Thursday, October 25, 2007

Boston's Jewish Film Festival

Mazle tof! When I was a freshman at Northeastern, I took a Jewish film class, which has to this day remained one the best classes I have ever taken. I love the Jewish culture and traditions, a trait I received from my ex boyfriend, friend and half Jewish pal, Mike. From going to passover dinners to Bar Mitvahs and the lighting of the Hannukah candles, I have come to respect and aspire to be like this culture.

While I was walking around Coolidge Corner in Brookline the other day, I noticed that the 19th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival will begin next Thursday, November 1 and will run until November 11. Again, another film festival I was not aware of until now. Seeing all those Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet movies in my Jewish Film class makes me want to attend this event.

The event started by filmmaker Michael Goldman in 1989 and has remained non competitive, although viewers may cast a vote for their favorite piece, or documentary but no awards are actually given out. The festival began small, with about ten screenings. Today, there are about forty screenings throughout the ten day event.

According to the festival's website:

"We screen international and American independent films and videos that
highlight the Jewish experience; deal with themes of Jewish
culture/heritage/history; or are of particular interest to the Jewish community"
In recent years, the festival has premiered many award winning features such as The Pianist, starring Oscar winning actor Adrian Brody, Nowhere in Africa and The Personals. There will be screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, The Museum of Fine Arts Theater and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The festival kicks off on November 1 at the Museum of Fine Arts, which will showcase the film Aviva My Love, about a young writer from Tiberias, who spends her time as a mother and an ear for everyone else's problems. The film was made in Israel in 2006. According to the site:

"Shemi Zarhin, the writer/director of Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, has crafted an
irresistibly warm and richly textured tale about one woman’s struggle to
recognize her talent and follow her dream"
Some other titles include, My Mexican Shivah, Orthodox Stance, Two Eyes and a Mouth and Mirrors. These films come from all over the world, including both Germany and France. Many features are documentaries, while others are shorts. Most, however are full length feature films. Some of the films have more than one night of showings, so click here to see the full schedule.

After studying Annie Hall, Crimes & Misdemeanors and Next Stop: Greenwich Village, all films that have underlying Jewish stereotypes such as overly protective and pushy mothers and cheapskate characters, I will be excited to see such films that not everyone else knows about from not as prominent Jewish filmmakers and directors.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fright Night is Only A Week Away!

In Lieu of the Halloween season, I have come across a list on regarding the top ten most overlooked scary movies. I have only heard about one of these films, "Frailty" made in 2001 and starring Bill Paxton. The other nine range in genre and go all the way back to 1932 with the movie Freaks, which featured an actual legless man and real Siamese twins. According to the site:

"The reality of the freaks’ situation is constantly staring you in the face, as they aren’t really acting, so it is hard to feel pity for the “normal” humans who get so much pleasure out of torturing them. What’s truly great about this movie is that it still shocks after 75 years."

Another film featured is from famous director, Michael Powell, who's film Peeping Tom follows a serial killer, who murders women on tape then watches it all go down again and again. Sounds utterly disturbing.

Perhaps some of these films are featured on FearNet on Comcast?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gone Baby Gone Review

Listen to my podcast about Gone Baby Gone here.

Never have I seen the Fenway AMC movie theater this packed before. Granted it was pouring outside on a Friday night, but the lines to both the ticket counter and the fandango machines were out the door. I arrived twenty minutes early, soaked to the bone hoping that I would not have to crane my neck in order to see the screen. Luckily enough I did not and when the screen lit up with that familiar Boston skyline, I grew content…but not for long.

Gone Baby Gone is a film laden with deep sorrow, regret and tragedy. Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is not a film for the easily confused nor the weak stomached. It is, however, a film that portrays a powerful image of the Boston underclass and the deep seated feelings that others hold against them.

As the film opens, Affleck draws you into the neighborhood of Dorchester, slowly panning from each local face to the next, hoping that the audience will be able to recognize part of what it is they are or are not. A little girl, Amanda McCready has gone missing and her Aunt Bea, Uncle Lionel and mother, Helene are pleading with the television news cameras for their little girl’s safe return. Casey Affleck is heard narrating throughout the opening credits, speaking of his days growing up on the same hard streets that he now fights crime on.

We are then introduced to Patrick Kenzie, depicted brilliantly by Casey Affleck. He and his live in associate girlfriend, Angie are both private investigators, used to the normal routines of finding missing people who forgot to pay their credit card bills and are now hiding out in new Hampshire. Bea pleads for Patrick and Angie to take the case of her missing niece, Amanda. This is the first instance in the movie where choice comes into play. Angie is at first reluctant to take it, and when they meet with the coked out and drunk Helene, she wants to flee immediately. But something in Patrick makes him want to take the case and they forge a bond to not let this particular missing child's case take a toll on their relationship. Patrick meets with the chief of police Jack Doyle, played by an underplayed Morgan Freeman, who himself has lost a child to murderous deviants and has vowed to never let another child go missing from the streets of Boston. Freeman’s part in this film is inherent to the actual outcome of the film but is sadly not used to his full potential

Patrick seems to know every loser in town. He runs into an old buddy of his who claims the night Amanda went missing, Helene was not over her friends house as she claims, but was instead doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom of their local southie pub. These relationships seem to be the glue that holds everyone together throughout the film. They provide Patrick with the name of every drug lord, pedophile and pimp in the city to help him solve the case of the missing Amanda.

Detective Remy Bressant, played wonderfully by veteran actor, Ed Harris is dispatched to help Patrick and Angie. Together, the three of them along with Bressant’s partner, Detective Nick Poole, probe Helene with multiple questions and find that she was a mule, or a drug carrier for a Haitian drug dealer, aptly named Cheese. They immediately pin point that cheese took Amanda away because Helene owed him over $130,000.

Armed with hand guns and each other Patrick and Angie go to meet Cheese at a quarry in Chelsea to retrieve Amanda and hand over his trafficked cash. While there, there is a shooting and neither Patrick, Angie nor the audience knows exactly what it going on. The camera action during this sequence is muddled throughout the dark images on screen and the trees through which is runs through. After Cheese is found dead, Amanda’s doll is found floating in the water.

The movie seemingly could end at this point. The movie goes into a montage of the future few months with Patrick narrating: Helene is given a death certificate, even though no body is ever found, Chief of Police Doyle moves away and Patrick and Angie move on with their lives. This was about 45 minutes into the film.

Through a series of events and people from his past, Patrick uncovers more and more information related to Amanda. Each choice he makes brings him to another clue. Patrick chooses to follow his drug dealer friend into the house of a convicted pedophile and heroin addict, where he ultimately discovers evidence of another child abduction. These scenes in particular, were very difficult to watch. The trail he is lead on leads him to a path of further difficult decisions and everywhere he turns, he begins to run into added lies and deceit.

This is a film ultimately about the choices that we make and the morals that we hold. Patrick is forced to make a very complex and difficult decision in the culmination of the film and the entire time, the audience is left wondering, a long with Patrick, if it was the right one to make.

This film was very well made. The dialogue, with all of the sharp witty comment from Helen’s mouth was both poignant and at time, hysterical. Amy Ryan, who played Helene will most certainly cinch the best supporting actress category at the Oscars. Her portrayal of a down and out dot mother with a drug problem made me cringe, laugh and sob. I especially enjoyed the filming techniques used by Ben Affleck and the way in which the film was split up into three seemingly different periods. The deception kept me guessing every second and the surprise ending is worth going to see the movie in the first place. Casey Affleck definitely holds his own against the veterans such as Harris and Freeman.

All in all, Gone Baby Gone lived up to the brethren of recent Boston made cinema. I can gladly say that it holds its own next to The Departed and Mystic River.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More to Come Soon I Swear!

I have spent the better half of this weekend studying for two midterms I have on Tuesday which is why I have neglected the blog. HOWEVER, on Friday I went to see the long anticipated
Gone Baby Gone. I will be posting a podcast about my experience seeing this film, with thoughts on it from both my friend Mike and I.

The film was both incredibly good and intriguing, but of course, there is more to it than that. Stay tuned...