October 12, 2005

Mill Valley. Features.

Mill Valley Film Festival Following Hannah Eaves's overview of the highlights of the shorts programs at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Jonathan Marlow offers quick takes on several of the features. Jonathan has just been invited to be a panelist for the discussion, "Going Out to the Movies: Is the Romance Over?" Sunday, October 16.

What is the purpose of festival coverage? Is it to taunt folks that cannot otherwise attend with tales of films they might never see? How about a few words about one you will. See. Eventually? Followed by several more words about a few films that are scheduled for release. And a few that might. A few that won't. A few that shouldn't.

Shopgirl Shopgirl. Steve Martin is an intelligent man. I do not know this for a fact but I can presume as much from his work. This film, written by him (adapted from his novella), produced by him and starring him, is loosely based on him. "Inspired by real events," as it were, but definitely "not a documentary," as noted by Claire Danes at the screening. If that's what it takes, so be it. These various elements combine to make this one of the best American films of the year, mining the same territory as Lost in Translation to much better effect. It isn't imperative to mention much about the love triangle (between Martin, Jason Schwartzman and the perfectly cast Ms Danes) that forms the crux of the story. I would not wish to ruin its unfolding. It is imperative, however, that you see this movie. It will somewhat renew your faith that exceptional films can still be crafted in Los Angeles. Directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie).

Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad's follow-up to Rana's Wedding, deals with the preparations of two childhood friends who are chosen to become suicide bombers. It is a topic that, until now, is generally talked around rather than talked about. While the script has its weaknesses, straying didactically into dialogue that illustrates the futility of such actions, the perfs are exceptional throughout, particularly Kais Nashef as Said.

my tiny universe was the catalyst for my interview with Lesley Ann Warren last year. A surprisingly enjoyable ensemble comedy, if you can overcome the rather unbelievable set-up.

Need, Rob Nilsson's latest, number six of the 9@Night films, where principal photography on the final film in the series was just completed. Say what you will about his films (and I've heard the whole spectrum) but Nilsson is consistently creating the most singularly unique and compelling work in this country today.

The Californians had little to achieve after Jonathan Parker's first feature, the insufferable Bartleby. The bar was already low. With this film, the bar is even lower. Rarely has a cast been so squandered.

Mrs Henderson Presents, one of two Weinstein Company-distributed opening night films, was a wonderful selection. A slice of history, a bit of well-placed nudity and witty repartee between Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. The music fails to evoke the period but nearly everything else rings true.

Bee Season, however, one of two closing night films, is a double-plus-ungood selection. I've devoted enough negativity to this disappointing picture elsewhere; I'll spare you the repeat.

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Posted by dwhudson at October 12, 2005 11:46 AM