Monday, July 30, 2012

Indy Film Fest: Saturday morning cartoons

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM

  • From The Maker.

It’s been years since I was awake early enough to catch any Saturday morning cartoons. But I threw a couple spoonfuls of sugar into my all-natural, healthy-tasting cereal and headed off to the sanctuary of the Earth House Collective to catch an Indy Film Fest’s program featuring an eclectic sampling of animated shorts.

First up was Cadaver, which was the cutesy story of a dead man’s last wish to show his widow how he loved her. With the help of a plucky, bespectacled med student, he road trips his Neil-Young-loving heart to his old doorstep and ends up learning a few things. Aside from its happy ending and rhyming dialogue, the piece’s most striking feature is its animation: the characters are rendered with great detail, capturing the whole project’s off-color vibe in the crazy hairs of the old guy’s eyebrows.

Still from Caldera. - ORCHIDANIMATION.COM
  • Still from Caldera.

Next was the cosmically abstract Caldera, which looks like it came form the same world as Portal 2 with its computer-generated animation’s clean lines and bright white focus on the industrial parts of the world. Its protagonist, a young woman struggling with medication and a bleak worldview, essays a trippy, silent exploration of the world outside her world that left me reeling after the last frame.

Keeping the train of thought rolling was Little Boat, another single character exploration sans dialogue, except this time of a little sail boat that drifts through several clean and beautiful backgrounds, taking some damage along the way and then finding its way back home with a little help from it surroundings. It avoided being too cute and resonated almost as an answer to the bleakness in Caldera.

Then, the program’s tone shifted as (notes on) Biology bridged the gap between make-'em-think endings and the absurdist farce that has traditionally been the province of cartoons. Following the flipbook animation of a middle school biology student’s class notes, the story within the late-for-class slacker’s story is of a robot elephant seeking high-grade artillery revenge on a human species keen on wiping out its way of life. The moral that doesn’t match the profundity of Caldera or Little Boat but still stuck with me. Here it is:

(notes on) biology from ornana films on Vimeo.

The funniest short on the bill was Pound Dogs, a post-Ren and Stimpy story of two canines with questionable morals. Featuring some high-grade voice talent (Andy Merrill of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast fame), the piece is basically a buddy picture about two idiot dogs, one of whom is trying to find an adoptive home before 6 p.m. to avoid mandatory euthanasia at the hands of the alcoholic kennel worker (voiced by Merrill). Despite its morbid themes, the punchy dialogue between the two dogs keeps the piece moving.

  • The Pound Dogs.

A short called Girlie Jar, which seemed like a film student’s fist experiment with CGI didn’t deliver big laughs but showed some promise. Things got serious then with The Hunter, the tale of a boy who ran with the wolves near his snow-covered town, done in a style reminiscent of cave paintings.

The serious tone lasted through the last short, The Maker a beautifully realized (and again verbally silent) piece about a stuffed rabbit with an ugly mask racing against a draining hourglass to propagate his family tree. With the subtle grotesquerie of the world of Bioshock, the piece examines themes of creation and lineage with resonance. Without any speech to clutter the piece’s soundtrack, the animation of the piece is allowed to speak for itself (much like in Caldera and Little Boat). The images of the rabbit puppet’s attempts at creation present an idiosyncratic view of what you might call an artistic process.

This year’s batch of shorts delivered some cartoonish laughs but didn’t constrict itself to comedic ends, opting instead to use the animated form to explore some interesting angles of life, love and art. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to buy some cereal with marshmallows for next time.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Are City doc series launches at IMA

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Paul Liebrandt with pig's head in 'A Matter of Taste.'
  • Paul Liebrandt with pig's head in 'A Matter of Taste.'

The minds behind the We Are City film series — which kicks off Thursday at the IMA — hope to spark foster active discussion on urban life via three documentaries.

“We need constant creative effort to improve the way life is lived in the Circle City. The We Are City series is a way into that,” says Anne Laker, director of public programs at IMA. “The films and conversation are about pushing Indy's envelope. What needs to happen to continue to bolster the biking culture in our city? What can we do to be more consciously creative when we look at planning for the housing needs of those who are struggling to make it?”

