Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Youth

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This is the first film from Paolo Sorrentino that I saw, as I missed his film The Great Beauty which won an Oscar foreign language winner in 2014. YOUTH is about about two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps, they’re in their 80s so you could say youth is behind them. Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, who brings along his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker.  

Mick is struggling to finish the screenplay with a team of enthusiastic young writers in tow, hoping to make his last film that would perhaps mark his legacy. Fred on the other hand, has left music behind him. The opening scene shows a rather amusing scene of him with a representative of the Royal Family, practically begging Fred to conduct an orchestra for the Queen. 

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The whole film is about these two men reflecting on their past in their own strange way. The point was whether each would find out that perhaps youth is really a state of mind, and that the most important experiences might still await them. The resort they’re staying at in the Alps made for some truly breathtaking shots. It could practically be a cinematic promotional brochure for real resort in the Swiss Alps area. The film also have some stunning shots in Rome and Venice.

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This is a quintessentially European film, with nonchalant scenes of nudity all around, both young and old. I’ve never seen so many old naked people in a single film before, and honestly, that’s not exactly something I enjoy. I guess it’s probably not a big deal for European filmmakers, I just don’t feel it’s necessary at all. It’s not shocking to me, the full frontal nudity doesn’t serve much purpose. I have to say that there are quite a few bizarre moments on display. Some works, some feels gratuitous. One of the most amusing scenes was when Fred was conducting a bunch of cows in a dream sequence, and later towards the end Mick was haunted by the *ghosts* of all the actresses from his film.

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I feel that Sorrentino is more of a visual director, as the imagery are definitely more memorable here than the narrative. I’m not saying there isn’t any emotional scenes, there are a few that come to mind, but the visuals are far more overpowering. The performances are good all around however. I’ve seen Caine in a lot of supporting roles where I feel he’s just phoning it in, so it’s nice to see him deliver a compelling performance and really got into his character. I’m not the biggest Keitel fan but he’s really good here as well.

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Rachel Weisz offers a memorable supporting turn in a subplot about her being ditched by her husband. I find that I sympathize with her plight more than the two leading men, and her performance was quite heart-wrenching. There is a heartfelt father/daughter relationship between her and Caine, and there is a memorable conversation between the two of them when they’re both covered up in mud in a spa. Paul Dano proved once again he is one of the best working actors of his generation. He plays a famous actor who’s disillusioned with his career and some of his acting choices. Jane Fonda and Romanian model Madalina Ghenea both had a very memorable cameo, but for two very different reasons. You’ll see it when you see the film and that might serve as not-so-subtle message about youth and growing older.

Overall I was entertained by YOUTH and there are definitely some memorable visuals from start to finish. Whether this film will resonate with me in the long run remains to be seen however, as it didn’t move me as much as I had hoped.

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Have you seen YOUTH? Well, let me know what you think!

10 Things I Love about Twin Cities Film Fest!

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And so it begins!! In less than 24 hours, the 6th annual Twin Cities Film Fest commences! Starting this Wednesday, we’ll have 11 days filled with cinematic festivities… 120+ films of national and international screenings, live musical performances, red carpet galas, cocktail mixers, film panel discussions and all kinds of special events for film lovers to enjoy. From today all the way until Halloween, SHOWPLACE ICON THEATRE is THE place to be for film lovers in the Upper Midwest!

I’ve been blogging for TCFF since its inception back in 2010 (all documented in my TCFF Archives page) and it just keeps getting better and better! Whatever type of cinephile you are, you’ll likely find something to look forward to at TCFF. Now, I’ve been wanting to do a top 10 list to kick off the event, so today seems as good a time as any.

How do I love thee TCFF? Let me count the ways…

A film fest with a cause

YouthlinklogoEach year TCFF brings awareness to an important social issue, such as bullying, hunger prevention, poverty, sex trafficking which were themes from the past few years. This year, the Twin Cities Film Fest is partnering with Minneapolis-based YouthLink, which serves as a resource center for homeless youth. According to the nonprofit, on any given day about 4,000 youth are homeless in Minnesota. We have four films tied to the topic of homelessness, including this opening night film, A New High. I think it’s cool that the organizers are mindful about the social issues of the community and make the most of the festivities for a great cause!

Great mix of studio + indie films

One of the perks of attending a film festival is that you get to see smaller independent films that you probably won’t get to see until much later when it’s available on VOD. But there’s something about going to the theater and seeing them on the big screen that makes it extra special. There are a plethora of great indies I’m looking forward to, some of them I’ve highlighted in this post. Three of the big studio movies I REALLY can’t wait to see are The 33, Brooklyn and Youth.

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TCFF’s artistic director Steve Snyder have highlighted some of the top ones from each day, here’s just a sampling from this week alone:

Wednesday, Oct. 21 – For Book Fans and Oscar Buffs: ROOM – This is probably the biggest film we’re screening. Period. But given the odd timing, there’s still seats available. It stars Brie Larson, is based on the hit book, and just took home the top prize of the Toronto International Film Festival.
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I saw this a couple of weeks ago at a press screening and was blown away. I’d be sorely disappointed if I don’t see Brie Larson’s name in this year’s Best Actress nominees!

