Is it a Marvel? Women on the Big Screen

Yet another Blockbuster featuring a Woman in the Central Role and what a surprise–it’s making headlines! Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson had Opening Weekend Box Office of $455 Million worldwide. $153 million domestic is the second biggest solo superhero debut in history, behind Black Panther ($202 million). The real WIN in my book is that Rotten Tomatoes changed it’s review policy. Due to the advance bad reviews that punsters tried to post to the site BEFORE Captain Marvel was released, Rotten Tomatoes took a stand. It may seem logical to have prevented this in advance but the review-aggregating site was responding to public criticism that women-lead movies were being singled out for negative criticism (see
Ghostbusters).

Films with women in lead roles and/or directed by women have been few and far between but it feels like the tide is turning. Look at our current slate of films in theaters: Jordan Peele’s horror film Us features another remarkable performance by Lupita Nyong’o, Sebasti√°n Lelio remade his own film, Gloria Bell, featuring the luminous
Julianne Moore, and if you’re lucky to be in a major film market, Diane, The Chaperone, Sunset or Ash is Purest White might be playing. Women are front and center; and not just White Young Starlets, there are a few older women and other nationalities sneaking thru the cracks in the Hollywood Wall created by #MeToo and #TimesUp.

drinkswithfilms —Captain Marvel Review

ūüćļūüćļūüćļ1/2 beers out of 5 for @captainmarvelofficial
I really enjoyed the origin story and @brielarson performance. I liked the humor and the girl power. It could’ve used a little more fun and character development.

Inspired Cinema in 2018: Innovative, Universal and showcasing flawed human beings as Heroes!

72 film tickets which doesn’t include films screened for festivals, shorts watched on my computer or any of the 15 films watched on Netflix, rented from Redbox or DVDS!

This was a wonderful year for movies. No matter how you consumed them: via Netflix, at your local cineplex or at a starry Festival premiere, there was a broad array of offerings. A few of the sequels were as good, if not BETTER than the original films (Paddington 2, Incredibles 2, Bumblebee), our comic book films celebrated diversity and empowerment (Wonder Woman, Black Panther) and it was a banner year for documentaries (RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Free Solo).

My favorite movies this year were two beautiful black and white films that transported me to another time and place with amazing cinematography and rich storytelling. Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski‘s tragic love story tracked lovers thru a decade of Polish folk music to jazz in Paris. It was in the small moments when a stillness seemed to freeze frame the characters so we could study their emotions. The lush cinematography and the amazing, luminous performances of Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot really drew me in. The film had a documentary feel and was almost as moving as my favorite films from 2013, Ida, by the same director.

 Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s personal film about life in an upper middle-class Mexican family home is also shot in black and white (by Cuaron). Told thru the eyes of the caring family helper (both maid and nanny), Roma reveals how the personal and the political impact and influence everyone’s lives. The casualness of how a normal day can be shattered by violence, transformed by a brush with death or unite a family to battle a brush fire; while the family tries to maintain security and stability. We may not suffer as much trauma but it’s a universal struggle to protect those we love that everyone can understand.

There were some astounding films this year. I was so moved by A Beautiful Boy (Steve Carell and Timothy Chalamet), and Ben is Back also explored the drug crisis with searing performances (Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts). Welcome to Marwen and Annilahation were visually stunning as was the sweet Paddington 2. Into the Spiderverse was a zany Pop Culture Spiderman that we didn’t know we needed.

There were some great explorations of race and gender this year in film. My favorite was Blindspotting. I had to see Black Panther and Wonder Woman twice! And cheered for RBG AND On the Basis of Sex. One of my favorite moments at the movies this year was Edna Mode in The Incredibles 2 transforming into Aunt Edna and hustling the exhausted Dad (Bob, trying to be a Super Dad) back home. I felt that this year, the movies gave us some heroes that were flawed and all the more likable for it. Our society is changing. How we perceive ourselves and others is changing. Our films should too.

There may well have been other films I would’ve ranked in my Top 10 if I’d made one, but I¬†know I missed seeing some great films this year: Madeline’s Madeline, Happy as Lazzaro, Private Life, The Rider, Support the Girls, Let The Sunshine In, Capernaum, Never Look Away, Burning, and Shoplifters.¬† A¬†few¬†I’ll¬†be¬†able¬†to¬†see¬†on¬†Netflix¬†or¬†Hulu, and a few that may still screen at an arthouse cinema somewhere.

Follow me on Instagram for snapshots of films as I see them.

See you at the movies my friends!

Writing about culture–is it just adding to the noise?

