SIFF Week 4- Finding North

Country: USA

Year: 2012

Genre: Documentary, Social Issues, Hunger

Directors:  Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush

Music: T Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars

This touching yet troubling documentary takes on the complex issue of hunger in America. Co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush meet with the working poor from coast to coast, including extended families and single parents facing the problem of food insecurity, which affects as many as 50 million people. Actor Jeff Bridges, who co-founded the End Hunger Network, believes it’s a problem that people are ashamed of acknowledging and has only gotten worse since the 1980s. Rose, a charismatic fifth grader from rural Colorado, says she gets so hungry that she feels nauseated. Fortunately, her church steps in to provide a weekly meal, but that’s one night out of seven. Tremonica, a Mississippi second grader, skips meals or eats junk food, which doesn’t bode well for her future. Ree, a Mississippi mother, has to drive 45 minutes just to buy vegetables, since stores in her remote location only carry canned goods. Sadly, poverty and obesity go hand in hand when processed foods cost less than fresh produce, due largely to farm subsidies to agribusiness. Jacobson and Silverbush also look at developmental disabilities, public assistance, and school lunches, while taking time to single out individuals making a positive impact in ways both big and small. (via siff.net)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. It was a touching and shocking documentary about the hunger epidemic in our own back yard. I think it would be a good companion piece for the HBO documentary, “Weight of the Nation.” as well.  It was stated that one in four families go to food banks throughout the country.

I also loved the soundtrack by T. Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars, and plan on picking up one of their CD’s.  It was also great to see Jeff Bridges interviewed.

My only complaint and this was talked about during the Q&A is that they were planning on changing the title of the film. It’s still playing in movie festivals, and I’m wondering if they’re going to keep their word. The director thought the title was too “out there” for the topic that it was covering.

Grade: B

 

SIFF WEEK 3- The Revisonaries

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAeKXdLZhOg

Country: USA

Year 2012

Genre: Documentary, Politcal, Social, News

Director: Scott Thurman

Writers:Jawad Metni, Scott Thurman

Synopsis: The theory of evolution and a re-write of American history are caught in the crosshairs when an unabashed Creationist seeks re-election as chairman of America’s most influential Board of Education.

So, I had huge some buzz on some of the political blogs I follow about this movie. The geek and I decided to catch a matinee of it during SIFF.   This is a very current and relevant topic so I was interested in seeing how the director would brooch the subject matter.

The documentary follows the Texas fifteen person Board of Education, the organization that is responsible for putting together textbooks on a national level. In the movie’s case, the main subjects were evolution and history. Did you know that members of the Texas BOE don’t even have to be teachers in their field?? What the hell?

One of the most interesting characters in the film belonged to Don McLeod. Think of Ned Falnders from The Simpsons in real life. Now, think of him running the Texas BOE. He is a likeable character despite the fact that he doesn’t believe in evolution. Some of the funniest exchanges in the movie were discussions with him and fellow professor from a Texas university discussing the theory of evolution. In one scene, you see the look of “You have got to be kidding me right?” look come over the professor’s face when Mcleod states that dinosaurs and Jesus existed at the same time.

The film also explored the revision of history books. There is an interesting exchange about how they wanted to take out the music of “hip hop” and replace it with “country” music, among a certain member wanting to completely erase a chapter on 9/11.

I really loved this documentary. As a special treat, the director and one of the lead people(the science professor) in the film were at the screening. I think it’s an important film no matter what your view of evolution is, but i because it is about eduction and textbooks what the future generation will be taught about science and history.

Grade: A+++

SIFF Week 3– Starbuck

STARBUCK

Country: Canada

Year: 2011

Language: French with subtitles.

Synoposis: A massive box office success in Québec, Ken Scott’s comedic Starbuck tracks a likeable middle-aged loser as he wrestles with regret and responsibility. Hapless deliveryman David Wozniak gets parking tickets at every single stop along his route, has thugs on his tail for massive overdue loans, and his girlfriend announced that she was pregnant just before dumping him. These, however, are the least of David’s concerns when he returns home to find a lawyer in his kitchen. The past is back to haunt him in the form of a class-action lawsuit, launched by 142 of the 533 children who resulted from the 648 sperm donations he deposited over 20 years ago. (via http://www.siff.net)

This movie really bored the hell out of me.  Maybe it was cutesy “second family” premise  or the very bad chemistry of the two leads, but I almost fell asleep twice during the second part of the film.  There  were one or  two funny lines, but I felt like the comedy was trying too hald for some throwaway lines. Just MEH.

 Grade: D

SIFF Week 3– The Long Ride Home

Synoposis: To honor a promise made to a friend and fellow soldier, two men make a 95-day 4200-mile bike ride across America, determined to arrive at Ground Zero in New York City on the tenth anniversary of 9/11/2001.

Director/Producer/Writer:  Thomas Lee Wright:

Another very relevant documentary about Ground Zero and fellow soldiers.The film centers around on Mincio’s 95 day journey across country to honor his friend that died in 9/11.The bike ride was also to honor fallen soldiers and their families.

 also started a non-profit named Team Jesse, and the movie was a way to get word out about their non-profit organization, http://teamjesse.org/.

It also delved into the issue of soldiers having PTSD, and it’s ongoing treatment for both soliders and families. One of the saddest scenes was at the very end when Jesse had made a video message to his wife after they had their first child. Looking straight into the camera, he says:” Well I’m dead….that sucks.”

The same director also did a movie a few years ago called Battle in Seattle (available on Netflix) that won the director Golden Space Needle award about the WTO riots.

While this wasn’t my favorite movie at SIFF that I have seen, I do think it speaks about a current situation in our country, and was very powerful. I also saw it the day after Memorial Day and it played to packed house, because Mincio is a local resident out of Mercer Island,WA.

Grade: B

I promise to see more comedies soon! it’s just been that SIFF has had some excellent documentaries this year as opposed to last year.

SIFF Week 3– Pink Ribbons Inc

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Synopsis: Provocative documentary that criticizes breast cancer charities and “pink washing,” and shows that little is being done to help the actual disease.

Origin: Canada

Release: 2011

Director: Lea Pool

Writers: Lea Pool, Patricia Kearns, Nancy Guern

Review:

I am starting out in the non profit field. I knew about SKF and the infamous KFC bucket of 2010. I also already knew that most Race for the Cure walks don’t raise a lot of money for research. Most of it goes towards actually putting on the event, and getting sponsors.

This movie outraged me. In a good way.  I’m glad that Lea Pool made it, as I’m hoping it opens people’s eyes about SKF and Avon as charities that only care about “pink washing.” and establishing a brand. They’re become corporations. Only 15% of all the Race/Cure walks and AVON walks go towards actual research for breast cancer. However, much of the research are duplicate studies.

I believe that the woman and man that are walking for these charities mean well.. Two of the main messages of the film were “Think before you Pink,” and educate yourself.

It was a hard documentary because I have  a history of breast cancer that runs in my family. My grandmother on my dad’s side got it very late in life, and lost a breast. I’m sure everyone has been affected or has known someone with cancer though.

I did find out that there are special Stage IV cancer support groups. One of them said “There is no Stage V,” which reminded me of a line in Beginners that Ewan McGregor said in one scene to Christopher Plummer. The women also appreciated not being the “angel of death” in other stages of cancer support groups.

It did not go into the recent Planned Parenthood fiasco as that happened very recently, and the film had already been shot.

This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years. PLEASE see it if it comes to a theater near you.  Right now, it’s playing the festival circuit but will be released widely in Landmark Theatres over the next few months.

 SCORE: A++

SIFF Week 2– Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean

SIFF Week 2–1951: Joshua Tree, 1951:A Portrait of James Dean

Synopsis:A movie that’s both timeless and “outside of time,” Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean was shot with the classic compositions of a 1951 film, the boundary-pushing sexuality of the Gay New Wave of the 1990s, and a touch of the explicit sexuality that can be found today. Inspired by the facts, and maybe some of the fictions, surrounding the too-short life of cinematic icon James Dean, the movie is a rumination on the dream of being a star and its subsequent costs. In the title role, James Preston (TV’s The Gates) captures the confidence and the talent of Dean, but also his appetite for fame, intimacy, and sex from both men and women. An early conquest and central character is known only as “The Roommate,” a friend from acting school who shares an apartment with him. Other characters also have anonymous names, like “The Roommate’s Mother” (Erin Daniels, The L Word) and “The Famous Director” (Robert Gant, Queer as Folk). Writer/director Matthew Mishory’s short film, Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman, is now part of the permanent collection of the British Film Institute’s National Film Archive. With Joshua Tree, 1951, he adds yet another cinematic gem.  (http://www.siff.net)/index.aspx

Origin: USA

Year: 2012

:Genre: Coming of Age, Biopic, Gay/Lesbian, Romance

Director: Matthew Mishory
Producer: Randall Walk, Edward Singletary, Jr., Robert Zimmer, Jr.

Screenwriter: Matthew Mishory
Cinematographer: Michael Marius Pessah

Prinicipal Cast: James Preston, Dan Glenn, Dalilah Rain, Edward Singletary, Jr., Erin Daniels, Robert Gant.

Running time: 93 minutes.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about James Dean? He was an idol of my father’s growing up (Dad saw Rebel without a Cause fifty times in the drive in), and soon as I learned about him as a teenager I become riverted with his three movies and his persona of a movie icon.

This movie was beautifully  shot in black and white on 35 MM to capture the look of the 50’s era of films. It wasn’t so much of a biopic, but seeing Dean as a character or outcast  trying to make it in Hollywood, and his place in the world.

The director did not shy away from the homosexuality, and there many  graphic sex scenes. People walked out of the theater.

Certain characters were supposed to represent actors in Dean’s life  once he makes in Hollywood. One actor reminded me of Natalie Wood, another of Tony Curtis. They were not given names expect for “The Agent,” “The Roommate, “The Director.” You could see the beginning of something brewing in his acting style.

While I didn’t love the movie, it won points with me for cinematography and editing. The directors, producers, and cast was there after the screening and said that it was more of a homage to him and his early career before he went off to New York, and was finally cast in East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant. He died on Sept 30, 1955. Giant was released after his death in 1956.

RATING:: B+