Top: The rodeo film The Rider bucked its way into the award-winning circle at the Filmfest Hamburg this year. This America film, directed by Chloe Zhao, portrays a young cowboy who suffers a near-fatal head injury at a rodeo and now has to search for a new direction in his life. Set in the Badlands of South Dakota, it reminds us of where those sad, heartfelt country songs come from. It was not a surprise that this film rode home with an award. It reminds me of my 94-year-old uncle telling us tales of his rodeo years back in the late ‘40s and how our grandmother forced him to quit so he wouldn’t break his neck and, instead, do something useful like fly the friendly skies as a pilot. He has received the rare award for being 70 years in the air. I am sure my grandmother is smiling from the heavens above.
Flop: The experimental German debut film Drift from Helena Wittmann was a recommendation from a fellow film colleague. Two women enjoy a weekend at the North Sea and swap stories of sea mythology. Strange things began to immerge. As they both take separate trips, one to Argentina and the other to the Caribbean, the Ocean begins to play a main character in the film. Although this film is only 97 minutes in length, it felt like it took three hours before it ended. Although the movie was beautifully filmed, it was a film that should not be seen late at night. Or it should have shown at the short film festival, since it was so experimental in its structure. At some point in the film, I started yawning and turned my head to see how the rest of my row was managing and noticed the entire row had drifted off to sleep.
Top: Patti Cake$
Flop: Demons in Paradise
Top: Citizen Jane: A fascinating look at how one woman managed to fight and win against the destructive urban development of NYC led by the corrupt Robert Moses.
Lucky: A man comes to terms with old age and his own mortality in this touching and expertly acted final film of Harry Dean Stanton.
Flop:The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Unsettling and nonsensical, Lanthimos revels so much in his own creativeness that he fails to actually say anything meaningful.
Napalm: A lecherous old French man tells a tall tale about his sexual exploits in post-war North Korea and also sickeningly sympathizes with the totalitarian regime which routinely tortures its own citizens.
Comment: The Federal Foreign Office donated 10,000 euros for the 2017 launch of the Sichtwechsel (bank draft) Film Award. In its first year, it's to "honour directors who work in other countries across national and cultural borders and create films." The winner, The Future Perfect by Nele Wohlatz, was obviously a political choice, especially given other films nominated. A German living in Argentina,Wohlatz's65-minute film lacked substance: the acting was painfully stilted, and the script monotonous and dispassionate. Somewhat like her monologue before the screening started.
Flop: The opening scene in Suburbicon was so brilliant; it certainly captured the ideal of the society I had grown up with in the’50s. I immediately thought: I am going to love this movie. Well, I was wrong. It must have been the script, ever heard of subtle? If only the high-profile writers had toned it down to perhaps 10% ofitself, it would still have been a memorable film, memorable in a better way, of course.