Cha Cha Real Smooth

Posted on June 16, 2022 at 5:44 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Miscarriage, some scuffles, bullies
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 17, 2022

Copyright Apple 2022
This summer’s Sundance charmer is “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” the festival’s audience favorite. It is written, directed, produced, and co-edited by Cooper Raiff, who stars as Andrew, at a loss following his graduation from Tulane. His girlfriend has gone to Barcelona on a Fulbright scholarship and her social media suggests that she has moved on. He is sharing a room with his middle-school-age brother David (Evan Assante), in the home of the mother (Leslie Mann) he is very close to and the step-father (Brad Garrett) he is decidedly not very close to. He is working at that most dispiriting of jobs, a fast food place called Meat Sticks. Just at the moment when he should be moving forward, he is stuck.

We’ve seen a lot of movies about this difficult moment, from “The Graduate” to “Laggies,” when the promise and structure that have propelled someone from kindergarten through college somehow have not produced the sense of purpose and direction they were expecting. Raiff brings something unusual to the predicament this time. Andrew has a buoyant optimism, natural charm, and innate kindness that make him appealing both to the other characters in the story and to us. Raiff has an easy authenticity on screen that is especially impressive from someone directing himself.

in a brief prologue, we see young Andrew attending a bar mitzvah party, with a crush not on one of the girls his age but on the “party starter.” That’s the job of the “tummler” (in Yiddish), the person whose job is to keep the party mood happy and make sure everyone is involved and having a good time. It’s especially important for middle school parties, when the attendees are very excited but inexperienced. Once we’re in the present day, Andrew again finds himself at a bar mitzvah party for one of David’s classmates. And no one is on the dance floor.

Andrew has a gift for making kids feel confident and ready to participate. One girl is in a corner with headphones and a puzzle cube. Her name is Lola (Vanessa Burghardt) and she has autism. He bets her mother he can get her to dance. And he does. He is immediately surrounded by mothers who want to hire him to be the party starter for their b’nai mizvot. And since the kids involved all go to school together, he sees the same people over and over, including Lola and her mother Domino (Dakota Johnson, who also co-produced).

Andrew is drawn to Domino, who warms to him for his ability to connect to Lola. After he comes to her rescue at yet another bar mitzvah party, she invites him to be Lola’s sitter.

Andrew and Domino have to sort through their feelings for one another and Andrew has to do for himself what he does so skillfully for the 12- and 13-year olds he entices to the dance floor; he needs to find encouragement to take that next, seemingly-perilous step. Sometimes those lessons are painful, even when everyone involved is well-meaning. Raiff wisely lets Andrew learn them anyway. We leave knowing that Andrew will find his way and that Raiff already has.

Parents should know that this movie includes some very strong language, sexual references and situations, drinking and drunkenness, bullies, a miscarriage and some scuffles.

Family discussion: Why was it hard for Andrew to take the next step? What should he have done to prepare? Do you agree with Domino’s decision?

If you like this, try: “Laggies” and “Post Grad” and Raiff’s previous film, “S***house”

Related Tags:

 

Critics Choice Seal of Distinction Independent movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Romance

Movies For Homebound Grown-Ups: Two Cool New Indies

Posted on April 16, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Copyright Aspiration 2020

You can have your own indie film festival at home now with some new releases:

Phoenix Oregon: James Le Gros plays a bartender and would-be graphic memoirist (James Le Gros) who has lost his way. The outstanding cast includes Lisa Edelstein as a liquor distributor, Dietrich Bader as the restaurant owner, and especially Jesse Borrego as the perfectionist chef who joins forces with the bartender to open a bowling alley.

Standing Up, Falling Down: Billy Crystal gives one of his all-time best performances as a doctor with a number of issues, including substance abuse, who befriends a would-be stand-up comic (Ben Schwartz). Grace Gummer is terrific as the comic’s sister.

And check out a new streaming service for indie films, Topic.

Related Tags:

 

Independent VOD and Streaming

Spirit Awards 2019: If Beale Street Could Talk, Glenn Close, Roma

Posted on February 24, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright Annapurna 2018
For me, the most significant and enjoyable movie awards of the year are the Spirit Awards (formerly Independent Spirit). I was thrilled that my favorite film of 2018, “If Beale Street Could Talk” was selected for Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress.

Here are the awards:

Best Feature
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (WINNER)

Best Director
Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (WINNER)

Best First Feature
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

Best Male Lead
Ethan Hawke, FIRST REFORMED

Best Female Lead
Glenn Close, THE WIFE

Best Supporting Female Actor
Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Best Supporting Male Actor
Richard E. Grant, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Best Cinematography
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, SUSPIRIA

Best Screenplay
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Best First Screenplay
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE

Best Editing
Joe Bini, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

Best Documentary
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

Best International Film
ROMA (Mexico)

The Truer Than Fiction Award
Bing Liu, MINDING THE GAP

Producers Award
Shrihari Sathe

The Someone to Watch Award
Alex Moratto, SÓCRATES

The Bonnie Award
Debra Granik

Robert Altman Award
SUSPIRIA
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Casting Directors: Avy Kaufman, Stella Savino
Ensemble Cast: Malgosia Bela, Ingrid Caven, Lutz Ebersdorf, Elena Fokina, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Dakota Johnson, Gala Moody, Chloë Grace Moretz, Renée Soutendijk, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler

Related Tags:

 

Awards Independent

Spirit Award Nominees for the Best Indie Films of 2018

Posted on November 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm

The nominees for the Spirit Awards have been announced:

Copyright A24 2018

BEST FEATURE
EIGHTH GRADE
Producers: Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Christopher Storer, Lila Yacoub

FIRST REFORMED
Producers: Jack Binder, Greg Clark, Gary Hamilton, Victoria Hill, David Hinojosa, Frank Murray, Deepak Sikka, Christine Vachon

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Producers: Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner, Sara Murphy, Adele Romanski

LEAVE NO TRACE
Producers: Anne Harrison, Linda Reisman, Anne Rosellini

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Producers: Rosa Attab, Pascal Caucheteux, Rebecca O’Brien, Lynne Ramsay, James Wilson

(Award given to the producer)

BEST FIRST FEATURE
HEREDITARY
Director: Ari Aster

Producers: Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen, Buddy Patrick

Copyright Annapurna Pictures 2018

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Director: Boots Riley

Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Williams

THE TALE
Director/Producer: Jennifer Fox

Producers: Sol Bondy, Lawrence Inglee, Mynette Louie, Oren Moverman, Simone Pero, Reka Posta, Laura Rister, Regina K. Scully, Lynda Weinman

WE THE ANIMALS
Director: Jeremiah Zagar

Producers: Andrew Goldman, Christina D. King, Paul Mezey, Jeremy Yaches

WILDLIFE
Director/Producer: Paul Dano

Producers: Andrew Duncan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Alex Saks

(Award given to the producer and director)

BEST DIRECTOR
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Debra Granik, Leave No Trace

Tamara Jenkins, Private Life

Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here

BEST SCREENPLAY
Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Richard Glatzer (writer, story by), Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Wash Westmoreland, Colette

Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Tamara Jenkins, Private Life

Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Quinn Shephard (writer, story by), Laurie Shephard (story by), Blame

Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade

Christina Choe, Nancy

Jennifer Fox, The Tale

Cory Finley, Thoroughbreds

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
A BREAD FACTORY
Writer/Director/Producer: Patrick Wang

Producers: Daryl Freimark, Matt Miller

EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA
Writer/Director/Producer: Jim McKay

Producers: Alex Bach, Lindsey Cordero, Caroline Kaplan, Michael Stipe

NEVER GOIN’ BACK
Writer/Director: Augustine Frizzell

Producers: Liz Cardenas, Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston

SÓCRATES
Writer/Director/Producer: Alex Moratto

Writer: Thayná Mantesso

Producers: Ramin Bahrani, Jefferson Paulino, Tammy Weiss

THUNDER ROAD
Writer/Director: Jim Cummings

Producers: Natalie Metzger, Zack Parker, Benjamin Weissner

(Award given to the best feature made for under $500,000; given to the writer, director and producer)

BEST MALE LEAD

Copyright 2018 Foley Walkers Studio

Daveed Diggs, Blindspotting

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

John Cho, Searching

Christian Malheiros, Sócrates

Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Glenn Close, The Wife

Carey Mulligan, Wildlife

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Adam Driver, BLACKkKLANSMAN

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade

John David Washington, Monsters and Men

Raúl Castillo, We the Animals

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Tyne Daly, A Bread Factory

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace

J. Smith-Cameron, Nancy

Kayli Carter, Private Life

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Ashley Connor, Madeline’s Madeline

Benjamin Loeb, Mandy

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Suspiria

Zak Mulligan, We the Animals

Diego Garcia, Wildlife

BEST EDITING
Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill, Julian Hart, American Animals

Nick Houy, Mid90s

Anne Fabini, Alex Hall, Gary Levy, The Tale

Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates, Jeremiah Zagar, We the Animals

Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
BURNING (South Korea)
Director: Lee Chang-Dong

HAPPY AS LAZZARO (Italy)
Director: Alice Rohrwacher

ROMA (Mexico)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

SHOPLIFTERS (Japan)
Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu

THE FAVOURITE (United Kingdom)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

BEST DOCUMENTARY
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
Director/Producer: RaMell Ross

Producer: Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim

MINDING THE GAP
Director/Producer: Bing Liu

Producer: Diane Quon

OF FATHERS AND SONS
Director: Talal Derki

Producers: Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Tobias N. Siebert

ON HER SHOULDERS
Director: Alexandria Bombach

Producers: Hayley Pappas, Brock Williams

SHIRKERS
Director/Producer: Sandi Tan

Producers: Jessica Levin, Maya Rudolph

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
Director/Producer: Morgan Neville

Producer: Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma

(Award given to the director and producer)

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
SUSPIRIA
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Casting Directors: Avy Kaufman, Stella Savino

Ensemble Cast: Malgosia Bela, Ingrid Caven, Lutz Ebersdorf, Elena Fokina, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Dakota Johnson, Gala Moody, Chloë Grace Moretz, Renée Soutendijk, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler

(Award given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

BONNIE AWARD SPONSORED BY AMERICAN AIRLINES
Karyn Kusama

Tamara Jenkins

Debra Granik

(Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the second annual Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant, sponsored by American Airlines.)

PRODUCERS AWARD
Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams

Gabrielle Nadig

Shrihari Sathe

(The Producers Award, now in its 22nd year, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.)

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
LEMONADE
Director: Ioana Uricaru

SÓCRATES
Director: Alex Moratto

WE THE ANIMALS
Director: Jeremiah Zagar

(The Someone to Watch Award, now in its 25th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted.)

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
Director: RaMell Ross

MINDING THE GAP
Director: Bing Liu

ON HER SHOULDERS
Director: Alexandria Bombach

Related Tags:

 

Awards Independent

Dave Made a Maze

Posted on August 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril and violence, characters injured and killed, monster
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: August 18, 2017
Copyright 2017 Gravitas Ventures

For generations, there have been children who have had more fun playing with the box than with the toy that came inside. The reason is easy to understand: a blank box puts no limits on imagination. It can be a clubhouse, a rocket ship, or a submarine, or all at once. It needs no batteries and there is no technology to break down. There’s no disappointing discovery that what looks cool on the commercial does not actually work. Cardboard can be anything and imagination can take you everywhere.

That is the theme of “Dave Made a Maze,” both the story on the screen and the story of the movie itself. Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes home from a short trip out of town to find her boyfriend Dave (Nick Thune) has taken over their living room with a cardboard maze, or, rather, a labyrinth so intricate that he is literally lost inside it. Like the TARDIS, Dave’s construction is bigger on the inside. Annie grabs some friends and a box cutter and goes inside. A film crew led by their friend Harry (James Urbaniak) comes along to document (and sometimes shape) the adventure.

Co-writer/director Bill Watterson (not the Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist) has created a slacker/artisanal “Cat and the Canary” or “Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” a comedy/horror film with real stakes and deadpan delivery, all the funnier for being so understated.

The star of the film is unquestionably the maze/labyrinth itself. Production designers Trisha Gum and John Sumner, clearly having the time of their lives, worked with the genius artists of the Cardboard Institute of Technology to create an endlessly inventive world, enchanting, spooky, hilarious, and, when you don’t expect it, pretty scary. Just because the blood is made of yarn and paper, we learn, does not mean it is not real. On the other hand, one labyrinthian portal somehow turns the characters into paper bag puppets, a transformation which thankfully turns out to be temporary. Dave’s maze, a manifestation of his frustration at not having a job that fulfills him, turns out to have a malevolent sentience he and his friends have to battle. Having different artists work on different rooms and corridors adds to the continuous surprise and disconnect, with one section looking like a mock-up from “2001,” another sporting origami birds, and others playing with perspective and space. I was especially taken by the intricate cardboard mechanics underneath one space, with several others hinting at an even more expansive and complex cardboard world.

Part of the film’s charm is the way Annie and Dave’s friends immediately accept the premise and just go for it. But what makes this one of the most imaginative films of the year is the way it makes a virtue of its micro budget. Like Dave himself, the filmmakers have found what the cheapest materials can do better than the most sophisticated animation equipment. They’ve created a tactile environment that puts no limits on their imagination or ours.

Parents should know that this film has very strong language, fantasy peril and violence, a monster, and characters who are injured and killed.

Family discussion: Which was your favorite room in the maze? Why did the maze get out of control?

If you like this, try: “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Coherence”

Related Tags:

 

DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy Independent movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews VOD and Streaming
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2022, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik