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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: film festivals

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome with Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

April 12, 2012 | 11:05 am

To rome with love

After whisking audiences to France last year with “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen is bringing another Europe-set comedy to the big screen with this year’s “To Rome With Love.” Film Independent announced Thursday that the new movie will open the Los Angeles Film Festival on Thursday, June 14.

Written and directed by Allen, “To Rome With Love” marks the filmmaker’s first on-screen role since 2006’s “Scoop.” Also starring Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Greta Gerwig, the film depicts the romances and adventures of people in Rome. The cast plays a collection of Americans and Italians.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off this year’s festival than with the original independent filmmaker himself, Woody Allen. It’s a true honor for Los Angeles to host the North American premiere of 'To Rome With Love,'” Festival Director Stephanie Allain said in a statement.

The festival's screening at L.A. Live's Regal Cinemas will be the film's North American premiere.

“To Rome With Love” opens in Italy on April 20, and Sony Pictures Classics will distribute the film in the U.S. for a limited release on June 22.

The Los Angeles Film Festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, runs June 14-24 and will screen over 200 feature films, shorts and music videos. Passes are currently on sale to past festival attendees and Film Independent members, and will be available to the general public on April 22.


Indian Film Festival highlights emerging directors

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest to kick off with 'Shanghai Calling'

Oscars 2012: When Woody Allen got funny at Academy Awards

— Emily Rome

Photo: Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in "To Rome with Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

TCM Classic Film Fest kicks off with 'Cabaret,' Liza Minnelli

April 12, 2012 |  8:15 am

Liza minnelli cabaret
After more than six decades in show business, Liza Minnelli has learned a few tricks. “I surround myself with talented people and I wear jeweled costumes because I sweat when I dance,” said Minnelli, now 66, who first appeared on film at age 3. “The jewels make me look wet all over.”

Minnelli will share reminiscences and maybe even a few secrets with fans in Hollywood on Thursday at the TCM Classic Film Festival, which is opening with a newly restored version of “Cabaret.” The singer-actress honed her stagecraft in the 1972 musical and developed much of her winking, vampish style under the direction of choreographer Bob Fosse. Minnelli and her costar, Joel Grey, who both won Oscars for their performances, will speak to the audience at the screening and mingle with festival-goers at an afterparty.

Forty years after its debut, Minnelli said, the film about the politically oblivious, sexually decadent atmosphere of a 1930s Berlin nightclub still has cultural resonance.

“People hear ‘Cabaret’ and they think, ‘Oh Christ, it’s a musical about happiness.’” she said. “It’s not about that at all. It’s about opinions and politics and survival.”

“Cabaret” is one of 78 vintage features playing over four days in Hollywood this weekend as part of the Turner Classic Movies network’s event, which also includes appearances by Kim Novak and Debbie Reynolds, programming devoted to film noir and Hollywood fashion and fan-friendly activities like screenings of stars’ home movies and appraisals of Hollywood memorabilia by Bonhams auction house.

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L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest to kick off with 'Shanghai Calling'

April 6, 2012 |  5:13 pm

"Shanghai Calling," a romantic comedy starring Bill Paxton and Eliza Coupe, will open the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, organizers announced Friday. The festival runs May 10–20.

The movie, a romantic comedy about an ambitious New York attorney (Daniel Henney) who is sent to Shanghai on business and stumbles into a legal mess, is the feature debut of Daniel Hsia. 

The festival will screen 46 feature films and 142 shorts from more than 20 countries at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood, CGV Cinemas in Koreatown and, for the first time, the Art Theater in Long Beach.

"Sunset Stories," directed by Silas Howard and Ernesto M. Foronda, will be the festival’s
centerpiece presentation. It stars Sung Kang ("Fast Five") and Monique Curnen ("Contagion") in what festival organizers say is "a uniquely L.A. story of love and control." 

The international centerpiece is "Valley of Saints,"  which won the world cinema grand prize at Sundance and was directed by Musa Syeed and produced by Nicholas Bruckman. The film is an India/U.S. production bringing to the screen the landscape of Kashmir. The story follows a young tourist boatman and his best friend as they try to run away from the provincial life in their lake village.

The Saturday night gala, typically reserved for a crowd-pleasing film, will be filled by "Yes We're Open"  from Bay Area screenwriter H.P. Mendoza and director Richard Wong. Described as a "sex comedy," the film looks at liberal San Francisco lifestyles over dinner and drinks with a side of infidelity.

