script from star Shia LaBeouf about a young actor’s difficult early years, his struggles to cope with his mental health and his push to reconcile with his father; and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, a new drama profiling renowned civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and a notable case in which he fought to free a condemned prisoner on death row.

Actor Bill Murray is serving as a special guest judge for this year’s Comedy Shorts Award. Murray will be choosing his favorite comedic short from the three finalists listed below.

This year’s TCFF slate, which continues to screen in St. Louis Park through Saturday evening, is comprised of more than 120 short and feature films. In recent years, TCFF organizers have prioritized the recruiting of more diverse films and directors to Minnesota; more than 60 percent of the 2019 TCFF program are titles directed or produced by female filmmakers.

2019 TCFF FINALISTS

Best Feature Film: Honey Boy, directed by Alma Har’el; Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi; Just Mercy, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton; Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach; Saint Frances, directed by Alex Thompson; Waves, directed by Trey Edward Shults.

Robert Byrd Best Documentary Film: A Perfect 14, directed by Giovanna Morales Vargas; Gay Chorus Deep South, directed by David Charles Rodrigues; Like Harvey Like Son, directed by Rudy Harris Jr.; The Truth About Marriage, directed by Roger Nygard; Well Groomed, directed by Rebecca Stern.

Best Short Film: Automaton, directed by Alex Reeves; Black Hat, directed by Phillip Guttmann; Grace, directed by Alexia Oldini; Master Servant, directed by Julie Koehnen; Our Transition, directed by Connor O’Keefe.

Thrilled that MASTER SERVANT (pictured above), the historical drama short I produced last year is among the nominees for Best Short!


Indie Vision Award for Breakthrough Achievement: 3 Day Weekend (Writer Wyatt McDill); The Field (Cinematographer Tate Bunker); Last Call (Director Gavin Michael Booth); Olympic Dreams (Writer Jeremy Teicher); Premature (Actress Zora Howard); The Protectors (Visual Effects Supervisor Ben Hughes)

Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedy Shorts Award: Be Right Back, directed by Michael Driscoll; The Do It Up Date, directed by Andrew Barchilon and Emily Ting; Fairy Tale, directed by Justin Schaack and Kristin Schaack.

2019 North Star Award For Excellence: Albert Magnoli, director of “Purple Rain”


Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews in the coming days!

TCFF19 Review: JOJO RABBIT (2019)

JoJo Rabbit is one of those films that I’d call deceptively-flippant. If you’ve seen at least one trailer or promo clip, you’d automatically assume this would be a bizarre comedy. Well you wouldn’t be wrong either, but there is so much more in this than meets the eye. That’s the beauty of Taika Waititi‘s work, who’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood (though it has been a long journey for him as a New Zealand filmmaker). This work is perhaps more akin to Hunt For The Wilderpeople a comedy/drama with a young boy at the center of the story.

Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis

The movie started out as rather bizarre… I mean seeing Taika playing a pudgy, halfwitted version of Adolf Hitler takes a while to get used to even after seeing all the promo photos of him in that role. I also think some of the comedic bits of the Nazi soldiers in the Hitler’s youth camp are deliberately fantastical, as is the nature of a satire. Young Johannes aka JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) is bullied at camp, but kids are more resilient than one thinks. His imaginary friend Adolf somehow helps him cope. The story is contrasted with the kind of resiliency young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) has to endure, the girl JoJo’s own mother (Scarlett Johansson) hides in her attic. Now, I feel like the less you know going in the better you’d enjoy this film, so I’m not going to reveal anything else other than what’s shown in the trailer.

Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa

Taika sure has a gift in casting. In his debut role, Roman is perfect as the innocent JoJo who’s brain-washed to hate something he doesn’t even comprehend. He has a certain natural charm about him, not as riotous as Julian Dennison was in Hunt For the Wilderpeople, but just as affecting. I love seeing Thomasin here as a smart, defiant survivor after her amazing performance in Leave No Trace, I hope she continues to get more prominent work.  The tentative bond between JoJo and Elsa is truly the heart and soul of the film. There is real pathos in the conversations between them, and also between JoJo and his mother. And so it’s wise for Taika to keep the screen time of famous actors like Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell relatively small, but with compelling and unexpected character arc. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read] I think by making Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf who runs a Hitler Youth camp as a closeted gay man is perhaps a way to humanize some of the Nazi soldiers, who might have been trapped in a society who also don’t welcome them. The only one actor who I think is rather wasted here in a deliberately role is Rebel Wilson, but she is so hilarious that she’s still fun to watch. Oh can I just say I absolutely adore fellow newbie young actor Archie Yates who plays Yorki, JoJo’s bespectacled BFF. He’s such a fantastic comic relief a la Taika’s Korg in Thor: Ragnarok.

Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates

I thoroughly enjoy this film and I will champion it come award season. The story is adapted from Caging Skies novel by Christine Leunens, Taika said it was given to him by his mother. I think it’s tricky to make a satire and it’s definitely not for everyone. I think some of the earlier scenes that seemingly make light of the Holocaust and how horrible the Nazis were (set in a famous Beatles’ song no less) might ruffle some feathers, and I wouldn’t blame them. But if people could get through 15-20 minutes and finally get to the heart of the story, it’s so well worth the journey. Naturally some scenes are tough to watch, even the comical ‘interrogation’ scene with the Gestapo secret police (led by Stephen Merchant) made my skin crawl. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read]: JoJo compiles a journal about the Jewish people that are filled with the terrible lies and brainwashing stuff the youth camp are teaching him, and he’d often hurl insulting stuff at Elsa.

JoJo and his imaginary pal, Adolf

Now as for Taika himself. Well, to say he’s the perfect Hitler would likely NOT what he’d like to hear. He’s said in interviews that he had to play the role given most actors would shy away from playing such an audacious character. But yet, even despite how flashy the role is, the filmmaker is able to make us focus on what matters–JoJo’s journey in overcoming hatred and bigotry… and better yet, learn to love someone who’s different from himself. That alone I think is quite a feat. A brilliant balancing act of tragedy and comedy in a bizarre yet poignant style… that’s definitely Taika’s unique gift of storytelling. I sure hope he gets to create more original films in addition to all his work for Disney/Marvel.


Have you seen JOJO RABBIT? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!

TCFF19: DAY 1 Recap + WORKING MAN (2019) review

So it begins!! Today is the start of Twin Cities Film Fest’s 10th Anniversary… the first of eleven-day film festivities descends upon Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End.

Thankfully our opening night happens to be on a lovely Autumn evening, the sun hasn’t set yet and I had a few minutes before the first film I’m seeing (JoJo Rabbit – review to come) to actually check out the TCFF Lounge, which for its 10th anniversary has been converted into TCFF Wonderpark thanks to our awesome sponsor Can Can Wonderland.

Here are a few photos from opening night… it’s always fun seeing familiar faces during TCFF!


WORKING MAN’s director Robert Jury and lead actors Talia Shire + Peter Gerety on TCFF red carpet

WORKING MAN

Making his directorial debut with Working Man is Robert Jury, who is also the movie’s writer. The story is quite simple; after years and years of working at the same job for most of his life, the main character Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) and his entire small factory in a nameless Midwestern town are told that the factory is closing and they are losing their jobs. Allery goes home to his wife Lola (Talia Shire) but doesn’t tell her the news, but rather he gets up the next morning and goes to work, sneaking into the now closed factory. Soon Lola finds out what he’s been doing and seeks the help of a local pastor. Allery isn’t interested in listening to him, but rather he continues to go back to the closed factory, just to clean as all the power has been shut off. When he’s discovered by a former manager, he is brought home by the local police department and told not to go back there again. But some of his formed co-workers have already noticed his movements, and former co-worker Walter (Billy Brown) decides to help Allery by driving him back to the closed factory and letting him in with his spare key that everyone forgot was in his possession.

Peter Gerety + Talia Shire in WORKING MAN

There is more to both Allery and Lola’s story, including the devastating loss of a son, and Allery’s desire to work way past the point of when he should have retired. There is also more to Walter’s story, including his past relationships, substance abuse and his willingness (of lack thereof) to tell the truth. All this is played out in Working Man, including an attempt of the former factory workers to retake their jobs and reopen the factory. The movie ends on a happy note, but maybe not the kind of happy that audiences might have expected at the start.

Billy Brown in WORKING MAN

Overall, this is a successful first attempt at directing by Robert Jury, and features some great acting by the pair of Peter Gerety and Talia Shire. For me, the real star of the movie is Billy Brown and his portrayal of a broken man (both physically and mentally) who has to come to terms with the ramifications of his actions and inactions. Jury builds tension in his script, as the factory workers seem to have a leg up on the corporation that has closed down their small factory, only to learn that its all for nothing and they’ve been misled. This is a story that can resonate with in the real world of industrial labor, factory shutdowns and job losses, but it’s the mental issues that each character has to deal with that perhaps resonate even deeper with the average person. Almost everyone goes through loss of a loved one, or sees their loved one go through hard times and turn to drugs and/or alcohol to soothe their pains. It’s what people do next and how they bounce back – this is the real story of Allery Parkes, the Working Man.

