About Jill

With more than 20 years experience working (and attending) film festivals, nationally and internationally, I have a great passion for film! I love entertaining, esp. making cocktails for friends. I love art and theater--and have been to known to dance with wild abandon! If the sun is shining; you'll almost always find me in a sunny mood!

Motherhood at the Movies

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Women are making headlines. We’re standing up for our rights and saying #Metoo, #TimesUp and #EqualityNow.  And our voices are being heard. _101312188_hi046747529

An amazing 82 women commanded the red carpet this week at the Cannes Film Festival. They stood in solidarity to show how few women filmmakers have had films in competition in comparison to the 1600 male filmmakers in Cannes’ history. Rallied by the International activist group 5050X2020, their voices were heard and they got results in a pledge to work toward gender parity at this prestigious festival!

There are a wide range of films featuring mothers at your local cineplex. This Mother’s Day, you could see a drama, a rom-com, a thriller and a comedy!  What are the messages these films portray?  It’s clear that women need support in Tully and Overboard:  Charlize Theron gives an extraordinary performance in Tully as a mother pushed to the breaking point by exhaustion and postpartum depression. The writer/director team of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have crafted an intimate portrait of motherhood and a rare look at one woman’s overwhelming challenges.

Anna Faris is literally Overboard as a working class mother who gets revenge on the pompous millionaire who dumps her off his yacht…by claiming him as her husband. This gender-switch to the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell romantic comedy gives this film a needed update. In this film, the mother has supportive friends and family and her children are in on the joke. The message seems to be that even a playboy can be saved by hard work and the love of a good woman.

Women become warriors if their children are threatened in Breaking In and A Quiet Place:  Gabrielle Union is the Mom-on-a-mission as she rescues her children from the home invaders. The thriller has the tagline: “Payback is a Mother”.  Childbirth never looked so horrific as the scene in A Quiet Place when Emily Blunt is trying to remain silent while giving birth…and she knows that aliens are hunting her family!

If you were looking for a more cheerful look at motherhood, we learn that Moms want to have fun. Melissa McCarthy plays a newly-divorced mother who decides to join her daughter at college. Life of the Party makes it seem like college is a series of fun hi-jinks. The daughter seems chagrined but accepting…and the awkward scenes between the two are played for broad laughs.

Women need support. We can be warriors. And we want to have fun. It’s wonderful to see so many films showcasing the complexities of what it is to be a woman. If you live in a major city, you could celebrate how far we’ve come with Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary, RGB. This intimate look at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is touching, inspiring and a lot of fun. This is a woman who made her mark with the awesome support of her husband, has lead the charge on gender equality and clearly knows how to have fun!

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Read this nice review from The Economist about how the Notorious RGB is a “trailblazer for gender equality”.  It’s the movie all women deserve to see! Let’s all stand for gender equality by supporting films made by women, films starring women and showcasing our stories. Our voices need to be heard!

Oh fortunate film lovers of the Front Range…

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What wonders await those that venture out in the Front Range of Colorado! There’s a Retrospective of Wes Anderson; all his films will screened in anticipation of his latest, Isle of Dogs. First film to screen is Rushmore at the Downtown Artery — an art gallery and event space in Fort Collins. Wes Anderson’s films will screen @ the gallery or the newly-revamped The Lyric Cinema Cafe. Cost $7

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This weekend there are cinema splendors to behold in the darling mountain town of Lyons, Colorado. Learn about Colorado wolf conservation, watch a hilarious documentary about an aspiring violin-maker or get hands-on with a drone. So much to do and see at this gem of a film festival! Tickets range from $12 to a festival pass at $45.

More information, including trailers, for the Lyons Film Festival: coloradofests.com

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If you’re a social justice fan, you’ll be traveling to CSU in two weeks for the ACT Human Rights Film Festival. Now in it’s 3rd year, this well-curated festival inspires and educates with films from all over the world. Student Night kicks off the festival on April 5. There are screenings at the Lyric, the Lory Student Center and the Lincoln Center: April 5-14th, 2018.

This year’s line-up is as relevant as the #MeToo movement! Check out Chega De Fiu Fiu, (4/13 @ 4:30, Lyric) this electrifying, eye-opening documentary exposes the culture of “catcalls” that women must endure when navigating the streets of São Paulo, Brasília, and other areas where verbal and physical harassment have become an increasingly prominent part of daily life. The film illustrates how to make public spaces safe for women, and calls on urban planners and local governments to rethink the design of cities while ensuring access to safe transportation alternatives and well-illuminated pedestrian routes.

