Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Northside Film Fest: nice mix of movies in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take a look!

What the world needs now is not another film festival (unless its content helps plug a certain oil spill), but I have to say that an email I received yesterday sure piqued my interest.  First of all, this particular fest -- NORTHSIDE FILM, a new addition to the second annual Northside Festival opening this Thursday, June 24, and running through Sunday, June 27 -- takes place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, land of the artsy, up-and-coming and a fun place to visit.  Second: its very well-chosen, interesting and quite varied film programs -- eight of them -- are the kind that TrustMovies would jump at the opportunity to view. Third: this is the kind of festival that you can easily get your head around, for it unfurls over only four days, with two evening programs on each of those days at 8 and 10 pm.

The price is appealing, too, as the tickets cost but $9 (and you don't have to be a senior or a seven-year-old to get that rate).  It's even cheaper ($6.25 per event) if you buy a Badge that entitles you to see all the movies. Plus, the venue itself sounds like fun: indieScreen, a new 100-capacity art-house-movie-theater-meets-music-venue-meets-restaurant-and-bar (whew!) opening on Kent Ave & 2nd St.

You can find the entire film program here, and the festival's music schedule here.  While all eight of the film events sound plenty good, several of them stand out, one of which I've already seen:  Todd Solondz's LIFE DURING WARTIME (to be released later this summer via IFC Films). 

Solondz -- of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Storytelling and Palindromes -- is among America's best and most original filmmakers, and Life During Wartime finds him at the top of his form. In it, he takes characters from his earlier Happpiness and runs them through the wringer (gentle cycle) one more time.  If you haven't seen that earlier movie, don't fret: Wartime stands on its own just fine.  In fact, the first time I saw the film -- at last year's New York Film Festival -- I didn't even realize that the writer/director had recycled many of the same characters from his Happiness.  (Though the cast is completely different, the situation in the two films struck me as similar, but since I am not good at remembering the names of most movie characters, I didn't worry about it.)

Solondz's unique gift is to be able to create the oddest scenarios peopled with the strangest characters and make all this seem somehow appropriate, if not normal, so that soon we are laughing with, as well as at, his people while growing to love them and hoping for -- if not the best, at least something good. He achieves all this in even stronger fashion in this film, so I cannot recommend Life During Wartime strongly enough.  (Click here for my earlier review, from last year's New York Film Fest.)

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN, written and directed by James Franco, remains unseen by me, but as Mr. Franco is among our best and brightest young actors, anything and everything he does is worth tracking down, so far as I am concerned. And even if you hate his short film, its running time is only five minutes, so what can you lose? Making its debut at this year's Berlinale (winning the Best Short Film prize) and earlier this month at the CineVegas fest, "Feast" seems to divide audiences, while pouring more fuel on the "Is Franco gay?" question. But, as I always say: gay, straight, good, bad, only "the thing itself " counts.  So let's watch the film, and then we'll talk. On the same program is Jake Yuzna's OPEN, which won the Jury Prize at that Berlin fest. I know nothing about this 90-minute film, except what I learned from the IMDB: "Interweaving love stories centering on real individuals who are utilizing medicine to explore new frontiers of love, sex, and the human form."

Finally there is CENTURION, the new film from Neil Marshall, a writer/director whose work I very much like, who has earlier given us Dog Soldiers (the best werewolf movie since The Howling and/or An American Werewolf in London and the underrated Paris version) and Doomsdaya dark, slambang, knock-your-socks-off, post-apocalyptic thriller). Marshall's most popular movie, The Descent (he only co-produced its sequel) is my least favorite of his work, but I wouldn't miss this new one, in which it appears that he tackles the early days of the Roman/British connection in a kind of cross between Gladiator and The Last Legion.  Centurion stars the wonderfully versatile and sexy Michael Fassbender, whom I'd view in just about anything, plus an additional bunch of good actors.  Cuter than Crowe and every bit as good an actor, Fassbender probably lobs phones at hotel staff more gently, too.

So that's it, film fans. The next move is yours.   But I would definitely stick Northside Film on your list of things to do in the days to come. Again, here's the schedule

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