MVFF41: Sunday picks: ‘Boy Erased,’ ‘El Angel,’ ‘Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?’

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(Focus Features) “Boy Erased”

The Mill Valley Film Festival winds up its first weekend today and there’s something to appeal to any cinematic appetite.

But let’s talk about yesterday first.

A slew of celebs swept Saturday through downtown Mill Valley and San Rafael, while the Mind the Gap Summit kicked off with a panel addressing “Conscious Inclusion in Film and Tech.”

As for the stars, Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, director Felix Groeningen and writers David and Nic Sheff appeared at a packed special presentation of “Beautiful Boy” at the Christopher Smith Rafael Film Center. Many scenes featured in this true story based on the memoirs about the struggles of a father and son as the son becomes addicted to meth were filmed in the Bay Area. 

Over at the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Denis O’Hare were stunning on the red carpet for the national premiere of their “The Parting Glass,” a personal story about the aftermath of suicide. O’Hare wrote it and Moyer directed it.

Today, the festival hosts numerous screenings and spotlights, including one focused on “The Hate U Give’s” Amandla Stenberg and another on “Boy Erased’s” Joel Edgerton. Can’t wait to see “The Hate U Give.”

Which movies should you see? Here are my recs of the ones I’ve watched. 

“Boy Erased”: Lucas Hedges again delivers a knockout performance, sensitively portraying a young man sent to a gay conversion camp after he announces to his religious parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) that he is gay. Edgerton wrote, costars and directs with an observant, perceptive eye, one that’s focused on the devastating effects and a family’s path to healing and understanding. Based on a true story. (Oct. 7, Oct. 9)

“El Angel”: The soulless evil that lurks behind the angelic looks of a teen gets plumbed in a disturbing portrait of a cold-hearted thief and killer. Set in the ‘70s in Argentina, director Luis Ortega’s journey benefits from strong performances and a striking view of the period. (Oct. 7, Oct. 8)

Another one not to miss is the world premiere of “Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?” Here’s a link to my take on this documentary with UC-Berkeley ties.

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(Fox Searchlight) Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman star in “The Favourite.”

Finally, if you haven’t seen “The Favourite,” the latest from one of the most unique and exciting storytellers working today — Yorgos (“The Lobster”) Lanthimos — you have on more shot at the fest to be amazed by this twisted period piece about a tug-of-war for Queen Anne’s affections and time. Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman give a trio of Oscar-caliber performances, with Colman’s standing ever so tall. The mesmerizing film is Top 10 material by a long shot; it screens again Oct. 10.

 

MVFF Saturday must-sees: ‘Free Solo,’ ‘Little Woods,’ ’22 July,’ ‘All These Small Moments,’ ‘Pet Names’

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The Mill Valley Film Festival enters its first full weekend and there’s a tempting menu worth devouring.

Here are some of my must-see recommendations.

“Little Woods”: This sobering character-driven drama captures the claustrophobic plight of a North Dakota woman (Tessa Thompson) trying to remain legit after getting busted for dealing prescription drugs. A domino chain of no-win circumstances test her and her sister’s resolve in Nia DaCosta’s remarkable feature debut. WINNER of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Indie Narrative Feature in the Mind the Gap initiative. (Screens: Oct. 6 and 11)

“All These Small Moments”: Melissa Miller Costanzo presents Molly Ringwald with one of her juiciest roles in years in a perceptive coming-of-age story about a family grappling with marital issues while a teenaged son crushes hard on an enigmatic woman he meets on a bus.  “Small Moments” has a big payoffs. (Oct. 6 and Oct. 7)

“22 July”: The first 30 minutes of this unsettling docudrama are excruciatingly painful to watch, horrifically recreating the 2011 Norway massacre perpetrated by a lone extremist that left scores of teens and adults dead at a summer camp and, in a separate attack, others outside of the Prime Minister’s Office. Paul (“United 93”) Greengrass ventures into the aftermath,  showing us the unrepentant killer’s trial along wit  one young man’s struggle back from death. .It’s too long, but it is powerful. ( Oct. 6, Oct. 9)

For reviews of “Free Solo” and “Pet Names” visit:

 

 

 

Frameline 2018: Soccer-themed ‘Mario’ is one of the best LGBTQ films of the year

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(Courtesy of Frameline) “Max” is one of the best films in Frameline. 

 

Two films in this year’s Frameline film festival passionately address the issue of homophobia in sports and how athletes are encouraged to stay in the closet. One is a documentary, the other a narrative feature.

