Category Archives: Film News

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL at the Beacon Theater: The Line-up

2019 Tribeca Film Festival
Beacon Theatre

The series looks back on the Wu-Tang Clan’s career, combining intimate interviews from each of its nine living members with never-before-seen archival footage and performances. Directed by Sacha Jenkins. Executive Produced by Sacha Jenkins, Peter Bittenbender, Chris Gary and Peter J. Scalettar.
After the New York Premiere Screening: a special performance by Wu-Tang Clan
World Premiere, Feature Documentary directed by Steven Cantor and produced by Jamie Schutz. Driven by a constant need to create, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio takes on new projects, including some of his most personal music to date as well as Phish’s ambitious New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden.
After the Premiere Screening: a special performance by Trey Anastasio Band
Spinal Tap is the loudest band in England and they’re making a comeback with a North American tour promoting their new album “Smell the Glove.” Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) sets out to make a documentary of the legendary rock band’s exploits on the road, featuring front men Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bearing witness to the highs and lows of what makes a musician into a rock star. [Released March 2, 1984]
After the Screening: This Is Spinal Tap stars and creators Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner, will pay tribute to the band with a special musical performance and a conversation to follow.
Martin Scorsese is an Academy Award®-winning director and one of the most influential and celebrated filmmakers working today. He has directed some of the mostly highly-regarded, critically acclaimed films, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence. He will sit down with the Academy Award®-winning actor and frequent collaborator Robert De Niro, who he has directed in nine feature films, including his Academy Award® -winning performance as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. This legendary duo will come together at the Beacon Theatre to reflect upon their illustrious decades of collaboration from Mean Streets to their upcoming film, The Irishman.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now celebrates its 40th Anniversary with Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, a never-before-seen version of the film restored in 4K Ultra HD from the original negative. The Beacon Theatre will be outfitted for this exclusive occasion with Meyer Sound VLFC, a ground-breaking loudspeaker system engineered to output audio frequencies below the limits of human hearing, giving the audience a truly visceral experience. Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning vision of the heart of darkness in all of us remains a classic and compelling Vietnam War epic. Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a dangerous, mesmerizing odyssey to assassinate a renegade American Colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost.
After the Screening: An evening with Francis Ford Coppola who will reflect on the film and discuss its elaborate restoration.
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Tribeca Film Festival NOTIFICATIONS

              FILMS AT TRIBECA FF

 

Short History of the Long Road, Tribeca Film Festival

Sabrina Carpenter,’Short History of the Long Road,’ Tribeca Film Festival (photo courtesy of the film and TFF)

            THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD

*World Premiere Screening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition*

Written & Directed by: Ani Simon-Kennedy

Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Steven Ogg, Maggie Siff, Danny Trejo

For teenage Nola, home is the open road with her self-reliant father and their trusty van, two nomads against the world. When Nola’s rootless existence is turned upside-down, she realizes that life as an outsider might not be her only choice.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, April 27th at 2:30 PM at Village East Cinema 07 (World Premiere)
Sunday, April 28th at 5:00 PM at Regal Battery Park 06
Wednesday, May 1st at 5:45 PM at Village East Cinema 03
Saturday, May 4th at 9:00 PM at Regal Battery Park 

Purchase tickets by going to Tribeca Film Festival website. See the film guide at the top of the website page.  TRIBECA WEBSITE:  CLICK HERE

 

 FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN

FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN
Watch the trailer HERE!
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival on April 30, 2019
In select theaters and VOD on June 7th, 2019
FEATURING ALEC BALDWIN AS JOHN DELOREAN
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SITE:  CLICK HERE

 

Tribeca Film Festival Opens With ‘THE APOLLO THEATER’ HBO Documentary Film

Tribea Film Festival, AT & T

2019 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL® SET TO OPEN WITH WORLD PREMIERE OF

HBO DOCUMENTARY FILM THE APOLLO ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24

Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams’ film celebrates the historic New York City cultural landmark where musical legends were discovered

Features interviews with Pharrell Williams, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Ta-Nehisi Coates and more

NEW YORK, NY – February 13, 2019 – The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will open its 18th edition with the world premiere of the HBO Documentary Film The Apollo. Helmed by Academy and Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, The Apollo chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark, the Apollo Theater. The film will debut at the iconic theater itself on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 and later this year on HBO. The feature-length documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes verité with the team that makes the theater run. The Apollo features interviews with artists including Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx. The documentary is produced by Lisa Cortés, Nigel Sinclair’s White Horse Pictures, and Williams. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24-May 5.

The Apollo covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage. The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle and the broad range of African American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.

