Tinsel & Tine's Look at :
The 27th Annual
PHILADELPHIA Film Festival
By Le Anne Lindsay, Editor
Every year I have an excuse as to why I didn't get to as many films as I wanted and intended during the festival, so I won't bore you with that story, let's just get into who I interviewed and what I saw and attended...
I'm going to highlight the last first CLICK HERE to jump below to my interview with director OLIVIA LICHTENSTEIN & producer NICK BEDU of the closing night film TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME
Day 1 (10/18) The Festival Opened with BEN IS BACK directed by PETER HEDGES who was in attendance. It stars Julia Roberts as a mother of four, two children from her first marriage and two from her current husband played by Courtney B. Vance, which doesn’t really impact the story which Hedges said he intended; that he likes to normalize things once considered noteworthy or taboo. Anyway, her son from her first marriage has been away in rehab, but shows up the day before Christmas Eve. As a mom she's ecstatic, but the rest of the family has severe reservations and without needing the use of flashbacks, it becomes truly obvious the hell this boy, played by the director’s son, Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Seas) has put this family through leading up to his rehab. It hits theaters Dec 7th.
Day 2 (10/19) GREEN BOOK (director Peter Farrelly | Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini | Production/Distribution Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Partners, Participant Media) In theaters November 16, 2018
Since I had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opened in October of 2016, I knew about the significance of the Green Book; but I'm assuming this will be the first time a lot of people my generation and younger will have knowledge of its existence and history.
Day 2 (10/19) WRITE WHEN YOU GET WORK (director Stacy Cochran)
Day 3 (10/20) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND a mocumentary, inside a biography, inside a documentary, inside an art film, inside Hollywood circa 1950-1970. The man, the myth, the legend ORSON WELLES co-wrote this film with his muse Croatian actress, writer, director Oja Kodar. Shooting began in 1970 and kept going off and on for 7 years by 1979 40-50 minutes of the film had been edited. But the project was beset by investor issues, one backer was Mehdi Bushehri, the brother-in-Law to the overthrown Shah of Iran, which through a series of complex events left The Other Side of the Wind on the other side of a Paris Vault for 40 years. During those ensuing years many legal battles took place between Oja Kodar, Orson Welles' daughter, Beatrice, Bushehri and I believe one other party. 1998 was a turning point in the film's release and settling of many legal battles. Before his death, Welles beseeched director/actor Peter Bogdanovich, who originally was to do an authorized Orson Welles biography, and played a major role in the movie, to complete The Other Side of the Wind should anything happen to him. So in the early 2000's he was set to direct the unfinished "masterpiece", but ultimately, Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, whose first jobs in the film business was as Production Manager on the film, got the full rights in 2014, finished editing in 2016. Netflix then came aboard, so that in 2018, just shy of 50 years in the making, The Other Side of the Wind got its premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival and a screening at the 27th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival.
This is just a small summation of the trajectory of "The Other Side of the Wind", there's so, so much more to tell about Orson Welles' later years while making this film, which brings us to THEY'LL LOVE ME WHEN I'M DEAD by famed documentarian Morgan Neville ("Won't You Be My Neighbor", "20 Ft from Stardom") his making of doc, screened back to back on #PFF27 Day 3. But really, all I needed to see was Neville's film, which shows enough of The Other Side of the Wind to satisfy your curiosity about that long awaited piece of cinema - as not only is it too avant garde for my taste, but once you become adjusted to the disjointed rhythm and mockumentary style and who all the player are and represent, it becomes quite tedious and tiresome. After 5 hours of Orson I couldn't wait to head to the Film Festival Lounge for a little R&R.
