One 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
If 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.
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
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.
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
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:
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
THE SHAPE OF WATER
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Sean Baker – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Guillermo del Toro – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Greta Gerwig – LADY BIRD
Christopher Nolan – DUNKIRK
Jordan Peele – GET OUT
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
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
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
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
IN THE FADE
Best Animated Feature
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
CITY OF GHOSTS
DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME
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
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
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.
“Murder on the Orient Express” supposedly goes off the rails and “Daddy’s Home 2” is getting slammed by critics.
So what should you see at the cineplex? I highly recommend “God’s Own Country.” It’s a deceptively simple story told with acuity and sensitivity. I also loved “Blade of the Immortal,” a gory samurai drama with a kick-ass girl heroine.
Anyway, here are my reviews of both. See them before they vanish from the big screens.
“God’s Own Country”: Francis Lee’s award-winning, feature-length debut makes you feel not only like you’re a part of the rugged Northern England terra firma but that you’re rolling around in earthy passion. His rich drama about two men — a farmer (Josh O’Connor) and a Romanian ranchhand (Alec Secareanu) — and an undeniable attraction is not only wildy sexy but elemental and real. I love this film and have seen it three times and will gladly see it three more.
“Blade of the Immortal”: Takashi Miike has made a staggering number of films, including the harrowing nightmare “Audition” and the crazy-good “13 Assassins.” His latest is epic in length, but ever-so satisfying, a mashup of a supernatural fantasy with a samurai drama. It’s entirely gonzo as a young girl and a die-hard samurai take on the bad and the seemingly good but actually bad guys. One of the most satisfying action films of the year.
The Mill Valley Film Festival is well underway and while numerous offerings in the lineup are already receiving national and international attention there are other gems worth seeing that aren’t as highly visible but are just as deserving of your time.
Two under-the-radar films I recommend are “The Divine Order” (5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Rafael Film Center) and “The Corridor” (8:45 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Lark).
Here are capsule reviews of both.
“The Divine Order” is a thoroughly entertaining dramatization of the drive to allow women the right to vote in a small town in Switzerland, a right shockingly not granted until 1971! Director Petra Volpe adopts the right touch and tone, injecting humor amid the escalating drama in a film that elegantly captures the period and its attitudes. It helps that the cast, led strongly by Marie Leuenberger as the housewife Nora — who undergoes a liberation transformation and becomes the unofficial community leader for the movement — plays off each other so gracefully. (Screens again 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Lark Theater). Opens Nov. 24 in the the Bay Area.
“The Corridor” is a riveting, fully immersive Bay Area-set documentary that illuminates an innovative program launched by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department that requires inmates without high school diplomas attend school while they’re behind bars so they can earn GEDs. Filmmakers Richard O’Connell and Annelise Wunderlich have done a comprehensive yet intimate job of exploring the program, particularly in presenting the stories and journeys of the inmates profiled. Don’t miss this one. (Screens again 10 a.m., Oct. 12, Rafael Film Center)
For tickets and additional information, visit mvff.com.