Cinema celebrates Science! Three films fit for geeks, nerds and sci-fi fans but made for everyone!

Fellow geeks and nerds, rejoice!  Science is in the news and on the big screen and for once–it’s all good news!

First we have the incredible news about the European Space Agency landing a spacecraft on a the comet. “We’re there, and Philae is talking to us,” says Stephan Ulamec, the manager of the lander, “We are on the comet.”  This is big news.  We even had a special Google doodle with Philae on it.


In theaters now and coming soon, are three films that celebrate science!  Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bender, with a variety of screening options (3-D, IMAX) and it’s an amazing immersive experience any way you choose to see it.  It’s science fiction but with a strong science background. A producer credit is given to Kip Thorne, an American theoretical physicist, known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics.

The setting of Instellar may be the future, but the film is firmly grounded in the personal. The narrative is driven by the emotional pull Matthew McConaughey‘s character feels to return across space and time to be reunited with his family.  The performances in the film are outstanding.  From the beginning, the film embeds you in the lives of one family. Using the isolation of a small farm with the emotional connection audience’s feel for well-known actors (McConaughey and John Lithgow), strong family bonds are quickly established. The focus is on the daughter who yearns to follow in her father’s footsteps.  Mackenzie Foy is remarkable as the 10-year who will grow up to be the scientist, Jessica Chastain. They are the heart beat to the science that fills the screen with action.

The scenes in space are thrilling and tense but without the central theme of family ties and the father-daughter bond, the audience might get lost in the technical jargon and be set adrift as an observer in the alien worlds.  Instead, despite some clunky dialogue, you care about scientist Anne Hathaway and her love for both her father and a fellow astronaut trapped on a far away star and the fate of this crew.  Will they save the Earth or be forced to start a new colony while all they know and love is left behind to perish?  You will be left thinking about the science but it’s the emotional drama that will stay with you.

Today comes the announcement that the Turing Award has been tripled.  What is that you say?  It’s an award named after Alan Turing, an English mathematician, wartime code-breaker and pioneer of computer science. Raising the endowment to a cool million puts this award in the Nobel Prize territory.  It also brings an unexpected boost to a film opening this week in Britain and screening this Sat, Nov 15 at the Starz Denver Film Festival.  The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch, in an Oscar-caliber performance as the code-breaker who along with a stellar British cast (Keira KnightleyMatthew GoodeMark Strong) tells the stirring story of trying to end World War II.  Brilliantly bringing this mathematician, with all his flaws, to life, Cumberbatch embodies the ego and lack of interpersonal skills that almost lose him access to the project he loves.  If you’ve never heard of Alan Turing or know nothing of his work, this thrilling film will be an education. Turing was an incredible man and this film is a tribute to his brain-power but also his bravery.  He triumphed over incredible odds and was subject to punishing discrimination.

And finally, in another fabulous turn (I couldn’t help it) of events, The Theory of Everything  is coming to a theater near you.  This is the story of the young Stephen Hawkings and his incredible wife.  Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones give extraordinary performances in this intimate story of Hawking’s struggle to live a full life and continue his ground-breaking work about Time.  Redmayne gets the physicality of the role but also manages to portray the essence of Hawking’s drive and humanity and Jones does a lot of the heavy lifting–both literally and metaphorically–to bring this story to life.

There’s a great piece on Buzzfeed about Eddy’s work to transform his body.

A film about Space, one about the origins of Computers and one featuring the study of Time; Cinema celebrates Science and we are all the better for it!

Ratings: 1-5

Interstellar: 4 beers chugged on the porch with Matthew.  Bechdel rating: You go (to the stars) girl!  Yes, it passes with flying colors.

The Imitation Game: awkward conversation ensues as 5 British beers are swilled in a pub.  Bechdel rating: passes: thanks to Keira Knightley’s portrayal of a women who defies convention to join the code-breaking inner circle.  Her role is crucial in the film.

The Theory of Everything: 5 champagne glasses–the fancy kind you serve at a wedding for a couple overcoming all odds.  Bechdel rating: passes: Jane Hawking’s inspiring story is the basis of this film and without her determination, Stephen’s story may not have had a happy ending.





What are you going to see at Starz?

The Denver Film Festival kicks off this Wed, Nov 12th at the Sie Film Center and continues till Nov 23rd.and what a wealth of exciting films, panels and parties!
The printed program is difficult to read: tiny print and chaotic layout with a calendar grid that will make you blind.  Fortunately, the online version is clear and concise.
Here are a few of my favorite films in the program:
The Imitation Game–Sat, Nov 15 @ 8pm
​Sure to be an Oscar-contender for Best Film and for Benedict Cumberbatch–this is a thrilling biopic of Alan Turing, the Brit who broke the Enigma Code in World War II.
Keep on Keepin’ On–Sat, Nov 22 @ 2pm
There have been some wonderful documentaries about music this year and this is a particularly heart-warming film about a famous jazz musician and his blind prodigy.
The Look of Silence–two screenings
Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to The Act of Killing (nominated for an Oscar), this documentary follows one man’s emotional journey to find closure by confronting the members of the death squad who killed his brother (and thousands of others) in the Indonesian massacre of the 1960’s.​  Horrifying and heart-rendering.  An amazing work!
Two Days, One Night–multiple screenings
One of the Dardenne brothers most accessible films, Juliette Binoche gives an understated, touching performance as a women who must convince her fellow workers to give up their bonus to save her job.  Simple and brutally-honest.
3 Still Standing-Mon, Nov 17 @ 3:45 & 9pm
One of my favorite documentaries from the Mill Valley Film Fest, this showcase of three comedians, Will Durst, Larry”Bubbles”Brown and Johnny Steele is a loveable tale of some wickedly funny guys.
See the early show and stay for a stand-up show with the comedians.  It’s a perfect way to experience the film!
There are great documentaries, features and short films with an interesting program of Brazilian cinema, Queer films and a spotlight on Women + Film and Colorado Filmmakers.
I hope to see you at Happy Hour at Henderson’s!
I’ll be holding a Manhattan and trying to decipher my notes scribbled in the dark!

Why Telluride Film Festival is now my favorite…

I’ve been working film festivals for 20+ years and this year, I finally made it to the Telluride Film Festival.  Why, oh why, did I not make it sooner?!!The Show--TFF41

The scenery is phenomenal.  The program is extraordinary.  The comradery between staff and volunteers is so congenial as to be contagious to attendees…and did I mention the glorious sunsets and the STARS?  Both the literal ones that sprinkle in the deep black of night, and the world-famous (members of the Film Legend Club) walking casually down the streets of Telluride.  There is something about the brevity of the festival (only four days this year!) and the numerous screening venues that all movie-goers must trek to (gondolas, bicycles, a leisure stroll down the main street) to view the amazing films that adds an intensity to the experience.  I had read that there was a controversial announcement that Toronto International Film Festival wouldn’t screen ANY film that had it’s festival premiere elsewhere (ie @ Telluride, which opens the week before TIFF!) but one of the festival favorites was at both: The Imitation Game.

Show Locations

There is no way any film lover can see ALL the films at Telluride but the festival staff does try hard to make the most popular films accessible by having repeated screenings.  I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wishing that there was one more day…maybe two…to make it to a few more screenings!  But isn’t it better to be left wanting more?

Films I missed that I really wanted to see: Dancing Arabs, Red Army, ’71 and Wild Tales

Films I could have missed: The Homesman (Why, Hilary Swank, why?), Foxcatcher (why, Steve Carell, Why?)

And my favorites: the thrilling Imitation Game, the surprisingly-good Birdman and the gripping Look of Silence!