#PFF27 Enjoying The @dietzandwatson FESTIVAL LOUNGE @jollyspianobar greats snack lively movie discussions!#FilmFestival @gpfo_phillyfilm @AlliedPhilly @PhillyFilmSoc #movietalk #betweenscreenings #dietzandwatson #marvelousmoviemaven #PhillyCalendar pic.twitter.com/Qb6SzI3kD2— Tinsel & Tine (@tinseltine) October 21, 2018
Day 3 (10/20) WIDOWS (director Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave co-written by Gillian Flynn Gone Girl & Sharp Objects) a story about three women who must take up where their criminal husbands left off in order to survive after their deaths. Viola Davis is of course the driving force of the film, extremely no nonsense, she tells one of the other women at one point “We have a lot to do — crying isn’t on the list.”. But her cohorts are strong too - Michelle Rodriguez as a mother of two who finds out after her husband’s death that he had gambled away her business. And Elizabeth Debicki as an abused wife and daughter, she has the biggest character arc. I think she's going to be the next Margot Robbie, remember after her breakout roll in Wolf of Wall Street Robbie was a sought-after actress; I’d be surprised if that doesn’t happen with Debicki. There are interesting side characters too that all get weaved into the fabric of the main story even if it’s just a small payoff at the end. I was impressed with a long tracking shot that I think other filmmakers will probably borrow - Colin Firth’s character, a 2nd generation politician is in a particularly urban neighborhood for a PR type event - gets in his car and carries on a conversation with his assistant, but the camera is on the outside of the car the whole time, the angle both continuously on the vehicle, while also showing the severe change of scenery from that downtrodden section of town, to his wealthy home in a beautiful neighborhood. All these things make me wonder why from the trailer, Widow looks like a mediocre heist movie, a 2nd class Oceans 8. I should have known it wasn’t because Steve McQueen doesn’t just direct movies, he takes on projects, (Widows is based on a British Mini Series) and makes social commentary, this one about economic inequality, the politics and corruption of Chicago and riding the female empowerment movement. But you’re not hit over the head with any agenda; at its heart, it’s a quick moving, super entertaining movie that towards the end will have you talking back to the screen and clapping in excitement.
Day 4 (10/21) STUDIO 54 (director: Matt Tyrnauer) A look back on the phenomenon that was a disco, a night club, a theater performance, a constant party, Sodom and Gomorrah, celebrity filled ... basically an experience that captured the zeitgeist of the moment, and sadly, a moment is all it really had. The club was famously created by two men, Steve Rubell the face of the business, the schmoozer, loved being photographed with every celebrity of the day (whose death sadly in 1989 was due to complications resulting from AIDS) and Ian Schrager, the introverted, creative one with the vision to make the idea more than just a place to dance. The doc is told from Schrager's point of view, who, for the first time since Studio 54 closed down, was willing to tell its story. These two were cunning showmen who spent $400,000 to build the club in six weeks, from an abandoned space on W. 54th St., which had been part of CBS television, but was originally built as an Opera House in 1927. The first mistake they made however, was getting so swept up in opening and becoming a success that they never applied for a liqueur license. The second, skimming so much money off the nightly take (and not being quiet about it) that it was only a matter of time before the IRS came down on them.
There was a group of 5 or 6 of us after the screening, talking in the Film Festival Lounge, and most felt Rubell & Schrager got what they deserved. That there was too much excess, they did things illegally and they made people feel horrible about themselves, waiting hours and hours outside the velvet ropes, most with no hopes of ever getting inside. But I didn't see it that way at all. I think it was fantastic that the LGBTQ community got to be in their element, experiencing more than total acceptance, they set the tone and everyone else entered their world. And I love to see people's dreams exceed their expectations! Okay, they got a little sloppy, but to send these guys to jail and rob an era of all that magic, that was the true crime.
Day 4 (10/21) AT FIRST LIGHT (director: Jason Stone) Sci-fi indie, a teenage boy puts everything on the line to protect his longtime crush after she comes in contact with other-worldly forces. I was really looking forward to this one, as it sounded up my alley. It's got some nice Sci-fi bones here & there, and an almost compelling teen romance. If I had reviewed it right away, like I always intend to do during a film festival, I'd have more to impart, but now, in thinking back over it in my mind, there wasn't enough spark and wonder to take the time at this point.
Day 4 (10/21) BOY ERASED (director: Joel Edgerton ) starring Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges and Russel Crowe true story of one young man's struggle to find himself while being forced to question every aspect of his identity when he agrees to attend a conversion therapy program - or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith. It's a big year for Kidman & Hedges they each have several movies out and coming out. If I had to choose which long-standing actress, Julia Roberts (Ben is Back) or Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased) had the better mother/son chemistry with Hedges, I think I'd have to give it to Nicole, although, it would be very close. But there's a scene in this film where she chooses what's right for her son over the wishes of her husband that I just found so touching and true. Boy Erased is a nice directorial debut for Edgerton, but much of the material isn't that compelling, or perhaps just intentionally restrained. To clarify, I'm certain if you were at this conversion camp having to submit to these nutz trying to Jesus the gay out of you, it would be a horribly traumatic experience, but from the audience's perspective, it doesn't feel that damaging - cinematically speaking, not in actuality.
Day 5 (10/22) THE UPSIDE (director Neil Burger) A friendship develops between a wealthy quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston) and the ex-con (Kevin Hart) who becomes his caregiver. Also starring Nicole Kidman The movie is based on the 2011 French film "The Intouchables", which I've always meant to see, it was very well reviewed and bandied about during that year's awards season.