The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. The space has created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for a myriad of artists including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.  

“We’re excited to finally be going uptown to play the Apollo,” said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder and CEO of the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years. It’s seen the emergence of everything from Jazz to R&B to Soul and Gospel – all quintessential American music genres, and this is the time to remind people of our nation’s rich history. ”

The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression,“ commented director Roger Ross Williams.  “The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time.  I was fortunate to make my first film with HBO and I am thrilled to be coming back home with The Apollo. Premiering at The Tribeca Film Festival, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a dream come true.”

“The Apollo Theater is a symbol of the creative spirit of New York and beyond, and I’m very happy that we’re kicking off our 18th Festival celebrating it with this documentary from Roger Ross Williams,” said Tribeca Co-Founder Robert De Niro.

The Apollo, directed by Academy Award-winning and Tribeca alumnus Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; Life, Animated) and is produced by Lisa Cortés (Precious), White Horse’s Nigel Sinclair (George Harrison: Living in the Material World; Undefeated), Jeanne Elfant Festa (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Pavarotti) and Cassidy Hartmann (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, Pavarotti) along with Williams.

The Apollo will have additional screenings during the Festival. Passes and packages to attend the Festival go on sale on February 19, 2019.

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival will announce its feature film slate on March 5.

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HIFF 2018 Coverage and Film Review: ‘Border,’ Special Jury Prize For Acting

 Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

(L to R): Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander in ‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo courtesy of the trailer)

Once again the Hamptons International Film Festival 2018 sparked interest and traffic during Columbus Day weekend. Crowds lined up in East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor for film screenings, celebrity talks and special events. The 126 films hailed from around the world. And a number of them had previously won prizes at other festivals. “We are thrilled that these diverse, unique, and entertaining stories resonated with our audience,” said HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent.

Though I screened other films on Friday, fellow movie lovers told me that The Hate You Give astounded them. The Hamptons panel selected Amandla Stenberg as one of their Breakthrough Artists. She and director George Tillman Jr. gave a powerful introduction on Friday night for The Hate You Give. This film screens this weekend. An important film for our times, the film unsurprisingly garnered a post-screening standing ovation. This HIFF Audience Award Winner for Narrative Feature was the only film to receive such an accolade.

My screening coverage of the films included one unique and memorable multiple award winner. Border, “GRÄNS”, directed by Ali Abbasi, received the HIFF 2018 Special Jury Prize for acting for the two lead actors, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff.  Border, selected as Sweden’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, also received a Cannes Film Festival award. The “Un Certain Regard” 2018 prize evinces the striking and memorable elements of this fantastical feature narrative that haunts with ironic, thematic truths. Thus far, Border received 6 wins and 9 nominations. Before it completes its screening cycle, it surely will win more awards. What a novel and extraordinarily compelling film!

Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018

Eva Melander in the award-winning ‘Border’ by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Border

The screenplay adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “Let the Right One in,” mixes fantasy, horror, drama, mystery, romance and magical realism with scenes of banality. Screenwriters Ali Abbassi, Isabella Eklof, John Ajvide Lindqvist distill tension and gyrate it throughout the arc of plot and character development. They accomplish this by moving back and forth between static scenes and frighteningly realistic glimpses into the world of eerie phantasmagoria.

Invariably, the mundane static occurs in the scenes of city life. The mysterious environs of the forest, the lakes and streams and “wildness” of nature convey the fantastic, beautiful and ethereal. As the conflict increases and events unfold with fearful intensity, the natural elements, rocks, woodlands, streams predominate. The forest becomes a notorious symbolic playland. The themes speak to rejuvenation and abiding in the sanctuary of nature. This balanced haven is free from cultural conformity, stereotypical, fascist definitions (borders), of gender, appearance, class, and societal strictures.

Gradually, and with great care, the screenwriters reveal the true nature of the characters and lead us to their unexpected, extraordinary outcomes. To the director’s and writers’ credit, their storytelling precision artfully gives nothing away. They lead us to surprise twists, shock, delight and the strange acceptance of beauty in ugliness. The scenes, compactly shot and effected, do just enough to forward the action and suspense. When the revelations come, they unfold in the organic fury of the characters. And their rage spirals into dangerous, increasingly mystical events. Eventually, we understand how the thread of circumstances unfolds in a final overall truth laden with profound themes. These are further interwoven with preternatural threads of Norse mythology.

