I saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. Caroll… MoreI saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. Caroll Spinney, the guy behind Oscar the Grouch and inside Big Bird since 1969, gets his own biographical documentary. This, of course, focuses more on the creation of Big Bird. Caroll is well aware that there aren't many of the original cast of puppeteers for Sesame Street who are still alive, but at the age of 80 when this doc was being filmed he was not ready to retire. He has been training a young puppeteer to learn Big Bird's mannerisms, but besides the increasing green screen work on Sesame Street, which Caroll doesn't care to do, most recent live appearances of Big Bird have still involved Caroll's performance skills. I'm from the generation that watched Sesame Street in the 80s, so not at the very beginning of the program, but well before Elmo took off in popularity with toddlers. I vaguely remember my parents taking me to see Follow that Bird in the theaters as well. As a young child Big Bird was real and Big Bird was the star. Now we get to learn the inner workings of Big Bird, how Caroll Spinney operates the controls in Big Bird's face with his arm extended over his head and how he moves around the set with only a tiny video monitor strapped to his chest to see his surroundings. It is still AMAZING how he does this while on roller-skates so often. This film also explores his family relationships, especially the love story between Caroll and his second wife Debra. It seems like they have found true love and the home movie footage is quite special. The story about the NASA Challenger mission is heart-stopping. Not only is Caroll a super talented puppeteer, but he is also an animator, so it is appropriate that the closing credits show off his art work. The movie covers a wide swath of his life and, though there doesn't appear to be a book biography of Mr. Spinney, my only complaint is that the filmmaker tried to cram too much material in, so that it felt much longer than its hour and a half run time.
I saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. Directed… MoreI saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz who has made several films about the lives of Hollywood people or people on the outskirts of the Hollywood mainstream. Produced by Allan Glaser, Tab Hunter's longtime partner. This doc is packed with archival clips and interviews. Tab Hunter himself tells his story over multiple interview sessions, although he's been kept in the closet about being gay for so long that it still seems difficult for him to reveal this private part of his life. Tab Hunter, born Arthur Kelm, was as much a character created by the studio system as Marilyn Monroe. Not only was he a star of war pictures and westerns, but he also had hit songs on the charts. Every woman following his career and the love life created for him by the studios in the fan magazines wanted to be with him. The studio publicists in the 50s and 60s sure were busy inventing wholesome dreamlike lives for all their stars. The biggest surprise of this story was his relationship with Anthony Perkins for a short time. The fact that there were closeted gay actors working in Hollywood and that audiences were fooled into thinking all these idols were perfectly straight is not news nowadays, but hearing the confidential details of stories like this makes the suppression and persecution of this lifestyle more real for those of us who are not LGBTQ. And, so, it is an important and, not to mention, entertaining film to open people's eyes.
I saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. This… MoreI saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. This deliberately paced Japanese drama about a family facing the mother's impending death will likely hit home with anyone who has dealt with the death of a parent in their family. It did with me. The Japanese cultural habit of suppressing emotions especially in difficult times like this comes to the forefront. The honor of leaving the next generation with financial security and the dishonor of debt is also discussed. This film demonstrates the way free market shopping for medical insurance and the best medical care is supposed to work in ideal circumstances as well. I thought this might be another drama like the Julianne Moore Alzheimer's movie Still Alice, but in this case the mother has a brain tumor that causes some memory loss. Each family member is carefully developed, so that we completely understand how the relationships are strained through this ordeal, how the family almost breaks apart, and how things are repaired by the end. The cast is excellent. The mother and father seem to have a comfortable, loving relationship. She is a dreamer and he is a practical businessman, but his business has not been good and they are not well-off financially. He tends to avoid trouble and really struggles to cope with the oncoming symptoms and death. There is the older son, who is a responsible businessman with a slightly spoiled new wife. Too much weight is placed on the shoulders of the older son to manage the approaching loss and this creates a huge sense of suspense for the moment when the weight will make him crack. It is hard to fully grasp the concept, but the older son is supposed to have had some personality disorder of being a "shut-in" in the past too. The younger son is more artistic, empathetic, and less guarded with his words and emotions. In other words, he is more well-adjusted. Because the younger son is more of a dreamer like his mom, he is her favorite. This uncomfortable topic comes up in front of the family at one hospital visit as the mother's filters fall away. Because it is an educated family and there are many hospital facilities nearby the sons set out on a mission to find an alternate diagnosis that could result in a positive outcome, a longer life for their mother. This story set in beautiful Japan, based on a novel touches your heart.
I saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. The… MoreI saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. The title cashes in on the popularity of Linklater's Boyhood, but the original French title, Bande de filles, means something more like Gang of Girls. Marieme played by Karidja Touré is growing up in the Paris projects. She carries a lot of responsibility caring for her younger sisters, but her home life is not good and her grades are not good enough to get her out of the lower class existence where her mom is stuck. She drops out of school and joins a group of rebel girls who try to live by their own code rather than by the law of the streets, which are dominated by boys. For this gang, imagine the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies from Grease are combined into one. Marieme assumes a new identity and changes her name to Vic. Vic and the gang fight, dance, and party as often as possible. She learns to toughen up. Gang life teaches her to use other people's fear against them, to be the aggressor rather than the victim. Touré is haunting in the role. When money runs low she tries to maintain control, but the plot turns toward human trafficking of the drug running variety. Things get harrowing in writer/director Céline Sciamma's drama as Vic shows strength by being as butch as possible, yet how can she gain success and security with the roadblocks that have been set in her way. It doesn't cover nearly as much time in the life of Marieme as the film Boyhood covers its subject, but the main character is forced to grow up faster.