Tsao Jui-Yuan’s "Joyful Reunion" -- a  follow-up to Ang Lee’s "Eat Drink Man Woman," will screen as the festival closing night presentation. It's a foodie film that looks at family ties surrounding a vegetarian restaurant.

For a full list of films, click here. Tickets go on sale April 13.

-- Julie Makinen


Indian Film Festival highlights emerging directors

April 6, 2012 |  2:23 pm

Chittagong Indian Film Festival

In India’s long fight for independence, the first defeat of the British came not at the hands of soldiers but of untrained teenagers, led by a schoolteacher, in 1930. This piece of history is the subject of “Chittagong,” the opening-night movie at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, which runs Tuesday through April 14 at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinemas.

“Chittagong,” having its world premiere at the fest, is the directorial debut of NASA scientist-turned-filmmaker Bedabrata Pain, who was born in Kolkata and has lived in Los Angeles since 1992. Inspired to write the film for its “story of human triumph set in a political background,” Pain also hopes to spread awareness of the historical incident -- which he said is known by few even in India.

IFFLA, now in its 10th year, will screen 33 features and short films. Christina Marouda, a native of Greece who watched many Indian films as a teenager, started IFFLA after working for AFI Fest. “I felt that there was a gap and someone should do something about it.”

In the last decade, she’s seen Hollywood’s interest in Indian cinema grow, following the Oscar romp by “Slumdog Millionaire” and the investment by Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA Group in DreamWorks in 2009. A larger spotlight on Indian entertainment has come, Marouda said, with more Indian actors in such TV shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Outsourced” and with the films of Mira Nair, director of “The Namesake.”

IFFLA screens films made in India, about India and by filmmakers of Indian descent, and Marouda says it’s more than just a festival. “It’s more like a festival/film commission/agency .… We are really the platform that is trying to bridge that gap” between Indian and American filmmakers.

That sometimes means taking an active part in the making of a movie, as with this year’s closing-night film, “Patang.” It's the feature debut of Prashant Bhargava, whose short “Sangam” screened at IFFLA in 2004. Keeping in touch with the director since then, the festival organizers helped Bhargava find financiers for his feature and are involved in marketing the upcoming self-distributed release of “Patang.” The Los Angeles premiere for the film, about a family reunion at a kite festival, will close IFFLA on April 14 at 7 p.m.

Bookending the event with two first-time feature directors is part of the festival’s endeavor to find new filmmakers, especially as the landscape of Indian movies is changing.

“There is a new, emerging core of Indian filmmakers that are young and hip and willing to take risks,” said shorts programmer Terrie Samundra. “They are films that are willing to make you uncomfortable, critique tradition, taking apart old structures and political alliances -- we see that with [films about] sexuality, relationships, politics, identity.”

But the festival’s 10th year is also a time to look back, as it presents an anniversary retrospective. Chosen in an online vote from IFFLA’s previous audience and jury award winners, the fest will screen three films from past years: “Udaan,” “Lions of Punjab Presents” and “Black Friday,” which was banned in India for its controversial telling of the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai.

Awards for this year’s films will be presented following the screening of “Patang,” and IFFLA will host its fifth annual Industry Awards ceremony on Thursday at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard.

The awards “highlight those executives that have managed to deal with the challenges of either distributing Indian content or producing Indian content … and bridging the gap between the two film industries,” Marouda said.

Among the honorees this year are Kishore Lulla, chairman and chief executive of India-based Eros Entertainment, and Michelle Satter and Alesia Weston, who head the Sundance Institute’s lab for Indian screenwriters, Mumbai Mantra.

The Industry Awards luncheon -– along with seminars and One-on-One, a meet-and-greet for industry professionals and aspiring filmmakers –- is part of IFFLA’s effort to be a filmmaker-friendly festival.
The hope to be a resource and an inspiration for emerging filmmakers is shared by “Chittagong” director Pain.

“India is a very young country and the youth in India is a sort-of untapped force still, and they can do wonders,” Pain said. My film "in some ways is telling them, ‘Don’t be afraid, just go for it.’ ”

Tickets are available at indianfilmfestival.org. Admission is $14 except for the opening- and closing-night galas, which are $75.

-- Emily Rome

Photo: Delzad Hiwale in "Chittagong."  Credit: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Claude Francois biopic 'My Way' opens City of Lights, City of Angels

March 27, 2012 |  7:30 pm

'My Way' opens City of Light, City of Angels festival

A musical-biography of the singer-songwriter Claude François, the third-highest-grossing film in the history of French cinema and tributes to Julie Delpy and Yves Montand are among the highlights of the 16th City of Lights, City of Angels French film festival.

The lineup for the festival, which will screen 34 features and 21 shorts beginning April 16 at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood, was announced Tuesday evening.

Opening the festival is director Florent-Emilio Siri’s film “My Way,” which stars Jérémie Renier as François, the pop singer who sold 67 million records before his accidental death at 39.

“The Intouchables,” about a bond that develops between a disabled aristocrat and his caretaker, will close the event April 23. The film, written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, has become a breakout box-office hit in France and is set for release in the U.S. in May.

François Truffart, the director and programmer for the festival for the last eight years, said it’s been “an amazing year” for French cinema, coming off the best picture win for the black-and-white love letter to silent cinema “The Artist” at February’s Academy Awards.

“This certainly for me is the biggest lineup we have had,” Truffart said. “There is a new generation of actors and talent. Refreshing is the word I would use for the films this year.”

Though there are new names in the mix, many of the titles featured at the festival represent generations of French talent or see familiar faces trying on different roles.

Mathieu Demy, the son of directors Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy, makes his directorial debut and stars in “Americano,” a drama about a Frenchman who grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Paris. Actor Daniel Auteuil (“Jean De Florette”) makes his directorial debut with “The Well Digger’s Daughter,” a remake of the 1940 Marcel Pagnol film in which he also stars.

Other highlights include “Another Woman’s Life,” a romantic comedy written and directed by Sylvie Testud starring Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Kassovitz; and “Michel Petrucciani,” a documentary from Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) about the famed jazz musician who was born with glass bone disease and stood 3 feet tall as an adult.

The festival will screen a newly restored print of “Le Sauvage,” the 1975 romantic comedy from director Jean-Paul Rappeneau (“Cyrano de Bergerac”) starring the late superstar Yves Montand as a married perfume-maker who leaves everything behind to become a recluse on an island. His happiness is disrupted by the arrival of a runaway bride (Catherine Deneuve).

Delpy will screen two films she wrote and directed — the romance “2 Days in Paris” from 2007 and her newest feature “Le SkyLab.”

To see the complete lineup, go to www.colcoa.org.


A mini French film festival at Laemmle Theatres

Cannes 2012: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' to open fest

Hong Kong Film Festival: Transvestites, Muslims and a 'Lovely Man'

-- Susan King

Photo: A scene from Florent-Emilio Siri’s "My Way." Credit: Credit: "City of Lights, City of Angels

SXSW 2012: A porn shoot and a senior citizen in 'Starlet'

March 14, 2012 |  6:00 am


Dree Hemingway and Stella Maeve in "Starlet"

"Starlet," which premiered this week at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, is a drama of self-discovery and self-acceptance fueled by two discoveries: Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel Hemingway, who gives a performance of flaky charm and tender sensitivity in her first leading role, and 85-year-old Besedka Johnson, who in her first-ever acting role is tough but lovable as a woman who didn't expect to make any more friends in life.

Hemingway plays Jane, a 21-year-old struggling to get by on the fringes of the San Fernando Valley. When she buys something at a yard sale held by Sadie (Johnson), the two quarrel over whether it's a Thermos or a vase. When Jane gets the object home, she discovers a substantial amount of cash inside it. Unsure of what to do, she insinuates herself into Sadie's life, helping her with errands and the like. As the two reveal more of themselves to each other, their relationship deepens.

The film was directed and co-written by Sean Baker, and, like his previous films, "Prince of Broadway" and "Take Out," there is an air of the ethnographic film about "Starlet." But rather than explore the immigrant experience as he did before, this time Baker is looking at the lives of two women who might not normally be given the space to take center stage.

"I think with 'Starlet," with 'Prince,' and even 'Take Out,' they were worlds that I was interested in and wanted to explore," he said. "I was right on the fringe of those worlds."

While working on his short-lived MTV comedy show "Warren the Ape," Baker would cast porn stars in small roles, he got to know a few of them through the production. He was taken by how lonely, bored and nomadic they seemed, living decidedly unglamorous lives. He thought one of these women in her off hours would make for a compelling film. When he combined this idea with a story he had about some money found at a yard sale, the treatment for "Starlet" was born.

For the 24-year-old Hemingway, who has had success as a fashion and photography model -- "I consider myself an actress and a model. I'm like a walking cliche," she said jokingly -- she wasn't concerned with whether people might assume the off-beat naturalism of her performance was just her being herself.

"Everything in acting for me is about how you bring pieces of yourself and then you apply it to the character," she said. "I think for Jane I wanted her to come across as kind of, she's been thrown into this world but she's kind of trying to figure it out. She's not sold on anything quite yet, and is just kind of going with it."

It is difficult to talk about the story without giving away too much. Baker carefully modulates how and when information is revealed, so viewers can get to know the characters without instantly judging them.

"We intentionally have a lot of reveals in the film," Baker said, "because it's all about breaking these preconceived notions you might bring. It's about breaking stereotypes, people going past first impressions. The reveals were intentional."

The film features one major scene of explicit sex, a behind-the-scenes look at the workaday world of a porn shoot. The scene would likely push the film, which is looking for distribution, into NC-17 territory. 

"I'm not concerned about it," Baker said. "We obviously know this film will be either unrated or NC-17. There's no way around it. This is how I see it -- the film is for adults, made for adults. The state of independent film now anyway, you're going to play a few theaters in the major cities and then do well on [video on demand]. If anything I could see this only enhancing that. This might even be a film people would be more comfortable watching at home, even though I would love people to see it on the big screen."


SXSW 2012: Lena Dunham returns as one of the 'Girls'

SXSW 2012: Unusual buzz-building with 'frankie go boom'

SXSW 2012: Sarcasm, romanticism in 'Somebody Up There Likes Me'

-- Mark Olsen in Austin, Texas


Photo:  Dree Hemingway and Stella Maeve in "Starlet." Credit: South by Southwest Film Festival

Cannes 2012: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom' to open fest

March 8, 2012 |  9:44 pm

Bruce Willis in "Moonrise Kingdom"

For the second year in a row, the Cannes Film Festival is opening with an American comedy: The festival has announced that Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" will kick off the annual cinephile gathering May 16.

Unlike last year's opener of Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," however, this year's  film will come from a director who's never brought a feature to the Croisette. Anderson, the Texas-raised auteur known for offbeat comedies such as "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," typically opens films in the fall and brings them to late-summer and early autumn film confabs. Focus Features brings out "Moonrise" on May 25 in the U.S., with the film coming out in France the same week as its Cannes bow.

Set in the 1960's, "Kingdom" centers on two young lovers who run away, with the small town they left behind in a tizzy about their disappearance.

Anderson mainstays Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman star in "Moonrise Kingdom," as do Anderson newbies Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton. The young couple is played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.

The opening-night slot proved golden for "Midnight," which turned out to be a huge crossover hit. This year, world cinema observers will be keen to see how the Europeans react to Anderson's dry, often absurdist wit, though the local press will no doubt be enthralled by the large number of stars who can walk the opening-night carpet.

Anderson is coming off a somewhat odd career stretch, most recently making a foray into animation with "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and previously directing the tepidly received India travel tale "The Darjeeling Limited."

In a statement, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux announced that "Wes Anderson is one of the rising powers of American cinema, to which he brings a highly personal touch, particularly in 'Moonrise Kingdom,' which once again is a testimony to the creative freedom in which he continues to evolve. Sensitive and independent, this admirer of Fellini and Renoir is also in his own right a brilliant and inventive filmmaker."

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 27, and this year is also expected to include a roster of other renowned U.S. filmmakers. The full slate will be announced April 19.


Nanni Moretti to head Cannes jury

When Woody Allen got funny at the Oscars

New Wes Anderson movie coming to theaters

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Bruce Willis in "Moonrise Kingdom." Credit: Focus Features

Berlin Film Festival: With 'Iron Sky,' Nazis land on moon

February 15, 2012 |  6:22 pm


Nazis on the moon.  It’s hardly the topic you’d expect from a Finnish film at the artsy and often earnest Berlin International Film Festival, which takes place in a city that sometimes feels weighed down by its history.

But one of the most talked-about films in this year’s festival has turned out to be “Iron Sky,” a quirky sci-fi parody with aspirations to political satire that has grabbed the attention of international press and audiences as much for its creation mythos as its plot. The movie also will be screening next month at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.  (You can watch a trailer below.)

