21 February, 2015

The Short Circuit: Documentary Oscar Nominees

As promised, we return today with a rundown of this year's Academy Award Nominated Documentary Shorts! Covering an array of weighty, often dismaying circumstances, this block represents more countries than it does emotions. This isn't a bad thing; no story as affecting as these should go untold. Here is our ranking of five films that capture the essence of documentary.

20 February, 2015

The Short Circuit: Live Action Oscar Nominees

With only two days to go before the Oscars grace our screens, you're running out of time to see what you haven't already. Worry not, dear reader—as far as the less circulated, harder-to-find short films are concerned, we've got your back. The Academy assembles the nominated shorts according to category and distributes them to certain theaters nationwide, typically those driven by independent film; only four in the Atlanta Metro area have screenings. I saw all five at Lefont this evening and will now rank them from least favorite to favorite. Fair warning: as I have little interest in Academy politics, this list points not to an official prediction but to an official preference. Check those little boxes at your own risk!

05 February, 2015

Atlanta Film Festival Releases 2015 Competition Lineup

Seventeen titles compete in Narrative and Documentary categories, including two World Premieres, two North American Premieres and one US Premiere.

In December of 2014, the Atlanta Film Festival announced its first slate of programmed films, all of which were directed by women. Those ten features included six narratives and four documentaries from four different countries, including three films with Georgia ties. Today, the festival is pleased to announce the competitive lineups in the narrative and documentary feature categories.

“This year’s feature competition includes a wide variety of innovative works that truly challenge our perception of traditional film forms,” said ATLFF Director of Programming Kristy Breneman.

Three of these films, all of which are narratives, were announced in December: “Breathe (Respire)” directed by Mélanie Laurent, “Next Year (L’annee Prochaine)” directed by Vania Leturcq and “The Sisterhood of Night” directed by Caryn Waechter. Seven of the competition films are directed by women.

ATLFF will host the world premieres of both “Rosehill” (directed by Brigitta Wagner) and "Somewhere in the Middle" (directed by Lanre Olabisi). “Rosehill” is Wagner’s feature debut and stars Josephine Decker and Kate Chamuris. “Somewhere in the Middle,” starring Cassandra Freeman, Charles Miller and Louisa Ward, marks a return to ATLFF for Olabisi. His last feature, “August the First,” played the 2007 Festival. Olabisi is among the winners of the 2009 ATLFF Screenplay Competition.

AJFF & Creative Loafing Art Party 2/7: Reel GA Readers Get 10% Off!

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has partnered with Creative Loafing to bring you a night featuring local artists, collectible works, and a celebration of Jewish comedy legends from the 1970s to today! Hosted at the Mammal Gallery, a versatile arts and performance space in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the 2nd Annual AJFF Art Party will feature artists Catlanta, Blockhead ATL, Crazy Monkey Trucker, and Clunky Robot. Still other artists will contribute special art drops, and film-themed photo booths will make you feel like a movie star. Bring a friend and be a part of the most contemporary, innovative event this weekend has to offer!

When: Saturday, February 7 @ 8pm
Where: The Mammal Gallery, 91 Broad Street Southwest, Atlanta, GA 30303

Use the discount code APCL8296 to get 10% off your ticket, which includes entry, collectible art, a swag bag, and access to a FREE TACO BAR!

Buy your tickets here!

Homespun Series Returns to Plaza Theatre 2/13

The next installment in the Homespun Series is fast approaching! Since they began in November 2013, Homespun has showcased solely Atlantan-based short films that focus on the real, colorful characters in our city.

For 2015’s Winter Screening, Creator Brantly Watts and Executive Producer Jon Watts, Atlanta Film Festival Filmmakers in Residence, have chosen three documentary shorts that comply with a universally resonant theme: music.

03 February, 2015

Review: "A Most Violent Year" (****½)

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in "A Most Violent Year."

From the opening credits, "A Most Violent Year" is hypnotic. A tracking shot shows our lead, Abel (Oscar Isaac), jogging through a chilly New York. It’s 1981. Passing graffiti-covered buildings, piles of dirty snow and junk yards, we’re introduced to a New York rarely seen in film. The gorgeous, crisp sepia-toned colors and cool, clean tracking shots call to mind some of David Fincher’s more recent films. Perhaps writer director JC Chandor took a page from Fincher’s how-to-make-anything-and-everything-look-amazing playbook. It’s beautiful. The sun starts to rise as the city wakes up. After Abel finishes his morning run, we see his wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), applying her make-up and listening to the local news on the radio as she stares into the mirror and exhales cigarette smoke. Soon after, the couple meets up in a damp, snowy parking lot as Abel grabs two brief cases from the trunk of his car and tells Anna that she “looks very nice.” At the same time, a young man driving a large truck pays his way through a toll booth on a bustling highway. The man is immediately blocked in by two cars, pulled out of his truck and beaten up by two strangers with hand guns. The words “A Most Violent Year” appear on the screen accompanied by the sound of a passing train.

02 February, 2015

AJFF Buzzes With World Premiere of John Goldschmidt's "Dough" (**)

Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins, Jonathan Pryce co-star in "Dough"

International Emmy Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award-winner Jez Freedman began his script for "Dough" with co-writer Jonathan Benson in 2009. Fast forward five years to last night, when his finished product debuted in two venues for the soon-to-be largest Jewish film festival in the world. The two remaining screenings have long been sold out, the demand due largely in part to Director John Goldschmidt's and leading actor Jonathan Pryce's critically acclaimed backgrounds. But Freedman and Benson are to thank for the rest; their first film together serves a compelling synopsis that elicits (pardon the pun) high expectations.

01 February, 2015

Review: "Whiplash" (****½)

Miles Teller and JK Simmons star in "Whiplash."

"Whiplash" was—hands down—one of the two best narratives at the 2014 Savannah Film Festival (the other being "Two Days, One Night"). After it won both the Dramatic Jury Prize and the Dramatic Audience Prize at Sundance, a fast train of lofty expectations was set in motion—with J.K. Simmons' Oscar campaign leading the way.

Although the trailer and word-of-mouth had prepared me adequately for what to expect, I was caught off guard by just how electric this film is. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are singularly both very good, but it's the dynamic between them that creates a powerful surge that courses through the film before an explosive ending.

29 January, 2015

Photos: 2,200+ Turn Out for Atlanta Jewish Film Festival's Opening Night

The huge crowd awaits AJFF's opening night presentation of "Above and Beyond."

For the third year in a row, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Vinings served as the venue for the opening night gala and film presentation of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Formerly held at the similarly sized Fox Theatre in Midtown, the Cobb Energy Centre's large ballroom and 2,700+ seat capacity make for an exceptional space for the largest annual film event in Atlanta.

Nearly a dozen of Atlanta's finest restaurants catered the event, offering up custom dishes for the enthusiastic audience. Live music—presented by the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival—and an open bar aided in the festivities, which included several raffles, an interactive red carpet photo booth and lots of mingling with Atlanta's movers and shakers.

The film presentation was documentary "Above and Beyond," which Christo reviewed earlier this week. Directed by Roberta Grossman (AJFF alum with 2013's "Hava Nagila (The Movie)") and produced by Nancy Spielberg (Steven Spielberg's sister), "Above and Beyond" chronicles the incredible story of Israel's first air force and their growth from a rag-tag team of volunteers to a powerful military force.

It was an incredible evening and a great start to the 23-day festival. Check out several photos after the jump!

28 January, 2015

AJFF Review: "Mr. Kaplan" (****)

Héctor Noguera stars as Jacob Kaplan in "Mr. Kaplan"

It is 1937 in Sosnowiec, Poland when young Yankev Kaplan becomes a man. Renamed for the heroic biblical patriarch, the new and improved Jacob Kaplan internalizes his rabbi's charge to seize an "exceptional destiny" of his own. Sixty years after escaping WWII alone, 76-year-old Jacob (played by Héctor Noguera, a presence in South American television since the 1960s) begins to question whether the life he's built in Uruguay has accomplished what his father dreamt for him. "Is the world a better place because of me? How useful was I?" He asks these questions not in futility, but in hope, recalling that the likes of Goethe, Churchill, and Abraham achieved great things in old age. And so we begin to wonder with him: Does Jacob Kaplan have time to make a difference?