The Upside is a movie that relies heavily on chemistry, which Cranston and Hart seemed to have genuinely felt on and off screen; you expect Cranston to deliver his usual tour de force performance, but who knew Hart could meet him toe to toe, without relying on big laughs; which this movie does not aim to impart, instead it succeeds by expressing a light touch of humor in unexpected places.
Producer JASON BLUMENTHAL attended, moderated by Philadelphia Film Society Producing Director Andrew Greenblatt. Check out the Q&A video below: Or click HERE to watch on YouTube
Day 6 (10/23) I missed all the foodie films :(
— Tinsel & Tine (@tinseltine) October 23, 2018
Day 7 (10/24) CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (director Marielle Heller) creates a wonderfully drawn character study, and a wonderfully wild, I can't believe this really happened story. It’s based on the memoir of real-life biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a grouchy, misanthrope and misfit who’d had some early success writing biographies on Tallullah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen, but things fell apart after her biography on Estee Lauder was panned and Lauder put out her own biography about the same time. After that, Lee got writer’s block, drank too much and was on the verge of destitution when she discovered she could sell forged personal letters of famous people, such as Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway and Noel Coward among others, writing in their style and witticism, in fact years later after her crimes were well-known, one of her forgeries wound up in a famous book celebrating the letters of Noel Coward. Over all, she forged 400 letters and figured out how to bait and switch by getting letters out of museums and libraries, copying them, putting her copies in their place and selling the originals. It may sound like pretty tame stuff for a movie, but Melissa McCarthy has a way of making this cantankerous old woman funny, and interesting enough that you really root for her schemes; particularly as she’s joined by a new friend, a somewhat preposterous, old queen trying to hold onto his former lifestyle, played by Richard E. Grant. The two together are highly amusing and heartbreakingly sad. It’s a small, lovely movie and a more dramatic turn for McCarthy.
(10/24) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY(director Bryan Singer) This was not part of #PFF27, but I took a night off from the festival to see this preview screening. See T&T's Facebook #MiniMovieReview below:
Day 8 (10/25) Interview with director OLIVIA LICHTENSTEIN & producer NICK BEDU of TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME
This was the Closing Night film at the 27th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival – a documentary detailing the extraordinary life and career of Philly’s own Teddy Pendergrass. The night before I got a chance to chat with Olivia and Nick about the making of the doc., how much time they spent in Philly, the darker side of Teddy, the music, the tragedy and the come back of this sexy and soulful entertainer gone too soon. SEE BELOW FOR INTERVIEW VIDEO or Click HERE to view on YouTube.
Be sure to be on the look out for this documentary "Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don't Know Me" which tied for #PFF27 Audience Award, to be available soon on Showtime. The film brings you back to a time when the sound of Philadelphia ruled the radio, thanks in great part to Gamble & Huff, who along with Manager Shep Gordon, past girlfriends, wives, family members, and members of The Teddy Bear Orchestra, along with found audio diary of Teddy himself, are all weaved together to tell this story of extraordinary high, lows and timeless music.
View this post on Instagram(@get_repost) ・・・ The Philadelphia Film Society would like to thank all that attended the 27th Philadelphia Film Festival. We are proud to announce an unprecedented tie for the coveted Audience Award. Winners are TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME and GREEN BOOK. - - - #teddypendegrass #greenbook #greenbookmovie #PhillyFilmFestival #Philadelphia #IndieFilm #SupportFilm #SupportIndieFilm @alliedphilly #PhiladelphiaFilmFestival #WhatToDo #WhatToDoInPhilly #FallFestival #FallInPhilly #mahershalaali #viggomortensen
I've been trying to find a videographer willing to work with me gratis for these types of interviews; perhaps someone working on their reel looking to gain some experience, unfortunately, I'm still looking. However, an editor did contact me to lend her services. Her name is REETU SHAH she's an aspiring music video director and editor. I sent her my interview with Olivia Lichtenstein and Nick Bedu,which I shot on my DSLR camera, along with video from the post screening Q&A, the performance by The Teddy Bear Orchestra (musicians who used to play with Pendergrass performed after the screening) and the film's trailer, to cut together. Check out the video below:
You can also check out Reetu's Reel, she can also be found on Facebook | YouTube
Day 9 (10/26) BODIED (director JOSEPH KAHN) Synopsis: A progressive graduate student finds success and sparks outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject turns into a competitive obsession.