“Science-fiction has been going around this idea for a long time -- circling around Nazis in space. Why circle? Why don’t we just do Nazis in space?” asked Timo Vuorensola, the film’s director, pointing out that the Galactic Empire in "Star Wars" and several worlds in "Star Trek" are clearly modeled on Nazi Germany.  “Every science-fiction TV series has its Nazis -- and every science-fiction film has more or less its Nazis -- well, not every one, but many epic ones.  So this is taking that one step forward: Let's just make it about Nazis!”  

Vuorensola, who is also lead singer for a Finnish industrial metal band, has just one previous film under his belt: the 2005 space spoof “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning.” The low-low-budget film was released for free online, and has been downloaded millions of times.

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'The Artist' stars and other Oscar nominees set for Santa Barbara film fest Saturday

February 2, 2012 | 11:56 am

The Artist

Among the many events for Oscar nominees to attend as awards season heats up is the 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which this weekend will feature panels with filmmakers including “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius and “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig.

The festival, which kicked off Jan. 26, wraps Sunday after a weekend of multiple panels and final screenings. Among the films still screening are the Adrien Brody-starrer Detachment and the documentary Nothing Like Chocolate,” which received a standing ovation at its premiere last weekend.

Sharing the stage with Hazanavicius and Feig at the directors panel at 11 a.m. Saturday are five other directors who also helmed Oscar-nominated films, including “Rango” director Gore Verbinski and "Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George, nominated this year for his short film, "The Shore."

Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein will moderate the Movers & Shakers panel at 2 p.m. Saturday for a Q&A with six filmmakers behind some of this year’s Oscar best picture nominees, including “The Descendants” producer Jim Burke and “Hugo” producer Graham King.

SBIFF also presented awards to Viola Davis, Christopher Plummer and Martin Scorsese. On Saturday, "The Artist" stars Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin will receive the festival's Cinema Vanguard Award.

Festival tickets and schedule are available at Sbiff.org.


Santa Barbara Film Festival to honor 'The Artist' stars

'Rango,' 'Margaret' head back into movie theaters Friday

Oscars 2012: 'Descendants' producer closer to 'career goal' with nom

— Emily Rome

Photo: "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius (left) will participate on SBIFF's directors panel Saturday. The film's stars, Bérénice Bejo (center) and Jean Dujardin (right), will receive the festival's Cinema Vanguard Award that evening. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Slamdance 2012: 'Welcome to Pine Hill' among prize winners

January 27, 2012 | 12:12 pm

The Slamdance Film Festival wrapped up its 18th edition in Park City, Utah, with awards announcements on Thursday night. Taking place at the top of Main Street, the festival -- which runs concurrent with Sundance -- has retained its lo-fi, low-key vibe year-in, year-out even as Sundance has put on the glitz.  Living up to their motto of "By Filmmakers, for Filmmakers," festival co-founder and president Peter Baxter even had a film of his own playing this year, the sporting documentary "Wild in the Streets."

The winner of the grand jury prize for narrative feature was Keith Miller's "Welcome to Pine Hill." A statement from the jury lauded the film "for its poetic and emotionally honest depiction of one man's final journey in life, crafted from a true spirit of humanity and community." A special jury prize for bold originality went to Axel Ranisch's "Heavy Girls."

In the documentary category the grand jury prize went to "No Ashes, No Phoenix," directed by Jens Pfeifer, with that jury noting the film's "adeptly piercing and cinematic look at a basketball team's impassioned struggle not for glory, but to just avoid losing." The short documentary award went to "The Professional," directed by Skylar Neilsen.

The audience prizes went to the graffiti artist portrait "Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story" by Caskey Ebeling for feature documentary and Andrew Edison's high school comedy "Bindlestiffs" for feature narrative.

Short film prizes went to "Venus" by Tom Fruergaard, "I Am John Wayne" by Christina Choe, "Solipsist" by Andrew Huang and "I'm Coming Over" by Sam Handel.

A Spirit of Slamdance award was given to Axel Ranisch, Heiko Pinkowski and Anne Baeker, the creative team behind "Heavy Girls." The award for cinematography went to Kristina Nikolova for "Faith, Love and Whiskey." A Five Flavors of Filmmaking prize went to Josh Gibson for "Kudzu Vine," a one-minute short created during the festival.


Sundance 2012: Real-life scares at screening of "V/H/S"

Sundance 2012: A dilemma of ethics, power in "Compliance"

-- Mark Olsen, in Park City, Utah


Photo: Still from "Welcome to Pine Hill." Credit: Slamdance Film Festival




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