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Showing posts from 2012

The Central Park Five by Ken Burns

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By Moira Sullivan



In 1989 a white woman was brutally assaulted and raped while jogging in Central Park.  Five teenage African American were arrested and charged with the crime.  They were picked up for being among a street gang of about 25 young black and brown men that had assaulted joggers and pedestrians in the park that night in a violent male ritual called “wilding”. 
The five teens appear in the documentary –Antron McCray (who chose to only use his voice to protect his anonymity), Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam. 
The crime received tremendous media attention, and the investigation seized the teens and tried to piece the story together and make it fit with the presence of the young men in the park.
The accused were racially profiled and upon conviction spent time in prison from 6 to 13 years despite conflicting testimony and lack of DNA evidence. In testimony the teenagers admitted to the crime but later said they were tricked, coerced and just wa…

WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

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By Moira Sullivan
We seldom hear about heroic women in film who are superheroes, even though there are countless examples, such as Lucy Lawless as Xena Warrior Princess, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil and what comes to mind most often --- Wonder Woman.

Kristy Guevara-Flanagan looks at this phenomena in WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and wonders why there are not more. To answer this question she traces the origin of the comic book in the late 30’s and the great depression when people needed heroes.
Feminist Gloria Steinem, who is interviewed in the documentary, declares that Wonder Woman was the only game in town. And she is the first , and has survived 70 years. In 1941 William Moulton Marston created an Amazon princess goddess for a comic book company and Wonder Woman became an overnight success. In fact she became so natural that it was not unusual to envision that within a 100 years, a matriarchy would evolve who d…

Holy Motors: The Death of Identity

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By Moira Sullivan

Holy Motors was presented in the official selection at Cannes in May, and was probably the most innovative film in the competition. It caused a lot of discussion and was loved by those who appreciate art cinema and made those expecting a film that follows the conventions of classical narratives uncomfortable.  However the unusual film that focuses on identity is a cinematic rarity.

Leos Carax' dystopia is set in Paris and is about a man whose everyday job involves acting out the various identities of a variety of people. In the initial scene morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), is a middle-aged businessman, picked up in a white stretch limo. He lives in a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his second job. In a traditional narrative since the setting is established we would be pulled into the identity of the characters and lifestyle of our lead.

The businessman turns out to be one role, and being a mid…

Skyfall: Is Bond a Relic of the Cold War?

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By Moira Sullivan

Judi Dench called James Bond  a “misogynist dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold war” – in her debut opposite Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in GoldenEye. In Skyfall this antagonism continues. According to "M", “orphaned children make the best agents”, and in this film she winds up becoming more of a maternal symbol than ever. Not exactly what you expected but this is Judi Dench’s last Bond film.
Sam Mendes is the mastermind behind Skyfall who has crafted a brilliantly entertaining film. In the opening scene James Bond is in hot pursuit of a French rogue named Patrice (Ola Rapace). The  M16 agent Eve played by Naomi Harris is ordered by M to take aim at Patrice even while he struggles with Bond on the top of a moving train. The rogue gets away and Bond takes a bullet. Later we learn that Patrice works for a master hacker who sets off bombs triggered by remote programming. M is targeted and the rest of the targets are on a microchip.  Acquiring it pits Bond against Patrice…

Ghostbusters relived in 2012

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By Moira Sullivan




Twenty-eight years ago, a New York tale of ghouls and goblins infiltrating and haunting libraries, courtrooms, buses and the subway became one of the most beloved films in modern movie history. Made on a budget of $32 million it has grossed 10 times over that worldwide and was nominated for two Oscars for special effects and best song -- the film is Ghostbusters. There are so many things I like about this film, that I find myself watching it about four times a year. On Halloween, I’ll watch it once more. First of all some of the "Saturday Night Live" talent is in this: Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, and Dan Aykroyd , co writer of the film. Sigourney Weaver did Ripley and Zuul skits for SNL—Ripley being her role in Alien, and Zuul from Ghostbusters, the demigod and servant to the Sumerian shape shifter Gozer the Gozerian, the destructor, played by Serbian model Slavitza Jovan.

The story of Ghostbusters begins with three scientists –more on the sociopathic side - th…

Lisa Ohlin's chronicles Swedish anti-Semitism in 'Simon and the Oaks'

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By Moira Sullivan
Children in Swedish films are known for being teachers to their parents. These films are not made for the youth market but for all ages. Simon and the Oaks is such a film, based on a novel by the Swedish writer Marianne Fredrikssonand filmed by the Swedish director Lisa Ohlin. As in other novels by Frederiksson, the film is about friendship and religious ties.  The film follows two young boys and their families during the outbreak of WW2 and the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden. Although the Germans didn’t occupy Sweden during the war, there was an arrangement made in which German soldiers were allowed to travel in trains through Sweden to occupied Norway. Jews in Norway were deported to Germany and many Swedes gave safe harbor to some of them. But Sweden thought Germany was going to win the war and their position wasn’t totally neutral including supplying Germany with iron ore for weapons.
Simon meets Isak at a private school in Göteborg, the son of a successful Swedi…

San Francisco Iranian Film Festival

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By Moira Sullivan


The fifth annual Iranian Film Festivalwas held at the San Francisco Art Institute September 8-9 in a two days celebration of Iranian cinema. Special guest of honor was the film composer Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh who did the film score for several films with, including one of his best-known scores for, 'Dash Akol' (1971). The film screened in honor of his visit. Monfaredzadeh now lives in Sweden.
'Dash Akol' is based on a short story by Sadegh Hedayat, the story of a man (Behrouz Vossoughi) from Shiraz who falls in love with Marjan (Mary Apick), the daughter of the late Haji Samad. Akol became the executor of Samad's estate on his deathbed. One day someone asks for Marjan's hand in marriage. Out of honor Dash Akol arranges this. He is challenged to a duel by the town bully, and during the passion play of Imam Hussain, he is mortally wounded.Later he sends Marjan a parrot that he has taught to speak his declaration of love, an obsession that kille…

Unforgivable

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By Moira Sullivan Unforgiveable is a film by André Téchiné that was featured in the director’s fortnight of last year’s Cannes Film Festival and selected for this year’s Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco.
The film title in French is The Unpardonable, yet all of the excesses of the film’s characters are flawed but far from unpardonable. Set in Venice, there are some beautiful scenes filmed over a period of four seasons. Remarkably the film is shot nearly devoid of tourists, which flock to the city in droves all year round. 
The famous retired crime writer Francis played by Andre Dessolier wants to rent an apartment in Venice from a French real estate agent, Judith, played by Carole Bouquet.She shows him a rental home on the tiny island of Sant’Erasmo, which is about a half an hour from Venice by boat in the middle of the lagoon. It is an island I have stayed on when attending the Venice Film Festival and just as in the film, the mosquitoes and the infrequent vaporetto boats to a…

Dark Horse

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By Moira Sullivan












Dark Horse by Todd Solondz premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and is now in San Francisco. The film is enjoying a new romp at the theatres and it’s worth a visit to check out Solondz' latest creation. This is one of his upbeat movies compared with his previous somber tales about dysfunctional families even though this film is riddled with characters that are indeed dysfunctional. First there is Abe, brilliantly played by Jordan Gelber, a 30 + man who is the dark horse of the family, who lives at home with his parents played by Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken and who works in his father's business. Abe is a very unhappy man who was unable to strike out on his own and remained at home unlike his successful brother Richard, played by Justin Bartha, a doctor, who he felt wronged by growing up because he was just the opposite of him –successful and his father's favorite.  Abe’s life takes a turn for the better when he meets Miranda, played by Sel…

Farewell My Queen

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By Moira Sullivan

In time for national independence day in France commemorating July 14, 1789 after the storming of the Bastille prison, is a new film about the events leading to the execution of Marie Antoinette directed by veteran filmmaker Benoît Jacquot.  

This story is about the relationship of Marie Antoinette with her reader in the final three days of the Versailles court. Diane Kruger plays Antoinette and the reader Sidonie Laborde is played by Léa Seydoux. The film begins with Sidonie being called by the queen to read  plays for her. On the way, Sidonie passes the haughty Duchess de Polignac, played by Virginie Leydoyen.  The regal airs of the Duchess surpass those of the queen, who is amazingly tender and affectionate to her servant and attends to her mosquito bites with rose water. At the same time Sidonie is a quietly effective observer of her queen and can be seen eavesdropping or scrutinizing the increasing tension at court prior to and following the storming of the Bas…

Mississippi I Am

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By Moira Sullivan

When Constance Millen asked to bring her same sex partner to her high school prom in Mississippi in 2010 she was told no. She contacted the "Safe Schools Coalition" in her state and brought up a discrimination complaint.  The high school was ordered to explain their policy and allow Millen to bring her date. Rather than do that, the high school cancelled the prom.

The incident brought Mississippi to national attention, a state that Lance Bass, former member of 'N' Synch was tired of seeing regarded as backwards. Bass came out in 2006 and received flack in his home state despite his popularity nationwide. He decided to produce Mississippi I Am, after hearing about Constance Millen, - a high quality documentary directed by Katherine Linton, and Harriet Hirshorn. They set out to interview the young gay people of Mississippi who became activists in order to change the attitudes of discrimination of gays in their state. According to the documentary ther…

Queer Women of Color 8 Audience Award to Zoila Avilés

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By Moira Sullivan


On the final day of the recent Queer Women of Color Festival (QWOCMAP), which closed on June 10 at the YBCA, awarded the audience award to "Corazón de Melón!" by Zoila Avilés.  The film warmly received by the audience is a humorous film about two women who meet online and fall in love on opposite sides of the Mexican border. The relationship is not without complications because one of the women is not out to her teenage children. The film was part of the selection of films in the festival entitled " I Do, and I Don't" about gay marriage.

The last program of the 8th QWOCMAP festival featured an exceptional program of documentaries with a broad range ranch of subjects.

In "Crossing Barriers: To Re-Gay Ourselves" (Carolina Reyes, 2012) interviews young queer women of color speaking up about coming out to their families, love, life and their identities.

"Kai Green made It Gets Messy in Here" (, 2011) as part of her masters pr…

Cannes Report 2: Dracula in 3D!

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By Moira Sullivan
After seven days of the Cannes Film Festival, the party for the celebration of cinema‘s best showcase of new cinema shows no sign of letting up. The real Cannes is nothing like what you find on line. For starters, the red carpet is short, there is a small space around you and although there are a hundred photographers, it doesn’t feel like that. I was able to experience this first hand as a member of the Queer palm jury this year, a parallel but independent section of the festival. Being on the jury has its advantages. For example, last night I was given a Red carpet ticket for Miike Takeshi's surprise screening - narrative based on a manga about a young boy with a scar on his head, worse than Harry Potter. Ai To Makato, a youth tale considered a romantic comedy.
On May 20th I climbed the red carpet also to acknowledge a beautiful film about a couple in their eighties who have been music teachers: Love by Michael Haneke. One day Anna played by Emmanuelle Riva sudde…

Cannes Report - Holy Motors, Paperboy and Rust & Bone

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By Moira Sullivan

Holy Motors, a film presented in the official selection yesterday at Cannes, is probably in a class of its own and has caused a lot of discussion.  It does need to be discussed, however, and maybe it is the best thing to happen to the Cannes Film Festival competition this year. It is beyond the character-driven narratives of the official selection and is a cinematic rarity.


Leos Carax' dystopia set in Paris is about a man whose job is assuming many identities and playing many roles each day. In the morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a middle aged businessman, is picked up in a stretch limo. He leaves a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his first job. Some of the assignments include going to the Père-Lachaise cemetery where there is a photo shoot of a beautiful model (played by Eva Mendes). Monsieur Oscar now wears a red wig and has one false eye and grotesque fingernails. He is barefoot and walks…

Cannes Opens with Moonrise Kingdom

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By Moira Sullivan


What you can hear in the background is the music from a bar in one of the many Cannes parties being given and you can also hear the waves from the Mediterranean washing up on the shore. I was just at a party for one of the publicists, who just had a birthday. This publicist is dealing with several films for the festival including a new film by Jackie Chan. 
For 12 days the city of Cannes is an inferno of media, fans, celebrities and press. It’s hard to believe that over 4000 media can crowd into the facilities at the Palais, but in fact they do, somehow. For some days, some are here and leave, and new ones come.  There is a great line up of films, and I am saving some of my energy for Dario Argento’s Dracula in 3D that will be screened on May 20, a special favorite. But everything has to begin somewhere.
Today I had the privilege of seeing Tilda Swinton. The first day of the Cannes Film Festival featured the opening film Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. It started off…

Gelso d' Oro to Silenced at Far East Film Festival14, Udine

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By Moira Sullivan

The Gelso d’Oro , the public prize for the best film at the Far East Film Festival (FEFF14 - April 20-27) went to South Korea’s courtroom-drama Silenced by HWANG Dong-hyuk, 2011. The tough and true story of the abuse of hearing appeared children that enraged the Korean public was also voted best picture by Black Dragon accredited film critics at the festival.
Second place, went to the Taiwanese road movie to the highest point in Tibet. One Mile Above, from Taiwan by Jiayi Du.
The Korean war drama The Front Line won the bronze medal. Just before the armistice is signed between North and South Korea in the 50s the soldiers engage in one final and unnecessary battle with each other.
MYmovies.itchose the Japanese farce about bathhouses in ancient Rome and modern Japan Thermae Romae, which was presented in Udine as a world premiere.
This year Hong Kong filmmaker Johnny To won the coveted "Lifetime Achievement Award". The 57 year old filmmaker presented his latest fi…

Far East Film Festival 14, Udine Italy, Report 1

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By Moira Sullivan 
The Korean drama Sunny was featured on the opening day of the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy, which runs from April 20-28. A renowned and excellent extravaganza of popular films from Asia, this festival is now in its 14th edition. The title of the film comes from the hit single "Sunny" (performed by Bonie M, and written by songwriter Bobby Hebb - 1966). The story is about a seven-member girl gang who meet years later when one from the group is hospitalized with a grave illness. The film revisits the first day of school for Na-Mi who hails from a small town in the Jeolla province and moves to the capital city Seoul.  Na-Mi quickly makes friends with six other young women who come to her rescue from classmates who otherwise would have bullied her for her dialect. Na-Mi quickly fits in with the gang comprised of the excellent fighter Choon-Hwa, heavysetJang-Mi, and Jin-Hee - skilled in the use of profane language, the literary Geum-Ok, future Ms Korea Bok…