As you peruse Rotten Tomatoes, it can be easy to forget that there are actual people behind those numbers. These people have a job that sounds great to the common moviegoer. However, this shiny surface hides a plethora of complexities. Sure, they watch and talk about movies for a living, but film criticism requires dedication and hard work, in a field that is drastically different from when Siskel & Ebert first started using their thumbs. I sat down with Monica Castillo, a freelance film critic who has written for The Phoenix (RIP), DigBoston, Paste Magazine, Bitch Magazine, serves as co-host of Film Geek Radio’s “Cinema Fix” podcast, and is co-founder and current co-chair of The Boston Online Film Critics Association (BOFCA), to talk about film criticism, Boston and the evolving film scene.
This GREAT Q&A with the amazing Wayne White and director Neil Berkeley followed the screening of the film Beauty is Embarassing at IFFBoston 2012. White goes into what it was like being filmed, and talks about collaboration and his philosophies on art.
What happen’s when you go from having anything, to not being able to afford it?
It’s easy to look at Lauren Greenfield’s documentary the The Queen of Versailles and be shocked, even disgusted at the wealth of David and Jackie Siegel. But that’s not what the film is about. Not once did I feel that Greenfield was mocking, or asking the audience to laugh at her subjects. What she was doing was painting an elaborate, detailed portrait of an extremely wealthy family. Queen of Versailles is the anti-Real Housewives of wherever – rather than romanticizing their position in life, the film does a really great job of showing them us as they are. This isn’t a caricature, it’s definitely the real deal.
The film starts as David and Jackie Siegel are in the midst of planning and designing the largest single-family home in America. Both came from humble beginnings, and in the 70s and 80s, Siegel built his empire, Westgate, a timeshare company. Jackie, his fourth wife, was former Miss Florida, and married David in the mid 90s. Together, the couple has 7 children, and have taken on an 8th, Jackie’s niece.
The home, a merger of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris hotel in Vegas, is a 90,000 square foot structure that is the definition of luxury. The plans for the finished house have marble everywhere, gold plating, paintings, antiques, and 30 bathrooms.
The film turns from a story about living in luxury to a riches to [almost] rags tale – following the completion of the Planet Hollywood Westgate towers in Las Vegas, the bottom falls from underneath them as the sub-prime mortgage based timeshare business falls apart along with the rest of the economy.
Greenfield followed the Siegel family for two years, and it seemed like nothing was denied as far as access goes. There’s a lot of stuff that could be fairly embarrassing for the family, moments like Jackie asking what the name of her driver is while renting a car from Hertz. With limited staff at their home, the house becomes overrun with dog feces and clutter.
Should we feel bad for the Siegel’s? No, because I don’t believe that was Greenfield’s intention either. What we have here is an amazing record of just how the economic downfall affected even the most well off family. What’s it like for the super rich to have to cut back? Just as much a culture shock as it’d be for a middle class family to cut back. Just super amplified. To borrow a quote from a friend who also saw the film, if I’m ever that rich, I’ll be sure to have a rainy day fund.
Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film is a love letter to instant photography. What seems to have started as an extended eulogy to the medium, the film evolves from various Polaroid Photographers talking about their love for Polaroid, to a chronicle of the efforts to save it from fading away forever.
Interviewing Polaroid artists, and former employees of the company, we get a great sense of the passion these people had for Polaroid and their cameras. Rather than constantly cutting between various voices, director Grant Hamilton stays with each interviewee, giving every single person ample time to reflect on, when they started using it, why they love it, and how the medium disappearing effects them.
The drawback to telling the story this way, many of the speakers echo/repeat the thoughts of others. But it is clear that the film began as a collection of voices. But as Hamilton revealed during the IFFBoston Q&A, as the closing of the plants neared, the “Impossible Project,” began. He does an amazing job capturing the grass-root efforts to keep the format alive. People truly working against all odds, all to save their format of choice.
We learn quite a bit about Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid instant photography. I would have loved to learn more about the company and its corporate history, but again, the film is more about the enthusiasts and artists that love Polaroid photography.
I really enjoyed the film, it’s always amazing to see how passionate people are about the photo-chemical process. Polaroid being an even more unique part of that tangible, printed photo world.
If you’re a fan of Polaroid, or even someone who has a love of photography, and preservation of the photo-chemical way – you will definitely enjoy this love letter to an art that almost went away.
The recent closure of a sardine canning factory has brought Gouldsboro, a small coastal town in Maine, to a total standstill. Made up of mostly 70-year olds, the laid off residents of the town are eager to get back to work. So when Italian immigrant Antoniio Bussone arrives from Boston looking to open a new lobster processing plant, most of the local labor welcomes him with open arms.
The film Downeast is about finding hope, a man who’s willing to risk it all to succeed, and a generation that still gives a 110%. Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin.
The film screens at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Sunday, April 29th, at 12:15pm. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.
Shot entirely in Massachusetts, it tells the story of Paul Harris, a research scientist who works on the outskirts of Boston. After a weekend tryst with a co-worker, his unreciprocated desires gradually turn into an infatuation.
The film keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, and is certainly one of the not-to-miss movies of the festival.
Rubberneck screens at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Tuesday, May 1st, at 9:30pm at the Coolidge Corner Theater. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.
With appearances by Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Richard Kind – Variety says that the film “Perfectly conveys the creative insanity unleashed while revealing the quasi-miraculous process, attractively lensed, dynamically edited.”
The film looks really fun, and really interesting, and is directed by Elisabeth Sperling and Trish Dalton.
The film screens at the Independent Film Festival of Boston on Saturday, April 28th at 4:30pm at the Brattle Theater. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.
Everyone remembers Polaroid cameras vividly. I remember as a kid being amazed at this strange technology that produces a printed picture magically in front of your eyes. But, the advent of digital cameras completely tore the company apart, rather than the instant gratification of a printed photo, you now have the instant gratification of a digital screen.
TIME ZERO: The Last Year of Polaroid Film premieres at the 2012 Independent Film Festival of Boston – a mere 3 miles from Polaroid’s former headquarters. The documentary chronicles the death, and rebirth, of Polaroid instant film. After documenting the day when Polaroid announced it would cease production of instant film, the film shares the stories of several photographers, including film maker John Waters as they recount hearing the news, and follows the efforts of a small team who tried to keep instant photography alive.
The film, directed by Grant Hamilton, looks incredibly nostalgic, and extremely fascinating.
The film screens at IFFBoston at the Somerville Theater, Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 12:30pm. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.
The film uses Plimpton’s own voice, along with stories from friends, family, and contemporaries to paint a colorful picture of richly filled life.
Plimpton of course co-founded The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines in history and is known for his participatory journalism – highlighted by books like Paper Lion (when George played quarterback for the Detroit Lions).
The IFFBoston screening is a preview screening, and has sold out! However, there rush tickets still available (IFFBoston holds a number of seats for pass holders, but 15 minutes before the show, they release any empty seats to the rush line). Make sure to show up well before the screening to try to get in. Lonelyreviewer will have a one-on-one interview with the filmmakers during the festival, so make sure to check back for that!
Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself screens at IFFBoston at the Brattle Theater, Sunday, April 29th, at 5:30pm.
Ok, Good from director Daniel Martinco is a character study of an actor beginning to unravel. The teaser trailer features actor Paul Kaplan (Played by Hugo Armstrong) in what appears to be pulled from a series of “auditions,” saying his name over and over again – at the end, clearly expressing a bit of frustration.
The film is the story of Paul Kaplan, a typical LA actor, going to auditions, sending out headshots, taking movement class, and listening to motivational tapes in his car. Paul, struggles through a series of setbacks that pushes him closer to the edge.
Being in actor in LA is a constant flow of rejection, and as a sucker for narrative films that come of almost as cinema vérité that this one seems to be definitely peaks my interest.
The film had its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, and played in competition at the Atlanta Film Festival.
Ok, Good screens at IFFBoston at the Somerville Theater Saturday, April 28th, 2:15pm. Tickets can be purchased at iffboston.org.