Category Archives: Film Festivals

33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival Podcast

SBIFF 2018

It’s time again for our annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival podcast! Frank and Tim recap Frank’s journey this year at the festival, including seeing Emilio Estevez’s new film, ‘the public’ and Susan Kucera’s LIVING IN FUTURE PAST which was presented and narrated by Santa Barbara’s own Jeff Bridges. This year, Frank’s red carpet interviews included on this podcast are with Executive Director of the festival Roger Durling, Gary Oldman, producer Doug Urbanski, Willem Dafoe, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Leonard Maltin, Academy Award-nominated editor of I, TONYA Tatiana Riegel, Academy Award-nominated VFX supervisor of BLADE RUNNER 2049 John Nelson, Academy Award-nominated sound editor of THE LAST JEDI Matthew Wood, GET OUT’s Daniel Kaluuya, Jordan Peele, Guillermo del Toro, and lastly Frank talking to Ben Mendelsohn about Podcasting Them Softly’s namesake, KILLING THEM SOFTLY.

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33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival: Willem Dafoe Honored with Cinema Vanguard Award

Willem Dafoe is an actor. He’s not a celebrity, he’s not a movie star, he’s an actor. An actor’s actor like Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin. He arrived early in Santa Barbara where he was receiving the Cinema Vanguard Award with an hour and a half long Q&A moderated by Deadline’s Peter Hammond. Dafoe took his time with his fans lined up; taking photographs and signing autographs and then spending an ample amount of time speaking to the press.

Dafoe is currently on his third Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. He was first nominated for Oliver Stone’s PLATOON, then SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, and now for Sean Baker’s THE FLORIDA PROJECT where Dafoe plays a motel manager and surrogate grand father to a six year old daughter of an unruly tenant.

Inside the Arlington Theare, a highlight reel started and showed everything from STREETS OF RAGE to PLATOON to THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST to SPIDER-MAN and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Noticeably missing from Dafoe’s greatest hits and Hammond’s Q&A were the four (soon to be five) collaborations with Abel Ferrara and his three films with Lars von Trier. To be fair any one of Dafoe’s performances from any one of his films would be worthy of being in the reel; yet those seven films are incredibly seminal to the Dafoe canon.

He spoke about being fired from his first feature film, Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE for laughing out loud at a joke during a set break. He then went on to speak about how he was asked by Cimino to narrate a feature length documentary about the making (and unmaking) of HEAVEN’S GATE.

Dafoe spoke freely about his rich filmography. He stated the most physically demanding performance of his career had been when he played Jesus for Martin Scrosese. He talked about how taxing the crucifixion scene was, and how he could only stay in that pose for a maximum of twenty minutes before his body would start to give out.

Regarding MISSISSIPPI BURNING, Gene Hackman actually did hit him, they really smoked marijuana during the party scene in PLATOON, and how he was on three foot stilts doing motion capture work for JOHN CARTER ON MARS.

Dafoe is overly deserving for an Academy Award. Both on the account of his performance as Bobby Hicks in THE FLORIDA PROJECT and for one of those “lifetime achievement/we owe you one” Oscars. As Bobby Hicks, Dafoe is playing the guy, and for a career of playing that guy, he finally gets to shine and give one of his best performances as the guy.

32nd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival

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4161418625791602350-account_id1We’re very excited to publish our 32nd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival podcast.  This year, Frank was able to get red carpet interviews with Executive Director of the festival, Roger Durling, film historian Leonard Maltin, Naomie Harris of MOONLIGHT, Stephen McKinnley Henderson of FENCES, David Crosby who wrote and performed an original song for LITTLE PINK HOUSE, filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson who premiered his film, JOHN G. ALVIDSEN: KING OF THE UNDERDOGS at SBIFF, Aaron Taylor-Johnson of NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, and filmmaker Damien Chazelle who wrote and directed LA LA LAND.  On the latter half of the podcast, Frank is joined with Devin Godzicki who took photographs and attended panels with Frank at this year’s SBIFF.  They discuss a film they saw, SEPTEMBER 12th, and end the conversation with a brief chat about LA LA LAND.

