Cinebanter

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Evening with Damien Echols and Lorri Davis

Damien, Tassoula and Lorri
Damien Echols and his wife Lorri Davis recently came to Seattle to promote their new book, Yours for Eternity, and Tassoula was lucky enough to attend and meet them.

The lecture portion of the evening, hosted at Seattle's Town Hall, is available in audio format free of charge here.

Cinebanter listeners may recall Michael and Tassoula extensively spoke about the documentary trilogy Paradise Lost, which detailed the journey of the West Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley.

The wrongly convicted inmates were released in August of 2011.


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Sunday, July 06, 2014

New Written Reviews Now Available

Tassoula spent the holiday weekend at the movies; see what she thought of all of them with this list of her written reviews:

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cinebanter Special Edition: SIFF 2014 RE-CAP

A Scene From STILL LIFE
The MP3 file of this episode can be found here.

In this episode, Tassoula re-caps the recent 40th Annual Seattle International Film Festival. She shares her favorite documentary from the event, plus her top three films. The breakdown is as follows:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 Tassoula's re-cap of the festival
• 10:12 Outro

Thanks to Brad Daane, Mark Cummins and Vincent Do for the original music used in this episode, and to the folks at SIFF for granting Tassoula press access to hundreds of fantastic films for the 8th consecutive year.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

SIFF Sighting: THE ONE I LOVE (Romantic Comedy; USA)

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a married couple going through a rough patch.

Though Ethan gives re-igniting their flame a college try, Sophie still isn't past their troubles, so they agree to couples' therapy.

Their shrink (Ted Danson, perfect for the part) assigns them a weekend away to work on their issues and that's when things start to get weird.

I can't go any further without completely spoiling the film, so I'll just say this is hilarious, thought-provoking, confusing, charming and odd. First-time screenwriter Justin Lader does an incredible job of entertaining while floating the big lingering questions, and all the while making the audience hungry for bacon.

I can't wait until this is released in theaters. I'll be first in line to see it again.

THE ONE I LOVE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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SIFF Sighting: CALVARY (Comedy; Ireland)

If you were told you had a week to live, not because you're ill, but because someone is planning your murder, how would you live out your last days?

Father Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is faced with this problem when a parishoner notifies him in confession that he suffered abuse as a child at the hands of the Catholic church. Though Father Lavelle was not the abuser, the confessor believes guilt by association is a good enough reason to end the priest's life.

Rather than go to the police, the Father chooses to deal with this threat internally and independently. It's both courageous and stupid.

The entire film then progresses through random conversations, awkwardly funny exchanges and random reflections leading up to the "will it or won't it happen?" moment.

Though the performances are solid, the screenplay fails and by the time the climax is reached, the audience is more apathetic than invested.

CALVARY screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Friday, June 06, 2014

SIFF Sighting: ALEX OF VENICE (Drama; USA)

Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and George (Chris Messina, who also directed the film) aren't communicating. Alex is pursuing a busy legal career; George is exhausted of playing Mr. Mom.

So George leaves.

In addition to their 10-year-old son, Alex cares for her aging, live-in father (Don Johnson) who has a drug habit and a fading acting career. She doesn't have time to be abandonded.

As she desperately tries to continue business-as-usual despite the world collapsing around her, she realizes that there is more to life. Before she can truly pick up the pieces, she has to examine what's broken and most importantly—what's worth fixing.

Winstead is fantastic as the troubled Alex and each supporting cast member does their part to match her element of chaos, if only to emphasize how much she's trying to ignore.

Especially great is Don Johnson who is obnoxious and sympathetic all at once.

The backdrop of Venice, California serves as the only character of complete calm here, making its presence known with sandy beaches and neon lights illuminating the boardwalk.

Messina has created a relatable film that somehow manages to mix heartbreak with hope.

ALEX OF VENICE screened at the 40th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

SIFF Sighting: 4 MINUTE MILE (Drama; USA)

Drew (Kelly Blatz) is a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks that doesn't want to end up like his crime-ridden family. Richard Jenkins plays the retired track coach destined to save him.

The chemistry between the two leads is strong and Seattle provides a beautiful backdrop to this heartbreaking story. Bring a hankie.

4 MINUTE MILE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

SIFF Sighting: SEEDS OF TIME (Documentary; USA)

Cary Fowler is an agricultural genius who has dedicated his life to the evolution and preservation of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. This group collects seeds for a vault located in a not-so-vulnerable location in the middle of an ice bank.

For six years, documentarian Sandy McLeod followed his life as he lobbied, fought, worked and studied to progress the vault. This is his story.

In short: There are fewer responsibilities greater than helping ensure the long-term success of human life and this man has taken it on amidst divorce, cancer and whatever else life has thrown at him.

Though the politics can be frustrating and nature isn't always helpful, Fowler and his environmental disciples power through and never give up on their cause.

It's both frightening to watch (because of the scarcity of resources) and inspiring to see (because there is hope).

Fowler deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

SEEDS OF TIME screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Sunday, June 01, 2014

SIFF Sighting: BOYHOOD (Drama; USA)

"I thought there would be more."

The new Richard Linklater masterpiece Boyhood is filled with revelations like this that pass by so naturally you may miss them.