I was invited to interview the director along with 2 cast members, Jackie Long and Calum Worthy only the night before, I caught a bad cold. Thank goodness Philly Music Producer, CARL MADISON, Stone Perspective Media (@carl_mad IG | @carlmadison Twitter | "I'm da Producer, He's da Rapper" - https://carlmadison.bandcamp.com) was available and agreed do the interview as a Tinsel & Tine contributor. He did a super job, as you'll see. Hope he'll agree to do more!
Kahn: Here's the reality, as much as we don't want to admit it, everyone's a little racist, a little misogynistic, because ultimately people are all different, and our differences can be funny to each other, and that's what battle rap is, making fun of these differences. But the beautiful thing about battle rap is you're putting it out in the open, you're not hiding your concept of differences in an echo chamber and talking to people exactly like yourselves, it's a way to confront each other and say 'You eat a dog, you eat fried chicken, let's talk about it', right? And I feel like at the end of the process people get to know each other a little bit more. So I think having an open dialogue in a context where we know that we can talk and laugh at it is a healthy discussion... SEE BELOW VIDEO FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW or click HERE to watch on YouTube
Day 10 (10/27) VOX LUX (written and directed by actor Brady Corbet original songs by SIA) starring Natalie Portman. The film is broken up into 3 distinct acts and Portman’s only in the last one. It starts out with a school shooting in which one of the victims, Celeste (Raffey Cassidy Tomorrowland ), winds up writing a song with the help of her sister, which goes viral and makes her a pop sensation at the age of 15. Because she was shot in the neck she always wears a collar or choker which becomes her signature look, but is never really spoken of in the movie. Willem DaFoe narrates in places, then it will dissolve into a lot of fast paced montages to advance time. Like I said about Bohemian Rhapsody, whether it be fictional or documentary, I do love a rise and fall musician story; and of course, this young girl starts spinning out of control, by the time she's her older self, she's feeling somewhat trapped - the camera feels very invasive and there’s a lot of long walking tracking shots, which are quite effective. It's a watchable movie, but feels more like a straight to Netflix.
Day 10(10/27) HER SMELL (directed by Alex Ross Perry) the third collab (“Listen Up Philip” and “Queen of Earth”) with Elisabeth Moss (Handmaids Tale, Mad Men), in this film she plays a strung out, feral, pudgy, rock legend spiraling out of control. We meet the band Something She, led by Becky Something (Moss) at her most manic point, when she’s just destructive and ugly to everyone around her, particularly her two band mates and her Record Producer, played by a very changed, completely gray, Eric Stolz. Her ex-boyfriend played by Dan Stevens is mainly raising their baby daughter and really shouldn't ever bring her any where near her mother. There’s a few brief flashback to when the band used to have some fun together, but most details in general are vague. I suppose this added to the film’s overall tension which is totally there, but I would have appreciated a few more lines drawn in.; particularly because Becky is obviously not just scared or living the life of a Rock Star, she’s visibly angry, but you don’t really know why. There’s a moment when her mother (Virginia Madsen) stupidly tries to get her to look at some papers from her either dead or estranged father or perhaps estranged and now dead father, that Becky doesn’t want to deal with, which adds more fuel to the impossible task of trying to get her on stage. Basically, the movie really relies on the audience pulling for this chick to get her sh*% together, but really, if it was any other actress, we wouldn’t care at all about this person, it’s only due to the likability, familiarity and talent of Elisabeth Moss which keeps you involved.
Day 11 (10/28) I sat it out. I was still fighting a cold and needed one down day before going back to work, but I am sorry I missed a few things on Sunday. Particularly RAFIKI
312) RAFIKI. This was an appropriately bittersweet way to end the film festival for me. It's a beautiful Kenyan film about two young women falling in love despite all the forces pulling them apart. #DLMChallenge #PFF27 pic.twitter.com/3CMyJba7ie— Keith🍕🤺 (@PhillyFilmFan) October 29, 2018
CONGRATS TO THE WINNING FILMS:
Best Documentary Feature - SHIRKERS
Honorable Mention for Call to Action - THE DEVIL WE KNOW
Best Narrative Feature - AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL
Honorable Mention - DIAMANTINO
Pinkenson Award for Best Local Feature - THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING
Honorable Mention for Best Direction - HER SMELL
Archie Award for Best First Feature - DEAD PIGS
Honorable Mention- THE GUILTY
Best Short Film - CAROLINE
Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Short - ALL INCLUSIVE
Audience Awards - tie - GREEN BOOK & TEDDY PENDERGRASS: IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME