Posted on April 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I began with a press-only screening of a documentary called “Waiting for Hockney” about a man who spent 8 years and five months drawing one picture with the dream that some day he could show it to David Hockney.

Then I came to the press office where they have screening stations for people who want to see a movie but cannot be there when it is shown in a theater. I watched a screener of an animated film called “Sita Sings the Blues.” They say that living well is the best revenge but making a movie about what an unfeeling jerk your ex is probably comes pretty close. “Sita” ties together multiple layers and styles, using an ancient Indian myth and several different kinds of traditional imagery with songs by Annette Hanshaw (1920’s blues/jazz/American songbook signer who usually ended with a cheery “That’s all!”) and scenes from the film-maker’s own life and break-up. What made it especially fun for me is that it was made by a woman I met two years ago here at Tribeca — she was working on it then and it was so much fun for me to see how it all came out.

Then I went to an event that included both press and ticket-holders — and Q&A by the director, Mike Figgis (“Leaving Las Vegas”). “Love Live Long” was made in
five days from a one-page treatment, all dialog improvised by the two actors, who were cast just two days before filming began. I liked the way he took advantage of what happened to be going on where he was filming, including a million-person protest (“You never get a million extras!” he said happily.)

And then I attended the red carpet and screening of the basketball story “Ball Don’t Lie” — some video clips coming soon. Stay tuned!

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DVD Giveaway: The Great Debaters

Posted on April 28, 2008 at 8:00 am

Great%20debaters%20group.jpg I have two copies of one of the best family films of 2007 to give away to the first two people who send me an email at The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, is the true story of a debate team from a tiny all-black college in the 1930’s. These beautiful collector edition DVDs have an extra disk of bonus features and will be a treasured addition to any family’s collection. (Please put the name of the DVD in the subject line of your email. Only people who have not already won a DVD, please.)
Don’t forget to read my interview with the young stars of the film.

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Contests and Giveaways

Astaire and Rogers: La Belle, La Perfectly Swell Romance

Posted on April 27, 2008 at 8:00 am

They said she gave him sex and he gave her class. In eight heavenly movies from the 1930’s at RKO Studios and then with one more — their only one in color — at MGM, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced and sang in some of the most deliciously entertaining movies ever made. We know right from the beginning that these two are destined to be together. But it usually takes them about 90 minutes to figure it out.

One thing they did better than anyone else before or since was to convey the beginning of a relationship through dance. Watch this number from “Top Hat.” As in most of their films, Astaire is already very attracted to Rogers when this scene begins, but she has no interest in him and finds his attentions annoying. As they begin to dance, she sees who he is for the first time and he learns that they are even more right for each other than he had hoped. In most romantic movies, there is some witty repartee to symbolize the deep connection between the couple. But here, it is all done with music (Irving Berlin’s delightful “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain?”) and dance.

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Get ready for Prince Caspian

Posted on April 26, 2008 at 8:00 am

Opening day for the second film in the Narnia series is less than a month away, and Beliefnet has created some wonderful resources to help families get ready for it. Take a quiz to find out which Narnia character most resembles you. Enter a contest to win a Narnia prize pack. Learn and discuss the top 12 spiritual lessons from the book. Watch a featurette about the making of the sequel. Test yourself with a Narnia quiz. Read the thoughts of a Jewish and Muslim fan of this Christian parable. Join groups to share your thoughts and artwork with other Narnia fans. And start crossing the days off the calendar until May 16.

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Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Posted on April 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use.
Profanity: Extremely strong, graphic, and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Frequent drug use, positively portrayed
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence including guns, character murdered
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 25, 2008

harold%20and%20kumar.jpgLike the effects of the marijuana laced with cocaine smoked by a world leader near the end of this movie, the sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle combines a literally dopey stoner comedy buzz with an electric sting of sharp satire. The first film was surprisingly popular with audiences and even more surprisingly popular with critics, who found that making the main characters minorities in an otherwise unambitious druggie comedy gave the interactions as the two stoned college students stumbled toward the fabled little square burgers a new freshness, even an edgy, satiric quality.

Plus, it had Neil Patrick Harris in a deliciously demonic role as “himself,” a ‘shroomed-out former child star.

Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) depart for Amsterdam, where Harold hopes to see the girl of his dreams (even though he does not know her last name or where she is staying) and Kumar hopes to enjoy legal marijuana. But on the plane, Kumar lights up, using a smokeless bong he invented for the occasion, and a passenger assumes he is a terrorist. “Bong” sounds like “bomb” and he has brown skin. Before you can say “I just wanted to join the other mile high club,” they are cuffed by air marshals and carted off to face a racist, power-mad, pea-brained US government official (Rob Corddry), who orders them put into orange jump suits and shipped to the prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. This ain’t “Law and Order.” No right to a phone call, no lawyer, no passing Go and no collecting $200.

After some ugly encounters with real terrorists in the adjacent cell and sexually predatory guards, Harold and Kumar escape, get back to the US, and take off for Texas, where they hope to get help from a classmate who is conveniently both connected to the top levels of the Department of Defense and about to marry Kumar’s former girlfriend, the one he still loves.

The racial and political barbs are even more pointed this time as just about everyone’s bigotry is exposed. In one of the highlights, Harold and Kumar are taken in by a redneck who looks like an extra from “Deliverance.” He brings them to his broken-down shack and they go inside to find it decorated like a Manhattan co-op apartment, the redneck’s elegant wife at the computer complaining that the DSL line is not working properly. Just as they readjust their expectations, there is another twist. They also have a run-in with the KKK, who think they are Mexicans. No one seems to know or care what their ethnic backgrounds really are. The government interrogator insists on speaking Chinese to Harold’s parents — and insists that they are speaking some strange dialect he cannot understand, despite the fact that they are (1) Korean, (2) are speaking English, and (3) have lived in New Jersey for 40 years.

Cheerfully offensive, cheekily raunchy, happily outrageous, and often just plain disgusting, the movie avoids the usual sophomore slump by ramping up the political jabs while keeping it all unpretentious and moving quickly. We get a bit of a glimpse of Kumar’s backstory — his first girlfriend and his first joint. It is not for everyone; some audiences will consider it so morally bankrupt that they will not be able to enjoy it. But for its audience what makes this one appealing is that like its heroes, this series is growing up.

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