It’s awards season boys and girls!

I looove the red carpet, I love it. I love picking the best and worst dressed, the speeches, the fuck ups, the emotional rants. This year I went to see the Golden Globes at Producer Heather Haggarty‘s house. The cocktails were fabulous, the pork was a little fatty, and at the end of the night I left Heather’s house with a promise to get up to speed before the Academy Awards. So far I’ve seen most of the films nominated for best picture with the exception of Lincoln and Beasts of the Southern Wild. All the rest:  Les Miserables, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour and Argo I have seen and I am very underwhelmed.

Where are the memorable moments of supposedly the “best films of 2012”? So far, the nominees for best documentary film have been far more stimulating and thought provoking with Searching for Sugar Man and The Invisible War (go ITVS!). Does anyone know why documentaries can’t be nominated for best picture? Really, I would like to know.

I believe in the power of good performances and am sad to admit that… none have swept me off my feet this year. There are some very strong moments:
– Anne Hathaway’s solo song in Les Miserables was great yet I really hope I don’t have to listen to another one of her overly rehearsed speeches.
–  I loved Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and I wonder if a romantic comedy could award him the golden statue.
– Samuel Jackson was brilliant in Django which was probably the one aspect of the movie that I really enjoyed.
– Jessica Chastain was good in Zero Dark Thirty but to me, rather than her performance, it was the symbolism of her final close-up with the white straps and the red background, what made the moment memorable.

I have not seen Lincoln yet (Sue McNamara: I’m still rooting for you!) so I have not lost faith. If I had to pick a favorite  right now my vote would go to Argo for one simple reason: Ben Affleck just seems like a reeeeally nice guy. Yes, awards should be about more than that. They should all be about celebrating the best films, the best crews, the best performances; they should not be about grand screening parties or profitable distribution deals. But we have to remember that Hollywood is a business and the Oscars, its biggest political campaign.  Ladies and gentlemen, come February 24th I hope you enjoy the show.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Film Review

I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time when I was a sophomore in college. My roommate at the time, Katarina, introduced me to the book and since it was one of the first novels that I read (in English) purely out of pleasure, it made quite an impression on me. I re-read it a couple of times, I even fantasized with a group of friends about acquiring the rights from MTV. Nothing came out of that, but, last night with much anticipation and some regret for moving right before Summit Entertainment started scouting in Pittsburgh, I went to see the film.

If I wouldn’t have known that Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and directed the movie himself, I would have walked out of the theater feeling a little cheated; as if I was really loving my ice cream but half way through I found out I was having frozen yogurt instead. This book is incredibly visual and it invited me to paint a distinct picture of the main character, Charlie, which was nothing like Logan Lerman’s interpretation of him. Fortunately,  it worked. The mood was spot on and obviously there is no question that everything you see on the screen is an accurate reflection of the story printed on the page.

The movie is showing now in theaters so I don’t want to spoil it. What I can tell you is that if you decide to watch it you will be delighted with a subtle film that is classically made and a complex story that is delicately told. There is nothing extravagant about it, it didn’t scream 80’s or tried to rely on anything other than a really good story; it was tasteful. Of course, the mood was enhanced by  a beautiful score and a fantastic soundtrack, but, ultimately the story is as relevant today as it was in 1999 when the book was published and it will continue to be relevant tomorrow. For me this is always a huge challenge for any artist and Stephen Chbosky nailed it, again.

There are moments in our life that mark us in permanent ways. It’s like my friend Clare said: we bury memories and one day something hits a nerve and makes us think “wow, that feeling is still there and I’m actually still really fucked up about it”. For some of us those moments live deep inside, guarded by fears, insecurities and maybe even a hint of possessiveness. For Charlie, those feelings are released when he feels infinite coming out of the Liberty Tunnels. Whatever they are for you, I believe this film will bring back emotions and hopefully allow you to appreciate them for everything that they are; full of pain, full of joy and full of life.

Two thumbs up for this film and for the entire crew. To me, it gets five (out of five) stars.

Props to Les Blank

Who doesn’t love a 76 year old man wearing a cardigan? Les blank is cool and approachable and at the end of his presentation I wanted to walk over to him and smell his sweater. Thankfully for my co-workers, I decided against it and shook his hand instead.

He spoke at an event hosted by the SF Film Society called “Master Class: Les Blank on Documentary” — thank you ITVS! Most film fanatics out there have heard of Les Blank, or, at the very least they are familiar with some of his films such as Burden of Dreams or A Poem Is a Naked Person. For me, it wasn’t until attending this seminar that I was introduced to some of his other work and got a taste of his unique voice as a documentarian.

Les Blank is tall, thin, and has a wonderfully trimmed, thick white beard. He is soft spoken, goes straight to the point, and most importantly, he is one of the most humble filmmakers I’ve ever met. If you tell Les Blank he is a true artist, he will give you a puzzled look followed by a nonchalant ‘thanks’; when you ask him what his secret is, he will tell you he has none; and if somebody comments on his amazing ability to get unlimited access he will make a joke and say ‘I just hang around until eventually people get tired of me’. Les Blank’s vision is not simple but he doesn’t waste much time presenting himself as a superior visionaire.

I have seen about four of his films, all produced by his production company Flower Films. After watching them I began to admire how Les Blank captures situations and people is a very gentle way. He doesn’t stage any of his interviews and he may toss cue cards up in the air to give himself a fresh start in the editing room. Rather than producing with his thinking mind, Les Blank feels the story and then goes from there.

By looking him up on imdb it becomes obvious that Les is constantly working, always looking for the next interesting story to tell. His films capture family, traditions, soul, passion, and so many other aspects of life. Without documentary filmmakers like him, we would miss out on a great opportunity to experience the world through a different point of view, from another angle, with a different lens. That’s what a brilliant documentary filmmaker does, he lets a subject be free to express itself without judgements or hesitation. Les knows how to be patient behind the camera yet he is fearless when it comes to finding the true nature of the story. And regardless of his liking of the label, I think Les Blank is a genuine, passionate artist whose films inspire, educate, and resonate with audiences of all ages, all around the world.