A recent email asked me why I do not review the “big” films. As a monthly publication, I include films that the print readership of WestView News will actually be able to see in the print edition’s geographical location. The online and digital edition and blog may have some different content including interviews and trailers and targets a universal readership.
Most readers know that I have tried to encourage people to see movies in a theater with live strangers filling the space with energy and emotional reaction. However, the reality of the cost of going to the movies and the pattern of distribution today means that more and more of you are using Video On Demand (VOD) for home viewing; Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, IFC, Sundance, Film Movement and cable networks are just some of the outlets available. Sometimes, the only way to see a film I review is through a VOD platform. While I personally try to see films in theaters, I will now designate when a film is available on a VOD platform. I would advise watching on a large screen TV, unless the film is made for and formatted for your Smartphone or tablet or small screen TV; otherwise, to watch on such a device undermines the aesthetic merit of a film maker’s work.
I try to review films of merit that may not have the kinds of marketing dollars to grab a committed filmgoer’s attention. Today, much of the responsibility for asking hard questions and looking for answers in the world around us is done by documentary filmmakers. With the turn to entertainment focused network news and sound bite reporting, many complex issues that affect the world in which we live are dumbed down to five minute reporting. Consequently, except for a few television news related programs such as DemocracyNow, Bill Moyers, Frontline, and Cable docs, I look to documentary films to ask the big questions and make me think. I also tend to review either foreign films available at festivals or American indie narrative films. So, if you are lucky, like we who live in WestView News-land with a wealth of independent, non-multiplex public viewing screens, please support these theaters and where there is no distribution in your area, I will reference VOD if available. Furthermore, do complain to theater managers and in letters to the editor about the ever increasing ticket prices. It sure makes it hard on families and seniors on fixed income to go to the movies today. Hollywood has just priced out a huge portion of audience who would, if affordable, go to the movies.
Let’s Go to the Movies
April is Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) month. Now in its 12th year, TFF, which began in the shadow of 9/11, has changed its approach from supermarket programing to Whole Foods with delicious imported features and documentaries, in addition to specialty programs targeting children, sports, and public conversation. It has become emblematic of the diverse creative energy of artistic New York and offers something to suit almost every cinematic palate. In a smart move, the program and schedule is available approximately two weeks prior to ticket sales, resulting in aucourant cinephiles rushing to online and physical box offices with a well thought out schedule in hand. While TFF holds a few tickets for the day of screening, I would recommend buying in advance. I am alerting you to films, some of which I have seen and some of which I have not (deadline proceeds press screenings), which I think will sell out and are of merit.
Big Joy: the Adventures of James Broughton – married to Pauline Kael, poet, film maker, homosexual, the original hippie
Cutie And The Boxer – love does last forever!
The Director – who reinvented the House of Gucci?
Gasland Part II – Josh Fox follow-up to Academy Award nominated Gasland
Let the Fire Burn – political group MOVE, and the Philadelphia police
Teenager – director Matt Wolfe and writer pop historian Jon Savage
I’ve Got Something To Tell You – Whoopi Goldberg on Moms Mabley
In God We Trust – Bernie Madoff’s loyal secretary tells all
Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Almost Christmas – Phil Morrison (Junebug) returns: Paul Rudd and Paul Giammetti
Before Snowfall – Honor killing focus on changing men
Bottled Up – With Melissa Leo; addiction co-dependence and enabling drama
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mira Nair: successful Wall Street Pakistani and the aftermath of 9/11
Byzantium – Neil Jordan’s return looks at vampires finding where to live
Hide Your Smiling Faces – Looks at boys/brothers relationships
Möbius – Sexy thriller with Jean Dujardin
Sunlight Jr. – Acclaimed director Laurie Collyer of Sherry Baby returns; features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon
Reaching for the Moon – Based on poet Elizabeth Bishop’s love affair in Brazil
Floating Skyscrapers Polish – Polish director brushes away the sensational seediness to ask deep questions of what is love
Do check out the entire TFF program online; there are many more films of merit.
VOD Alert (seen at SXSW 2013)
TPB AKA (The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard) dir Simon Klose (Sweden) Available on VOD including iTunes, YouTube
This film explores the most successful creative work piracy website (the Pirate Bay) based in Sweden. The US government pressured the Swedish Government to prosecute the stealing of and distribution of copyright work and profiting from it. It is troubling though because it makes heroes of the three founders and portrays them as bravely fighting to keep the internet free from government control by censorship and protection of copyright. The downloading of creative work owned by an artist is quite different I believe from downloading a diplomatic cable. A corporation’s cover-up game plan or posting a video that shows a government or an agency or corporation or an individual is lying or breaking the law. Not one frame in this provocative doc, that I can remember, dealt with the ethical question of, if you think you have the right to download without compensating the creative work of anyone be they a Hollywood studio or an individual poet or indie rock musician, how the creator IS to be economically compensated for their creative labor.
TPB AFK is well crafted and structured with the rhythm of an action film shot by a smart slacker complete with a soundtrack that would also work for a classy horror film.
It is a necessary, must-see film to understand how non-creative people (computer geeks are essentially scientific technicians. Science geeks even when gifted with genius are not, in my view, artists.) feel they can profit (usually by sex industry adverts) from the “free” distribution of an artist’s creative work, be it film, writing or music or visual art, without the artist’s permission because their tech skills create a pathway. The conflating of what many artists call “stealing” with freedom of expression and unregulated internet is the core of the ethical and moral problem. I fear what will ultimately happen is the diminishing of artistic authenticity and originality because of the lack of economic protection and incentive and the devaluing of artistic and creative labor.
This kind of disconnect will fundamentally diminish both the incentive to create and the quality of creative work if the common ethic is that it is OK to “steal” or upload anything on the internet without respect for copyright. There is no discussion On the revamping of copyright a la Creative Commons in the film except for a one sentence throwaway line. What is documented in TPB AFK is how the arrogant, academic-driven definition of free is practiced in real time, not theory, by 21st century creative work thieves.
In the post-screening Q&A, the director laid out why he spent five years following this story. When asked how were artists to survive, the best he could say was, “I don’t know. A new distribution stream needs to be developed that answers that question.” He did say from day one that he has made his film available for free on the internet (YouTube etc.). His producer, who paid for the work, and the theatrical distributor, both present in the audience, did not participate in the Q&A.
(cc) jim fouratt nyc 3/24/2013