I have an issue - housing. Growing up in the Bay Area, and living here nearly my entire life, I have seen it go from a place where low-income families could own a home, to where even well-employed workers have a hard time affording rent. I've seen prices skyrocket, families that have been here for generations forced out, and the quality of life for those that have remained decrease.
And the wonderfully stylish and well-acted With Children let me know that it is nothing new, and in fact, may have been far worse the year I was born.
The story is Cecelia and her work towards buying a house in San Francisco in 1974. She's had a kid, is unmarried, and her job, and an ex, are jerking her around. She's determined to make herself a home-owner She works hard, so very very hard, and she fights for that dream of giving her daughter a better future away from the shelter she's in.
Lissette Feliciano is fantastic, and this film seems to sing in her voice. Her performance as Cecilia is precise, intelligent, heart-felt, and moving. Her script is so strong, with nearly perfect pacing and a strong sense of purpose to every interaction between characters. The direction is wonderful. Combined with strong shooting and editing, and a very smart use of music that never feels over-powering and it not used, as it is so often, to set the period of the film. Instead, the music is an accent, and one that is applied to the character and emotional status of the film, not to the setting or timeframe, which I found refreshing. The acting over-all is wonderful, but I also have to give a shout-out to what always catches my attention in a film - title design. The opening and closing credits are wonderful, and they set the tone, the timeframe, and the closing credits, an attachment to the time period that is heart-warming. This is a film that is constructed to bring us closer to our main character and her struggle, and to the problematic world of housing law and the realities of housing practices. I love the way that this feels as if we are able to connect with a character who is both of her time, and of our time simultaneously, dealing with issues that we saw, see, and will certainly continue to see.
This is a film that addresses the issues of the present using the issues of the past, issues that are still present and with us in different levels, different directions. The story is the same; there are those who can get the dream, and those who can not. The struggle to live in this area, in San Francisco, in Silicon Valley, in many if not most of the major cities of the US, is real, and there are always stumbling blocks placed in front of those of us who are seen as outside the desirable categories. It is a story that I can say I witnessed first-hand in the 1980s with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, in the 1990s with my friends. In With Children, it is a single Latina mother who throws herself into a life of near all-day work who is kept from her dream of home ownership. Today, it is pretty much anyone who is not a tech worker making 100K+ a year, and even more difficult for minority populations to achieve any sort of housing in these parts. Then, it was the desire to have families filling housing, today it is the desire for rich-kid tech-worker singles who toil in the office 15 hours-a-day. The song is the same; the chorus and the verse simply seem to have traded places.
I love this film's message, and more importantly, I love this film.
With Children shows with The Listen Project at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown SJ on Wed, Mar 8 7:15 PM, and at Century 20 Redwood City - Screen 3 Fri, Mar 10 4:15 PM, Sat, Mar 11 1:15 PM, and Sun, Mar 12 3:40 PM
Stunningly beauty. Those are words I found more than once in my research into Tiphany Adams. Having seen the film Tiphany several times before I started researching this preview piece, I can not at all disagree. I can also say that the shooting of this documentary on Tiphany meets that beauty and provides a remarkable setting for her to inhabit.
Tiphany was involved in a car accident in 2000 at the age of 17, and after many surgeries, required the use of a wheelchair. This did not stop her at all, it seems, as she became a fitness model and actress in the years following the accident. We see her shoot with photographer Kai York, who is an amazing photographer of both fashion and fitness. The work with Tiphany shown here is phenomenal, but the lensing is the fluid version of York's shooting. Precise, detailed, at points utterly compacted and at other points, so very expansive it feels as if it will lift off the screen. Director Justin Ferrato, along with producer York, have crafted a film with the power and detail of one of York's compositions, while erasing the distance that so much model photography imposes on the viewer. This is one of the things that most impressed me on my first viewing - there is both elevation and invitation, which is a difficult two-fer to manage.
This film rewards each viewing. It is lovely, it is powerful, it is inspirational, and it is sexy, something that goes against the frequently presented idea that those with spinal cord injuries who use wheelchairs are not desirable. Inspirational is allowed, of course, but here both her story and her absolutely stunning beauty and her work with York are put on equal footing, which makes it feel neither manipulative nor opportunistic, a curse held by many docs of this style. I love this movie, and am so glad we get to show it at Cinequest!
Tiphany screens as a part of DocuNation on March 1st at 415, March 5th at 615, and March 12 at 415 at the Century Theatres in Redwood City, and on March 7th at 345 at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose.
Kate Nichols knows she's innocent. She knows she's only in for a limited time before they realise the mistake they made. She didn't murder her husband. She couldn't have. She has agreed to be a part of an annual video diary as a part of her incarceration, and she talks directly to the camera. We see her evolve over the course of the interviews, and that is all we are given.
This is a bottle picture: entirely in one location, one single camera position, one actor, talking directly to the camera. Played by director.writer Nicole Fairbrother, Kate is many things, beginning with scared, and ending with... well, not scared. Her performance here is inspired. She gives so much to the screen, to the lens directly, and then we are hit full force with her. It is an amazing trick of acting, and one that rewards even after you know the road this all takes.
The film is tough and powerful, and smart. It is as if she is speaking directly to you, and you're asking entire way through. There's a central metaphor at play; are we our demons? The answer to that question is what Fairbrother is answering here, and she does an amazing job at it.
Monster shows as a part of Program 5 - Mindbenders at Century 20 Redwood City Fri, Mar 3 9:45 PM Tue, Mar 7 6:00 PM and Fri, Mar 10 4:45 PM and at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose Sun, Mar 5 9:15 PM and Thu, Mar 9 3:45 PM
There are few documentarians who excite my love of the form as much as Jilli Rose does. Her work Stixky was a masterpiece of the animated documentary form. There was no question that we were going to program Bright Spots when we saw that she had submitted it, and when I watched it, I knew it was exactly the film we needed.
The focus of this piece is the work of the legendary Nick Holmes. He's one of the folks who is working to prevent extinctions on islands. Rats are, in many places, villains, destroying so many island ecosystems. The work that Nick does to save species in critical danger is so important.
The film, as an animated work, is lovely, impressionistic, and absolutely beautiful. The way the animation plays with the interview, and the music, really turns it into a singular work of art instead of an academic piece. It gives weight to the environmental aspect without losing sight of the artistic aspect. That is a difficult line to walk, and Bright Spots is so good at it, they seem to be running on it!
Bright Spots screens as a part of DocuNation on March 1st at 415, March 5th at 615, and March 12 at 415 at the Century Theatres in Redwood City, and on March 7th at 345 at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose.
H.P. Lovecraft is the perfect source for comedy, right?
Nick Spooner has created a hilariously bizarre short comedy with The Call of Charlie. It's a simple story - a dinner party, and then a set-up to get their single friend (CTHULHU or Charlie) happens as an unexpected friend stops by.
Let me say this the simple way - it's freakin' hilarious. Seriously, everything, even the cinematography, manages to make the comedy even more comedy! The way it was cut, smart and clear and without an overly-showy sense of flash, it lets the acting and script and the general absurdity of CTHULHU coming to dinner play with the audience's expectations. Horror Comedy is not usually played like this, in fact, I can't think of another one that goes this way other than Cinequest 2014 favorite A Night at the Office. This makes it all the more impressive, because there is no template, and you can tell that it works at every step!
The Call of Charlie plays as a part of Shorts Program 7 - Comedy Favorites and shows at the Hammer Theatre Downtown SJ on Fri, Mar 3 9:30 PM and at the Century 20 Redwood City on Sun, Mar 5 3:50 PM, Mon, Mar 6 4:30 PM and Thu, Mar 9 8:30 PM
One of my favorite Disney shorts, it provides an amazing point of consideration for the development of animation's role in the Hollywood landscape.
The danger of making a sea crossing while fleeing danger in your home country is real, and can be so heavy. In the case of the film Irregulars, we are told the story of a journey across the Mediterranean Sea and the perils it constitutes. The story, if that's all we had been given, would be enough. It's the kind of painful memory that draws in viewers. My wife, when we watched it at home, gasped at the last spoken words, which is an excellent example of the effective power of the sound design.
Also, the visuals are absolutely stunning.
Instead of directly presenting us with the shots of the voyage, or in fact of any voyage, we are presented a factory in which mannequins are made. The process is shown, and it becomes apparent that the building of these faux people are given great care, there are practically nursed to life, treated incredibly well. But what of those who cross? The visuals are so perfectly constructed, and I found myself piecing together a philosophy based on the treatment of these inanimate objects and how we view those who cross into 'our' country. It's also a painful view of the state of the world, and it plays even more powerfully when you factor in the last few weeks to that equation.
Irregulars screens as a part of DocuNation on March 1st at 415, March 5th at 615, and March 12 at 415 at the Century Theatres in Redwood City, and on March 7th at 345 at the Hammer Theatre in Downtown San Jose.
This is the part where I give a little bit away about the film programming process. We have to watch a lot of films, and so we don't have a lot of time for things to land. You watch one, you might take notes while you're watching, you rate it and you move on to the next one. That's how it works. There's no real reflection period, it comes at you like you're in a theatre, watching a shorts program. The ones that stick out, that you rate highly, those are the ones that you consider a few weeks/months down the line when it's time to put together your programs.
But then, there are the other ones. They stick with you, have you thinking about them, basically poisoning everything else you try to watch because the film is so good, so fun, so fresh, so smart that anything else just feels wrong, and you have to stop for a while and re-watch, then let it sink in. The first movie I put on one fine morning was The Eleven O'Clock. The rest of my viewing day was ruined, since I had to re-watch it twice and then just bask in it.
The story is a psychologist has a patient; the patient thinks he's a psychologist. The two meet and play off each other, trying to convince the other that they're the one that's trying to help. The entire thing is silly, but it's that smart sort of silly that makes you giggle at even serious bits that stick in.
Watching it, there are three things that stuck me on it and required my re-watching. The first is the acting. Our leads are phenomenal, especially playing pass-and-go with each other within a script that is just about as smart as can be, which is the second thing. They each have a stance, and they both work from it so well. I was noticing tiny little things on my first viewing that stuck with me enough that I had to see it again! The third thing is the way it's shot. It is more-or-less a one location film, but it works within that location so well, I felt as if I was discovering it. That alone made this a film I had to program, and the rest meant I wasn't going to be meeting my 25 Films a Day duty!
The Eleven O'Clock plays as a part of Shorts Program 7 - Comedy Favorites and shows at the Hammer Theatre Downtown SJ on Fri, Mar 3 9:30 PM and at the Century 20 Redwood City on Sun, Mar 5 3:50 PM, Mon, Mar 6 4:30 PM and Thu, Mar 9 8:30 PM
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.