Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: Whiplash

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 3:07 PM

What price greatness? That’s the question at the heart of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, the story of an aspiring jazz drummer named Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) who must confront personal demons and an abusive mentor in his quest for musical immortality.

Neyman’s story is not entirely fictional. Chazelle based it on his own experiences as drummer for an award-winning high school jazz band. Whiplash benefits from the director’s understanding of the pressures associated with high achievement, but it’s the film’s own propulsive rhythms that set it apart from most music-centered movies. Chazelle’s camera movements, editing and pacing all share a percussive quality that artfully reflects the role of the drummer in big-band jazz. Whiplash is crisp and viscerally engaging, which likely played no small part in its success at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It became the second film in a row (after last year’s deserving but little-seen Fruitvale Station) to take both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance.


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The Homestretch, a documentary about homeless youth in America, screens tonight only at Zeitgeist

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Directed by Anne De Mare and and Kristen Kelly, The Homestretch is a new documentary that illuminates the problem of homelessness among young people in Amerca by focusing on three Chicago teens — among the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth across the country — as they battle back from abandonment and forge new lives. The film receives a one-time screening tonight, Friday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Zeitgeist Films. A panel discussion will follow the screening. More info here.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Court 13 holds Always For Pleasure festival Friday and Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Court 13, the filmmaking and artist collective behind Beasts of the Southern Wild, is holding its inaugural Always For Pleasure festival Friday and Saturday. It's named for documentary filmmaker Les Blank's wonderful 1978 film about New Orleans' parades and street culture. Filmmaker Benh Zeitlin says he's always been inspired by Blank's work. His father was a folklorist, and Zeitlin was exposed to Blank's films at an early age.

"[Always for Pleasure] was my first image of New Orleans," Zeitlin says. "I've always thought of it as part of my calling to the city."

A free screening of that film opens events at 7 p.m. Friday at 2735C Toulouse St., the festival's improvised film theater and main party space. The festival includes screenings of short films, a couple of dance parties and a fake wedding on Bayou St. John with both a brass band second line parade and a karaoke second line parade. The festival is honoring its Pleasure Defender of the Year, Levy Easterly. Easterly auditioned for the Court 13 short film Glory at Sea, and he appeared in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Zeitlin and Court 13 artists are also fans of the way Easterly decorates his French Quarter home during Carnival and other holidays.

Levy Easterly's French Quarter home.
  • Levy Easterly's French Quarter home.

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Jon Stewart's Rosewater premieres tonight at Elmwood with live broadcast hosted by Stephen Colbert

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 9:24 AM

First-time director Jon Stewart's Rosewater premieres locally tonight, Thursday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Elmwood Palace 20, 1200 Elmwood Park Blvd. The one-time special screening includes an additional program called Rosewater: Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert Live. Colbert hosts the live interview (tape-delayed in our time zone) with Stewart and Maziar Bahari, whose real-life experiences inspired the film. Bahari is a British-based journalist who endured a 118-day imprisonment by the Iranian government when he returned to his native Iran in 2009 to cover the presidential election for Newsweek.

More info and tickets are available here. Regular local showings of the film begin exclusively at the Elmwood Palace on Friday, Nov. 14.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Review: Interstellar

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 5:12 PM

The films of British-American writer/director Christopher Nolan are nothing if not ambitious. From his early, strikingly complex amnesia tale Memento to his reinvention of superhero mythology through The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has constructed movies the way architects and engineers build skyscrapers — in the most thoughtful, methodical and fail-safe manner possible. The content of Nolan’s films always seems intellectually rigorous even when it’s based on a comic book. His methods reach a new peak with Interstellar: What could be more ambitious and all encompassing than deconstructing time and space?

Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey as a former test pilot called back into service to travel to another galaxy and save mankind from environmentally induced extinction. It’s a truly epic work of science fiction and one directly inspired by the work of celebrated theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who co-developed the original idea for the film and serves as executive producer. He is the steward of hypothetical outer-space phenomena like wormholes that make Interstellar’s story possible. Shot in widescreen on 35 mm and IMAX film, Interstellar’s gorgeous visuals intentionally recall pre-digital sci-fi classics like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.


