March 2013 posts
ON THE ROAD (2012/IN THEATERS) I have been waiting for this film for well over a year—and let me say, it was worth the wait. Based on the landmark 1957 “beat generation” novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac, about his days on the road with crazy Neal Cassady, it is said that Kerouac himself wrote to Marlon Brando asking him to make a film of the novel with the two of them as the leads and a camera strapped on the engine of a car. While that idea never panned out, in 1979 Francis Ford Coppola did buy the rights to the book. He worked over the years to bring it to life and among several attempts, tried to cast Ethan Hawke and Brad Pitt as Kerouac and Cassady. Ultimately Coppola approached Brazilian director Walter Salles after seeing his fabulous work in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” which was also based on a road novel by the young Che Guevara. Salles brought in his screenwriter Jose Rivera and the rest of his team from the earlier work and finally filming began in August 2010 in Montreal, Quebec. Before they were done, Salles and company had filmed in dozens of locations, ranging from San Francisco to Arizona to Louisiana and even to Argentina (when it became too dangerous to shoot in Mexico) bringing the book to gorgeous cinematic life. A strong ensemble cast completes the work, with Sam Riley as Sal Paradise (the Kerouac role) and Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) carrying the film and doing a bang-up job of it. Also featured are Kristen Stewart as Marylou, Dean’s 16 year old bride and wild child who is frequently with the two leads (and naked, as the tabloids have already noted); Tom Sturridge as Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg in real life), giving a poignant portrayal of being gay and sensitive in the late 40s and early 50s; Kirsten Dunst as Camille, who plays the long-suffering second wife of Dean (Carolyn Cassady in real life); Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs), eccentric but brilliant in his short time on screen; and Amy Adams as Old Bull’s wild woman Jane, shaking the lizards out of a tree in their Louisiana abode. Also appearing are Elisabeth Moss as Galatea Dunkel, left with Old Bull and Jane, and as she says “married for gas money,” as well as brief but wonderful appearances by Terence Howard and Steve Buscemi. Like “The Motorcycle Diaries,” the cinematography of the film is brilliant and allows you to share in that feeling of being on the road. Rhythms of jazz underline the film and there’s plenty of booze, drugs, and sex, in keeping with the book. Also plenty of writing and thinking and talking about the true meaning of life–which is what intrigues young Sal in the first place. I think if you’re a fan of the book, you will not be disappointed by this film. And if you have yet to read it, just hang on for the ride!
TAOS SHORTZ FILM FEST 2013 (March 7-10, 2013, Taos Community Auditory, Taos, New Mexico) Over 88 juried global short films were screened over the course of four days and ten sessions this past week in beautiful Taos, New Mexico. Organized by Anna Cosentine, a serious movie lover for sure!—this year marked the 6th for the Taos Shortz Film Fest. Cosentine shared the credit at Sunday’s Awards Ceremony with Duprelon Tizdale who served as Program Director this year. I was able to catch three of the ten sessions, including Session 1 which was devoted to local Taoseno filmmakers—a terrific and packed event. Awards were given in six categories: Dramatic Fiction, Comedy, Documentary, Animation, Experimental and the Zia Award for the Best New Mexican Film from NM’s own filmmakers. To top it all off, the Peoples’ Choice Award was the cherry on the cake —given this year to a hilarious short entitled “First Date” which is now showing at SXSW in Austin. If you get the chance, be sure to catch it!
Partial List of Winners:
People’s Choice First Date / USA
Animation Abuelas (Grandmothers) / UK
Dramatic Fiction Abgestemplt (Punched) / Austria-Germany
Documentary Unravel (UK/ India)
Experimental Solo Piano NYC (USA)
A personal favorite which had its US Premiere: Ash (Comedy Fiction) / Singapore
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012/ DVD) Ever heard of a musician named Rodriguez? Me neither until I watched this wonderful 90-minute documentary from Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul who apparently has a calling for producing films about musicians. Who knew? This one begins in South Africa with fans of a U.S. singer/songwriter/guitarist named Sixto Rodriguez, a mysterious performer from Detroit who put out two albums in the early 70s. Both were critical hits but neither made the charts. In fact, both of them bombed big-time and Rodriguez “disappeared” like so many others before and after him. Come to find out, bootleg copies of those albums, especially the first one entitled “Cold Fact,” found their way to South Africa and became rallying cries for the young white “hippies” who were ready to over-throw Apartheid. Of course, all those young fans in South Africa assumed that Rodriguez was a huge rock star, equal to Bob Dylan, the Stones and others. Eventually they heard wild stories about the singer dying—setting himself on fire—shooting himself on stage following the rejection of his latest songs.
Finally, in the late 1990s, two Cape Town fans–Stephen ‘Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholmew Strydom–decided to find out what really happened to their hero. This documentary follows their efforts and cleverly makes us pursue the trail along with them, sharing in their discoveries that turned out to be nothing short of fabulous. Even if you find the start of the film a little hard to follow, don’t worry. You’ll be rewarded as you stick with this tale—maybe you already know the ending. I won’t spoil it here. But let’s just say….Mr. Rodriguez might just be performing in your town soon!
P.S. Here’s a Wikipedia fun fact for you film fans. “Initially using 8 mm film to record some scarce, stylized shots for the movie, director Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. He resorted to filming the remaining stylized shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film.” Cool….