Film Review: COUNTING FOR THUNDER (USA 2015) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

counting_for_thunder.jpgAn actor unlucky in work, money and love goes back home to the deep south to help out during a family crisis and is inspired to find his true voice as his mother is finally finding hers.

Director: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Writer: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Stars: Phillip Irwin Cooper, Mariette Hartley, John Heard

Review by Gilbert Seah

 It should be noted that this autobiographical film started out as a one-man play where Phillip Irwin Cooper played no less than 30 different odd characters. But Cooper has taken his play out in the open quite well, as it is difficult to guess that the film originated that way. Cooper does the writing, directing and lead role in the film.

Phillip Stalworth (Cooper) is an actor unlucky in work, money and love. He goes back home from California to the deep south, Alabama to help out during a family crisis. His mother, Tina (Mariette Hartley) has been diagnosed with cancer. He is more attached to her than to his father, Garrett (John Heard) who in turn is closer to his sister (Alison Elliot). So why is this film advertised (billed) as a LGBT film? Phillip is bi, who has made out with both sexes. While back in Alabama, he has a fling with an old school-mate, Joe Tishman (Peter Stebbings). There is no nudity or skin in this film.

The film benefits from two veteran actors, Hartley and Heard. Stebbings is sexy enough or at least plays sexy quite well. Cooper, however, is fond of making awkward faces whenever conversation is made. There is one scene with a key dialogue that goes against Cooper’s face making. Mother says the wise words that in a photo, the snapshot taken of there person is one that is frozen and that person will be remembered forever with that pose. This means Cooper will be remembered forever in his film as the man who makes awkward faces.

On the more serious side, COUNTING FOR THUNDER is an honest and earnest film from the heart of Cooper. There is the pain and tenderness of the lead charter that emancipates from the screen. The audience can tell that Coper is playing a real character. Cooper does not go for cheap laughs such as joking about people of the deep south.

The film contains a few really odd yet funny scenes. One wonders if they turned out this way by accident or were they carefully planned. One is the meeting outside the house where

Joe Tischman gives Phillip some collard greens from his garden telling him that he looks frazzled and the greens with olive oil and sea salt will brighten any day. While the two talk, their body language turns weirder, as if they were two roosters fluttering their feathers to see who is the more attractive.

At one point in the film, Thomas asks his mother while high on hashish, “Have you ever felt at any time that nothing in your life has every went the way that it should?” And they burst out laughing. It is an excellent scene showing that Cooper is able to laugh at his own material. But the film is more touching than funny. The film’s confrontation scene between Phillip and his father, however feels a bit forced.

COUNTING FOR THUNDER works better as a family drama than as a south middle age coming out story. The film will be released in the U.S. and Canada via Wolfe Video on May 2 on DVD & VOD and across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com and many major retailers.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/202288712 

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In Living Colour: American Broadcast News on Film

A World of Film

I recently wrote an essay regarding political representations of TV news in film by comparing Network (1976) with Christine (2016). The essay focuses on the political ideology of TV news, attempting to work out what value such media holds in communatating truths to mass audiences, while asking if this is even possible when situated within a deep and embeded ideological structure. 

Take a look at my essay thesis below, and, if interested, click the link at the bottom of this page to read the entire piece.   

Keep engaged in film viewing, theory, and criticism. Cinema is one of the most important arts of expression we have at our disposal… in times such as the modern age, never forget that!

Thesis:

In this essay, I shall examine the political critiques of Network and Christine, focusing on the aesthetic qualities and thematic content of each. The films map an important shift…

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Hot Docs 2017 Review: ASK THE SEXPERT (USA 2017) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

ask_the_sexpert.jpgA longtime sex advice columnist gains popularity against the backdrop of a ban on comprehensive sex-education in schools in several Indian states.

Director: Vaishali Sinha

Review by Gilbert Seah

 The sexpert of the film is the columnist a 91-year old retired gynaecologist, Dr. Watsa of the Mumbai Times who has a column for years running that answers questions about sex.

Despite sex being a taboo topic in that country, the column’s brand of non-moralistic advice and humor has emboldened many to write in with their questions, the vast majority of whom seek basic information. Director Sinha follows the doctor often at work, as he sees patients or while he sitting by his computer dishing out often comical advice.

The film diverges to sex education in India and how Indians should be taught sex. There will be objections – those for the sex education curriculum and for Dr. Watsa’s column. It is not surprising that the angry people are always women. Sinha keeps her film light and flavourful.

While entertaining, ASK THE SEXPERT opens eyes on sex education in the huge continent of India.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/1yRR1_VU1cQ 

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Film Review: MY LIFE I DON’T WANT, Myanmar, Animation

Played at the March 2017 ANIMATION Film Festival

  MOVIE POSTERMY LIFE I DON’T WANT, 12min, Myanmar, Animation
Directed by Nyan Kyal Say

A short animated film about the life of a Myanmar girl inspired by a true story.

Review by Kierston Drier:

With bright simple visuals and powerful symbology, this dramatic and powerful Myanmar animation coming to us from director Nyan Kyal Say is the story of one sunny optimistic young girl put through the hardest sides of life simply because she is born female.

Victim of a systemic gender bias family and society, our heroine is a unrelenting easy to love, even when she walks alone down a road that will lead her to endless heartache.

What makes this piece so admirable is it’s ability to draw on hope- our character is broken again and again by life’s cruel circumstances. She is shuffled from family to family, from one abusive situation to the next, from one misfortune to another- all while appearing to never give up. Until, of course, all seems dark…

But what happens to our heroine is just one story in a sea of heartache. For the issues of gender injustice in our world are plentiful, and the fight for equality rages on.What choice does our heroine have?

Where does she go when all is lost? To know, you must watch the beautiful, simple, powerful and bright film that is My Life I Don’t Want.

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO. Moderated b Matthew Toffolo:

Film Review: KAROUMA, United Arab Emirates, Animation

  MOVIE POSTERKAROUMA, 12min, United Arab Emirates, Animation
Directed by Boubaker Boukhari

Karouma is a Unique gift striving to break through and to leave his parent’s nest to live pursue his dreams and live his life in its full potential.

Review by Kierston Drier:

This UAE animation is the story of a strong bright child born without arms. Despite the limitations of their lives, our hero Karouma refuse to lose his sunny disposition and bright optimism.

Perhaps most surprising in this film is that the dialogue is nonsense words- the inflection of speak is certainly there, but what is actually being said is unknown. This creates a beautiful sense of anomie within films’ universe and the child’s world.

Through the eyes of childhood, Karouma is sheltered from the gazes and whispers of the world around him. What matters is not the dialogue, but the actions.

Although fairly sheltered, Karouma is able to break free and see the world, only to discover it a difficult place to be when you are different. But Karouma’s uncrushable spirit allows him to rise above his differences- literally.

Whether symbolic and based on true events, Karouma is a tale of triumph over adversity. Karouma reminds us we are as free and boundless as our imaginations.

 

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO. Moderated by Matthew Toffolo:

Film Review: BABY AND GRANNY, Animation

Played at the March 2017 ANIMATION Film Festival

  MOVIE POSTERBABY AND GRANNY, 2min. USA, Animation/Comedy
Directed by Zheng Kang

A 2D animated action-comedy about a baby and granny who share a common bond (Baby’s Mother is Granny’s Daughter) but who fight like crazy when left alone. The visuals are highly-influenced by the work of 60’s Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein

Review by Kierston Drier:

 
Short, punchy and full of action Baby Vs Granny will turn classic familial love of a grandmother and a grandchild on it’s head. This two minute UAE animation directed by Boubaker Boukhari boasted bright colors, lighting fast reflexes and two family members ready to square off when no one else can see them.

This piece totally delivers where color and character are concerned. Stylishly animated mostly in black and white with special attention paid to coloring the main characters, it is a lightening fast and never skips a beat.

It speeds through it’s short time with whirl-wind intensity, feeling like it is only a few seconds long, rather than a few minutes.

A comedy which needs little to know dialogue and is outstandingly visual, BABY AND GRANDMA is an awesome film to watch!

 

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO. Moderated by Matthew Toffolo:

Film Review: NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (USA/Israel 2016)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

norman.jpgDirector: Joseph Cedar
Writer: Joseph Cedar
Stars: Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen

Review by Gilbert Seah

Not to be confused with the other film NORMAN made in 2010, this new NORMAN comes with a long subtext in the title that essentially tells everyone what the film is about.
Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, NORMAN (film’s original title was OPPENHEIMER STRATEGIES) tells the moderate rise and tragic fall of the said man. The film is well shot and directed as a combination of set pieces are performed almost meticulously by veteran actor Richard Gere. At the age of 67, Gere could be almost be doing old fart movies like GOING IN STYLE. (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin share the average age of 80), Here in NORMAN, Gere is in top form, articulating his character who still has the ability to charm and ‘cheat’ investors of their hard earned savings.

Cedar’s film begins with two dramatic set pieces that show Norman hard at work. In the first, he is unsuccessful while he succeeds in the second. In the first segment, he stalks a high-profile businessman interrupting his private life, while he is jogging in the morning to pitch his deal. In the second, he successfully courts a young politician, Nicha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) after paying for his shoes at a shoe store. (French actor Isaac Bankole is immediately recognizable as the shoe salesman who flatters Eshel.) Three years pass and Eshel becomes Prime Minister of Israel. Eshel’s name is used to no end by Norman in all his present and future schemes.

At the film’s start in one of Eshel’s speech, he says: “I do not look at the way things are and ask: Why? I look at the way things should be and ask, why not?” The same idea can be used to critique NORMAN. The film is fine but the question that should be asked is what the film should have been with the question why not.

For one, nothing is mentioned of Norman’s background. Norman is shown the way he is – no girlfriend, minimal family and a loner at heart and in life. It is hard to identify with a person like Norman and especially as he is a trickster at heart. Norman has few redeeming qualities. There is no suspense in the way he could have got caught which could have added some needed suspense into an otherwise monotonous film.

Gere is good and the film contains an impressive cast of actors that include French Bankole and Charlotte Gainsbourg and others like Hank Azaria (always appearing in con films), Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens and Steve Buschemi. One could say that Gere is too good looking an actor to play a shady character like Norman. But one could argue too that as Gere said, when he was here for the film at TIFF that it shows that there is a Norman in each one of us.

The film is shot partly in Hebrew and English in New York City where the story is set. NORMAN is not bad but could be better. And why not?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXFCrl37HzU
 

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com