If you love skateboarding and coming-of-age stories, Minding the Gap will feature special guests and is fresh from SXSW. Catch it Sat, April 7th @ 8pm or the Encore screening at the Lyric on Mon, April 9 @ 6:30pm. Closing Night, April 14 is the music documentary, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is sure to Sell Out! Catherine Bainbridge’s film features Native American musicians from Punk, Rock and Folk, famous names and riffs that we all know and love. The screening is followed by a live concert. Get your tickets NOW!

Four Days, Four Films. And the Winner is…Movie Pass!

Movie Pass

FREE FILMS!

 

What a wonderful gift. My sweet sister gave me 3-months of Movie Pass. Are you a fan? Or have you been hearing about it and wondered if it was a good deal? Yes, yes, it IS!

There are drawbacks: not all theaters accept Movie Pass. If you’re a big fan of art-house cinemas (Hello, Lyric Cinema Cafe in Fort Collins), you’ll still need to support them. And you can’t book in advance for most theaters; though the app notes that there are some theaters for which that’s available (both E-tickets and Advanced Booking haven’t been available at any local theater in my area–the Front Range of Colorado). Which means fewer screenings at the smaller lounge-type theaters.

Here’s how it works: you receive your “credit card” in the mail, download the app to your phone, go to the theater (you need to be within 100 ft), select your theater in the app, then select your film screening. You have 30 min to purchase your ticket at the box office or kiosk. Bingo, a free movie every day. How often you use Movie Pass will depend on you and your location. Even a film fanatic like myself…well, I’ve only used my Movie Pass five times in the last 3 weeks. Still, 5 FREE films out of the eight I’ve seen in a theater is awesome!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2 Cosmic Kool-Aids out of 5): Big fan of all the women characters kicking butt, making decisions and ruling the Universe…now if only the story had been compelling. Did we need a bunch of silly CGI characters to populate the different planets? The film does have some visually stunning vistas: I loved how the rebel planes’ flight paths scratched blood-red tracks through the white sands on Caint and the escape on the fathiers (those loping horse/camel/dog/cat creatures) revealed amusing scenes of destruction on the gambling planet Canto Bite. As much as I enjoyed seeing Luke and Leia reunited, discovering that one of them had mastered The Force enough to project a solid, touchable (and impervious) body left me questioning other aspects of the story. Once I left the fantasy, I was no longer involved in the film.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (3 ½ island margaritas out of 5): Now this is a fun ride! Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan are delightful as they portray teenagers that have been morphed into video game characters. The story is fun, the acting, stunts (and dance fighting!) and the way the production portrays the interactions of being in a game are inspired. The camaraderie that develops between the characters will have you laughing and there’s even a few touching moments. Jumanji is a great family film and if you’re looking for silly and heart-warming, this is your film.

The Greatest Showman (4 bar room shots, consumed while dancing, out of 5): Hugh Jackman is a wonder. Singing, dancing and sweeping us off our feet in this simplified story of PT Barnum’s life. The story sprinkles star dust and aims to convince us that showbiz can be a haven from the cruel world. The sets have an Old World Hollywood feel and suit this behind-the-scenes look at carnival life. Michelle Williams is luminous as the supportive wife who doesn’t need the glitz and glamour to be happy. Zac Efron is particularly charming as the High Society boy who must choose between his standing and class and his heart. He has two great duets; exciting song & dance numbers with Hugh Jackman and later, Zendaya. The choreography in those scenes and the timing; WOW. Rebecca Ferguson’s gorgeous opera star wins your sympathy and her song, dubbed by Loren Alfred, “Never Enough” is a show stopper. The cast of “freaks” lead by the bearded woman, Keale Settle, give exuberant performances and are the heart of the film and a modern nod to diversity and acceptance.

Call Me By Your Name (3 1/2 glasses of expensive Italian wine out of 5): Having missed two film festival screenings, I was excited to finally see this film. I find Luca Guadagnino‘s films to be lush, lyrical and a little over-the-top. Spending a summer in rural Italy in the company of Armie Hammer is a pleasure for the audience as much as for the young Timothée Chalamet. Who doesn’t enjoy watching young people explore their sexuality in gorgeous settings (and what an innovative use for a ripe peach)! There were some eyebrows raised due to the age discrepancy between the two young men but I think it’s more to do with Armie Hammer, a handsome American scholar who comes across as confident and assured and looks like a man.  Where Timothée Chalamet’s character seems so much younger and in his hapless romance with a young woman, shows the audience his inexperience.

For me, the real standout is Michael Stuhlbarg. He plays such a warm, non-judgmental father and the relationships within the family are loving and supportive of each other. It’s a treat to see a family on screen that’s not played for laughs or full of dysfunction. The story was well-told but I would’ve enjoyed a little prudent editing. The entire last scene set in winter with Timothy’s character mourning as he stared (and stared…and stared) into the fire didn’t seem necessary.

 

And the winner is…”Liyana”

Festival Hub: The McNichols Building

DFF Festival Hub: McNichols Civic Center Building

The 40th Denver Film Festival wrapped on Sunday, Nov 12th. An Awards Brunch celebrated the filmmakers that won jury and audience awards. It was wonderful to see that one of my favorite films at the festival, Liyana, not only won the True Grit Award… the filmmaking team was also awarded Peoples Choice Award for Documentary feature (a tie with the documentary, Hondros).

Liyana is not really a documentary, nor would I call it an animated film (though there are a few moments of animation). Amanda and Aaron Kopp’s film could be classified as a  triumph in raising awareness. The 10-year-long project was a creative way for the filmmakers to give a voice to the many delightful young children that live in an orphanage in Africa. Like an extended therapy session: as the children create the story and drawings for the film, they work through the traumas they’ve suffered: abuse, loss, terrors of war. They tell their stories through this fictional brave girl, Liyana, who is illustrated by the amazing Nigerian artist, Shofela Coker.

This is no pity party. The film is an unusual amalgam combining footage of the children creating the story and the hero’s journey that their character makes. All the elements, the editing, the beautiful illustrations, the children’s voiceovers, an amazing soundtrack and the final dancing scene of the children celebrating…make this film a heart-warming experience. What a wonderful film and deserved win for the filmmaking team!

 

Drinks with films rating: 5 glasses of milk served at a communal table of cheerful, chaotic kids enjoying life. (out of 5)

People’s Choice Awards
After conclusion of the Festival on Sunday, November 12, the following films were recognized as the People’s Choice Award winners for the 40th Denver Film Festival by a tally of ballots.

Narrative Feature:
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Director: Martin McDonagh

Documentary Features (tie):
HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

Short Subject Film:
THE SUITCASE
Director: Abi Damaris Corbin

Music Video:
Polo & Pan – Coeur Croisé
Director: Pablo Maestres

True Grit Award
The following Colorado-made feature film was selected as the winner of the True Grit Award by a jury of members of the Denver Film Academy, which is comprised of dues-paying alumni board members.

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

The jury statement reads:
Liyana, directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp, is a documentary that juror members called bold, amazing, enchanting, tender, compassionate, empowering, heart-breaking–a triumph of the human spirit. As one jury member said: I couldn’t help but want to give that wonderful storytelling coach a big hug and a kiss … and some funding!”

Special mentions:
THE OUTSIDER
Director: Scott Takeda

HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

“The jury also cited two films for Special Recognition: The short film The Outsider, directed by Scott Takeda, a touching film about the need to belong and the beauty of finding beauty in other family cultures, and the feature documentary Hondros, directed by Greg Campbell. Hondros is a powerful and eloquent documentary that pays tribute to the late photojournalist Chris Hondros’ courageous and compassionate career documenting the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan Liberia and Libya.”

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award for Best Narrative Feature Film
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the Krzysztof Kieślowski Award by a jury of international film industry members.

THE HAPPINESS OF THE WORLD
Director: Michał Rosa

The jury statement reads:
“Since the pre-selection was excellent, it gave us a hard task with the diversity of choices and with different values in each film. We unanimously agree to give the Krzystof Kieszłowski Award in 2017 to a film that tells a uniquely complex and layered story, created with artistic integrity and consistency in its cinematic language: The Happiness of the World (Szczęście Świata), written and directed by Mr. Michał Rosa. The filmmaking team created on screen a unique sensual cinematic experience including exceptionally good performances. The Happiness of the World treats painful historical themes, addressing the guilty consciousness of contemporary audiences in a non-didactic and tactile manner.”

Special mention:
UNDER THE TREE
Director: Haffstein Gunnar Sigurðsson

“The special jury award goes to Under the Tree (Undir trénu), directed by Haffstein Gunnar Sigurðsson. We were impressed by the portrayal of the dark sides of human behavior through powerful tragic farce. The combination of erratic conducts and suburbia absurdity melted into a delightfully complex cinematic language. We don’t really believe in competition between films, in our choices we were looking for inventiveness in storytelling. We believe that the awarded films merit the attention of broader audiences and the support of the Denver Film Festival.”

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award Jury: Gyula Gazdag, Christopher Kamyszew, Clémence Taillandier

Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Feature Film
The following documentary feature film was selected as the winner of the Maysles Brothers Award by a jury of national film industry members.

ALPHAGO
Director: Greg Kohs

The jury statement reads:
“The documentary jury awards the top prize to Greg Kohs’ AlphaGo for its riveting and thought-provoking account of a programming team’s attempt to master the ancient Chinese board game Go. The film chronicles the week-long tournament between the A.I. program AlphaGo and the game’s world champion Lee Sedol as a sporting event with global-historical significance. It does so with the vigor, suspense, and emotional stakes of a great sports film while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of the genre. In the end, AlphaGochallenges our allegiances and our assumptions, demonstrating that the measure of technology is not just whether it can outperform us, but whether it can deepen our humanity and expand human possibility.”

Special mention:
STRAD STYLE
Director: Stefan Avalos

“The jury awards special mention to Stefan Avalos’ Strad Style, a film as singular and charming as its subject, a young Ohio man who promises to build a world-class violin for a renowned European concert violinist but who encounters countless obstacles in his quest to fulfill his promise. The film is a sincere and loving tribute to anyone who has ever known commitment in isolation or passion against the clock.”

Maysles Brothers Award Jury: Shane Boris, Justine Nagan, John Van Wyck

American Independent Award
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the American Independent Award by a jury of national film industry members.

THIRST STREET
Director: Nathan Silver

The jury statement reads:
“For us, this film was a unique vision and one that is informed by the story consistently. Despite its dark themes, it maintains levity and a prism of complex portraits of each character. Bold editing, cinematography and sound design, coupled with an endlessly believable performance from Lindsay Burdge show that this is an impressive leap forward for director, Nathan Silver.”

American Independent Award Jury: Meredith Alloway, Matt Grady, Will Morris

Short Film Awards
The following short films were selected by a jury of national film industry members.

Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award

WHILE I WAS GONE
Director: Daniel F. Pfeffer

The jury statement reads:
“The Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award goes to While I Was Gone, written by Lucas Monroe and directed by Daniel Pfeffer. From the start, this emerging voice struck an unmistakably compelling tone. A first film that is all the more impressive for its subtleties.”

Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award

ANIMAL
Directors: Bahram Ark and Bahman Ark

The jury statement reads:
“The Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award goes to Animal, by Bahram and Bahman Ark, for its raw and violent depiction of the struggle for freedom. The spirit of accomplishment is met with the ultimate sacrifice in the devastating and surprising resolution of this film.”

Best Animated Short

MANIVALD
Director: Chintis Lundgren

The jury statement reads:
“The best animated short goes to a film that whimsically evokes many emotions because it touches on such themes as the loss of a male figure in the lives of a mother and son, the self discovery of a sexually repressed boy, and the reconciliation of unmet fantasies.”

Special mention:
THE BURDEN
Director: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

“We are giving a jury special mention to The Burden, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr. As a jury, we cannot believe this film exists because of its craft, its pure vision, and its ability to usher the audience into a dark, animalistic, and wildly mystical realm.”

Best Documentary Short

FISH STORY
Director: Charlie Lyne

The jury statement reads:
“As a jury, this film unanimously struck us as not only a beautiful exercise in craftsmanship, but also hilarious and compelling. The original voice of the director speaks to the core of documentary filmmaking in a refreshing and genuine tone – turning a simple memory into a fascinating story.”

Shorts Jury: Christine Davila, Mallory Martin, Adam J. Minnick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ticket in hand, why is it so hard to get to my theater seat? Film Festival navigation 101

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Red carpet for filmmakers to walk…no, not YOU! You go get in line!

Movie-goers are accustomed to purchasing tickets online a few hours before a show or at the door. Then you show your ticket and waltz right in to get your popcorm and find your theater seat. Easy peasy.

Film Festivals are an animal of another color. Tickets must be purchased well in advance or you risk finding out your film is at RUSH (Sold Out expect for the brave souls waiting to purchase last minute tickets). Once you pick up your tickets and make it to the theater, what do you find? Lines, lines, lines. Usually there’s a Members Only line, a general admission line, a Will Call line and a Rush line…all of one screening. There are always more than one screening, so the lines are long and often intimidating.

Telluride Film Festival has giant queues but hands out queue cards and patrons are very good about lining up in order and respecting their place in line. At Mill Valley Film Festival, the lines snake around the block but filmgoers are discussing what films to see and are usually pretty amicable. Denver Film Festival has a problem in their signature theater, the SIE Film Center because the lobby is so small. The screening rooms are also small but if one show runs late and two shows are trying to load, oy vey!

Another issue for all film festivals is getting from one screening to another. Telluride Film Festival has an app that lets you estimate the time from one screening location to the other and what your chances are to get into that film. For other film festivals where you must get in a car (or a Lyft) and drive across town (or to another town for MVFF), you must carefully plan your screenings to leave time for traffic, parking, etc. For instance, yesterday I had a screening at the SIE, After an hour in line, I was finally seated, and the screening only started 10 minutes late. But my next screening was at the Denver Pavilions and it was 5:30pm! Yes, I made it to the parking lot in time but the line to PAY for parking was 12 deep and full of Friday night dating couples. There was no way to make it inside to my screening.

This year, I’ve missed a lot of screenings due to filmmaker Q&A’s going long, movies starting late and films booked back to back with no room for dilly dallying. Good thing there’s always another film in a few hours…and a coffee shop or bar to discuss the last screening. As a programmer, I know I’ve scheduled films too close…as a film attendee, I know I’ve purchased tickets to screenings that in hindsight, I’d need a teleporter to make on time. So take a word of caution, leave time for lunch or cocktails and space your films appropriately!

Happy Festivaling!

 

March on over to the Lyric!

1510251593592_Openingday-coverphotoYes, my days and nights have been spent in Denver for the last two weeks, and while I was away, my favorite local Cinema opened it’s doors for business! The Lyric, once crammed into an old laundromat with two tiny screening rooms and great programming, has now moved into their new digs.

This Tuesday night, Nov 14th @ 6pm, you can join the Guerilla Fanfare Marching Band and make the one mile journey from Old Town to the new location on College Avenue. There’s now parking, a restaurant & expanded bar, plus THREE screening rooms. This light-filled building is like a big blue and silver cruise liner ready to sail you into your next cinematic adventure.

Free admission to the Grand Opening party. There will be live bands, a DJ and even live video streaming. Come play pinball, enjoy some crazy delicious Porky Pop (bacon AND caramel?!) popcorn and other culinary treats and celebrate your new local art house cinema. Sign up for Space Camp, the Lyric rewards program, and you’ll get to come to select screenings for free.

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Here is the schedule of events for the GRAND OPENING on November 14th:

          6:00pm – Parade Starts in Old Town Square lead by Guerrilla Fanfare
          7:00pm – Parade Arrives at The Lyric/The Alcapones, HYZENBORG, Live Video Art
          9:30pm(ish) – Wes Watkins & Grumpy Uncle begin playing
Make sure to put this event on your calendar and get ready for the same great programming of art house cinema, festival favorites, and live events here in Fort Collins.

“Story of a Girl”, Kyra Sedgwick, Director

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Kyra Sedgwick at her DFF Tribute with Festival Director, Britta Erickson

Once upon a time, Kyra Sedgwick was likely best known as Kevin Bacon’s wife. Now a beloved television star, producer and film star, Mrs Sedgewick has conquered directing with her assured first feature, Story of a Girl. Congratulations on your Career Achievement Award from the Denver Film Festival!

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It was wonderful to see the Lifetime movie on the big screen with both the author, Sarah Zane and one of the screenwriters and producers, Emily Bickford Lansbury there to discuss how the film adaptation changed from the novel. Kyra Sedgewick was generous with her praise of both women’s work. The audience was wowed by the film.

What happens when a sex tape goes viral and a 13-yr-old girl must suffer the consequences? Ryann Shane plays the young woman with a startling fierceness combined with a craving to belong and to be seen. Bravo to the filmmaking team for letting the character continue to make poor choices and then, own her own culpability.p13954592_p_v8_abIt was so enduring to hear how this film became such a family affair: Kyra asked her husband Kevin Bacon to take a pivotal role, her daughter Sosie Bacon plays the brother’s girlfriend and her son composed the production music. Kevin Bacon has a wonderful rapport with Ryann Shane, and though I didn’t believe that his character was gay, he brings a real warmth to the role. It’s fabulous that this film is having a festival run so that people can recommend it to their friends and stream with the whole family. It’s a great teaching tool about sexuality, social media and remaining true to yourself.

Available on: From $3.99. iTunes, Amazon Video and Vudu

 

Drinks with Films rating: 4 lite beers quaffed while working at the pizza place (out of 5)