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Friday, April 22, 2016

LIFE, ANIMATED

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine\

A feel-good film with a happy ending that everyone should see.

This is a true story about Owen Susskind, an autistic boy, whose fascination with Disney animated movies provided a source to learning, speech and progress that enables him to live a meaningful relatively normal life.

Originally documented by his father Ron Susskind in a 2014 book, Owen was "normal" until age 3 when he stopped speaking, had irrgular sleeping patterns and became stoic and cognitively impaired.

Devasted, his parents Ron and Corneilia received a diagnosis of pervaisive developmental disorder which would make Owen dependent on others for the remainder of his life.

In an ironic twist, during a family viewing of The Little Mermaid, Owen insisted onreplaying a particular scene and then began to mutter gibberish.  But, it wasn't gibberish.  His parents and   brother Walter realized that Owen had memoized the movie dialogue and was repeating it.  In
 fact, not only had Owen memorized the entire Disney film, he had memorized the complete dialogue from all the Disney animated films.

Owen's remarkable journey to speech, interrelationships with peers, working at a job, moving into his own apartment and even having a girlfriend are beautifully documented using home movies from his childhood and realtime film meeting his challenges.  In fact, Owen became a high-functioning adult in his 20>s who can spea, read and write, and a motivational speaker.

Even now, after having traveled abroad with his family. Owen maintains his library of VHS and DVD animated Disney films and frequently holds group viewings for his friends,

Owen is a celebrated case and it is still a mystery as to exactly why the cartoon claasics were able to reach Owen and create the effect they did within him.

 Regardless, of his journey and the results of his obsession with Disney cartoon classics, Owen's main strength comes from his family -- always supportive, financially capable of providing him specialized help. amd deeply commited to helping Owen grow and become a contributing member of society,


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

HIGH RISE

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

Based on the novel High Rise by J.G.Ballard, this is a dark comedy that is strangely depressing and also eye-opening because we are viewing it in the 21st century.

Set in the 1970s in a new and totally modern building on the outskirts of London, the tenants are wealthy, snobbisb and spoiled.

The 40-story tower is a picture of excess with mirrored elevators, lavish carpeting (shag of course), modern appliances and gymnastic equipmet, an in-building grocery stocked with food,  All the sinage is in Eurostile Bold Extended, a futuristic typeface that gained popularity in 2001:  A Space Odyssey.

Whem bachelor Dr. Laing (Tim Hiddleston) buys a small apartment with a balcony and moves into 2505. His concentration is on women, mainly single mother Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and pregnant Helen (Elisabeth Moss).

 On the roof lives a wealthy Royal (Jeremy Irons). in complete luxury, who is a severe contrast to Wilder (Luke Evans) a TV producerwho travels into London every day to work.  Dwindling resources pit these two against each other.

As the building declines and results in class antagonisms, erotic drives and revealing allegories, Dr. Laing becomes a scavenger.  Violence and squalor reign supreme in the building while externally it looks presentable.

There is consistency in the worst insticts and urges, even as the various building surfaes decay and fluctuate.  Definitely, the building represents statification and alienation as the very wealthy live at the top and the poorer folks live further down on the lower floors.  Dr. Laing lives in the middle, definitely a commentary on his place in life.

Perhaps although classified as a dark comedy, viewers leave depressed because the building is such a dystopian microcosm.






14 MINUTES FROM EARTH

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

Who among us hasn't had the dream of doing something extraordinary and perhaps a bit revolutionary?

Alan Eustace. a Google executive, had a dream of jumpingin a skydive higher than anyone else in history, and he set out to devote the time, energy and money to creating the best and most advanced spacesuit to allow him to make the jump.

A onetime Senior Vice President of Knowledge at Google, belongs to a corporate environment that flourishes with bizarre and uniques ideas and projects in the name of advancing humanity and technology.

The skydive from a height of over 25 miles, was designed to break Felix Baumgartner's jump.    To make such a jump it's necessary for Eustace to develop a special space suit, which has never been accomplished by an individual before.

It's an amazing story filled with a treasure trove of technological knowledge.  To find out whether Eustace is successful in achieving his dream it's necessaru to watch the movie.


RESET

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

A beautifully photographed documentary about Benjamin Millepied's attempt to stage his first show as the newly hired  dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Millepied was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and a major contributor to Darren Aronofsky's film "Black Swan,"  Recognized for his abilities he was hired to take over the nerve-wracking dance director job at the Paris Opera Ballet.

From the beginning, Millepied seems wonderfully suited to the task.  He is energized to reimagine the famed institution for the modern era.  Millepied sees modernization as the way to keep the institution relevant both for the dancers and the audiences.

The first to ever cast a mixed-race lead in a classical ballet at the Paris Opera Ballet, a leader who encourages his dancers to let their unique personalities shine through, Millepied seems intent on major changes.  However, the film doesn't show much opposition to Millepied's attempts to bring the reknown institution into the 21st century.

There isn't much tension in this film.  It's simply beautiful and inspiring.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

This is a buddy movie, but the buddies are a mismatched boy and his foster uncle who go on the run in the New Zealand wilderness.

This comedy drama has an emotional thrust to which  none of the disgruntled characters would be likely to admit.

One of the central characters, Ricky (Julian Dennison), is a troubled orphan who fancies himself a gangster in the city.  Now, placed in with a foster "aunt" and "uncle" on a farm far away from the city, he is hard to convince but is eventually won over by the warm and loving "aunt" Bella (Tima Te Wiata).

When tragedy strikes and threatens to take the life Ricky has come to love, he goes on the run with his grizzled fostor uncle Hec (Sam Neill) and a dog named Tupac.

Starting with nothing but Bella in common, the two loners eventually come to form a kinship that unites them against the authorities who hunt for them,

The audience finds itself rooting for the lonely characters who find themselves and each other amid the magnificence of the New Zealand countryside.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DON'T THINK TWICE

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selectiion

By D.E.Levine

This is a smart, bittersweet comedy about a six-member comedy troupe, the Commune, toiling for 11 years in relative obscurity in New York City.

Dreaming of breaking into television, the members of the Commune eke out very meager livings and live like starving students in small, dingy apartments.

At the beginning of the film members of the Commune learn that the small theater in midtown Manhattan has been sold and the troupe must find a new performance space.

Suddenly, one member of the Commune is hired for Weekend Live (a Saturday Night Live type program) and when this confers almost instant celebrity status, other members of the troupe show their anxiety about the future, envy of each other and raw competitiveness.

Mike Birbiglia plays Miles, who fancies himself the originator and "father" of the Commune.  An accomplished Improv artist himself, as we; as an actor and writer, Birbiglia has given us a realistic picture of show business hopefuls who live in fear of their expiration date.


EQUALS

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

In a world depopulated by war, where public displays of emotion are forbidden and romantic love is a crime, what is left?

Kristen Stewart plays the writer Nia, who falls in love with Silas (Nicholas Hoult), an illustrator.  Afraid of being diagnosed with Switched On Syndrome and heavily medicated until the feelings leave, or being shipped to a facility where people are encouraged to kill themselves, Nia fights the feelings.

It's a sterile world.  Sparsely decorated with large windws and open spaces, a society where everyone dresses in stark white, the film evokes memories of earlier science fiction films and television programs.