If there was ever a relationship to prove the Latin proverb amor vincit omnia, it just might be the one featured in tonight’s Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival spotlight feature, Remembrance.
Director Anna Justice presents a story between two lovers — a Polish partisan, Tomasz (Mateusz Damiecki), and a German Jew, Hannah (Dagmar Manzel) — challenged by every predicament imaginable in 1944 Poland and the post-war years. Violently separated from each other without explanation of the others whereabouts, health or proof of death, the two try to march forward despite the undying torment of what could have been. The film is propelled by the recurring flashbacks to the past from which neither Tomasz or Hannah can seem to unclench their grip.
Unlike other films that are set during the Holocaust, which focus on the high degree of fear and suspense amid concentration camp conditions, Remembrance gets this out of the way within the first 20 minutes. From that point, new, less common challenges arise for the troubled couple. Tomasz’s vindictive mother tries endlessly to remove her son from the dangerous relationship, increasing Hannah’s chances of being recaptured; Hannah is alone, battling pregnancy despite malnutrition and severe illness, and then, after years without communication, both find themselves in tense marriage circumstances that are only further complicated by the inability to part ways with shared memories of the past.
[ C ] Little Rose (Róźyczka) was chosen for the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival for its political and religious commentary on 1968 Poland. The film takes place directly after the Six Days War, a conflict between Israel and Arab forces, which inspired a wave of riots and protests among Polish youth and intellectuals alike. Director Jan Kidawa-Blonski uses this backdrop to present the ways in which Poland’s communist government suppressed academic progress and prosecuted communist dissenters, especially those of Jewish heritage.
The film makes subtle reference to the ignorance of Polish government officials to handle the riots appropriately, as their prosecutions were haphazard, anti-Semitic and without concrete evidence. But aside from this mere glimpse at the historical context for the film, Kidawa-Blonski’s political motive seems to get hidden beneath the steamy triangular love plot among a stern security colonel, Roman Rozek, his girlfriend, and the colonel’s target, Warczewski, a respected Polish intellectual, writer and professor. The historical context gets hidden so well, in fact, that audiences without prior knowledge of communist Polish history might just miss it.
At first, when the colonel decides to use his girlfriend, the irresistible Kamila (Magdalena Boczarska), as a pawn to spy on Warczewski and prove his Zionist loyalty, he does not predict the consequences on both his government office and his bedroom.
In the romantic drama Like Crazy, Felicity Jones plays Anna, an English student at a Los Angeles college who develops a passionate romance with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Their relationship hits a snag, however, when she willfully disregards her student visa guidelines, and is later unable to return to the States. Like Crazy chronicles this long-distance relationship over the ensuing years. City Paper met with Jones to talk about love, whiskey and crying on cue.
City Paper: You are getting considerable attention for this role — including a Gotham nomination for breakthrough performance. How do feel about all this attention?
Felicity Jones: It’s very surreal. It’s hard to see yourself in that way. I think my natural inclination is to focus on my work and hope that people like it.
CP: What attracted you to playing Anna? She can be very selfish and unsympathetic.
FJ: That’s what I worried when I first watched it. I thought, everyone’s going to hate this person …
CP: But that’s what makes her interesting.
FJ: Exactly! What I liked about her is that she pursues the guy. It’s by her own volition that the relationship happens. There is also an element of insanity about her. I wanted her obsession to be a focus. I’d just watched Breaking the Waves. I liked the idea of this person being completely overwhelmed in every sense by another human being, and willing to make huge sacrifices because of that — almost as if they can’t live without that person.
She was hunted in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, possessed in Zombieland and raped in North Country. Yet sharing the big screen with superstars like Jesse Eisenberg, Nicholas Cage and Seth Rogen (in Pineapple Express, for which she received the 2008 Young Hollywood Award) isn’t daunting for Amber Heard. The Friday Night Lights actress has created quite the name for herself, even co-producing a horror-mystery And Soon the Darkness. Now she’s swimming naked in the ocean as Chenault, a sexy socialite stuck in a materialistic world. She stars opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, a film based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel about journalist Paul Kemp. And next year, Heard will star in Syrup, a film about young people viciously clawing their way through the corporate world.
City Paper: How did you prepare for the role of Chenault?
Amber Heard: I did a lot of research on what was going on at that time, what Hunter S. Thompson was living through, and how those around him affected him. There’s a wonderful biography on him that I read, which was very helpful. I’ve also been a Thompson fan for a long time. I’ve read the book before and loved it. So with all of that, I came into the movie as prepared — and yet as open — as I could to be.
CP: What drew you to your character?
AH: I decided to audition for Chenault because it was a project that I believed in, a message that I supported, a novel that I loved, written by an artist I immensely respected, going to be a movie directed by a director I loved, to play opposite one of the best actors alive, and to be in a beautiful place like Puerto Rico. I did it for every reason. And it didn’t hurt that my character gave me room to build as an artist a real character. I always struggle to find three-dimensional roles for women who are just beautiful or sexy and nothing else. The opportunity to really be able to make something out of a blank canvas was interesting. My character appears — at surface level — to be the archetype for the ’50-’60s trophy fiancée. She’s very much a member of this elite class who came to Puerto Rico and saw the beautiful beach and just saw money. She and Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) are very much a part of this system but are also imprisoned by it. She’s in a gilded cage. She’s a commodity that men like Sanderson seek to own. On the surface, she’s the icon of the American Dream, like the Corvette, yet there’s much more to her. She is flawed and slightly broken and troubled on the inside, but also fiercely intelligent and independent and rebellious. In many ways, she’s the opposite of what she looks.
CP: Do you think Chenault is the embodiment of American Dream because people like Sanderson ascribe that to her, or do they worship her because she was already like that?
AH: I think it’s both, one feeds into the other, it’s a cycle. People like Sanderson aren’t forcing any other characters to be one way or another. I believe that Chenault came from a wealthy dad and is expected to marry a wealthy man. The problem is that that lifestyle doesn’t make her happy as we meet her, and in her rebellious nature she learns that there’s a whole lot more to life.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of a pop culture-loving Philly dude.
Happy Halloween! Over the weekend I dipped into Mad River in Manayunk for its maximum-occupancy-defying costume party. But the bulk of my weekend was spent taking in some of my favorite horror-flicks.
Dead Alive — Some folks are still unaware that before Lord Of The Rings, director Peter Jackson was a gore-tastic zombie fiend. This cult-y gnaw-athon is my personal favorite zombie flick. If you're into priests who "kick ass for the Lord!" and gruesome lawnmower-slayings that could make Quentin Tarantino nauseous, this modestly hilarious bloodbath is for you. Make sure you get the unrated version. It's important.
The Omen — The tagline from this 1976 gem is "If something frightening happens to you today, think about it." What a groovy way to vaguely amp up the atmosphere of cinema terror. This tale about the coming of the antichrist features one of the scariest movie motifs in horror history: a young kid. The scary thing about a kid who grimaces at you and then you die in a terrible accident is that it could really happen. This is a stark contrast to most of the other films in this list.
Alien — Easily the scariest sci-fi flick ever made. By not showing you much of the monster for most of the film, the frights are less visual and more visceral. Get out of there, dude!!
Evil Dead 2 — If horror-comedy is indeed a cult, then this classic is the Kool-Aid punchbowl. One of the truly asinine films of the ages, Evil Dead 2 is perhaps the most classic film in cheese-terror history. Unlike its predecessor, which attempted more straight horror than comedy, and its successor, which attempted more comedy than horror, this movie is pure WTF.
Here's what we know: Suzanne Roberts Theatre. Director Anders Cato's RED, written by John Logan. A biographical drama about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko performed by two actors at Philadelphia Theatre Co. through Nov. 13. (Read David Anthony Fox's review here.)
After that, it’s been up to Stephen Rowe (as the eternally difficult Rothko) and Haley Joel Osment (as his beleaguered assistant, Ken) to create stoic, wonky whimsy from the dark and difficult magnetism of abstract expressionism. Each actor is energetic and coolly curt in their roles. But for Philadelphia, our eyes have been mostly on the 23-year-old Osment, who made his bones locally by starring in M. Night Shyalamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Happily, Osment has outgrown the baby face we remember cinematically and become a stately, bold acting presence. I chatted with him after the first performance. No seeing dead people jokes.
City Paper: The first moment of RED finds your character just staring at us, the audience. It’s a painting, of course, that you’re looking at, but that abyss: We are a substitute for Rothko’s work. And you seem so symmetrically square and spare standing there. What are you thinking right at that moment?
Haley Joel Osment: The use of a painting unseen by the audience — and technically invisible to we actors — gives us a way to open up the deeply personal and private experience of observing a painting to everyone out in their seats. We spend a lot of the play looking out into the abyss, and it's a useful tool for our performances, balancing the suspension of disbelief we require to ignore all those pairs of eyes with the living, breathing sensation we know Rothko's paintings possess. Both Stephen and I have spent time with the real Rothko paintings scattered around the world, so I think it's an exciting and beneficial energy within the play, that of our imagination and memories of those paintings working to create the reality of those scenes each night.
CP: It’s a big deal for you to pick a play — this play — as your first after graduating NYU. Why this one? What spoke to you about RED and the role of Ken?
HJO: I think RED offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the evolution of an intense relationship between two characters, one that’s both contentious and caring. My strategy in selecting projects — theatrical or on film — has been to find ways to stretch myself as an actor, to keep searching for challenges I haven't faced yet. Acting is a craft you can be learning about until the day you die so there's always the motivation to do the most you can when you can. RED is such a challenge and it's unique among the roles I've done in that Ken is in many ways an antagonist. Although that doesn't encompass everything he is or does, his courage in standing up to a titan like Rothko and defining his place in the world is an inspiring and instructive task to take on.
CP: Why take that first big role here, in Philadelphia, rather than wait for the New York City stages?
HJO: I always follow the material. I have been working mainly in New York since graduation, but film shoots have taken me back to the West coast and in the summer I was lucky enough to participate in a theatrical workshop in Cuba — with the U.S. government's permission, of course. There's great theater everywhere, and the opportunity to do something as powerful as RED was impossible to pass up. The director, Anders Cato went to the same drama studio (the Experimental Theatre Wing) at NYU Tisch that I did so that added to my interest.
I haven’t witnessed so many smiling nuns and pink-faced Catholics since my confirmation. I’m talking about the gathering of the masses (or the mass for the gathered?) of holy folk, lady basketballers, sports addicts, movie brass, investors, Style mag makers and Immaculata College alumni for last Friday night’s world première of The Mighty Macs, local director/writer/produer Tim Chambers’ film based on hard-charging coach Cathy Rush and the true story of the 1971-72 Immaculata team that started small but became a great big Cinderella story of girl b-balling victory.
The Kimmel Center event also doubled as a benefit of Immaculata University and Coaches vs. Cancer, so everybody was hopped up on charity as well as the glitz of hanging with red carpet-ready stars such as the real Rush and the actress who plays her, Carla Gugino; weatherman Dave Roberts’ kid David Boreanaz, who plays NBA referee/husband Ed Rush; the cutest nun since Sally Field, Marley Shelton (who played “Sister Sunday”); and pirate-loving producer Pat Croce, the ex-president of the 76ers.
After a few blessings from Archbishop Charles Chaput and an appearance by Michael Smerconish in what appeared to be a Robert Hall men’s suit jacket, the assembled moved noisily into the main hall (this was EASILY the noisiest crowd at the Kimmel since that French thing a few months back) wherein several Immaculata reps, producers and Chambers chatted up the film they held so dear to their hearts since its wrap in 2009. While I’m not here to review the flick, I can screw you guys up and tell you the film’s big ending (spoiler alert!): The Mighty Macs win.
Check this space all week for reviews and coverage of the 2011 FirstGlance Film Festival.
On paper, the plan in Philly-bred director Jennifer Barbaro's music video, Burning Witches, makes total sense. A rock 'n' roll band is on stage playing to a crowd of nuns. After hearing the righteous rock assault, the nuns strip and get down and dirty. Hijinks ensue. Oh, and the footage is be intercut with the frontman lying down, preparing to die, because being a big-time rock 'n' roller isn't easy.
Surprisingly, the finished product doesn't deliver. The band isn't aware of the failed execution, but the dancers sure are. Their facial expressions suggest that they're merely counting the seconds until it's all over. And when they strip it's clear it's because the director told them to. The music itself doesn't help, either. The band sounds like a diet version of Godsmack.