 

Best Actor 2017

Denzel Washington is the modern day Cary Grant.  He carries himself with grace and dignity.  He is charming, affable, and is one of the few cinematic icons that is worthy of that title.

Denzel was honored at the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival, receiving the Maltin Modern Master Award with a two-hour question and answer with Leonard Maltin.  It was incredibly joyous to listen to Denzel speak about everything from SAINT ELSEWHERE to FENCES.

He was very candid, yet gracious when he spoke about himself and his early career.  He frequently lauded the late Bruce Paltrow, producer of SAINT ELSEWHERE, who released him early from his television contract so he could star in A SOLDIER’S STORY and CRY FREEDOM.  He spoke in a very fond and sentimental way about Paltrow, attributing to his generosity that allowed Denzel to become the star he is today.

Denzel spent a lot of time talking about his childhood and how he accidentally found his calling as an actor.  He spoke about how he was continuously told he was a natural on stage and how that led to his ego being inflated. He learned early on that his natural talent as an actor could only get him so far, so he constantly studied and practiced his craft.

He spoke about his relationship with Spike Lee and how no one in Hollywood had employed and birthed more black actors and crew in Hollywood at the time. Denzel’s son now works for Lee as an assistant, and Denzel’s son told his father that Spike truly has earned his name.  He credits Lee with forcing him to become the actor he is today, that no one had pushed him and challenged him as much as Spike did.

Denzel just won best actor at the Screen Actors Guild, and he is poised as the front-runner heading into the Academy Awards at the end of the month.  Executive Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Roger Durling, called Denzel’s turn in the film the pinnacle of his career.  Durling is correct, Denzel is a marvel in the film, and he knows when to yield the screen to other performers in the film.  His subtlety in the film allowed Viola Davis to outshine Denzel, in his most Denzel performance.
Denzel is one of the few actors left in Hollywood that not only draws the masses to the theatre, but he also is the epitome of a role model. To say that Denzel is one of the greatest actors ever does not do him justice.  He is more than an actor, he’s more than a director; Denzel Washington is an iconic titan.

The Opening Night of the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival opened last night with the cathartic and uplifting documentary CHARGED: THE EDUARDO GARCIA STORY.  Eduardo was shocked with 2400 volts of electricity that cost him am arm, ribs, and nearly his life.  The film is an inspiring story of resilience, passion, and the eternal flame of the human spirit.

Executive Director of the festival, the ever so dashing Roger Durling, introduced the film in a candid and heartfelt speech.  He spoke about the power of film, how it can not only inspire us, but also save our lives.  Durling then went on to speak about how he is not only an immigrant, but also an American.

He spoke passionately and proudly of how the festival is showcasing films from fifty different countries and how cinema and the arts are so powerful, they can deconstruct walls.

CHARGED is a fascinating film, and marks the second time in the festivals thirty-two years that it has opened with a documentary.  Coming up, Denzel Washington will be receiving the Leonard Maltin Modern Masters Award, celebrating Washington’s career right as he comes off his Screen Actors Guild award for FENCES, poising himself as the front runner in the Best Actor race.

There is much, much more to be excited about at this years festival.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will be awarded Friday.  In total, sixteen actors who have been nominated this year for an Academy Award will be hosted.  Stay tuned for our SBIFF podcast that will feature red carpet interviews!

THE EXPENDABLES – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

THE EXPENDABLES is that hard R-rated film that hits the sweet spot for adults craving adult oriented action and humor with past and present staples of actions cinema. Sylvester Stallone crafts not only a film, but a hugely successful franchise, around himself and his movie star buddies. The film is so much fun to watch, watching these ancient relics double-fisting machine guns and laying waste to anyone in their path.

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Sure, the film is riddled with hammy dialogue, campy acting, ridiculous character names, and obnoxious action – but that is EXACTLY what this film should be, and is. Sylvester Stallone is one of cinema’s most unsung and undervalued auteurs. This is a guy, who has made catastrophic career choices; yet he’s been able to resurrect his career four, count it, four times due to his directing and writing abilities. Rocky, Rambo, Expendables, and now his reinvention of Rocky in last year’s CREED.

