Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children Teaser Trailer

Cause of a strong-armed, slightly immature move by TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN will have it’s World Premiere at Toronto, instead of Jason Reitman’s usual path of showing it at Telluride right before Toronto, which he’s done for all his films except for YOUNG ADULT.  Though it’s slightly disappointing, it won’t be long until it’s released.  Good news is that this trailer looks great, more of a grounded, human drama then Reitman’s lighthearted and unique tone.  But it looks promising.

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BEST FILMS OF 2013: #20-11

Best films of 2013: #20-11.

Honorable Mentions: Mud, The Spectacular Now, Nebraska, Frances Ha

20.  THE CONJURING

A classic horror film with top notch scares and a tense, frightening plot will always get the better of me, and with THE CONJURING, it is easily one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.  Outside of it’s bone chilling techniques and torturing long sequences, the film itself is done with precision and quality.  James Wan is a master of the scary, and add in great performances from the always reliable Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Lily Taylor, this is an exception horror film that’s irresistibly terrifying.

19.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

You can always appreciate Tom Hanks and the kind of work he brings to the table, but the last scene with him breaking down in the infirmary is easily his best work as an actor.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is more than just pirates taking over a ship.  It brings upon the ideals of American success, the dreams the world has for itself, and what it takes for people to get a sense of that ideal.  It’s a tense, fast pace adventure with excellent performances from Hanks and first timer Barkhad Abdi.  Overall, it’s an achievement to execute a film like this that provides an ample of opportunities to twist and create subjectivity, but Paul Greengrass is so much better than that.

18.  BLACKFISH

A documentary like BLACKFISH is so important because it promotes change.  The waves that this little film has created is enough motivation for documentary filmmakers to truly believe that their film can create a difference in our saddening society.  Following the story of Tilikum, an orca taken from its habitat and placed in captivity at Sea World, and the trainer that was killed by Tilikum, it reveals the blanket of secrets and dark antics the “family-fun” corporation has consistently performed to keep the money coming in.  Animal captivity is a tragic situation that deserves more discussion, and BLACKFISH has become the fuel in what should become the blazing fire.

17.  AMERICAN HUSTLE

Though I feel this film doesn’t deserve a Best Picture win, it is still, in my opinion, one of the best films of 2013, mostly because of the top notch performances that surround AMERICAN HUSTLE.  You can’t get a better cast than this, and each provide a flawed and deeply infuriating character that keeps you glued to the screen.  The plot is insanely complex, and if you miss one scene, your most likely lost, but it’s a sight to behold.  David O. Russell continues his impressive streak of modern America folklore, bringing out the ugliness in our humanity, but dazzling it with a touch of love and… Jennifer Lawrence.

16.  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

There’s nothing like a Coen Brothers’ film, and with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the story about a man wrapped within self-loathing and pity, is beautiful, unflinching, and daring, especially with how the character unravels.  There’s much to be said about success, and how we define exactly where we want to be.  But it’s clear where we all don’t want to be, and with Llewyn, it seems that’s the only place he wishes to be at, hurting those that he encounters, and pushing away any possible form of progress from himself.  Anyone pursuing a career like show business know the difficulties of climbing that steep mountain, but Llewyn refuses to take that climb, and somehow expects to reach the peak without breaking a sweat.  He’s the definition of talent without passion, skills without drive, and it’s heartbreaking to watch, but also expected.  Add that with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and well, you got a great film.

15.  LABOR DAY

Though not widely released until January 31st, catching this film at Telluride, and having a small release in 2013, it’s a classic love story executed finely by Jason Reitman.  These are one of those films that don’t deliver some insane technique or brilliant writing.  In simplistic terms, it’s a romance based on pure love and chemistry.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Most of LABOR DAY occurs in a house, so all we see are these characters, in dying need of love and care, embrace each other, though from the outside, it’s a criminal taking hostage of a family.  It’s such a moving film with tear-jerking moments, and if anything, it’ll make you crave peach pie afterwards.

14.  THIS IS THE END

We all expected this film to have great lines, brilliant improv, and a lot of fun to poke at their own supposed selves, but the greatness of THIS IS THE END is that it takes a wild turn into a religious-infused apocalyptic dread, and the way we see everything unfold gives you assurance that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have much more talent than we give them credit for.  The cameos help, that ridiculous cast really helps, but what works here is the utter ridiculousness that continually raises as the film progresses, knowing that what they sold the audiences on (lots of barking at each other, playing themselves) would eventually get old.  It’s a smart and well-crafted film that is laugh out loud hilarious.  One of the best ensemble comedies in recent memory, it’ll be something that we watch years down the road.

