Farewell to Hollywood

A part of me wants to say that I enjoyed “Farewell to Hollywood,” a new documentary co-directed by New York based documentarian Henry Corra and Regina Diane Nicholson (Reggie). However, I do not think that “enjoyed” is the correct term for my reaction to this very moving, honest, frank, poignant and life affirming personal documentary about a teen-aged filmmaker’s final, two year struggle with cancer. “It’s kind of an ordeal, isn’t it?” Corra said to me, empathizing with my reaction to this heartfelt documentary which opens at Cinema Village on February 25 (Reggie’s birthday). Reggie, the film’s subject as well as its co-director, was a filmmaker whose goal was to make a feature film. As Reggie’s mother says, in the documentary, Reggie “wont make her mark on the world until she’s done that.”

Reggie Nicholson and Henry Corra, co-directors and subjects of "Farewell to Hollywood."

Reggie Nicholson and Henry Corra, co-directors and subjects of “Farewell to Hollywood.”

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“The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940), at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), at Film Forum, December 25-31, 2014

From December 25 – 31, Film Forum will present an archival 35mm print of director Ernst Lubitsch’s film, “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940). In plain English this means a very good print of a very nice movie.

I will admit that, prior to writing this article, I had not seen “The Shop Around the Corner.” As a teacher of film and sociology I am sometimes amazed at the films I have not yet seen. The advantage of this is that it allows me the joy of discovering new films and, in so doing, prevents me from becoming jaded. “The Shop Around the Corner” allowed me to accomplish both the former and the latter. As director and journalist Peter Bogdanovich said, at the 2010 TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Classic Film Festival, “If you haven’t seen it, then it’s not an old movie.” So, applying Mr. Bogdanovich’s words, I am happy to report that not only is “The Shop Around the Corner” not an “old movie” for me personally but, more important, it is a modern, relevant, literary, funny movie about characters dealing with core issues of the human experience – work, love, money, survival, happiness, security and finding a soul mate. Read the rest of this entry

Isn’t It Delicious

securedownloadAs 2014 winds down, how appropriate that “Isn’t It Delicious,” one of the best independently produced films that I have seen this year, will have its long awaited debut at the Quad Cinema. For those interested in story telling that is insightful, real and funny, this is a movie not to be missed.

“Isn’t It Delicious” arrives at the Quad already a multiple film festival winner. It won the Best Feature Film award at the Rainer Independent Film Festival, Best Comedy at the 2013 Manhattan Film Festival, Best Actor (Kathleen Chalfant) at the San Antonio Film Festival and second place for Best Feature at the Topelo Film Festival. It has also been an Official Selection at many more film festivals.

Director Michael Patrick Kelly, known for his accomplished work as a documentary filmmaker (“Operation Lysistrata” – 2006) demonstrates his versatility by bringing off a narrative feature which he also co-wrote (with Kathleen Kiley) co-edited (with David Pisani) and co-produced. Read the rest of this entry

The Donovan Affair at Film Forum 10/19/14 at 3:40

On Sunday 10/19/14 at 3:40, Film Forum will present a screening of director  Frank Capra’s 1929 film “The Donovan Affair.”  The film will be shown  as part of the repertory theatre’s current retrospective of Capra’s movies, which runs through  October 23.

Original poster for Frank Capra's THE DONOVAN AFFAIR (1929). CouI attended Tuesday’s screening of “The Donovan Affair.” It was a fun, riotous evening – a perfect blending of film history and really ingenious live performance.  “The Donovan Affair” is a rare event not to be missed. The story behind “The Donovan Affair” is nothing short of fascinating and Film Forum’s presentation of this nearly lost film represents a level of commitment to film restoration, repertory cinema, and performance that I do not think has ever been accomplished. Read the rest of this entry

“’71” at The 52nd New York Film Festival, September 26-October 12, 2014

Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is down behind enemy lines in "'71"

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is down behind enemy lines in “’71”

The New York Film Festival will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center from September 26 – October 12, 2014.   Although the press screenings have just started, this year’s line up looks to be a formidable one with over 30 feature films from around the world, in addition to 21 revivals and 15 documentaries.

From Ireland, director Yann Demange’s “’71” is a suspenseful, pulse pounding, riveting account of a British soldier, cut off from his unit, lost and trying to stay alive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1971 at the height of what was called “the Troubles.” “’71” is a skillfully directed thriller with plenty of action, solid characters and a real sense of the historical and political situation of the time. Read the rest of this entry

Fedora (1978) at Film Forum

Marthe Keller and William Holden in "Fedora"

Marthe Keller and William Holden in “Fedora”

On Friday September 5 Film Forum will present a one week engagement of writer/director Billy Wilder’s 1978 film “Fedora,” starring William Holden and Marthe Keller, in a new restoration.  My only question is “Why?”

Of all the great films Wilder made, including “Double Indemnity” (1944), (which Film Forum just showed), “Ace in the Hole” (1951), “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “The Apartment” (1960) and “The Fortune Cookie” (1966), why, oh why, does Film Forum see fit to revive (or should I say “resurrect?”) “Fedora?”

“Fedora” is best described as “Sunset Boulevard” meets, well, “Sunset Boulevard,” only without the wit, gothic / noir ambiance or Gloria Swanson.  In fact “Fedora” plays like a very rough first draft of “Sunset Boulevard.”   Read the rest of this entry

Love Is Strange

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in "Love Is Strange."

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in “Love Is Strange.”

“Love Is Strange” could have been a very good movie. In fact, I am still quite surprised that it was not. It has an interesting premise and very engaging main characters played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, with the, always fine, Marisa Tomei in a supporting role.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will simply say that going into its third act the story takes a very sharp left turn, flies off the rails, crashes and burns.   Simply put, “Love Is Strange” suffers from a time worn malady, of both stage and screen, called “trouble in the third act.” In other words, there was a good idea here, which was well sustained for the first and second acts.  Writer/director, Ira Sachs, seems to have not known how to resolve his story.  As a result, he has come up with something completely out of left field, for the third act, that conveniently lets him off the hook in regard dealing to his characters’ situation. In fact, for a moment, I honestly thought that there was a technical glitch and that the particular copy of the movie that I was watching was missing a scene or two. Part of me is still hoping that this is the case, but I do not think it is.

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Last Days in Vietnam

A scene from "Last Days in Vietnam"

A scene from “Last Days in Vietnam”

When creating a documentary a filmmaker has basically two options. One option is to be present, camera running, when events are actually unfolding. These events can then be supplemented with interviews. What are the filmmaker’s options, though, when making a documentary today about an event that occurred in 1975? Director and Producer Rory Kennedy, and her crew, have answered this question with a highly compelling and riveting documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam.”

I have seen “Last Days in Vietnam” twice. It is a pulse pounding, suspenseful, fascinating, thriller like account of the final days of the United States’ presence in Vietnam. This documentary takes off like a shot and does not let up until the end of its 98 minute running time. I defy any formulaic Hollywood summer movie to match it. Read the rest of this entry

The Dog

Bank robber John Wojtowicz

Bank robber John Wojtowicz

Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)

Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975)

“The Dog” is one of the best documentaries I have seen in quite some time. The film covers everything you could possibly want to know about the famous (or should I say “infamous?”) “Dog Day Afternoon” bank robber, and hostage taker, John Wojtowicz, immortalized by Al Pacino in director Sidney Lumet’s brilliant, scorching, 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon.” It is also a fascinating and highly entertaining documentary, to be enjoyed even if you have not seen “Dog Day Afternoon.”

However, if you love “Dog Day Afternoon” the way I do (and I’ve been a fan ever since seeing it at the age of 13 – my God, what were my parents thinking?) “The Dog” is a fascinating and compelling compendium of things we know, and many things we do not know, about the actual events that transpired before, during and long after that blistering hot afternoon of August 22, 1972, in Brooklyn, when two men held up a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank.

Watching “The Dog,” it is very interesting to see how much of the story “Dog Day Afternoon” got right. I had the privilege of seeing Lumet speak on many occasions. He always said that the story telling emphasis in “Dog Day Afternoon” was on the fact that this event really happened. Read the rest of this entry

Obfuscation by Verizon FIOS – But Saved By RCN

Verizon FIOS - deceptive business practices

Verizon FIOS – deceptive business practices

Obfuscate: To stupify or bewilder. To darken or confuse.

I am writing this article to bring to light my experience with the misleading business practices of Verizon FIOS. I am hoping to save others the problems I have had.

Two years ago, in May of 2012, I accepted a FIOS offer for TV, internet and telephone. The cost was $84.99 per month, with a two year contract. Adding in taxes and other charges the monthly total came out to $94.00 and change. The service that I received was fine.

This past May, knowing I was at the end of my two-year contract, I called Verizon FIOS to see what kind of a deal I could make to continue the service. I spoke to a Verizon representative (I’ll call him Representative #1) who told me that I could have the same services, with a two year contract, for $95.00 a month (not including taxes and other charges). I asked Representative #1 if I could have a lower rate if I dropped some channels from my cable package. He told me that he could put me on a lower channel tier but that I would lose some sports channels. I was fine with that but emphasized that I did not want to lose CNN or TCM (Turner Classic Movies).   Representative #1 assured me that I would not lose CNN or TCM. I agreed to the two year contract. The next time I turned on my TV I discovered that I no longer had TCM. Read the rest of this entry

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