TCFF Day 5: Fair Game concluded the 5-day film festival

Bill Pohlad (far right) with Naomi Watts and the writers of Fair Game at Cannes

The Twin Cities Film Fest concluded its five-day event with a festive Fair Game screening, attended by Minneapolis-native film producer William (Bill) Pohlad (who’s also part owner of the Minnesota Twins). The Pohlad family foundation was one of the primary sponsors for the festival and played a huge part in funding this event, the Pohlad Family Foundation offered a dollar-for-dollar matching grant if consumers and film lovers can collaboratively donate $5000 leading up to the festival. Many moviegoers outside of Minnesota might not have heard of him, but most likely you’ve heard of the films he’s produced. Some of his biggest projects include Brokeback Mountain, A Prairie Home Companion, and the Sean Penn-directed Into the Wild. According to bizjournal, Pohlad launched a new production company Apparition last year, which was the company behind the Jane Campion period drama Bright Star and the upcoming Terrence Malick’s drama Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. That movie marks the third collaboration between Mr. Pohlad and Sean Penn (who also stars in Fair Game) and reportedly a fourth one is forthcoming, according to Filmofilia, Pohlad will direct Penn in book editor Max Perkins’ biopic.

I finished my shift late afternoon last night, which gave me enough time to grab some dinner and back in time to see Fair Game. About 10 minutes before the movie started, Mr. Pohlad arrived dressed in jeans, white shirt and black sports coat. He also introduced the movie, a political drama based on the autobiography of real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) whose covert identity was exposed by a politically motivated press leak.

Well, this week was a record for me as far as movie-watching is concerned, I don’t think I have seen that many films within a 5-day period! In my post last week, I was hoping to catch these five movies during the film fest, and guess what, I got four out of five! Tuesday I got to see Nowhere Boy (read my review), followed by the documentary World’s Largest and Secretariat on Friday, and Fair Game on Saturday. As the festival attached two short films in front of some feature films, I also got to see Per Bianca and Flourtown shorts, the latter combined live action and animation, which was quite a visual feast.

Glad to say that all the movies I saw were all enjoyable, my favorite of all of them was probably Nowhere Boy, with Secretariat a close second. I should have my review of this one and Secretariat sometime early next week, I was hoping to get ’em done tonight but I’m kind of taking a bit of blogging break after such a hectic week.

My first time volunteering at a film festival was a blast, I probably was a bit ambitious trying to fit everything in: blogging, on-site volunteering and watching the films, so maybe I’ll just do two out of three next year 🙂 World’s Largest‘s director Amy Elliot held a Q&A after the screening and she said that the highlight of making the movie was meeting the people she met along the way, some of which became personal friends. Well, I would have the answer if someone asked me what the best part of this whole volunteering experience was. Of course watching the movies were great, but the highlight of being a part of TCFF for me was getting to know the staff and fellow volunteers, a lot of them from the local film community. Ulysses, Lee Jordan, Kathleen, Holly, Michael, Melissa and MJ, it was a pleasure knowing you and hope we’ll meet again at some point. Becky, a.k.a. Prairiegirl, thanks for signing up to volunteer with me, it wouldn’t have been as fun without you!

Congratulations to Jatin Setia and co. for the success of the TCFF debut, it was truly a feat to transform your vision into reality. Of course it helps to have such a great staff alongside you: Bill Cooper, Robyn Johnson, Erin Halvorson, Naomi Dahlgren, John Mellesmoen, and the rest of the staff – great job everyone, I’m sure you all deserve the much-needed sleep by now! 😀 As a passionate movie fan, I thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful event. Here’s hoping for continued success for TCFF in the years to come!

TCFF Day 2: Nowhere Boy Review

The Twin Cities Film Fest continues!

I didn’t sign up to volunteer Wednesday night, so right after work, hubby and I headed downtown to see the John Lennon childhood biopic Nowhere Boy. Playing at the same time on AMC Theater 1 was Phasma Ex Machina, which was attended by its director Matt Osterman. Machina is Osterman’s feature film debut, the film explores the gray area between life and death and how science may be the bridge between the two. From the film’s official blog, we’ve got a quick snippet from the Star Tribune’s film critic Colin Covert who had some real nice things to say about it: “Stephen King would love “Phasma Ex Machina” (“The Ghost in the Machine”). This sharply intelligent Minnesota-made sci-fi drama centers on a young technical savant and the device he builds to enable his late parents’ spirits to return home. Unaware that they have passed, several ghosts enter into complicated emotional and ethical relationships with the orphans and widowers they left behind. Writer-director Matt Osterman neatly combines creepy effects with understated details (the tinkerer gets most of his apparatus from the Ax Man). A few inconsequential rough edges aside, this is a winner.

