“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!!

“Men, Women and Children” — technology and our place in the cosmos

Sneak peek screening

I love preview screenings.  Especially for a film that will be at the Mill Valley Film Festival for Opening Night when those of us who work don’t usually get in to see the films!

Jason Reitman’s new movie, Men Women & Children is an alarmist’s view of how technology is damaging all of our interpersonal relationships.  There are some stand-out performances by the teenagers in the cast, particularly Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever as our central pair of technology-crossed lovers.  But I found the casting to be a problem.  Emma Thompson is one of my favorite actors but in this film, we only get to hear her voice.  Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner are cast against type, and although it’s nice to see actors seeking challenges, the film suffers.  The characters would have been better served had they been portrayed by actor’s with less star power and the weight of audience expectation.

The film goes back and forth trying to show today’s world as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe at large.  It does so, ponderously, with lovely shots of planets and a tale of the Voyager satellite and a Carl Sagan quote.  The focus is on the relationships of three families and how technology is driving them apart (gaming, online porn, looking at a phone or through a camera instead of being present) and how important small moments of engagement can be.  Earth is a tiny dot but our connections to one another create our world.

It’s an important message–but the characters behave in ways that stretch credibility.  Men Women & Children posits that teens are vulnerable and they make poor choices, but that parents act just as irresponsibly.  We’re all struggling to find ways to connect, to be intimate and to protect our families.  The orchestrated child-in-peril plot is used for optimal dramatic impact but the hyperbole is justified if Men Women & Children gets conversations started between parents and teens!

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Opening Night MVFF 37

Update: I did get to hear the Q & A for this film at MVFF!

Jason Reitman was like a hip teenager teasing Kaitlyn Dever in the lobby by imitating what she’d sound like if she was in a video game. They had a fun rapport and she later joked that she had to teach him what Snapchat was all about.  “This film is about intimacy, not about the internet” and “I had no idea there were websites to teach you how to be anorexic!” were among the director’s funny comments. It was also interesting to hear about all the work (and expense!) that went into creating the fake porn sites and clickable faux internet for the characters to surf.  We also learned of the extended masturbation scene that was cut so as to not encourage teen boys to try putting whip cream inside a football and warm it in a microwave… There were some grumbles from the exiting festival crowd about the predictability of the dramatic ending and a few people seemed to agree with me with the miscasting (particularly Adam Sandler) but overall, they seemed to have a lot to talk about.  And that’s what good films do…create conversations!

Some good tips on Teens and Social Media from Dave Taylor featured on Christian Toto’s Blog

Rating: 3 Jameson on the rocks, ordered from a hotel bar where your spouse may be cheating on you

Bechdel test: Passes, and hip hip hooray for the rock in the window at the end!

Short Term 12 — but LONG term awesome!

My favorite film of the year so far, Short Term 12 is one of those small independent films that deserves to find a large audience through word of mouth.   This one needs to continue to play in cinemas across the country!  Short Term 12 is a movie that packs a punch!  Written and directed by Destin Cretton, based on his short film, it stars the brilliant young actress, Brie Larson.  She gives a soulful performance as the head of staff for a home for at-risk youth.   Having already garnered awards at Sundance, SXSW and Locarno Film Festival, Short Term 12 is a well-edited film with the perfect running time of 96 minutes and a wonderful ending that makes the emotional investment seem all the more worthwhile.

As the action at the foster care facility goes from a daily dose of crazy to High Alert life-endangerment, Brie Larson’s Grace is forced to reveal a dark past that threatens to destroy her world.  The young actors, particularly Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden, are so believable in their roles as troubled teens, that it’s as if there was a hidden camera and this was a real life unfolding.  When Keith Stanfield performs a heart-breaking rap full of rage and grief, it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.  To reveal any more would be to ruin the joy of experiencing this powerful movie first-hand.  Just go. Run.  And please, tell your friends!

Rating: 5 cups of coffee, the kids are too young to drink alcohol!short-term-12-poster[2]