TBA Schedule

Was it really only FOUR days? Telluride Film Festival 41

So many remarkable things happened in such a short period of time during my trip to Telluride, that it felt as if I’d been gone for weeks rather than days!  Beginning with the amazing setting and incredible weather that left me wandering dazed along the mountain paths reluctant to even venture indoors–and ending with warm embraces from people who’d been mere acquaintances days ago!

I really lucked out with my assignment: concessions at the lovely Sheridan Opera House.  Suzanne Cheathers was the manager and, in her first year in the position, a total delight to work with — it was a tiny staff in a tiny venue and we quickly all became close (in both proximity and spirit!).  Hearing of my white-knuckle drive late at night to my B & B in Rico, Suzanne invited me to stay with her instead!  Working in such a small venue, the screenings had an intimate feeling and many of the shows were once-in-a-lifetime occasions: restorations, silent films, documentaries with filmmakers in attendance.  I enjoyed seeing Too Much Johnson, Joyful Laughter and Ed and Pauline (directed by Christian Bruno & Natalija Vekic) about Pauline Kael!  And the documentary that Gina Leibrecht finished after Les Blanks’ death called How to Smell a Rose.The Sheridan Opera House

There is no way to see all the films you want to at the Telluride Film Festival but I was so glad I stayed for the late screening of The Look of Silence, the companion film to Joshua Oppenheimer’s extraordinary The Act of Killing.  This film is unlike anything in the documentary world in it’s exploration of truth and consequences.  Listening to Joshua speak about his filmmaking crusade, a journey years in the making and hearing how he put himself at risk was extraordinary.  Then to watch Adi, the subject of the film, struggle with tears and deep despair, try to explain his motivation in being in the film–wow, what a remarkable experience.

The buzz of the festival surrounded a few films: Wild Tales, Dancing Arabs, Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater and my favorite of the festival: The Imitation Game.  Two films with big stars drew mixed reviews: Foxcatcher and Homesman and sadly, not many seemed to like Wild.  An oft repeated joke was “I wasn’t wild about Wild”,  I found the panels, free to attend and outdoors in the park, one of the highlights.  Packed with talent and star-power, it was a gathering of people that you’d never see together at any other event: national and international directors and stars chatting away about their influences and inspirations!  Ethan Hawke was so impressed with the array of talent on the panel he sat on, that he could barely talk about his film–he kept saying how overwhelmed he was! 2014-08-30 12.36.09 2014-08-31 12.45.18 2014-08-31 12.45.35 2014-08-31 12.45.58

The program was not just remarkable, it was also unusual in it’s presentation.  Key films with expected audience-draw (and often star-studded) played in the larger venues but the additional screenings of each film were driven by attendance.  A surprise hit like Wild Tales (a darkly-comic film of six stories from Argentina) was moved from a small venue to a larger one and even replaced Birdman, which has more star power!  Additional screenings were added on the last day of the festival — left deliberately open for To Be Announced Screenings — that were driven by how packed the first screenings.were and how many people had to be turned away.  Saturday, two films had repeat screenings in the packed slate of films, Sunday, there were 10 films with repeated screenings and Monday was almost entirely, repeated screenings of some of the most well-attended films…

Telluride is not an easy place to travel to.  There’s a tiny airport with expensive flights, nearby towns are still a mountain-drive away and festival passes sell out quickly.  This keeps attendance to a manageable size and provides a certain cache to the festival.  Press have to buy passes to attend and paparazzi are discouraged.  Jon Stewart felt comfortable walking around town talking to visitors.  Screenings are packed with filmmakers such as Ken Burns, Mike Leigh and Francis Ford Coppola and you may find yourself sitting next to Leonard Maltin or Werner Herzog!  Staff return to favorite positions year after year and form a team of volunteers that are fiercely proud of the festival and protective of it’s reputation as a world-class event.  Telluride Film Festival is an amazing event in an amazing place made possible by the generous patronage of some well-heeled cultural icons and the dedication of a hard-working crew of hundreds.The Show--TFF41