When you go to a concert, read a book, attend a poetry reading, take a trip to the theater or visit a museum, I like to think that you’re starting a conversation with an artist. They’ve created this outpouring of creativity to try to reach your heart, your mind, yes, even your soul. If they succeed, you’ve been moved and you want to share that experience with others.

That water cooler moment when you share your thoughts about it, transforms that passive experience of you taking something in, into a transformative experience where you can relive the joy or share that knowledge learned. It makes you feel good to share those feelings or to warn someone to skip a show that you know they’d find offensive or bland.

I’ve often compared writing about film as a process similar to discussing wine. You gain an understanding of films and wines by sampling many types and learning about the craft. You can discuss nuances and enjoy flavors and discerns smells that might be missed by others. But still, you bring your own palate, your own experience to the table. My top pick of an Orin Swift Cellars Mercury Head wine or the Polish masterpiece, the film Cold War may strike you as overwhelming or pretentious. And what does my opinion matter to you?

A.O.Scott, one of the top film critics at the New York Times wrote a marvelous piece about criticism, A Critic Reviews His Own Role. He argues that writing about culture is akin to news reporting though “inherently subjective”. “No reader will agree with a critic all the time, and no critic requires obedience or assent from readers. What we do hope for is trust*. We try to earn it through the quality of our writing and clarity of our thought, and by telling the truth. The truth, in this case, about what we thought about what we saw, read or heard.” (*my emphasis)

What critics hope to share is what moved us. We want you to be inspired and to seek out the gems that might not get the attention we feel they deserve. That’s why, though I enjoy “Best of” Lists, what I love is lists like The Most Under-Appreciated Films of 2018 from Indiewire. When critics I respect, like Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle write rapturous reviews of films I’ve heard might be disasters ( “Vox Lux” review) or I read on Twitter that Kate Erbland and Tomris Laffly mention a film I should see on Netflix (Happy as Lazzaro), I make time to sit in front of a tv or seek out a film screening. Even though I don’t always agree with David Ehlrich, I crack up reading his reviews on Letterboxd. Manohla Dargis wrote an insightful piece on Barry Jenkins’ new film If Beale Street Could Talk and it makes me want to see the film again.

Whether you’re trying to save yourself money by not purchasing a ticket to an event that you’re not sure about…or looking for something exciting and fresh…find a critic writing reviews you can trust. Whether it’s in a paper, on a website, a blog or an Instagram post, you can start a conversation. It will lead you to an experience that’ll be worth your time and money. And who knows, it might enrich your soul.

Denver Film Fest Winners 2018

41ST DENVER FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES ALL AWARD RECIPIENTS

DFF41 honors Green Book, The Weight of Water, Shoplifters, Wrestle, and so much more…

November 12, 2018¬†(DENVER)¬†‚Äď The Denver Film Festival (DFF) has¬†announced¬†the recipients of its annual People’s Choice Awards and¬†Festival Juried Awards¬†in multiple categories.

People’s Choice Awards
After conclusion of the Festival on Sunday, November 11, the following films were recognized as the People’s Choice Award winners for the 41st¬†Denver Film Festival by a tally of ballots.

Narrative Feature:
GREEN BOOK
Director: Peter Farrelly

Documentary Feature:
THE WEIGHT OF WATER
Director: Michael Brown

Short Subject Film:
EARTHRISE
Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Music Video:
MIDAS – CAROLINE
Director: Michael Middelkoop

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.

THE LAST HONEY HUNTER
Director: Ben Knight

The jury statement reads:
“This year the true grit award goes to Ben Knight for the short subject¬†The Last Honey Hunter¬†which is beautifully filmed in the mountains of Nepal and vividly embraces the harmony of villagers and their unique natural setting. This story of agricultural interdependence reminds us that feudal systems can exist as the smallest geographies and cultures and that faith in oneself can overcome rational fear. It is beautifully told and very moving. We¬†hope everyone has a chance to see this fine film.”

Special mention:
THE RESCUE LIST
Directors: Alyssa Fedele, Zachary Fink

“This year in addition to the True Grit award the Academy has decided to give a special achievement award to Alyssa Fedele and Zachery Fink for¬†The Rescue List, which is an engrossing documentary centering on child slavery in the Lake Volta region of Ghana. The film chronicles the work of a group of social workers whose purpose is to return these boys to their families. It is more than well worth seeing.‚ÄĚ

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

SHOPLIFTERS
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

The jury statement reads:
“The surprising structure of the screenplay, combined with an outstanding ensemble cast, created an authentic portrait of hidden poverty in Western society. The meticulous production design and superb direction drew us into this controversial family; the lack of sentimentality layered with social, political, and moral questions demonstrated a nuanced approach to the meaning of parenthood and the unpredictable dynamics of love.”

