Jane Seymour and Bereave at Day Eight at the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival

Garvey (Malcolm McDowell) and Evelyn (Jane Seymour) have been married for 40 years, and today is their anniversary. Only Garvey has a secret that he’s been keeping from Evelyn – and he’s determined to keep it from her – even if it means ending their marriage – today.

So begins the film Bereave which played at the Sarasota Opera House on Day Eight of the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival. For the record, Jane Seymour was feted by the SFF with a special tribute event called A Lunch With Jane Seymour earlier in the day. This was held at the prestigious Sarasota Yacht Club. Then before the film screened there was a Red Carpet entrance for Jane and one of the film’s Directors Evangelos Giovanis, plus they were introduced on stage. George Giovanis, who co-directed was off in Peru shooting a film so he could not attend the SFF.

As for Seymour, isn’t she gorgeous? And who doesn’t recall Jane as Solitaire in the James Bond thriller Live and Let Die which came out in 1973. Or a bit more recently Jane played Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman which was a well-loved TV series running from 1993 to 1998.

Bereave is about a couple who have experienced and are experiencing bumps in the road which is a natural turn of events in any marriage.

In this film, both of them are forced to try to deal with and understand something which we all must do – which is to face our own mortality. Given that as a premise, the film does have lots of lighter humorous moments.

Most of the humor comes from Keith Carradine who is playing the President of the United States on the CBS TV Series Madam Secretary. Here he plays the younger brother of Garvey. Watch for Christine Kelly, who plays Laura, a beautiful young woman who Garvey meets in the park. She’s pretty enough to get him focused on what he must do rather than what he thinks he should do.

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The Sarasota Film Festival 2015

The Sarasota Film Festival will start in about two weeks. Beginning April 10th, the festival opens its doors for the 17th time. Celebrating the art of film making while showing the best in new cinema in the categories of narrative features, shorts, documentaries, and even kid friendly film fare – the festival is a key event in the world of movies.

Tonight I attended the Press Kick-Off Party held at the fabulous Selby Gardens. on S. Palm Avenue in Sarasota.

So,e millimg about merged with socializing - an all in one photo op

After a lengthy session of milling around also known as socializing, imbibing drinks, and dabbling in finger foods,

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others engaged in marketing until Mark Famiglio took the stage to welcome the gathered folks and then he turned the festivities over to Mark Dunaway, the new SFF Creative Director.The full schedule of more than 180 films was released tonight with the Sarasota folks in attendance, being the first of any people in the world to get the news. Dunaway told us that when Indie Wire called him today, they were told to call back tomorrow. When the New York Times called today, they were also told to call back tomorrow. The announcements today came out just a few days after the festival’s Opening and Closing Night Features were announced.

The Opening Night film, to be screened on April 10th at 6:30 PM at the Sarasota Opera House at 611 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota will be Time Out of Mind. This is a story of a homeless New Yorker who will struggle to find stability and purpose to his life, all while attempting to restore and rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter.

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The Lunch Box

In Mumbai, India, there’s a system of delivering lunches that are picked up from home kitchens and restaurants then delivered to workers in their offices (right to their desk) via bikes, trains, and pushcarts with errors only being the remotest of possibilities. After the lunch breaks are over, the tiffins (lunch boxes) are picked up, then transported back to the exact point of origin. Every day, nearly 175,000 such lunch boxes are picked up, delivered, and returned. The rate of error for lunches either being lost or delivered incorrectly, is so low that once in a million deliveries applies. This system has been in use since the latter part of the 19th century.

This film is about one such lunchbox and it is no surprise that film is entitled The Lunch Box. This lovely film was written and directed by Ritesh Batra in his first ever work on a feature film and has won awards at film festivals from Reykjavik to Sao Paulo, from such diverse places like Oslo, London, Ghent, and from Tribeca to Telluride to Dubai. Just a few days ago, The Lunch Box opened at Sarasota’s indie/art/foreign theater, the Burns Court Cinema.

Batra is only 35 years old and studied film in New York. But his touch is fine. He knows his craft, and the film flows by in a brief 104 minutes. This is an Indian film that has made the box offices light up all over the world.

Nosheen Iqbal, writing for The Guardian newspaper in the UK has noted that the film reflects India’s new taste for realism. It’s not really new, as years back, in the 60’s and 70’s, this style of film making was called India’s Parallel Cinema. In that era, those practitioners made films with serious content, naturalism, and an eye on realism rather than commercialism. So the Parallel Cinema has been around for a while.

Here’s the story of The Lunch Box, condensed of course.

Nimrat Kaur plays the housewife Ila. Her husband commutes to work each day from a Mumbai suburb, and Ila gets her young daughter off to school in the morning. She loves her husband, and tries hard to please him. But he doesn’t notice or care. So Ila enlists the help of a neighbor upstairs, called Auntie, whom we hear, but never see. An extra special lunch is prepared. The door bell rings, and there’s the dabbawallah to pick up the lunch. She watches as he loads the lunch box on to his bike, and rides off the train station where the lunches are organized and sorted before being sent to the city for delivery.

Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire) plays Saajan Fernandes. He is an older man, a widower who is approaching his retirement from his job as an accountant in the Claims Department of a large insurance company. He too receives his lunches on a regular basis via the same system, only his lunches are prepared by a restaurant.

On this particular day something is different.

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The One I Love – Day Nine at the Sarasota Film Festival

The Closing Night Feature Film at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival was The One I Love. Directed by first-timer Charlie McDowell, and written by feature film first timer Justin Lader, the film is basically a two-hander starring Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake, Mad Men, Darling Companion) and Mark Duplass (The Mindy Project, Zero Dark Thirty, Darling Companion & Your Sister’s Sister). Acting vet Ted Danson has a small role as a marriage therapist.

Now this is a very, very new film. There’s not a poster, nor a trailer to be found. But there is a clip out there. Prior to Sarasota, the film has screened only at Sundance this past January. Further festivals on the horizon include Newport Beach, Tribeca, Montclair, and San Francisco. So the film makers will be on the move.

By the way, all the images that you’ll see in this review, with the exception of the two above this line – are stills pulled from the clip.

ZZZ - ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

ZZZ – ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

Here’s the skinny. Moss as Sophia, and Duplass as Ethan, play thirty-somethings. They’ve been married long enough for Ethan to have strayed, and so their marriage is on the rocks, at a crossroad, about to hemorrhage, or burst at the seams. Pick one or all of the above as all apply. So they’ve chosen to consult with a marriage counselor, played by Danson.

Danson elects to send them off on a weekend retreat – away from their familiar surroundings, a place where they can just concentrate on finding the spark they once had. Or as Streisand and Redford once called it – The Way We Were. But this new film isn’t anything like that one. It all takes place over one weekend. Years don’t fly by. There’s just one brief flashback and it basically opens the film.

Good Morning, handsome

Good Morning, handsome

So off they go, to an unnamed in the film, location which turns out to be up in the hills above Ojai, California. You won’t find that fact on IMDB, but McDowell, Lader, and Moss were on hand at the SFF for a post-screening Q & A, and that’s how I know. More on the Q & A later.

Suffice it to say, things go smoothly for a while. It’s a lovely home – fully stocked, fully equipped, and it even has its own separate guest house which is slightly smaller than the main house, but as fully loaded as it needs to be. They have the whole place to themselves.

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The Heart Machine – Day Nine at the Sarasota Film Festival

[Some SPOILERS AHEAD] The Heart Machine is fresh off its world Premier at SXSW a few weeks ago. The film is so new, that at this time, there’s not even a film poster available, so pardon the make-do image on the right used for this piece. [Edit: October 15th, 2014 – Poster and updated trailer have been added to this review]

The Heart Machine isn’t about new medical machinery or bio-tech. Rather it is about love in the digital age. These days, one asks for a way in by saying, What’s your Skype address?

It’s still the same as can I call you, only the hardware/software is different. The Heart Machine was screened at the Sarasota Film Festival today, and yours truly was in attendance. Starring John Gallagher Jr (The Newsroom) and Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards), this film wasn’t the comedy, the romance, or even the rom-com I was expecting and hoping for.

Rather it is a look at one-night stands, e-stalking, angst, skypurbation, and hovering over all of it, is the hollowness and fleeting (over just after it begins) of today’s relationships. The onscreen version is the relationship began and end as easily as opening a wrapped bit of chocolate then tossing the wrapper into the trash bin.

Gallagher plays Cody. He lives in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Sheil plays Virginia Walker. They met on line and communicate via Skype. For some reason (she’s somewhat insecure which may be the case but isn’t clearly apparent), Virginia tells Cody that she lives in Berlin, Germany. We soon learn otherwise, as she really lives on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside. Or as she describes it – ‘really way east of the Lower Eastside’.

But as these things go, the internet allows for an intimacy that an old-fangled telephone does not. So things progress. But Gallagher’s Cody is not just a guy looking for love. We soon find out that he may be paranoid and that he’s definitely obsessional. He takes screen captures of the Skype talks, and then starts blowing up the backgrounds in these images – is he just inquisitive, or what exactly does he expect to see? What is he looking for why is he looking so far beneath the surface are the questions that will come to you.

Then he starts listening to background sounds on the recorded Skype calls. He looks at the audio graphics of dog’s barking, and what he calls German sirens. This is not good. We begin to be concerned for Virginia. Because we know she’s in the city.

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Wild Canaries – Day Seven at the Sarasota Film Festival

Back in the 30’s and 40’s a very popular film series called The Thin Man became a favorite of film goers. Starring Hollywood legends William Powell and Myrna Loy, the original which was titled The Thin Man was shot in 12 days in 1934, and was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture. This film spawned five sequels. While I am uncertain about The Thin Man being the first screwball comedy, I am fairly certain that it was the first screwball comedy murder mystery.