Check out the trailer from the official TCFF page, definitely something worth checking out once it’s out on dvd.

Nowhere Boy


I was pretty excited to see Nowhere Boy. Partly because I was intrigued by the story of music legend John Lennon, as we both share an unconventional upbringing without a father and inconsistent presence of our real mother. The other reason was Aaron Johnson, who impressed me in Kick-Ass that I pretty much wanted to see everything else he’s in from now on. I had no idea he was in The Illusionist until my friend Ted pointed out to me afterward, apparently he played the young version of Ed Norton’s character in the flashback scenes. In any case, I don’t know if this movie ever played here in the Cities, as it was released late last year in the UK.

Well, the film—and Aaron—definitely didn’t disappoint, even the slight projector snafu at the beginning of the film didn’t dampen the great experience of watching this movie. I’ve done a bit of research about the movie to know this isn’t a Beatles biopic, and though there were scenes of the teenage John and Paul McCartney playing music together, this is really a story about John’s childhood (roughly from 15-18 years old) when he was living with his aunt Mimi, played brilliantly by the always-reliable Kristin Scott Thomas.

John with Mimi and with his real mother Julia

The movie focuses on the ‘nowhere boy’ who’s lost as to where he really belongs. Mimi is so strict and seemingly devoid of emotion, though in the course of the movie you realize the opposite is true. Contrast that with the character of John’s real mother, the bohemian and tempestuous Julia who seems like the ‘perfect’ mother. She didn’t mind that John was suspended from school, instead she took him to an amusement park, introduce him to music and dance, basically living the good life, homework and responsibilities be darned. Now, what kid wouldn’t want to have a mother like that? Plus, Julia seemed to be the perfect ‘substitute’ for the jovial uncle George whom he was closest to.

Sam Taylor-Wood & Aaron Johnson

First-time director Sam Taylor-Wood depicted the opposite personalities with aptitude, and as the audience we can’t help but sympathize with both characters despite their flaws. The only thing that made me uneasy at times is the way Taylor-Wood filmed the scenes between Julia and John. If I had just come into the movie blind without knowing what the movie is about, I’d think that Julia was John’s cougar lover and not his mother! Especially the part when she laid down on her back on top of John in the couch, there was definitely that creepy Oedipus complex thing going on. I’m sure I’m not the only one as my hubby thought the same thing!

All around performances are terrific, especially Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff as Julia (a bit of trivia, Duff is James McAvoy’s real-life wife). They portrayed such complex characters with finesse and effortlessness, making them much more than one-dimensional roles. But the movie truly belongs to Aaron Johnson, who carries this movie with his melancholic blue eyes and endearing swagger. Taylor-Wood shot so many dreamy close-up shots of the then 19-year-old it could equal a personal home video 😉 Johnson’s definitely got movie star quality, he possesses the kind of screen presence so magnetic it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. I can’t judge whether he delivered an accurate portrayal of Lennon as I don’t really follow the singer’s career. For that I turn to my pal Becky who’s a huge Beatle fan:

Ok, so keep in mind these thoughts about Nowhere Boy are coming from someone who’s favorite Beatle was John Lennon, seen a Hard Day’s Night over and over (see it if you haven’t), and it was just five years after the movie ends when I was scream ing for the Beatles like the Elvis fans were screaming for him just like the scene in the movie (I was 10.) I really was looking forward to seeing this time in John’s life because I had heard he was raised by an aunt, but that’s really all I knew. The film fills in all the blanks.
I was totally blown away by Aaron Johnson’s performance of John. He so resembled him in looks, speech, body language and attitude that he is in the same league as Jamie Foxx (Ray), Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash in Walk the Line) and Will Smith (Ali). I’m afraid he won’t get the same kind of recognition, but certainly deserves it for his role here.
And at the very end of the film, a caption said that John didn’t forget to call his Aunt Mimi from Hamburg, and called her every week for the rest of HIS life. And after seeing this film, I truly believed he really did.

As I talked to a few people after the movie’s done, everyone unanimously praised this movie. Lennon definitely has a story worth-telling and it’s nice to learn how the boy became the legend he’s known today. My colleague Laura’s boyfriend Marcus regards the movie “emotionally exhilarating… just like Lennon’s music.” Here’s a quick snippet of his ‘review’: Joy, sadness, sympathy, humor were just some of the emotions you will feel from the beginning of the film to it’s end. It’s amazing that John Lennon was such an advocate of peace when he experienced so much sadness  Whether you’re a music fan, a Beatle fan or a film buff, you will enjoy the untold visualization of John Lennon. This movie is a must see!

Indeed, I’m glad TCFF screens this one as this movie was totally worth going to the cinema for!

Have you seen Nowhere Boy? What did you think of the movie?