My thoughts on the world around me

Films You Need to See: Tokyo!

It’s important to follow independent and foreign films because they all contribute something to the wonderful world of cinema. Sometimes it’s an unknown actor who delivers a breakout performance (Audrey Tautou in “Amelie” comes to mind), or it’s a single scene that is forever ingrained in your memory (the shooting of Vincent Cassel’s character at the end of “La Haine”).

Most of these films, by their very nature, will never be a blockbuster hit. Since they do not cater to mass audiences, they possess the artistic freedom to be raw and unapologetic.They push the boundaries of filmmaking, and engage audiences in ways that a Hollywood-backed feature rarely would.

In this third installment, I have found other independent or foreign films that I feel are worthy of your time (and money). So here we go…

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February 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , | 1 Comment

Student Films from the Vancouver Film School

Succeeding in film is a difficult, often elusive goal. A film student’s experience is particularly intriguing because he/she may feel empowered by their boundless talent and exposure to cutting-edge technology, all while being constantly mired by the prospect of failure. That’s why I’d like to share with you a few of the projects going on at the Vancouver Film School. These are students with big talent and even bigger dreams.

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February 3, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , | Leave a comment

Films You Need to See: Earth, Good

Here are some more movies I think you should see.


Not sure if this is March of the Penguins revisited, but it looks like a great, great movie. I love nature films, anyway.


The struggle between good and evil has always fascinated me. Sometimes external circumstances force you to make difficult choices. When the time comes, will you make the right choice? Will you choose to be good?


This film is visually stunning.

Tokyo Sonata:

I love a good family drama. This film was at Cannes, too.

Blessed is the Match:

A heroic tale. There is always the hope that someone better than us, braver than us, will rescue us from what troubles us.


From the director of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” this type of film isn’t for everyone. The innovation behind a film like this, however, is something to be respected.

State of Play:

While any movie with Ben Affleck is an automatic red flag (Good Will Hunting excluded), I’m hoping that Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren will continue to have a good taste in movie selection. I’m betting against it, though.

The Last House on the Left:

While I’m not a terribly huge fan of horror movies, I did like the question this film asks: if someone hurt someone you love, what would you do? How far would you go? Those questions, at least from an artistic/dramatic perspective, intrigue me.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Project for the First Lady, Michelle Obama

At least in recent years, one of the roles of the first lady has been to increase awareness of certain women’s issues throughout the globe.

While I’m sure that Mrs. Obama already has an agenda for herself, there is an issue that I believe is worthy of her attention: widows in India. In The Forgotten Woman, the documentary tells the story of some of the 20 million Indian widows who are abandoned by their families and forced to live on the streets when their husbands die.

The trailer for “The Forgotten Woman”:

United States’ interests in the region of south Asia, namely India and Pakistan, are only increasing. How those relationships are handled in the coming years is imperative to the success of our foreign policy. Along with Secretary of State designate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presence, Mrs. Obama’s deft touch, as a woman and as a high-powered intellectual in her own right, may be an effective tool for furthering both women’s rights and U.S.-India relations.

Mrs. Obama, perhaps this issue should be on your agenda.

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Foreign Policy, Politics, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tom Cruise, Scientology and the Spectator (That Means You!)

Speaking of indoctrination (see previous post), this video highlights Tom Cruise’s views on Scientology, as well as his efforts to convert non-believers (“spectators”).

“Get those spectators either in the playing field or out of the arena…that’s how I feel about it.”

Tom, what happened to you?

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , | 1 Comment

Political Institutes and the Dystopian Future of Film

Films advancing political views are as old as films themselves.

In 1915, “The Birth of a Nation” provoked controversy by suggesting that the Ku Klux Klan restored order in the post-Civil War South, allegedly endangered by abolitionists, freedmen, and politicians from the North.

However, it is striking to learn that there are institutions that actively use films to advance a political ideology.

What is the Moving Picture Institute? From their “History” section:

Founded in 2005 by human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen, the Moving Picture Institute is unlike any other foundation dedicated to promoting the ideal of liberty. At MPI, we believe that film, more effectively than any other medium, can bring the idea of freedom to life. In keeping with that belief, we are working to ensure that film becomes a center of genuinely democratic art in the coming years. Our goal is to guarantee that film’s unique capacity to give shape to abstract principles—to make them move and breathe—is used to support and promote liberty. Toward that end, we fund films from development through post-production, support up-and-coming filmmakers, and serve as a high-level intern placement service.

Historically, the film industry has been largely unconcerned with developing a distinctive and nuanced portrait of deep-seated American values such as free speech, freedom of association, and the free enterprise system. Such values have been defined and defended almost exclusively in print and through oral argument. But as visual media become increasingly prevalent, we depend more heavily upon movies for our philosophical, moral, and social guidance. If the ideal of freedom is to endure—if it is to maintain its vitality and relevance in our society—it must find its way into film, our most vital, relevant, and far-reaching art form. Freedom must be seen to be believed.

If the masses truly are relying upon movies for guidance in these critical matters, then this may be the beginning of a very slippery slope within the film industry: what stops an institution, or even a government, from producing films that attempt to brainwash? While this may seem like a topic reserved solely for a science fiction novel, let us not underestimate the influential power of the motion picture.

The problem is that media, in recent years, have become battlegrounds for partisan politics. “Outfoxed” tackled this issue with respect to the news media:

This is not to say that the Moving Picture Institute’s films, which have a right-wing slant, are invalid. Here are two of them:

The foreseeable problem is an unnatural escalation of left- and right-wing films being produced — not unlike a nuclear arms race. Both sides of the political aisle would compete for your attention, your loyalty. For two hours, while fact blends with fiction, you become their social experiment.

Keep your eyes open, and be wary of the political propaganda. Films are likely the next frontier.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Media, Politics, TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Foreign Films (Maybe More) Show Hollywood’s a Bit Soft

Below are the five nominees for the Golden Globes Best Foreign Language Film. After seeing all five trailers, a couple issues came to mind:

(1) Why are these foreign language films not competing against the likes of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Frost/Nixon” for Best Picture contention? If my memory serves me correctly, “Il Postino” has been the only foreign film, at least in recent years, to be among the five nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. These films are, in my opinion, far more raw, intense, provocative, and ultimately more gratifying to a film lover. While there are exceptions (“Scent of a Woman” and “Brokeback Mountain” to name just a couple), I feel that terms like “grittiness” and “beautiful,” while commonplace among foreign films, are still not usually associated with Hollywood pictures.

My final thought is that Hollywood is much too safe; it focuses on the bottom line rather than on satiating our appetites as human beings.

(2) How was “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime” nominated over “Entre les Murs” (“The Class”)? “Entre les Murs” won the Palme d’Or (Best Picture) at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival, and it’s France’s official entry to the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film! Interesting…

Going back to the movie trailers, I’ve arranged them from worst to best based on my own personal preferences.

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (“I’ve Loved You So Long” – France):

I will say this about Kristin Scott Thomas: she’s perfect for this kind of role (the character who carries pain silently, or has a mysterious or troubled past). There is a melancholy look to her blue eyes, most emblazoned in my mind by the movie “The English Patient.”

Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick (“Everlasting Moments” – Sweden):

For other artistic works based on female liberation or empowerment (at least that’s what I got out of the trailer), I particularly find relevant Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (“The Baader Meinhof Complex” – Germany):

Gomorra (“Gomorrah” – Italy):

Vals Im Bashir (“Waltz With Bashir” – Israel):

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Wrestler…Mickey, You Surprised Me

I shouldn’t have judged a book by its cover.

I took one look at the “The Wrestler,” and I said, “this looks terrible.” I thought it was some B-movie with Triple-H or some other pretend wrestler. Boy, was I wrong.

I should have looked deeper and noticed that Darren Aronofsky was directing. With the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain, this film was at least worth giving a shot, right?