Friday, Oct. 23 – War Film and History Buffs: Remember – Starring Christopher Plummer as a Jewish man who barely survived World War II and Auschwitz who sets out as an elderly man to get revenge against a Nazi camp guard.
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Saturday, Oct. 24 – Romantic Comedy and Katie Holmes‘ big comeback! Touched With Fire – Holmes returns to the movie screen in this South By Southwest smash shit. She plays a bipolar poet who befriends and then falls for another poet while admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
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The-Last-Great-Circus-FlyerSunday, Oct. 25 – Performance Arts: The Last Great Circus Flyer is one of the year’s best documentaries, about the greatest trapeze artist who ever lived – the first to ever complete a quadruple jump – who one day abruptly quit the circus and walked away. Director Philip Weyland AND the trapeze artist Miguel Vazguez himself will be present. This is a magical film.
Stay tuned for my in-depth interview with the gracious Mr. Weyland, I can’t wait to meet him and Miguel in person!

Eye-opening & entertaining documentaries

Speaking of great docs, well I’ve highlighted seven not-to-be-missed documentaries in this post. For the first time in TCFF’s six year’s existence, the fest will open AND close with a documentary feature: A New High and Thank You For Playing, respectively.

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Each year TCFF programmers seek out some of the most riveting documentary films to share with our festival goers. This year they went above and beyond! The FILM page on TCFF official site makes it easy to search films by genre, so as you can see under the Documentary page, there is something for everyone.

Growing female filmmakers represented

The gender disparity in Hollywood when it comes to female talents AND filmmakers have come under scrutiny of late and I certainly welcome the opportunity for discussions. So I’m always glad to see more and more women in the the notoriously male-dominated industry and pushing through challenges to get their films made.

These are just some of the female filmmakers whose films – big studio films/indies/docs/shorts – are screening at TCFF:

  • Shalini Kantayya – Catching the Sun
  • Patricia Riggen – The 33
  • Pamela Romanowsky – The Adderall Diaries
  • Emily Ting – It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
  • Stéphanie Joalland – The Quiet Hour
  • Vanessa Magowan Horrocks – Keepsake
  • Courtney Ware – Sunny in the Dark
  • Debra Granik – Winter’s Bone
  • Kelly Huang –A Refugee’s Story: Khamsay Huang (short)
  • Annie Silverstein – Skunk (short)

A variety of MN-connected films

It thrills me that Minnesota have such a booming arts & film culture… we have nearly 50 MN-connected films playing at TCFF just this year alone! Now, when we say MN-connected, it doesn’t always mean they’re filmed here or that the topic is about MN, but we also have MN-based producers financing Hollywood films.

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Some of those filmmakers/producers are coming to town, such as Andrew Putschoegl for NERDGASM, Justin Mikelson for The Dust Storm, and Zac Adams & Tim Vandesteeg for Autism in America doc. I also got a chance to interview executive producer Ralph S. Bovard for the indie sci-fi The Quiet Hour.

A plethora of great short films

ShortsBlockI tell myself that I need to see more short films, but I don’t always get around to checking them out. I’ve just reviewed a great short film In Vitro by actor Toby Stephens recently and I always think that short films can be just more effective and compelling than feature films.

So it’s great to see that TCFF continue to feature short films in blocks with various themes, i.e Land of 10,000 Stories, Coming of Age, Love American Style, Shoot to Kill, etc. I’ve seen a few of them and are REALLY impressed by the skills of these filmmakers in crafting engaging stories efficiently told in such a short time. In many ways, developing a short film serves as a launching pad for some filmmakers trying to break into the industry, so there’s definitely a ton of promising work represented here.

Insightful educational panels

I have to give kudos to Matt Cici who’s in charge of this year’s Educational Events. I came to know Matt from his directorial debut Lambent Fuse, and earlier this year he’s also played the lead in The Center. He’s put together a collection of great film panels, featuring screenplay reading and discussions on film trends. The best part? These events are FREE and takes place at TCFF Lounge right at Showplace ICON Theater, so if you’re going to see a movie anyway, might as well attend one of the panels and get great insights from film experts and those who’re working in films that are screening at the fest.

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Two of the panels I can’t wait to participate on are:

  • The Future of Film (Saturday, 10/24 @ 1pm-2:30pm)
    A discussion on the state of the film industry with some of the top media professionals in the publishing industry. Featuring film experts from publications like Variety & Twitch Film
  • Capturing the Image (Saturday, 10/31 @ 11am-12:30pm)
    A discussion on the challenges and tools of telling stories through images. Featuring award-winning cinematographers/directors of photography, i.e. Checco Varese who shot one of TCFF’s gala films, The 33.

Access to Talents & Filmmakers

Perhaps the best perks as a TCFF blogger is the opportunity to chat with filmmakers and talents involved with the fest. I definitely have the most interviews, perhaps more than the last two years combined! Most of the filmmakers/producers have been so gracious and kind in responding to my interview requests, so stay tuned for the interview posts in the next two weeks. Special shout out to directors Emily Ting, Philip Weyland, Brent Baum, Ryan Lacen and David Spaltro for taking the time to do the email interviews, can’t wait to see all of you at the fest!!

Great venue for films & mixers!

Of course the venue of a film festival is crucial for theatergoers and filmmakers to enjoy and it really doesn’t get any better than Showplace ICON Theatre at the Shops at West End! It’s become my favorite theater with its comfy VIP section and great lounge upstairs (fabulous burgers!).

Just one of the perks of for TCFF festival goers year after year is the mixers/after party. You can check out the Mixer schedule to see which band is playing on a certain night. Anyone with a ticket from a film that day may attend for no charge. We’re also offering a TCFF Festival Lounge Pass this year for people who just want to enjoy the mixers without buying a film ticket. The mixer space at the former Love Culture space across the street from the theater is three times as large as last year’s spot!

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Being around film fans

Last but not least, the best part of attending any film festival is being around fellow film fans! It’s awesome meeting new people who share the same passion, whether it’s just people who enjoy watching movies or those in the industry making them. It’s a fantastic place for networking or simply hang out with fun people who love movies!

I’m thrilled that this year I’d get to meet yet another fellow film blogger! Mike from Just Me Mike blog is actually coming to Minneapolis to cover TCFF! I’ve come to know Mike over the years and enjoyed reading his blog, so it’ll be a treat to hang out with him in person starting tomorrow. Of course I also look forward to hanging out with my friends and FlixChatter blog contributors Ted S. (whom most FC readers already know) and Sarah J. who’ve helped cover TCFF in the past years!

So thank you Jatin Setia, Naomi Dahlgren, Steve Snyder, Bill Cooper, Dani Palmer & the rest of TCFF staff for always bringing your A-game year after year in bringing us this awesome film event!!


Well that’s just a sampling of why I’m super excited for TCFF 2015! Stay tuned for a complete coverage of the fest and see which movies you wouldn’t want to miss!

Weekend Roundup + a preview of the TCFF 2015 film lineup

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been quite a whirlwind one for me even with Friday off, as I pretty much spent most of Friday preparing for the filmmakers interview scheduled for all day Saturday. More on that in a bit.

In about a month, October 21 to be exact, another fun-filled film festivities will be underway. 11 days, nearly a hundred films, plus Midwest premieres, film educational panels, after parties, and more will pack the ShowPlace ICON Theatres at the West End Shoppes in St. Louis Park. I’m so excited for the new venue for our mixers (after party) which is just a few doors down from the theaters. The TCFF Preview Gala on Friday night took place in what used to be the Love Culture store, and the space is simply gorgeous!


On Saturday, I got a chance to chat with some MN-based filmmakers/actors/producers whose films will screen at TCFF.

Every year I’m thrilled to see such a great variety of films in the TCFF lineup. The trailers below are just a sampling of some of the trailers being shown at the preview night, ranging from studio features, documentaries, MN-made films as well as shorts.

I’m excited to see quite a few female filmmakers being represented this year: Patricia Riggen (The 33), Stéphanie Joalland (The Quiet Hour), Emily Ting (It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong), just to name a few, as well as Vanessa Horrocks (MN-made indie Keepsake) whom I got a chance to chat on Saturday. Apart from Riggen, all of these filmmakers are debuting their first feature film!

Check out some of the trailers below:

FEATURES

Brooklyn

Director: John Crowley
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen, Julie Walters

In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

 

Youth

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano

A retired orchestra conductor is on holiday with his daughter and film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday.

 

The 33

Director: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne

Based on the real-life event, when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days.

 

The Quiet Hour

Director: Stéphanie Joalland
Cast: Dakota Blue Richards, Karl Davies, Jack McMullen

In the aftermath of an alien invasion, a feisty teenage girl sets out to protect her farm from human scavengers who will stop at nothing in order to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

 

 

It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong

Director: Emily Ting
Cast: Jamie Chung, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Ng

An attraction forms when a Chinese American girl visiting Hong Kong for the first time meets an American expat who shows her the way, but timing may not quite be on their side.

 

Too Late

Director: Dennis Hauck
Cast: John Hawkes, Rider Strong, Crystal Reed

Told in non-linear fashion, TOO LATE explores the tangled relationship between a troubled private investigator and the missing woman he’s hired to find.

 

DOCUMENTARY

Jug Band Hokum

A 2015 feature-length documentary film by Jack Norton which follows the eccentric lives of band members competing in the annual Minneapolis Battle of the Jug Bands.

 

In Football We Trust

“In Football We Trust” captures a snapshot in time amid the rise of the Pacific Islander presence in the NFL.

 

SHORTS

Moving On

A short film written and directed by Marcia Fields & Mike Spear, is about what happens when you wake up to the news you need to move on and move out… at exactly the same time.

 

The Caper

Two women bond over dating fatigue and a love of film noir, created by the writer/director Matthew G. Anderson who made the Theater People web series.

….


Well, as far as weekend viewing in concerned, not much to report as we only managed to see one film, Star Wars: A New Hope. We’ve been planning to do a marathon of the original trilogy before The Force Awakens is released this December 😀

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So what are your thoughts on these films? And did you see anything good this weekend?