Film Review: THE DRAWER BOY (Canada 2018) ***1/2

The Drawer Boy Poster
Ontario – 1972. Miles, a young theatre actor from Toronto, arrives in Huron County at the home of Angus and Morgan, two aging bachelor farmers. Miles stays with the two farmers in order to …See full summary »

Directors:

Arturo Pérez TorresAviva Armour-Ostroff (co-director)

Arturo Pérez Torres and Aviva Armour-Ostroff’s first narrative feature THE DRAWER BOY is based on Michael Healey’s Governor General’s Literary Award winning play.  The darer refers to one who draws. Expectations are high on the esteemed play’s adaptation.  Thankfully, the film lives up to the expectations.

The play, set in the 70’s, is a three handler with a stranger – an actor from Toronto who suddenly shows up at a farmhouse door in Huron county, Ontario, and entering the then comfortable lives of two friends who served in world War II now working on a small farm in Canada.  

The actor is Miles who wishes to observe the farmers in order to write a play about farmers.  Miles asks for a place to stay and an opportunity to watch them do what they do. 

The next day starts of disastrously.  In an attempt to start learning their ways, Miles tries to use Morgan’s tractor and ends up injuring Morgan almost immediately.  Miles suggests that maybe he should just watch from now on, but Morgan insists that he isn’t getting a place to stay unless he helps out.  Upon getting to know the farmers further, he learns that the man who originally answered the door was Angus, who has short-term memory loss due to an injury from the war.

The film and the play has an odd premise of character interaction but it is this oddity that enables the film to fascinate the audience.  Directors Torres and Armour-Ostroff realizes the fact and keeps the story always one step ahead of the audience.  For example, the audience only learns of Angus memory loss after the effects of the memory loss are shown.  The war stories are also revealed slowly, one bit at a time. The uncovering of the truth and the story carries the mystery of the film that is quite effective.

The directors take the film out into the open so that it does not feel like a play.  The three characters talk a lot which is the only point that reminds one that the film is based on a play.   The brilliant performances also remind one of the film’s roots as a good play which is almost sure to contain riveting performances.  All the actors Jakob Ehman playing Toronto actor, Miles, Ricahrd Clark playing Morgan and Stuart Hughes as Angus are to be commended most notably the latter.  Hughes has the ability to move an audience to tears by changing the pitch of his voice.  Otherwise, there are shots of cows, the Huron landscape, the farms, the harvest fields, the interior and exterior of the farm house that lead the audience to forget a stage bound play.

A post-screening Q&A is added on Saturday, November 24th at the 7:00PM screening. In attendance will be Director-Producer Arturo Pérez Torres and Co-Director-Producer Aviva Armour-Ostro

THE DRAWER marks one of this year’s best Canadian films this year.  Among the many awards won is the Best Feature at Canadian Film Fest 2018.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/185346761

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Interview with Festival Director Bill Hass (FORT WORTH INDIE FILM SHOWCASE)

The Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase (FWIFS) is going into it’s sixth year. It started as a small “boutique” showcase, designed to service local and regional filmmakers. The festival quickly grew in popularity and is now an international festival servicing filmmakers around the globe. The first year, it screened about 40 films, and they struggled to find those. In 2018, they screened around 120 films over the course of three days. They are a multi-genre fest. They screen features and shorts on a variety of topics. In their fourth year, they relocated to Sundance Square, in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. They typically present the festival in the third week of July. The dates for 2019 are July 18-20, and we are currently open for submissions.

Contact

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Bill Hass: What we do successfully is provide a platform to grow. We are going into our sixth year and we have some filmmakers that have participated with us from the beginning. It is encouraging to see the quality of films improve over time. We take a family approach to our event. Once you participate, you’re one of us. With that we do all we can to help filmmakers grow their networks. We make them aware of other festivals, we make introductions to other filmmakers in attendance, and we set up panels and discussions to speak on specific areas of the craft.

2) What will attendees experience when they attend your upcoming festival?

We do everything we can to put a spotlight on the filmmaker. FWIFS is about each individual artist. Of course, we will show the films. Beyond that we are looking to expand the experience by offering a full day of panels on various topics. For the screenwriters, we are also looking at an opportunity to have local actors read portions of their scripts before an audience.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We look for films that tell an interesting story, films that leave you thinking and spark discussions. As a multi-genre fest, we look for and accept a wide variety of projects. We like to present a strong cross-section of films, everything from horror to comedy, and romance to faith based. The element that all of our projects have in common is a tight story, told with interesting characters.

4) Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

The really nice thing about the independent film festival, is that all films are equal. A film that was produced with a zero budget will be considered alongside a film with a six figure budget. Each film is judged on its own merits. At FWIFS, we take every submission seriously. Every other festival I’ve dealt with does the same. That being said, as filmmakers we need to make sure we’re submitting according to the festival rules. In other words, don’t submit a feature drama to a festival that specializes in short comedies. As long as films are submitted within the guidelines of the festival I believe they are fairly considered. I think that is true for all festivals. I know that is true for us.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

The filmmaker and the audience. Festivals like this are important to new and independent filmmakers because we provide an outlet for them to show their films. For those who attend, they also have an opportunity to engage the audience and receive valuable feedback. It’s great to see filmmakers interacting with the audience and their peers. It’s also very nice to watch and audience enjoy a film that they may not have seen or known about, except for our festival. It’s a really good feeling to know what we had something to do with making that happen. That motivates us to do it the next time.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has made our submission process really easy. The receipt, review, and acceptance process is really simple. It’s easy for the judges. Of all the platforms we’ve tried so far, FilmFreeway has brought us the most success. Anytime I’ve had a question or a problem, I’ve been able to get help right away. They also consistently improve the platform and add features that increase the value. I am very glad we discovered FilmFreeway.

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

In addition to what we’re already doing, by 2023 I’d like to see us offering more workshops and panels. I’d also like to see more blocks that cater to writers and story development. Over the next five years I also want to continue fostering our relationships with schools and student filmmakers. Ideally, we’ll see a level of growth that will enable us to add another day or possibly another venue in addition to our current location.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

The Matrix. I really enjoy the way that story unfolds.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Well developed characters in a well written story.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

It’s getting better. We have a new film commission that is working to bring filmmaking to Ft. Worth. There are a lot of great locations to shoot, and the Commission is really focused on building a reputation as a Film-Friendly city. Aside from ourselves, there are several other festivals that go up throughout the year, so there is a decent opportunity to catch indie films. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops here over the next few years.
 

About the Festival Director:

Bill Hass is the programming director and one of the founders of FWIFS. Bill is himself an award winning filmmaker, so he and the team present the festival from a filmmakers perspective. Bill’s journey to programming this festival was about thirty years in the making. He started as a stage actor. From there he learned to write, which led to making films. Filmmaking evolved to programming a festival. He’s been programming the festival since it’s inception, and he works to present a strong cross-section of films each year. The focus is on presenting strong character driven stories in all genres. He also looks for opportunities to mentor young filmmakers whenever possible.

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November 2018 – Read the best of Screenwriter Interviews

Interviews by Matthew Toffolo

Touch the link and read 22 different interviews with the best of new screenwriters from around the world.