Special mention:
ASH IS PUREST WHITE
Director: Jia Zhangke

“Additionally, the jury would like to award a special mention to Jia Zhangke’s Ash is the Purest White for its compelling transformation of human relationships and social identities in modern China.‚ÄĚ

Krzysztof KieŇõlowski Award Jury:¬†Angela¬†Catalano, Antonio Falduto, Laura D. Smith

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.

WRESTLE
Directors: Lauren Belfer, Suzannah Herbert

The jury statement reads:
“A film as deceptively simple as its title,¬†Wrestle¬†chronicles the lives of four male high school students in Huntsville, Alabama for whom athletic success via the school wrestling team means the nearly unfathomable opportunity to go to college and beyond. Through its nuanced editing, heart-stopping wrestling cinematography, and intimacy with its subjects, this film transcends any perceived boundaries of its subject matter or competition-film structure.¬†Wrestlepresents a deep portrait of what it means to be young, black and poor in America today that never reduces its complex protagonists to victims or heroes.”

Maysles Brothers Award Jury: Zaman Farihah, David Fenster, Greg Rhem

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.

GHOSTBOX COWBOY
Director: John Maringouin

The jury statement reads:
“The jury has chosen a totally original, dark comedy that fuses documentary and fiction storytelling, taking on late stage capitalism through the chaotic exploits of a wannabe cowboy entrepreneur.”

Special Mentions:
LITTLE WOODS
Director: Nia DaCosta

“We are awarding a special jury mention to Nia DiCosta for outstanding achievement in first time directing. Her film¬†Little Woods¬†elicits remarkable performances from her two main actresses, and evokes a searing portrait of a North Dakotan oil boom town, alongside our broken healthcare system.”

TYREL
Actor: Jason Mitchell

“Additionally, we are awarding a special jury mention to Jason Mitchell. His performance in Tyrel¬†is the driving force in this highly prescient film about the most uncomfortable of weekends in the Catskills.”

American Independent Award Jury: Kate Hurwitz, Michael Sladek, Matthew Soraci

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

Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award

DIOS NUNCA MUERE
Director: Barbara Cigarroa

The jury statement reads:
“Family, immigration, ownership, and duty are explored through the eyes of a single family living in the hills of Hudson, NY. With remarkable restraint and moving performances, this filmmaker highlights the human right of ‚Äúhome‚ÄĚ and the basic necessities migrants are so often deprived of.”

Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award

TANGLES AND KNOTS
Director: Renée Marie Petropoulos

The jury statement reads:
“A film that lives up to its title with complicated situations and performances vividly brought to screen.”

Best Animated Short

BLOEISTRAAT 11
Director: Nienke Deutz

The jury statement reads:
“This raw and authentic portrait of adolescence, charmed us with its unique style. Blending multiple animation techniques, it captured the world in a really beautiful way.”

Special mention:
AIRPORT
Director:¬†Michaela M√ľller

“And we‚Äôd like to give an honorable mention to¬†Airport¬†for its beautiful and technically challenging artistry.”

Best Documentary Short

SKIP DAY
Director: Charlie Lyne

The jury statement reads:
“What ostensibly begins as a fun day trip to the beach with friends reveals itself as a deep, dark, and powerful reckoning on race in America. For the pure distillation of modern life, its complications, and its joys.‚ÄĚ

Shorts Jury: Jeffrey Bowers, Suz Loshin, John VonThaden

Project NEXT High School Student Awards

Best High School Short Subject Film

MOONAGE DAYDREAM
Director: Oliver Chamberlin
Denver East High School

Best High School Documentary Short Subject Film

THIS IS OUR COUNTRY TOO
Directors: Jack Cosgriff, Elena Katz
Denver School of the Arts / Denver East High School

Best High School Animated Short Subject Film

MARBLES
Director: Hallie Farmer
Rock Canyon High School

High School Short Subject Viewer’s Choice Award

DOUBLE TAKE
Director: Tanner McGarr
Denver School of the Arts

Awards previously given or announced:

Rare Pearl Award

ROMA
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Reel Social Club Indie Voice Award

IN A RELATIONSHIP
Actor: Dree Hemingway

John Cassavetes Award

Jason Reitman

Career Achievement Award

Governor, John Hickenlooper

Stan Brakhage Vision Award

Barbara Hammer

###

Messy, Immersive and above all; Collaborative! “Meow Wolf: Origin Story”

 

Meow Wolf crew

Filmmakers Morgan Capps and Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa refer to cast members now working in Denver. Hurrah for Meow Wolf Denver in 2020!

