Category Archives: Commentary

Vic’s Review – Step 9 (2012)

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Vic’s Note: I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching a screening of “Step 9” here in Rochester, New York.  I was graciously invited by local D.J. and Film-maker Scott W. Fitzgerald of http://fairportpictures.com , to attend the showing at the beautiful Memorial Art Gallery here in the Arts district. I would like to personally thank Scott, his lovely wife Kelly, Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media for the invitation. It was a wonderful and revelatory evening. Thanks, guys!

A former drug addict attempts to make amends with his ex-wife by telling her a secret he’s been keeping to himself for years.

“Step 9”

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”

Directed by Scott W. Fitzgerald

8 out of 10

“Step 9” is a powerful and somber short film which is an amazing character study efficiently told with sobering detail and an almost funereal reverence. Co-writer and director Scott W. Fitzgerald, of Fairport Pictures, handles the material with respect and a like-able craftsmanship that leaves the viewer completely immersed. Then eventually exhausted by the deep testimonial that is the result of a 20 minute journey into a man’s attempt to put his life back in order at any cost. Fitzgerald’s story, which he co-wrote with “Step 9” actress Kelly Austin, is an acute observation that tempers the soul of those who particularly understand the tribulations of the lead character, Ray, played brilliantly by Danny Hoskins. (Better Than Wine) Ray is a recovering drug addict who wants to clear the air about his troubles with substance abuse to his estranged wife, Addison (Kelly Austin of the upcoming “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda”).

Fitzgerald’s film begins bleakly with Addison (Austin) getting into her vehicle in order to follow her husband, Ray. DP Derrick Petrush, from http://dtrainmedia.com/ ( Mason Darby, He’s Our Man!keeps his camera tight on all the prologue proceedings.  When Addison gets in her car and we see close ups of her starting the ignition and clicking in her seat belt. Fitzgerald automatically gives the short a claustrophobic feel as Addison drives, the shot lingering of her eyes in the rear view mirror, after Ray one snowy and rainy day. She eventually catches up with Ray at what appears to be warehouse/ storage facility. Addison pulls her car into frame and she watches as Ray and another man, a stranger, are in the middle of what looks to be a transaction of sorts.

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Addison jumps out after moving closer and confronts Ray as the other man turns and runs. Ray tries to calm Addison down as she yells and attacks him. She turns to get back into her car as Ray attempts to explain what is transpiring. But it is too late. Addison gets into the car and Fitzgerald quietly reveals the film’s title as we continue to hear Addison’s crying. The film flashes slowly white then we come to Ray contemplating better and jovial days with his beloved wife as he sits eating a meal. Confined to a compact dwelling, Ray sits somberly and eventually Addison arrives to speak with Ray. Things are frosty and as Addison tries to be immediate and hurried, Ray comes off as a bit standoffish as he makes a biting comment about Addison’s prosperity. It doesn’t sit well with her and almost leaves Ray alone to wallow. Ray tells Addison about some bad news and he realizes that he is not getting any support or sympathy from her. In the course of the conversation she asks Ray about his prior drug use already making a judgement. Fitzgerald and Austin make their characters hot headed and prone to arguing. They continue this discourse for a while as the movie slowly boils in the incommodious environment.

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Ray begs to have the “old Addy back” as he tries desperately to get her to understand that this disclosure is not easy for him. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald adds the occasional flashback in black and white of Ray being sneaky and devious all the while with a devilish grin on his face. Ray tries to take a trip down memory lane but Addison decides otherwise. Ray, then, proceeds to tell her what he was going through and how he felt during his use as the steely Addison rubs her hands with antibacterial lotion in a very symbolic gesture. Fitzgerald’s characters are people under a microscope in “Step 9.” They are being slowly picked apart by their movements, dialog and emotions. The short incorporates layers of dynamic drama and it is fueled by slow and deliberate conversation. The  film peels back layers upon layers exposing issues, trauma and deep rooted despondency. Self image, addiction and insecurities come to surface. Especially when Ray finds out something salient about Addison’s past. All of this is on display and it works because of Austin and Hoskins. They play the conflict and then resolution well off of each other.

It isn’t all done with an easy flow though. Hoskins’ somewhat maniacal outbursts towards Austin seems a bit forced and heavy handed but it is fleeting. The script, too, clunks around a bit in the beginning but it finds it’s footing and never trips again. By the end of the short after all things are said and done between Ray and Addison, things are very different and the climax is both appropriate, crushing and eye opening. “Step 9” is about forgiveness, despair, re-creation and sometimes futility. There is hope in this short though. In spades.  My hat’s off to Fitzgerald, Austin, Hoskins and Fair Port Pictures for putting together a beautifully shot and wonderful short that is well acted, relevant and engaging. “Step 9” is indeed about what the 9th step is all about. Making amends. That in itself is a conviction that Fitzgerald and company express brilliantly in this short. Highly recommend.

“This is not right, Ray. You are a good man. You SAVED us.” – Addison

“The slate is clean.” – Ray

“Step 9” was shot and filmed in Rochester, New York

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You can watch the Festival Cut of “Step 9” from Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media here:

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The Ten Greatest Directors

chaplin
Welcome to the final installment of The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each post removed ten directors from the list with an explanation as to why we cut them. It wasn’t easy, but we’re finally down to the Ten Greatest Directors. There was a lot of debate behind the scenes, but here they are, in no particular order. We’re simply naming them The Ten Greatest Directors.

Jean-Luc Godard
He is one of the pioneers of the French New Wave wasn’t just a great director but changed the language of filmmaking forever. Prior to Godard, such things as having a character address the camera, jump cut editing, and non-linear storytelling were considered taboo. Now, without Godard, we wouldn’t have Tarantino, Von Trier, or Coppola.

Federico Fellini
The ultimate dreamer who made dreams come alive on the screen. His films were a dance with a rhythm, intelligence, and sly wit that no other director in history can match. His legacy is assured and his movies are timeless. Be sure to see La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. They changed the way viewers looked at filmmaking.

Ingmar Bergman
The auteur of the top 10 also is underrated when it comes to delivering a film that also enlightens and entertains. His strongest attribute was dealing with the most basic human emotions: love, life, death, and family and making the films convey these feelings without condescending the audience. I have never watched a Bergman film without thinking about it for at least a week afterwards. They stay with you like all great art.

Charlie Chaplin
Most people know him as The Tramp — the iconic character with the funny mustach, top hat and cane. And it’s a phenominal character, but he also wrote and directed his best films, like The Kid, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. He had 72 films directed, won a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, best actor, and even one for best original score. He knew how to make great films, and was a notorious perfectionist.

Fritz Lang
If you don’t know him, the directors you love certainly do. Lang is one of the most influential directors, and is considered the father of film noir. He never won an Academy Award — most likely because he was born in Germany, and even though he moved to America because of his strong distaste for nazis, was still looked at as a “German filmmaker.” His movies, like M, Metropolis, and Fury are classics still shown in film schools around the world to this day. They are iconic, timeless, and resonate with great awe.

Alfred Hitchcock
He was master storyteller who churned out movies like it was his job… which it was. Over a 50 year career, he cranked out nearly 70 films as a director, plus he wrote and produced his own television series and other films. But he will be remembered most as a director for his uncanny ability to capture suspense, play with our minds with stunning visuals, and create iconic images in films like “Psycho” “The Birds” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and the list goes on. He set the stage for other directors in a genre he brought respect to.

John Ford
He’s arguably the greatest. He directed more than 100 films, including classics like Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, and also was a four-time Oscar winner for directing. His pace, understanding of timing, respect for actors and iconic imagery all make up his incredible talent. A master, through and through, and a workhorse.

Martin Scorsese
He came out of the NYU film school, and lead a generation of directors that bucked the Hollywood system and its traditional film-making techniques  and story lines. He made movies, like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that challenged the viewer and put them in an uneasy chair. His mafia movies, like Good Fellas and The Departed, are unmatched in the genre. He approaches film humbly, and understands stories and imagery like no other. We love Scorsese, and we hope he never retires.

Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas, after the making of Spartacus, said, “Stanley Kurbick is a talented shit.”

He only made 15 films in his career, which was one of his regrets as a director, but he was a perfectionist and his pictures were a reflection of that. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, took five years to make. No other director has been given that freedom, and for good reason. Every Kubrick film is a masterpiece.

There has never been a director who understood a camera better. He was a still photographer before he became a motion picture director and his use of light and how it impacts stories and characters as a storytelling vehicle is extremely thoughtful. His storytelling skills are superb, but he never used narrative stories, or rarely did. His movies made you feel the story. They never handed it to you on a silver plate. He challenged viewers with his stories and portrayed them with stunning beauty. He was the Mozart of film making.

Akira Kurosawa
Ironically, Kirosawa was panned in Japan in his early days for being too influenced by western directors, like John Ford, and for bringing too much emotion to his pictures. But that was his strength. He captured both the action of war and its drama. He paid exquisite detail even to the most mundane characters, and brought humanity to war and famine. “The Seven Samurai” “Yojimbo” “Rashômon” and “The Hidden Fortress” continue to influence directors to this day.

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 3

spielberg

Welcome to part 3 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary, we will each remove five directors from the list and give an explanation as to why we cut them.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

MATT

Francis Ford Coppola
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was probably the last really good film he’s made, and that was in 1992. I know it stings to take Coppola off this list, but he made the Godfather trilogy, and not a lot after or before.

Orson Welles
After Citizen Kane, Welles didn’t do a whole lot. He directed a lot of television projects. It’s strange that someone who directed such a beautiful looking film, with such great influence, never really met his potential.

Pedro Almodovar
I’m a big fan. Volver, if you haven’t seen it, was great. Talk to her, was also quite good. But his collection of work isn’t strong enough to warrant Top 10.

Sam Peckinpah
He only directed 14 films, but made some great ones — like Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch. But I think his true strength was as a writer.

Steven Spielberg
What?! Yes, Spielberg is getting cut. This is a band-aid that just needs to be ripped off. For Every Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, there’s an Indiana Jones 4 or War Horse. This one is tough to cut, but again, I go back to relevance. He’s making Indiana Jones 5 right now. Lincoln was great, but you have to go back to 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence for his last good movie. This is a pattern for him.

BRIAN 

Mel Brooks
I’m a huge fan of the Producers but a lot of his humor falls flat with me. Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are highly overrated one joke premises.

Wes Anderson
He’s the king of the dry humor. I loved Rushmore and Royal Tenebaums. Wasn’t crazy about Zizou and Darjeeling Limited. Either way, he’s not in the top 10

Tim Burton
I loved Pee Wee and think Ed Wood is one of the most underrated films ever made. But, he made Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes and those weren’t just bad, they were complete disasters.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Delicatessen and City of Lost Children are fantastic. But, he directed Alien: Resurrection, which was horrendous. Also, Amelie is very cute but terribly overrated.

Brian Depalma
He has some great movies on his résumé: Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface. But, he’s still working today and hasn’t even made anything good in 20 years.

Remaining Directors:
Woody Allen
Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
David Lynch
Ridley Scott
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Oliver Stone
Paul Thomas Anderson
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
Joel and Ethan Cohen
John Huston
Stanley Kubrick
Sergio Leone
Milos Forman
Jean-Luc Godard
Yasujiro Ozu
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
Christopher Nolan
John Ford

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 1

orson-welles

Our three-year anniversary is here! It’s been an awesome run, and we’ve really enjoyed interacting with you and sharing our reviews and articles.

The past two years we’ve had epic lists. Our first year we named the Ten Greatest Films Ever Made, and in year two we did the Ten Worst Movies We’ve Ever Seen. This year we’ve decided to name the Ten Greatest Director.

Here are the list of 45 directors, in no particular order, we will consider for the ten greatest ever. Each day we’ll both cut five from the list until we’re paired down to the Ten Greatest Directors.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix.

Woody Allen
Francis Ford Coppola
Quentin Tarantino
Orson Welles
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
Clint Eastwood
David Lynch
Ridley Scott
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Oliver Stone
Robert Zemeckis
George Lucas
Brian De Palma
Cecil B. DeMille
Spike Lee
Paul Thomas Anderson
Darren Aronofsky
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
Joel and Ethan Cohen
John Huston
Tim Burton
James Cameron
Mel Brooks
Sam Peckinpah
Stanley Kubrick
Wes Anderson
Roman Polanski
Pedro Almodovar
Danny Boyle
Steven Spielberg
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Sam Mendes
Sergio Leone
Milos Forman
Jean-Luc Godard
Yasujiro Ozu
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
Christopher Nolan
John Ford

Craigslist Joe

craigslist joe
Setting out to explore whether America still has a sense of community where people help each other through hard times, 29-year-old Joseph Garner spends a month depending on the goodness of Craigslist posters for his survival.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

It’s a great concept for a documentary. But with any documentary that focuses on the filmmaker pulling a stunt — like the infamous “Supersize Me” — it seems to take away from authenticity of the film.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining and “Craigslist Joe” certainly is. It’s not going to blow the doors off your house, but it will keep you thoroughly entertained for for an hour and a half.

It’s definitely interesting to see some of the positions he’s in, the types of people he meets and the places he stumbles to. He’s very much going with the flow. He sleeps whereever he can find a place, gets a meal whenever he can, and a ride to wherever someone is willing to take him. But he also makes some real connections with people who help him along the way, and it’s the glue that holds this film together. It is a stunt, just like the guy who ate nothing but disgusting McDonald’s for a month. He could stop whenever he wants, but that just doesn’t make for good TV. I did walk away, though, satisfied. It was a fun road trip to watch unfold, and there were some heartfelt moments where people genuinely helped out a person who is — kind of — in need.

heckler

heckler2

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

Do I have the right to review a film or have a movie blog? Yes I do, and the answer is simple: because I exist.

My only rub with this film is Jamie Kennedy complains that movie bloggers and posters of the interwebs trash him. He gets offended and wonders why a nobody can tear him and his films apart. But just as he has the right to take the stage as a comic or star in a film, we have the right to hate on his work.

That said — it’s really my only complaint about this film. Kennedy went to great lengths to interview a host of comedians, actors and performers who shared some really great stories and insights on heckling. I’m sure hecklers have existed since the Romans battled gladiators, and this film sheds some great light on an awkward social faux  pas. We’ve all experienced it, whether it’s at a movie or at a comedy club, that jerk yelling remarks from the back. It’s hard enough to make people laugh, but it’s just painful when a heckler verbally assaults a comic. There are some really great interview with comedians in “Heckler,” from David Cross and Louie Anderson to Bill Maher, and it’s really fun to hear their stories. It’s also interesting to see how hard it can be on them. More than I anticipated.

It was also funny to watch Kennedy interview a really awkward blogger who absolutely vomitted all over his work. However, as annoying as that guy is, he deserves a voice. It’s just not as annoying as the guy shouting from the back of the theater. And Kennedy interviews that guy, too. This is an often hilarious and insightful documentary that’s definitely worth a watch.

Top 5 Baseball Movies

Spring is in the air and baseball is finally here after a long, long winter. We’re big fans of America’s pastime here at The Movie Brothers, so we decided to present to you our Top 5 Baseball Movies. There are a lot of great baseball movies, probably more than any other sport because of its tradition, history and heartfelt place in our country. Many great baseball movies didn’t make the list, like “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “61,” “A League of Their Own” and “The Bad News Bears.” But to get to the Top 5, a lot of them had to be cut.

5. The Sandlot
sand lotThis is definitely as sentimental a movie as they come, but it’s hard not to fall in love with. It’s the story of a new kid on the block who has no club about baseball, but it’s how he connects with the children in his new town. Placed in the 1960s, it’s a coming-of-age story wrapped in a love letter to baseball. It’s a great one for the entire family, with plenty of memorable scenes and moments.

EightMenOut-Still1CR4. Eight Men Out
There  may be no sadder story than that of Shoeless Joe Jackson — who makes two appearance in our Top 5. He went down with the ship when his teammates threw the 1919 World Series, even though he played incredibly well. This is a great film with a great cast that pulls the cover off a sad chapter in baseball with plenty of frustrating drama.

3. Moneyball
Money BallIt could be easy to write this film off as too “inside baseball” — no pun intended — but it’s understandable. It’s a movie about guys who created a numerical system to put together a baseball team on the cheap and win. But it’s more than that. It’s the story of Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, and what is often a very sad and frustrating existence. It puts a human element to the story and offers some genuine human drama.

the natural2. The Natural
I get goose bumps every time I see Robert Redford in The Natural. That final scene, with the light being blown out, rounding the bases. It just gets me every time. It’s loaded with great performances, especially by Glenn Close and Robert Duvall, and heaps on authentic period uniforms and fields with timeless production value. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a wonderful film full of romance, drama, humor and baseball lore.

1. Field of Dreams
The final scene of this film gets me every time. Who wouldn’t like to have one last catch with their dad. One more chance to heal his pain, and yours in the process through a common glue — baseball. This is a film that has everything to do with baseball, and yet nothing at all to do with the game itself. It’s a wonderful fantasy drama where a farmer hears voices to clear his corn field and build a baseball field — which ends up being a portal for dead ball players to visit and play on. On the surface, illogical. But I like ilogical. This film is an incredibly imaginative film, loaded with nostalgia, history, excellent acting, and engaging as the game itself. Hands down, the best baseball film ever made.