Louric Rankine (SQUAD)
Interview with Screenwriter Louric Rankine (SQUAD)

Nicholas Julius (MYTHATANIA)
Interview with Screenwriter Nicholas Julius (MYTHATANIA)

Stephen Witty (WHITTAKER ALGER AND DICK)
Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Witty (Whittaker, Alger, and Dick)

Marc Gatschner (OF THE SEA)
Interview with Screenwriter Marc Gatschner (OF THE SEA)

Michael Preston (INHERIT-LY GAY)
Interview with Screenwriter Michael Preston (Inherit-ly Gay)

Alexander Stathis (HOMEFRONT)
Interview with Screenwriter Alexander Stathis (HOMEFRONT)

Joel Stern (THE WAITING ROOM)
Interview with Screenwriter Joel Stern (THE WAITING ROOM)

Chima Idigo (MEAT)
Interview with Screenwriter Chima Idigo (MEAT)

Anthony Cicchelli (MILE HIGH ROOM)
Interview with Screenwriter Anthony Cicchelli (MILE HIGH ROOM)

Karen Matthews (PANDORA)
Interview with Screenwriter Karen Matthews (PANDORA)

Suzanne Lutas (THE DEAD RINGER: THE GRAND JURY)
Interview with Screenwriter Suzanne Lutas (The Dead Ringer, The Grand Jury)

Brandon Gillum (CADENCE OF THE BATTLE CRY)
Interview with Screenwriter Brandon Gillum (CADENCE OF THE BATTLE CRY)

James Grayford (THE FRANCHISE)
Interview with Screenwriter James Grayford (THE FRANCHISE)

Joshua Ashburn (A BRIEF WORD ON HYPERSLEEP)
Interview with Screenwriter Joshua Ashburn (A Brief Word on Hypersleep Studies: Chiliagon)

Connie Corcoran Wilson (CONFESSIONS OF AN APOTEMNOPHILE: I THINK I AM)
Interview with Writer Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (CONFESSIONS OF AN APOTEMNOPHILE: I THINK I AM)

Michael De Sapio (INCREDIBLE LIFE OF JOEY COLETTA)
Interview with Screenwriter Michael De Sapio (Incredible Life of Joey Coletta)

Paul Watkins (KENOBI: A STAR WARS STORY)
Interview with Screenwriter Paul Watkins (Kenobi: A Star Wars Story)

Rodgers Wilson (ELLA WITNESSING)
Interview with Screenwriter Rodgers Wilson (ELLA, WITNESSING)

John Renney (THE CULTISTS)
Interview with Screenwriter John Renney (THE CULTISTS)

Isaac Sweeney (SHOOTING)
Interview with Screenwriter Isaac Sweeney (SHOOTING)

Peter Lloyd (STREET LAW)
Interview with Screenwriter Peter Lloyd (STREET LAW)

Michael Head (LIGHTKEEPERS)
Interview with Screenwriter Michael Head (LIGHTKEEPERS)

November 2018 – Read the best of Filmmaker Interviews

Interviews by Matthew Toffolo

Touch the link and read 8 different interviews with the best of new filmmakers from around the world.

Dominic McCafferty (BOONDOGGLE)
Interview with Filmmaker Dominic McCafferty (BOONDOGGLE)

Bevin Hamilton & Rachel Murphy (INCALL)
Interview with Filmmakers Bevin Hamilton, Rachael Murphy (INCALL)

Marvin Nuecklaus (CROSSROADS)
Interview with Filmmaker Marvin Nuecklaus (CROSSROADS)

Max Mortl (ISLAND)
Interview with Filmmaker Max Mörtl & Robert Löbel (ISLAND)

Nick Dolinski (CLOUD COVER)
Interview with Filmmaker Nick Dolinski (CLOUD COVER)

Erik Bloomquist (SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS)
Interview with Filmmaker Erik Bloomquist (SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS)

Mark Howling (OBE: THE OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE)
Interview with Filmmaker Mark Howling (O.B.E. THE OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE)

Andres Passoni (3:32)
Interview with Filmmaker Andres Passoni (3:32)

Film Review: THE GREAT BUSTER: A CELEBRATION (USA 2018) ***

The Great Buster Poster
Trailer

Documentary on the life and works of comic genius Buster Keaton, directed by Peter Bogdanovic.

Buster Keaton is not someone as well known Charlie Chaplin.  But this is by no means to say that Buster Keaton is no less a genius.  Myself, I first saw Buster Keaton in a supporting role in Richard Lester’s 1966’s comedy A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.  The doc, THE GREAT BUSTER: A CELEBRATION includes a footage of Keaton in the film.

The film is a celebration of actor/comedian/filmmaker and genius Buster Keaton.  Buster, in those days meant ‘Fall’ and Buster Keaton grew famous in funny falls from the young age touring the country with his travelling show parents.  The film is an examination of the artist from literally a baby to adult, which writer/director Peter Bogdanovich undertakes.

Who better than Peter Bogdanovich whose most famous film WHAT’S UP DOC? starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal was likely influenced by the slapstick antics of Buster Keaton.  Bogdanovich also loves black and white oldies and made the excellent THE LAST PICTUR SHOW and PAPER MOON, all black and white period pics.

Unless one is familiar with Keaton’s films or grew up in those times (i.e. if you are over 70), there is much to enjoy in the old footage assembled by Bogdanovich.  From Keaton’s early pictures like his two reelers to his shorts and feature films, expect plenty of laughs. 

Bogdanovich also ties in the passion of film into the doc.  Not only is Keaton’s talent for comedy shown but his genius in filmmaking.  

The early comedic sequences are the ones with Fatty Arbuckle and Keaton.  Arbuckle was Keaton’s mentor and introduced him to film, which aided Keaton’s fame.  The sequence of the two having dinner is not only funny but a genius in its set up.  Other simple sequences featuring these two are equally priceless.

Every genius has his downfall or at least bad times in life.  Arbuckle got entrapped with a murder charge and scandal.  For Keaton, it was his drinking and contract with MGM.  The film was clear to point out that MGM destroyed a few classic comedians of the time including The Marx Brothers, Stan and Ollie and Abbott and Castello with churning out their worst films.  Keaton’s drinking led to his divorce and firing at MGM, fed up with his drinking.  The height of his depression led him  to be committed to an army hospital taken away in a straight jacket. ‘Straight Jacket required to move Buster Keaton to hospital, ” read the newspaper headlines.   

It becomes apparent half way through the film that material is running out.  Bogdanovich inserts old Keaton film footage as fillers.  At least they are funny and satisfying in filling the time.

The film ends with Keaton’s death in 1966 and with the words of Dick Van Dyke who delivered the eulogy at the funeral service.

THE GREAT BUSTER is a celebration of not only Keaton but the artists of the silent era.  The film’s best segment is the clip from Charles Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT where Chaplin and Keaton performed together for the first and only time.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsffUJBYya0

Film Review: IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS (USA 2018)

In Search of Greatness Poster
Trailer

Through the eyes of the greatest athletes of all time, IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS is a cinematic journey into the secrets of genius.

Director:

Gabe Polsky

Writer:

Gabe Polsky

 

IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS is a documentary that seeks to find the secret behind the success of ‘great’ athletes.

The film never really defines greatness.  What is greatness?  From the first few segments of the film, the idea of greatness appears to be narrowed down to the greatness of athletes.  Their ability to do well in their field of sports be it football or soccer or hockey.  Still greatness is assumed to achieve fame in their sport so that they become world-famous in their sport.  Intelligence, dedication and other factors are tied in as well.  The film relies heavily on the interviews with authors and creativity experts Ken Robinson and David Epstein.

The main point drummed into the audience is that one cannot measure greatness.  The film does measure it in terms of  fame, or why would they pick Lou Ferrigno,  Jerry Rice or Wayne Gretzky to be their spokespersons?  What is the filmmakers measurement definition of fame then in picking them?  But another associated fact is that one cannot train for greatness.  If one as become a hockey star, he cannot go to hockey school or a special hockey camp to cultivate that greatness.  The film comes up with dozens of examples of people that go against the flow.  It never however mentioned the exceptions of the people who did go for special training and followed the rules who got into major leagues.  I am sure there are many here too.

