MONDAY March 13th, 2017 ****** Hell or High Water ***** directed by David Mackenzie **writen by Taylor Sheridan ** starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges

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Following a series of armed robberies at a number of branches of Texas Midland Bank where very little money was taken, we learn that the motive of unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his brother — just released from prison — is to raise enough money to pay off the reverse mortgage that will forfeit their recently deceased mother’s ranch if not paid off. Oil was discovered on the ranch and in order to secure the future of his sons and ex wife, Toby needs $43,000. After two of the robberies, curmudgeonly Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his American Indian deputy partner pick up the trail and just miss foiling the next, and last robbery.

MONDAY March 6th, 2017 ****** Café Society ***** directed by Woody Allen **writen by Woody Allen ** starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell

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Set in the 1930s, Woody Allen’s romance CAFE SOCIETY follows Bronx-born Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) to Hollywood, where he falls in love, and back to New York with his colorful Bronx family, where he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

MONDAY February 27th, 2017 ****** NERUDA ***** directed by Pablo Larraín***** starring Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán

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CALLING ALL POETS

Don’t miss our next film!

Beloved poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is also arguably the most famous communist in post – WWII Chile. When the political tides shift, he is forced underground, with a tenacious police inspector (Gael Garcia Bernal) hot on his trail. Meanwhile, in Europe, the legend of the poet hounded by the policeman grows, and the artists, led by Pablo Picasso, clamor for Neruda’s freedom.

MONDAY February 20th, 2017 ****** LION ***** directed by Garth Davis ***** starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara

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A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives countless challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia. After 25 years growing up in a context with almost nothing to do with his early childhood, his earliest memories begin to consume him – and he sets out to find his lost family.

Join us to witness this incredibly moving story of a journey away and back home again, a journey through which the very notion of nature, nurture, family, nostalgia and personal memory take on new meanings. This film is a must see. 

 

 

MONDAY February 13th, 2017 ****** Invincible ***** directed by Werner Herzog ***** starring Jouko Ahola, Tim Roth, Anna Gourari

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Werner Herzog’s “Invincible” tells the true story of a Jewish strongman in Nazi Germany. Keeping with last week’s cast, the sinister portrayal of Erik Jan Hanussen is played wonderfully by Tim Roth (The Legend of 1900). Written and Directed by Herzog, it has the power of a great silent film, unafraid of grand gestures and moral absolutes. Tim Roth poses as a man with real psychic powers, ruthless in using trickery and showmanship to jockey for position in the emerging Nazi majority. The strongman, played by Finnish athlete Jouko Ahola, is an actual twice winner of the title World’s Strongest Man, and provides an uncanny appeal in contrast to Roth. Set in 1932 in the last days of Weimar Berlin, this extraordinary tale provides a captivating story of strength and deception.

MONDAY February 6th, 2017 ****** LA SAPIENZA ***** directed by Eugène Green ***** starring Fabrizio Rongione, Christelle Prot, Ludovico Succio

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An aging architect (Fabrizio Rongione) tries to rediscover his passion by going on a research expedition to the birthplace of 17th-century master Francesco Borromini.
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“La Sapienza” strikes this reviewer as easily the most astonishing and important movie to emerge from France in quite some time. While its style deserves to be called stunningly original and rapturously beautiful, the film is boldest in its artistic and philosophical implications, which pointedly go against many dominant trends of the last half-century.

MONDAY JANUARY 30th, 2017 ****** THE LEGEND OF 1900 ***** directed by Giuseppe Tornatore ***** starring Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Bill Nunn

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The Legend og 1900 was filmed at Cinecitta Studios in 1998. This is a story about a boy born on an ocean liner. Son of poor immigrants, he spent his life traveling back and forth across the Atlantic. He learned to play the piano and joined the ships orchestra. His reputation as a pianist became so renowned that Jelly Roll Morton joined him on-board for a piano challenge.