I should have looked deeper and realized that Mickey Rourke was basically playing himself. A man who had suffered from addiction, lost his career and was down on his luck. He, Mickey Rourke, who was once in the same acting school alongside Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Harvey Keitel. How did I overlook this film? Judging by Rourke’s speech after winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, I wasn’t the only one.

I dedicate this post, then, to “The Wrestler.”

The trailer:

Mickey Rourke (Golden Globes Best Actor in a Drama):

Bruce Springsteen – “The Wrestler” (Golden Globes Best Original Song):

I hope I made up for it.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yahoo!’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2009

Yahoo! Movies released its list of the most anticipated movies of 2009.

From that list, here are the ones I’d actually pay to watch:

Watchmen — I’ve been lucky with graphic-novels-turned-movies. I loved Sin City and 300. I haven’t seen The Spirit, but I’ve heard it’s terrible. Besides, I’m a big Billy Crudup fan.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — Maybe. The trailer does look good though.

Terminator Salvation — “Salvation” is what the Terminator series needs. Terminator 3 was a disaster. However, if Christian Bale can resurrect the Batman series, what makes you think he won’t deliver again in Terminator Salvation? I bet on Bale.

Public Enemies — No trailer available for it. However, I’ll sign up for any movie with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp.

Shutter Island — No trailer available for it. Right now, can you think of a better director-actor combo than Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio? I can’t.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch 10 Short Films from Sundance ’09 for FREE!

The latest from Sundance: You can watch 10 of their short films for FREE!

See it for yourself:

“10 selected shorts will make up Sundance 10/10, an online offering that offers a sampling of the Festival’s unique shorts filmmakers’ voices, all in one distinct platform – iTunes. With distribution services by Shorts International, both cinephiles and Internet nomads can download the 10 films as a free rental at the Sundance iTunes store beginning on January 15th and running through January 25th.”

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , | 1 Comment

Sundance Film Festival – Taking Chance

The Sundance Film Festival starts next week. To get you pumped, I thought I would throw in a trailer from one of the films making its premiere there, “Taking Chance.” It’ll premiere on Jan. 16, and will air on HBO in February. Hope you like it.

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This is the sort of story that is assumed, perhaps even an afterthought, yet seldom told. In the news, we hear of soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan just about every day. The first few times, I was shocked, angry, and saddened by the losses. Sadly, though, I must confess that I eventually became numb to the stories and statistics.

I am thankful for movies like this one. They remind you that behind the numbers, behind the media’s spin, these are still people with families who miss them. They fought and died for our country, and they deserve for us to remember them.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , | 1 Comment

Film Festival Fever!

As each of the film festivals come around, I will create an RSS feed to this blog. That way we’ll have up-to-the-minute updates on every feature, documentary, short, and animated film that premieres anywhere in the world.

Right now, there’s a feed for the Sundance Film Festival. Check it out!

See the list below for the other festivals that will be featured right here.


Mar del Plata International Film Festival (Nov. 5 – 15)


Melbourne International Film Festival (July – Aug.)

Sydney Film Festival (June 3 – 21)


Montreal World Film Festival (Aug. 27 – Sep. 7)

Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Oct.)

Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival (June)

Toronto International Film Festival (Sept.)


Cartagena International Film Festival (Feb. 27 – Mar. 7)


Cannes International Film Festival (May 13 – 24)


Berlin International Film Festival (Feb. 5 – 15)


Torino Film Festival (Nov.)

Venice Film Festival (Sept. 2 – 12)


Morelia International Film Festival (Oct.)

The Netherlands:

Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival (Nov.)


Krakow Film Festival (May 29 – June 4)


Huesca International Film Festival (June 4 – 13)


Locarno International Film Festival (Aug. 5 – 15)


Istanbul International Film Festival (Apr. 4 – 19)

United Kingdom:

Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 17 – 28 )

United States:

Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 8 – 21)

Los Angeles Film Festival (June 18 – 28 )

AFI Fest – Los Angeles International Film Festival (Nov.)