We Are City kicks off with A Matter of Taste on Feb. 23, a documentary that follows New York chef Paul Liebrandt over several years as he navigates his way through the competitive world of haute cuisine and struggles to make a name for himself. Special guests include Becky Hostetter of Duos mobile kitchen, Cynthia Wilson of Kountry Kitchen and Neal Brown of The Libertine and Pizzology.

“After the film, Michael Kaufmann will ask [attendees] about how Indy's sense of place is defined by food,” explains Laker, an occasional contributor to NUVO. “How are their establishments more than just places to eat? Then, everybody's invited to take matters into their own hands at "action tables" where meaty questions will be posed about how to advance Indy's food culture. Two local food critics will be hosting a table, as will Indy Winter Farmer's Market executive director Laura Henderson.”

The series is presented by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Wishard Health Services with support from Butler University Center for Urban Ecology, URBN DSGN, Big Car, The Platform and Indiana Humanities.

We Are City Film Series 2012
All screenings at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Tobias Theater, 400 N. Michigan Road; $5 public, $3 IMA members

A Matter of Taste (2010, dir. Sally Rowe, 72 mins.)
Thursday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
A film profile of New York chef Paul Liebrandt, following him over the course of almost a decade as he defines his artistic culinary vision.

A Matter Of Taste - Trailer from Sally Rowe on Vimeo.

With My Own Two Wheels (2010, dirs. Jacob Seigel-Boettner and Isaac Seigel-Boettner, 44 mins.)
March 22, 7 p.m.
This documentary weaves together the experiences of five individuals into a single story about how the bicycle might change the world.

With My Own Two Wheels Trailer from Jacob SB on Vimeo.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History
April 5, 7 p.m. (2011, dir. Chad Friedrichs, 79 mins.)
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, when suburbanization led to destitute urban cores, increasingly segregated by class and race.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: an Urban History — Film Trailer from the Pruitt-Igoe Myth on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: 'Eames: The Architect and the Painter'

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 2:41 PM


Although Eames: The Architect and the Painter played on TV in December as part of PBS’ American Masters series, you’re better off seeing it in a theater. This film deserves to be watched with minimal distractions so you can concentrate on the shapes, colors and imagery. It screens 7 p.m. Thursday at the Toby at the IMA; admission is $3 for members and $5 for the general public.

Charles and Ray Eames made it their life’s work to extol the complex beauty of everyday objects, from the modern-day, mass-produced chair to films that explained the computer or math. Their goal: get the best design to the most people for the least amount of money.

Here, we get the full scope of their work, starting with the famous Eames chair, which Charles and architect/designer Eero Saarinen began working on in 1940. Although they initially failed to figure out how to curve plywood, they ultimately came up with the right process by making splints for soldiers wounded in World War II. Mass production began in 1946, and Charles became an icon of modernism. Time magazine called the Eames chair the greatest design of the 20th century.

The film shows us the inside of their ever-changing design studio in Venice Beach, Calif., and their house, gives us insight into their film work done on behalf of large corporations and the U.S. government, and documents how important Ray was to her husband’s work and to the abstract art movement in America. It also delves into thorny issues such as credit — which Charles received even when others did the bulk of the work — and the problems with their marriage.

Through film clips (Charles died in 1978, Ray in 1988) and interviews with colleagues, we get a well-rounded portrait of their work and their lives. But as fascinating as their story is, it’s the paintings and moss hanging from the ceilings and the shapes of their designs that make the film. Charles and Ray Eames encouraged others to look at the world differently, and they succeeded.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

American Masters: Woody Allen

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Woody Allen: American Masters
9 p.m., Nov. 20 and 21
WFYI (Channel 20)

I’d like to thank Woody Allen someday. For Annie Hall and Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose and Zelig, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point and Midnight in Paris. For the books and stories — especially The Kugelmass Episode. For showing me the full beauty of Rhapsody in Blue. For helping me understand humanity a little better. For the line “you say that like it’s a negative thing.” And so much more.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever get the chance to do that, but in a way, I feel like filmmaker Robert Weide did it for me with his excellent two-part American Masters biography of Allen. In these 3½ hours, Weide hits on much of what makes Allen great while addressing his foibles and failures as well. He gives us a well-rounded picture of a brilliant filmmaker whose approach to work is surprisingly simple.

“It’s just storytelling and you tell it,” Allen says at one point. “There’s no big deal to it.”

This career retrospective takes us from the streets of Brooklyn, where Allen Stewart Konigsberg grew up in a family with a loving little sister and parents who either argued or didn’t talk to each other, to his metamorphosis into Woody Allen. He started as a joke writer and evolved into a standup comic, screenwriter, actor and director. Weide touches on most of his 40-plus films, lingering on the most important ones, and shows us how he works and, perhaps more importantly, how he thinks.

Part one covers his early life and career up to 1980’s Stardust Memories; part two delves into more professional and personal behind-the-scenes stories. (The credits in both parts are done in the same font that Allen uses in his films.)

What Weide does so well throughout is to show rather than merely tell. Numerous actors discuss Allen’s directing style — “It’s a bare-bones clarity than any personality can understand and interpret,” says Sean Penn, who actually smiles at a couple of points. But rather than leave it to talking heads to tell the story, Weide shows Allen directing Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin in a scene from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger so we can see what Penn means.

Allen says he writes longhand on a legal pad and then types his scripts on an old Olympia typewriter. We see that. Allen says he has a drawer filled with movie ideas. We get to see that — and hear one about a man who inherits a magician’s tricks. Actors talk about letters Allen wrote them; we see multiple examples. Allen even walks through his old Brooklyn neighborhood to reminisce.

What emerges is a portrait of a man driven by his work, who believes he’s never going to get it quite right but wouldn’t think of not trying. He’s self-deprecating —“I don’t really care about commercial success and the end result is, I rarely achieve it” — realistic, fatalistic and, sometimes, a bit un-self-aware.

In the portion that deals with the breakup of his 12-year relationship with Mia Farrow and the lurid aftermath, Allen says, “I didn’t think I was that famous to warrant that coverage.”

Um, really? But in typical fashion, he also offers a superb one-liner: “It took a little edge off my natural blandness.”

The film ends beautifully, with Midnight in Paris becoming his most financially successful picture ever and with a quote that sums up his view of his life perfectly. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a great laugh line. Thanks for that, too, Woody.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Heartland reviews: Take two

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Romantics Anonymous
  • "Romantics Anonymous"

Our second batch of Heartland reviews includes some excellent documentaries and an adorable narrative feature about nervous French people falling in love. Check out our first round of reviews here. And go see some of these on the big screen: Screenings run Oct. 15-Oct. 23 at AMC Castleton Square 14 and AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17. A complete guide and schedule is, of course, available on Heartland's website.

Romantics Anonymous
4 stars
A comedy of discomfort. Angélique, a masterful chocolate-maker afraid of just about everything and everyone, takes up a job at an outmoded chocolate factory. The owner of the factory, Jean-René, is also a bashful, anxious sort. Their courtship is amusingly and painfully awkward, filmed and paced with the light, whimsical, Gallic touch of films like Amélie and, not uncoincidentally, Chocolat. The original title, Les Émotifs Anonymes, doesn't translate easily: It refers, in part, to Emotions Anonymous, a real-life support group attended in the film by Angélique and dedicated to helping the emotionally impaired. —Scott Shoger

Crime After Crime
4 stars
In 1983, domestic abuse victim Debbie Peagley was arrested for her involvement in the murder of her vicious boyfriend. Although Debbie rightfully admitted to manslaughter, she was convicted of premeditated murder. What followed was 25 years of lies, witness tampering and misconduct at the hands of the California DA’s office. Then in 2009, prison doctors diagnosed her with terminal cancer. The poignant documentary follows Debbie as she and her pro bono lawyers race to get her released. This on makes us care, it raises questions and it captures the determination needed to create any sort of change in our hopelessly monolithic America. —Derrick Carnes

The Redemption of General Butt Naked
4 stars
During the Liberian civil war, hundreds of militias fought in the streets for power. Among the most feared were the Butt Naked Soldiers, blood drunk mercenaries who charged naked into battle and preferred to kill their enemies with machetes. Their leader was known as General Butt Naked. But at the height of his power, the General vanished, returning from exile years later claiming to be a converted Christian. This film follows the General as he visits his victims, one by one, begging their forgiveness. There are so many moving moments that you may begin to feel desensitized to them, but never to the greatness of this film. —Derrick Carnes

Becoming Santa
  • "Becoming Santa"

Becoming Santa
3.5 stars
After Jack Sanderson’s parents died, he found it hard to get excited about Christmas. Then a friend showed him a picture of his father playing Santa at a neighborhood party. Following his dad’s example, Jack grows his beard, dyes his hair and tries to discover what it means to be Santa Claus. There’s not a lot at stake here, but that doesn’t stop us from watching. The scenes of Jack at Santa School are hilarious and the history of our Christmas traditions is fascinating. At the core, this is a documentary about humanity and what it means when we give to each other selflessly. —Derrick Carnes

Family of the Wa’a
3 stars
Kimokea Kapahulehua is on the verge of fulfilling a promise that he made to his late uncle years ago. His promise: to travel the 1750-length of the Hawaiian islands. And for the first time in history, Kimokeo and his team try to accomplish this feat in an outrigger paddling canoe (or “wa’a”). After one 400-mile stretch, the paddlers’ hands have turned to hamburger. After another, a teammate discovers that he has cancer. The film is convoluted at times, but even though its story is unfamiliar, it’s never hard to relate to: it’s a universal tale about creating meaning for your life that wasn’t always there. —Derrick Carnes

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Slideshow: IndyFilmFest Closing Night 2011

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:15 PM

IFFs Closing Night festivities included handing out awards.
  • Stacy Kagiwada
  • IFF's Closing Night festivities included handing out awards.

The closing night of the 2011 Indianapolis International Film Festival was held at the IMA. After remarks from IFF President Craig Mince, Mayor Greg Ballard, and Festival Managing Director Lisa Trifone, there was a screening of the Closing Night Feature These Amazing Shadows, a documentary about the National Film Registry.

This year the IFF had their largest group of participants yet. Offering various workshops, as well as the opportunity to sit in on Skype interviews with a few of the directors drew a wide audience. The crowd was eager to celebrate the work from the entire festival with the presentation of a few awards, including the much anticipated $1,000 Grand Jury prize. The evening concluded with a Skype interview of Kurt Norton, co-director of These Amazing Shadows.

Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night
Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night

Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Night

Indy Film Festival came to a close Saturday night with These Amazing Shadows as the featured film. Check out our highlights of the awards and closing festivities.

By Hannah Fehrman

Click to View 15 slides

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Slideshow: IndyFilmFest Agio After-Party

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:05 PM

The 2011 Indianapolis International Film Festival has officially come to a close, after a 10-day festival. There were screenings of movies from across the world, with a plethora of films and workshops to attend. But the party didn't end there, Agio, along with Sun King Brewery hosted the Closing Night After Party. Filmmakers, directors, friends, and film enthusiasts alike gathered to share in conversation, debate, and to celebrate the success of the 2011 Indy Film Fest.

Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio
Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio

Slideshow: 2011 IFF Closing Party at Agio

After the last film was shown and the last award was given the crowd headed over to Agio where the fun continued at the 2011 IFF Closing Party.

By Stacy Kagiwada

Click to View 10 slides

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Slideshow: Opening night at IndyFilmFest

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 12:32 PM

The opening night of the Indianapolis International Film Festival was held at the Toby Theatre at the IMA. After remarks from IFF President and COO Craig Mince, Festival Managing Director Lisa Trifone and the IMA's Anne Laker, we were treated to a screening of Mark Cahill's Another Earth, a compelling film about loss and love, told through a fascinating science-fiction-y point of view.

It was a great start to a great festival, with numerous films showing every day. Make sure you read our cover story from last week for our main recommendations.

2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow)
2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow) 2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow)

2011 Indy Film Fest (Slideshow)

This years Indy Film Fest opened Friday with a screening of "Another Earth." The 10-day festival hosts films from acclaimed SXSW and Sundance, as well as many other independent films. Check out this slideshow for a look at opening night.

By Stacy Kagiwada

Click to View 11 slides

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Friday, April 29, 2011

First-ever Hendricks County Film Festival

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 8:00 AM

The Necklace, one of 17 short films at the Hendricks County Film Festival, stars Kimberlin Brown (left) and Traci Dinwiddie.
  • The Necklace, one of 17 short films at the Hendricks County Film Festival, stars Kimberlin Brown (left) and Traci Dinwiddie.

This Saturday, April 30, the inaugural Hendricks County Film Festival will be unveiled at the Rave Motion Pictures in Plainfield’s Metropolis Mall. This is a one-day event, including three separate screenings. A total of 17 independent short films are on display — films that were submitted from around the world.