Between 1957 and 1959, The Thin Man was a successful TV series and starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. The screwball element was still present as was the sophisticated repartee and dialogues. In all 72 episodes aired.

In the 1970’s we had McMillan & Wife on our TVs. Starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James, the series played 40 episodes over the period of 1971 to 1976. The episodes were 90 minutes each. We still had the man and woman solving murders, except this time he wasn’t a retired private detective – he was the Commissioner of the San Francisco Police Department. St.James kept the role of the kooky wife created by Myrna Loy in play.

Which brings us to 2014. Arriving at the Sarasota Film Festival tonight was Wild Canaries. Yes, going in, this film could be called a screwball comedy/murder mystery, and it has definitely been updated for the times. Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, who co-stars with Sophia Takal as his fiancé, the film is set in a Park Slope Brooklyn brownstone building. Noah (Levine) and Barri (Takal) share an apartment. Also on board in the same apartment is their friend Jean (Alia Shawkat).

There’s a couple who live on the ground and second floor; a guy named Damien and his wife and child. A nice old lady Sylvia lives on the 3rd floor and Barri is friends with her – is discovered by Barri dead on the floor of her bedroom. The Emergency Medics are summoned and it is ruled a death by heart attack. But Barri doesn’t quite believe that an 80 year woman who had a triple by-pass heart surgery, and a hip replacement – could be in bad enough shape to suddenly succumb to a heart attack, she believes it must be foul play. See, here we are barely seven minutes in, and already we have a screwball theory.

She goes on to pester Noah and Jean endlessly about this. The dynamic is such that we aren’t particularly displeased by Barri’s notions, but rather we begin to seriously dislike the constant bickering that we are a witness to. Noah doesn’t seem all that invested in his engagement – there’s the all night poker games with weed and booze in Damien’s apartment downstairs which Noah uses as a refuge from Barri, and this seems to attract him more than the whining Barri.

Lawrence Michael Levine wrote the film, directed the film, starred in the film, and appeared in Sarasota for a Q & A

Lawrence Michael Levine wrote the film, directed the film, starred in the film, and appeared in Sarasota for a Q & A

Noah is also in business with an ex-gf named Eleanor played by Annie Parisse who appeared in many episodes of Law & Order as A.D.A. Alexandra Borgia. As to what kind of business they do – it isn’t clear, and at the moment – despite their past involvement, Eleanor is now a lesbian.

Jean is in business with Barri – and together they have an idea to buy a failed Catskills resort and restore it. They even raise a half million in seed money from a friend of Jean’s. Jean says, We probably got the money because I gave this guy a blowjob once. Also worthy of mention is that Jean now is also a lesbian, and she tells us that she hasn’t had sex in more than year.

Just another day in the paradise known as Park Slope. Barri has nothing else to do than try to solve a possible murder.

Just another day in the paradise known as Park Slope. Sophia Takal as Barri has nothing else to do than try to solve a possible murder.

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The 2014 Sarasota Film Festival Begins Tomorrow

SFF 2014 - 3

I’ve just returned from picking up my press credentials and screening passes for the 16th Annual Sarasota Film Festival April 4th – 13th, 2014. The tagline for this year’s festival is One Festival – Infinite Possibilities. Let’s have a look at a few of the films I will be covering:

Opening Night, April 4th at the Van Wezel Performing Arts HallLast Days in Vietnam

A documentary directed by Rory Kennedy, the daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. As the final weeks of the Vietnam War were winding down chaotically, the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon, and the U.S. government remained in Congressional gridlock.

With the clock ticking and the city under fire, American soldiers and diplomats on the ground, were facing a moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM is an unforgettable story of heroism and compromise in the face of impossible odds, a film that is at once profoundly moving and an indispensable chronicle of the end of the Vietnam War. 

Rory Kennedy was only seven years old at the time the events happened.

Saturday April 5th – Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway stars Jude Law as a crook who kept his mouth shut while doing 12 years in a British jail. Now he wants to collect his cut.

Is the new version of Alfie, a role made famous by Michael Caine nearly 50 years ago (1966). Or is it more like Law as a loud mouthed hooligan?

Monday April 7th – Coherence

On the night of an astrological anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events.

Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, Coherence is a tightly focused, intimately shot film that quickly ratchets up with tension and mystery. Might we have a new version of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise? Or Close Encounters of the Third Kind – or something else? Check out the trailer:

Tuesday April 8th – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film (Fargo), is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.

The film stars Rinko Kikuchi who has appeared in Pacific Rim, The Brothers Bloom, 47 Ronin, and Norwegian Wood.

Wednesday April 9th – Words and Pictures

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. A witty romance-com edy with Clive Owen as the English teacher and Juliette Binoche as the art instructor. Let the battle begin… but check out the trailer first:

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