Archive for September, 2014

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Rarely do I go to a kids’ movie.  And rarely do I see a kids’ movie that I truly enjoy and just sit back and take in the wonder of the story and animation before me. “The Boxtrolls,” however, is the exception to the rule, thankfully!  This stop-motion animation 3-D feature film, based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow, will delight children and thoroughly entertain the kid in all of us.  

THE BOXTROLLS movie trailer

“The Boxtrolls” is about a young orphaned boy who is taken in by the night-time cave-dwellers who patrol the streets and collect trash that they treasure.  As gossip spreads by an evil and greedy streets and sanitation worker that a boy has been killed by the misunderstood trolls, a mass extermination plan is implemented.  It is up to two young children, from different sides of the tracks, to set everyone straight.

 

The story is complete as it focuses on father-son and father-daughter relationships as well as young love. The script is tight and the animation is spectacular.  Casting is perfect with Elle Fanning playing the female lead and Isaac Hempstead Wright playing the lead boy, Eggs.  The absurdity of situations in the film from coveting cheese to wearing a hat to make you powerful, humorously take on the realities of government and life without making it heavy and depressing.  Iboxtrollsgirlt’s enlightening and full of hope to teach children to be open and non-judgmental.  The colors of the set and animation brings a greater sense of understanding to the story, giving it an “Oliver Twist” meets Tim Burton feel.  The dialogue is quickly paced, keeping the kids’ attention while many of the jokes and ironies lost on them are relished by the adults in the audience.  It’s a smart film reminiscent of “Toy Story” with its creativity and level of humor.

This film takes what directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi described as a big book with endless creativity

boxtrollswritten by Snow and produces a charming and entertaining story with a take-home message of tolerance and acceptance.  The story is compressed into 97 adventuresome  and three-dimensional minutes, taking the viewer on a thrilling ride.  Complete with “good guys” and “bad guys” and those in between, “The Boxtrolls” beautifully tells a story from a child’s perspective.

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Annable and Stacchi spoke with me about directing the animated film “The Boxtrolls.”  Their insight and knowledge made me love this movie even more.  The two explained that stop-motion films have been around a long time.  From the original “King Kong” to  “James and the Giant Peach,”  stop-motion animation continues to develop, but much of the process remains painstakingly the same.  With a one year pre-production period and 18 months to complete the film, each and every scene is multi-layered.  In fact, setting up a scene anboxtrollspuppetd filming the figures or puppets requires the use of 53,000 porcelain faces to be printed on a 3D printer.  This allows for one puppet to express 1.4 million emotions!  

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Animated movies appboxtrollssceneear to be even more complex than shooting a movie with actors alone.  After recording and videotaping the actors saying their lines, their dialogue is cut into the film.  The animation is then created to match the actor.  The animator is truly the actor as well and as the directors explained, “It becomes a bizarre combination of personalities.”  Graham also stated that he “never really anticipated the intense conversations to create the shot with the animator.”  And Annable continued to share that the entire cast and crew were all “emotionally connected” to the story.  Stacchi hopes that his audience understands that “families come in all shapes and sizes” and that as an individual, you can change the world to fit you.  

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If you have kids, go see this movie!  If you don’t, borrow a neighbor’s kid to give you an excuse to see it.  You won’t be disappointed!

 

9 REELS

 

m_024_iybi_1sht_V1.inddA man is dying, fighting for his life, while emergency workers are trying to save him.  Organized chaos ensues while this man’s chest is cut open and hands delve in as a chest tube is inserted.  This is “C Booth” at County Hospital in LA where “more people have died and more people have been saved than in any other square footage in the United States.”  We have a crisis in this country.  The healthcare crisis and doctors’ ability to help patients effectivelcode4y and compassionately, go hand in hand.  “Code Black” gives us a unique perspective, not only from the insider’s view of the doctor, but during a time of extreme changes.  

Code Black Trailer

Healthcare in America is a controversial topic right now, but what remains the same, no matter what system we have, is the need to care for the sick.   LA’s County Hospital, like many county-run facilities, must never turn away anyone, regardless of the ability to pay.  That means this hospital’s emergency room is packed to the gills at all times.  Ryan McGarry, M.D., documents his residency program by following his fellow residents over a 4 year period, watching not only County’s actual building change, but all the protocol and treatment plans as well.  What does this mean to the actual care of the patient?  It’s detrimcodeental and McGarry and his fellow residents won’t allow bureaucracy become an obstacle in obtaining their goal of becoming ER doctors—to help.

This is  truly an inside look into our healthcare system and what it has become.  When a physician spends more time filling out paperwork than on actual patient contact, there is a problem.  One physician felt that he logged in and out of the computer due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) so much that he jokingly stated he needed to log in to use the restroom.  The changes that we as patients have seen and have had to deal with are monumental, but “Code Black” truly hammers home how much things have changed for doctors as well, and not for the better,  in the last 5 years .

Unique footage and candid observations by those behind the ER doors enlighten the viewer to the hoops doctors have to jump through in order to care for their patients.  When we go to the ER, why do we have to wait so long?  Why are hospitals, particularly

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county-run facilities, always short staffed?  Why are bills so high?  How can someone be turned away?  Why do people use an ER as a primary care facilities, not for emergencies?  All of these questions and many more are answered in this very unique and honest documentary.  It truly captures the reality of life of a resident who has high ideals.  Then, as we learn about this special group of residents, we watch how their determination and primary reasons to become doctors is challenged in the face of government ruling over medical procedures.  This documentary not only portrays a gestalt view of medicine in America, it gives you a complete understanding of what direction things are heading.  What can we do about it?  Perhaps this documentary can give you that answer as well.

First-time filmmaker Ryan McGarry, M.D. produces a tense, realistic, and cohesive documentary about healthcare in the US while completing his ER residency program—no easy feat!  “Code Black” is playing in Chicago at the Music Box Theater  on September 12.  For more information, go to Music Box Theatre Chicago

 

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The mere title of the film is quite ordinary—“Boy Meets Girl.”  It sounds like the premise of many other films and in many ways it is.  But there’s a twist.  The girl is a transgender girl.  Now, don’t stop reading just because I wrote the word “transgender.”  Open your mind and read on because this is a film that will truly appeal to the general population, not just LGBT.  You see, this girl struggled during her adolescence and I know you did too.  Who didn’t?  As the writer and director, Eric Schaeffer stated, who hasn’t gone through a period of “feeling alienated and invisible?”  Whether that is during those difficult and awkward teen years of trying to fit in or even now as adults, trying to figure out how to “live authentic lives in work, friendship, and family,”  we all go through it.  In “Boy Meets Girl,” Ricky, a young 20-something transgender woman,  wants to find love.  Who doesn’t?  This film points out that at the core of life, we all want to be accepted and to find a true love.

BOY MEETS GIRL Trailer

Ricky (Michelle Hendley) is hanging out in the beautiful country-side in Kentucky, with its rolling hills, lush foliage and forests, and scattered lakes set in a small town.  It looks like any town, USA.   Ricky’s best friend from childhood is Robby (Michael Welch).  Immediately, you sense that these two know each other completely; the good and the bad, and have been there for each other during all of it.  Their candid and realistic conversations throughout the film endear you to each of them, understanding that bond that only life-long friends can have.

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The story unfolds carefully, as we watch a previously recorded flashcard story on Ricky’s computer which is heartbreaking and emotionally raw.  Then there comes a sense of confusion when she befriends a woman in town.  Both of their histories and preconceived notions of sexuality and love are tested along with the prejudices of those around them.  

Ricky’s relationship with Francesca (Alexandra Turshen) is typical of any other best girl friends, but then it crosses to something more.  Some may feel uncomfortable with this, but it feels genuine and you can understand how the relationship changes.  The harshness of the judgment from Francesca’s fiancé and mother along with  the protective and opposing opinion of her father, bring such clarity to the film.  All of the characters bring an intense and necessary component to complete the story.

Michelle Hendley is remarkable as Ricky.  She is beautiful and commanding in her role, embodying the struggles and disappointments as well as the needs of someone trying to grow up and become viable in a career and find love.  Turshen typifies the upper-class Southern Belle, trying to please her family, but conflicted with pleasing and understanding herself.  With the deft writing skills and direction, the film truly comes to life in a realistic way.  Every conversation and confrontation between characters seems to be a slice of life.  With this, there is empathy for Ricky, Francesca, and Robby.ATurshen

‘Boy Meets Girl’ is a dramatic romance movie crossing preconceived gender biases, begging the viewer to be openminded and learn.  Schaeffer explained that this movie is one that is just “a film for people who like good movies.”  He is absolutely right.  “Anyone who identifies with trying to find love in her life” will understand and appreciate this film.  He has never made a film about “people in their early 20’s” and he “wanted to make a movie that was like a regular romantic comedy, but it has a transgender woman.”  This is a complex film, while still maintaining the primary concept of romance.  Finding humor and sincerity, and showing a need for acceptance and understanding brings this film to an even higher level.

Schaeffer will be in Chicago for the LGBT International Film Festival for the screening of this emotionally powerful film with an equally powerful message.  Chicago happens to be his “second favorite city in the country.”  Quite fitting given our nickname!  He loves our harsh winters and poetically describes our lake that feels like an ocean “to be magical and romantic.”  Please welcome Eric Schaeffer and his film to our beautiful city!  

This is a film for any adult who understands the need for finding love…it’s not just an LGBT film.

For more information about seeing this film during the festival, go to REELING 32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival

 

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Imagine a world with no internet.  A world where jobs are scarce and food is a luxury.  And a world where teachers teach art class with no supplies but those provided directly by Mother Nature.  This world is called Cuba.  How do people survive and even thrive in a country that has little industry and once relied so heavily upon outside support.  Then ask the question, “How does art survive and thrive in this environment?”  People, no matter their circumstances, survive and possess an inner need to create.  In fact, the artists in the film ALUMBRONES might even argue that their art is exploding because of the hardships they have endured.  Related Cuban Art Article from FRONTLINEalumcar

ALUMBRONES TrailerDarian-Rodriguez-Medevos,-Luis-E-Toledo-del-Dio,-Luis-Miguel-Perez-Ilanez,-Raimon-Rodriguez-Moya

ALUMBRONES documents the thoughts, feelings, and insight of several contemporary Cuban artists in various mediums.  From young to old, and the educated in the field to the neophytes with no skilled artistic knowledge, these artisans have one thing in common:  passion.  With minimal influence from outside sources, their creations are uniquely Cuban.  alum

Official ALUMBRONES website

This documentary film is a rare look at a society that hasn’t been inundated with all things modern.  As these artists are interviewed, they share their hardships as well as their appreciation for what their experiences have enabled them to create.  ALUMBRONES is a beautifully colorful exploration of the vivid and emotional artists within this closed off country.  Cuban art and the artists have a unique flavor due to  their situation as well as their resiliency.  Their love of family and God shine Yamile-Pardo-&-Edel-Bordónthrough their creations enabling the viewer to experience the raw emotions of the artist.  This film allows you to not only feel the passion behind the art and the artist, but watch it develop before your eyes.  Cuban Art World

 

Director_Bruce_Donnelly_Alumbrones_1Bruce Donnelly masterfully creates a vision of a world inside previously unseen boundaries.  He captures the heart and soul of a group of people whose artistic passion have not and will not succumb to negative political or financial influences.  It is actually because of the political and financial circumstances that allow the creative energy to flow.  Art truly is energy and energy is everlasting.  Cuban art is the prime example of the need to create and be creative.  Neither energy nor the need to create can be quelled by outside forces.  Sandra-DooleyIsolina-LimontaALUMBRONES is a film allowing the outside world into the small, but very important artistic world of Cuba.  ALUMBRONES is a true masterpiece.