December 31, 2012
The annual 10-best list is a critical ritual, one I’ve been practicing for far too many years.
Sure, I have opinions about what the best films of the past year are – and so does every other critic. If I think “Argo” should be on the list but not “The Avengers” – and you think “The Avengers” rocked but “Moonrise Kingdom” blew – well, everybody is entitled to their opinion. I can say I’m right and you’re wrong – and vice versa.
For example, I think two of the most critically overrated films of the year were “Holy Motors” and “The Master.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s maddeningly opaque film drew the same kind of rhapsodic reviews as Leos Carox’s bizarre, unwatchable mish-mash. The two of them topped Indiewire’s critics’ poll this year. (More…)
December 17, 2012
As I write this, it’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting on a train rolling along the Hudson River under gloomy skies in chilly weather, heading into Manhattan for an assignment.
It’s a little mind-boggling to realize that, a little more than 36 hours ago, I was half a world removed from here, watching movies within spitting distance of the Persian Gulf.
My trip to the Ninth Dubai International Film Festival was a fascinating one, filled with sensory and intellectual surprises, from the lavishness of the surroundings to the startling cultural contrasts you ran into. (More…)
December 14, 2012
At 71, director Michael Apted feels he’s far from finished working in film – though it gets increasingly difficult to make the kind of movies he most wants to make.
Still, having received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dubai International Film Festival this week, Apted appreciates the fact that the festival sees his career as something to celebrate.
“It’s very thrilling,” Apted, 71, says, relaxing on a couch on an oceanview veranda at the Al Qasr hotel at Madinat Jumeirah. (More…)
December 13, 2012
It’s the ninth year of the Dubai International Film Festival – and Abdulhamid Juma takes that as a mandate to consider the decade ahead.
“We’re going into our 10th year, which is a short time in the festival world,” says Juma, DIFF chairman since its beginning. “So it’s a good time to stop and ask ourselves what we’re going to do for the next 10 years.” (More…)
December 12, 2012
Tuesday felt like a journey from the past into the future, as we spent the day wandering the old city souks in Dubai and spent the evening dining among the clouds in the highest restaurant in the world.
Movies? They were a bit of an afterthought, on a day when festival screenings were reserved for the evening. The one film I saw was “The Great Kilapy,” a film from Portugal about an Angolan ladies’ man caught up in the politics of Portuguese colonialism in the mid-1960s. (More…)
December 11, 2012
No two film festivals are alike – and those of us who attend them professionally tend to judge them by different standards than the average festival-goers.
First and foremost: the films. Is the quality high? Is there a wide range of material? Do you feel like you’re seeing things you might otherwise not see? Are you glad you did?
Then there’s the organization itself: Is there a system in place to keep the lines moving and the movies starting on time? Do the volunteers seem to know what they’re doing?
And finally, the venues: Are they up to the technological demands? Are they comfortable? Are they accessible?
(This is the one where, for example, Sundance still has problems, with public screenings held in a huge high school auditorium and the converted interior of a racquet club, among other places. Plus the venues are scattered all over a mountain town, far enough apart to prohibit walking and require mass transportation, without actually having it – though Sundance’s shuttle-bus system works well.
(I remember that, in one of my first years going to Park City, the venue for press screenings was called The Garage. And it was exactly that: a maintenance garage into which folding chairs had been placed, a sheet hung as a screen and a makeshift projection booth built to mask the sound of the projector. It was frequently as cold inside as it was outdoors in the Park City winter. I often wondered whether the filmmakers were aware that critics were getting their first look at films these directors had spent years making while sitting on a folding chair in a room where you could almost see your breath.)
But so far, the 9th Dubai International Film Festival is getting my vote of approval as an audience-friendly event. The organization seems well-thought-out, the venues (a multiplex at the luxe Mall of the Emirates and two well-appointed theaters in the Souk Madinat) are comfortable and the volunteers are friendly and knowledgeable. (More…)
December 10, 2012
Whenever I mention to a friend that I’m heading off to a film festival – which usually refers to Sundance or Toronto, the two I travel to each year – the usual response is, “That sounds like fun.”
As though I were going on vacation.
Certainly there are vacation-like aspects to these trips: travel, a hotel stay, escaping from your daily routine into a new environment.
On the other hand, when I go to a film festival, I’m usually devoting my time to seeing movies, often four or five a day. And once I’m finished going to movies, I have to spend a couple of hours thinking and writing about what I’ve just seen.
Still, I admit that, when I was invited to the 9th Dubai International Film Festival, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going on holiday. Yes, there’s golf and scuba diving (neither of which are ever distractions at Toronto or Sundance) and sightseeing in a part of the world I’ve never visited. (More…)
December 4, 2012
After seeing “Life of Pi” and “The Hobbit,” whose 48-frame-per-second 3D is game-changing, according to some observers, it feels like the right time for my annual rant against 3D. Because 3D has become like the Borg, absorbing all into its ravening maw. Resistance is futile.
But I remain unconvinced of anything about 3D except this: that it doesn’t matter. There is no demand for 3D, except from studios and exhibitors who benefit by jacking the price of tickets for 3D shows anywhere from $3-$5.
Because that, of course, is the third dimension: greed. (More…)
November 16, 2012
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” opens in wide release today, after a limited release last Friday – and with luck, Barack Obama will not only see it but take it as a template for the current lame-duck session of Congress and for his impending second term.
I’m not the first to point out that, at this moment in time, despite right-wing naysayers decrying the lack of a mandate in the election results, Obama has the momentum. He’s got the upper hand – or simply, “hand,” as they once proclaimed on “Seinfeld “ – with the election results as a reminder that, in fact, he IS the one that the majority of Americans want running the show – and not the obstructionist Republicans who have been an impediment since the day he took office in 2009. (More…)
October 19, 2012
It’s been a decidedly (and sometimes surprisingly) full fall already – and the movies are stacked up for landing between now and the end of the year like planes over LaGuardia.
But the dividing lines have already been drawn – and continue to be drawn – about what should or shouldn’t be among the year-end awards contenders.
And the biggest line, of course, has to do with “The Master” and the difference between certain critics’ response to that film and to such upcoming blockbusters as “Cloud Atlas” and “The Life of Pi.” (More…)
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