Shocker: In Manhattan tickets for new movies can cost $15 to $20 dollars for adults and $14 for seniors (there goes the fixed income movie goer). Early morning shows cost a little less—between nine in the morning and noon it will only cost you $8.50-$9.50 for any age. That’s great if you can get yourself to a theater for a ten AM movie—certainly not a time to take a date.
Recently, I went to see Far From the Madding Crowd at Cinema 2 across the street from Bloomingdale’s. The tickets cost $17 for an adult and $14 for a senior. A medium popcorn and soda cost an additional $15. Sure the renovated theater was lovely, and if the theater stayed open all night, the seats would have been a hotel bed bargain—complete with beautiful and clean shared bath.
We were shocked but paid, but the movie was certainly not worth it. Carey Mulligan rides a horse well, but lacks the inner turmoil and lust that Julie Christie exuded in the 1967 version along with Peter Finch and Terence Stamp. Rent the original; it sizzles .
The high prices made me angry, demonstrating the short sighted vision of the owners. At these prices many people are not going to risk seeing a small film that is not blown up in marketing everywhere. And sadly these smaller films are often what I am trying to get you to see.
Let’s Go to the Movies:
Heaven Knows What Directors Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie
Junkies have always been fascinating subjects for directors, actors and the viewing public. Remember The Man With A Golden Arm and The Panic in Needle Park? Heaven Knows What is the latest. It has troubled me ever since I saw it at The New York Film Festival last fall.
Arielle Holmes, who plays a version of herself called Harley in the film, captured the attention of many critics. The Safdie Brothers are also critical darlings. Their first film, Daddy Longlegs is a semi-autobiographical narrative film based on their own unhappy childhood. Heaven pretends to be a narrative that looks like a documentary, set in the same location on 72nd Street and Broadway with Central Park a couple of blocks away. The brothers are smart when it comes to technical crafting—they hired cinematographer Sean Price Williams and a crew he had worked with before. The film is arresting to watch visually.
Ben Safdie spotted a young woman coming out of the subway and almost immediately was smitten with her. He discovered that she—Arielle Holmes—was a homeless junkie crashing in Central Park with other young junkies, supporting herself in the usual ways and also working part-time as a teenage dominatrix. The more she told him about her life, the more excited he became with the drama of it all.
He decided to make a movie based on her and her friends. She would write it. She would star in it. She was still using.
He paid the teenage junkie dominatrix, not to whip him, but to write for him—paying by the page. She turned her pages in daily and got paid. Somehow it was supposed to be fiction, although both in real life and in the movie she was madly in love with a junkie named Ilya, who was initially cast as her male lead. The final day of rehearsal Ilya freaked out, overdosed and was removed from the set by ambulance. A professional actor—Caleb Landry Jones—was brought in to play the part.
It’s a hard story to watch. My ethical problem is in a narrative film should directors actually cast active drug users? Yes, in a documentary, but the narrative form of storytelling is different. They are actors.
At the Lincoln Center premier, Ilya was in the audience. Desperate for attention he kept shouting out during the Q&A that he was being ignored. He died from an overdose in Central Park in April of this year. When filming finished, Arielle asked the brothers to help her get clean and they arranged for her to go to rehab in Florida. After rehab, she moved to Los Angeles.
Heaven Knows What presents me with the same ethical problems that most of Larry Clark’s films do. Is the director being exploitative of the young performers or has the director’s obsession triggered a seduction by the subjects themselves? The scared, desperate hopelessness of Heaven’s characters also references Easy Rider in the way drugged freedom is romanticized—not made pretty but still romanticized. So there you have it—see it or not.
Tangerine Director Sean Baker
This is the most exciting film I have seen emerge from the almost formulaic “indie” film scene. Baker became the talk of people who go to Sundance for movies, not parties (there actually are a lot of these folks). Tangerine was in a new category of films that Sundance has created for low budget, creative story-telling using new technology. It was shot on an Iphone with a 4.95 app. When I heard that, I was tempted to run the other way because I like movies shot to show on big screens in dark rooms. But since NEXT has been the most exciting and important part of my Sundance viewing, I went into the theater and learned a new lesson. All the new technology gives a wider choice in how to make a film and, in particular for a low-to-no budget film, it makes it possible.
The story is one that has been told before—bad street girls in love with bad boys who do them wrong. Set in a part of downtown LA that has not yet been gentrified, Tangerine is about a community of runaway friends whose gender expression and identity both shock and seduce. These are the working class tranny hookers that reminded me of the “girls” who worked the meatmarket when the only things open at night were the fetish bars and the all night bagel shop. When these characters pull you in, you are roped into the relationships that underlined All About Eve.
`The camera choice is perfect because it captures the frantic energy of survival and aggressive passion of novella emotions. I came away with such a feeling of authenticity and was impressed by the power of friendship.
The cast looks so real that the acting makes you believe these are real people not actors—and that is a compliment. Baker is able to capture the desperate mood swings of people holding on to life and managing to have a good human time while somehow swept up in one drama or another. Shooting in color helped create this “circus-mort” environment and bring to life the people with dreams who frolic, fight and love in it.
5 Flights Up Director Richard Loncraine
An interracial couple who have been together forty years must let go of their perfect apartment—five stories up, with panoramic views of water, bridges and land, but no elevator. Watching their story, I wondered what life was like forty years ago when he, a black painter, and she, a school teacher, met, fell in love, and moved into this apartment.
Played with the richness of experience, Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton evince a long-sustained love and commitment as life changes around them.
Now he is having knee and age-related body problems, and his physical problems make them finally decide to give up and sell their dream apartment. In comes real estate agent Cynthia Nixon, a friend, but a real cut-throat, take-no-prisoners agent out to win the biggest commission, and a born scene stealer.
All the actors—and there are many faces you will recognize from films and quality TV programing—are terrific at playing New Yorkers I know. This issue may hit home to some long term Village readers. Like Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange, 5 Flights Up looks at what was and what is now. Truly a village tale. Available on VOD and iTunes.
Mad Max Fury Road Director George Miller
What is there not to love? A one-armed female hero with no gender expression problems, a Max who has perfectly internalized the steel silence and vulnerability of Randolph Scott and Gary Cooper, more sand storms than Lawrence of Arabia, four pregnant Priscilla’s in desert distress, a posse of old dykes on bikes to the rescue, a soundscape that pays homage to a live performance of a Metallica-like art composition, almost language free—and under all the noise, visual stimulation and nerve-wracking battle scenes hides a critique of oil dependency and the privatization of water and a commentary about a woman’s right to control her body. Go.
Online find coverage for the Human Rights Festival.
(CC) Jim Fouratt http://jimfourattsreeldealblogspot.com . firstname.lastname@example.org