Saturday, March 31, 2012
Seventeen years ago today, Texas-born Mexican-American singer-songwriter Selena Quintanilla -- a budding superstar poised to make a major breakthrough with first English-language album -- was taken from us all too soon at age 23. Here is a link to a 1996 Los Angeles Times story I wrote after visiting the San Antonio set of Selena -- the biopic that Gregory Nava intended as a tribute to the fallen star. Even though, as Nava admitted to me at the time,"this is a movie I wish I wasn't making." And here is Selena herself, live and in concert -- at the Houston Astrodome.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Would Casablanca have been an ever better movie with the addition of Keyboard Cat? Did Taxi Driver really need a feline reponse to Travis Bickle? Well, maybe. (Thanks, and maybe some serious petting, to Movie Gal.)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Although it traffics freely in stereotypes and sitcom-style one-liners, Gayby is never less than likable as it tackles the complications that arise when a straight thirtysomething woman attempts to get pregnant "the old-fashioned way" with her gay male best buddy. Balancing broad comedy and warm-and-fuzzy sentiment, this lightweight indie, which filmmaker Jonathan Lisecki adapted from his well-received short of the same title, could garner limited theatrical play before wider rollout on various home-screen platforms. You can read my full Variety review here.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Elliptical to the point of abstraction, Booster is an austere and stripped-to-essentials indie that suggests a Boston crime drama such as The Town or Monument Ave. as reimagined by Robert Bresson. The abbreviated running time and overall paucity of commercial elements likely will keep this caper relegated to the fest circuit, though writer-director Matt Ruskin and lead player Nico Stone might use it as a calling card for mainstream gigs. You can read the rest of my Variety review here.
Near the end of Decoding Deepak, Gotham Chopra's fascinating documentary about his father, spiritual icon Deepak Chopra, the elder Chopra wraps up an on-location interview by offering an off-the-cuff appraisal of his on-camera performance: “I said what I needed to say, and I did it well. I’m happy.” It’s altogether appropriate that the younger Chopra uses this clip more or less as his movie's epilogue, as it conveys both the self-deprecating humor and self-confident sang-froid of his charismatic subject. By turns amusing and illuminating, and often both simultaneously, Decoding Deepak is a cinematic portrait worthy of theatrical and home-screen exhibition. You can read my Variety review of it here.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Sibling filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin occasionally strain credibility and test patience with October Baby, their debut feature opening Friday at theaters and drive-ins everywhere. But they're blessed with a lead player whose affecting performance goes a long way toward papering over any narrative shortcomings. Newcomer Rachel Hendrix grabs attention and sustains sympathy as a lovely yet troubled 19-year-old student determined to unlock the secrets of her past after learning the circumstances of her birth.
While obviously aimed at devotees of faith-based cinema, October Baby isn't preachy: The underlying anti-abortion message is notably understated, and religious plot elements are implicit rather than explicit until the final reel. You can read my full Variety review of the film here.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Winner of a SXSW audience award in the Documentary Spotlight category, Brooklyn Castle is an irresistibly uplifting doc about students at an inner-city junior high school who rank among the very best competitive chess players in the United States. You can read my Variety review here.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Fortunately, none of the craziness made its way over to our part of the camping ground. Still, every so often, whether I want to or not, I think about about that night. This week at SXSW, I thought about it a lot after I watched an intensely suspenseful move titled Citadel. Please don't misunderstand: That isn't the only reason why I was impressed by the film, as you can see by reading my Variety review. But still... Well, let's just say that if you're a parent, and you've ever been in a situation at all similar to the one I was in at Woodstock '99, this movie just might scare the hell out of you.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Hey, you think those two luminaries will actually hang out together while they're in H-Town? (No, that's not John Waters next to Eva Marie Saint up there.)
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Friday, March 09, 2012
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall keep a Variety film critic from his appointed rounds. But let me tell you: The kind of rain I encountered today while driving from H-Town to Austin -- a trip that took me nearly twice as long as it usually does -- can sure as hell slow you down a lot. Fortunately, I've made it to dry land, gotten myself settled, checked out the WiFi in my Extended Stay digs -- and now I'm already to start being festive here at SXSW 2012. A good thing, too, because it looks like some folks may be keeping an eye on me. (Thanks for the shout-out, IndieWire -- I think.)
But, really, I can't complain: After all, there are other festivals I could be covering right now.