Ellar Coltrane (Mason) is phenomenal as a boy who ages 12 years before our eyes; Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deliver pitch perfect performances as his parents, as does Lorelei Linklater who portrays his sister.

Don't miss it.

BOYHOOD screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

SIFF Sighting: ONE CHANCE (Biography; United Kingdom)

Everyone has a dream, but not everyone pursues it.

Paul Potts (James Corden) works in a cellphone shop after nearly giving up on a singing career and takes a chance on auditioning for Britain's Got Talent.

The rest is history, and his journey getting there is played out beautifully in this crowd-pleaser that will leave you believing that nice guys can indeed finish first.

ONE CHANCE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

SIFF Sighting: DAMNATION (Documentary; USA)

Beginning in the 1930s, America began a love affair with the construction of dams. They brought power (one of America's favorite things), jobs and recreational opportunities, so they were generally hailed as positive developments.

But not by everyone...

Native American tribes that lived on land impacted by dam construction mourned the loss of nature's rhythms and those who fished those waters were devastated by the near-extinction of salmon that the dams caused.

Environmentalists, such as those who were part of the Earth First! movement, began taking action by way of elaborate stunts such as painting cracks down the dams. Decades later some of the dams are coming down, but not all of them.

This film definitely "takes sides" with the environmentalists, pointing out how wind power is wasted, wild salmon runs are in danger, and many of the existing dams aren't providing much for what the taxpayers are shelling out each year to keep them running.

It's hard not to get angry when you see that—yet again—Alaska residents are willing to risk their wildlife for presumed profit.

That said, I would have liked to see a little more balance and exploration of the (agreeably few) dams that have prevented floods, provided a sustainable method of power and helped the economy by employing citizens with long-term jobs.

It's a conversation worth having.

DAMNATION screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SIFF Sighting: IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE (Drama; Norway)

Jenny (Silje Salomonsen) is pregnant with her daughter Merete (Iben Osten Hjelle) when she's caught in the middle of a robbery.

Forced to defend herself, she begins shooting and hits two people. Sentenced ten years for murder, her family raises Merete until she is freed.

Once she's out of prison, Jenny, like so many, has trouble acclimating back to normal life. Though all she desires is to make a solid home for her daughter, she can't help but get caught up in the lifestyle of drugs and criminal activity that she was once a part of, which puts both of them in dangerous situations.

There's nothing much that's new here, but the story does serve as a reminder of how vital it is to isolate those caught up in such a lifestyle from their former demons.

Though I tired of the melancholy music playing over scenes of longing, I did quite like the main character and her sweet, endearing daughter. I rooted for them, even though some of the dramatic conventions were a bit overdone.

IT'S ALL MAKE BELIEVE will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on June 5 and 6. For tickets, go here.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tassoula Got Schooled

This is a special announcement for Cinebanter fans: the audiobook that Tassoula narrated, Schooled by Christa Charter, is now available via Amazon and Audible.com!

Click here for purchase link, and if you like it, please leave a positive rating on the purchase site.

Happy listening!

~~~

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

SIFF Sighting: A BRONY TALE (Documentary; USA)

When Ashleigh Ball got the job voicing a few of the characters in the television show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, she had no idea she'd become a cult heroine in the world of fandom.

The show, based on toys that were popular for young girls in the 80s, has oddly attracted a following of straight, adult males. Yes, males.

They have dubbed themselves "Bronies" and created an entire community centered around celebrating the program.

In this film, the crew travels to meet Bronies from all over the country as Ashleigh prepares for her first BronyCon in New York. We see the very definition of "masculine" in a Brony who builds motorcycles; the tender side of an Iraq veteran as he renews his love for art by drawing tributes to the show; an African-American DJ that specializes in Brony parties and a group of students from Northwestern who hold their own Brony meetups.

Though it may seem an odd thing to obsess over, nearly every Brony mentions that positivity is what draws them to the show and the community. These folks don't appear creepy or crazy; they're passionate and sincere. Above all, they're sweet.

Following Ashleigh's acclimation to the community throughout the film gives us a unique perspective of someone who is warming to the group's virtual embrace.

To paraphrase what director Brent Hodge said in the Q &A, it's nice to see a documentary that leaves you feeling good instead of bad.

He certainly achieved that with this fun, lighthearted look at one of our most unique subcultures.

A BRONY TALE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SIFF Sighting: MY LAST YEAR WITH THE NUNS (Comedy; USA)

Matt Smith was a Catholic kid growing up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. It was the Mid-60s and the world was changing around him, but his antics with neighborhood pals transformed into timeless memories.

He turned these experiences into a Wonder Years-like stage monologue, which was then re-purposed for this film, which feels like a documentary, though the disclaimer states the situations and people are composites.

Smith is naturally entertaining with a fantastic gift for comedic delivery and timing, and his stories are hilarious, but I would have preferred a little more dimension than just straight, talk-to-the-camera vignettes. The moments where he dresses up or returns to the "scene of the crime" to re-enact are the strongest and tease us for what could have been had they employed actors to re-live the stories.

There's also an awful lot of spit in this movie, and I'll admit, that sort of lost me.

All in all, those who have ties to this iconic Seattle neighborhood, or grew up as a Catholic boy will probably find the film very accessible and relatable. Others will chuckle and get grossed-out.

MY LAST YEAR WITH THE NUNS will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on May 26. For tickets, go here.

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