Border, Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018

‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi, HIFF 2018 (photo from the trailer)

Especially in its characterization Border suggests that civilization and cultural norms demean and destroy uniqueness and particularity. And the societal emphasis on the empirical and materialistic nullifies an entire species of beings whose very preciousness is made anathema by cultural obtuseness and limitation.  This is superb writing and a superior adaptation perfectly infused by the brilliant, empathetic acting turns of Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff.

Initially, the director introduces us to protagonist Tina (Eva Melander), in her sterile, uninspiring work environment as a customs official. However, as a border agent, Tina’s talents display a preternatural gift of smell. Notably, she targets drug addicts and illegal substances simply by sniffing individuals who come across her path. Her gifts extend to inanimate objects. For example, Tina sniffs out sealed bottles of alcohol.

But when she sniffs a micro disc that has pornography, we note the acute strangeness of this behavior. Tina tells her bosses that she senses and feels the fear and guilt associated with the object. By this juncture in the film, the second and third gyrations of character development have taken place. By then she has encountered a mysterious stranger, Vore (Eero Milonoff). His smile menaces. And he could be her brother in his unusual resemblance. He intrigues her and appears to be the most fascinating event that occurs in her tiresome existence. Also, the micro disc turns up later and ties in all the mysteries of character and conflict Tina confronts on her road to self-actualization.

Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

L to R): Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander in ‘Border,’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Succinctly, the director sets up Tina’s lifestyle and environs. And these suggest subtle elements which guide her evolving journey as she discovers her true identity. Before meeting Vore, her monotonous days pass uneventfully in the atmosphereless unit at Passport and Border Control. And her evenings with cute Roland (Jorgen Thorsson), whom we initially believe is her partner, are equally purposeless. She doesn’t appear to have interests. Her lifestyle manifests a disordered order. And though Roland cages fighting dogs on her property which he exploits for gambling elsewhere, she could care less.

Because they don’t have an intimate relationship, though he wants one despite her unusual, homely appearance, we question why Roland remains with her. Finally, during a conversation with her father, we get it. Roland makes little money and must live off her largesse. In a quid pro quo she appreciates companionship, so she allows him to stay in the house she inherited from her disabled father whom she visits in a nursing home.

Eva Melander, Border, Ali Abbasi

Eva Melander in ‘Border’ directed by Ali Abbasi (photo from the film trailer)

Ali Abbasi ingeniously and believably sets up Tina’s “quiet life of desperation” emptiness, isolation and loneliness to enhance themes. Tina’s life mirrors the lives that many lead, i.e. a circumscribed, hateful existence, defined by nullifying social mores. Also, the tedious monotony of her days sets up the contrast to the new life introduced by the eerie, preternaturally appealing Vore.

Tina can’t forget Vore’s weird, repulsive attractiveness. This mystery leaves the questions initially unanswered until the end of the film. Perhaps, it is because of her own life of cruel banality and her disinterest in sex with Roland? Nevertheless, we cannot forget a comment a colleague confessed to her when he frisked Vore whose gender appalled him.

So when Tina runs into the sinister Vore in a shopping area and he mesmerizes her, we fear for her. Eventually, this encounter results in an invitation to rent a place on her property where she rents to another family with a baby. Roland, creeped out by Vore, like us, questions why she takes in a stranger. He makes an excellent point for the macabre embraces Vore. And indeed, we anticipate that Vore’s wild, naked romp in the woods where he screams with violence and pain signals that he will destroy Tina and the others if he stays. Unless, of course, Tina becomes intimate with him.

There is no spoiler alert. You will have to see how Tina makes her way through the horror and adventure to decide what path she will choose. Does she select a road toward defining her own contentment throwing off cultural shackles in the process? Or does she pick the well-traveled road of futility because she has become accustomed to it? Or perhaps she may be the one to merge both roads to attain a higher goodness?

The ambiguity presents delicious possibilities and leads to a fascinating conclusion. It reminds us that all of us for as long as we live on this planet are immigrants. And in carrying the metaphor of the film one step beyond, we may exist on the border of our own lives until we find ourselves home.  Border is psychic dynamite! Spellbinding with suspense, the film remains an award-winning standout that will haunt your imagination, if not forever, for a long while.

 

2018 Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Disobedience,’Starring Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Disobedience, 2018 Tribeca FF US Premiere Screening

(L to R): Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca FF US Premiere Screening (photos from the film)

Disobedience directed by Sebastian Lelio, written by Sebastián Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz received its US Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival 2018. Based on the titular novel by Naomi Alderman, the film is striking for its dynamic and profoundly rendered performances by Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivolo who are caught in an unwitting love triangle. Within a matter of three or four days, as long as it takes to say goodbye to a beloved rabbi, the three must reconcile the truth and establish the deepest kind of love for each other in the form of forgiveness and self-love that brings healing and acceptance.

2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere Screening and Q & A, Alessandro Nivolo

Alessandro Nivola, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere Screening and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

The title is an extreme irony for on the one hand no one in the film outside of the culture of the community  where the action takes place commits any wrongdoing. However, based upon the perspective of the strict, religious Orthodox community of Jews in North London where the characters play out their drama, love between two women is forbidden. And it is here that the film launches into one of the most poignant and uplifting of LGBTQ films that has been filmed to date.

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, US Premiere Screening, Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Disobedience

(L to R): Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere Screening (photo from the film)

Ronit, a New York photographer who has been estranged from her rabbi father returns home for his funeral to pay respect and gain closure, if possible. She discovers that the Orthodox Jewish congregation holds little interest for her nor demonstrates conviviality. Even her relatives are cold. Indeed, her lifestyle and freedom living as an independent free-wheeling woman in the US has transformed her since she has shed the strict upbringing under which she was raised, though she is still Jewish. As she attempts to negotiate the services for her father, she meets old friends with whom she grew up and is shocked to discover that Esti (Rachel McAdams) has married Dovid (Alessandro Nivolo). When she discusses their relationship with them, she discovers that Esti is miserable with Dovid who has worked closely with Ronit’s father in the synagogue and most probably will take over the congregation now that the rabbi has died.

Alessandro Nivola, Rachel McAdams, Disobedience, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere

Alessandro Nivola, Rachel McAdams in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere (photo from the film)

The film progresses slowly, profoundly and painstakingly and this is where the three actors shine in their almost second to second precision as they react to one another in measured, careful beats. We note the underpinnings and feelings that the women suppress in public. The air between them is heavy with meaning, and Dovid is sensitive enough to divine that the two have feelings for each other that transcend the ordinary relationship of childhood friends.

Eventually, the filmmaker reveals that Ronit (Rachel Weisz in a dogged and measured performance) and Esti (Rachel McAdams is the perfect foil playing off Weisz’s inner peace with a yearning grace of her own) had an affair and were intimate in complete contravention of the mores of the Orthodox community.

Ronit’s father, a rabbi, expects strict adherence to Jewish folkways for his children, and when he was apprised of Ronit’s behavior, they argued. The film is fascinating in that the father’s presence makes itself felt, though we never see him. The estrangement reveals that her father adheres more to the role of rabbi and fears the disapproval of his congregation than demonstrating the perfect law of love and grace which as a rabbi he is supposed to exemplify. Hypocritically, the rabbi wants nothing to do with his daughter. Their estrangement and his unforgiveness carry through to the disposition of his possessions and his house. He has disinherited Ronit and has given everything to charity.

Rahel Weisz, Rahel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Disobedience, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere

(L to R): Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Ronit left her father, the Orthodox Jewish folkways and culture, and sought the freedom of the US. However, it is apparent she has not left her love of God though she is free from Orthodoxy. Ronit is a sterling individual. Courageously, she carves out her own life confronting her sexual orientation as second nature for she is intimate with both men and women.

Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere and Q & A Screening

Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

On the other hand, Esti has had to live under the strictures that Ronit discarded. And as a married woman and a lesbian which the community considers anathema and “unclean,” she despises herself  and her hypocrisy that she has chosen a life of shame, though on the surface she is a pious, good wife to her husband. Nevertheless, like the Rabbi who has a daughter whom he cannot forgive, Esti stays in a marriage which is false and the intimacy between her and Dovid is false and truly unfair to him.

Rachel McAdams, Disobedience, 2018 Tribeca FF US Premiere

Rachel McAdams in ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca FF US Premiere (photo courtesy of the film)

Though the film concentrates on the relationships of Dovid, Ronit and Esti, in the shadows, we understand that the Orthodox Jewish culture nullifies and pushes individuals further from God rather than closer to him in love and forgiveness. Out of all of the characters in the film, Ronit best exemplifies God’s love and it is through her loving example with Dovid and Esti that the married couple are made free to leave one another and in the case of Dovid allow himself to be free of the position of rabbi. For as a result of Ronit’s visit and the revelations that occur, he realizes he must not take up the mantle of hypocrisy that Ronit’s father has worn in front of his congregation, looking like the martyred saint, while being unforgiving to his daughter.

