23 January, 2015

What to See at the 2015 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

Six continents are represented across dozens of narratives, documentaries and short films in this diverse program from the 15th edition of the Southeast's largest film festival. Here are 23 films you need to see this year.

In its 15-year history, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has risen to the top of Georgia's and the Southeast's film festival circuits in terms of both attendees and expansive programming. Now spanning 25 days of film screenings at 7 venues—plus numerous parties—AJFF is one of the most well orchestrated and highly publicized events in the state each year.

This year's program offers the same great range in international Jewish or Jewish-interest films we've come to expect from the festival. You certainly don't have to be Jewish to attend or to enjoy these films; the festival's biggest hurdle being that of reaching beyond their obvious clientele. All that simply matters for you to enjoy AJFF is that you must like great films!

Whether you check out Israel's biggest hit films from the last year (Golden Globe nominee "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" or "Zero Motivation") or you want to educate yourself through a variety of non-fiction films ("Above All Else," "Raise the Roof"), there is something for everyone. There are world premieres ("Dough") and special anniversary screenings ("Avalon," "The Shop on Main Street").

The 15th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival kicks off next Wednesday, January 28th at the Cobb Energy Center and runs through February 19th at several different venues in Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta and Alpharetta.

Check out nearly two dozen of our picks for this year's festival!

21 January, 2015

Short Take: "Confusion Through Sand" is a Unique, Mesmerizing Experience in Animation

"Confusion Through Sand" is one of the animated competition selections from the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival. The film comes from Ornana, a studio founded by native Georgians Danny Madden (director and animator of the film) and Benjamin Wiessner (producer). Previously, the guys produced "euphonia," which turned out to be one of ATLFF 2013's best films and the perfect example of just how daring and beautiful a true Georgia indie film can be.

19 January, 2015

Review: "Two Days, One Night" (****½)

Fabrizio Rongione and Marion Cotillard star in "Two Days, One Night"

It was just two years ago at the Savannah Film Festival that I was floored by the power and emotional magnetism of both the film "Rust and Bone" and its lead performers, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts. I was a fan of Cotillard before that (going back to when I saw her in "La Vie en Rose" at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival, the first time I attended any film festival) and I've become an even bigger Cotillard fan since. Naturally, when I saw that the Dardenne Brothers' film "Two Days, One Night" was playing at the Savannah Film Festival, I had a new top reason to attend.

I admit to not being familiar with the Dardenne Brothers' back catalog. I know they have won the Palm D'or twice and were highly buzzed to win it last year with "Two Days, One Night." I know what films they have made, I just haven't seen them. I went into this film with "Rust and Bone" on my mind and expectations of another masterful performance from one of the best actors of our time. The only thing both films share is an actress, and those expectations were exceeded beyond measure.

17 January, 2015

Two Takes: "American Sniper" Review

In our new review column, Cameron and Ali have a conversation and give both of their takes on Clint Eastwood's latest film, which just earned six Academy Award nominations.

Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper."

After three weeks in tremendously successful limited release, earning six Oscar nominations and a perfect storm of buzz and press interest, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” opened up nationwide this weekend. I loved the film on many levels. What was your overall impression?
Overall impression? I’d say this is a very heavy film. And I loved it, too. I really did, I wish I wasn’t in such a rush after the movie. That way, I could really soak in the feeling I was left with after this film.

Particularly with regard to what it means to be a war hero, I felt the entire time Clint Eastwood was playing like a devil’s advocate of sorts. I didn’t know if he was glorifying or horrifying it.

15 January, 2015

#GAfilm Review: "Selma" (****½)

A pivotal scene on the Pettus Bridge in Ava DuVernay's "Selma."

"Selma," at least for me, came out of nowhere. With so many great movies having come out of 2014—many of which helmed by respected auteurs—"Selma" just simply wasn’t on my radar. That is, until it began to make itself known. The film has been a contender in just about every awards race this season. The film is currently boasting a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, received nominations from the Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and received the Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema from our very own Georgia Film Critics Association. Even with all of this praise and hype, I was a bit reluctant to see what appeared to be another somewhat by-the-numbers, feel-good, Oprah-endorsed biopic.

09 January, 2015

"Boyhood," "Nightcrawler" Win Big as Georgia Film Critics Split the Board

Richard Linklater takes top honors for both Picture and Director; "Nightcrawler," "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Selma" all take home two each.

For their 4th annual awards presentation, the Georgia Film Critics Association have decided to distribute the love pretty evenly. Of the ten Best Picture nominees, nine of them took home at least one award.

"Boyhood" took home the big prizes, Best Picture and Best Director for Richard Linklater. "Nightcrawler" won Best Actor for Jake Gyllenhaal and Best Original Screenplay for Dan Gilroy. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" won awards for Best Production Design and Best Ensemble. "Selma" won the Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema and Best Original Song for "Glory," performed by John Legend and Common.

Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for "Two Days, One Night," while Tilda Swinton and J.K. Simmons took home Supporting prizes for Best Picture nominated films "Snowpiercer" and "Whiplash," respectively. "Gone Girl" took home Best Adapted Screenplay honors, while "Birdman" won for Best Cinematography (This is Emmanuel Lubeski's third GFCA win, after "The Tree of Life" and "Gravity"). Hans Zimmer's score for "Interstellar" provides the film's sole win out of three nominations.

Best Foreign Film went to "Ida," Best Documentary to "Life Itself" and Best Animated Film to "The LEGO Movie." David Oyelowo won the Breakthrough Award, with all five of his films from 2014 sharing the mention.

Check out the full list of winners after the jump.

05 January, 2015

Georgia Film Critics Reveal Nominees for 2014 Awards

"Birdman" narrowly leads nominations; "Ida," "Nightcrawler," "Snowpiercer," "Under the Skin," make a splash across the board.

Most critics groups have had their say already, but the Georgia Film Critics Association doesn't mind giving themselves time to think about their top picks of the year. This is their fourth year handing out best-of designations.

"Birdman" leads the pack with seven nominations, but "Boyhood," "Gone Girl," "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and Georgia-lensed "Selma" are all close by with six mentions each (not counting the individuals mentioned for Breakthrough Award).

Perhaps most noteworthy is the dominance of "Nightcrawler" (with five nods), "Snowpiercer" (with four nods) and "Ida" (with three nods)—all including Best Picture. Foreign films "Force Majeure" and "Two Days, One Night" pop up in the Best Actress category. Documentaries garner several mentions outside their own category, with "Sepideh" receiving a Foreign Film nod, "Life Itself" mentioned in Best Score, and both "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me" and "Virunga" earning Best Original Song nominations.

"Calvary" earned a rogue screenplay nomination, as did "Wild" and "The Imitation Game." There was plenty of love for "Inherent Vice," "Interstellar" and "Under the Skin"—each receiving three nominations.

Several of these films were found on the Georgia film festival circuit this year. "Whiplash," "Two Days, One Night," "Foxcatcher," "The Imitation Game," "Life Itself," "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me," "Finding Vivian Maier," "Keep On Keepin' On," "Big Hero 6" and "The Book of Life" all featured at the Savannah Film Festival. "Ida" played at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival early in the year.

Winners will be announced on Friday, January 9th. Check out the full list of nominees after the jump.

31 December, 2014

The Goods: Ranking Wes Anderson's Feature Films

We love Wes Anderson. You love Wes Anderson. The whole world does, really. This man has made some of the funniest, most adorable, most colorful, most uniquely singular films ever and in doing so, he has created a distinct style that is often imitated, but never duplicated. His brand is so built into our culture, even parodies are mostly just homages. His frequent collaborators—Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston and Tilda Swinton, to name a few—feel like family members to us.

Released early in 2014, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" has remained one of the year's best films as well as a bright spot on Anderson's already sterling résumé. As we gear up for end-of-the-year superlatives and Oscar nominations, we've ranked all of the films in Wes Anderson's glorious filmography. Where does his first feature, "Bottle Rocket," fit in? How about his latest, "The Grand Budapest Hotel?" Find out after the jump!

Review: "Unbroken" (**½)

Jack O'Connell stars in "Unbroken"

Watching Jack O’Connell’s performance as the raffish, far-reaching World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” you can’t help but admire and relish in the unbreakable resilience of the human spirit. People are rather extraordinary, and this film is a testament to those people who push the boundaries of what’s possible. Because, at the heart of it, beyond the bawdy and often unforgivable wartime treatments and mistreatments, “Unbroken” is a story saturated with sincerity. O’Connell enlivens the material while still leaving room for periphery characters to hem themselves in. But, to me, the film itself often felt more angular than fluid, more forceful than purposeful, and more eager to embolden the highlights of Zamperini’s life than simply allow us explore them ourselves.

21 December, 2014

Review: "Wild" (****)

Reese Witherspoon and her backpack Monster star in "Wild"

“Wild” opens with a shot of gorgeous and serene, snow-capped mountains. We hear a woman gasping for air, breathing as if caught right in the middle of some pretty rigorous sex. This woman, as it turns out, is a hiker arduously laboring her way to a pretty stunning lookout. And it is here that we meet our heroine Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon). She removes her backpack called Monster (a rather appropriately named symbol for all the things in her life that weigh her down) from her sweat-drenched and filthy back, takes off her too-small boots, peels off her blood-soaked socks revealing her mangled and blistered feet. She picks and rips off a dead toenail, and in the process, somehow, knocks her shoe off the side of the mountain. In frustration, she hurls the other shoe, full force, into the abyss. She curses at the mountains, screaming her frustrations at the top of her lungs, and it’s this moment that we learn the defiant, grieving, willing-to-make-a-fool-of-herself nature of this woman. Very quickly after that moment, we then get these quick, successive clips: a fox, her mother, her as a girl, her life, the wild. They’re very snappy and colorful and expressive and perfectly capture everything that this film is. Then a quick cut to the title card. It’s a gorgeous introduction to a well-done film.