13.  FRUITVALE STATION

A heartbreaking and gut-wrenching experience, FRUITVALE STATION exclaims to its audience the unfairness in which lives are lived based solely on culture and stereotype.  But more than that, it’s a tragic story about a young man trying to remake his life, doing the right thing, and to unfortunately not see how those drastic decisions would’ve played out.  First time writer-director Ryan Coogler takes this story and doesn’t fine tune it or mess around.  He takes that one fatal day and speaks volumes with it, raising its quality and its ability to speak for many issues without taking a stance on all of them.  With it’s final scene bringing me to tears, it’s a film that can be a intricate moving piece to real African-American films in today’s society.

12.  ENOUGH SAID

Sometimes, simple works best.  Nicole Holofcener’s ENOUGH SAID is exactly that, and what’s so great about it is that it’s centered around great characters, not necessarily great story.  James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus work magically together, having the audience to believe that these are real relationships, brought in with our human flaws and our uncontrollable behavior.  It’s a love story, but not between male and female, but between families, friends, and that subtle feeling of loss and trying to replace it with something imperative.  It’s a hilarious script with plenty of touching moments, and it deserves more attention.

11.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER

This is a film that I’ll show my kids, and no, not because I want them to run away and build their own house deep into the woods to escape my utter dread and embarrassment (which really could happen), but because of its ability to resemble innocence in youth, and the meanings and sacrifices we make as we continue to grow older.  THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a hilarious, well written film that entails the journey of a boy who hates restriction, but more so, unhappiness, and we can find unhappiness right around the corner.  Dealing with our problems head on is the act of maturity that we all must face, and the film greatly exhibits both sides of execution.  The characters are loveable but also flawed, and what we see here is a classic coming-of-age story with some of the best improved scenes you’ll see this year.  Not forgetting Biaggio, easily one of the most memorable characters in 2013, THE KINGS OF SUMMER will definitely be one of those films that I watch every year and appreciate what it represents: defiance in youth.

*Tomorrow will be the BEST FILMS OF 2013 #10-1.

Surviving the Telluride Film Festival & Its Life-Changing Moments

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This is an extremely late post, considering its been almost three weeks now since the 40th Annual Telluride Film Festival has closed shop.  There is not enough time or words to describe the entire experience, that’s something very few people will have enough patience to ever hear or understand.  I’ve been meaning to try and express it all in a blog post, but I feel that I may write a novel instead of an entry.  But simply put, Telluride easily changed my life, but in very particular ways.

First off, Telluride is a such a beautiful pure place.  Surrounded by mountains, rivers, and some of the most picturesque landscape I’ve ever seen, it amazes me that a legitimate film festival takes place every year there.  Not necessarily because of its small size or its intimate community, but mainly how polarizing it sometimes feel to be spending most of your hours watching a screen instead of soaking in the outdoors.  You compare that to the typical nature of American cinema, that clash like two trains heading in different directions.  But then the beauty of Telluride and its correlation with the festival is the emphasis in the art.  I heard so much about how TFF is all about films and nothing else.  No press, no paparazzi (except from the passholders), and no bullshit.  The focus here is about movies, and the purity of the festival goes hand-in-hand with the purity of the town.  It’s such a revelation to experience something like this, where the combination of two such important aspects is a small glimpse of heaven.  I mean, who can ask for anything better than movies and nature?  It’s a rare equation that works so beautifully, and just having that kind of atmosphere alone made the whole trip worth the money and the journey (though it wasn’t as difficult as one would presume).

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The symposium itself was quite the interesting experience, as I’ve never been engaged in such intense and diverse discussions about the artform.  I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t necessarily all positives for me, as I needed time for myself to just contemplate and divulge through my own meditative ways, but overall, the privilege of watching a wide range of films from different countries and cultures with an immensely intelligent and thought-provoking group was a huge blessing.  Being thrown into a room full of people you’ve never met before, it’s uniqueness is understated and is easily worth the application process.  The people in general were pleasant and gave me ton of perspective.  I learned so much that I thought my head was going to explode, and one day I literally thought I was going to pass out.  Though there were struggles with certain criticisms, strong-armed opinions, and a sense of film snottiness that almost overpowered the entire week, at the end of the day, it was such a rarity to be given such a gift that I felt nothing more than just overall gratitude to be a part of it all.  Everyone comes in with different backgrounds, understandings, cultures, beliefs, etc.  Then add in the particular trait of passion and love for film, you get a melting pot of ideas and opinions that always provide for some mind-bending conversations.  As an aspiring writer, there’s nothing better more important than listening to people.  It’s one of my most important activities and methods that I partake in in regards to inspiration and the creative spirit.  Perspective is such a crucial part of my writing identity, mainly because I don’t want rely on my own to be the main source of material.  I may not have gotten much progress done specifically with my own stories or work, but being part of the symposium opened my eyes in so many ways and in so many different levels.

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What I really adored however was the symposiums with the filmmakers and discussing with the symposium alumni.  With the former, it was unreal hearing Asghar Farhadi or Werner Herzog talk about films, their methods, and how the process works for them.  To be given an opportunity to just sit down in a classroom and just listen to these incredible individuals speak was indescribable.  When would I get an opportunity to ask questions to Ken Burns or Steve McQueen (this was during a public discussion for the entire film festival)?  In general, the festival is so intimate that filmmakers, actors, and directors all rub shoulders with the general public, which in itself is amazing.  Watching Jason Reitman get sent to the back of the line for Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known was hilarious and mind-blowing at the same time.  Sitting next to Alexander Payne and talking to him for about 10 minutes with a fellow student before the Polish film Ida (which was one of my favorites of the entire festival) was truly a special moment in my life.  Discussing movies with these immaculate and talented people gave me a real sense of normality to them.  Yes, they are some of the most renown faces of film and the entertainment industry, but they are also human beings.  They have their families, their own hobbies, and their own lives to take care of, and the way they get their films made in as much of a struggle as it is for us lowly folk to just break in.  Nothing comes easy in this line of work, and if you really want it, you must work your ass of constantly and you must stay committed to it.

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Though talking to celebrities and filmmakers was exciting all in itself, being able to talk to the past student symposium participants and see where their lives have taken them was also just as gratifying.  Being given advice, seeing their line of work, and just speaking honestly with more mature and wiser individuals was so important.  I learned and took away so much from them, and regardless of how far these relationships will take me, that time I got to spend with them was itself one of the more important memorable experiences that I had at Telluride.  These people have so much to say, and sometimes people don’t give them the time of day, but it just showed me the necessity I need to have in being open and be willing to connect with an array of people, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, etc.  But all those supposed barriers aside, and just connect with another person.  That was special, and I hope to continue to build off of what I learned from that.

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There were many instances and moments throughout those six days that I wish I could overly dissect and share, but I’m getting a headache just thinking about Telluride (in a good way).  From waiting in lines and talking to random strangers, taking a hike and witnessing Telluride’s beauty from up above, riding the gondolas at 1 a.m. after Blue Is The Warmest Colour screening (my favorite film of the festival), and running through a rain storm after the Punch Brothers concert where we were a few meters away from the Coen Brothers.  It doesn’t get much better than the Telluride Film Festival.  As an aspiring writer and filmmaker, I learned and took away so much that adds to my motivation, my necessary involvement in this line of work, and just who I am as a person and how that reflects what I want to create.  Take all the run-ins and pictures, the films, and all the people that I met away from me, I still will have gained something so precious, which is a better sense of identity.  I know myself better, not just from a writer or filmmaker’s point of view, but my own satisfactions in life and what I want to pursue and achieve.  Watching The Past and discussing such deep conversations with Farhadi revealed to me how much I want to share his emphasis in humanity and the individual’s story.  Talking briefly with Alfonso Cuaron and how much he cared about the smaller films allowed me to understand that the superficial benefits like box office returns, critical acclaim, and awards are not the priorities in filmmaking.  The foundation should always be in the story and in the art, regardless of how successful or disappointing the result may be.  And most importantly, be proud and honest to who you are.  Don’t shy away from the things you enjoy or like just because the majority may not support those arenas.  Standing on your own two feet and weathering whatever comes at you is such a vital ability, not just as an artist, but as as a person in general.  There’s always going to be negativity, disinterest, and lack of support from different groups of people, but the person you must be most connected to and support is yourself.  There’s always room to be better, but let that journey take its own pace, and constantly grow in ways that will help you.

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The untold theme of the festival was easily survival, as films like All Is Lost, Gravityand 12 Years A Slave obviously take its specific theme.  But all the other films that played through Telluride told survival stories about love, passion, identity, family, structure, etc.  It’s not just about surviving and weathering the storm, but it’s about the aftermath, and how you as a person will stand.  In all these films, the protagonists attached themselves to one specific thing that kept them going.  If it was from family, their significant other, fame, or freedom, it pushed them to not quit but strive for their goals.  Telluride has given me such an experience where I’m ready to not just survive, but so excel and succeed in writing, film, and as a person.  And success as an individual doesn’t come from fame, money, or qualifications, but through my own character.  Though I dreaded the end of September (because I have no clue what I’m doing next), fear is not an option anymore, and I’m excited for where the road leads.

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(I will blog about the films on the next post).