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Review: Laggies

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Known for low-budget and partially improvised indie films like Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, director Lynn Shelton takes careful steps toward the mainstream with the relatively polished Laggies. Shelton’s film is funny and sweet and features a charming central performance from Keira Knightley, all of which allows Laggies to serve as the guilt-free romantic comedy for those left cold by Hollywood’s formulaic output in that genre.

Laggies also scores points just by telling the story of an aimless twenty-something slacker who happens to be female. (Comedies about young men suffering from arrested development arrive at an alarming rate these days.) Knightley’s 28-year-old Megan makes her living holding up a sign on the street promoting her dad’s business and still hangs out with her pals from high school. She responds to marriage proposal from her high school sweetheart by faking a business trip and hiding out at the home of teenaged friend Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Annika’s newly single dad (Sam Rockwell). It’s a set-up that points in obvious directions, but well drawn characters (courtesy of a screenplay by novelist Andrea Seigel) and Shelton’s light touch combine to insulate the story from sentiment or cliché. It may be yet another film that says it’s never too late to find your own path, but at least Laggies heeds its own advice.

Laggies starts today, Friday, Nov. 7, at the Elmwood Palace theater. More info here.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Second annual Web Weekend film and video conference starts this Friday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 11:08 AM

New Orleans film-support non-profit NOVAK hosts its second annual Web Weekend conference on Nov. 7-9 at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center at 1441 Canal Street. The conference offers panel discussions, conversations and networking events devoted to the creation of film and video content for the web. The Perfect Pitch panel allows participants to sign up for the chance to pitch their ideas directly to television executives and receive immediate feedback.

See the 2014 Web Weekend conference schedule here. Advance weekend passes are $30 or $20 for NOVAK members and are available here. Admission will be $40 at the door.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Listen Up Philip

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Is it necessary that audiences identify with the main character in a movie? Does a fictional protagonist have to be likable in some way for a film to succeed? These questions are pushed to their limit by uber-indie Brooklyn filmmaker Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip. The tile character is a talented and newly successful 32-year-old novelist (Jason Schwartzman) who may be the most narcissistic, self-absorbed, and casually cruel leading man ever depicted on film. It’s small miracle that Listen Up Philip manages to engage us at all. But those with the wherewithal to stick it out may find a perceptive black comedy with many hard truths at its core.

Literary success has only made Philip bitter. The movie begins with a series of brief encounters in which he savages old friends and lovers for supposedly not believing in him when he needed it most. (Later, an ex-girlfriend literally runs away from him as fast as she can.) Schwartzman is known for his quirky and often endearing turns in five of Wes Anderson’s best-loved films, and he has just enough charisma to make us hope that Philip will learn to listen up. But not enough to make us like him.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Elmwood Palace to screen Broadway production of James Franco in Of Mice and Men

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 3:15 PM

A one-time screening of this year's Broadway production of John Steinbeck's American classic Of Mice and Men will be presented at the AMC Elmwood Palace Theater in Harahan on Nov. 6 at 7:00 p.m. The play closed on July 27 but became the first Broadway production filmed by National Theatre Live, which is operated by London's Royal National Theatre and was originally established to bring theater from London's West End to wider audiences via broadcast to movie theaters. Nominated for two Tony Awards, the production also marked the Broadway debuts of James Franco and Irish actor Chris O'Dowd (this year's Calvary and St. Vincent).

Advance tickets are $12.50 and available here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 New orleans Film Festival closes tonight with red carpet premiere of The Big Beat

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 2:09 PM

The 2014 New Orleans Film Festival's week-long, city-wide immersion in new films of every imaginable kind closes tonight, Oct. 23, with two screenings of The Big Beat. Directed by Joe Lauro, the film tells the story of New Orleans R&B through the lens of Fats Domino's and Dave Bartholomew's storied careers. Both screenings take place at the newly renovated Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Avenue in Treme.

A red carpet premiere is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and will be followed by a performance by local musicians paying tribute to Domino and Bartholomew, plus a Q&A with Lauro, editor Anthea Carr, writer Rick Coleman, cinematographer David Leonard and "special guests." A limited number of standby tickets will be available at the door. Premiere attendees and all-access pass-holders are invited to an after-party hosted by Ponderosa Stomp at Cafe Degas, 3127 Esplanade Ave., from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

An encore screening of The Big Beat is scheduled for 10 p.m. at the Carver. Tickets are still available online here.

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