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Ashland IFF 2014: You Should Go…

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I have watched a lot of college hockey through the years.  A lot.  Most seasons of the last two decades, I have seen over 40 games in person each year.  I once saw over 60.  One season, I saw U. Denver play live six times.  I should point out that I live thousands of miles from Denver, in Boston, and Denver never played my favorite team that year.  I saw my least favorite team play a (baker’s) dozen that same season, which is probably more than most of the...

Griffin: In Memoriam

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It has been a while since I have posted any video, or anything at all for that matter.  I promised myself that the next video I posted would be one in particular, and it has taken until now until I was ready.   You see, two years ago today, I killed my best friend.   It was merciful, to be sure, but painful nonetheless - and still. For those that have read my spotlight piece on How to Die in Oregon, you might be familiar with my situation.  If you haven't read it alr...

IFFBoston 2011: Narrative Sampler

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For a sampling of the narrative features not already mentioned, I offer the following: While the premise of Another Earth suggests that it is a science-fiction film, it is really more of a character study with a sci-fi MacGuffin.  Lead actress/writer Brit Marling, as Rhoda, is in virtually every shot, and yet is silent for roughly the first twenty minutes.  Her ability to keep the audience engaged through facial expression and body language sets the tone for the gently unfolding plot.  Alo...

IFFBoston 2011: The Doc Block

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Page One: Inside the New York Times looks at the inner workings of one of the world’s most influential news organizations in an age of technological transition.  The one-time “New York Times Effect”, where second-tier media outlets follow the NYT by a day, is dependent on a daily print distribution cycle.  Today, as noted by NYT’s Bill Keller, “WikiLeaks doesn’t need us.  Daniel Ellsberg did.”  Page One investigates how “The Grey Lady” adapts to the landscape of 24/7 inform...

IFFBoston 2011: Nightfall

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IFFB ’11 also screened a trio of films about what happens after the sun goes down. The two designees for this year’s festival-within-a-festival IFFBoston After Dark were The Catechism Cataclysm and Stake Land.  The former is a quirky comedy that gradually turns dark and surreal. Starting with a peppy, lonely priest using a misremembered friendship to emotionally coerce his childhood idol onto a canoe trip, we meander to a finish that includes campfire stories with two giggling panda-head...

IFFBoston 2011: Rock On!

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The next few nights screened a number of documentaries about musicians and the impact of their music.  Scheduling conflicts meant you couldn’t see all of them, so I chose the three below. Color Me Obsessed is the rarest of rockumentaries in that it doesn’t play a single note of music from the band being featured, Minnesota’s own, The Replacements.  Somehow, for this iconoclastic group, it fits.  Instead, the band’s history and antics are revealed through interviews laced with humor...

IFFBoston 2011: Here comes Elmo

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IFFBoston 2011 began, as has become custom, with a Theremin player on stage in front of a boisterously filling auditorium in the Somerville Theater.  This time, there was just that little extra hint of nervous energy, coming from the uncharacteristic attendance of the littlest members of the crowd.  This Opening Night crowd included more children than most.  The kids are here to see, and anxiously anticipating the arrival of, their favorite Muppet, Elmo. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey...

AIFF 2011: Spotlight on How to Die in Oregon

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How to Die in Oregon is, in the simplest terms, about the ability to choose your own fate.  The state of Oregon is one of the few places in the world that allow you to literally do so, by granting the terminally ill the right to select their moment of death through assisted suicide.  However, that simple concept is not so simple in practice.  How a society deals with the end of life reveals much about what it values in itself.  This film gives us the opportunity to think about that topic for...

AIFF 2011: Tears and Laughter in Ashland

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A pre-dawn dusting of snow fell on southern Oregon, wrapping Ashland like a gift.  Morning’s bright sun melted white back to green to reveal the start of the 10th Ashland Independent Film Festival.  By midday, the endless crisp, blue sky instead hung low, grey, and ominous.  A freakish snow squall swirled around the queue in front of the Varsity waiting for the first slate of films, then the clouds lifted and the world shone bright again. Those changes - from cheery to dreary and b...

IFFBoston 2010: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (Closing)

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Monday at IFFBoston 2010 brings two vastly different screenings to Somerville’s small Cinema 5.  8: The Mormon Proposition lays out the political battles surrounding the recent Proposition 8 in California.  The purpose of Prop 8 was to repeal the existing right of marriage for same-sex couples.  In the days that followed the vote on the confusingly worded text - where supporters needed to vote “no” and opponents were to vote “yes” – it became known that the Prop 8 campaign had bee...

IFFBoston 2010: Weekend

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A sampling of the films on IFFBoston's chock-full weekend slate includes: Cell 211, Anne Perry: Interiors, 9500 Liberty, and The Killer Inside Me. Eight-time Goya Award-winning Cell 211 is a taut prison thriller whose central characters are a new guard trapped on the inmate side of a nascent prison riot and the brutal rebellion’s emergent leader.  This excellent Spanish export leaves no breaks in the pacing or in the lives of the characters.  Each battle is hard fought, hard won, and hard...

IFFBoston 2010: Wednesday (Opening), Thursday, Friday

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The Independent Film Festival Boston kicked off their 2010 festivities by honoring Kevin Kline with the IFFBoston 2010 Career Achievement Award and screening his new film, The Extra Man.  This unusual comedy pairs Kline with Paul Dano in an unlikely mentor/mentee relationship.  Supported by Katie Homes, John C. Reilly, and Patti D’Arbanville, these seemingly unlikable characters navigate New York City, the written word, and women in a way that turns out to be completely charming.  The Q&...

Ashland’s Other Film Festival

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No, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has not moved from live stage to film - but this festival is sponsored by another local institution dedicated to the arts on a year-round basis: the Bad Film Society. The festival?  The Bad Film Society Presents ... The Annual Ashland Co-Dependent Film Festival. While the OSF is well known throughout the state, country, even the world, the Bad Film Society is known to a relative few.  Sequestered away in the basement of the Ashland Elks Lodge, the grou...

AIFF 2010: The Ashland Experience

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People love Ashland. Ashland, Oregon appears, at first glance, to be a quintessential small American town.  It has a population of about twenty thousand and a compact, walkable downtown where the closest thing to a skyscraper is the Ashland Springs Hotel - once the tallest building between, depending on who you ask, either Sacramento and Eugene or San Francisco and Portland - which towers over the Main Street “skyline” but never reaches double-digit storeys. Within a few blocks from...

IFFBoston 2009 - Closing Night & The World’s Greatest Dad

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Bobcat Goldthwait is funny. As with any entertainer, people may differ on their assessment of his comedic persona. In person, however - whether one-on-one or in front of a Q&A crowd - he has this natural, relaxed comedic pattern to his speech that can make even what should be a sad, dark story draw random chuckles and occasional outright laughter. This is a laughter born not from watching a clown perform, but from an appreciation for an experience shared with another human being. ...

IFFBoston 2009 – Day Six – Arts and Crafts

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Tonight, fittingly, the screenings are at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art auditorium.  It is a great space with a striking view overlooking downtown Boston and the night-lit waterfront. It is a great space to see two films about two fields not always thought of as art, but that are certainly contemporary. The first, For the Love of Movies, chronicles the craft of film critique.  Breaking that history out into distinct eras and styles and sometimes dominant personalities, direct...

IFFBoston 2009 – Day Five – The World You Make with Forbidden: 3 of 3

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Marco Bechis’ Birdwatchers could have gone horribly awry.  Surficially an extinction survival story, pitting a dwindling indigenous people against the encroachment of the outside world that encircles and threatens to strangle, it could have been a treacly morality tale espousing the nobility of the native against the evils of modernity and our collective lost way.  But it is not. What it is, is a take on competing interests making a place for themselves that has echoes of Israel and ...

IFFBoston 2009 – Day Four – Involuntary Travelers with Forbidden: 2 of 3

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Geralyn Pezanoski’s Mine begins with a simple premise: What happened to the pets displaced by Hurricane Katrina? Once you begin there, however, every question answered gives rise to another unanswered.  Where are they displaced to?  Where will they go once they are delivered to safety?  Who will feed them, house them, give them medical care?  Does anyone remember where this pet came from?  Or that one? Can you find the original owners?  Should you? Or are the pets better off in ne...

IFFBoston 2009 – Day Three – Reality Cracked

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500 Days of Summer takes an unusual approach to a love story in that it isn’t one – and it tells you so up front.  What it is instead is an honest look at the course of a relationship when only seen from one person’s point of view, however skewed that might be.  From heart-warmingly fun and flirty, to heart-crushingly panicked and confused, anyone who has been half of a couple will relive the emotions of first dates and first fights and much of what lies between the two - and perhaps w...

IFFBoston 2009 – Day Two – Lost Loved Ones with Forbidden: 1 of 3

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Hunger.  Fear.  Deprivation.  Death. These are the realities that seep into your pores while watching Kimjongilia – which is also the first in our Forbidden trilogy, spotlighting three documentaries that explore the places that we cannot go.  Today’s topic - North Korea: See No Evil. Through the eyes of witnesses, and perhaps mercifully not through our own, director NC Heiken shows us a glimpse of a world most of us will never see behind the veil of secrecy that has become ...

IFFBoston 2009 - Opening Night & The Brothers Bloom

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The seventh annual Independent Film Festival Boston kicked off on Wednesday night with Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom, a romance tucked inside a comedy couched within a confidence scheme (a rom-com-con?).  The romance, predictably, grows between a mark and one of the con men.  The comedy is unexpected and liberally sprinkled throughout.  While not integral to the plot, the humor is always welcome, never off mark and adds appreciably to the appeal of the film.  The cons begin when the ...

IFFBoston 2008 - Who Makes the Call?

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At the Opening Night party for Independent Film Festival Boston 2008, I asked Managing Director Brian Tamm about the festival’s selection process and whether they keep any themes in mind when filling out the schedule.  His response was: “We just try to select the best films we can. You guys [the press] tell us what the themes are.” Well, let’s see what they came up with. With the Opening Night thriller’s frostbitten Siberian north (Transsiberian) and the Closing Nig...

Special to the Hoboken Film Festival 2008 : A Man Among Giants

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A Man Among Giants is, on its face, a documentary about what happens when the ultimate little guy runs for political office.  Beneath that mask is a story beyond what you would expect from such a film.Most political documentaries take as their subject a charismatic, inspirational candidate full of vitality and out to change the world for the better.  Usually told from the underdog’s perspective for a better dramatic effect, win or lose, their story gives the viewer insight into the political...

Ten Years Through the Lens of Newport

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Ten years ago, in Texas, Esequiel Hernandez, Jr. turned 18. Half a world away, in Afghanistan, a young man named Dilawar did the same.Ten years ago, David Sington was at the BBC, Tony Kaye was shooting two movies in black and white, and Labour crushed the Conservatives ending an 18-year reign.Ten years ago, Eric Rudolph had moved on from the Olympics to abortion clinics, while Teignmouth Electron was marooned in the Caymans, never to move again.Ten years ago, Billy Mitchell was famous, but Bob B...
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