Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Five Questions with “Remedy” Writer/Director Cheyenne Picardo

Opening the 10th anniversary edition of CineKink NYC tonight is writer/director (and “habitual submissive”) Cheyenne Picardo’s “Remedy,” a look at the business side of BDSM through the eyes of a character crafted from Picardo’s personal experience. “Filmmaker” spoke with the accidental director – who originally set out to be a critic – about converting a barn into a NYC dungeon, casting non-kinksters, and why Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” is more influential than Godard.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Christine Turner on “Homegoings”

Just in the nick of time for Black History Month, and debuting at the 2013 Documentary Fortnight: MoMA’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film, is Christine Turner’s “Homegoings,” a poetically crafted exploration of the history of African-American funeral traditions. Told via the Harlem neighborhood’s legendary funeral director Isaiah Owens – who found his calling as a small child, burying all deceased animals he stumbled across in his South Carolina surroundings – the doc manages to be poignant, inspirational, and unexpectedly uplifting. In other words, as one subject says about black burials themselves, a “sad good time.” “Filmmaker” spoke with the doc’s director prior to the film’s premiere as part of MoMA Selects: POV. POV will broadcast “Homegoings” later this year.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The 6th Annual Thin Line Film Fest

First things first – Texas’s Thin Line Film Fest does not take place in Austin, nor in March, nor does it accept indie narratives, nor any fiction films at all. In fact, this six-year-old event, which plays a month prior to SXSW, smartly doesn’t define itself in relation to that cinematic elephant in the Lone Star State. Which is its strength. Texas’s only fest devoted strictly to docs – from local to international – Thin Line (the name inspired by its founders’ desire to explore that space between fact and fiction) does take over Denton, Texas, for 10 days in February. It screens nonfiction flicks mostly in two quaint yet roomy, appropriately named venues, the Campus Theatre and the Fine Arts Theater, conveniently located around a central square.

To read the rest visit Filmmaker magazine.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lincoln Unchained

Ah, Oscar time. While pop culture’s controversy spotlight once again shines on one of its favorite subjects, film geek provocateur Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood’s untouchable golden boy and go-to moral compass Steven Spielberg gets a pass. While “Django Unchained” renewed my faith in Tarantino as crucial head barbarian at Tinseltown’s fortified gates, Spielberg’s latest historical moneymaker “Lincoln” dubiously did more than merely exceed my tolerance threshold for feel-good cheesiness. (Playwright Tony Kushner's theatrical flourishes only work onscreen if they're tempered by the subtle direction of a nuanced dude like Mike Nichols – whereas Spielberg’s over-the-top style is like turning up the volume on Al Pacino.) Indeed, Spielberg’s latest left me feeling more offended than any extended use of the n-word ever could.

For the undeniably brilliant ensemble cast – which includes not just genius Day-Lewis, but the underappreciated Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who can hold his own head-to-head with the aforementioned heavyweight, much like Paul Dano did in "There Will Be Blood") and a hilarious (and nearly unrecognizably plump) James Spader – and the praise it’s deservedly garnered, is only serving to mask the flick’s truly disturbing revisionist thinking. Two righteous abolitionist characters – Tommy Lee Jones’s hobbled Thaddeus Stevens and Stephen Spinella’s effeminate Asa Vintner Litton – in particular deserve the same level of scrutiny as a Spike Lee tweet. Spielberg’s following the studio rule that all good guys must have a personal connection to whatever cause they’re pursuing – be it revenge for the death of a loved one, or in Stevens’s case, falling in love with his black housekeeper – has the troubling effect of also making it seem that Civil War-era white guys (other than St. Lincoln) never did the right thing because it was morally correct, but only when they were serving their own self-interests.

Even more problematic, though, is Spinella’s impassioned abolitionist, which registers as, well, complete bullshit. Using Spinella, a talented theater vet who took the Tony for his portrayal of Prior Walter in Kushner’s “Angels in America,” as a vehicle to link today’s legal struggles in the gay rights arena with the past’s battle for emancipation is both clunky and hollow. The whole concept of gay/straight didn't even exist in Lincoln's time - so Spinella's (white, male – i.e., enfranchised!) character would never have felt "oppressed" (thus empathetic to the slaves, we assume) in the first place. Not only is this “I feel your pain” show of solidarity an insult to an entire African-American population that truly were victimized, but it’s yet another example of privileged white men laying claim to something they should never have tried to own in the first place.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Academy Award Nominee “Kon-Tiki”: An Interview with Co-Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg

Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film nominee “Kon-Tiki” is a fictionalized account of the Norwegian experimental ethnographer (and subsequent Oscar Award winner) Thor Heyerdahl’s trans-Pacific journey in a balsa raft over 65 years ago. It’s also a Scandinavian box office sensation and the first Norwegian film to nab nominations from both Oscar and the Golden Globes. I spoke with the film’s co-directors, slated to helm a major Hollywood movie next, about their own trip from Norway to L.A.’s wild west.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Talking Legends with Terence Stamp

The 2013 edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival was filled with glitzy events and screenings, including a Talking Pictures sidebar featuring movies followed by conversations with noteworthy actors like Alan Cumming (discussing “Any Day Now”) and Naomi Watts (for “The Impossible”). But it was the closing night gala for Paul Andrew Williams’ “Unfinished Song,” starring Vanessa Redgrave as a cancer-stricken septuagenarian in an old folks choir, that really grabbed my attention. Actually, it wasn’t the film (which I haven’t seen) so much as the possibility of interviewing the actor playing Redgrave’s character’s devoted husband that made me stand up and take notice.

O.K., I’ll be honest, journalistic integrity be damned. I’ve been head over heels for Terence Stamp...

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Free the Mind" Launches Distro Campaign via Indiegogo

Wanna give the finger to Big Pharma and maybe meet the Dalai Lama?

Danish director Phie Ambo’s “Free the Mind” was one of my big discoveries at IDFA 2012. The film’s a truly revelatory exploration of the mindfulness movement, led here in the States by the University of Wisconsin’s Richard Davidson (who made “Time” magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world back in 2006), an expert in “contemplative neuroscience” who moved into the field after being asked by none other than the Dalai Lama why modern neuroscience didn’t study kindness and compassion. Ambo’s doc is a must-see not just for those who can empathize with the struggles of the film’s subjects, PTSD affected soldiers and an ADHD addled preschooler, but for everyone wary of our pill-popping society that prefers to mask psychological problems rather than to actually heal the source.

To find out more visit Filmmaker magazine.