The road to greatness?  The hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and “Red Army’s” Gabe Polsky, among others have a lot to say based on their experiences.  Most of these are common sense.  But it is educational and there is nothing wrong to be clarified on what common sense can teach human beings.

So what are these common sense pointers?  It seems silly that one should attend a full length feature to learn what is commonly known.  The most important point that is emphasized time and again is the need to ditch conformity.  Following the formula of a great athlete’s training does not make another great athlete.  From the film, these can be summarized, of course from the point of view of the doc’s ‘experts’:

rage to perform: in other words, dedication is key as emphasized by Wayne Gretzky.  He would rather spend two hours hitting the puck instead of going to a movie with his pals.

ability to learn: in other words, intuition, again Gretzky could immediately analyze the payers in a game within the first few minutes of play

Despite the concentration on sports greatness, the film only narrowly touches other fields of genius.  The film contains footage of many great athletes at their heights (Pele, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, Serena Williams) which makes like cameos in a feature.

One can only wonder why director Polsky does not apply the principles of greatness in the making of his documentary.  IN SAERCH of GREATNESS is an ok doc but to a great one.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loSryNWg58k

Film Review: CREED II (USA 2018)

Creed II Poster
Trailer

Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, light heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.

Director:

Steven Caple Jr.

Writers:

Cheo Hodari Coker (story by), Ryan Coogler (characters) | 4 more credits »

How time flies.  Before one knows it, CREED II, the sequel to 2015 CREED is now the 8th instalment of the ROCKIE franchise.  All of the films feature Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote CREED II.  CREED II is not as good as CREED I primarily because ideas are running out – after all it is the 8th film.

The film follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) training in order to defeat the son of Ivan Drago, the powerful athlete who killed his father in the ring more than 33 years prior.

It was in 1985 that the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) killed former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed during an exhibition fight in Las Vegas.  That same year, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) defeated Ivan Drago in a boxing match on Christmas Day in the Soviet Union. Thirty-three years later, Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), with Rocky’s training and guidance, seeks to avenge his father’s death by fighting Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) while at the same time, Ivan hopes to reclaim his honour through Viktor.  Stallone plays again Robert “Rocky” Balboa, Sr., the two-time world heavyweight champion and Apollo’s rival-turned-friend who becomes Adonis’ trainer and mentor.  He still owns and operates his Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.

The script surprisingly is sympathetic towards the villain Viktor and his over-unforgiving father Ivan.  During a few points in the film, one actually wishes Viktor would win the fight.  Adonis is comes across (unintentionally) as a spoilt celebrity.  Viktor is shown in the script to be a victim of family circumstances that he cannot escape from.  A similar situation was tapped in Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS where the Colin Farrell character is tied in to his family’s reputation.  Both wish to be out.  This is the only positive difference in the ROCKY films.  On the negative, Stallone ups the melodrama several notches.  Adonis’s girlfriend Bianca Thompson (Tessa Thompson) is suffering from hearing loss.  Rocky Balboa has not seen his son and granddaughter for years and finally gets to reconcile (sob-sob!) at the end of the film.  Rocky visits his late wife Adrian’s grave and speaks to her.  Adonis visits his late father’s grave and talks to him too.  It is this melodrama that kills the movie.  

A neat touch is the appearance at the final fight of Viktor’s mother (played with icy coolness by Brigitte Nielsen) who had deserted the family. 

It is clear that Viktor is the bigger and better fighter, so it is a hard task to make Adonis a credible foe that can beat Viktor.  The script devotes the usually hard training sessions (devised by Rocky that Adonis undergoes – like pulling trucks, turning tires and running in the ht desert).

The climax of the film is understandably the heavyweight championship bout between Adonis and Viktor,  executed with all its expected gore and brutal violence.  The fight begins during the last 15 minutes of the movie.

All that can be done with CREED II is to use the recycled formula of what worked in the past.  The result is a lacklustre over melodramatic film with a few good fighting sequences.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPNVNqn4T9I