Miami International Film Festival (Mar. 6 – 15)

Tribeca Film Festival (Apr. 22 – May 3)

New York Film Festival (Sept. – Oct.)

Hamptons International Film Festival (Oct.)

Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 15 – 25)

Telluride Film Festival (Sept. 4 – 7)

San Francisco International Film Festival (Apr. 23 – May 7)

South by Southwest (Mar. 13 – 22)

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , | 1 Comment

A Speech for Then and Now

Over the past few days, I have blogged on matters that have troubled me deeply: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United States’ response in the Middle East, and the rampant corruption within our own political structure.

In moments like this, I turn to art. Somehow, art has a revitalizing, redeeming quality. It reminds me that there is goodness in the world, or that, at the very least, there is hope for it. It inspires me to participate; to lend a hand to those who need it, to smile at those who have seen darker days than I.

Here is Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator.” Though this is a film from 1940, it is as timely now as it was then.

“We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in…

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want…

Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind…

We think too much and feel too little…

More than machinery we need humanity…

More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness…

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Foreign Policy, Politics, Protests | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Slavery in the 21st Century

New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, traveled to Cambodia to report on the sex trafficking of girls into brothels.

Reading the article, I was reminded of a feature documentary film that will be coming out — “Call + Response.”

Here’s a fact: In 2007, slave traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.

Toward the end of Mr. Kristof’s article, he notes that President-Elect Obama will have a new tool to combat traffickers: the Wilbeforce Act. Just passed by Congress, the Act strengthens sanctions on countries that allow sex slavery to take place within their borders. For details on the Wilbeforce Act, please see this detailed summary.

As Mr. Kristof’s article states, Mr. Obama, an African-American, ought to be at the forefront of this abolitionist movement toward ending all 21st century forms of slavery. In doing so, he truly would become a transformative figure, a modern day Frederick Douglas.

“Never forget, justice is what love looks like in public.” — Dr. Cornel West

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Law, Media, Politics, Protests, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Films You Need to See: Waltz With Bashir

I’m beginning a new section titled, “Films You Need to See.” Whenever I find a potentially great film that’s foreign, still in production or post-production, produced independently, or for any other reason is just beyond America’s radar, I’ll post it here.

The first film below, “Waltz With Bashir,” is an animated documentary film that captures the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon War:

I don’t think it’s been released into American theaters yet. So, in the event that I hear of anything, I will be sure to post it here.

After watching “Waltz With Bashir,” I’m reminded of another animated, auto-biographical feature that everyone should see…”Persepolis”:

Here’s another foreign film that you must see – “The Class”:

Perhaps the French version of “Dangerous Minds” or “To Sir, With Love,” this film is a microcosm of present-day France, its school system, and the clash between cultures and attitudes.

When I saw Mark Ruffalo in “Zodiac,” my immediate thought was that here was a young actor in Hollywood with a bright future. Since then, I’ve decided to follow him no matter what project he pursues. His latest film, “What Doesn’t Kill You,” looks to be worth seeing:

Here’s a film currently out in theaters that you should see, “Slumdog Millionaire”:

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Art, Education, Film, Français | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

USC Cinema: Writing for Screen & TV

I’ve long considered going into graduate school for film/TV writing. While I took three screenwriting classes in college, I’ve always felt that I would need to attend a graduate writing program to truly hone my skills. So, I visited the website of the University of Southern California’s writing program, and I came across this video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I like that they’re exposing writers to different facets of the art of film making. Not only do they focus on writing, but they also look at the craft from a director’s and actor’s perspective.

It also serves as an inspiration to see and hear people who’ve “made it.” USC only admits roughly 30 writers per year, and being affiliated with such a prestigious program is an important, albeit not a necessary, step toward finding success as a writer in Hollywood.

At least with respect to me, this video served its purpose: I now find myself even more tempted to apply.

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Art, Education, Film, TV | , , , | 2 Comments