One of the most important themes in Disobedience cannot be overstated enough.The strict mores and unforgiving Orthodox Jewish community like any orthodox religious community creates misery and torment. The religious mores work in the reverse. They do not free. Instead, they chain the congregation to an obedience which is not loving of God who forgives. It chains them to behavior which is unforgiving its acceptance of a false obedience to the orthodoxy which discourages love and forgiveness. Thus, when Ronit first visits, we see how the congregants respond to her. Indeed, Ronit’s example is frightening to the community who rejects her rather than attempts to understand who she is.

Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Disobedience, Alessandro Nivola, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere and Q & A

(L to R): Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, ‘Disobedience,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival US Premiere and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

The conundrum Esti’s character faces becomes clear to us and to Ronit when she tells Ronit that she wanted to see her and though Ronit didn’t know who sent word, Esti admits that it was she who sent word her father died. Indeed. The complexity of their relationship, one being free and the other living in bondage and lies reveals the secret intimacy between them is a freeing one for Esti. However, before Ronit visits, Esti is incapable of seeing a way out because Dovid is a lovely, kind individual and there is external security in being with the community, though the security is a prison.

Only when Ronit and she are intimate in a hotel room and she is able to express her passion as a gay woman to one she loved in the past, does she set herself free. For her part, Ronit is settled in who she is and her own freedom kindles the love in Esti to set her at ease with her decision to leave Dovid.

By the end of the film, Ronit is a beacon to Esti and Dovid. Esti wants to be free of her shame, her hypocrisy and her unhappiness with Dovid whom she loves, but not in the fullness of expression as she loves Ronit. Ronit helps her achieve freedom to forgive herself and move on away from Dovid and the congregation.

The most poignant one in this threesome is Dovid. But he, too, overcomes the shackles of the congregation’s stultifying mores. He forgives both of the women and understands that to command Esti to stay with him or love him is unloving and hateful of her true nature. His character beautifully portrayed by Nivola is the one who evolves and accepts the challenges of discovering what love and forgiveness should be for one in a position to lead others in God’s laws of love.

The film’s pacing is particularly interesting in the beginning. All is subtext and it keeps one considering what is happening between and among the three friends. It is a must-see for the superb acting, the excellent adaptation of the script and the measured cinematography which serves characterization and theme. Kudos to all involved, especially the actors and the director who elicited their performances.

 

2018 Tribeca Film Festival Review: Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ Starring Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Mare Winningham

Annette Bening, Jon Tenney, The Seagull, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere

Annette Bening, Jon Tenney in ‘The Seagull,’ 2018 Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere, (photo from the film)

Annette Bening, The Seagul, Anton Chekhov, Michael Meyer, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere

Annette Bening, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere, Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ directed by Michael Mayer (Carole Di Tosti)

Michael Mayer’s valiant attempt to bring a freshness to The Seagull with a script based on Anton Chekhov’s titular work by Stephen Karam (Tony winner of The Humans-2016) shines for a myriad of reasons. Yes, many critics dunned it or found that it fell short of its monumental task to bring Anton Chekhov’s four act, three hour play to the screen. Indeed, Chekhov is not easy and the script has been paired to emphasize the humor and highlight the salient speeches and actions, leaving the more unwieldy dialogue behind.

Annette Bening, The Seagull, Anton Chekhov, Michael Mayer, Stephen Karam 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere

Annette Bening in Anton Checkhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ directed by Michael Mayer, adapted by Stephen Karam, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere, (photo courtesy of the film.

At its first time out in 1895, The Seagull flopped. The play requires superb acting and directing so that the ponderous tones are submerged and the comedy comes to the fore. I have seen a number of productions that left me with a yawn and a nod. Not so for this film. Forgive me fellow sojourners with a critical eye. My pen is blunted from razor sharp barbs directed to slice into this fine feature which made its World Premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, The Seagull, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere

Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, ‘The Seagull, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere (photo courtesy of the film)

Mayer brings the action into the breathtaking settings of the lake and environs of the estate. He carries this striking beauty into his grand and lush interiors signifying the wealth and class status of the Pjotr Nikolayevich Sorin estate. Sorin (Brian Dennehy) is Irina’s (Annette Bening) brother. Interior and exterior settings are visually stunning. Against this gorgeousness Mayer unleashes the characters foibles and tragedies. The irony that luxury and the exquisite beauty of things has little power over emotions thematically resonates throughout. The principals’ (Irina-Bening, Trigorin-Corey Stoll, Nina-Saoirse Ronan, Masha-Elisabeth Moss, Konstantin-Billy Howle) interactions form the meat of the drama which ends in  tragedy. None of the characters appear to be self-aware (Trigorin excepted with caveats) to the point where they can make decisions which are life-affirming. Chekhov and Mayer’s iteration of his version of The Seagull places the human condition in its humor and sadness front and center. To his credit Mayer’s understanding and perception continually serve his fine cinematic intuitions, skills and efforts.

