Category Archives: art

My* film premieres today! Rising Star: A cinematic poem to Hartford


* Okay, it’s not really my film. But it feels like my film. Read on to learn why…

I’ve always loved movies. Growing up as a teen in Portland, OR, I’d escape the heat on unseasonably warm days at The Guild Theater. I saw an incredible number of wonderful old films there, including Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend.

Flash forward to late summer 2010…

I learned about a kickstarter project funding a charming Indie film about work/life balance that would not only film in Hartford, it would feature Hartford locations prominently:

Rising Star

I’d never used kickstarter before. I’d never helped fund a film before. I didn’t even know if I could write off my donation on my taxes (until then, a prerequisite).

I visited Rising Star’s kickstarter page several times and went on my way without donating. But something about the film kept drawing me back. How often do you see Hartford featured in film or TV as an attractive, interesting place? It seemed whenever Hartford is on-screen, there’s a focus on crime and blight. Such a sad depiction for a stately city with a rich sense of history.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about Rising Star. How wonderful it would be to see Hartford featured on-screen in a positive way!

When I lived in Portland OR & Seattle, I loved seeing the city I lived in (and loved) featured prominently in films, seemingly an unbilled cast-member. It was fun seeing the places I loved shared with the world on the big screen. Those films felt like a lovely poem to my city.

I knew I had to donate to Rising Star. So, I donated $52 (big spender, I know!). That $52 made me eligible for several things: An autographed special edition DVD, Soundtrack – CD or digital, Personalized thank you letter.

I didn’t it realize at the time but that $52 donation opened up a wonderful new experience learning about filmmaking. Director Marty Lang (twitter: @marty_lang) and Producer/Lead Actor Gary Ploski (twitter: @garyploski) shared Rising Star’s (twitter: @risingstarmovie) progress and the film’s every success with folks on twitter, facebook, and via email. I didn’t just feel like I’d donated to a film. I felt a part of the film.

I watched Film Courage’s interview with Director Marty Lang and learned how the good will of the community enabled the filmmakers to include so many lovely Hartford locations. I have a feeling the community was as excited as I to see Hartford portrayed in a charming, positive light.

I saw how diligently Gary Ploski shared information about the film’s progress and began to realize how much hard work is involved in making and promoting an Indie film. I saw Marty’s and Gary’s generosity and patience in answering questions about the film, and realized my $52 donation was actually an opportunity to support something wonderful, something magical.

Flash forward to May 2012…

Tonight, Sunday May 6, Rising Star will have its world premiere at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival. Please join me in congratulating Director Marty Lang (twitter: @marty_lang), Producer/Lead Actor Gary Ploski (twitter: @garyploski) and the rest of the cast and crew on Rising Star’s (twitter: @risingstarmovie) open!

Rising Star Official Trailer

Hereafter, a review

I saw Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter today. It was a thoughtful, moving film Hereafter Posterthat reminded me of Gran Torino: Themes of loss, life’s fragility, the wisdom of children, and how our connections to others enrich our lives.

The main characters are Paris-based journalist Marie LeLay (Cécile De France), San Francisco factory worker George Lonegan (Matt Damon), and the young sons of a troubled, addicted mother, Marcus and Jason (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren) of London.

While Gran Torino was set in a Detroit neighborhood, Hereafter’s locations are more varied: Thailand, Paris, London, San Francisco. As in Gran Torino, the film shows the main characters experiencing an intense loss. Initially, their lives take on a fragile quality and we wonder if the characters will be able to put the loss into perspective and move on with their lives.

As the film progresses, each character struggles with finding balance. They each feel isolated and alone. Like Walt Kowalski’s reaction to Father Janovich’s supplications  in Gran Torino, they  experience frustration because those around them cannot understand their profound experience.

The pivotal moment in the movie provides each character with the support and connections to others they so crave. Like a balm, they also receive acknowledgment for how their profound experience has impacted their lives, and indeed their very essence.

As I watched Hereafter, I noticed how the children were portrayed with the utmost respect and empathy. Not as side characters, nor as comic relief, but as people whose cares and struggles were as important to the film as those of the adult characters. Marcus and Jason are to Hereafter as Sue and Thao were to Gran Torino – intelligent, compelling characters whose presences enriches the film.

I’ve always liked Clint Eastwood as an actor, but developed a deep respect for him after seeing his directorial efforts. Gran Torino is one of my favorite films and I’ve watched it many times… it’s difficult not to be moved by how Eastwood’s character is initially annoyed by the neighbor children (“Get off my lawn!!”), but then develops a bond and sense of responsibility for their well-being.

Hereafter is a love it or hate it film – I doubt folks will feel lukewarm about it:
* If you liked Gran Torino (or enjoy Eastwood as a diretor), you’ll probably like Hereafter

* However, if you are looking for a horror or action film, you’ll be disappointed.  The pacing is leisurely, and the film is far more thoughtful than action-filled.

While not for everyone, I loved Hereafter and highly recommend it to Eastwood fans.

The Dark Knight: Impressive 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Vantage Point

I just saw Vantage Point, a suspense film starring Dennis Quaid, Forrest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, William Hurt, and many other fine actors. The suspense begins nearly immediately, and never lets up. It feels impressively authentic, like watching a documentary.

The premise is a story of an assassination attempt, told from many different perspectives (thus the title). As each vantage point unfolds, you realize that the event’s facts are just beginning to become apparent. As the viewer comes to this realization, curiosity and suspense build.

This is one of those films where revealing some aspects of the story would probably spoil it entirely. So, if you enjoy suspense films, then consider Vantage Point a must see.

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening: Non-Event?

Capture Today, I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. It was eerie, creepy in a way that only those films that don’t show you the enemy can be.

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo , the film starts out as an average day in New York City and that “average day” ends as anything but. Mark Wahlberg has carved out a successful career as a resilient everyman – the sort of guy who could be your next door neighbor  — he plays this type  of character in The Happening, as well. Zooey Deschanel’s character seems to evolve dramatically over the course of the movie. John Leguizamo, a personal favorite, has far too little screen time – he would have also made a great lead, playing Wahlberg’s role. Note that The Happening deserves an honorable mention for Ferris Bueller’s sidekick, Alan Ruck, as a New York City school principal.

I enjoyed most of the film. It wasn’t predictable, and certainly was an interesting ride. My only disappointment was the ending: It seemed a bit too pat.

I’ve been an M.Night fan for a long while, but am concerned that The Happening won’t be the comeback event we’d hoped for, especially since it doesn’t seem to appeal to most audiences. Nonetheless, you may want to read Richard Ebert’s review, and his view of The Happening as a parable of modern day apocalypse.

Definitely recommended for M. Night Shyamalan fans.

I <3 George Carlin (Classic Carlin: The Hippy Dippy Weatherman)

What I’ve always loved about George Carlin is that, although his language was a bit salty, he always told it just like he saw it. A very smart, very funny guy. He’ll be missed.

Tori-Emaki for PS3 – Stunningly beautiful

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2 movies you shouldn’t miss

I don’t buy alot of movies since I use TiVo to catch and time-shift premium movie channel fare. Having said that, every so often there’s a movie so masterful that I want to see it again and hear more of its background and commentary. Recently, two movies fall into that category: The Departed and Blood Diamond.

I first saw The Departed a few months ago, and was awestruck. Jack Nicholson’s performance as a ruthless Boston gangster was brilliant; he didn’t just play Frank Costello, he became him. But Nicholson wasn’t the only standout — his performance was rivaled by that of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen. I’m embarrassed to admit that seeing The Departed helped me to (finally) appreciate Martin Scorcese’s talents as a director.

My favorite lines in The Departed
Jack Nicholson (as Frank Costello) to young boy: “You do well in school?”
Boy: “Yea.”
Nicholson: “So did I. (pause) They call that a paradox.”

The other film you simply should not miss is Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer, a former mercenary and smuggler from Zimbabwe. At first, I resisted this film — I thought it would be too difficult to suspend disbelief of Leonardo DiCaprio playing a non-American. When this film finally played on cable, I saw it and realized there was no effort required on my part: Watching Blood Diamond, it was difficult to imagine Leonardo DiCaprio as anything other than his character. His accent, his swagger, his general demeanor are all quite convincing. In the film, DiCaprio’s character becomes involved an idealistic American journalist (Jennifer Connelly), and with Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou), a fisherman whose family has been kidnapped. Without spoiling the film, suffice it to say that Blood Diamond will change how many (including me) view the diamond trade.

Note that both films contain intense violence, but the stories they tell are riveting and worthwhile.