– Review by Vitali Gueron


Stay tuned for my review of JOJO RABBIT… and

check out what’s in store for DAY TWO!

 

 

2019 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST arrives this week! What to see Wednesday-Sunday

Hello FC readers, it’s Ruth here!

TWO MORE DAYS until TCFF arrives on Wednesday, and I’m so excited for this 11-day of great films, insightful educational events and awesome after-parties! Not only can film fans watch a variety of films, both studio fares and indies, we also get to learn from filmmakers and network with actors, directors, producers, etc.

CHECK OUT THE DAILY SCHEDULE!

So. Many. Great Films! These are what TCFF has in store this week from Wednesday, Oct. 16 – Sunday, Oct 20. I’ll post the daily schedule for next week sometime this weekend.

If you missed my last post on TCFF,  I talked about that there are more than 60 percent of 2019 program are driven by female filmmakers and a bunch of films about environmental responsibility, the fest’s social justice cause this year.

Now behold the DAILY SCHEDULE. If you still haven’t got your tickets yet, well, what are you waiting for??

Wednesday, October 16

It’s tradition that TCFF opens with a bang… and for its 10th anniversary, it does not disappoint!! Two very strong films opens the film fest, plus special guests coming to the WORKING MAN screening!

6:00p.m.:  JoJo Rabbit, Taika Waititi

 

8:30p.m.: Working Man, Robert Jury
Special guests: Talia Shire – Actor, Peter Gerety – Actor, Robert Jury – Director


Thursday, October 17       

12:45p.m.: When We Were Apollo, Zachary Weil

1:00p.m.: Chameleon, Marcus Mizelle

2:45p.m.: Well Groomed, Rebecca Stern

3:10p.m.: CRSHD, Emily Cohn

5:00p.m.: Shorts – In All The Wrong Places, Various Directors

One of the films is Master Servant, which I helped produced. Check out a clip from the film here.

5:15p.m.: Current Revolution, Roger Sorkin

7:00p.m.: The Aeronauts, Tom Harper

7:15p.m.: Max Bishop, Jack Beranek

9:25p.m.: Last Call, Gavin Michael Booth

9:35p.m.: Greener Grass,  Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe 


Friday, October 18

12:30p.m.: Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, Tyson Culver

12:45p.m.: Salvage, Amy C. Elliott

2:30p.m.: Raising Buchanan, Bruce Dellis

2:45p.m.: Killbird, Joe Zanetti

5:10p.m.: The Soviet Sleep Experiment, Barry Andersson

7:10p.m.: The Truth About Marriage, Roger Nygard

Special Guests: Roger Nygard – Director, Billy Sullivan – Producer, Composer

7:20p.m.: Inside the Rain, Aaron Fisher

9:30p.m.: Greywoods Plot, Josh Stifter

I featured Josh on the blog in January when he talked about The Good Exorcist, that he shot as part of the reality show for El Rey Network. Check out the trailer for his new movie:

9:40p.m.: Wade in the Water, Mark Wilson


Saturday, October 19

9:30a.m.: Youth Unstoppable, Slater Jewell-Kemker

9:45a.m.: Screenagers, Dr. Delaney Ruston

11:30a.m.: Like Harvey Like Son, Rudy Harris

11:45a.m.: Food Coop, Tom Boothe

2:00p.m.: Chameleon, Marcus Mizelle

2:15p.m.: What Lies West, Jessica Ellis

Special Guests: Jessica Ellis – Writer/Director, Sean Carroll – DP/Producer, Jennifer Milliman – Producer, Actors – Nicolette Ellis, Anna K. Peterson

4:15p.m.: Shorts – Age of Innocence, Various Directors

4:25p.m.: Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach

6:30p.m.: A Perfect 14, Giovanna Morales Vargas

7:25p.m.: International Falls, Amber McGinnis

Stay tuned for my interview with Amber!

9:10p.m.: The Field, Tate Bunker

9:45p.m.: Puppet Killer, Lisa Ovies


Sunday, October 20

10:00a.m.: Science Fair, Cristina Costantini & Darren Foster

10:10a.m.: Warrior Women, Elizabeth A. Castle & Christina D. King

12:00p.m.: The Wall of Mexico, Zachary Cotler & Magdalena Zyzak

12:20p.m.: 8 Seasons of Art, Phil McGraw

 

2:30p.m.: Go Back To China, Emily Ting

Stay tuned for my interview post with Emily. Her first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is available on streaming, including Amazon Prime.

3:15p.m.: Oildale, David Mueller

5:00p.m.: Shorts – Documentaries, Various Directors

5:40p.m.: The Protectors, Ben Hughes

7:10p.m.: A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick

8:00p.m.: Into the Void, Wayne H. Johnson, Jr.


Stay tuned for the Daily Schedule for the rest of the film fest!

Download 2019 TCFF Schedule Grid


FREE EDUCATIONAL EVENTS!!

How many film festival offers FREE educational events!! Well TCFF does, and there are also a variety of fantastic panels featuring acclaimed filmmakers! Click on the image below to learn more about our educational offerings.

Here is one I’m looking forward to this week:

Sunday, October 20th 3-4pm:
SCRIPTWRITING MASTER CLASS Jeffrey Hatcher (Scriptwriter) The Good Liar, Casanova, The Duchess.


GET YOUR TICKETS!

To buy tickets, learn more about TCFF, events, or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

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.

THANKS to Can Can Wonderland, our lounge is now TCFF Can Can WonderPark!! It’s designed to give festival goers a space to network, relax and discuss film, so come on down and join us during the fest!


Stay tuned for reviews/interviews with various filmmakers!

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!

Trailers Spotlight: HARRIET and JOJO RABBIT

Happy [almost] Friday, folks! Today we have a set of trailers I think are worth checking out, and per tradition, I always like to mix the tone/genre/style when posting trailers. Both of these films deal with the horrifying injustices befallen our humanity, slavery and the holocaust, but done in two very different ways. One is a biopic drama and the other an anti-hate satire, both to be released this Fall.

HARRIET

Based on the story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.

I first saw Cynthia Erivo in Steve McQueen’s extremely-underrated thriller WIDOWS (one of my top 10 of 2018). I was so impressed with her performance, her feature film debut no less, that I’m thrilled to see her leading this overdue biopic. I’m surprised there hasn’t been any film made about Harriet Tubman, a real-life hero who’s become an icon of courage and freedom.

Glad to see a black, female director at the helm of this important film. This is Kasi Lemmons‘ fifth feature film, the last one she directed was Black Nativity (2013). Looks like we can expect a thrilling, intense and gut-wrenching biopic, I’m already tearing up watching the trailer. Of course some people surely have issues with Erivo’s casting, given that she’s British. Originally her Widows‘ co-star Viola Davis was supposed to play Tubman for HBO but not sure what happened to that project. But then again, a bunch of other Brits have played iconic American heroes, i.e. Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln and David Oyelowo portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. Erivo may not be an American, but she does have African heritage (Nigerian) and who’s to say she won’t be able to do Harriet Tubman justice if she wasn’t born in the US? Apparently there are calls for boycotts which I think is just sad.

Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr. and Joe Alwyn also star in this film, and it’ll have its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival in September and opens in theaters on November 1st. Fingers crossed it will also make the TCFF lineup this year!


A young boy whose imaginary friend is Hitler finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.

Anything by visionistical (apparently he coined a new term) filmmaker Taika Waititi always intrigues me. Described as an anti-hate satire by the filmmaker, it’s based on a book called Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, a US-born novelist who lives in New Zealand. It’s worthy of note not only because Waititi is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, but here he also plays the imaginary friend, that is Hitler himself. Per IMDb, when Taika who is Jewish, was asked about why he chose to play the role of [a plumb] Adolf Hitler he said “The answer’s simple, what better f***you to the guy” Ha! You gotta love his zany brand of humor.

I’m thrilled to see Thomasin McKenzie amongst the cast, the NZ breakout star of Leave No Trace, another movie on my Top 10 list of last year. She plays the young Jewish girl hiding in the German boy’s (Roman Griffin Davis) attic. Scarlett Johansson plays his mother and the rest of the star-studded cast include Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell. 

This has that dark comedy whimsy that’s quintessentially Taika’s… it’s wacky and irreverent yet with a touch of earnestness. What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor: Ragnarok are all immensely watchable and highly-quotable, I have a feeling this one would be as well.

Jojo Rabbit will also have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and opens in theaters on October 18th. Man, I’m officially excited for Fall movies now, though no, I’m not ready for summer to be over yet.

 


Thoughts on these trailers, folks?