“Alone in the Game” is a slickly produced and well-made documentary that is filled with insightful interviews from LGBTQ athletes. Olympic medalist Gus Kenworthy and soccer player Robbie Rogers are just a few of the notable stars who talk candidly about the stifling culture and their decisions to come out. It screens June 23 at the Castro and airs June 28 on DirecTV

“Mario” (screening again June 23 at the Victoria), on the other hand, is not only one of the best international narrative features in the festival (it’s from Switzerland), but one of the best LGBTQ-themed films I’ve seen in 2018

Max Hubacher stars as the title character, a driven soccer player with an overly invested father and an unwavering ambition to hit the big time. Once Max becomes roommates with the confident and handsome new player Leon (Aaron Altaras), he finds himself becoming more and more attracted to his less tightly wound fellow player. Complications arise when gossip spreads about their ensuing relationship, a major concern to sponsors, agents and a few other players.

Marcel Gisler’s exquisite drama never hits a false note as it intensely and intimately captures  the internal pain and external pressures that both of these young lovers experience. It’s a moving feature about being an athlete and enduring influences that encourage leading a double, hollow life in order to achieve your dreams for playing a sport you love.

To order tickets to “Mario”

 

Don’t miss the noir thriller ‘Hunting Lands’ at Cinequest

Hunting-Lands-forrest1One of the pleasures of being a critic is discovering a filmmaker you not only admire but know will be a force in the years to come.

Such is the case with Zack Wilcox, director of the icy, intense and well-made  neo-noir “Hunting Lands.”

Wilcox takes his cues from the Coen Brothers and Hitchcock with this voyeuristic thriller about reclusive ex-war vet Frank Olsen (Santa Rosa’s Marshall Cook) stumbling upon the dumping of a woman’s body. Olsen succumbs to his old ways, observing and inviting into his lair the man who did the dirty deed. It’s a “Fargo”-like experience.

While “Lands” slips a bit in its final act, it is — for the most part — a mesmerizing, bracing feature set in the frozen, isolated upper area of Michigan. The first 15 minutes are wordless and wave a distinctive spell.

“Lands” plays tonight at Cinequest. It is one of the best films I’ve seen in the festival.

(Show sat 5:50 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at the Century 20 Redwood City, Screen 11

,627, 825 Middlefield Road,  Redwood City, and 6:15 p.m., March 5  at the Century 20 Redwood City, Screen 18, 627, 825 Middlefield Road, Redwood City; 5 p.m., March 7, California Theatre San Jose 345 S 1st St, San Jose; 7:35 p.m., March 10 , 3 Below Theaters & Lounge, 288 S 2nd St., San Jose.)

For tickets, visit https://www.cinequest.org/tickets-passes

Randy Myers is a freelance film journalist and is the president of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

 

Golden Globes did it right: ‘Three Billboards’ IS the best film. But ‘Get Out’ is better than ‘Lady Bird’

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURIIf Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” makes you uncomfortable, it has entirely accomplished it’s job.

Beautifully written and observed, it’s a masterpiece. I don’t say that lightly. So many insults have been hurled at this film, and I ask those people to watch it again. There are no superheroes, no saviors…just realistic portrayals of flawed people with so much grey you would think that a storm front is blowing through. And let’s get real now. “Get Out” is so much better than “Lady Bird.” I mean, really?

Hope you do see this film. It will make you squirm. Make you uncomfortable. Above all, it will make you think long after you leave the theater.

Love this film. It’s ingenious. Just as his “In Bruges” was. Go see it. Support films that rattle us.

It is my No. 1 film of 2017.  My favorite films of 2017!

 

 

 

Resolve to take care of yourself in 2018

As we usher 2017 out the door and throw the welcome mat out for 2018, it’s an ideal time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go — both literally and figuratively.

For many of us that might mean spending more time with family and less time working late or throughout the weekend, a needed shakeup so we can become healthier, be it through the food we eat, the activities we participate, the amount of time we sleep and so on.

I love this time of year, when we seek ways and means to restore more balance in our lives. As a person who divides his time between being a NASM-certified personal trainer/group exercise instructor at Equinox and UC-Berekley and a film journalist, I realize the importance of maintaining balance.

That is what I hope I can help you do in 2018 by helping you stick to your fitness goals. At the same time, I might point you to some fine films.

This coming month, I am honored to be featured in Diablo Magazine, talking about what I love to talk about — transforming live/bodies and helping people turn possibilities into realities. Here’s a link to the article 

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A great way to spice up your exercise routine is to try something different. TRX offers some great classes in S.F. 

I have a few more private personal training slots open now so if you’d like to reach out, please do so. Happy 2018 everyone.

 

 

San Francisco Film Critics Circle nominees include Andy Serkis, Greta Gerwig, ‘Get Out,’ Holly Hunter, Sam Rockwell

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(20th Century Fox) Andy Serkis (left) portrays Caesar in “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

The San Francisco Film Circle just announced its five nominees in various categories today. Here’s the press release we sent out today.

Thrilled to see some of my favorites make the list, including ‘Get Out,’ Andy Serkis (best actor), “Frantz,” “The Big Sick,” “The Shape of Water.”

We decide the winners Sunday!

Here’s our press release including all the categories.

San Francisco, CA, December 8, 2017 – The San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC)
announced today the nominees in all categories for their 2017 Awards. Members
have combed through the year’s best films to decide on the nominees in each
category.
The circle, comprised of critics from across the Bay Area and Northern California,
will meet Sunday, December 10 at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco to decide
the winners. Winners will be announced starting at 12:15PM PST on the official
SFFCC Twitter account @SFFCC or https://twitter.com/sffcc.

Nominees in each category are below:

Best Picture
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
GET OUT
THE SHAPE OF WATER
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Director
Sean Baker – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Guillermo del Toro – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Greta Gerwig – LADY BIRD
Christopher Nolan – DUNKIRK
Jordan Peele – GET OUT

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(A24) James Franco gives one of his best performances in “The Disaster Artist.” 

Best Actor
Timothee Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
James Franco – THE DISASTER ARTIST
Daniel Kaluuya – GET OUT
Gary Oldman – DARKEST HOUR
Andy Serkis – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Actress
Annette Bening – FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
Sally Hawkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Frances McDormand – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie – I, TONYA
Saoirse Ronan – LADY BIRD

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Armie Hammer – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Richard Jenkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sam Rockwell – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Michael Stuhlbarg – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

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(Amazon Studios/Lionsgate) Holly Hunter, Ray Romano and Kumail Nanjiani star in “The Big Sick.”

Best Supporting Actress
Holly Hunter – THE BIG SICK
Allison Janney – I, TONYA
Melissa Leo – NOVITIATE
Lesley Manville – PHANTOM THREAD
Laurie Metcalf – LADY BIRD

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
FRANTZ
IN THE FADE
THE SQUARE

Best Animated Feature
THE BREADWINNER
COCO
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
LOVING VINCENT
YOUR NAME

Best Documentary
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
CITY OF GHOSTS
DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME
FACES PLACES
JANE

Best Cinematography
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Roger Deakins
DUNKIRK – Hoyte van Hoytema
THE FLORIDA PROJECT – Alexis Zabe
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Dan Laustsen
WONDER WHEEL – Vittorio Storaro

Best Production Design
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Dennis Gassner
DUNKIRK – Nathan Crowley
PHANTOM THREAD – Mark Tildesley
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Paul D. Austerberry
WONDERSTRUCK – Mark Friedberg

Best Editing
BABY DRIVER – Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Joe Walker
DUNKIRK – Lee Smith
THE POST – Michael Kahn
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Sidney Wolinsky

Best Screenplay (original)
THE BIG SICK – Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
GET OUT – Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD – Greta Gerwig
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI – Martin McDonagh

Best Screenplay (adapted)
THE DISASTER ARTIST – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – James Ivory
MOLLY’S GAME – Aaron Sorkin
MUDBOUND – Dee Rees and Virgil Williams
WONDERSTRUCK – Brian Selznick

Best Original Score
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
DUNKIRK – Hans Zimmer
PHANTOM THREAD – Jonny Greenwood
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Alexandre Desplat
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Michael Giacchino

Special Citation (for that underappreciated indie gem)
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
COLUMBUS
THE OTHER KIDS

About the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC)
Founded in 2002, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle is comprised of critics from
around the Greater Bay Area. Its members include film journalists from the San
Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the East Bay Times, SF Weekly, the
East Bay Express, the San Jose Metro, Palo Alto Weekly, the San Francisco Examiner,
Variety, KCBS, KGO, KSJS, Radio Sausalito, The Wrap and more.