On Screen Dayton
In 2009 Yellow Spring filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar made a film based on the closure of the Moraine Assembly plant, a General Motors automobile factory on December 23, 2008. Reichert and Bognar spoke to several hundred of the nearly 3,000 workers at the plant who were to lose their jobs as a result of the closure. Lacking access to film inside the plant itself, the filmmakers supplied some of the workers with flip cameras to smuggle into the factory, allowing them to acquire footage of some of the final vehicles being assembled there. The film, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant was picked up by HBO and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2009.
They just found out today their latest film, American Factory will debut this January at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition. The category will showcase sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people and events that shape the present day.
American Factory / U.S.A. (Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Producers: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, Julie Parker Benello) — In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. World Premiere
When Steve Bognar called to share the news of the films acceptance into the festival he shared that the film is not yet finished. They submitted a rough cut for judging and crossed their fingers. They now have a pretty great reason to get the film finished, but he says there is still a lot of work to be done. And they’ll be taking some time out to go to California in December where Julia will be awarded the International Documentary Association’s Career Achievement Award for 2018 in Los Angeles.
American Factory was selected out of a record-breaking 14,259 submissions from 152 countries. Bognar said that the film was untitled until just two days ago. American Factory refers to what the Chinese call this venture and also to the inside look the film has of the business.
2019 is already shaping up to be a pretty major year for the filmmaking team as , the Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts will team up to present a traveling retrospective of Julia Reichert’s films later in the year.
HORRORAMA DAYTON is a horror movie marathon held annually as a fundraiser for a local charity, but it’s also much more! HORRORAMA DAYTON is an all-nite Halloween party, so there’s a costume contest, plenty of trivia, and door prizes throughout the night! As many past attendees can tell you, HORRORAMA DAYTON is a unique experience. In addition to the films themselves they play tons of classic trailers, music videos, cartoons, and other shorts during the intermissions! Best of all is watching horror flicks with a crowd!
This year HORRORAMA DAYTON has expanded to three shows over two days at Danbarry Huber Heights! On Friday the 12th at 7:00pm things kick off with a program we’re calling FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHTS, featuring four fantastically frightful films and classic trailers!
On the morning of Saturday the 13th at 11:00pm they’ll hold their first ever MONSTER MATINEE, an all ages program featuring the Universal Monster classics DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, and THE WOLF MAN, plus classic trailers and cartoons! These two programs all lead up to the ANNUAL ALL-NITE HALLOWEEN PARTY starting at 6:00pm. In a addition to five terrifying tales of the macabre, there will also be contests, prizes, and plenty of fun to be had by all until the early hours of the morning!
This year proceeds from HORRORAMA DAYTON benefit Rescue Me Inc. and All Creatures Great and Small Emergency Pet Resource, two great organizations which are run through Sulphur Grove United Methodist Church in Huber Heights.
So pass the word and make plans for a scary good weekend! Tickets are available now at the Danbarry Huber Heights box office and online at horroramadayton.weebly.com! It’s going to be a scary good time!
Learn about the creative journey in producing your own feature film projects as John Whitney, Phil Garrett, and Dino Tripodis share their knowledge and experience in producing for their feature independent film THE STREET WHERE WE LIVE.
Hello NEON Fans.
Thanks for checking in. I’ve been across the country and around the world over the past several days…all via the magic of cinema. And I have broken my old record! I saw 39 films over the course of 9.25 days at the incredible Toronto International Film Festival. This is always a highlight of my year, and I have assembled quite a list of films that I want to bring to audiences in Dayton.
My last film of the festival was SHOPLIFTERS – a film that will almost certainly be nominated for “Best Foreign Film” in this year’s Oscar race. “Equal parts incisive social critique and nuanced family portrait, the latest from Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda — winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes — follows a small band of marginalized misfits struggling to make ends meet in a merciless urban environment.” This sad but charming film reveals itself in wonderful ways. Familial relationships aren’t what they immediately seem, and even when things seem to get a little sinister, you can forgive some of the actions because you’ve walked beside the characters for a while and better understand their motives. This film has a lot to say, and it was a great way to bid adieu to this year’s festival.
In the coming days, I’ll write a wrap-up and keep you abreast as to this year’s TIFF award-winners.
And don’t forget that we’ve got lots happening at THE NEON over the next several weeks. From THE DAYTON LGBT FILM FESTIVAL to numerous special events…and of course our traditional engagements (some of which are coming from TIFF in the very near future).
Thanks for sharing in this little journey with me.
Hope to see you soon at the movies!
Things are certainly winding down here at TIFF. I screened 3 movies today (which means I have now seen 38 films at the festival) and then I did a little shopping and eventually met some friends out for drinks.
My first film of the day was JEREMIAH TERMINATOR LEROY, directed by Justin Kelly. First off, I think this is Kelly’s best work to date. Many critics and industry folks I’ve talked to mention the fact that several projects have been done on this very same subject…and thus they aren’t necessarily interested in seeing the story again. That said, I haven’t seen any of them, so I was interested. “In this captivating true story, a young woman (Kristen Stewart) spends years playing the public role of Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy, an enigmatic and celebrated literary persona created by her sister-in-law (Laura Dern).” This story is too bizarre to be true – but it is (and with MILLION LITTLE PIECES screening at this year’s festival, I guess it’s an interesting recurring theme – books that are later discovered to be untrue). Laura Dern is maniacal and fun to watch, and I ultimately think this is a solid film that could easily find an audience.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F DONOVAN, directed by Xavier Dolan, was next on my list. Critics have been savage regarding this next film from Dolan (the young director who has won awards at Cannes, made several films and still is in his 20s). This film is Dolan’s first English-language effort, and it has quite a cast. Here’s the mini TIFF synopsis: “Xavier Dolan’s highly anticipated drama about a young man’s calculated reassessment of his infamous, and ultimately disastrous, childhood correspondence with an American television star features an all-star cast, including Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, Jacob Tremblay, and Ben Schnetzer.” This film was hung up in editing for a couple years, and I think I can see why. It has all the signature Dolan traits – and I have to admit I was entertained – I liked the story. That said, it seems like some of the actors are in different movies. Sarandon’s performance is so big and crazy that it doesn’t seem at all like the rest of the film…though Natalie Portman is a bit over-the-top, too. Kathy Bates is superb, and Michael Gambon’s short scene is lovely. The movie is currently too long, but I think it will eventually find distribution (at least via a streaming service).
COLD WAR, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is the follow-up to Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning film IDA (one of my favorites the year it played TIFF). “Pawel Pawlikowski’s formidable romantic drama features two musical performers in postwar Eastern Europe whose discontinuous love story is hindered by obstacles of time, space, and politics.” This film is full of absolutely gorgeous black and white cinematography (like IDA, the camera placement is brilliant), and the music (as well as overall sound design) is incredible. This was a great film to wind up my last full day of the festival.
I have one more film tomorrow morning before I pack my bags and head to the airport.
Thanks for reading,
True crime + a teenager = a stylish if somewhat
familiar 80s tale of crime and punishment
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Taylour Paige, Eddie Marsan with Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie
WRITER(S): Andy Weiss and Logan & Noah Miller
(Editors Note: Dayton Connection- Donald W. White Jr., a 17-year veteran with the Riverside police department, spent 10 days in Cleveland and Miami filming, playing the role of Detroit Police Sgt. Jimmy Harris and Alan Bomar Jones, a professional actor from Dayton is also in this movie as a crooked copWillie Volson.)
DIRECTOR(S): Yann Demange
But things are about to change for Rick in a major way.
He’s about to start spending time with Lil Man (Jonathan Majors) and his posse … Which will attract the attention of FBI Agent Alex Snyder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and FBI Agent Frank Byrd (Rory Cochrane) as well as Detroit PD’s own Detective Jackson (Brian Tyree Henry). Which, given his dad’s work, means he’s going to need to cooperate with them … Or else.
So … What happens when a 15 year-old kid gets involved with dope boys, the FBI and a desire to break free of his urban prison? An unbelievable story inspired by true events in the life of the kid who would come to be known as White Boy Rick.
SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? A movie that looks good, has solid performances and yet at the same time, manages not to add anything terribly new to the crime and punishment genre, White Boy Rick is not quite Scarface for millennials … But I’m sure it will serve many of them well in the meantime.
Based on the it-used-to-be-unbelievable-but-now-seems-quite-conceivable-given-today’s-headlines-with-teenagers, White Boy Rick features a strong performance by newcomer Richie Merritt, who’s street smart cool fits his character perfectly to be able to make the story real. Exhibiting a screen presence that is everything it needs to be, Merritt slides into his character’s world with a magnetism and charisma that is impossible to deny, more than holding his own alongside McConaughey, who delivers one of those performances award season voters tend to love. Director Yann Demerage makes the grit of Detroit’s 80s despair come fully alive on screen, making it quite viable to understand how it could produce a kid like Rick, Eminem or any number of impoverished youth who’s entire reality is guns, drugs and despair. At the same time, he is able to create moments that show the fragile hope of Richie’s youth – if you own a pair of roller skates, this movie is going to make you want to practice going backwards after you dig for your old mixtapes – and how he tries to do the right thing despite the worst possible means.What audiences will either be most enthralled or appalled by isn’t the film’s language, sex or drug use. Those things are now as common in American culture/entertainment; no, it will be with the film’s ending and whether or not the true facts of Wershe, Jr’s fate were justifiable. That’s what a logical movie watcher would expect, anyway – his choices were his own, but it’s the age-old question of does the time fit the crime(s) and what do the events of this (then) young man’s life say about life in America and the subcultures we like to act don’t exist in our happy, 22-minute sitcom with commercials world?
That is a question I cannot answer for you; I can only answer whether or not you should give White Boy Rick a watch or not. And that answer – for anyone who wants to watch an inherently compelling American story from one of its favorite decades – is “yes.”
Day #8 had me seeing 4 more films.
ROMA, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, was my first film of the day. “Alfonso Cuarón’s cogent and nuanced semi-autobiographical feature chronicles one year in the life of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.” This black-and-white feature film is simply sublime. With themes of class and position in society as well as government/societal upheaval, this film is full of visual metaphors and is incredibly sophisticated. One might think “not much happens in this film”…but ultimately – EVERYTHING happens. This film should 100% be viewed on a big screen. Though Netflix has it set to premiere on their channel, this film deserves a theatrical release. In a word, it’s Incredible!
HIGH LIFE, directed by Claire Denis, was up next. “Master French filmmaker Claire Denis’s long-anticipated English-language debut and provocative sci-fi drama stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and André Benjamin as a group of criminals sent into deep space.” This is perhaps one of Denis’ most accessible films (as far as “I’m following what’s happening”) – but it’s also still quite avant garde…and I can imagine customers saying “what the hell?” for most of the film. The mini description fails to explain that the spaceship (which looks somewhat like a floating hard drive) is essentially being used as a laboratory in which Binoche’s character does sexual experiments on its “recycled scum” inhabitants. Complete with rape scenes and other bloody violence, this film is a challenging film that will likely have many searching for its rosetta stone.
I attended the next film based on its description. I had no idea that it was a big studio picture. THE HATE U GIVE, directed by George Tillman, Jr, simply sounded like an important film that I wanted to support. “A timely commentary in the Black Lives Matter era, George Tillman, Jr.’s adaptation of the novel by Angie Thomas follows Starr, a promising student and cherished daughter whose life is upended, then galvanized, when a friend is senselessly shot dead by police.” This film is targeted at a young adult audience, and it’s so refreshing that it’s not about vampires or a fish-out-of-water comedy. This is an urgent tale about a young black student who consciously alters her persona between her school self (which is in a private school full of affluent white kids) and her at home self. I hope this film finds a wide, diverse audience – but I’m afraid it might only end up preaching to the choir. The plot takes some unexpected turns and covers a lot of bases, but it’s ultimately a strong film that needs to be seen by a lot of people.
RED JOAN, directed by Trevor Nunn, was my last film before an incredible dinner of Japanese tapas (but that’s a different story). “Academy Award winner Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson take on the complex persona and legacy of Joan Stanley, the seemingly demure physicist who was also a long-serving British spy for the KGB.” This film is based on a novel…that is very loosely based on a real woman named Melita Norwood. The film uses the framing device of Dench’s character being arrested and interrogated while flashing back to WWII era material where she may have been conspiring with the Russians. Handsomely shot with strong performances, this film will certainly go over well at THE NEON if it finds a US distributor. It contains both great dramatic moments and sequences with wonderful, thrilling tension. The fact that “nuclear bombs and who has them” continues to be a fear in today’s climate shows how little things have changed.
Things are winding down here at the festival. Many big players have gone home, and the lines for movies are easier to navigate. I have one more full day of films and then one Saturday morning screening before flying home.
Thanks for checking in.
Hello NEON Fans,
Thanks for checking in again…it’s been another busy day. I attended a little queer party for TIFF attendees last night, so it was a bit of a struggle to get up this morning. But I made it to my first screening – FIRST MAN, directed by Damien Chazelle. Almost every year, I go ahead and see one big film that is too big (too Hollywood) to make it to THE NEON. This year, I chose Chazelle’s follow-up to LA LA LAND (which is still THE NEON’s highest grossing film). “The Academy Award–winning team of director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reunites for this biopic on the adventures and life of Neil Armstrong, from his entry into NASA’s astronaut program in 1961 to his epoch-making walk on the moon eight years later.” This film is beautifully done and best seen via IMAX (ALERT: If you don’t want a fun aspect of the film ruined, don’t read this parenthetical. SPOILER: The film plays with aspect ratio that can only be accomplished to full effect on an IMAX screen…this happens upon landing on the moon – and it’s magical.) The film feels more indie than Hollywood in its use of close-ups and medium shots and its overall quiet approach to its lead character. It will certainly be a big player in this year’s Award Season.
GIANT LITTLE ONES, a Canadian feature directed by Keith Behrman, was my next film of the day. “In the latest from Canadian director Keith Behrman, Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello star as divorced parents whose teenage son (Josh Wiggins) faces seismic personal upheaval after an unexpected incident at a party.” This touching (and scary and frustrating and exhilarating) coming-of-age story is truly intended for a teenage audience. Though not without storytelling flaws (including some major tonal shifts), it’s a good film. That said, I couldn’t help but think “Who is the intended audience for this film?” during the entire screening. It wouldn’t work for a theatrical release…thus I think it will mostly find a home on the festival circuit and as a popular streaming film.
VITA & VIRGINIA, directed by Chanya Button, was my next film. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki shine as socialite and author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf, respectively, in director Chanya Button’s sumptuous double portrait of two uncompromising women and the unconventional affair behind one of Woolf’s greatest novels.” This film has a lot of merits…but it ultimately turned me off. There is a lot of attention to period detail, but the contemporary score pulled me out of the movie at every turn. It’s not like a stylized use of contemporary music (ala MARIE ANTOINETTE), it’s almost a dance club beat that interrupts the drama. (There are also a couple moments of strange, fanciful special effects that didn’t work for me…is this a trend – period films with overdone special effects? They didn’t work in TELL IT TO THE BEES for me either.) The best thing about this film for me is that it makes me want to pick up and re-read my copy of ORLANDO when I get home. (there’s no trailer for this film – just the clip below)
Up next was PAPI CHULO, directed by John Butler (Butler directed HANDSOME DEVIL, the awesome little film we screened last summer for our special PRIDE selection). “A solitary and alienated television weatherman ‘hires’ a middle-aged Latino migrant worker to be his friend, in this darkly comedic reflection on class, ethnicity, and companionship in contemporary Los Angeles.” This modest little film is funny/sad and really kind of charming…but takes a darker, sadder, scarier and then pathetic turn in act 3. Matt Bomer lets loose in this performance, and Alejandro Patiño is hysterically dry. It’s a sweet little matinee film, but I don’t see much of a life for it theatrically. (there’s no trailer for this film – just the clip below)
My final film for the day was EVERYBODY KNOWS, directed by 2-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi…but this time he’s moved landscapes from the Middle East to Spain. “Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) directs Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in this layered, psychological drama about a family wedding interrupted by a shocking crime and some long-buried secrets.” The performances in this film are spectacular, and I could have watched scenes from the wedding for hours – so jovial, so vibrant, so steeped in tradition. Penelope is radiant in the opening scenes of this film (think VOLVER or BROKEN EMBRACES). There’s so much to like. It’s naturalistic, something terrible happens and the stakes are high…but it never seems phony. Ultimately, I really liked this film – but it lacks the wallop of other Farhadi films. I wanted more…but I’d also want to trim it down a bit.
I’m now at 31 films in 7 days, and I still have 2.3 days left. I’m trending for a personal best.
Thanks for stopping by.
Hi there, Folks!
I saw five films today, and I’m slated for five tomorrow. (We’ll see if that happens.)
THE LIE, directed by Veena Sud, was my first film of the day. The premise intrigued me, and then I heard a few people talk it up at a party a couple nights ago. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “In this thriller from Toronto-born writer-director Veena Sud, two parents wrestle with the consequences of their teenage daughter’s lethal mistake, proving just how far any parent would go to protect their child.” This film has won my “most eye rolls per scene” award. Idiot dialog. Over-the-top moments complete with lots of furrowed brows and indicating. It’s a turkey. This film (ultimately about white privilege) had me wanting to leave within the first half hour. But because all other screenings were in progress, I decided to stick it out. I also stayed for smug reasons. 20 minutes into the film, I wrote down my suspicion as to how the film would end. I wanted to know if I was right…and I hit the nail on the head 100%. I really hate it when a bad film happens to an actor I like (Peter Sarsgaard).
TELL IT TO THE BEES, directed by Annabel Jankel, was my next film of the day. “Academy Award winner Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger star in this wrenching drama of a shunned small-town doctor and beekeeper in postwar Britain who befriends a struggling mother and son, helping them discover that love can be found in many forms.” This film is full of lovely period details and lush cinematography, but it’s the central performances that shine (while many other characters aren’t fleshed out). It’s a slower-paced film that works on some levels, but there are plot points and character attitudes that shift and change without much notice. In addition, there are special effects regarding swarming bees that are too over-the-top. There’s a line that comes toward the end of the film via voiceover that says “what I saw and what I thought I saw” – and that would have been helpful at the beginning (but maybe it was there and I really didn’t contextualize it). Ultimately, the message is great – but it’s not a film that will find great commercial success.
THE PUBLIC, directed by Emilio Estevez, was shot and set in downtown Cincinnati. “A sit-in by patrons at a public library escalates into a police standoff and a media sideshow, in Emilio Estevez’s arresting drama that explores issues surrounding homelessness, mental health, and community. Featuring Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater, and Michael K. Williams.” This film has some powerful moments and great messages (regarding homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and public libraries as a democratic pillar), but it attempts to tackle too many storylines in a short amount of time. The film has clearly been condensed for time, and though the narrative holes can easily be filled in by savvy viewers – it seems too choppy. This film has a lot of heart, but it still needs some editing help to truly make it sing.
COLETTE, directed by Wash Westmoreland, was my next film. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “Keira Knightley stars in this historical drama about the eponymous French novelist, whose provocative debut — falsely credited to her husband — becomes the toast of Paris, triggering a battle for identity, equality, and self-determination at the dawn of the feminist age.” Here’s my brief response: LOVED IT. From the performances to the production design to the smart dialog, I really loved this film. I’m happy to report that we have it booked to open at THE NEON on Oct. 19. The heartfelt Q&A with this screening was spectacular…particularly Wash Westmoreland (STILL ALICE) talking about dedicating the film to his recently deceased co-director and husband. Knightley is superb, and the history lesson has me wanting to read even more of Colette’s work (I have only read some short stories and CHERI – now I want more). From the tone and look of the trailer, I suspected I would like this film…but it delivered so much more.
BOY ERASED, directed by Joel Edgerton, was my last film of the day. “The teenaged son of a Baptist pastor is forced into a gay-conversion program by his parents, in actor-director Joel Edgerton’s emotive drama starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges.” This film is meant for mass consumption – and for that reason, I give it a bit of a pass. The cast does a fine job with the material, and certain scenes even elicited rounds of applause from the audience…but there’s something a little too sterile for me to put the film on the top of the list. It’s as though the filmmaker was scared to get too close. And I get it on some level. At some point, a filmmaker (or distributor) has to ask “who do we want to see this movie?” If the film pushed the envelope too much, then it would only preach to the choir. In this instance, perhaps the film can actually be seen by more than the queer community…and possibly save some lives – and for that, I give it my blessing (plus the fact that Kidman is pretty awesome here). The Q&A with Kidman, Edgerton, and the author of the source material (as well as his mother) was pretty spectacular.
Thanks for checking in,