Selections include a locally-made film from Brownsburg, a WWII drama and a documentary from the United Arab Emirates.

The three showings begin at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and an award ceremony will immediately follow the last screening. Tickets are only $7 for an individual screening or $20 for an all-day pass, and may be purchased at the Danville Public Library, the Hendricks County Convention and Visitors Bureau (in Danville), or online.

Below find short descriptions of the selections.

First screening: 1 p.m.

The Desperate
Director: Ben Hur Sepehr
Run time: 33 min

Nazi General’s son is wounded during the bombings in WWII. The camp’s doctor has been transferred and the only one available is a condemned, elderly Jewish inmate of the concentration camp.

The Ranger from Kelly Street
Director: Jack Swanstrom
Run time: 12 minutes

Harry Perlmutter, a private in the Ranger Battalion, details his capture as a survivor of an ambush at the Battle of Cisterna (1944) in which approximately 700 Rangers were involved.

Plight of the Earth Fairy
Director: Kim Sheridan
Run Time: 10 minutes

The Earth Fairy has an identity crisis and seeks professional help, feeling the inadequacies of living in the shadow of the glorified Tooth Fairy. Through humor, the film explores controversial issues regarding today’s environmental issues.

Shot at Sundown
Director: Karin Partin
Run Time: 14 minutes

Young Midwestern couple sits down to dinner with Mom and Dad in a Brooklyn neighborhood in which the demographics are currently shifting.

Surviving Hunger
Director: Balgum Song
Run Time: 3 minutes

A desert is the best place to find sand and dry air, but it’s the worst place to find food.

The Necklace
Director: MaryLee Herrmann
Run Time: 6 minutes

This short film focuses on Margaret, a strong, dependable woman who appears to have it together, but feels trapped, so she decides to find the courage to pursue her own dreams.

Good Versus Evil
Director Kim Sheridan
Run Time: 8 minutes

A detective brings out the good in everyone, making history. Produced by EnLighthouse Entertainment with a cast of two, the director and her husband. Initially created as part of the 48-Hour Film Project.

Broken Dreams
Director: Eric Peterson
Run Time: 5 minutes

A man’s life begins to fall apart and he goes off the deep end. Rather than turning to his favorite motivational speaker for advice he becomes the man’s target.

Walla Walla Wiffle
Director: Robert Sickels
Run Time: 7 minutes

An annual one-day wiffleball tournament in which 48 men, ages 30-40, from all over the country flock to eastern Washington. The tournament allows these men a small reprieve from their inescapable responsibilities that come with jobs and family.

Second screening: 4 p.m.

Friend of the Devil
Director: Eric H. Heisner
Run Time: 24 minutes

A Texas Ranger goes rogue, turning in his badge to chase after three border bandits. His chase is interrupted by the discovery of a man almost killed by a lynching — who then aids him in his search.

The Board
Director: Brett Varvel
Run Time: 40 minutes

A person’s soul is represented by a board of directors. The members: Mind, Memory, Emotion, Heart, Will and Conscience. They discuss and vote on a dilemma that has eternal consequences.

Three Miles Under
Director: Ankur Singh
Run Time: 26 minutes

Two kids try to dig a hole to China, when really they are just running from their fear of the world, never intending to reach their destination.

Juice Box for Jesus
Director: Hamilton Scott
Run Time: 11 minutes

A man shows up at the Birch family’s nightly bible study claiming to be Jesus.

Third screening: 7 p.m.

What’s Up
Director: Kim Sheridan
Run Time: 8 minutes

A controversial and virtually unheard of issue is brought to light in this film meant to inspire viewers to learn more, question, take responsibility and get involved.

An Evening With My Comatose Mother
Director: Jonathan Martin
Run Time: 33 minutes

Dorothy is asked to housesit on Halloween for a wealthy family — and the comatose mother living upstairs is the only thing standing in her way of having a very memorable Halloween.

Cantata in C Major
Director: Ronnie Cramer
Run Time: 8 minutes

This piece features Ronnie Cramer, whose paintings have been featured across the country, and whose music has achieved airplay on over 100 radio stations, nationwide. His films have been screened at festival around world. In this piece, 605 film clips are combined to create an original piece of electronic music.

The Vanity
Director: David Neidert
Run Time: 17 minutes

Inspired by a true story of divorce, bad relationships, drug use and pain, the film follows Carol as she tries to pick up the pieces, looking for love, forgiveness and restoration.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Artcraft Theater's Shorts In January

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Greenwoods Joe Leavell, directing In the Deathroom, based on the short story by Stephen King.
  • Greenwood's Joe Leavell, directing "In the Deathroom," based on the short story by Stephen King.

Franklin’s Artcraft Theater, one of Indiana’s oldest picture-show gems, will soon be spinning its reels in the name of local film. On Saturday, Jan. 29, the historic theater will host Shorts In January, a back-to-back screening of four films from three Indiana-based filmmakers, presented by 3Wizemen Productions.

When asked about the status quo of local indie films in general, Corey Miller, the director of Shorts In January and an affiliate of 3Wizemen Productions says, “I feel very hopeful about it. I think we have a community of people who are very supportive of our local events, musicians, and artists.

“The beauty of this collaboration in filmmaking is that it draws together not only the communities of the Franklin area, but the communities and supporters of the filmmakers, and cast and crew of each of the films involved.”

Left For Dead, written and directed by Franklin, Indiana native Josh Etter, is the story of three college friends who are traveling cross country while being stalked by a psychopath due to a case of mistaken identity. Produced and filmed in Franklin and Bean Blossom areas, Left For Dead stars Kevin Grow, Matthew Allen, Annie Lamoureux, Brad Ebach and George Duffey. The film features original music from professional composer and educator Virgil Franklin, and two local Indianapolis bands, New Addiction and Eyes on Fire.

The Date, directed by Indianapolis local Matthew Beikes, stars Rhonda Tinch-Mize and Raymond Kester. A woman in the latest string of very bad dates suddenly finds herself re-examining what she thought she knew about relationships.

Das Spiel, also directed by Matthew Beikes, stars Don Becker and Rick Bittle. Two men are on a dangerous chase through busy downtown streets.

In The Deathroom, directed by Greenwood native Joe Leavell, stars Chris Spurgin as an American reporter who realizes, after being captured by a South American government, that his captors do not let him plan to leave. Based on the short story by Stephen King.

The doors to Shorts In January will open at 6:30 pm with the show starting at 7:00 pm. $5 covers your admission to the whole shebang. For more information, visit

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Peter Weir's "The Way Back"

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 7:50 AM

Colin Farrell stars as a fellow prisoner in The Way Back.
  • Colin Farrell stars as a fellow prisoner in "The Way Back."

To list the great films by Peter Weir is a boggling enterprise. He first came onto my personal radar as an art-film maker, a la Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, movies I saw in my own personal coming-of-age in college.

He’s gone on to make a dozen or more films to critical acclaim, like Dead Poets Society, Witness and the entertaining but fatally-flawed The Truman Show. And then, of course there’s the heart-breaking Gallipoli, which I somehow did not manage to see until the summer of 2008, 27 years after its release.

His most recent film, released in 2003, was Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starred Russell Crowe.

So it’s been seven years or more, and suddenly a new film by Weir has sneaked its way onto local screens.

Released in 2010, and just now showing (and probably not for long, given the paucity of movie-goers the night I attended), The Way Back tells the “inspired by true events” tale of a group of prisoners who escape from a Siberia gulag during WWII — and walk 4000 miles to freedom.

You read that right: 4000 miles.

I knew nothing about the film, save for the fact that it starred Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, which is usually a pretty good indication of watchability. And the film does not disappoint; in fact it’s enthralling. Now, it befuddles at times: the escape from the gulag is confusing; and a pivotal scene toward the end concerning the make-up of the escapees is botched, and there’s the necessarily-hasty march-thru-time passage at the end, so it’s not a perfect film by any means.

But it is essential viewing, whether you’re a Weir fan, a WWII enthusiast or simply following the extraordinary careers of Harris or Farrell or, in the lead role, Jim Sturgess.

Colin Farrell is mighty good in this film, his best performance since the under-appreciated In Bruges. He plays Valka, a criminal who ends up the gulag in Siberia, despite his tattooed support of Lenin and Stalin. He’s as menacing a character as he’s ever played, and keeps the tension of the film going, even as the “good guys” have made their escape and are facing the “bad guys” of 4000 miles of inhospitable landscapes.

Ed Harris is brilliant as well, playing an American imprisoned by the Russians, because they “don’t like foreigners.” He’s an outcast, being the only American, and watching his growing bond with the Poles (led by Jim Sturgess in a starring role) is touching to behold.

Sturgess is terrific; my first encounter with his talent. I in fact thought Weir, who plays on such a global scale as a director, had simply found one of Poland’s most accomplished actors for the key performance. Sturgess is indeed a Brit, who’s starred in Across the Universe and 21.

And then there’s Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones), who stars as the Polish girl, Irena, whom the escaping men find along their way. Irena ends up tying the desperate men together into a community by getting them to share their personal narratives. As the movie unfolds, it does so more deeply, because of Irena, and how she causes the men to become more deeply involved with each other.

The journey takes a toll on them all, especially Irena. In fact, this film has to have employed the most expert make up artists in the business. The trek across the desert is mesmerizing and painful — and due to the realism of the make-up, not a little horrifying.

The Way Back is a stark reminder of a totalitarian time in our recent history, where millions were imprisoned, murdered, ripped from their everyday world. It’s a tale, too, of courage and perseverance, as inspiring as anything you’ll see this season.

Check local showtimes using the movie listings search or by clicking here.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

PRIDE Film Festival in Bloomington

Posted By and on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM

A still from one of the films featured at the Pride Film Festival in Bloomington.
  • A still from one of the films featured at the Pride Film Festival in Bloomington.

Straight out of Bloomington, Indiana, the PRIDE Film Festival will present its 8th annual cinematic celebration of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered communities at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Jan. 27 — 30.

Every year, PRIDE extends a motley collection of programs for anyone interested, be they bi-curious film buffs or arrow-straight passersby who can’t resist the fun. Live performances, lectures, public participation events, and films — all in the name of acceptance, awareness, and an appreciation of diversity. The goal here is celebration — of art, of culture, and of community.

Danielle McClelland, Executive Director of the Buskirk-Chumley says of the festival, “PRIDE is important because it simultaneously helps people in the audience and on the Steering Committee gain a stronger sense of identity and makes the legitimacy of that identity more visible to the rest of the community.
“I thought from the beginning that the film festival concept would work well to bring together Bloomington residents and students, who each have thriving gay, trans, lesbian, and bi-sexual/queer communities, but who didn't seem to cross-over very often, and rarely seemed to me to come together to ‘build’ something as an ongoing project.”

The theme of this year’s film fest is LBGT life, energy, and family.

This year’s highlights include:

The PRIDE Video Shoot Out, which invites area filmmakers to film and cut thematic shorts during a weeklong production period, all having a common line of dialogue and prop. These shorts will be screened on opening night.

Closing night party — Erotic Attire Encouraged — The LGBT event of the year, this extravaganza transforms the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and the street in front into a club atmosphere that would make big cities jealous.

Pre-Festival events including a screening of 8: The Mormon Proposition on Jan 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church; the 1920 silent cross-dressing film Hamlet on Jan 23, shown with live musical accompaniment at the new IU Cinema; and the documentary Stonewall Uprising shown free on campus at Indiana University.

IU GLBT Alumni Association Homecoming Events organized around the Festival provide an entire weekend of socializing for local and returning alumni from all over the nation.

Here are some synopses of just a few of this year’s films:

Bloomington (USA, 83 min.)—A coming-of-age drama about a former child actress attending college who ends up becoming romantically involved with a female professor. Their relationship thrives until an opportunity to return to acting forces her to make life-altering decisions.

Remember Me In Red (Mexico, 16 min.)—Emotions run high as Fidelia arranges her best friend Alma’s funeral only to have Alma’s parents arrive from Mexico and insist that their son be buried as male. Alma’s friends pull together to honor both the parents’ wishes and those of Alma herself.

My Name Is Love (Sweden, 20 min.)—Love and Sebastian meet each other by coincidence on a romantic Swedish summer night. Because of their shared secrets, an innocent flirt soon turns in to a dangerous liaison.

Hammerhead (England, 14 min.)—Oddball Boris tries to reunite his parents on a shark-spotting trip off the North Yorkshire coast, but his biggest enemy, his mother’s girlfriend Lilah, is along for the ride.

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