Cinebanter

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Cinebanter #91 - ONDINE

The mp3 of this show can be found here.

In this episode, Michael and Tassoula fish for a mythical selkie as they review ONDINE. In the Last Five®, Michael dives into some classics, while Tassoula indulges her fondness for the 80s. Plus, Tassoula recaps her experience at the Seattle International Film Festival. The breakdown is as follows:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 Discussion of ONDINE
• Break
• 17:48 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 18:27 The Last Five®
• Break
• 48:59 SIFF Recap
• 1:08:21 Credits & Outtakes

Michael's Last Five in this episode were: CORALINE, MICMACS, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, JULES AND JIM and BELLE DE JOUR . Tassoula's Last Five were: DINER, THE GOONIES, MURDERBALL, WHITE NIGHTS and FOR NEDA.

If you'd like to subscribe to the show (it's free, of course) via iTunes, click here. Please leave comments if you like what you hear.

Want to donate to the show and help with production costs, server fees, etc.? Click on the "Make a Donation" button to the left of this blog.

Special thanks to Brad Daane and Mark Cummins for providing the original music in this episode.

Tassoula has reviews, musings and movie-related product links at Tassoula's Movie Review Blog.

Reviews and/or notes of every movie Michael sees can be found at his MichaelVox website.

Feedback is always welcome - you may leave comments here or e-mail the hosts at cinebanter@gmail.com.

We hope you enjoy the show!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

SIFF Sighting: GREASE SING-A-LONG (musical; USA)

A special treat at the recent GREASE SING-A-LONG in Seattle was the presence of one of the original Pink Ladies—Dinah Manoff (pictured here, with her son Oliver during the Q & A), who played Marty Maraschino in the classic hit.

After making a comment about how much older she felt watching her younger self on-screen, an audience member shouted out "You're beautiful!" She responded by saying, "I'm really glad I came today."

Most folks asked questions about what went on behind the scenes, hinting at true-life romances. Dinah claimed that John (Travolta) and Olivia (Newton-John) were most likely just a rumor, but she was pretty sure Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) was "active."

She also remarked about how nervous she was auditioning for the film because it was primarily a dance tryout (she never actually had to sing until she already had the part), and she originally read for the role of Frenchie.

All in all, the showing was a whole lot of fun, complete with fans dressed like many of the cast members, the boys singing the boy parts and the girls singing the girl parts. The subtitles/karaoke-like lyrics are presented so humorously, even parts that weren't intended to be funny become at least a little bit amusing. What a wonderful celebration of a film that never gets old!

The GREASE SING-A-LONG screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

SIFF SIGHTING: THIS WAY OF LIFE (documentary; New Zealand)

Peter and Colleen Karena had very different upbringings: Colleen was part of a family that listened to her opinions, valued her perspectives and taught her to talk things through; Peter was raised in a sort of dictatorship with his resentful stepfather at the helm. Now as a married couple in rural New Zealand, they resolve to offer their many children a utopian childhood, complete with wild horses (the family business), church on Sundays and two parents completely devoted to them.

This Way of Life offers a glimpse of modern people who have chosen to live simply as our great-great-great grandparents may have. They live off the land, kill their food (strictly for nourishment; not for sport) and pitch in collectively to complete the cooking and cleaning chores. Dad also works to make money to pay their taxes. Respect for one another, the land and the animals they share the space with is emphasized and quite frankly, they just seem like really, really good people.

But Peter's stepfather, the owner of the home and land they live upon (though they've paid the mortgage for years, apparently) thinks otherwise. Bitter because Peter challenged his authority as a youth, this old curmudgeon sells the house out from underneath them (they didn't make it to the auction house in time to bid) and then makes their lives a living hell in the months that follow. All of this is captured brilliantly and beautifully by director Thomas Burstyn.

During this tumultuous time, Colleen has another baby (a daughter, Salem) and the family becomes technically homeless. But do they let it break their spirit? Absolutely not. And that's why this film is so inspiring—though I may never desire to live life as primitively as this family chooses to, I have a great admiration for the values they're teaching their children.

They lead by example: they do good things by being good people and sticking by one another no matter what life throws their way. If only everyone had this presence and peace of mind, the world would be a better place.

THIS WAY OF LIFE screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

SIFF Sighting: MONOGAMY (drama; USA)

The film Monogamy is less about a commitment of sex between two people and more about individuals who can't seem to function in a relationship.

Nat (Rashida Jones) and Theo (Chris Messina) are a New York couple nervously approaching their wedding day. Theo is frustrated because Nat never wants to make love; Nat is frustrated because when she contracts a staph infection, Theo doesn't visit her at the hospital very often.

We're not sure why Nat isn't in the mood for love, but Theo's excuse for being a bad partner lies in his work: acting as a hired 'surveillance' photographer, who is responsible for showing up at agreed-upon locations to capture his employers on camera doing whatever they want to be doing.

His current client, a fake blond with a female empowerment tattoo and a wedding ring, coaxes him to different locations to witness her playing out her sexual fantasies: masturbating in a public park; performing oral sex on a man in a car; having intercourse under the Brooklyn Bridge. She is very nonchalant about the process, which only intrigues her photographer more.

When Nat observes one of the photos on Theo's computer, he does the right thing by telling her the truth of what's going on and she seems okay with it. However, when Nat begins to mention her doctor (who pays more attention to her than her fiancé) too much, Theo is clearly bothered.

The problem with the film isn't the actors (they're both solid) or the cinematography (Brooklyn looks great), it's the writing. The characters are so forgettable and unlikeable, the audience is left with no one to root for.

Furthermore, so many of the details are left open to interpretation we lose interest trying to decipher them. A thriller this film is not.

MONOGAMY screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SIFF Sighting: UPPERDOG (drama; Norway)

Axel (Hermann Sabado) and Anne (Birgitte Victoria Svendsen) are a brother and sister of Asian heritage, adopted by separate Norwegian parents. Axel is the younger of the two, and has no conscious memories of his past; Anne is older and remembers him, and their life with the mother they shared.

Anne is a working class, sweet individual who enjoys a modest life. Axel has enjoyed a privileged upbringing and has the spoiled attitude to show for it. He entraps his current girlfriend by sending a man to cheat with her (she complies), then uses his "grief" over losing her as an excuse to move back in with his wealthy parents and do... nothing. Well, except for the maid.

The maid his parents have hired, Maria (Agnieszka Grochowska) is a feisty, gorgeous girl from Poland, earning money to send back to the son she left behind. Despite Axel's awful treatment of her, she falls in love with him and realizes from a picture on the wall that he is the long-lost brother of her roommate and friend Anne. When she attempts to reunite the two, she at first fails, but when Anne learns of how close she's become with Axel, she reconsiders and agrees to a reunion.

This is all incredibly compelling (and well-acted), but what slows the film down is the romance that Anne enters into with Per (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen), a soldier back from the war who is fighting his own demons from the past. He has the potential to be the most complex of the characters, but unfortunately falls short, leaving us to wonder why Anne is so smitten with him.

In a profound way, the film communicates how deeply we can be affected by things that happened to us months or even years ago. How our day-to-day life is altered by how we view our identity, and why resolution and healing are so critical to our personal growth.

UPPERDOG screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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Monday, June 07, 2010

It's ONDINE for Cinebanter #91

Michael and Tassoula will be seeing the new Colin Farrell flick ONDINE for their next show, which will air on June 21.

We hope you'll stay tuned in the meantime for more SIFF coverage through June 13!

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Never Say Die: Final Thoughts on a Weekend of Goonies


Coming together with fellow fans to celebrate a film anniversary is a unique experience.

Sure, it's fun to see folks get dressed up like their favorite characters, and of course it's cool to speak with celebrities (especially nice ones, like these), but what's more meaningful is the sense of community—no matter how silly it is—that one feels in the presence of those who share a love for a common piece of pop culture. In this case, often what made braving those long event lines bearable was trading GOONIES stories with strangers.

As an Oregon native who was the perfect age (9) when this film came out, I realize my sentimental attachment to it probably makes it greater for me than some, but to have hundreds of people converge on the same beachfront location 25 years later to celebrate it confirms that there is definitely something special about it.

On my final night in Astoria, I attended a late screening of the film and was delighted to see fans of all ages filling up the theater. There were folks my age, couples my parents' age and children who may have been seeing it for the first time (or at least seeing it on the big screen for the first time). When the lights went down after the pre-show, which was devoid of any trailers or commercials, a child shouted out "Never say die!" and the crowd cheered at the appearance of the pirate skeleton that starts the film.

It's so comforting to know that The Goonies live on in our hearts.




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GOONIES 25th Anniversary Press Conference

As you can see from the video, even those of us with press passes on were not allowed to film the Cast Meet and Greet on Day 1, which featured Joe "Joey Pants" Pantoliano, Jeff Cohen and Curtis Hanson.



So, what went on after the we turned our cameras off? Lots and lots of questions! Some good; others more reminiscent of the fictional Chris Farley Show on SNL (e.g. "Where's Mouth?" note: Corey Feldman was scheduled to appear the next day, alongside Sean Astin), but all entertaining nonetheless.

Most of the queries were for Jeff Cohen, who played "Chunk" and is an all-grown-up handsome—and slim—thirtysomething these days. Instead of remaining an actor after his rise to fame in THE GOONIES, he took the unusual child-star route of going to college (at Berkeley), then developing a solid off-screen career. He now practices entertainment law.

Jeff shared many anecdotal stories about being a kid on the set of the hit film—the free Baby Ruths he consumed, the many flavors of ice cream he recited during a partly improvised scene with "Sloth," and how enticing the hidden pirate ship was for the boys (they weren't allowed to see it until it came sailing out on the beach in the final scene).

Apparently, the actors were encouraged to ad lib, so many of the memorable moments on-screen didn't come directly from the script (credit does go to the screenwriter, however, for the famous puking story Chunk tells).

One fan stood up and asked Jeff about a line that's been bugging her for years.

She asked: "When Sloth pulls you close, do you say 'You smell like fish heads or You smell like phys. ed'?"

The correct answer: "You smell like phys. ed!"

Also gracious and sincere with responses were Curtis Hanson (Elgin Perkins) and Joe Pantoliano (Francis Fratelli).

In response to the fan hysteria surrounding the film, Curtis replied "I don't understand it, but I love it!"

When asked about participating in specific stunts, Joe replied, "I never get to be there when the cool stuff happens to my characters. I wasn't even there when they cut Ralphie's head off!" That of course, was in reference to his landmark character in The Sopranos, where the killers place Ralphie's head in a bowling bag before disposing of it.

As for general questions, none of them seemed to think THE GOONIES 2 will actually get made, but would be happy if it did. Only a few of the cast members have kept in touch (Jeff and the actor who portrayed 'Data' remain close) and some have passed on (the actors who portrayed Sloth and Ma Fratelli). All remarked how much they loved Astoria and filming on the beautiful Oregon Coast.

Sure, it was disappointing that I couldn't be there the following day when two more of the actors were scheduled to join them, but I truly loved getting to share space with some of the folks who helped make my childhood happier.

~~~


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Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Debut of the Oregon Film Museum



Today marked the unveiling of the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria, on the site of the old County Jail that was featured in THE GOONIES.

Timed entries were necessary to handle the crowds, which began gathering shortly before the ceremony at 9:00 a.m. Fans dressed as characters posed with other fans during the jovial wait in the parking lot.

Once inside, the first room of the museum shares a tutorial of sorts that explains many of the jobs that go into creating a film. The explanation below uses MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO to describe the work of the Director of Photography.

The next rooms feature a wealth of GOONIES relics, such as the statue that Chunk breaks in one of the early scenes, Data's high-tech outfit and the Walsh family mailbox, autographed by many of the cast members.













They also have an area with stand-up figures of most of the GOONIES cast. I couldn't resist posing with Josh Brolin's likeness, but the room was so small, my photographer cut most of his face off.

All in all, the museum has room to grow (the upstairs is not yet open to the public), but for the amount of items it does have to show off (provided you're a GOONIES fan like me), it's worth the price of admission.

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Never Say Die: The Goonies Turns 25



A massive amount of fans have converged on Astoria, Oregon this weekend for the Goonies 25th Anniversary Event. Because the schedule is so chaotic (and the uncharacteristic sunny day has the streets packed with people) I've only got a few moments to create this post before I'm on to the next activity. Check back later tonight for my write-ups on the Meet and Greet with the cast, the opening of the Oregon Film Museum and more.

-Tassoula

~~~

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

SIFF Interview: Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing the documentary BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT at SIFF (read my review here), and wanted to know more about the subjects of the film. Luckily, directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker were kind enough to grant me an interview via e-mail since we weren't able to connect at the festival. Here is that exchange:

Tassoula Kokkoris: Tell us about how you came to know both groups of students and where the idea for the project originated.

Chad Walker: Dave pitched me this idea when we were on a long train ride into New York City. He told me about how he wanted to shoot another documentary in Africa. He had shot a documentary on the legacy of the child AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson in South Africa. I had shot documentaries in Boston a few years before and also wanted to shoot another.

Dave LaMattina: When I was with the kids in South Africa, I was struck by the sense of hope in a community where outsiders (like myself) felt there should be none. It was inspirational--I was looking to recapture that experience and initially, I turned to South Africa to look for a similar story.

CW: Funny enough, his mom said to him, "You know, there are kids in our own backyard who need help too." This got Dave searching around and he found the RESPECT Refugees Pen Pal program. This program links kids in the first world with refugee children in the third world. Dave contacted them and soon a pen pal program was implemented at the School for the Urban Environment (the school featured in our film).

DL: We were actually looking at a pre-existing RESPECT pen pal partnership between a school in the Congo and a school in New Jersey because it was close to our home in NY. I was sharing this with my wife, who is the teacher in the film, and she said that she wanted to have the program at her school, and that, if they did, we could feature her class in the film. It worked out great. We had nothing to do with the pairing of the schools or selecting the countries--RESPECT just happened to pick a school in Sierra Leone. I couldn't have picked Sierra Leone out on a map. Actually, I would've been hard-pressed to tell you it was in Africa.

CW: We went in and did some test shoots four years ago at UE and realized right away that these kids had stories and unique voices, and those stories and voices needed to be heard. We spent the next school year following four kids from UE. We also went to Sierra Leone for just under a month where we found another bunch of amazing kids, kids who were so hopeful, kids who had so much faith. It blew me away. In the film, Emmanuel, one of the children from Sierra Leone, talks about how [the place] where he lives has no electricity and no lights. Instead of waiting for someone to fix this, he is determined to be an electrician so he can bring light to his people. They were just absolutely amazing kids in both places and I feel lucky to have met them.

TK: How does the pen pal program work? How can such a poverty-stricken nation such as Sierra Leone afford the paper, postage, etc.?

CW: In a nutshell, the kids in Bed-Stuy will send a bunch of letters to Sierra Leone. The letters can get there as fast as within a couple of weeks, or it can take as long as a few months. Once the kids in Sierra Leone have the letters, the read them and write letters back. But, your question is a good one because this school in Sierra Leone can't afford postage, so the teachers at UE will wire money to Sierra Leone. Then the letters are sent back, and again, it can take them anywhere from a week to a few months to get back to UE in Bed-Stuy.

DL: Lately, we've been trying to send letters over with friends who are visiting Freetown. It's a great way to get updates on all the kids there AND expedite the process a bit!

TK: Do the children still keep in touch? How about the teachers?

CW: Sadly, most of the kids in BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT do not write to each other anymore. The kids from Sierra Leone have all moved on to different secondary schools, which are spread throughout the region, so getting the letters to all the different schools is pretty much impossible. However, the pen pal program is alive and well. Kids from UE are still writing to kids in Sierra Leone, just not the same kids as before.

DL: The teachers have stayed in touch. Again, communication can sometimes be spotty, but I know that my wife will write letters (and sometimes receive them) from her counterparts in Sierra Leone. I think it's been a pretty amazing experience for her. Chad and I also send letters to the kids--nothing major, just a little note to let them know that we think about them all the time. I also made a mixtape once--it was actually really fun to compile music that I thought they would like, but maybe hadn't heard.

TK: If other schools around the country want to get involved with the pen pal program, what should they do?

CW: The best thing to do to get a pen pal program started is to either visit our website: www.copperpotpictures.com/help.html
or visit:
www.respectrefugees.org

All the information to start a pen pal prgram can be found there.

TK: If viewers of the film wanted to donate money to the people of Sierra Leone, what programs/non-profit groups would you recommend they use to facilitate that?

CW: We have raised over $53,000 to build a new school in Sierra Leone and help create a library in Bed-Stuy. Obviously, the school in Sierra Leone needs replacing, but we were shocked to find that UE did not have a proper library. The best way to donate to either of these causes is to visit the Schools for Salone website: www.schoolsforsalone.org. This is the Seattle-based non-profit we have been working with. Here, you can make donations to sponsor your child's education, to help build a school in Sierra Leone or to help build the library in Bed-Stuy. When you donate, please make sure that you designate what the donation is for and make sure to put "Brownstones to Red Dirt" in the description field if you want to help the kids featured in our film.

DL: Just to add to that, we've already raised enough money for the school in Sierra Leone. We are simply waiting for the right piece of land to open up. The school will cater to nearly 400 primary school students. Once they graduate, however, they'll need school sponsors for their secondary school education. It only costs $250 a year to sponsor a kid's education--that money goes towards uniforms, books and even food. Often, even if a kid can afford to go to school, they have to drop out in order to work to make money so they can feed themselves. The sponsorship program that Schools for Salone has established takes that into account. They also make sure the kids keep their grades up!

TK: Do you have any updates on the children featured in the film? Where are they now?

CW: The kids from Bed-Stuy are now 8th graders. They are so big now! They are all doing well. The kids in Sierra Leone are also doing well, however we have not had a chance to see them since we left Sierra Leone two years ago. We do hope to go back once construction on the new school begins.

DL: It's crazy to see how big they are. I know that makes us sound like old-timers, but it's true! I'm not a big guy and a couple of them are definitely taller than I am. They're all applying to different high schools throughout New York. I can't wait to see where they end up. We've spoken with the headmistress in Salone a lot and she always says that the kids are doing very well--for a while, some of the kids didn't have the money to take their exams, so they couldn't go on to secondary school. I'm happy to report the kids featured in the film now have sponsors and they're all diligently working towards completing secondary school.

TK: Are there any plans to do a follow-up piece with the same groups of students?

CW: As of now there is no "sequel" planned; however, when we go back to Sierra Leone for the construction of the new school we are definitely going to bring our cameras and document the whole thing. Maybe it will be a special feature on the DVD!

TK: What will your next film project be?

CW: Unfortunately, we cannot announce our next project just yet. But we do have a new project we are working on that we are very excited about and can't wait to make it public!

DL: Be sure to follow us on all the social media channels out there--Facebook, Twitter and anything else that pops up--we'll definitely update those areas with any news about this project or the next one. Also, if you check out our website, www.brownstonestoreddirt.com, you can sign up for our mailing list where we'll announce additional screenings and any new spertaining to BROWNSTONES or future Copper Pot Pictures' projects. We promise not to spam!

BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

SIFF Sighting: THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS (documentary; New Zealand)

Linda and Jools Topp are sisters—musical, lesbian sisters to be exact; but that's only part of their charm. In this lighthearted biographical documentary, The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, we trace the roots of Jools and Linda back to their humble-yet-proper upbringing in New Zealand.

As told by their business associates, parents and partners, it appears the girls were always entertainers. Born with a gift for song and an incredible sense of humor, the sisters developed a series of characters based on types of people they knew and performed songs and skits as if they were them. What resulted was a comedic attack complete with costumes, guitars and audience participation.

In addition to becoming popular entertainers, they also became active in Kiwi politics, leading the fight for gay and lesbian rights. Amidst all of the injustices that come with declaring oneself homosexual, these two ladies approach their lifestyle with the same refreshing joy and positive energy that they bring to their shows.

It's also important to note that they are not unlike millions of other twins who seem to have an undeniable bond that makes them want to spend time together. Aside from working as a pair, the two live together, with their respective partners, under one roof. As they describe in the film, if anyone is going to come after either of them, they should be forewarned that they are coming for two.

All in all, it's a pleasant journey through the lives of two driven women who are living life to the fullest, using their talents to create joy for themselves and thousands of others. What I appreciated most about this piece was its ability to convince me that, yes, sometimes nice girls do finish first.

The Top Twins: Untouchable Girls screened at the 36th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

~~~

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