A soundtrack worth dying for: “The Book of Life”

Manolo, Book of Life

A candy-colored confection of animation that celebrates the Day of the Dead, the soundtrack for The Book of Life is as exceptional as the vocal casting.  To have the soulful Diego Luna as our hero, Manolo, Zoe Saldana voicing the spirited Maria, and a very funny Channing Tatum playing the vain-glorious rival is a treat. But add in Ice Cube, Cheech Marin and Plácido Domingo..and you have constant aural surprises!

I believe The Apology Song is likely to be nominated for an Oscar.  Yes, it’s that good!  It should also be required listening for all bullies in our combative society!  Diego Luna not only voices the young Manolobut also sings a pair of memorable songs by Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla and songwriter Paul Williams. Manolo croons the ballad I Love You Too Much to Maria to express his undying devotion, and The Apology Song is Manolo’s plea in the Land of the Forgotten when he has to face the collective spirit of every bull to die in the ring. Simple and moving, it had me in tears in the theater.

The soundtrack features mariachi versions of Radiohead’s Creep, Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait and Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love with You arranged by Santaolalla.

(The Book of Life soundtrack is out now digitally and on CD Oct. 27.)

“Musically they’re different but together they came together to form the fabric of the music of the whole film,” says the Argentine-born Santaolalla, who won Oscars for best score for Babel and Brokeback Mountain. He also connected with Manolo’s journey: Like Manolo’s family in the movie, his own family wasn’t always happy with his desire to be a musician.

Director Jorge R. Gutierrez‘s, The Book of Life has themes of redemption and the journey to find one’s true calling.  The film is one of the first mainstream films to feature Dia de los Muertos. Diego Luna also connected with the film in a very personal way. Born in Mexico City, the actor lost his mother to a car accident when he was only 2, and the observance has been key for him to focus on remembering someone, rather than agonizing over the loss.

“I did save many years of therapy because of this celebration,” Luna says. He now celebrates the day with his son Jeronimo, 6, and daughter Fiona, 4, “so they understand where they come from and what had to happen for me to be here and whom I owe my life to. They didn’t get to meet their grandmother but they definitely know who she was.”

quotes from Brian Truitt, USA TODAY — Book of Life Original Songs

Rating: This is a children’s film but with adult themes, I choose Sangria–red as blood but sweet with fruit.  4 Sangrias (out of 5)

Bechdel Rating:  Maria is a Mexican feminist and it’s HER rallying cry that brings the village together to combat evil.  Otherwise, the film would have a low rating with it’s focus on marriage and romance.

What’s OUT that’s worth Seeking Out–Indie film in Boulder County, Colorado

Here’s what’s Out that’s worth seeking out in Boulder County!
Are you a foodie?  Do you enjoy beer and cocktails?  Is your idea of a good time: Dinner and a Movie?
The Flatiron Food Film Festival invites you to pull up a chair to their tasty banquet!
Kicking off with a craft beer tasting on Thu, Oct 16th, the second year of this unique film festival produced by CU’s IFS combines food, films and fun!  From cocktails crafted with Roundhouse Spirits to Farm Tours, from cooking demonstartions to panels and discussions, FFFF has a tasty tidbit for everyone! 
A panel discussion on work/life balance in the restaurant industry, followed by lunch, will take place on Saturday, October 18th, 11am at Jax Fish House in Boulder. Trattoria, a tale of a San Francisco chef who must reconnect with his son through the art of cooking screens @ 7pm @ Muenzinger Auditoriom on the CU campus.This fun film is followed by a timely documentary about food banks and crop diversity called Seeds of Time at 9:15.
Sunday features a Farm Tour, a molecular gastronomy demonstration and for those culinary and artistically-cultured, El Somni (THE DREAM) is a documentary that immerses viewers in the creation and staging of a twelve-course multi-media culinary opera in a Barcelona concert hall. 7:30pm.
For those of you excited about Dia De Los Muertos coming up and perhaps in preparation for the exciting Catrina Ball at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont on Oct 24th, there’s The Book of Life.  This wonderously-strange animated film tells the tale of young love thwarted by the Gods.  It looks amazing, has a great vocal cast and was produced by Guillermo Del Toro and for the brave of heart–I’d recommend seeing it in 3D.  Boxtrolls is also still out and fun for the whole family. Cinebarre and Century Boulder.
For those of you that haven’t managed to see the 3-hour masterpiece of film that is Boyhood, catch Richard Linklater’s film at the Boedecker this weekend.
Also playing: my favorite independent film of the year: Skeleton Twins starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.  A tale of dysfunctional siblings that find that family bonds can survive some seriously-twisted relationships.  There’s even a Halloween theme! See it @ Cinebarre Boulder. My write-up is here: Stefan, where are the dwarves?
Catch ya at the movies!

When is a movie ticket NOT a guarantee that you’ll see a film?

This is the back of a film festival movie ticket. It reads in bold print: Please arrive early as empty seats will be released and sold to RUSH patrons 15 minutes prior to showtime.festival film ticket

This is helpful information if you’ve never been to a film festival.  But if you’ve never been to a film festival, you are probably not familiar with what RUSH means.  Nor have you ever encountered a movie theater that looks like this:

Sea of reserved signs

This a problem for film festivals.  For many festivals, Opening and Closing Night films are a way to thank Sponsors and Donors for giving money and goods to support the festival.  Those patrons are rewarded with film tickets and receptions.  It’s essential to have funding and this seems to be the best way to ensure that the patrons are happy.

Now if you’re a long-time fan of festivals, this situation gets tricky.  It looks as if the festival is pandering to the wealthy and leaving you in the back row.  And if you’ve never been to a film festival, well–this is a shock.  What?!  I purchased a ticket and I can’t have a seat in the film?!!  Every year, at every festival that I work where film tickets are sold, there will be someone showing up late, wanting to get into their film…and unable to comprehend that there is NO SEAT.  RUSH means; you seat all the guests in line, all the sponsors, filmmakers and patrons in their reserve seats and THEN, if there are seats available 5 minutes to screen time, someone in the RUSH line gets to purchase a ticket and rush into the theater!

So save yourself some heartache and learn the rules of the festival.  Arrive early, avoid the big ticket shows and get a good seat for a truly inspiring documentary instead!

Happy Festivaling!

“This Is Where I leave You” — with siblings like these, who needs enemies?!

Siblings — really?

With a cast that looks so unlike siblings and a story that crams all kinds of dysfunction on one family, director Shawn Levy is asking for some serious suspension of disbelief.  I liked This Is Where I Leave You but more because I enjoyed spending time with these actors in these performances — not necessarily because I was moved by the film.

“It’s hard to make a personal film based on your own experience,” Thom Andersen warns in Los Angeles Plays Itself, “when you’re absurdly over-privileged. You tend not to notice the less fortunate, and that’s almost everybody.” No kidding. Levy has so little interest in anybody other than his comfortably rich that the world of the film doesn’t feel properly populated: There aren’t even service-industry workers on the periphery. (This probably goes without saying, but there isn’t a single black face on the screen.) Exclusivity of this kind is not inherently bad. But it does betray the movie’s foundational problem: It is oblivious to life as anyone really lives it. Early on in This Is Where I Leave You, Bateman slumps teary-eyed into a burnished-oak chair in the middle of his preposterously oversized New York apartment. Levy has the gall to slather on a bit of sad-sack piano — minor chords. Come on. You cannot play minor chords in digs that nice.  Westword Review

I did not really notice the privileged upper-crust environment except for the cars.  I think I’ve grown used to the wealthy families that often populate the big screen.  The absurdity of the situation: a dysfunctional bunch of siblings forced to share the family home for an extended period of time was a good plot device.  If some of the situations weren’t believable; the acting was always enjoyable.  Who wouldn’t mind spending time with Tina Fey, Jason Bateman or the particularly charming, Adam Driver?  Jane Fonda was a crack-up and it was nice to see supporting characters like Rose ByrneCorey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn.  Growing up in a big family, the interactions and petty jealousy that build up over time felt real.  Your siblings can be our biggest supporters and your worst enemies…no matter what car is parked in the driveway!

Rating: 4 shots of tequila to heal old wounds

Bechdel rating: passes.  Even an acknowledgement that older women have sex drives and a wife who has adulterous sex but isn’t punished for it!

“Laggies”– a reverse Apatow

Okay, not really a REVERSE Judd Apatow movie but Laggies is similar to an Apatow film; only the Seth Rogen role is played in this film by Keira Knightly.

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How much you enjoy the film will depend on whether you like Keira Knightly in her twinkly, cutesy roles.  If you are like me and prefer to limit your Knightly exposure to her British films, skip this one.

It’s an interesting exploration of one woman’s journey back to adolescence but rather than indulging in jokes about bodily functions and bad behavior, director Lynn Shelton explores how not wanting to make the wrong choices in life can sometimes lead to interesting situations.  In this case, living in a teen’s bedroom.

Laggies poster

With a dumb poster and truly awful tagline (A Comedy About Acting Your Age And Other Adult Decisions), I fear this sweet film will not find it’s audience.  It’s not as insightful as  Your Sister’s Sister, nor as awkward as Humpday, but Sam Rockwell is wonderful in the film.  And Chloë Grace Moretz gives her usual wise teen performance a nice warmth here.  Kaitlyn Dever plays the best friend with a nice sarcasm.  She was so good in Short Term 12 and also did a great job in Men Women & Children.  These teen actors are amazing.

Now if only someone had stopped Keira Knightley from wearing that ugly white dress!

Rating: 3 shots of tequila while wearing really ugly clothes

Bechdel rating: passes.  Some good talk about bad parenting.

Mill Valley Film Festival 37–growing pains or “Do you know who I am?”

MVFF37 swagThe Mill Valley Film Festival kicked off with a rollicking good time last night.  If patrons were disappointed in the any of the Opening Night films…well, they had a fabulous party to enjoy on a balmy Indian Summer night!  There were three films: The Homesman with the star Hilary Swank in attendance, Men Women & Children  with the director, Jason Reitman and his young star, Kaitlyn Dever, and Laggies (which the busy actress, Kaitlyn Dever was also featured in!) playing in separate theaters in Mill Valley, Corte Madera and San Rafael.

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The Brothers Comatose rock the tent at Opening Night Party

MVFF always has an amazing program of diverse films.  There are wonderful documentaries, great shorts programs and many International films that never get screened at your local movie theater.  It’s a gorgeous setting in Marin County, though you do need a car and patience with parking.  The festival staff that come in for the show are seasoned professionals and we have a lot of fun working together.  What this festival also has–is growing pains, and a sense of entitlement from some patrons, board members and even some year-round staff.

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Coming from my recent experience at the Telluride Film Festival where I never heard “Do you know who I am?” to a festival where something like that is said or implied every day–well, it’s a shock!  There are 15 different badges with different privileges assigned to each.  The wealthy and well-heeled are favored in all things.  There are patrons not willing to stand in line, upset over seating options, cranky if they can’t have sponsor seats and staff that cater to their every whim during the rest of the year.  It’s the donor dollars that keep the CA Film Institute afloat year-round!  And for staff that are used to having the where withal (and the patience!) to make the patrons feel special at the many screenings featuring the Hollywood stars and/or directors throughout the year…festival time is a challenge!

When patrons used to sitting in their favorite seats walk into a theater that is a sea of reserved seats, there is bound to be push back!  For festival ticket-holders who feel they’ve already spent more than they would for a film, then had to wait in a line, THEN arrive to find they will be sitting in the back row…it can be an unpleasant surprise.

So much of the issues at Mill Valley Film Festival are due to small venues and patrons who want to see celebrities.  There are long lines and film lovers must wait in the sun while those who’ve paid the big bucks get to go in first.  Here we have this wonderful film festival with talented filmmakers from all over the world in this gorgeous setting—and a mad dash to get the best seats.

Do you know who I am?  Well, I hope that you are a film-lover who is thrilled to be part of this shared experience.  Let’s all remember, it’s a Festival.  Don’t forget to be Festive!!