By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash

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Well, the film festival is already halfway over, and as things are winding out, I only got to see two today instead of my average three that I have been pulling for the past couple days. Oh well, the movies themselves were good enough, as you can (or should) read below. And, of course, keep coming back as I finish up my coverage of the fest tomorrow and Thursday.

I Am a Visitor in Your World | Directed by Miguel Silveira | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

Miguel Silveira’s I Am a Visitor in Your World is unique for one reason in particular: it is both a fictional narrative and documentary—at the same time.

I don’t mean like The Thin Blue Line, or even like Bernie. I mean, this movie tell one cohesive story, but it mixes the footage between recreated footage, real documentary footage and poetic recreations of blog writings written by Rebecca Babcock, the focus of the film, as they delve into her battle with poverty and colon cancer—before she even reaches the age of 30.

There is no mistaking the amateurish nature of the film. In particularly every level—whether it be the editing, or the low-res camera, or even the acting and directing themselves. But, through it all, there is both a sense of earnestness and genuineness that keeps this movie afloat.

In particular, it is Rebecca’s charm that makes you root for her more than anything. She is such a sympathetic, down-to-earth figure that is both realistic and likable. As she struggles and opens up more and more to the audience, it’s hard not to be moved. Especially when the final, bittersweet final note of film hits its chord.

The scenes that shine the most are the ones that are between Babcock and her mother (who, in fact, was in attendance during the screening). They are both real, meaningful and pack the punch that they need to make it worth their viewing.

Even if it is slight and not especially true in earning its intentions, I Am a Visitor to Your World is a sweet-hearted, touching little movie that, even when it becomes more personal, looks like something you would easily watch on YouTube.

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Particle Fever | Directed by Mark A. Levinson | Not Rated
RATING: 3.5/5

There are many things that I don’t know about. Probably more than I am willing to admit. But I will be more than willing to confess that I know next to nothing about physics.

I barely made it through my high school course on the subject, and that was really only because I had a pretty awesome teacher. I even took a physics-based course in college. It didn’t go very well.

Needless to say, I worried about this as I entered Particle Fever. Will I be a bubble of confusion for an hour-and-a-half as they talk about stuff that is way over my head? Although there are more than enough things that were well above my understanding, Mark A. Levinson’s search at one of the greatest physics discoveries of all-time is an enjoyable study at an important piece of history.

While there are many things that will easily confuse anyone who is below a second-year Psychics student, Levinson has a good enough sense to make everything as layman in understanding as possible. Well-designed graphics fly and flow throughout the screen, giving even the average Joe off-the-street at least a decent comprehension as to what is going on in front of them.

But, in particular, what sells this movie is that it always keeps it about the people, and not the numbers. It would be easy to just regurgitate a bunch of numbers and facts about what is happening, which they do—at times—but Levinson always keeps the people surrounding these events in check. Which adds to our investment and interest in what is going on.

What is easily the film’s best feature, though, is its editing by film legend Walter Murch. The guy who edited little indies like Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. His skilled understanding of the film medium not only gives the movie a good sense of plotting, but it also gives it its much need sense of immediacy. Even though Levinson would have crafted a fine film without him (most likely), he makes the movie have its real kick.

There is also some impressive sound editing and mixing throughout as well. Additionally, the movie knows to not take itself too seriously, giving nice little moments of levity and easy humor whenever it is needed.

Even if you don’t have a good understanding of Physics, one should be able to enjoy at least some of what is shown in Particle Fever. It’s a well-made, finely-tuned documentary that knows what it wants to say and says it well. Plus, it beats doing math.

 

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox
Rating: 3/5

Tested_stills_(1)Despite how snarky this review will probably sound, I do need to recognize how much more tolerable Glee has been since the permanent move to New York. It’s not that the storylines are making sense again; it’s just that I’m able to accept them and not vehemently detest the show every week. After the recent news about Ryan Murphy’s plans for the future of the show, I’m hoping Murphy can stick to his word. In an interview with E! Online, he discusses how the show was at its best when there were less than 10 main cast members and once the show had a flood of characters, things faltered. Well, I’m glad he sees it too. Season five will continue in New York and finish up the current storylines of Rachel’s Funny Girl run, Klaine’s relationship issues and Samcedes. Season six, however, will be in a different location, jump time and, as Murphy hopes, include more of the original glee club members. This latest news really peaks my hopes for a brighter end to the series that started out so strong. Everyone always asks me why I continue to watch this never-ending train wreck and that’s the answer: I’m waiting for it to rise from this terrible trough and possibly peak once again.

Tonight’s episode, “Tested,” featured a lot of issues, as is the Murphy way.

Artie (Kevin McHale) is somehow a ladies man at his New York film school and is sleeping with two girls but wants to actually have a relationship with Julie (Stephanie Hunt). He sings “Addicted to Love” to exemplify this and while there are great vocals and it was a fresh idea to do a split-screen format for the song, I don’t artiebelieve this idea. It’s not because Artie is physically handicapped, but it’s because that is not who his character is. He’s always been a little egotistical but never in the way a “ladies man” is supposed to be. Writers, please stop trying to make the Artie storylines work. They don’t, so please cut him out sooner rather than later. It takes up minutes of my life I will never get back. Just give me more of Darren Criss singing or being in his boxers or something. Anyway, Artie ends up getting chlamydia — I’m guessing the only reason for the episode’s title — and we get a nice visualization of how self-conscious he feels because he literally wears an STD suit. Again, make this end, please.

Blaine (Darren Criss) is all about the NYC food scene. He’s munching on international cuisine, ice cream and, most importantly, cronuts. Granted, that fad ended a few months ago, but you can’t deny the deliciousness of croissants and donuts in one pastry. While he’s been busy chomping away on Cheetos, Kurt (Chris Colfer) has been dieting and working out steadily, giving him that hot bod he’s been rocking since the beginning of the season. I have never connected with a character more than I did tonight as I watched Criss stuff his face with cronuts, gyros and more. Also this scene:

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There are two kinds of people.

It just so happens they now have combat class together — what happen to miming? — and Kurt is consistently showing off his new confidence and muscles, making Blaine feel self-conscious. He’s so uncomfortable he turns to FratBoyPhysicals.com for sexual release instead of Kurt. The two battle duet in combat class to “Love is a Battlefield.” This was definitely the best performance of the night. The lyrics and meaning of the song is applicable to their situation and the fight choreography was really different and interesting to watch. Glad to see we are slowly but surely working ourselves out of that trough I was talking about earlier! Good for you, writers.

Ultimately, it’s the power shift that has mostly jolted Blaine. He’s used to having to protect Kurt and be the alpha male, and now he feels Kurt doesn’t need him. Obviously, his nerves are put to rest and two reconcile and decide to try to act more like equals.

I like that things aren’t simply peachy keen for Klaine and I like that these issues they’re dealing with are rational and relatable, however I’m starting to feel less love on Kurt’s end of the relationship. Struggling to like how you look is a problem most people face and it can be especially hard when your partner does not have those issues. I think this was a great topic for the show to focus on; however it was solved in one episode, so is it really that impactful? Furthermore, it feels like Kurt seems less and less in love. Colfer plays him much more straight-faced and cold nowadays, and I’m not sure if it’s just his performance coming off poorly or if this is the direction the writers are choosing. Klainers, what do you think will happen to your favorite couple?

Mercedes (Amber Riley) is still a virgin and isn’t ready to have sex yet and wants to wait until she’s married. Sam (Chord Overstreet) says he’s OK with this, but his performance says otherwise. I was quite annoyed with this. The whole time he said he accepted her feelings, but I never felt he truly understood or respected her decision. There’s a lot of back and forth with this storyline. Mercedes sings “I Want to Know What Love Is” in church — because now that Riley is back she’s probably obligated to belt out a number at least once per episode to make up for lost time. In the end, Sam creates a fire hazard by lighting a hundred candles in their apartment to say that he’s OK with waiting. I still don’t feel the chemistry here and have no reason to root for these two.

I think this was the least amount of screen time ever given to Lea Michele, but it was well used. Rachel is simply used to ease Mercedes nerves about her first time and to offer girl advice. Then comes the bigger question at hand: When will Rachel move on in her own love life? This is a question the show has to handle very carefully or else spark a riot. Finchel fans will never let go of the endgame that even Murphy said should and was going to happen. Unfortunately, Cory Monteith has passed and with him Finn and that ending. Rachel gracefully explains how she and Finn “were always dating” and they both “knew how it was supposed to end,” an all too realistic statement. She says she’ll draw that line between her past and her future when she’s ready.

With this short but poignant monologue, the writers managed to gracefully say how they aren’t confronting this issue at this moment. Right now, they are focusing on Rachel’s career, as she probably would do if she were real. Murphy said he would consult Michele about the future love life of her character. There was that random, idiotic flirtation between her and Sam earlier this season, but thankfully that was killed quickly. Personally, I don’t think there’s a need to make her love life the center of her character again. That worked when it was about her one true love, but now it would seem forced. I also don’t see the need for this to be urgently reintegrated into the show. Can’t we just continue talking about her life with her friends and her career? Are we not allowed to have female characters in the media unless they are discussing their love lives? Here’s hoping they don’t do something stupid.

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash

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I’m a little late this time around, but here are my latest batch of reviews from the film festival. I am not even going to pretend that these movies have much in common with one another, so let’s just get moving on the show here.

Last Call | Directed by Enrico Cerasuolo | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

Although the topic itself may be a very important, a majority of the documentaries, and even narrative films, that have been made on environmentalism and world preservation can’t help but be a bit dull. The most interesting one we have—probably—is An Inconvenient Truth, and, even for as scary as that movie is, it drags at times.

So it was with that initial thought-stream in mind that I was pleasantly surprised how pulpy the first moments of Enrico Cerasulo’s documentary Last Call were. There were slight element of flair and spunk throughout, even though the subjects of the film are well past the age of sixty, and it gave me hope that, in addition to the compelling pieces of information the filmmakers were going to be throwing our direction, they were going to make the ride an enjoyable one along the way.

However, after the first 30 minutes or so, despite compelling narratives and engaging topics throughout, the movie begins to fizzle a bit due to uneven pacing and a lack of urgency. It’s always well-made, and there is a great understanding of the topics provided through graphics and visual effects throughout. But there’s not too much here that really, truly pulls the investment of the audience’s attention in for its full running time.

But, when Last Call is interesting, it’s very interesting. It is the segments with Dennis Meadows, one of the many co-authors of The Limits of Growth—the film’s overarching topic of choice—and one of the film’s primary figures and talking heads, that brings some much needed life into the movie. There is something captivating about Meadows and his presence, especially when he is speaking to a room of people, that draws you in immediately, and he knows how to play with this pull too. As do the filmmakers, thankfully.

There is also a sorrowful, oddly engaging score throughout that keeps things on its thoughtful toes, as are there some well put-together segments that make this a documentary that is worth admiring. Just don’t expect the most enthralling film you’ve ever seen when you watch it.

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Koinonia | Directed by Andrew Finnigan | Not Rated
RATING: 2.5/5

Perhaps, if one were to have missed seeing I Am Legend, The Road or any other post-apocalypse film ever made, especially of late, they would be entertaining by Andrew Finnigan’s Koinonia.

Bottling up just about every cliche there is in the genre, Koinonia is a film that, for all its low-budget goals, is earnest in its production, but can never, ever get over the hurdle of being anything original whatsoever. The voice-overs throughout are deathly familiar, as are the flashback segments centered on the main character’s previous life before the destruction of humanity hits him, that the movie can’t help but be just boring.

Cinematography and direction throughout are never outright bad, and there are moments were it, and the editing, work in small doses. Perhaps that is what saves this movie from being a train wreck. But, truthfully, I believe what keeps this movie in mediocrity is the commitment of its lead actor, Tony Doupe. While his performance isn’t especially great, it’s committed, for better or for worse. Despite the troubled script he is given, he gives the movie all he’s got, even when that backfires on him. There are moments that are meant to be serious, but are just silly or, worse, awkward. But, through thick and thin, Doupe makes the most of it all.

Which he should, as he is primarily the only actor on screen for the majority of the running time.

Had I not seen this at the film festival, I feel like the only other place I would come across it would be at the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. Perhaps, even, in a combo pack with other forgettable B-movie knock-offs. Although his efforts are commendable, and he has an actor willing to push himself, Finnigan and his film can’t do anything with this material that hasn’t been done before and, especially, done much better.

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Le Week-End | Directed by Roger Michell | Rated R
RATING: 3.5/5

The power of watching two great actors perform together can be all that a movie needs.

When you have veteran greats like Jim Broadbent (who is always, always welcomed to come onto any screen I am looking at) and Lindsay Duncan together in Paris, that is all you need to get me into the theater. But, when you have a good script, good chemistry and beautiful scenery to boot, the trip becomes even more of a delight. And, while Le Week-End, the movie they share the screen together, does have its bumps on the road, this trip to Europe is still a treat that puts a smile on your face.

As these characters are three dimensional and complex, they are not without their flaws. But the flaws these characters carry do not always make for an enjoyable time at the movies. Duncan’s character, sometimes for reasons that are not fully explained, is a bit of a bitch, and Broadbent’s character is occasionally too mild mannered for his own good.

Additionally, the movie—especially in its third act—starts to unravel a bit due to its unevenness tonally and its over-desire to be too cutesy for its good. Perhaps in a ditch attempt to keep pleasing the senior citizen crowd it is attempting to pull in.

But, despite these reservations, Le Week-End is a wickedly funny movie throughout, thanks primarily to Broadbent and Duncan’s easy chemistry and the witty script by Hanif Kureishi. Another huge factor in this movie’s success is a scene-stealing supporting performance from Jeff Goldblum, who, while he may be playing himself, gives one of his most enjoyable performances in some time. Through all its up-and-downs, this trip to France is a breezy, pleasant time at the movies, especially for those of us who don’t get to go Europe anytime soon.

By Meryl Gottlieb | mg986611@ohiou.edu | @buzzlightmeryl
Annie | Directed by Will Gluck

If you need to know one fact about me, it’s that I love musicals. From film adaptations to high school productions to The Great White Way, I love it all. However, with the increasing list of musicals I am obsessed with, there has also been a growing list of musicals I find, well, not great. Carousel tops that list. Then there are musicals I will accept but just can’t seem to get into. Annie holds that No. 1 spot. I must admit I like the 1982 film version but that’s mostly because I’m in love with the outstanding cast. You tell me how something involving Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett isn’t supposed to be fantastic. And don’t forget about the 1999 made-for-TV version involving Kristen Chenoweth, Kathy Bates and Audra McDonald. But overall, I don’t care if the sun will come out tomorrow; Annie just doesn’t do it for me.

I was fairly apathetic when I heard there would be more modern adaptation of the 1977 musical involving changing names and ethnicities. In order to even try to make another film adaptation, they had to do something to make this 2014 adaptation stand out. Simply finding the little girl with red curls isn’t as adorable as it was 40 years ago and having another older white man with a glistening bald head is still weird. But this is supposed to appeal to our world today: Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives in Harlem and Daddy Warbucks Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is using her for political gain. Now if that doesn’t sound like the 21st century, then I don’t know what is.

For one, I’m a little insulted the writers feel mass audiences would be keen on this adaptation. Picking up a storyline and dropping it into another era doesn’t always work, and I have a feeling the newest Annie will be our prime example of this phenomenon. Adding in pop culture references, looking at today’s poverty and political atmospheres and changing up the typical casting choice could work in theory, but from what this trailer has shown me, it’s simply another poor adaptation by modern writers. I think changing up the race of the two main leads is an interesting choice but it only becomes a point of focus if you make it be one. The race of Warbucks and Annie really has nothing to do with the show, so in some respects, I don’t see this as a groundbreaking change. It was just the way of the times in the ’70s to have them be white. While it is supposed to be set in modern times, having Annie be from Harlem and be used for political purposes doesn’t seem very original and creative. When you talk about modernizing Annie, it seems like a fairly obvious and boring choice.

I also think I sense a touch of auto-tune in “Tomorrow,” so let’s hope they didn’t go down that route.

And I’d be remiss to go without mentioning the Cameron Diaz issue. Why casting directors thought she would make a perfect Miss Hannigan baffles me. I don’t come to expect much from a certain pool of actors, and honestly Diaz is included in that list. She’s too over-the-top for her own good, and I can’t help but wonder how much better the film, let alone the trailer, would be without Diaz screeching up a storm. I’ve never heard her sing, but I’m not looking forward to her rendition of “Little Girls.”

What do you think of the newest Annie adaptation? Do you think Sandy is the only good part about the musical? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

 

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash

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Well, I’m back in the saddle again, seeing and reviewing as many films that come out of the AIFAV Fest as possible. In my third day of coverage, there is a very loose theme of loss and recovery to be found in these three films. Even if the films themselves vary in quality.

Archaeology of a Woman | Directed by Sharon Greytak | Not Rated
RATING: 1.5/5

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are very serious, devastating topics. But you won’t know that from watching Sharon Greytak’s film Archaeology of a Woman.  

Centered on a woman Margaret (Academy Award-nominated actress Sally Kirkland) and the struggles that come between her and her daughter Kate (Victoria Clark) as she develops the early stages of dementia, this is meant to be a moving, serious-minded character exploration on the state of the fragile mind. But what is produced inside is a movie that makes the feature films on the Lifetime Channel look like Schindler’s List.

The biggest problem with the film is that the script, also written by Greytak, is so convoluted and poorly written that it’s hard to take anything that is happening on screen seriously, especially as it goes on through its confused plot. This is made even worse by her awkward, inexperienced direction with makes even talented actresses like Kirkland look distraught and amateur.

Since the movie is on a limited budget, it can be easy for one to forgive some of their misfortunes. But, between the clunky dialogue, the indecisive direction (there are moments here that I think were supposed to be funny, but come across just as weird as those lighthearted moments in an M. Night Shyamalan movie) and the fact that movie, on the whole, is just really, really boring to sit through makes one’s patience unearned.

Although Kirkland’s performance isn’t anywhere near as good as it probably should be, there are little, subtle moments where you can look into her eyes and see her genuinely acting. It’s a shame that these moments are so few and far between, because they demonstrate how good of the movie probably could have been with a good script and direction. Pity.

If one wants a touching, heart-breaking look at the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they should check out Away From Her. Not this cheesy, awkwardly-plotted, ridiculous little movie.

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The Great Flood | Directed by Bill Morrison | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

In Bill Morrison’s moody, if not completely empowering, look back on the 1926 flood of the Mississippi River, The Great Flood provides a stunningly bleak look back on the troubled piece of American piece.

Encompassed back a jazzy, post-rock score by Bill Frisell, Morrison gives a unique, thoughtful mediation on a part of history that is not as explored as it probably should be. Through the use of music and specifically chosen footage, Morrison does a great job at establishing the era of his film’s timeline. But, with that said, there is something slight about his film that never truly makes it go far beyond its initial intentions.

At just 80 minutes long, The Great Flood is a short movie, and does know when it is time to get in and then get out. Even if its ending is a bit awkward. There is a lot to like inside this movie, and for those who like to have their history lessons have a little bit of punk-based attitude in them, then you should find a lot to explore and like in this movie.

As a slice of life story that blends the lines between the past and modern day, Morrison’s film gives a well-produced slice of life story that is dated and relevant at the same time. It is not going to be the most memorable movie that I see at this year’s fest, but there is too much good in here for me to dismiss.

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One: A Story of Love and Equality | Directed by Becca Roth | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

Films that are obviously meant to be film school projects are hard to judge.

It’s clear that these type of movies are made by filmmakers trying to find their voice, their niche and their style. They are the works of inexperienced filmmakers who know they are still learning and are trying to become the best filmmakers they can possibly be.

One: A Story of Love and Equality is that type of movie from new filmmaker Becca Roth. In her exploration of the North Carolina Amendment One debate, she is clearly working on a shoe-string budget at best, and has to work with that limitations as much as possible. While it is far from a perfect film, Roth is able to make the most of her limitations, thanks to some captivating interviews and a growing understanding of character that she finds in her travels.

For the first 40 to 50 minutes, Roth’s film is a very surface-level look at this topic. She gets too caught up in the cliched nature of documentary storytelling, and never quite pushes herself and her subjects as she could and should. But then, somewhere around the half point of the movie, that changes. By finally exploring the other side of this issue, and moving away from its one-sided pretensions, One is able to become a surprisingly moving, character-based examination on this tricky topic.

The worst thing about the movie, oddly enough, is Roth herself whenever she decides to throw itself into the story’s forefront. Her voice-overs are incredibly cliched, and she goes through ever writing trick in the book in a seeming bliss of unawareness that’s cute in its naivete. Despite Roth being a pretty good editor, she can never quite escape the college-level type film-making she is working with here, but she learns to do that best she can with what she is given.

But, when she is able to move the camera away from herself and focus it on those around her, she has a nice, sensitive vision, and a talent for exploring the hidden struggles of the human condition. If she is able to continue moving away from telling her tired stories and focus more on the works of others, she could become a very promising young filmmaker. Especially if she ever gets a budget.

While a bit self-involved and too service level in its storytelling at first, One grows just like its characters, and has heart and earnest good-nature to shine. Despite its flaws, there is something so charming about this effort that it makes it worth working through it in the end.

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash

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Another day, another batch of AIFAV festival reviews. Unlike yesterday’s selection, there is the mildest of themes that loosely connect these three films together: innocence. If even in the smallest of ways, these three films all strive to connect to a sense of longing and fascination with the world at large.

Ernest & Celestine | Directed by Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner | Rated PG
RATING: 4/5

Sometimes, it’s the simplest stories that are the best, and that is certainly the case with Ernest & Celestine.

Centered on the friendship formed between a bear (Ernest) and a mouse (Celestine) in a prejudiced society, the latest film from the creators of the wonderfully bizarre A Town Called Panic (which does get a nod early on) is just as sweet and lovingly crafted as their former film. Yet, it also has the added benefit of getting something that is so emotionally earnest (no pun intended) that is even more arresting than their last film.

Even if it can be sweet to a fault, there is something so beautiful about seeing this 2-D (yeah for 2-D!) hand-drawn animation on the silver screen that enraptures you to enjoy every blinking moment. There are moments so elegantly crafted, including one moment halfway into the picture that could be something out of Fantasia, in addition to its lighthearted score that makes the movie sweep in the audience’s heart faster than they can possibly imagine.

While it can be very heavy-handed in its message, particularly towards its closing moments, there is something so arresting about this movie—which is particularly ironic based on the events which happen in the movie—that audiences, young and old, will get caught in its net of childlike wonder. Even a cynic like me can’t help but get a smile on their face.

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Something Necessary | Directed by Judy Kibinge | Not Rated
RATING: 2.5/5

What happens when the important stories that deserve to be told can’t fully grasp its potential power? You get something like Judy Kibinge’s Something Necessary.

Centered on the aftermath of events which take place in Kenya after a violent civil unrest betakes the nation after their election, even though the characters themselves are fictional—something the film is not afraid to point out—there is something about these story that demands to be told for all its hidden pathos and bottled confusion. But Kibinge’s film gets lost in its need to flush in multiple different story arcs that attempt to connect together, but never quite gain their authenticity.

The biggest problem with this film comes down to its script, written by Mungai Kiroga and Jc Niala. Despite the filmmaker and the actors’ best intentions, they can’t escape the hokey-ness and heavy-handed dialogue that the writing delivers on in hearty portions. Kibinge and her lead actress Kipng’eno Kirui Duncan give a level of restraint throughout that is commendable, but their script is not self-aware as they seem to be.

When Something Necessary is good, though, it’s very good. The quiet moments centered on Duncan’s performance are quite, yet remorseful in a way that are captivating in their silent power. But, unfortunately, these moments are too little and far between in the end that they don’t fully gain the attention they deserve.

There is some beautiful cinematography throughout this movie, particularly in some select moments that harp back to the movie’s restraint creativeness. But, because of the muddled story, its pacing issues (even at 85 minutes, this movie feels long-winded) and its ongoing preachy nature, it never earns the emotional power that they deserve. Which is a shame, because, for a movie that should be a quiet punch in the gut at the end of the day, all its gains is a shoulder shrug.

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Visitors | Directed by Godfrey Reggio | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

There are art house movies, and then there are art house movies.

Art house movies often feature D, C, even B-list actors working on a film of a smaller budget and gets medium theater play. But then there are art house movies, and that is what Godfrey Reggio’s latest movie Visitors is.

Reggio’s movie is not an easy one to describe. If you were to interview everyone leaving the theater afterwards, they would all probably give you a different answer about what it was all about. Which is fine, because that is what art is, but it makes it hard to write about in detail. What I will say, then, is that, for me, Visitors walks a fine line between alluring and pretentious in its examination of humanity and our daily existence.

But, what really makes this movie work is its incredibly beautiful cinematography. Visitors is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen, as its use of excellent lightning and black and white filmography makes it all the more stunning in the darkened atmosphere of the theater. It’s use of shadows matches perfectly, and it encompasses a sense of awe that is pretty breathtaking once you put some of the pieces together. That is, if you put any of the pieces together.

Like I said, this is a movie that everyone is going to get something different from. My explanations here may not be even close to what someone else in front, behind or next to me got in the screening. What I found incredible someone else may get nothing from, and, on that same token, what I found repetitive and unmoving someone probably found amazing. So, with that in time, this is the type of film that you mainly have to look at on face value, in order to give as unbiased of a summation of it as possible.

There is certainly a 2001: A Space Odyssey influence here, and, perhaps more surprisingly, inspiration from the filmography of Andy Warhol as well. As such, the visual effects are great, as is the score by Philip Glass. There is no dialogue in the movie, yet there are many broad themes that are tackled and discussed throughout. This is certainly not the film for everyone, but those who enjoy this type of heady movie are going to find a lot to like here.

Even if it becomes less and less engaging as it enters its third act (I should also mention that there are about three endings at least in this movie) there is still enough here, especially in its first two parts, to make the trip to see it. Reggio is a filmmaker that makes even falling garbage look beautiful, and, while this may not be his finest work, it is still worth watching. That is, if you are into this kind of thing.

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu| @thewillofash

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It’s that time of year again: the Athens International Film and Video Festival (AIFAV) is back and in full swing, and, on its opening day, I got to see three of its select few. All of which are pretty much nothing like the other. So, without further ado, here is my first day of coverage—and come back for continued coverage throughout the week.

The Missing Picture | Directed by Rithy Panh | Not Rated
RATING: 3.5/5

In his sober, yet deeply poetic, Academy Award-nominated documentary, Rithy Panh explores familiar territory in an fascinating, and often thoughtful, perspective.

Through the use of clay figurines, Panh explores his troubled past in a way of examining the preservation of self and the ongoing sense of longing than anyone can relate to. It’s a somber movie, filled completely with sullen pathos and quiet moments of reflection, but it is also, at times, quite repetitive.

It’s not the type of movie that is going to appeal to every audience, but those who enjoy this kind of stoned-face, watered eye reflection on the meaning of life through survival are going to take away a lot of beauty from this movie.

Much like Terence Nance’s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, screened at last year’s festival, Panh uses an unique means of examining his past through the animation and poetic monologues. Whereas Nance’s film was more polished than Panh and examined a 30s mid-life crisis instead of 50, Panh’s film is just as bittersweet and unusually alluring.

There is an undeniable charm to the amateur animation that makes the movie all its own. At times an autobiography, a cleansing, or a thesis—and, sometimes, all three—Panh’s film is an evocative, if at times meandering, look at life that is alluring and stand-offish at the same time. 

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OJ: The Musical | Directed by Jeff Rosenberg | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

Shot in a mockumentary style that is more in line with Edward Burns filmography than the films of Christopher Guest—which is to say, using its style whenever it is convenient for the film at large—OU alum Jeff Rosenberg’s OJ: The Musical has a lot to live up to with a title as promising as its own. As expected, it doesn’t quite live up to the great promise that its ludicrous title suggest, but there are more than a few laughs inside to gain an audience’s admiration.

Centered on a failed playwright’s attempt to merge William Shakespeare’s Othello with the events of the OJ Simpson murder in musical harmony, Rosenberg’s movie is one that would probably have been best served in the shorter form than the longer. With about 30-40 minutes of good material, if that, there is potential here for a pretty great short film. But, as a feature, it equals out to just an average film at best—one that is enjoyable at the time to watch, but nothing quite worth remembering once you leave the cinema.

For all its hit-and-miss comedy, the best thing about this movie is its cast, who, through thick and thin (material) stay on board. In particular, another OU alum Jordan Kenneth Kamp, as the lead said playwright Eugene, is always putting in 120 percent into this comedy. But, thankfully, he either has enough restraint to never go fully overboard, or Rosenberg is wise enough to keep him in balance.

The biggest detriment to OJ: The Musical is that a majority of the characters never really progress in this story in realistic depictions. Their character arcs only progress when and how it is convenient for them to do so in the script, and, as a result, it is hard to truly get invested in this story as wholeheartedly as the filmmakers would like. Also a chink in the movie’s army is its cliched and fairly predictable storyline, which is only livened, and saved, by the movie’s ongoing dark comedy sensibility.

Much like Hamlet 2, the movie is undoubtedly at its height during its extravagantly envisioned musical numbers. Which makes me all the more inclined to believe that this would have been best conceived as a short film or a Funny or Die sketch. As a film, though, it’s an enjoyable, if never spectacular, film that would be an entertaining night home when this movie hits On Demand or DVD.

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Wetlands | Directed by David Wnendt | Not Rated
RATING: 3/5

In David Wndent’s perverse, yet oddly fixating, coming of age (literally) movie Wetlands, he proves, once and for all, that the United States don’t even hold a candle on the raunchy comedy department’s line of good manners.

Filled with endlessly imaginative camera work and an ongoing desire to push the audience’s line of decency, there is an over-lining sense of obnoxious mentality that pratically demands its audience to be as grossed out as possible. To its benefit, though, it’s a movie that is not for the squish, but it always kept me guessing. Which, for the record, is not something I can say about many movies these days.

What truly makes this movie work in the end is the brave performance of its lead Carla Juri as Helen. She throws herself wholeheartedly into this performance, and it is a pretty great one at that. On that same note, Wnendt’s seemingly fearless desire to push everything to the edge is commendable, if not always well earned. But, thanks to its lead actress, it all works out in the end.

What I think is most disappointing about Wetlands is that, for a movie so willing to take risks, it plays itself very safe in its final moments. Its end is about as predictable as you can expect from the events leading up to it. Which is a shame, especially considering how many surprises this movie had in store for its hour and a half running time.

It’s gross. It’s over the top. It’s perverse and its gleeful in its sophomoric mentality. It has things that will never, ever be unseen, and that will either scare people away or draw them in even more. But, much like the first American Pie movie, it also has a fine balance between sweet character moments and its raunchy humor to balance itself out at the end of the day. It delights in its gross details, but it is still a well-made, competent film that should entertain the select few audience members that get a kick out of this type of thing.

 

              

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