Sicario: War on drugs…shot for the Oscars

16 Sep

Where to begin with Sicario?
How I wasn’t prepared for such a rough ride…to be thrown back to the Middle Ages, where warlords hung & quartered their enemies, leaving the bodies to rot in public as a warning against any possible dissenters?
How I was blown away by Tom Ozanich’s tremendous sound design -wave after wave of silence and terror that propels you through the film the way a helicopter envelopes you in it’s rolling attacks of rising suspense?
How Roger Deakins’ camera work sucked me into a world that I shudder to think of as existing? How his beautifully fluid long tracking shot through what would otherwise be a house of horrors at the opening of the film is just a sweet, sweet taste of the visual candy, like the aerial shots of the no man’s land along the border between the US & Juarez, that is crammed into this technical delight of film making, kept me simultaneously entranced and repelled by Northern Mexico’s drug infested existence?

Or maybe I should focus on a really interesting story, one that looks at the effects of an industry that is the result of American demand for illegal substances? Josh Brolin, in the Q & A after this evening’s screening of the film in Manhattan, mentioned his interest in the topic. He’s read Don Winslow’s book, The Cartel, and he spoke about the documentary film, Cartel Land ( see the trailer> ) and the powerful fight that continues on a daily basis.

Maybe I should look at how this film's portrayal of the drug cartels in Juarez make Roberto Saviano's Napolitan 'Ndrangheta mafia bosses look like they are still in high school.
Or maybe I should just stop here for now. I can pick up tomorrow, and talk more about BenicioDelToro 's great comment on acting, Emily Blunt's research with female FBI agents, and the still unresolved sound issues with wireless microphones that the AMC continues to have this Oscar screening season.

And Oh yeah, I really need to mention tomorrow how I think this film will get an Oscar nom, and how Brolin, Blunt, del Toro, Villeneuve, Ozanich & Deakins are going to be pretty busy come nominating season.



The lives of others: Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Mühe & Martina Gedeck

16 Sep

So -all good artists are human: they make great art, crap art and figure out how to get though life bit by bit… Florian Henkel Von Donnersmarck is no different: as a filmmaker, he has made the good, (The Lives of Others) as well as the bad and the ugly ( the Tourist- although with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, the ugly part of that phrase is more figurative than literal…)

If you don’t push yourself as an artist, you won’t grow, and film makers, like all artists, may decide to make different films and explore different styles. Think of Coppola and his amazing variety as he pushes and explores: there’s THE GODFATHER – masterpiece of film making, and then there’s JACK- not so much… Then think of Tyler Perry and his reliance on an old recipe that does him service over and over again: there’s Medea, and Medea, and Medea & that’s about it…).

Othertimes, film makers want to try something different: maybe they want to be funny or serious or mysterious or do thrillers. Maybe sometimes they just want to follow the money and make a big Hollywood style film… ( think Kevin Smith’s flat MALL RATS after the tasty Clerks).

So, that said, you have to focus on Florian’s masterpiece-THE LIVES OF OTHERS and how it deals with the humanity in all good artists, as well as the humanity in all good people. It touches on the reasons why people do something out of character-why they turn their backs on their normal behavior. You also have to focus on the incredible use of sound in this film, as powerful as another Coppola masterpiece, THE CONVERSATION. With editing and camerawork that is commanding and yet so subtle, this film weaves together all the elements of truly great film making!

Can you bring yourself to ever forgive someone, an anonymous someone, who ruined your life in the name of the country’s needs?
Can you ever bring yourself to forgive someone who betrayed your love and trust?
That idea of forgiveness, anonymously or publicly, plays just as big a role in this film as do secrets & lies, love & greed, hate & obsession. No surprise that this film swept up with wins at the Oscars, BAFTA, The Donatellos, etc during the 2007/2008 awards season.

Finally.. just a quick last note. As with all good films, there’s the acting… Martina Gedeck’s turn as a tortured actress fighting demons of truth and lies, the ruggedly handsome Sebastian Koch’s presentation of a man fighting for truth, art and love, and finally Ulrich Mühe, as Stasi agent Gerd Weisler, bringing in a beautifully complex Stasi agent who has the conscience and soul of a good man twisted together with too much talent as an interrogator & surveillance master for East Germany’s Evil Empire.

You can see elements of Weisler’s moral ambiguity in Emily Blunt’s portrayal of an FBI agent drawn to further action in the war on drugstore the 2015 Oscar contender, Sicario…but more about that later.



Creative overload!! Art, film, Rome, Florence…

3 Aug

Life was so much simpler centuries ago… No Telly, no selfie sticks, no up skirting or rigged elections; no Internet or gaming, & plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of life.

Which I miss. I miss quiet time to just sit & think & look at the world around me. I miss time to reflect on its beauty & randomness & its natural spaces in all their glory. But I also miss time to reflect on the beauty of the world’s man made spaces- cities like Rome & Florence- places that are both ancient & new.

It’s been 2 months since I took my art & film students to Italy & I am finally starting to digest & reflect on the environment that pulls me in so completely every time I am there.


Cinema & identity in Israeli film

27 Jul

One of the thorniest issues that cinema is obsessed with is identity- the profound question of who someone is & how the see themselves as well as how others see them. Reality, perception. Truths, lies… Wars have been fought, and continue to be fought, over the way people identify themselves.