Meow Wolf director and editor

Morgan talks about how collaborative the team was on the film.

Morgan Capps and Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa

Grateful to get to meet these talented women

Meow Wolf: Origin Story documents how a motley crew of artists and musicians came together in Santa Fe, New Mexico to create collaborative art shows. Initially started as a collective with an agenda to offer art to locals and visitors that broke the mold (and yes, also mold as in musty, dusty and not relevant to this hip group of avant-garde artists!) of Southwest Art featured in the art galleries, Meow Wolf has grown to embrace a consortium of artists, craftsmen and even, GASP, a few directors to run a massive art happening that has been running for 3 years. House of Eternal Return, a 20,000 square foot immersive storytelling experience has become an art destination but not everyone can make the trek to Santa Fe.

When young filmmaker, Morgan Capps arrived in Santa Fe, she joined the fray and started to document the process of creating House of Eternal Return. It was a great way to meet people and she was drawn to the creative energy. Flash forward to an unlikely partnership with George R. R. Martin and an infusion of capital, and Morgan found herself at the right place with the right skills to create this fascinating documentary.¬†Meow Wolf: Origin Story is a love letter to all the artists and the spirit of collaboration. It’s also a great introduction to the immersive world of Meow Wolf.

The directing team of¬†Morgan Capps¬†and¬†Jilann Spitzmiller¬†partnered with animators, artists and the talented¬†Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa¬†to combine jumpy archival footage, interviews with past and present member of the Meow Wolf family and immersive time-lapse footage of the build for House of Eternal Return. The journey to create the documentary reflected the collaborative process of creating the art–resulting in a supportive network of people who would walk thru fire for each other.

Morgan and Alessandra traveled with the film to the Denver Film Festival and spoke of the trails and tribulations–and ultimately the joy, of getting this documentary completed and off to the festival circuit. It was wonderful to have two of the Meow Wolf crew attend the screening. Many of us here in Denver are excited for the 2020 Meow Wolf installation and the various pop-up installations currently in the works. Check out the Kaleidoscape at Elitch Gardens!

There are a few more screenings at the Denver Film Festival — today, Monday, Nov 5 and Wed, Nov 7.

The documentary will be released by Fathom Events nationwide on Nov 29th. Bring your art-loving friends and see it at your local theater. You’ll be glad you did!

Fall is a feast of film festivals!

As the Toronto Film Festival finishes it’s last week of films, parties and panels, let’s celebrate the local film festivals right here in Colorado! My favorite is the Telluride Film Festival, a gem of a festival over the Labor Day weekend. The 45th year welcomed stars galore: famous filmmakers, movie stars and tributes. Actress, Emma Stone, Director/Cinematographer, Alfonso Cuaron, and Cambodian filmmaker, Rithy Panth were honored. And a Silver Medallion for a Hero of Cinema was presented to Dieter Kosslick, Director of the Berlinale Film Festival.

Staying in the mountains, you could be in film heaven with Breckenridge, Aspen and Crested Butte having festivals one after the other! First up is¬†Breckenridge Film Festival.¬†¬†Breck‘s fest has 70+ films (lots of good shorts) with premieres, forums and parties and opens with the great documentary,¬†Love, Gilda: Sept. 20‚Äď23, 2018. Aspen Filmfest: keeping in sync with¬†Aspen‚Äôs tradition of big names and big fur, this festival includes major productions, Oscar hopefuls and lavish benefit dinners. Some of the films I loved at Telluride Film Fest are screening including a few I missed!: Sept. 25‚Äď30, 2018.¬†¬†Crested Butte Film Festival¬†is another smaller festival where screenings are within walking distance. Here you’re sure to discover the transformative power of stories while fostering great connections at this intersection of 90 great films, bikes, hikes and magical mountain scenery: Sept 27-30, 2018

Here in the Front Range, you can enjoy beer and movies at the 1st Boulder Film & Brew in Gunbarrel. You can travel to No Man’s Land in Carbondale for films made by and for women outdoor enthusiasts. You can whet your appetite with films paired with food tastings and beer pairings at the 7th Annual Flatirons Food Film Festival in Boulder. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that we have talented filmmakers right here in our own wonderful state!

Boulder Film & Brew Festival 

September 15, 2018

Boulder Film & Brew will feature creative beautiful independent films featuring comedy, animation and of course, BEER! You don’t want to miss the fun we’re going to have!

