Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Woodstock (1970)

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“But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing BUT fun and music, and I God bless you for it!”

Woodstock exists in cultural memory as the quintessential music festival – the festival that brought together the greatest musical acts of the late 1960s with the counter-cultural generation. Every musical festival since aspires to be Woodstock-like (though sadly, most achieve the comparison only by being doused in rain and becoming mudpits as Woodstock famously did). As a current music-lover and festival-goer who is admittedly under-informed about a lot of the history of rock music and its place in culture at that time, I feel very grateful to Michael Wadleigh and others for preserving the event so well on film.

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Review: Fish Tank

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Director: Andrea Arnold (Red Road)
Screenplay: Andrea Arnold
Producers: Kees Kasander, Nick Laws
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbinder, Kierston Wareing, Rebecca Griffiths, Harry Treadway, Sydney Mary Nash
Year: 2009
Country: United Kingdom
Running time: 124min.

 

Three years ago, Andrea Arnold burst onto the scene with her first feature Red Road, a slowly-paced but incredibly rewarding thriller set at the edges of Britain’s working class. She has outdone herself with Fish Tank, in which she continues to find inspiration from the working class, this time focusing on teenaged Mia, struggling with school and a shrill, messy home life, keeping her head afloat only through her enjoyment of dance and possibly her relationship with an older man. If this sounds like the premise of a sappy, inspirational coming of age story, trust me, it doesn’t play like one. What I said above is basically the synopsis that appears everywhere for the film, and though it approximates what happens in the film, it’s wholly inadequate to describe it.

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Review: The Crazies

 

It would be a contortionist feat to find much relevance or depth amongst all the gloss and noise in Breck Eisner’s (Sahara) paint-by-numbers update of this somewhat obscure George Romero flick, The Crazies. The original was in 1973, but like most of the Zombie Ambassador’s work, it is getting a modest budget make-over (with vampires in vogue at the moment, wither 1977s Martin?) that is all spit and polish in the technical department at the unfortunate cost of, well, actually saying much of anything. Let us be blunt, there is not one damn thing in The Crazies that was not handled significantly smarter, swifter and more stylish in Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later.

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New Star Wars Topps Trading Cards Now Available

 

Wouldn’t be right to go an entire week without Andrew sticking his head out of the third row to post some Star Wars related news. It seems the Topps company has been working on a new set of 120 trading cards that include a lot of old Star Wars artwork as well as some of the manga imagery and old favorites of past series of cards. Artist Cliff Chiang contributed three of the cards’ artwork using the art from of old school, war bond propaganda posters as the foundation for his support the Empire “campaign.”

While I’m not too interested in purchasing an entire set of Topps trading cards, these propaganda sheets would like nice as full size posters. Have a look below or check out more of Chiang’s work at his web site.

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New Poster and Trailer for “I Am Love”

Didn’t hear anything from anyone about this seemingly surreal drama at last year’s TIFF until Kurt posted the glorious, Criterion-looking one-sheet almost a month ago to the day. And now with the trailer, the description from that posts sounds like it will be quite accurate – at least in terms off the aesthetics. The cinematography is obviously breathtaking, but some of the camera work here look exquisite as well (love that shot coming over the railing on the stairs).

Apparently drawing a lot of praise coming off of the festival circuit, just from the trailer it’s easy to see why. As just a knee-jerk observation, this looks like Gosford Park meets The Royal Tenenbaums with the beauty of something like Diving Bell and the Butterfly. God bless Tilda Swinton as she seems to do zero wronging. It looks like we’ve got another possible hidden gem in our hands.

I Am Love, or Io sono l’amore, is slated for a June 18th limited release.
The trailer is tucked under the seats…
 
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Ana’s Playground

Always proud when a worthwhile film, no matter how short or small, makes its way out of the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. Especially when said film is not only a magnificent watch, but also supports a good cause and delivers a message without being ham fisted. Quite the opposite actually. Ana’s Playground is a 20 minute short, sculpted so carefully that while it tackles the social injustice of children involved in armed combat, it never delves into a specific territory, conflict or racial divide. Rather, the film keeps it attention on where it should: the effect and involvement of children during armed conflict; using an unknown, war torn location and even going so far as the utilization of a made up language.

The locale is key. Since the actual city is never specifically mentioned, this could be any war torn city in the heart of chaos. It’s reminiscent of an Eastern European city that we’ve seen in many a film, but keeping the actual name from us leaves it more internal and possibly even relatable. The story depicts a group of children playing soccer (also a key instrument of storytelling as this is probably the world’s most popular sport (especially in Europe)) in the street. Forced to dodge tanks and machine gun fire rather than the usual passing sedan we might see in any typical American suburb, one of the children finds herself in the heart of no man’s land when their ball accidentally goes over the dividing wall. As children often do, ignoring the consequences, young Ana cautiously takes her time exploring the area and scavenging for food before retrieving their soccer ball. Suddenly the whiz of a bullet zips by her ear before an eruption of sniper fire rips from a nearby high rise. Now Ana is caught in a cat and mouse survival game with an unknown assailant. What makes the plot work, beyond the edge of your seat intensity is the intertwining of blunt social commentary twisted into the action effectively and with quality, but without being heavy handed.

Since its September release, the film has been receiving rave reviews and loads of festival awards just about everywhere it goes (including top honors for Best Live Action Short Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the Norwich, New Hampshire, Cenflo and Foyle film festivals, including a ‘Best of the Festival’ and an Academy Qualifying win for the 2010 nomination cycle) – and it’s easy to see why. Director Eric Howell has crafted a film that is amazingly well shot, has great set design, fast paced action (dare I say Hurt Locker-esque?), something meaningful to say (and said well) and the capper is its unique way of being relevant to all.

The film was funded entirely by donation and necessities were provided by countless organizations in and around the Twin Cities, MN area. Focus Features pitched in quite a bundle of scratch, Skywalker Sound did all of the post sound-engineering work and The Coen Brothers themselves provided a lot of the physical set pieces. Sorry, but if they’re behind this endeavor, so should we be.

The film has helped raise awareness and funds throughout the world to children involved with armed conflict and brought people closer together. The proceeds and leftovers from the production (including loads of soccer equipment and hundreds of jerseys) have been donated to various organizations around the globe. You can read a lot more about the film and its endeavors by heading over to AnasPlayground.com. Unfortunately the film isn’t available for viewing yet online, but it’s still making its way through the festival circuit, so you might look for it there. There is a nice looking trailer available however and I’ve stuck it below the seats. Have a look and seek out this quality short film if ever and whenever you can.

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Hurt Locker Wins Big at BAFTA

We’ve been following the critics awards shows all season and every post points to a simple truth: everyone loves The Hurt Locker. It has absolutely cleaned house at almost every award show it has been a part of. The Iraq War film is welcomed into Britain with 6 wins out of its 8 nominations; completely shutting out Avatar in all of the major categories. More remarkable, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever take home the best director statue.

This is likely just one more indication that the ex-wife will be taking home the big statue on March 5th before the ex-husband. It’s gossipy sure, but you gotta admit a previous husband and wife duo squaring off in the Oscars adds just a little bit of extra soap opera-esque intrigue to the night. I look forward to seeing them “square off.”

Full list of yesterday’s winners are below. Any major wrong doings?

BEST FILM
*The Hurt Locker
Avatar
An Education
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Up In the Air

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
*Fish Tank
An Education
In the Loop
Moon
Nowhere Boy

DIRECTOR
*The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow
Avatar – James Cameron
District 9 – Neill Blomkamp
An Education – Lone Scherfig
Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
*The Hurt Locker
The Hangover
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
*Up In the Air
District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
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