Stallone took a film with an eighty million dollar budget that yielded 275million at the worldwide box office, and spurred two successful sequels. The subgenre of the hard R rated B action films have seemed to have slipped off the cinematic radar in past years. Either we get a tent-pole movie star grazing his way through a watered down PG-13 film, or we get some sort of intentional franchise starter with an over-the-hill star fighting alongside a fresh face who more times than not, lacks acting chops severely.

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THE EXPENDABLES goes for it, and resets the mold of that strain of films we have missed. Stallone headlines Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Eric Roberts. Not to mention all the other wonderful additions Stallone recruited for the two sequels.

Stallone creates a world that takes place inside the movie world. These guys are big, tough, and ooze masculinity. The dialogue is akin to what we heard from the same actors in the 80’s, the practical explosions are bigger, and the CGI blood is absolutely egregious. The director’s cut of the film stands slightly taller, adding a bit more depth, and rounds out some of the more clunky characters in the film.

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While this film is nowhere near perfect, it is perfect for what it is. Dolph Lundgren lynching Somalin pirates, Stallone quick drawing a revolver and taking out six guys, Eric Roberts being over-the-top snarling through his teeth, Jason Statham putting his fist through skulls, Mickey Rourke looking obnoxious as ever yet putting on an acting clinic in his brief scene, and everything else you’d want from a hard R, quickly paced B movie filled with explosions and gunfire. THE EXPENDABLES and its two sequels is a feverishly welcome return from an auteur that refuses to be rendered obsolete.

OREN SHAI’S THE FRONTIER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Sometimes, a film sneaks up on you and takes you completely by surprise. That’s what happened when I viewed The Frontier, a very stylish neo-noir/contemporary western mash-up from director Oren Shai. The less you know about this crafty, twisty, and totally terrific gem the better, as it offers up narrative surprises to match its extremely sharp sense of aesthetics. Clocking in at an extra-tight 83 minutes, the screenplay concocted by Shai and Webb Wilcoxen tips its hat to various genre staples while presenting its own brand of down and dirty atmosphere and attitude. The story pivots on the actions of Laine (the excellent and striking Jocelin Donahue), a loner who drifts into a desert town and stumbles into a plan to rip off some cash from a group of volatile thieves who have taken up refuge at a sketchy motel run by a potentially duplicitous owner named Luanne (Kelly Lynch in an out-of-nowhere performance of complete control and command).

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What happens next I will leave for you to discover, but I will allow that the juicy scenario cooked up by Shai and Wilcoxen is thick with danger and potential violence, while various characters shuffle in and out of view, resulting in a film that feels compact yet bursting with possibilities. The supporting cast of Izabella Miko, Jim Beaver, Jamie Harris, A.J. Bowen, and Liam Aiken all turn in solid performances that perfectly fit the menacing milieu. On an aesthetic level, The Frontier is nearly impeccable, with extra-precise lensing coming from cinematographer Jay Keitel, who chose to shoot the project on 16mm film, and a creepy yet eclectic musical score composed by Ali Helnwein. The spare yet efficient production design by Lindsey Moran stresses open space and confined quarters, making great use of physical locations that project a sense of unease which adds another layer to the piece. Shai also co-edited the picture with Humphrey Dixon, and as a result, you get the sense that every single shot came out as fully intended by the director.

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And I really enjoyed observing how Shai and Wilcoxen subverted numerous expectations all throughout, starting with having a female lead in a role that 99% of the time might have gone to a male; the film is all the more successful and enjoyable because of this one simple decision. The film keeps you in its grasp all the way until the absolute final shot, and feels uncompromised at every turn. After making its premiere at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival, indie specialist Kino Lorber acquired the film for release in cinemas and on physical media. The Frontier is currently playing in limited theatrical release, and will be available to stream via iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, and Hulu starting November 8th. The Blu-ray and DVD are available for pre-order, with a December 6th street date. This is a fantastic piece of pure cinema that casts its spell immediately, never looking back, and staying true to its convictions all the way until the cut to black.

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