The grand concept of the singer battling his demons comes across as really dumb, at best. Whenever you see him on stage, he's either preening like a Billy Idol-wannabe, bro-ing out with the guitarist, or twirling his guitar. Never do you get the impression that he's struggling with something. If he's struggling with anything, it's not on the screen.
Things come out flat and over-rehearsed. The band's look — with dyed hair, leather and tattoos — just doesn't seem real. It's like they think if they're dressed the part, the rest will just magically happen. It doesn't.
CITY PAPER GRADE: D-
Check this space all week for reviews and coverage of the 2011 FirstGlance Film Festival.
Noah Hutton, director of indie doc More To Live For, has not taken his role as a filmmaker lightly. In fact, he might be nearing the boundary between filmmaker and activist. He has not released a tear-jerking documentary on the devastation of cancer or traced the battle of a patient’s chemotherapy treatment for mere emotional response. Instead, Hutton focuses his lens toward a different angle on the subject of cancer. His intended audience consists of the undiagnosed, unrelated, maybe completely unaffected members of the community who are most likely unaware how simplistic and valuable it might be to get involved.
While the primary voices come from three men whose lives were challenged immeasurably by their cancer diagnosis, it is the ever-present, undertone of a cry to action that speaks loudest. It spells out the desperate need for all members of the community to be tested as potential bone-marrow donors, and join in the fight to beat the epidemic as it spreads around the world. As we see in the chronicles of subjects Seun Adebiyi (pictured), James Chippendale and Michael Brecker, the actual bone-marrow transplant isn't the hurdle. We are simply battling the odds to find a match.
Check this space all week for reviews and coverage of the 2011 FirstGlance Film Festival.
Somewhere among the forced dialog and weak supporting roles, there lies The Calendar Girl Killer, a man who has assaulted eleven girls in the past year (one of whom is a Drexel student) and is now turning his attention to Miss December. The serial killer is on the loose in Philadelphia, but even local viewers won’t bat an eye with the abrupt music that basically shouts, “watch, viewers, this is the scary part!” Instead of creeping forward at an accelerating rate as most thrillers do, Philly director Derek Lindeman’s Calendar Girl lazily saunters forward before giving a slight push at the end. An unnecessary amount of slow scenes with shallow character development was probably meant to give struggling actors more screen time, but the end result is the slowing down of the plot’s flow.
Ari, well played by Jensen Bucher, is a cynical goth-punk waitress at a diner. But even though we’re meant to feel sympathy for her, the character’s repetitive self-destructive behavior transforms her into the antagonist. She consciously surrounds herself with sociopaths who snap stalker photos of her or physically abuse her. So when she reads the Zodiac-esque newspaper article describing the killer’s next victim, Ari’s flattered that she now has a “secret admirer.”
While the new year approaches, Ari juggles three men in her life. Her best friend Chris (Lindeman) acts as her guardian, warning her against the menacing men in her life. But Lindeman’s smiles resemble winces, and the character is so awkward that he becomes unlikeable. Her ex-boyfriend Jon is a thug who wins her approval once he threatens a homeless man with a knife. And her new beau, Phil, is a dorky and slightly neurotic guy who claims to be a freelance photographer.
- Arts Events
- First Person Fest
- Last Chance
- On the Fringe
- Philly Artists
- The Curator
- Visual Art
- Arts News
- Artist Profile
- Arts Preview
- Street Art
- Been There, Done That
- Big Ups
- LOL With It
- Critical Mass
- Friday Fill-in
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Just Do It
- Just Opened
- Art Phag
- Film Fest
- Movie Review
- On set
- 10 Track Mind
- Album Review
- Concert Review
- Local Support
- Now Hear This
- One Track Mind
- Philly Bands
- Somebody Else Was There
- The Showdown
- concert photos
- DJ Nights Blogged
- Night Watch
- Now See This
- Poetic License
- Printed Matter
- What We Heart
- Idol Hands
- Mad Men
- True Blood
- Useless Lost Recaps
- Couch Potato
- Shore Trash
- Turned ONN
- Video Games
- Free Online Game
- PlayStation 2
- The 1-Upper
- Web Junk
- CAGE MATCH
- Free Online Toy
- Weekend Omnibus