Thursday, March 29, 2012

Phil attends the exclusive screening of NAPOLEON at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland-March 24, 2012

This past Saturday I, along with several thousand other movie lovers, attended the first screening of a two-weekend event of Abel Gance's 1927 long, lost silent film classic NAPOLEON. Presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, in association with the British Film Institute (BFI), The Film Preserve, Photoplay Productions, and director Frances Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope, the film was brought to the magnificent art deco Paramount Threatre in Oakland, California. Bringing this 5 1/2-hour silent film to life was conductor Carl Davis, who along with the 46-piece Oakland East Bay Symphony, performed an outstanding musical score. To say that this was THE movie event of the year would be a gross understatement.

For me, the day started with excitement and anticipation. Myself along with my good friend Jason Wiener (from Jason Watches Movies) and Christopher J. Garcia (Cinequest) had front row seats to this ultimate cinematic experience (we aren't called the Front Row Freaks for nothing). I also saw other friends that I usually see at the SF Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theatre during July. This was my first time being at the Paramount Threatre, and I have to say that this place is THE most amazing and breathtaking theatre that I have ever seen! The art deco was just fabulous, and the incredible details that are found in everything; the boxoffice, the carpets, the stairs, the lobby, everything is art deco and I loved it! If you haven't been to the Paramount Theatre yet, good news folks! They give tours of the theatre! So next time you're out here, make sure that this place in one of your destinations!

Dubbed "The Holy Grail of silent masterpieces" the film was a labor of love for famed film historian and Academy award winner Kevin Brownlow, who's fascination with the film began in 1954 when he first saw a small 20 minute version of NAPOLEON at the young age of fifteen. Since then he has spent the past FIVE DECADES (yes you read that right!) researching, unearthing, and restoring Gance's silent film, which is now the most complete version of the film. Through blood, sweet, and tears, Brownlow's hard work and determination paid off as the audience in the Paramount Theatre on that cold, wet, and rainy Saturday were treated to one of cinema's crowning jewels of the silent era!

Abel Gance's directing is proof that he was way ahead of his time. Most of the film looks like it was hand held, which gave the film a documentary style look that has been copied by numerous Hollywood directors and in films ranging from THE FRENCH CONNECTION to CHRONICLE. From opening with young Napoleon (played by Vladimir Roudenko) commanding his schoolmates in a snowball fight to General Napoleon (portrayed brilliantly by Albert Dieudonné) leading his army to victory, Gance's film unfolds before our very eyes and transports us to a visual nirvana the likes I have never seen before, especially the last twenty minutes of the film when the screen expanded to a curved 85 feet panorama! Gance originally called it Polyvision, and it was astounding! Having three screens showing three different images and at times one complete scene! Again simply astounding! The film is a testament to Gance's genius!

As stated earlier, composer/conductor Davis' score for the film was just as beautiful as the film. After the film's conclusion, the entire audience rose up and gave Davis and the Oakland East Bay Symphony a standing ovation. Just try to imagine performing to a 5 1/2 hour silent film (with three intermissions and a two-hour dinner break) and keep your cool composure. To Davis and the Symphony, I applaud you for creating a memorable score to a memorable film! Also a big thank you to Kevin Brownlow for restoring this lost classic and to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival fro bringing the film to the Paramount Theatre! And last but not least, to Abel Gance, thank you for creating one of the most amazing films I have ever seen!

This film extravaganza is truly indeed a "once in a lifetime event." For those who missed out on the showings this past weekend, you are in luck. There are still two more showings this weekend (March 31st and April 1st) and there are still a limited amount of tickets left, but they are going fast! So make plans to attend this monumental event! Ticket are available at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's website at http://www.silentfilm.org/. NAPOLEON is and was Abel Gance's greatest achievement as well as Kevin Brownlow's lifetime passion. Don't miss out on what has been called "A major event" by director Martin Scorsese, "Absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just glorious, glorious, glorious" by film historian/author Cari Beauchamp, and legendary film critic Leonard Maltin described his experience with one word, "Thrilling." So don't wait people! Go buy your tickets today and be part of film history this weekend!


Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Phil attends the SFIAAFF at the Camera 3: Day Three-March 18, 2011

Hello again everyone and welcome to the third and final day of my trip to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival here at the Camera Cinemas! Today I was planning to see another five films today (if that was possible) but I settled for three. But let me explain what happened.

So there were two other films that I wanted to see originally: YES, WE'RE OPEN and VIETTE. Now when I got to the Camera 3 I was informed that both of these films had sold out! Needless to say I was quite bummed. However, later on in the Psycho Donuts area of the theater, I met Mye Hoang, who wrote, acted, and directed the film VIETTE! She was selling festival DVD autographed copies of her film, and yours truly bought one. Also, she was kind enough to personalized my copy for me, so thank you Mye and keep your eyes peeled here for my review of VIETTE in the very near future! So let's talk about the three films that I did see today!

First film up was the inspiring documentary MRS. JUDO: BE STRONG, BE GENTLE, BE BEAUTIFUL. The film's about Keiko Fukuda, who is just one of only four Judo practitioners in the world to currently hold the 10th Dan, Judo’s highest degree black belt. She is also the only women in the world to have this prestigious honor. Oh, did I mention she's only less than five feet tall, weighs less than 100 pounds, and is also 98 years old? This incredible and unbelievable doc tells Fukuda's life as it traces her seven decade Judo career: her travels to different countries, her commitment to the Judo teachings, and the sexism she encountered during her lifetime.

The documentary was preceded by the 25 minute short film RING LAILA, and it's about young women raised in the slums of Kolkata who who take up boxing. The film was directed by Anurada Rana. Check out the film's official website at www.ringlaila.com.

Director Yuriko Gamo Romer did a marvelous job creating the film by using rare archival footage, family and personal photos, and plenty of insightful and intimate interviews. After the screening, director Romer and Keiko Fukuda herself came down to participate in a Q&A session. Granted Fukuda was in a wheelchair and was tired but it was cool to meet her! So as a result Romer mostly answered the audiences' questions. Another great documentary that needs to be seen! Be sure to check out the film's official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Be-Strong-Be-Gentle-Be-Beautiful.

The second film I saw was Indian drama ABU, SON OF ADAM. Basically, the film's about Abu and Aisu, a loving old Muslim couple in their late 70s who've been scrapping and saving to go on trip to Hajj, but only according to all diktats of Islam. People offer them money, but it's against their religion. They get set to go, then they can't, and that happens quite a lot in the film. Slow and quiet, the film was India’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards and the 2012 Golden Globes.

OK, with apologies to the Academy, the Golden Globes, and to the SFIAAFF, this film didn't do anything for me. None at all. Yes, it was beautifully directed, but I didn't connect with the film at all. To be honest, I found it to be flat and forgettable. Some people liked it, but I would pass on this film.

The third and film film of the festival was another documentary. MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON was about Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese American Republican ever to be elected to Congress and his bid for re-election in 2010. Producer/director S. Leo Chiang followed Congressman Cao for over two years, chronicling the whole story: from his surprise win in the African American Democratic district in New Orleans, being the only Republican to vote for Obama's Health Care Bill, and the pressure to be re-elected. The documentary was also produced by CAAM as well!

After the screening, both Cao and director Chiang participated in a long and informative Q&A with the audience. This was my favorite documentary at the festival! Insightful, intriguing, sometimes funny, and tragic as well! To learn more about the film and future screenings, check out the film's official website at http://mrcaofilm.com.

Well another SFIAAFF has come to an end! Overall I saw nine films in two and a half days! Not too shabby! Hopefully I can see more films at next year's festival. So do yourself a favor and make plans to come out to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. To learn more about the festival, make donations, visit the Center for Asian American Media's website at http://caamedia.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Phil attends the SFIAAFF at the Camera 3: Day Two-March 17, 2012

Welcome back to Day Two of my trip to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival at the Camera 3 Cinemas!! Today I saw five films so let's get started shall we?


The first film I saw was NINJA KIDS, the newest film by acclaimed director Takashi Miike. Based on the popular Manga comic, the film's about Rantaro, a cute little eight-year-old kid who has wild looking orange-ish hair and big Harry Potter-like glasses. His parents send him off to ninja academy to become a great ninja and to bring honor to their family. Once there he makes friends with his classmates, who are also wild and crazy in their own way. Dressed in cool blue ninja pajamas, the class learns the fundamentals of rock climbing, explosives, and ninja star throwing. But soon their skills are put to the test as Rantaro and his friends must protect the Saito clan, who are former ninjas turned cross-dressing hair stylists that look like they came straight out of the Castro district. With the help and guidance from their teachers, the boys bravely defend the Saito clan, and Rantaro learns the true meaning of the word ninja.

Back in July of last year at the Camera 3, I saw Miike's last film 13 ASSASSINS, which in my review I mentioned that, "not since Akira Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece SEVEN SAMURAI  has there been a samurai film of this perfection." So when I saw this film, which is a family film, I was completely blown away! The fact that Miike made a film that was a complete 180 degrees from his last was staggering. The film felt like it was filtered through acid filled orange Kool-Aid. It was trippy, bizarre, absurd, and I loved every minute of it! The film was picked up and distributed by Warner Brothers (if you can believe that) and hopefully will be playing soon at a movie theater near you! In the meantime, check out the film's official website (it's in Japanese) at wwws.warnerbros.co.jp/nintama.


Film number two of the day was the WERE WE LIVE SHORTS PROGRAM. The program consisted of eight short films about family, love, life, and death:

L.A. COFFIN SCHOOL: A group of students attend this special school to experience their own deaths and relive past memories of their lives.
THE CHAMPIONS: A very funny film about a neurotic family called the Champions that believes that there house is haunted....by an evil spirit living their couch.
BEI YAN WAN SHANGHAI: In Shanghai there is a migrant worker district called Bel Yan Wan that is about to be demolished and the film follows two families from this area.
DEREK & LUCAS: Two boys playing soccer discover a dying dog in the woods and argue on what to do about it.
WERE WE LIVE: A short doc about the Hamad family, who now live here in the US but are still reminded of their traumatic experience living in Iraq. Very powerful and disturbing short film.
SHANGRA-LA: A funny short film about a group of Tibetan monks now living in a Bay Area suburb that wonders why people don't come out of their homes.
RAYMOND: An emotional and funny film about a young man named Raymond who returns home to the Bay Are to tell his family and his ex-boyfriend that he has cancer.
DOL, FIRST BIRTHDAY: The film's about a Korean American gay man who comes home to partake in his nephew's first birthday.

After the program, the cast and crew of the short film RAYMOND participated in a Q&A session. Overall these were some amazing short films!


The third film of the day was SURROGATE VALENTINE 2: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS (or just DAYLIGHT SAVINGS), the new film by Dave Boyle. In this sequel to last year's Closing Night smash hit, singer/songwriter/rocker Goh Nakamura returns as "Goh." Life's been good for Goh as of late. His music has been featured in a big time television commercial for the drug Relatrix, and he's about to go on his biggest tour of his life when his girlfriend in L.A. Ayako Fujitan (daughter of Steven Seagal) breaks up with him via Skype. Heartbroken and shaken, Goh wanders aimlessly through San Francisco while hanging out with his old flame Rachael (the lovely Lynn Chen). At his going away party he meets fellow musician and new love interest Yea-Ming (playing herself), the lead singer from the group Dreamdate. Before Goh can make his move, she leaves to go do a show in Las Vegas. Feeling a connection with her, Goh's cousin Mike (Michael Aki) convinces him to go on a madcap roadtrip with him to Sin City and see if there is something between them.

The film is a perfect follow-up to the first film. Our friend Goh grows up in this film and we see him go through a wide range of emotions that are heartfelt and oh to real. The real Goh's acting in the film was really good and seeing Lynn again is always a pleasure. But kuddos goes to Yea-Ming, who really shines in the film. Also the soundtrack in the film is incredible! Both Goh and Yea-Ming provide some astounding music that you should own! After the screening, Boyle, Goh, Yea-Ming, Michael, and members of the Top Hats Motorcycle Club participated in a fun Q&A session. To learn more about the film and to purchase a copy of the soundtrack, visit the film's official website at http://surrogatevalentine.com.


The fourth film I saw was the ultra cool and ultra hilarious NICE GIRLS CREW. The film focuses on three best friends Sophie (Lynn Chen), Leena (Sheetal Sheth), and Geraldine (Michelle Krusiec), who have known each other since grade school. Now as adults, they are reunited and decided to start a book club called, you guessed it, Nice Girls Crew. In five separate shorts, the girls tackle a different book with different results that leads to some of the funniest moments I have ever seen captured on film! The series was produced by the Center for Asian American Media and it was also created and written by Festival staff member Christine Kwon. The films were also co-written and directed by filmmaker Tanuj Chopra, whose film PUNCHING AT THE SUN was screened at 2006 film fest. NICE GIRLS CREW was the first film series to be produced by CAAM and to have it premiere during the festival was awesome! After the screening both Kwon and Chopra held a fun-filled Q&A that hinted that there could be more of NGC films in the near future. I for one would love to see more of this series! Make sure you check out the series' official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ngcseries.


The fifth and final film I saw was the HBO produced documentary LOVE CRIMES OF KABUL. Set at the Bagh Women's Prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, the film follows a group of women who are incarcerated for premarital sex, running away from home, and adultery.. Emmy-nominated director Tanaz Eshaghian tells the stories of these women and reminds us that in other countries, women are still being treated like second class citizens.

Words cannot describe just how shocking the documentary was. Raw, unflinching, and unnerving, the film really get your blood boiling and makes you wonder how and why some societies still treat women this way, granting them no rights or a voice to speak their minds or opinions. A powerful and disturbing documentary that really got under my skin. Highly recommended!! To learn more about the film and to see when it will be shown, visit the film's official HBO website at www.hbo.com/documentaries/love-crimes-of-kabul/index.html.

Today was a great day of film watching! Six films in two days, and there's still more to see on Sunday! To learn more about Center for Asian American Media and the film festival, and to make donations, please visit their website at http://caamedia.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Phil attends the SFIAAFF 30 Opening Nght Gala at the Camera 3-March 16, 2012

Hello folks and welcome to the opening night of the San Fransisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) at the Camera 3 Cinemas here in Downtown San Jose! This year marks the 30th anniversary of the festival, as well as the 11th anniversary of the festival being shown in San Jose! Before the screening of the opening film, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) executive director Stephan Gong thanked all their sponsors, without whom this festival would not happen. Then both director Michael Kang and star/screenwriter Kimberly-Rose Wolter were called up to introduce their film to the audience and thanked us for coming out to see the film on this cold, wet, rainy Friday night. Then the lights dimmed and we watched the South Bay Premiere of the comedy film KNOTS.


The film's about Lily (Wolter), who is a beautiful, quirky, marriage-phobic woman who left her family and their family business in Hawaii and relocated to Los Angeles. When she and her boyfriend James (Henry Dittman) travel back for vacation, he pops the big question which sends her back to her loving family: her mom Miriam Wolf (Illeana Douglas), and her younger sisters Hoku (Janel Parrish), who just happens to be pregnant and bubbly Twinny (Mia Riverton). Reluctantly, she helps out with the family business ironically called "Tying the Knot." While back home she runs into her ex-boyfriend Kai (Sung Kang), who Twinny is dating. Things become complicated when old feelings resurfaces, but will Lily's fear of commitment ruin her friendship with Kai and her family's business as well?

The film was a fun, light-hearted comedy that boasts some really hilarious moments combined with love and inspiration. The family dynamic between the mom and her daughters was very well done. The on-screen chemistry between all the lead actresses was believable, thanks to perfect casting. Wolter not only starred in the film, but also written the script (she also starred in and wrote TRE, which won the Special Jury Prize at SFIAAFF ‘08). Born and raised in Hawaii, Wolter knew a lot about Hawaiian customs and knew locations that would best suit the film. Director Kang is no stranger to the festival, having both the comedy THE MOTEL (SFIAAFF ‘05) and noir film WEST 32ND (SFIAAFF ‘08) showcased at the festival. With this film, he continues his streak of bringing us films that shows us his talents.


After the screening, we all went to the gala afterparty which was held at the San Jose Museum of Art. There was plenty of food, drinks, and wine to enjoy. Some of my favorite treats were the dessert snacks from Charlie's Cheesecake Works and Jade Chocolate, as well Chinese cuisine from Ginger Cafe. Both Charlie's and Ginger are located here in the South Bay, while Jade is located in San Fransisco. Check out their websites to learn more about their businesses.


Tonight was an amazing night, and this was just the beginning! The festival continues for the rest of this weekend so come out to the Camera 3 and partake on the fun! To view the film schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the CAAM website at http://caamedia.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Phil attends the Cult Movie screenig of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES at the Camera 3-March 15, 2012

Hello my fellow cult fanatics and welcome to Month Two of the Cult Movie Series here at the Camera 3 in Downtown San Jose. So for tonight's cult film they screened that beloved children's classic, 1990's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! My inner child was so very enthusiastic that I couldn't hold it back! Now you can't watch this movie without chowing down on some pizza, and our good friends at Pizza My Heart donated four large and very yummy pizzas for the audience to enjoy during the screening. Also tonight's prizes were donated by our sponsors at Streetlight Records and Time Tunnel Toys here in San Jose!

Theatrical Movie Poster (1990)
Based on the 1984 black and white independent comic book created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, the film's about four turtles named Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and their master rat named Splinter who come into contact with a radioactive substance called the Ooze that mutates them all into walking and talking and ninja fighting creatures! Our heroes are put to the test when New York City becomes overrun with a series of mysterious crimes. Ace TV reporter April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) uncovers that a secret gang of ninjas called The Foot, lead by their leader The Shredder (James Saito), are responsible for these crimes. Soon they kidnapped Splinter and our heroes in a half shell, along with their ally Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), must find and rescue him while defeating the Shredder once and for all.

The film was released by New Line Cinema on March 30, 1990. The reason I know this was because when I was 16 years old, my first job was working at the now defunct Syufy Century Alamden Movie Theater. My first day was Friday, April 6, 1990. We had it on screens 3 (which was our main theater), 4, and 5. It was hilarious to see these 5-10 year old kids coming out of the theaters and kicking the hell out of each other. Awww......the innocence of youth. The movie was made looooong before CGI so the animatronics were made courtesy of the Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The film's budget was only $13.5 million but it ended up grossing $135,270,000!! Very impressive indeed!! Two sequels followed and in 2007 the turtles made their return to the big screen in the computer animated film TMNT.

Tonight was a blast! We had a great crowd tonight, considering it was a Thursday night! The film will be shown again this Saturday night, March 17th at midnight! We'll have more prizes to hand out, maybe some more pizza, and we'll also be having a TMNT van outside for all to take pictures in! So don't miss out on all the fun! Also, to view this season's Cult Movie Series schedule, visit the Camera Cinemas website at www.cameracinemas.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Phil attends the final day of CINEQUEST 22: Encore Day-March 11, 2012

Well here we are everybody. THE final day of the Cinequest Film Festival. Now the festival ended last night with the closing night film THE DEEP BLUE SEA and after party. During the closing night ceremony, Cinequest co-founder Halfdan Hussey announced this year's winners and said that the encore film schedule would be up later that night. Lucky for us the festival already printed out the schedule and the volunteers were handing them out to us as we left. This morning outside the California Theatre, the whole block in front was blocked off and there were several food trucks offering up some very tasty snacks. From Burritos to Cuban food, there was plenty to eat. It was here at the California Theatre were I was going to be the entire day. All four films that I wanted to see were being shown here, so I got lucky. And now, here are the films that I saw on Encore Day.


The first film up was a film that I wanted to see during the festival but didn't have time. COME AS YOU ARE (HASTA LA VISTA) tells the story of three friends Jozef, Philip and Lars, who all go off on an exciting road trip to lose their virginity. Now this may sound like your typical, average "guys losing their virginity" flick, but it's not. First off, our three guys are handicapped. Philip and Lars are in wheelchairs and Jozef is blind. Didn't see that one coming, did you? The guys are dependent on their parents to take care of them 24/7. But when they hear of a Spanish brothel that caters to people "like us," they convince their families to let them go on vacation (not knowing their true agenda). However, their driver/caretaker ends up being a big, scruffy looking women who only speaks French. But this only heightens their bond with each other as they head off on a trip the guys will never forget.

As I said, I didn't get a chance to see this, so I was glad that it was part of Encore Day. The film was funny, sad, rambunctious, and bittersweet. The three leads were very convincing in their roles, but what surprised the hell out of me was that they all were not handicapped. Now that's method acting people! The film was directed by Geoffrey Enthoven, whose other film The Over the Hill Band played at Cinequest back in 2010. The film also recently won the Grand Prize of the Americas and the Audience Award at the Montreal World Film Festival. You can check out the film's official website at www.hastalavistadefilm.be/.


The second film I saw was JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET. The film was still powerful, moving, and inspirational the second time around. There were two reasons why I wanted to see this documentary again. The first being it was an amazing film. The second was that Jason Becker himself was there live in person. Along with his family and his caretaker, Jason participated in a funny and informative Q&A session. I was fortunate to meet Jason after the screening as over. This was a very special moment for me. Now I grew up during Jason's rise to stardom and I had heard his music, so being a fan already and realizing that even though he was told he only had five years to live, the fact that he's still here twenty years later is astounding to his will to live and to continue making music. You can learn more about the film by visiting the website at www.jasonbeckermovie.com. There is still no cure for ALS, but you can help find one by making a donation on the ALS website at www.alsa.org.


Film number three was SUNFLOWER HOUR. This was my third time seeing the film, so you know if I've seen it that many times, it's a funny, funny film! So to learn more about the film, where it will be playing and see cool pics, check out the film's official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sunflowerhour.


The last film I saw on Encore Day was the hilarious Norwegian comedy KING CURLING (KONG CURLING). I laughed so hard when I first saw this film and I did again today! Now both this and SUNFLOWER HOUR were my two favorite comedy films at this year's festival. Both of these films don't have a distributor yet, so I thought to myself when will I see my two favorite films back to back again? Not ever, so I wanted to see this film one more time. Also you can check out the film's official Facebook page as well by going to www.facebook.com/kongcurling.

Well folks, there you have it. My first Cinequest back since 2010 and my first as a film reviewer. I have to say that this was THE best Cinequest Film Festival ever! What made it so great were the films, the filmmakers, the audiences, the afterparties, the whole vibe was intoxicating. Sometimes during the festival I thought it would never end, but it did. And I can't wait for next year's festival. Overall I attended 56 screenings in 13 days! A new record for me! So let's see if I can break it next year! So now I would like to say hi to all my friends, old and new, from the festival. I had the best time seeing you all again and I hope to see you at next year's Cinequest. To all the filmmakers I got to meet, good luck with your respective films and I hope to see them again on either the big screen or on DVD. And to all my friends and followers who read my blog during the festival, thank you! Have a great week everybody, and I'll see you all again soon!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Twelve-March 10, 2012

This is it folks! The official last day of the Cinequest 22 Film Festival! Tomorrow the festival will be having its Encore Day, but before I get into that, I have another four films to review.


I started my day off at the San Jose Rep Theatre where the first film I saw was BATTLE OF THE QUEENS (KAMPF DER KONIGINNEN). Directed by Nicolas Steiner, this stunning black and white documentary takes place in the Valais region of Switzerland where thousands of people gather to watch an event called the Battle of the Queens. Every year magnificent and muscle-bound cows duke it out to claim the honor of being the best of the best (they don't use bulls for they are too dangerous to be let out in the open). Shot in the formentioned black and white and in widescreen, complete with an amazing score that Steiner wrote, and fantastic slow motion sequences during the actual fight scenes.

The film was preceded by a short the Steiner did back in film school called IT'S ME, HELMUT. On his 60th birthday (or is it 57? We may never know the answer) a few of Helmut's friends stop by to wish him a happy birthday, but it's a bittersweet one for him. Using props and tear away sets, the film was shot in one long 12 minute take. Steiner said that he could only afford three roles of 16mm film and guess what? He finally got it all on the last roll of film.

After the film was over, Steiner participated in a fun and informative Q&A session. He also thanks all of us in attendance for showing up for tonight's screening. He said that this was the largest crowd he had during the festival! I was very glad I got to see the astounding film! This was the last screening of the film, but keep your eyes peeled if it comes out to a theater near you!


For my second and third features of the day I headed back to the Camera 12. The second film I saw was the comedy SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson. Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is a committed tech-geek and also pregnant. She's afraid that she'll be more interested in ultrasound technology than in what's being ultra-sounded. When her sister lures her to L.A. for what ends up being a horrible baby shower, Sarah keeps her rental van and hits the road in search of the source of her anxiety: her estranged mother, now living "off the grid."

The film was preceded by a ten minute short film called VACANT. It's about two women that handle their husband's absence across the border in different ways. Really bittersweet short.

The film was smart, funny, and sweet. It has heart and something that's very rare to see: a unknown and talented woman who really turns in a great performance! Hollyman really nails her part as the idiosyncratic tech-geek Sarah. Really a great funny and emotional film. Today was the last screening but you can visit the film's official website at www.smallbeautifullymovingparts.com.


Film number three was the awesome, locally made film DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR. Directed by Iris Almaraz with special guest director Gustavo Ramo, the film takes place in the mid-90s and stars Leana Chavez as Lulu, a voluptuous, sassy, grungy girl who can no longer stand living with her father and step mom. Especially since she stopped taking her Prozac medication and now sees them as totally lame. While working at her job making coffee, she sees a room for rent sign and moves to San Fransisco to live with her new transgender friend, Illusion (the hilarious Salvador Benavides). Finally free, she begins to find herself and her sexuality. She soon realizes that the right guy for her is her best friend Mario (Ronnie Alvarez).

This is local filmmaking at its finest! Words cannot express on just how much I loved this film! It has the look and feel of San Francisco and all that makes it so unique. Great directing, great acting, great script equals a great film! Highly recommended to all you local filmmakers! Today was the last screening of the film but check out the film's official website at http://delusionsofgrandeurmovie.com.


For the forth and final film of the day, I made my way to the California Theatre for the festival's closing night screening of THE DEEP BLUE SEA. The latest film by acclaimed director Terence Davies, adapted the script from the Terence Rattigan play of the same name. The film stars Oscar winner Rachel Weiz as Hester Collyer, who is married to British Judge William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale) but soon finds herself in a very steamy and self-destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot named Freddie Page (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston).

Before the film, Davies came out on stage and accepted the Maverick Spirit award from Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey. Long time Cinequest moderator Laura Barbarino interviewed Davies as he regaled the audience with funny memories and his life as a director. After the screening, we all headed over the San Jose Tech Museum, which held the lavish closing night party! Fun was had by all, and yours truly had an absolute blast!

There you have it folks! That was the "official" end of the festival. Now there will be an Encore Day on Sunday, which means they will show the films that won awards that were voted on by a panel of jurors as well as audience votings. So make sure you come down and enjoy Encore Day with me this Sunday, March 11th. The schedule is up on the Cinequest website at www.cinequest.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Eleven-March 9, 2012

This is it! The final weekend of the Cinequest Film Festival! For Day Eleven I saw a total of six films so let the movie reviews begin!


The first three films I saw were all at the Camera 12 Theater. Film number one of the day was the documentary TWITTAMENTARY. Filmmaker Tan Siok travels cross the country asking people why Twitter is so popular and if they tweet. She also picks up some amazing and touching stories by those who she meets on her travels. Among those is a homeless woman, a prostitute, a female truck driver, everyday folks like us, and sexy adult film star Mika Tan.

There was a short that preceded the film called ZOLTAN: THE HUNGARIAN GANGSTER OF LOVE. The short's about a Don Juan in a small village who is very popular with the ladies and is hated by all the men, which leads up to a bad ass traditional Hungarian dance off!

Now I enjoyed this documentary, much to the chagrin of my fellow Front Row Freaks Crew. I found the film to be funny, touching, inspiring and shows us the power of Twitter and how it can be used for good as well as help those in need. The film is amateurish but that's what gives the film personality. During the screening a group of junior high school kids joined the audience to watch the film. However they did want them to see the short so they let the kids in when the documentary began. Now they woudn't let them see the short but they'll watch and drool over the hot Mika Tan. Oops! Today was the last screening but visit the film's official website at http://www.twittamentary.com/.


The second film I saw today was the horror film THE HARSH LIGHT OF DAY. Directed by Oliver S. Milburn, this UK film's about Daniel Shergold (Dan Richardson), whose house is broken into by thugs, who then beat his wife Maria (Niki Felstead) to death and leave him paralyzed. Depressed and hiding out in his secluded country cottage, Daniel mourns the death of his wife while being cared for by his home nurse Fiona (Sophia Linfield). When the police cannot no longer help, Daniel accepts a visit from a mysterious stranger named Infurnari (Giles Alderson) who insists he can help him get revenge against those who killed his wife. He agrees and and becomes an unholy creature of the night. With his new found strength, he sets out to avenge his wife's death, but will it cost him what's left of his humanity?

So, this is a vampire film that had a good idea, but it wasn't executed very well. The sound was muffled here and at times it was hard to hear what they were saying. Plus some scenes sounded like they didn't have a boom mic. The cinematography was average, however better lighting would be nice. And the acting was decent, but I couldn't invest into the characters at all. Overall, I wasn't very impressed with the film. If you wish to learn more about the film, visit the film's official website at http://www.harshlightofday.com/.