Saoirse Ronan, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere and Q & A

Saoirse Ronan, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere Screening and Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

The vitality of the settings that move back and forth from outdoors to interiors ground us in the landed wealth and social order of the Sorin family who also boasts a celebrity, the actress Irina who visits her brother Sorin and her son Konstantin each summer. The settings, always a subtle reminder of the time and place in Russia before the revolution (twenty years or so later) seem a particular irony. The upper class social elites and celebrities (Irina, Trigorin, etc.) whose physical needs are answered by the serving class, remain surreptitiously unhappy and in a constant state of displacement by the major facts of life: love-loss, aging and death. Their sturm und drang, whimsies, self-absorption and discontents are the luxuries of their class which harbor the seeds of tragedy because their cavernous, selfish desires blind them to the encroaching realities. Unless they self-correct, they will face tragedy and loss after tragedy and destruction, muting their soul’s enrichment until little of worth is left.. Inevitably, this class in the coming decades will lose all they take for granted.

Annette Bening, Billy Howle,2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere Q & A,Annette Bening, Billy Howle,The Seagull, Anton Chekhov, Michael Mayer,

Annette Bening, Billy Howle in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere and Q & A, (Carole Di Tosti)

Irina (Bening is authentic and stunning as the aging diva racing one step ahead of oblivion, and the end of celebrity and youth) brings the successful novelist Trigorin (Stoll in a superbly realistic performance) into the summer festivities of the family on their estate. Trigorin’s presence is the catalyst that puts the human dominoes in motion and sends them careening off a cliff with humor and irrevocably pathos. Konstantin, a passionate, unconventional writer is devastated after his mother Irina and the others find his play, performed by his unrequited love Nina, to be laughable and esoteric. Too self-absorbed with their own greatness Irina and Trigorin dismiss his yearning for success and recognition. His need for his mother’s love and acceptance has fallen at the shores of his depressive state for years. Almost in a revenge against his plight and in a self-curse of not achieving success, he shoots a delightful, beautiful seagull in a wanton act to release his anger. He gives the seagull to Nina who rejects it. It is a symbolic act, as if as refuses to acknowledge that her unrequited love wounds him. This act reverberates and symbolizes additional themes. One is that human being’s selfish desires and passions loosed upon the natural world and others, if not moderated, harm and destroy.

Elisabeth Moss, The Seagull, Anton Chekhov, Michael Mayer, Stephen Karam, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere,

Elisabeth Moss in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ written by Stephen Karam, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere, directed by Michael Mayer (photo from the film)

For her part Nina (who lives on a neighboring estate) is entranced by Trigorin and dismissive of Konstantin’s love. She seeks fame as an actress and wants Trigorin’s love which he finds flattering for his ego is wounded in his relationship with Irina and the encroaching years of waning masculinity. Nina may be his last, greatest passion, and if not that, a distracting plaything to notch on his belt and then discard. When he notes the dead seagull, he shares that he may use it as a symbol in a work he will write. These poetic notions seduce Nina with the enticement that she may be his seagull. Nina is blind to the danger of what he says, innocently trusting him with her love and being.

Stoll as Trigorin is convincing especially in his self-justification of why he must take Nina’s love, if even for a season, when she offers it quoting from a passage in a work of his. This speech in particular is superbly delivered by Stoll. And even if it is not graceful, we empathize with his fear of aging and the limitations of his mortality with which we all can identify. Neither money, nor success nor celebrity can answer death. However, being pursued by two women a beautiful younger one and a celebrated actress who is a drama queen will suffice in the meantime, though it requires the humility and wisdom to negotiate their war against each other to “get” him. Trigorin’s pride and fear do not allow him to balance the two women so that they don’t care about his concern for the other in competing jealousies. They do care and they compete for him.

The Seagull, Michael Mayer, Stephen Karam, Saoirse Ronan, Brian Dennehy, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere

Saoirse Ronan, Brian Dennehy, Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ adapted by Stephen Karam, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere (photo from the film)

Irinia discovers Nina’s hopeless infatuation and must then approach Trigorin with clever wiles to get him to return with her to Moscow. If they stay at the estate, in front of her he will fulfill his lustful passion for Nina, for Nina is relentless. Irina refuses this humiliation.Though Trigorin and Irina leave together, in the short term she knows she must let him go.

Bening’s and Stoll’s interplay is smashing. In their portrayals, they reveal that neither character loves the other, but the passion for keeping their successful images by using each other’s status is familiar territory. Ultimately that will bind them together, despite any interfering love by encroaching inferiors like Nina or even Irina’s son Konstantin.

The Seagull, Corey Stoll, Red Carpet, 2018 World Premiere, Tribeca FF, Michael Meyer, Anton Chekhov, Stephen Karam

Corey Stoll, Red Carpet, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere, Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ directed by Michael Mayer, adapted by Stephen Karam (Carole Di Tosti)

These intricate matters of the heart are further complicated by the unrequited love of Konstantin for Nina whom he adores, and Masha’s (the daughter of Sorin’s baliff) unrequited love of Konstantin. The only stable one appears to be Doctor Dorn (Jon Tenney) who sees the value in Konstantin’s symbolistic, maverick play. However, he is having an affair with Polina behind her husband’s back, not embarrassed to cuckhold an inferior. Thus, with this selfish and wanton weakness, he fits the ethos of the other disturbed, dismantling characters.

What of the irascible and reflexive Sorin (Dennehy) who allows the visitors to descend on the estate each summer with aplomb and takes care of his nephew Konstantin while his sister indulges her passions for the dramatic life? He appears to be the most balanced, but he has two sick feet on a banana peel, and if he moves too suddenly, he appears ready to slip out of life. Only the servants/peasants whose needs we cannot see remain solid even heroic as they attend to their sometimes “infantile” charges and judge their actions accordingly.

The beauty of the film is its muscularity. The director focuses on the performances in the highly charged scenes between Bening’s Irina and Stoll’s Trigorin and between Trigorin and Saoirse Ronan’s Nina and between Nina and Howle’s Konstantin.

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Meyer, 2018 Tribeca FF World Premiere

Saoirse Ronan in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull,’ directed by Michael Meyer, adapted by Stephen Karam, 2018 Tribeca FF (photo from  film)

The succinct script entices us toward believability. We know these individuals and are fascinated by their rationale for behaving as they do. Though not very admirable or honorable, they are like us as they “hang themselves and each other out to dry.” When Nina returns in her dishevelment and dislocation of self and presents what she “is” to Konstantin, he sees her identity ravished and torn by Trigorin and the vicissitudes of her mediocre acting career. From his love for her and out of his own depths of despair, he willfully kills himself ending his misery and torment.

The ending is particularly poignant. Saoirse Ronan, appears like a ghost to revisit and haunt the scene as if transferring her great wounds to Konstantin who again kills a seagull in his empathy with it. This time it is himself. Representatively, symbolically his act shows that though Nina’s physical life continues, for all intents and purposes, her beauty and innocence are dead. Both have allowed themselves to be consumed by others whose great, dark abyss of self-torment seems limitless in its rapacity to devour all who attempt to love them.

See the film for the performances: all are wonderful, and kudos to Elisabeth Moss who manages always to be funny in her despair and angst. Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney and Brian Dennehy relay solid performances.

Mayer has found an approach to putting difficult classics onscreen. Perhaps he will continue this trend; fine directors should work with the classics to acquaint the current generation with great playwrights and authors. Actors surely will jump at the opportunity, to portray humorous and profound characterizations like the ones Chekhov has delineated in The Seagull.

 

 

 

Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Nominations

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I am taking out the time to post this release on my site because I agree with the spirit of this online film society. I have seen a number of the nominated films in festivals across the nation. Other films they overlooked were smashing. For example, Last Flag Flying (screenplay, performances) and  Wonderstruck  (art design, music). And Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is noteworthy because of superb performances by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell.
Last Flag Flying, Darryl Poniscan, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, NYFF 2017

(L to R): Darryl Poniscan, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston at NYFF Q and A, ‘Last Flag Flying’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, HIFF 2017

Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Q & A ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ HIFF 2017 (Carole Di Tosti)

And of course, there are some nominations with which I do not agree. Lady Bird, I believe, is overrated; the performances are uneven, the characters stock and predictable.  The humor is pressure-cookered and not organic. Also, I would have added to the Best Actor category, Armie Hammer. His portrayal in Call Me By Your Name is easily underestimated.  It is more complexly rendered and must be sussed out, more so than his co-protagonist Timothée Chalamet, not to take away from Chalamet who is incredible. LAOFCS picks are below.
Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name, NYFF 2017, Nigel M. Smith

(L to R): Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Director Luca Guadagnino in ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Q & A at NYFF 2017, hosted by Nigel M. Smith (courtesy NYFF Talks)

Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name, NYFF 2017, Nigel M. Smith

Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, NYFF 2017 ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Q & A hosted by Nigel M. Smith (courtesy NYFF Talks)

The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Announces Its Inaugural Year’s Nominations:
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water leads with 11 nominations while Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird lands in second place with nine and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in third with eight.

(Los Angeles, CA – December 4th, 2017) – The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society (LAOFCS) is pleased to announce that their Awards Ceremony will be held on January 3rd, 2018, at which time the winners will be announced.

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water, HIFF 2017

Richard Jenkins ‘The Shape of Water,’ HIFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Fox Searchlight’s The Shape of Water tops the nominations list with eleven nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay while Lady Bird earns nine nominations and Dunkirk earns eight. Jordan Peele’s massive hit, Get Out scores nominations for Best Male Director and Best First Feature.

Ruben Ostend, The Square, NYFF 2017

Ruben Ostend, director ‘The Square,’ NYFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Studio films such as Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner 2049 are also among the nominations scoring five nominations each.

A few smaller released films have found their place on the nominations list including Neon’s Colossal, Trademark Films & Break Thru Films’ Loving Vincent, and the Sundance Institute’s Columbus.

Diane Kruger, In the Fade, HIFF 2017

Diane Kruger, ‘In the Fade,’ HIFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet are each nominated for Best Actress and Actor as well as Best Performance by an Actor or Actress Under the Age of 23.

The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society is pleased to announce that it is the first ever critics group to feature two Best Director categories; one for female and one for male. “There has been so much conversation about the power of female filmmakers and we wanted to embrace it,” said Mantz. “There is a Best Actor and Best Actress category as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress, so why not have a Best Male Director and Best Female Director category?” asked Menzel. Good idea considering more attention must be given to the exceptional work of female directors who are often closed out in favor of their male counterparts.

In total, the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society members have nominated over forty different films ranging from smaller art-house releases to major blockbusters.

Sam Rockwell, HIFF 2017, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell, HIFF 2017 ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ (Carole Di Tosti)

Nominations for the first Annual Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society Awards:

BEST PICTURE

The Big Sick
Colossal
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
Molly’s Game
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Bryan Cranston, Last Flag Flying, NYFF 2017

Bryan Cranston, ‘Last Flag Flying,’ NYFF 2017 Q & A (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

Dee Rees, Mudbound
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit
Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman
Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Steven Spielberg, The Post

Jamie Bell, Film STars Don't Die in Liverpool, HIFF 2017

Jamie Bell, ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ HIFF 2017 Q and A (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ANIMATED / VISUAL EFFECT PERFORMANCE

Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
Doug Jones, The Shape of Water
Dan Stevens, Beauty and the Beast

BEST EDITING

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Post
The Shape of Water

Annette Bening, HIFF 2017, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Annette Bening, HIFF 2017 Q & A ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST SCORE

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
War for the Planet of the Apes

BEST STUNT WORK

Atomic Blonde
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
John Wick: Chapter 2
Wonder Woman

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS UNDER 23 YEARS OLD

Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
Dafne Keen, Logan
Jacob Tremblay, Wonder
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

BEST SCI-FI/ HORROR

Blade Runner 2049
Get Out
It
It Comes at Night
The Shape of Water

Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, NYFF 2017, The Florida Project

(L to R): Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, NYFF 2017 Q & A ‘The Florida Project’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ACTION/WAR

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

The Big Sick
The Disaster Artist
Girls Trip
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Kogonada, Columbus
Jeremy Gasper, Patti Cake$
Jordan Peele, Get Out

Armie Hammer, HIFF 2017, Call Me By Your Name

Armie Hammer, HIFF 2017 Red Carpet, ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

The Big Sick
Colossal
A Ghost Story
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

Beauty and the Beast
Dunkirk
Logan
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST DOCUMENTARY

An Inconvenient Sequel
Jane
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
Step
Whose Streets?

Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, Last Flag Flying,

(L to R): Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne in ‘Last Flag Flying,’ (courtesy of the film)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

BPM, France
First They Killed My Father, Cambodia
In the Fade, Germany
The Square, Sweden
Thelma, Norway

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Breadwinner
Coco
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, HIFF 2017, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

(L to R): Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, HIFF 2017 Q & A ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carole Di Tosti)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, & Walter Fasano, Call Me by Your Name
Michael H. Weber & Scott Neustadter, The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold, & Michael Green, Logan
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees, Mudbound

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Idris Elba, Molly’s Game
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name
Patrick Stewart, Logan
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Williem Dafoe, The Florida Project

BEST ACTRESS

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

BEST ACTOR

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post

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