French filmmaker Lorraine Levy’s 2012 feature LE FILS D’AUTRE (literally THE SONS OF THE OTHER but retitled as THE OTHER SON for the English speaking market) examines identity & perception through the eyes of two young boys, one Israeli & one Palestinian as their live are irrevocably altered by a simple blood test required prior to mandatory service in the Israeli military.

While examining the incredibly serious issues inherent in Israeli/Palestinian relations (using the border as a very real symbol f the theological & cultural divide the 2 boys face), Levy also looks at the individuality & human scale of the conflict: how does knowledge of the other change self-perception? How does closeness with the other change one’s interpretation f the other? Like the 2005 short drama, A GREEN CHARIOT, by director Gilad Goldschmidt, the dropped bombshell of a different truth pushes the protagonists to see themselves, and the world, in a completely different, possibly more accepting, way.



Hell has frozen over but it’s so lovely…

5 Mar


Actually – the inlet in Roslyn, NY.


why this blog? good film=good home

2 Mar

So – its been a while since i’ve posted & i thought this might be a good time to remind myself why this blog:
why blog about film & art?
why do I feel so passionately about film & art?

I started out acting & working in production and then added teaching into the mix. Over the years, i have worked in theatre & film, at little indies & the big studios, in New York & Los Angeles. I have lectured throughout the Unites States, in Italy, England, etc. on film & art, have been interviewed For Print & broadcast while also being able to interview some heavy hitting industry creatives as well.

I feel that all the arts & all those experiences are related and after years of talking film and art with so many people, I felt like writing it all down & sharing it.

To me, Beautiful art & well crafted films are like a full, content, and happy home: they are refuges from the world-places ( emotionally, spiritually or physically) where you can go to recharge, contemplate life, laugh, cry & ponder everything that concerns you.

You can invite people to share your home, favorite film or the art that moves you: laughing over a great glass of wine, getting pulled into a complex film or analyzing the composition of a striking art work. You can also experience them on your own -seeking solace on a cozy couch, dropping into another world created by a filmmaker or letting your mind wander through gorgeous images, music & sculpture at your own pace.
Either way, your home -like great film & enticing art, is always there for you- protecting you,offering a safe haven while you relax, grow & create.
At home, there is always something to do, & with art & film- there is always something to consider.

So, Instead of just writing down in a journal what I teach in my film, art & English classes – I think it is more interesting to blog it all publicly – to share these observations & hopefully contribute to your own desire to see these films and view these artworks.

Being Italian, don’t be surprised if I include food and wine as “fine art” or “fun flicks” because like good film- good food & wines are nuanced & work on different levels.

Also, don’t be surprised at the occasional literary reference -because good film, art & books all tell a story – just in different ways & at different points in time (except for the Italian futurists – who were trying to show you different, continuous time all at once).

And, usually, the posts won’t be too long-( definitely not this long! Brevity can be paradise!

I hope to connect with everyone from all walks of life & various disciplines- including students, film lovers, art lovers, readers, foodies, film makers & artists- & I look forward to an exchange of opinions & ideas.

Hopefully this year has a tremendous variety of creative goodies for contemplation & sharing… & maybe you’ll see familiar films & artworks in a different way. Maybe this blog can become a home away from home, a drop in lounge, where maybe your soul will be as satisfied by the blog, as your palate is by a delicious, hearty homemade soup eaten while sitting on a cozy couch.


The hairdresser – trim the hair, don’t trim the fat…

26 Jan

I find it repulsive that Hollywood & film critics are so repulsed by Women of size that they let their loathing interfere with their critique of a film about prejudice, self- image & perception.

Die Frieseuse ( the hairdresser) – the 2010 German comedy about a hairdresser, who happens to be a rather overweight woman who is trying to keep her world together while it is crashing down around her, does more than comment on size-discrimination… It forces the viewer to confront their own attitudes about appearance, weight, competence, performance & perseverance.

People come in all shapes, sizes & colors & from all backgrounds & circumstances. Most of us live this everyday, yet most of the entertainment we consume stars skinny white chicks. This film focuses on the fact that many people just want to have a nice life: a chance to be happy, to be healthy, to be loved & to support themselves in jobs that are personally fulfilling. It features a woman has health issues – some related to her weight, some not. It features the issue of illegal immigrant smuggling within Germany, & puts a human face on Thai immigrants in their desperate search for a chance at a better life. It looks at how best friends can betray each other & how husbands can’t always keep it in their pants. And it looks at a bureaucratic system in Germany that doesn’t serve to help industrious self- motivators who want to get off the dole & support themselves.

Yet criticism of this film revolves around the brief shots of hairdresser Kathi’s nakedness: her morning wake up rituals, her bathing and her sexual activity. Kathi’s life goes in and we see how. Think of the broad Israeli comedy A MATTER OF SIZE ( originally released as SUMO in israel & yes, pun intended) & the Farrelly brothers’ film about inner beauty -SHALLOW HAL. Choosing to present a story about diversity & acceptance, whether it involves race, sexual preference or size – should be applauded.

It is the reviewer’s job to comment on the film itself, not their own childish fears of a big naked tushie, or a man revelling in his partner’s ample bosom. Kathi’s nakedness is reminder that she is a physical being while the film serves to remind us that love, talent & beauty are not dependent on size 2 jeans & a fat wallet. Skinny obsessed Hollywood – get the hell over yourself.


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