The third film I saw was FIVE HOURS SOUTH. Based on a true story, the film takes place in Italy and is about two friends Lucas and Mino who saw their best friend get killed. Lucas went on to become a cop while Mino became a drug crime lord. But for some reason the cop friend doesn't realize this, but that's because he's too busy chasing his dream by becoming a dancer for a break-dancing troupe. Oh and for some reason he breaks up with his hot Italian girlfriend.

This was THE worst film at Cinequest this year! All over bad! While the idea held promise, all the filmmaker did was made an Italian STEP IT UP knock off with bad acting, horrible script and awful stereotypes. I don't know how much of this is "based on a true story" but we do see Lucas at the end of the film, and he sure is hell doesn't look like the break dancing type. Overall, this is the poster child for bad dance films! After seeing this film I really need to see a good film. And so I did!


I made my way to the California Theatre movie palace for the fourth film of the day for me. I saw German silent film director F.W. Murnau's FAUST from 1926. The film follows a German alchemist by the name of Faust. As God and Satan war over Earth, the Devil preaches that he will be able to tempt Faust into darkness and so has a wager with God to settle things. Satan sends Mephisto to Earth to offer Faust an end to the plague that is making it's way through the local population, and eternal youth, in return for Faust's soul.

From the same director who made such legendary and acclaimed films NOSFERATU, THE PHANTOM, and THE LAST LAUGH, the film was Murnau's last film he made in Germany before fleeing to the United States. Here we see the ultimate battle between good and evil, and containing some of the most amazing visuals and art direction to appear in a silent film, Murnau raised the bar very high for other films to follow. Accompanying the film was a live musical score performed by the Filmharmonica Duo: my good friend Dennis James (Wurlitzer Theatre Organ and Theremin) and Mark Goldstein (Buchla Lightning Wands). This was the highlight of festival in my humble opinion. To purchase a DVD copy of the film, visit the Kino Lorber website at http://www.kino.com/.


For film number five, I made my way back to the Camera 12 where I saw MIXED KEBAB. The film's about Turkish gay man named Ibrahim who falls for young and handsome Kevin over marrying his cute but expensive Turkish cousin Elif. During this family drama, Ibrahim's younger brother Furkan converts to Islamic fundamentalism.

I didn't expect much from the film and I was very surprised at how heart-wrenching and poetic the film was. Here is a queer film that shows us what's it like to come out in a different country as well as being Muslim and coming out. We see the inner turmoil Ibrahim goes through as he must hide his true self from his family. A must see for fans of queer cinema. Today was the film's final screening, bu visit the film's official website at http://www.mixedkebab.com/.


The sixth and final film I saw was the special midnight screening of the Polish animated comedy GEORGE THE HEDGEHOG (JEZ JERZY). Based on the popular Polish comic book, a wild hedgehog named George spends his days skateboarding, chasing women and having an affair with a married woman named Yola. However his life is turned upside down (if that's possible) when two mad scientists and two Nazi skinheads hunt him down and use his DNA to create an evil clone.

The film is politically incorrect, filled with vulgar language, cartoon boobs, sexual situations, cartoon violence, racial slurs, and toilet humor. I loved this film! Made me want to rewatch Ralph Bakshi's 1972 cult classic FRITZ THE CAT! That's all I'm gonna say, so see this film when it's shown again on Sunday, March 11th at 9:45pm. Also check out the film's official website at http://www.wojwaw.com/blog/George+the+Hedgehog.

Another fun-filled day at Cinequest!  Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 11th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Ten-March 8, 2012

We're getting down to the final days here folks so welcome back to Day Ten of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival! Another five film reviews await for you to read.


The first film I saw today was SUNFLOWER HOUR. And yes, again, I know that I saw this film already this past Sunday, but I had missed the first 10 minutes of the film so I wanted to see the beginning of the it. And let me tell you something folks, here is a film that's even funnier the second time around. This time I watched it with my Front Row Freaks crew (my friends Jason and Roy) and it was awesome watching them, and the rest of the audience, laugh uncontrollably. Today was the last screening if the film, but you can still check out the trailer and other goodies by visiting the film's official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sunflowerhour.


The second film that I saw was the documentary CODE 2600. Directed by Jeremy Zerechak, the film's about that wonderful world called the internet. Tracing it from the beginning, we learn all about the internet: how it was created, who created it and those who wish to control it. Inventors of technology are in a bitter struggle with the hackers who want to manipulate it and thus control the system. The film also asks that age old question: Are we willing to give up our freedom to Big Brother in exchange for security?

Now this was a really cool and informative documentary that really showed me just how dangerous it is for people to hack into your personal information in a variety of different ways. Plus to see that we are all linked to the same system. From our cellphones, personal computers, ATMs, even government uses the same technology. And since with all this hacking going on, the government is more than willing to protect us, granted if we're willing to give up more of our rights in exchange for peace of mind. Now that right there is a horrifying thought to have. I knew that what we all do on a regular basis; talking, texting, emails, buying product online and so forth was being watched, but I had no idea that others were watching it as well. Especially the government. Today was the last screening of the film, but you can see the trailer and other information at the film's official website at http://www.blogger.com/%20http://code2600.com.


The third film of the day for me was the documentary CLOSE TO HEAVEN (DEM HIMMEL GANZ NAH). Directed by Titus Faschina, this black and white film follows the Stanciu family and their now almost extinct farm life in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. And that's about it. OK now I would go explain what I liked or didn't like about a film, but in this case, I'm just gonna this: I did not like this film at all. While it was beautifully photographed, it was, without a doubt, THE most boring film I have ever seen. If I had difficulty sleeping, I would watch this film. If I wanted to die of boredom, I would watch this film. There was a short that preceded the film called 27 about a young French man who really doesn't like to be bothered. If you doubt that, ask his his ex-girlfriend. The short was only 12 minutes long and it was far more entertaining than the main feature. Today was the last screening of the film, which made me very happy.


Film number four of the day was the MARIACHI GRINGO. Directed by Tom Gustafson, the film stars Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from the X-MEN films) as Ed who after befriending a local mariachi player in his tiny Kansas hometown becomes inspired to become one. So he packs up his things and heads down to Guadalajara, Mexico, where he finds out it's a lot harder than it sounds. It's here he meets a lovely young woman named Lila (Martha Higareds, STREET KINGS) who aides him on becoming a first class mariachi player.

Since I'm Hispanic, I loved the fact that the film showcased Mexico with beauty and wonder. Unlike most Hollywood films that show Mexico is a negative light, here is a film that shows us what makes Mexico so amazing: the food, the people, the language, the architect, the colorful clothing, and of course the mariachi music. Director Gustafson was in attendance and conducted a fun Q&A session. The film will be shown again on Friday, March 9th at 4:30pm and again on Saturday, March 10th at 1:45pm.


The fifth and final film I saw today was the Philippines family film THELMA. Directed by Paul Soriano, the film's about a young girl named Thelma (Maja Salvador) whose family faces a difficult situation when her younger sister is struck by a car, rendering her unable to walk. Blessed with the gift of running, she enters a marathon to which she wins the prize money for her sister. Discovered by her high school track coach, she begins to train and compete in events. This leads her Manila where she received a scholarship for track and field. But even she cannot out run from her past as she struggles with either fulfilling her dreams or return home to take care of her family.

Now this is what a family film should be: inspirational, entertaining, and fun. Beautifully shot and directed with great acting and story makes this film a winner in my book. The film revived a G rating in the Philippines and has become a smash hit at the boxoffice. The film's star Salvador has become even more popular with audiences. If you have a family and want to take them to see a film that all of you can enjoy, then this is the film for you. The film will be shown one last time on Saturday, March 10th at 11:30am. Also visit the film's official website at http://thelma.timehorizon.co/.

Another fun-filled day at Cinequest!  Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 11th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Nine-March 7, 2012

Hello once again and welcome to Day Nine of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival! Another five films will be reviewed today, so let get things started up in here!


This morning I saw WORTH THE WEIGHT, directed by newcomer Ryan Sage. The film's about an overweight former football player named Sam Roberts (Robbie Kaller, Domino) who is tired of his 411 pound physic. Deteremened to lose weight and get back into shape, he signs up at a gym where he meets his trainer Cassie (Jillian Leigh). They start off being just friends but Sam starts to develop feelings for her. But when he takes some bad advise from his friend and roommate Miles (Tommy Snider), his dreams of making Cassie his girlfriend begin to slip away. Things go from bad to worse for Sam as Cassie's ex-boyfriend Stephan (Bryan Bellomo) shows up and proposes to her.

What I liked about the film was that it featured a big man in the title role. Here we see a 411 pound man going after a skinny woman. Wow, that right there makes the film unique, but having Sam as our "nice guy to be with" go through his trials and tribulations make it that more sincere. We are rooting for Sam to lose the weight, to capture Cassie's heart, and run off into the sunset. Plus it was a funny film about some serious issues like obesity, self-respect, and breaking stereotypes. Director Sage and music composer John DeBorde conducted a Q&A session that revealed the making of the film was made on weekends for about six months. Overall a great film with a positive message. Today was the last showing of the film you can still visit the film's official website at http://worththeweightthemovie.com.


The second film I saw was BEAT DOWN. OK I know that I already saw the film this past Sunday, but while I was looking at the festival schedule I saw that there wasn't another film being shown at that time. So I thought it would be fun to see the film again with my friends, since they were seeing it for the first time. And it was still fun to watch a second time around. The best way to describe the film would be THE WRESTLER meets WHIP IT. The film is an entertaining, happy-go-lucky film and I like these types of films, especially if you just want to relax and watch a fun film. Today was the last screening of the movie, but like I said, you can still visit its official website at www.beatdownmovie.com.


The third film of the day was the Bollywood movie THE KING (KO). Now in the Cinequest program, it stated and I quote, "In this Tamil film, you'll find no song and dance." Well I hate to tell you that there is, however there's only two song and dance numbers. Thought I'd let you know in advance. So anyway, back to the film. In this political thriller/action packed film (isn't that an oxymoron or what?) is about a young go-getting photojournalist Ashwin (Jeeva, Raam) who also happens to be at the wrong place and the right time. On his way to work he stumbles upon a bank heist and follows the getaway van so he can take pictures of the criminals. He gets the photos and soon the robbers are all captured, except for one that was wearing a ski mask that hid his identity. Upon his return to the newspaper office he meets the stunning new reporter Renuka (Karthika Nair), who is writing a cover story about a big-name politician's intentions to marry a minor, he gambles his safety to get the photos she needs for her story. In the meantime, a young named Vasanthan is about to enter government game and becomes the newly elected minister after Renuka's story hits the newspaper. But there is hidden political agenda that Ashwin discovers that could spell trouble for Vasanthan.

This was a very intriguing political thriller, one that is pretty rare in the Bollywood genre. Not only did it have a very clever script, but it also contained some awesome action scenes that had some awesome kung fu fighting! Again not what you'd expect in this type of film. I love Bollywood films and this was a great film! The film will be screened again on Saturday, March 10th at 9:15pm.


Next up I attended the SHORTS PROGRAM 5: MINDBENDERS. And boy these were mindbenders to the max! During this program I saw seven very different short films:

CUSHING'S SYNDROME: A stock broker with a thing for the film TOP GUN likes to do online trading, feed his overweight rat Goose, and likes to kill his neighbors. Very disturbing, especially when the guy dresses up in a flight suit and masturbates to online porn.
CHARLES BUKOWSKI'S THE LITTLE TAILOR: Jack is a tailor who snapped and killed several people. The bodies are scattered throughout his shop. Henry is his good friend. He like to hang out and talk to Jack. They like to have sex with Jack's phone, which adds a whole new meaning to the phrase "phone sex."
CURTAIN: A couple move into an apartment that has a succubus trapped in the bathtub by a magically protected curtain. Also look for a special appearance by Mr. Pokey...the less said the better.
BLOOD ROULETTE: A throwback to the early 80's low budget horror films being shot on video. The beautiful Jenny Savage plays Mary, a stripper turned night shift nurse. She comes home from the hospital to find her alien boyfriend acting very strangely that ends with deadly results. Also the film contains one of the best lines ever in cinematic history, "Dance for me, you carbon-based whore!" Classic!! The short was directed by Lee Lainer.
A FUNCTION: OK this film's about a Japanese girl having trouble solving a math equation. Oh did I mention that if she didn't solve the equation in time, a man with a scary looking bird mask with a big sword was going to kill her. Mind bending indeed!
THE LAST GUEST: Two friends have one last drink between friends that turns into a life-or-death confrontation
MASK (MASKA): So I think that after seeing this twisted animated French short, I wondered what the hell they were thinking when they made this? I didn't get it, so I'm not gonna even try to explain it.

After the program, Chris our shorts host called up several of the filmmakers up to partake in a fun-filled Q&A session. Another great year of mind bending shorts, courtesy of Cinequest. The program will be shown again on Saturday, March 10th at 9:30pm.


The final film I saw was the amazing SONS OF NORWAY (SONNER AV NORGE). The film opens on Christmas, 1978. Nikolaj's family is celebrating a banana induced Christmas, courtesy of his father. But when his mother is killed in a tragic car accident, his father fall into a very deep depression. Nikolaj tries to heal his pain by becoming a punk rocker, playing in a punk band, and obsessing over the Sex Pistols (even Johnny Lydon aka Johnny Rotton makes a cameo in the film). His father tries to bond again with his son by fixing up a cool old motorcycle, attending his punk rock shows and taking him to a nudist camp. Yup, that's one cool dad, huh? But soon Nikolaj's rebellious actions goes to far as he loses his grasp on reality.

I was really surprised about how amazing this film was. I didn't hear anything about this film during the festival and I walked away with seeing an undiscovered gem of a film. Today was the final screening of the film but if you ever see this film playing at your local indie movie theater, go see it!

Another incredible day of movie watching! Remember the festival ends this Sunday, March 11th so make sure you come out here to San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Eight-March 6, 2012

Morning everybody and welcome to Day Eight of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival! I saw another amazing five films so let's get this show on the road!


My first film of the day was WARRIOR WOMAN, a really intense drama directed by Julie Reichert. The film stars Karen Young as Alice, a breast cancer survivor who is still being haunted by her horrific surgery. Because of her surgery and treatment, she is broke, stressed, and just frustrated with her situation in life. When Alice's student Thuy asks her for help and to save her from her abusive husband, they get in Alice's car and drive off searching for salvation. Her car breaks down they are towed to a car repair garage that offer the help they're seeking. They are taken to a house were a group of atypical women who live their lives on their own terms. Among these strong women, Alice begins to come to term with her surgery and grows as a person and as a woman.

The movie is a powerful film about womanhood, sisterhood, and to always be true to yourself. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women. It's something that filmmaker Reichert knows all too well. She too is a breast cancer survivor and during her Q&A, she was very candid about her experience and stated that the film was based on her story. Combining metaphors and symbolism with a emotional subject matter and strong acting on the part of Young, WARRIOR WOMAN was an amazing film that both women and men should see. Today was unfortunately the last screening of the film, but you can learn more about the film by visiting its official website at http://warriorwomanfilm.com/.


Film number two for me was the Slovenian drama A TRIP (IZLET). The film is about three best friends Ziva, Gregor, and Andrej. Gregor is a soldier who is about to embark on a mission to Afghanistan and Ziva is going to study abroad. Andrej is their gay friend who hates everything, himself included. The group sets out on their annual roadtrip through the very beautiful Slovenian countryside. During their trip, the three reminisce about the past, old high school memories while avoiding their problems facing them now as adults. Soon their memories begin to unearth buried emotions and lies as they ponder why they become friends to begin with.

Here is a film that I could relate to: sometimes it's fun to live in the past, especially if it was fun. We all think back to our youth and high school days with fond memories, when life was simple and we didn't have a care in the world. Now as adults, we are burden with responsibilities with work and paying bills and such. Here the three friends slowly realize that they cannot avoid growing up so they try to relive the past one last time before they enter the adult world. Again another great film but like WARRIOR WOMAN, today was the last screening of the film as well. However you can visit their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IzletAtrip.


Film number three of the day was MUST COME DOWN, directed by Kenny Riches. This drama/comedy focuses on Holly (Ashley Burch), a jobless twenty-one year old who is having difficulty getting over her recent breakup. She spends her time buying Styrofoam and making tombstones so she can "bury her relationship." Her life becomes interesting though when she meets Ashley (David Fetzer) at the bust stop that she frequents. Ashley is in his late twenties who comes to town to relive his childhood by planning to break into the house that he grew up in with his parents before their divorce destroyed his world. The two become close friends as they revel to one another their faults and insecurities while drawing strength from them.

Both Fetzer and Burch attended the screening and participated in a fun Q&A session with the audience. He revealed that the house the Ashley breaks into was in real life the house that he grew up in! His parents are also divorced and he based the film on his own life. Overall a really touching and funny film that I enjoyed very much. Yet again, today was the last screening of the movie, but you can still visit the film's official website at http://mustcomedownmovie.com/.


The fourth film of the day was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the sexiest films I have ever seen. FOUR LOVERS could be best described as a French movie about sex, or a sexy French movie or a sexy French sex film about sex. Anyway, the film's about two married couples who meet, strike up a friendship, and have hot and nasty sex with each other's spouses! That's pretty much it people!

Actually I really liked this film. It was the most adult orientated film at the festival. It was a film that was about adults and about adult subject matter and treated it with maturity. It was refreshing to see that since most films aimed at adults as of late are more immature and somewhat crass, so this was like a breathe of fresh air. And yes, today was the last screening of the film (noticed the trend here follks!). Bu if you would like to know more about the movie, visit the film's official French website (its alternate title is HAPPY FEW) at http://www.happyfew-lefilm.com/.


The fifth and final film I saw today was the awesome documentary BEL BORBA WAS HERE (BEL BORBA AQUI). The film doesn't follow the standard documentary storytelling. Instead, directors Burt Sun and Andre Costantini document Borba's uncanny artistic abilities as the we see him work on a series of projects that are just absolutely astounding! Known as "The People's Picasso," his art decorates his hometown of Salvador and we see first hand his methods at bringing his artwork to life.

The documentary was preceded by a short film called  L TRAIN, about a young girl who has a difficult life, until she sees someone struggling with being handicapped that brings her life into perspective.

I met Bel Borba earlier in the week and I told him I would see the film. Unfortunately he had to leave this morning to go back to Brazil, but both of the filmmakers were here to participate in a Q&A session. Just an awe inspiring documentary about how one person can bring art to the masses and by improving his town for the better. The film will be screened again on Thursday, March 8th at 1:30pm.

Another incredible day of movie watching! Remember the festival runs till March 11th so there's still time for you to join in on the fun here in San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Day Seven-March 5, 2012

Hello again everybody and welcome to Day Seven of my trip to the Cinequest Film Festival. Today I saw yet again five films! Yup just another typical day at the office for me.


The first film I saw was the documentary MONEY AND MEDICINE. Directed by two-time Oscar nominee Roger Weisberg, the film spotlights on out of control health care spending. The film focuses on two of the country's top medical facilities: UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and Intermountain Medical Center in Utah. The film compares the different practices by both hospitals as the film interviews with doctors, CEOs and analysts. The film questions some of the choices that doctors make regarding testing, opting to perform operations that are unnecessary, and so forth. Over at Intermountain Medical Center, the doctors care more about their patients and would rather treat them by reducing unnecessary procedures and testings, thus causing the hospital to lose money because the of the backwards system that pays doctors and hospitals per procedure (not per outcome). Over at UCLA Medical Center, they will treat the patient anyway they can, by conducting unnecessary procedures and testings. Yup, our health care system is so out of control.

The film was preceded by the short film entitled AFTER THE SHOCK. Though very brief, it really made a powerful impact on me as it's about the filmmaker herself coming out to her family and the aftermath of her announcement.

While MONEY AND MEDICINE is very informative, it didn't feel like documentary film. It looked and felt like it would be shown on MSNBC or on a PBS station. It is thought provoking and well researched, but the film doesn't have a soul. I did like, but it doesn't fit here at the festival. The film will be shown again on Thursday, March 8th at 6:45pm and again on Saturday, March 10th at 2pm.


My second film of the day was HOW TO CHEAT. The film was directed by Amber Sealey and stars Kent Osborne (MONSTERS VS. ALIENS) as Mark, who is married to his wife Beth (Amber Sealey, THE GOOD NIGHT). They are trying to have a child, but with no such luck. Plus add to the equation their busy and hectic schedules. Trying to escape the pressures of marriage, Kent seeks out to have an affair that will excite him and make him feel alive once again. He finds this in the form of Louise (Amanda Street), but things become really complicated for Kent when Beth finds out about the affair as well as Louise's big surprise.

The film was all improvised, and that gave it that extra spark. It was raw, it was real, it was emotional, and it was funny. During the Q&A, director/actress Sealey said that there was no script, but an outline for each scene. So before they would shot, she would go over with the actors what the scene was about. An awesome film to see here at Cinequest. The film will be shown again on Wednesday, March 7th at 9:45pm. Also check out the film's official website at www.howtocheatfilm.com.


Movie number three for the day was PAST SUMMER. Part of Cinequest's Picture the Possibilities program, they along with RFDZ, China's leading high school, brought to the festival a film that was made by sixteen year old students. The film focuses on two sisters Past and Summer who were seperated years ago. Summer is the adopted daughter of a wealthy family who is often referred to as the Princess. Past, however, is a poor but sweet girl next door, who also works as Summer's maid. But soon their two worlds collide as mysterious secret hidden from them comes to light.

Though it was rough and very amateurish, the film is remarkable for the simple fact that it was made by fifteen year old high school kids that was given the opportunity to make a film and to express themselves through this medium. I can't wait to see what these kids will make next. This was the last showing of the film but I encourage you to learn more about the Picture the Possibilities program by visiting the website at www.cinequestptp.org.


The fourth film I saw was the comedy PERCIVAL'S BIG NIGHT, and it was funny as hell! Percival (Tommy Nelms) has a B.A. but works as a bartender. His best friend and roommate Sal (Jarret Kerr) sells weed and like to smoke it as well while watching bad B-movies. The night gets better for Percival because the girl of his dreams Chloe (Sarah Wharton) is coming over to do some business with Sal. Joining Chloe is her best friend Riku (Angelica Reeve) who Sal has a crush on as well. Tonight the boys' New York apartment becomes the setting for a night that all four will never forget.

Based on the off Broadway play, the film is set in real time (scenes were shot in increments of 15 minutes because that was how much information their camera was able to hold and then edited together to make the film look seamless) and is beautifully captured on HD that was, believe it or not, put through a process filter that made it look like a Super 16mm film. The actors were all phenomenal and to have the entire film take place in one location (Sal's room) was incredible. Also worth noting was that the apartment that the film was shot at Kerr and Reeve's apartment! Another hilarious and touching comedy that really deserves to be recognized! The film will be shown again on Friday, March 9th at 1:45pm. Also visit the film's official website at www.percivalsbignight.com.


The fifth and final film of the day was the documentary JASON BECKER:NOT DEAD YET, directed by newcomer Jesse Vile. The film's about a young and gifted guitarist named Jason Becker, Drawing inspiration from greats such as Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, and Bob Dylan, Jason became one of the most respected and sought out guitarist during the late 80s and early 90s. However, only five years into his career, while recording for David Lee Roth's new solo album, Jason was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease at the age of 20. Thought to have died, Jason is still alive and continues to make music despite being confined to a wheelchair and breathing apparatus.

Again another powerful documentary that shows the will of the human spirit. Here is a man that was so damn talented and was virtually on the cusp of stardom when the ALS took it all away. But despite this tragic outcome, Jason continues to remain optimistic as well as making music.Vile was present tonight and participated in a stellar Q&A session. He also mentioned that Jason himself will be here at the festival for the other screenings of the film so make sure you attend them! The film will be screened again on Friday, March 9th at 2:45pm and again on Sunday, March 11 at 2pm. Also please visit the film's official website at http://jasonbeckerfest.com. Also to learn more about ALS and to make a donation to help find a cure, please visit the website www.alsa.org.

What a incredible day of movie watching! Remember the festival will be running till March 11th so there's plenty of time for you to join in on the fun here in San Jose! To view the festival's film schedule and purchase tickets and passes, visit their website at http://www.cinequest.org/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Phil attends CINEQUEST 22: Phil interviews FORGETTING THE GIRL director Nate Taylor-March 4, 2012

During the Cinequest Film Festival, audiences can interact with filmmakers, actors, and actresses and really get to know how their films were made. At this year's festival, several filmmakers are present with their films to discuss the the whole movie making process. One of these talented people is Nate Taylor, whose film FORGETTING THE GIRL had it's world premiere this past Friday at the Camera 12. I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Taylor this past Sunday night before his next screening of his film.

Phil Castor: Now I saw the film play this past Friday night to a sold out crowd. How did you feel about that? Obviously you been wanting this for a while and your first showing is a sold out crowd. You have to very very happy with that.

Nate Taylor: It was unbelievably fulfilling. We worked many, many years on this film and finally to show it to an audience and have such a reception and have people react so strongly it was just the ultimate validation as an artist and that's the nectar we suckle on to keep going. That why the next project has to be even better cause you want that validation again.

PC: How long was this process? You mentioned at the Friday night screening it took a very long time.

NT: It's been years. I couldn't even track it anymore. It's taken such a long time. It took two and a half years just in post production cause we were hobbling through on nights and on weekends and holidays and whenever we could get a few free moment to try make it happen. It's been a long haul. And hopefully the next one's not going to be quite so long. Two or three years would be great (laughing).

PC: Now what really sold the film was the cast. You had such a fantastic cast. Where did you find these actors? One of them, was of course, Lindsey Beamish from John Cameron Mitchell's film SHORTBUS which actually played here at the Camera 12 years ago.

NT: We were incredibly blessed to have this cast. It was THE perfect cast. I couldn't have done it without these people. We had two amazing casting directors Ann Goulder and Gayle Keller who done REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, HAPPINESS, and WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. They had a really good track record of cool indie films. Plus Anne Teutschel helped out as well. She was our third Casting Director and she got us Anna Camp. We spent a couple of months bringing in the coolest indie actors you can think of and did a bunch of call back, matched them up with one another, spent a lot of time working with them, making sure their listening to each other and sort of then said "OK I guess we're gonna go with these." (laughing) There were a lot of good one to choose from so it was hard, except for Christopher Denham (Kevin). He came out like a bolt of lightening. I've never seen anything like it. He has this magic in him that I was like, "I need that guy."

PC: How long was the actual film schedule?

NT: It was a really brutal. We shot the whole film in eighteen days so it was five and a quarter pages a day, blazing at twenty-four locations so it was a lot of moves. It was really fast but we had rehearsals. We had two weeks of rehearsals so everyone knew what they were doing, we had and idea of where we were going, so we would do four takes, maybe five takes then move on to the next. It was pretty rough for the cast, but they held in there.

PC: You mentioned during the Friday Q&A that your wife also helped out on the film. What was her role during production?

NT: My wife Talya Taylor (who is expecting their first child in May) was our makeup department head and our whole glam department, hair and make up, were her best friends. So it was really nice. The whole department had a good time. My wife also invested in the movie and also helped us produce it a little bit. And she kept me sane through the whole process. (laughing) She also had a couple of cameos in the film. She was one of the head shot girls and she's walking on street in another.

PC: After this experience here at Cinequest, are you taking the film to other film festivals?

NT: This is our very first festival. The screening you saw was the very first time anybody had seen it. It was our world premiere. So after this we'll be going to New York and Houston next. And we're hoping to go to Europe and hopefully we can get distribution and then everybody cam see it.

PC: After Friday's sold out screening and your nearly sold out screening tonight, you must be very happy with the film's success so far.

NT: I'm thrilled! It's so exciting to be here at Cinequest. It has such a good vibe, such good people, such a good community and then to have them screaming into the film and watching them is exciting. Word on the street is that people look very excited and are talking abut the film. It's unbelievable. We had an article in the Metro newspaper. It's the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.

PC: So do you have any new projects in the works?

NT: I have two projects in development right now. One of them is a children's film that I'm doing with Peter Moore Smith, the writer for this film.

PC: Wow that's a complete 180 from this film! (laughing)

NT: (Laughing) And I have a solo script that I'm working on that's an urban fantasy set in New York City that, visually, will melt your face off.

PC: Excellent. So I'm really looking forward to seeing all your future projects. 

NT: If you like this, the next one will blow your mind. This was our warm up movie, to get our feet under us. Get to know what we're doing and then in ten years: epic fantasy trilogy starts. I've got some big stories to tell and I'm really looking forward to getting out there.

PC: Wow! I'm really looking forward to seeing those! 

NT: Dude, you have no idea! (laughing)

Nate Tayor is a talented and gifted filmmaker on the rise, and to those of you who haven't seen FORGETTING THE GIRL yet, you are in luck. The film will be having its final screening this Tuesday, March 6th at 2:30pm at the Camera 12. To purchase ticket for the screening, visit the Cinequest website by clicking here and make sure you see this amazing film! And thank you Nate for participating in this interview. Can't wait to see the film again!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!