Music by Enio Morricone

 

Movie Review: The Legend of 1900

By Brad Kay
I happen to be a musician. I don’t think I’m a genius, but I am very tough on movies that purport to be about musical geniuses. These films all fall short of greatness, or even goodness, for the simple reason that a phenomenon like True Genius can only be observed. Genius doesn’t travel well beyond its native environment, or reproduce well in other hands. By the time they make it to pictures, works that started as fire and mystery end up as pickles in your fridge. With musical genius, pictures are at best incidental. So the movies about Mozart, Frederic Chopin, George Gershwin, Beethoven, Charlie Parker, among others, are to me little more than pretty picture postcards with better-than-average soundtracks. These gentlemen still are best appreciated through their actual musical scores or records.
However, The Legend of 1900 is a movie about a FICTIONAL musical genius, a pianist, who, in the year 1900, is discovered as a foundling infant on board the ocean liner S.S. Virginian, and spends his entire life aboard her, never touching foot on dry land. Therefore, SOME bets are off. Since there’s no one to compare him to, there can be no nitpicking about scores or authenticity. One has to evaluate “Danny Boodman T. D. Lemon 1900” on his own merits. I’m okay with that.
Also, since he IS a fictional character, we can allow ourselves to be drawn more readily into the conceit of the movie without kowtowing before the unyielding eye of History. What a relief! However, since music plays such a large role in the story, I also have to evaluate IT on its own merits, and I’m NOT ALWAYS okay with that.
Right from the edge, the piano playing, around which this whole picture revolves, makes a fair simulacrum of originality, at least enough to hang the story on, to keep our disbelief suspended. Sometimes the playing is mere glittery virtuosity of the kind we’ve heard from Liberace or Ferrante & Teischer – for instance, the Richard Rodgers-y waltz 1900 plays while he and the seasick Max are rolling around at the piano in the ship’s ballroom; or the tarantella he plays for the folks in steerage. His breaking off into bumptious arabesques while playing with the ship’s jazz band is equally superficial and also annoyingly unprofessional.
At other times, the music rises above that and we hear some truly impressive and moving stuff, such as the Mozart-like piece we see him playing as a child; the lovely blues he plays while looking out to sea (with prescient harmonies, natch, that wouldn’t be used until the 1940s). And of course, the beautiful theme (obviously the Big Tune of the picture) he records while gazing through a porthole at the incandescent Melanie Thierry. 1900’s piano playing therefore is a mixture of schlock and real beauty. I have to give Sergio Morricone, the composer, points for at least giving us enough to work with, something to chew on, kind of an audio-animatronic illusion of genius.
Speaking of prescience, Max, his trumpet-playing friend and confidante (and narrator of the picture), also is quite the phenom. Auditioning for the ship’s booker, circa 1920, he uncorks some VERY impressive Louis Armstrong-like gestures, which Louis himself wouldn’t arrive at until 1938 or so. Ah, there’s no sight like hindsight!
I loved the use of, and the rendition of, Scott Joplin’s “Peacherine Rag,” heard early in the movie when the child 1900 first invades the ship’s ballroom. Played by the ship’s orchestra, it is hard-hitting, brisk-tempo’d real-ass ragtime, circa 1906, and the dancers are MOVING. In many ways, it was the most authentic music in the whole picture. It stirred me from my torpor.
There were problems with the climactic “Piano Battle” with Jelly Roll Morton. The Morton role was miscast, for starters. The real Jelly was a light-skinned Creole, lean and wiry. Actor Clarence Williams III is a chunky, decidedly dark man, who in his white suit and shades looks more like “Superfly” than like the legendary Morton. His acting was credibly Morton-like, but now begs the question of how, in 1927, this very dark man got into this lily white ship’s lounge. The ‘haughty Spanish Grandee’ Jelly, who never cringed before whites, might have managed it – but not Superfly. The bit with the lit cigarette was, I think, contrived. Did Jelly really have to cut his playing off in the middle when the cig burned down? Never heard of that. The performance of Morton’s pieces, “Big Fat Ham,” “The Crave” and “Finger Breaker,” what we hear of them, is respectable and note-perfect, but to my ears totally dry. Jelly was a genuine real-life genius, and the gulf between his actual renderings and what we hear in this movie is very wide indeed (please re-read paragraph 1).
1900’s handling of the situation was the most original thing about it. His bewilderment and slowness-on-the-uptake at the concept of a Piano Battle is charming and funny. I won’t ruin it for you. But when he gets riled, he sprouts extra arms and hands and REALLY lets Jelly have it! The music department must have worked overtime to make a genuine go at a killer-diller shove-it-up-yer-ass piece, but to me it comes off as a spate of sweaty pianistic bludgeoning, lacking any subtlety whatsoever. Jelly Roll’s “Finger Breaker,” the piece 1900 supposedly bested, has a lot more nuance and originality.
The scene of 1900 cutting a record is SO wrong. Acoustical recording was ancient history by the time of this alleged session – they were using microphones and amplifiers by then. And you NEVER played a wax master – that would ruin it! And the equipment was wrongly positioned to capture the sound of the piano. And the record company guy talks like a hustling, payola-slinging hit-maker from the 1950s. And how that wax record survived so many playings in the pawn shop is beyond me.
Speaking of which, that pawn shop – where Max and “Pops,” the proprietor, reminisce – is jaw-droppingly amazing! All those beautiful instruments! All those rare 78-rpm records strewn everywhere! Oh my fuckin’ Christ!! The dust! The aroma! You couldn’t PRY me out of a place like that!
Music aside, the biggest plot hole in the story is how did 1900 avoid discovery? His concealment was plausible while he was hiding out in the bowels of the ship as a child. But after the funeral of his protector, Danny, attended by everybody and read over by the Captain, surely someone would have noticed this kid, got him safely off the boat into the hands of the Gerry Society or somebody, and that would have been the end of the picture. But little 1900 goes undetected, and lives exclusively on the Virginian for the rest of his life.
The big question is why does 1900 never debark? His friend Max is driven to distraction by this conundrum. He reveals to Max a philosophy of sorts for staying on board: “Why why why why why. I think ‘land people’ keep wondering ‘why?’. Winter comes, they think of summer. Summer comes, they live in dread of winter. It’s why they never tire of travelling, of chasing someplace where it’s always summer. Sounds like a bad bet to me.” Later, he waxes philosophical on Max about getting OFF the ship: “The land – it’s like a big scream telling you that life is immense. Once you’ve finally heard it, then you know what you have to do to go on living.” Well, as Ben Franklin once said, “It’s great to be a reasonable person. You can find a reason for doing ANYTHING.” To me, the real philosophy is that as long as 1900 stays on board the Virginian, we keep on watching the picture.
Of course, in real life, the TRUE talent in The Legend of 1900 is buried under the keel of the ship. I had to look deep dark down in the tiny type of the credit crawl at the end of the movie, and also scroll way the hell down amongst the cast and crew listing in the Internet Movie Database. But by gum, I found her! THE ACTUAL PIANIST WHO DID THE ACTUAL PLAYING FOR THIS PICTURE!! Her name is Gilda Butta. I’ll say it again: GILDA BUTTA! Don’t bother to thank me on your way out.

MONDAY JANUARY 23rd, 2017 ****** LA LA LAND ***** written and directed by DAMIEN CHAZELLE ***** starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Rosemarie DeWitt

Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.

Potluck dinner at 5:45, film screening to follow at 6:45 AND MOST IMPORTANTLY= DISCUSSION AND COMMENTARIES AFTER THE FILM

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I SAW LA LA LAND, ‘N’ “AL AL AL” WAS I.
Movie Review by Brad Kay

OKAY, the above is not the most perfect palindrome. Not classic, but it sort of makes sense, and you have to admire my initiative for coming up with it. People who even think palindromically are quite rare today. The same could be said for “La La Land.” It’s not a perfect movie, yeah, it’s not as good as “The Band Wagon,” yeah, but you have to admire the initiative of all concerned.
It is a CONTEMPORARY picture, not a modern attempt at an old-fashioned studio musical. Sly though it is with clever references to “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Great Ziegfeld,” “An American in Paris,” etc. etc., it never tries to BE those movies or anything like them. All bets are off. In case you didn’t get the memo, MGM is history. That whole Old Show Business ethic is history. Fred Astaire, Jimmy Durante, Eleanor Powell, Al Jolson are all gone, and there is no one and nothing to take their place. The era is kaput. The miracle about “La La Land” is, that in spite of NO studio infrastructure or cultural “pull,” it ever got made at ALL. It should get an Oscar for just that. But this movie is more than just a futile, pallid, bloodless-but-brave attempt at a musical (as many have opined). It’s accomplished, entertaining, colorful, tells a terrific love story, succeeds on its own terms, and more than held my attention for two hours.
I saw “La La Land” on my 28-inch flatscreen, rather than in a theatre, and I think that helped. It’s an intimate story, after all. I don’t know much about “chemistry,” but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seem to have enough of it to keep us rooting for them. They held the franchise for me. The expressions on Stone’s face, near the start of the picture, when she’s on the phone getting the gate from her old boyfriend, were priceless and put me on her side at once (see Luise Rainer’s big telephone scene in “The Great Ziegfeld” for comparison).
For a musical, this had a LOT of music; a range of styles from show tunes to opera to “commercial” jazz to “real” jazz; plus there was ample silence and space. We see a great deal of tremendously accomplished instrumental playing. The actual singing and dancing certainly could have been better, and yes, there was no big Irving Berlin show-stopping song that just HAD to be, that got you cheering (the opening sequence on the 105 interchange was a good try). But, for today, Gosling and Stone’s singing seems natural. It emerges out of talking, which to my mind, is the best way a song can be. For them suddenly to explode into Las Vegas “Gladiator Style” singing would have been just silly.
Gosling’s jazz “piano playing” was pretty terrific throughout. True, it was dubbed in by pianist Randy Kerber (I looked it up), but Gosling threw himself so into piano practice, that his fingering and attitude looked entirely natural. He used several types of pianos in the course of the movie – a Steinway grand, a full upright, a little spinet, electronica – and the sound matched perfectly every time. It fooled me, and I should know.
There was a lot of talk about music and jazz throughout. It was not embarrassing. Lots of the talk sounded like it came from real musicians. It tells the truth! “La La Land” is not shy at conveying how fragile and precarious the music and acting scene of today really is. It never tries to convince us, as does “The Red Shoes,” that the whole world is one vast playground of the Arts. It’s a wasteland, and everyone knows it.
The only phony note in the picture, for me, was when “Sebastian” (Gosling) grudgingly had to play “boring” Christmas carols in a restaurant, then had a hissy fit, played “out” jazz, and got fired by his asshole boss. I’m sorry! That’s totally unprofessional! If you’re getting paid, you PLAY the damn carols, satisfy the man, but then DO them your OWN bad way! Knock yourself out! That’s what is known as a “win-win” situation. But I guess a plot point about the pianist’s “artistic” nature needed stress.
The color was thrilling – dazzling, kaleidoscopic, at times even psychedelic. It was the closest thing to the vivid, oversaturated three-strip Technicolor from the ‘40s I’ve ever seen. Much attention was paid to contrast, juxtaposition, variety. The editing also was fast paced, even clever and funny, but never obnoxiously so. And they also let the camera linger for long, full-frame takes with few cuts. Great use of fabulous L. A. locations, some of which are gone already.
I got the feeling of people working hard, pulling together, pooling all their talents to put this thing over. The team spirit is palpable. It never was easy to make a decent musical, even back when the studio system was swinging and the audience always was hungry and ready. For this picture to be made, today – for accomplishing all that it does, when it must have been a total uphill slog, what with music itself gasping for survival, with venues shutting down, audiences dying off and musicians evaporating – is fucking amazing.
Believe me, I was SPOILING to pan the hell out of this, and spew generous pots of my tight-assed curmudgeonly bile about the decline of culture, etc. etc. But I’ll have to stifle it. “La La Land” is really a GOOD picture, goddammit, and I don’t care if lots of ordinary people happen to agree with me.

MONDAY JANUARY 16th, 2017 ***** THE BEST OFFER ***** written and directed by GIUSEPPE TORNATORE ***** starring Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, and Donald Sutherland

One of our favorite films in Cinematiki that we showed very early on was Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore.
Monday, January 16th we are screening one of his more recent films, The Best Offer with Geoffrey Rush, Silvia Hoeks, Jim Sturgees, and Donald Sutherland.
The film has won numerous awards in Europe, and it should prove to be an interesting evening.

Potluck dinner at 5:45pm, Screening at 6:45pm. Discussion to follow film.the-best-offer_movieposter_1390414437.jpg

 

MONDAY JANUARY 9th, 2017 ***** FENCES ***** directed by DENZEL WASHINGTON ***** screenplay written by the distinguished North American theater author AUGUST WILSON from his original PULITZER prize winning play ***** starring DENZEL WASHINGTON, VIOLA DAVIS, STEPHEN McKINLEY HENDERSON, JOVAN ADEPO, RUSSELL HORNSBY, MYKELTY WILLIAMSON AND SANIYYA SIDNEY…

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Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, Troy creates further tension in his family when he squashes his son’s (Jovan Adepo) chance to meet a college football recruiter.

Rolling Stone ~ “ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR”