This review, originally written in May 2019 has been reposted in Jan 2020 for the screening of the “Slay the Dragon” documentary at the NYC CineMatters Social Justice Film Festival. Please pardon the dated TV references, but the gerrymandering issue is more urgent than ever as we approach the 2020 elections.
Imagine Rain Man meets Humphrey Bogart and you’ve got the eccentric gumshoe character that Edward Norton plays in Motherless Brooklyn, a film he starred in as well as wrote, directed and produced and which has the prestigious Closing Night slot of the 2019 New York Film Festival. Norton adapted his film from Jonathan Letham’s 1999 novel of the same name, changing the book’s gritty 1999 New York setting to a painterly 1950’s New York setting – an impressively ambitious if dubious decision (on an indie budget).
Including Top Ten Broken-Marriage / Divorce Movies. So: Marriage Story, a stylish romantic comedy written and directed by Noah Baumbach with an all-star cast led by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and featuring top-notch talent such as Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Wallace Shawn, opened as the centerpiece of the 2019 New York Film Festival. Helen Highly Loathes this movie. I think perhaps I wouldn’t loathe it so much if everyone else wasn’t loving and lauding it so much. Sigh. Something about the gushing acceptance of this film into the “canon” of broken-marriage and/or divorce-themed movies creates a feeling of outrage in me – a feeling much deeper than any inspired by the self-consciously sentimental moments in the film.
Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig’s latest documentary, Coppers, is a disturbing, sad and very moving look at the long term effects of working as a police officer. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I was able to speak with the director about the film. “I drove a cab for 18 years and I hated cops,” Zweig told me over the phone while doing press at TIFF. “I always saw them as bullies. But when I met Gary I saw a tough guy who had been through a lot.”
Henry Glassie: Field Work, the latest film by acclaimed director Pat Collins (Song of Granite), recently had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It’s main subject is an American folklorist who has dedicated 50 years of his life to studying folk artists and their work. From sculptors in Brazil, to carpet weaver and ceramicists in Turkey, Collins’ film accompanies Glassie as he visits several countries to explore how each culture manifests its own standards of beauty and meaning through its artisans and craftspeople. I recently sat down with Collins and asked him about his film.
The world celebrated when Myanmar’s military government transferred power to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi after her landslide election in 2015. But how is political responsibility passed down in a country whose new democracy is founded on 50 years of dictatorship and entrenched ethnic discrimination? Karen Stokkendal Poulsen’s new film, On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship, shows the ways in which she has had to contend with an atmosphere of total distrust and collaborate with the same men who kept her under house arrest for a total of 15 years.