The inaugural Boulder Film & Brew Festival, highlights not just the craft of brewing, distilling and the food arts but also comedy and adventure. This is a festival where drinking beer, eating and laughing make for a fun and engaging experience.

Our schedule includes workshops about food and beer pairing by Element Bistro, brewing your own beer by Brewmented, Comedy by Bubb Comedy and a Quaffing sport beer competition with Team Quaffstafari!

Breweries are the new living rooms of Colorado and a beer tastes better when you’re enjoying a film with friends and learning how to create something new. Film and beer. Laughing with friends and beer. Workshops with beer. Learning stuff. Yep, your mom will be proud of you!

No Man’s Land

September 13-16 · Carbondale, CO

We are women and we are allies. We are sunsets and alpenglow, dangerous riptides and endless singletrack. We are coffee-fueled optimists who may dance-all-night into an alpine start and laugh too loudly at jokes that no one else understands. We are unique. We are individual. We are human. And we don’t draw lines, because everyone defines their own.

Flatirons Food Film Festival

October 11-14, 2018

The 6th annual Flatirons Food Film Festival opens with a night of craft beer and ends with a twisted tale of pastry and deep subterfuge. Between opening and closing nights, learn about Cuba’s food traditions, local food nonprofits, Anthony Bourdain from his friends, the struggle of opening a women-run food truck in a refugee camp, passing on family traditions, how to nurture young farmers, and how to move away from factory farming.

Denver¬†Film Festival¬†¬†Denver’s largest film festival is in its 41st year and has grown to 12 days in duration. With a little more glitz than some of the mountain events, Denver hosts red-carpet premieres and films from dozens of countries and more than 250 filmmakers: Oct. 31‚ÄďNov. 11, 2018.

Plus there are all these other film festivals in the Fall:

Telluride Horror Show, Oct. 12‚Äď14, 2018
Dickens Horror Film Festival¬†in Longmont, Oct. 19‚Äď20, 2018
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival,¬†Colorado Springs, Nov. 9‚Äď11, 2018
Nederland Film Festival, Nov. 17‚Äď18, 2018
Winter Stoke Film Festival in Glenwood Springs, Nov. 29, 2018; Carbondale, Dec. 6, 2018; Rifle, Dec. 20, 2018

Rise Up! How to combine social activism with film screenings.

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So you care about the environment? You might feel like I do, that Climate Change is the biggest issue we face right now. Or maybe you’re fighting for marijuana legalization, reproductive rights, or getting out the youth vote in 2018. If you’re feeling powerless or want to make a difference and don’t know where to turn…HOST A SCREENING!

This weekend I got to see¬†The Human Element, the latest climate change film from photographer/writer and film subject, James Balog. Director Matthew Testa does a great job of mastering the balance of depressing statistics, awe-inspiring footage with the humanizing tale of one man’s journey to understand and communicate what’s facing our planet. There were many scenes set in Boulder and Denver and it really brought the issue home for me.

If, like me, you didn’t get to travel to the San Francisco¬†Green Film Festival where The Human Element screened, there were other community screenings as the filmmakers partnered with the Earth Vision Institute. Colorado State University in Fort Collins screened this inspiring documentary in a conference room, and combined it with a great discussion on how to act locally. What can you do as a citizen activist about this overwhelming issue? I’ve included a photo of some of our ideas for actions on the Front Range. You can also host a screening of this film in your own community!

There are screenings of social activism films at many film festivals: ACT Human Rights Film Festival, traveling screenings from Mountainfilm or Human Rights Film Tour + every film festival seems to have at least a side bar of activist-driven films. Films are a great way to engage audiences and get them to think globally and act locally this election season. With issues such as a new bill being introduced by Colorodo Oil and Gas facing Colorado voters, why not host a movie night as a Get Out The Vote event. As the League of Women Voters would say: Educate, Advocate & Impact!

JJis-S4A

The documentary that I had the pleasure to work on,¬†Mary Janes: The Women of Weed,¬†traveled the film festival circuit. Audiences embraced the film’s message about overturning stoner stereotypes and celebrating the women who’ve made inroads into the cannabis industry.¬† Now, rather than chasing a distribution deal, Director Windy Borman has chosen to partner with TUGG.com so that communities can host their own screenings.

Puffragettes at a screening

Puffragettes at a screening

You can even invite any of the 15 Colorado women of cannabis in the film to speak to your audience afterwards.

So next time you care about an issue, you might find that there’s a film that supports your mission. Find a theater or a community room and gather your friends with some local experts. Start your own local revolution! Rise Up!