Category Archives: Film

“DISPOSABLE TEENS”– Episode 1 – A Young Gay Man Is Forced into Homelessness


“Disposable Teens”

Episode 1 – A Young Gay Man Is Forced into Homelessness

Amos Lassen

OutliciousTV has released its first episode of its web series, “Disposable Teens” that looks at the lives of young runaway and homeless LGBT people. Writer/director Brian Pelletier was once a gay runaway youth himself.

“‘Disposable Teens’ is dramatic web series about a gay teen, Austin (Chris Jehnert) who is forced to come out of the closet into a not so welcoming home. His conservative parents (Marianne Goodell and David Sewell) do not take his coming out well and things get intense in the house. Austin is forced to run away and live on the streets.’

New episodes will be released each week through February 8th, letting us find out what happens next to Austin and those he meets”.

“CLOSED SEASON”— A Different Kind of Holocaust Film

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“Closed Season” (‘Ende der Schonzeit”)

A Different Kind of Holocaust Film

Amos Lassen

It is 1942 and Fritz (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Emma (Brigitte Hobmeier) are hiding Avi (Christian Friedel), a Jewish refugee at their remote farm in the Black Forest. Since his marriage to Emma, Fritz has remained childless. He uses this opportunity to suggest an unorthodox deal: He asks Albert to sleep with his wife and conceive a child on his behalf. Against the background of war and escape, this is an unpredictable drama of jealousy and sexuality that unfolds that are turns offenders into victims and vice versa.


As Avi was trying to escape Germany, he became stranded in the forest on his way to Switzerland. Fritz, a local farmer rescues him and gives him refuge in return for Avi helping out on the farm where he lives with his wife, Emma. Emma, however, does not like the idea of harboring a Jew and she resents Avi for being there. Fritz tells her that he is the boss of the house and makes the decisions so there is nothing she can do about it.


Fritz has a regular weekly outing to drink, play cards and see friends at the village pub. He ignores Emma –he has never given her a gift since they married. This is about to change now that Avi is there and it did not take long for him to feel like he was with family. Fritz approaches him with a special request that he expects Avi to agree too in return for being kept safe on the farm.


We learn that Fritz has not been able to get Emma pregnant so he asks Avi to do it for him. Fritz wants a son and an heir who will one day inherit the farm. For Fritz, this is just a business transaction by which everyone will get what he wants. Emma is really reluctant to go along with this and when Avi tries to perform with her, she just goes through the motions. We see that Avi really tries to keep his end of the bargain. Emma only knows of clumsy and unfeeling sex with her husband and she discovers the joy of sex with Avi and that it can be quite enjoyable.


Emma becomes pregnant quickly but she does not tell Fritz so that she continue having sex with Avi—she has changed her mind about him and now has strong feelings for the man who got her pregnant. Avi also is enjoying himself and the entire atmosphere changes but then the local Nazi boss turns up and captures Avi and hauls him off.

All of this has been told in flashback and the story actually moves ahead 18 years and we find Avi in Israel confronted by Bruno (Max Mauff), a young German who wants to know how Avi (now played by Rami Heuberger) became his father. It seems that Emma has dies and one of her last wishes was for her son to deliver a note to Avi and he does as she asked. The note also eventually reveals that they were not exactly all what we had imagined.


This is director Franziska Schlotter’s first film and it is a beautiful start to a career. The film carefully avoids any of the brutality of World War II by just focusing on this remote part of Germany where the most menacing thing is the nosey bumbling solitary local Nazi official. This is a tale of pure survival that uncannily turns out in a way that neither man had planned or hoped for even though they both entered into it with totally different intentions. 

“SAVING MES AYNAK”— A Documentary on Afghan Archaeology

saving mes poster


A Documentary on Afghan Archaeology

Amos Lassen

“Saving Mes Aynak” follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site from demolition. Only 10% of Mes Aynak has been excavated, though discoveries at the site have the potential to redefine history and tell us a great deal about the past. Plans have been made to demolish the archaeology site as well as an entire mountain range—will be completely demolished. The documentary examines the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity as Qadir Temori and his fellow Afghan archaeologists have to deal with pressure from the Taliban, a Chinese mining company and local Afghan politics to save it and the cultural heritage of the region.  The film has been screened at several festivals and has been picking up prestigious awards.

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Brent Huffman, the director of the documentary tells the story of one of Afghanistan’s archaeological treasures and discusses the threats it faces from a Chinese mining company. About an hour outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, is a place that’s long been prized for what’s buried beneath: copper. It is called Mes Aynak, which means “little source of copper,” and contains an estimated $100 billion in deposits. But Mes Aynak is also home to the remains of a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city, as well as statues, paintings, figurines and other artifacts from the previous civilizations dating back some 5,000 years. All of this is now in jeopardy as a Chinese state-run mining company, which paid $3 billion for rights to mine the site in 2007, moves forward with plans to turn the site into an open pit mine next year. This is the subject of the film. And that threat is the subject of the film.


The plan is to blow up the entire mountain range and they’ll have to destroy local villages, all of the archaeological remains, including this Bronze Age material explains Huffman, who is leading a campaign to stop the mine from demolishing the site.


The story is told through of lens of Qadir Temori, the head of the Afghan archaeological department in Kabul. He is “this extremely passionate, almost like Hollywood-casting good looking, Indiana Jones type character, who’s really braving all of this risk and being very courageous, going against the Taliban, going against this Chinese mining company, going against the bureaucracy in the country to try to save essentially the cultural heritage of Afghanistan.”


The real heart of the film is the story of Afghan archaeologists risking their lives in the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity. The film has been issued as a call to action that needs immediate attention. We see the determination of the Afghan archaeologists to protect their culture against overwhelming odds and the film that Huffman brings us is one of courage, heroism, and hope.

“SECOND COMING”— Pregnant?

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Amos Lassen

Jackie (Nadine Marshall), a middle-age mother, finds herself pregnant even though she has not slept with her Husband Mark (Idris Elba), or anyone else for that matter, for several months. She is also very worried because she has miscarried in the past on four occasions. Time passes and so does the option for a termination and Jackie has to see the pregnancy through. To make things worse Jackie experiences some rather disturbing hallucinations involving, what appears to be, an outpouring of rain in her bathroom. Mark finally gets around to doing the mathematics of the pregnancy and realizes that the baby cannot possibly be his. Jackie is then ostracized by Mark and her teenage Son JJ (Kai Francis-Lewis) in her own home causing her to becomes more and more desperate and she attempts suicide. Mark finds and gets her to the hospital but the state of Jackie’s mind is still uncertain. Then, finally, it’s time for the birth.

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This is an accurate portray of a working class families life in London with the family unit being introduced to us while in the kitchen. Jackie works in a welfare office, whilst Husband Mark works as a railway repairman. JJ, is a bright and amiable child who has more than a passing interest in birds and wildlife. Whilst all this is established, the main thrust of the storyline is not revealed easily by Director/Writer Debbie Tucker Green. What we learn we hear in conversations; this is a film that does a lot of talking. Idris Elba once again turns in a wonderful performance but this time the movie is stolen by Nadine Marshall as Jackie. Marshall is in almost every single scene and it is difficult to take your eyes off her. Kai Francis-Lewis as her son JJ is almost as fine and there are several uncomfortable scenes that really make you feel for his character.



“Second Coming” looks at a woman in an ordinary 21st century London family who is facing a similar situation. Quite what has happened to her is unclear; although it is suggested at one point that she believes she is carrying the Second Coming of Christ but the film stays away from drawing any firm conclusions. The focus is on her social situation and the impact of the pregnancy on her and her loved ones.


God here appears to be in the kitchen sink and what transpires is a psychological drama that explores the effect of an unexpected and unannounced pregnancy on an Afro-Caribbean family in London. The immaculate nature of the conception just adds further tension. The recurring vision that Jax deals with is the rain in the bathroom. I understand that this represents God giving life bur we have no idea from where the vision comes. How the pregnancy happened is largely ignored once the initial set-up is done. Instead the concentration is largely on the relationships that Jax has with her immediate family. Marshall brings a terrific grace and gravity to a role that could be thankless given its ostensibly oblique nature. Elba meanwhile provides a perfect counterpoint, broody, physical, loving and tender. Naturally they clash over the pregnancy and provide underlying tension throughout the length of the film.

“HOW TO WIN ENEMIES”— Jewish Identity in Buenos Aires

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“How to Win Enemies” (“Cómo ganar enemigos” )

Jewish Identity in Buenos Aires

Amos Lassen

Lucas is a young lawyer who meets the stunning, sexy Bárbara in a café. He thinks she is perfect and even more so because she has a taste for good literature. Lucas takes her home on his first date. The next morning Lucas awakens to find Bárbara gone together with his cash. He is determined to recover his money so he tracks her down and is shocked to find the identity of the person behind the theft.

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There are sure to be comparisons of Argentine director Gabriel Lichtmann to Woody Allen. Even though has only made two feature films in ten years, both deal with his Jewish identity in his big-city hometown of Buenos Aires, both are written and directed by him and in his second film here, he introduces an intellectual, sexually bumbling nerd as its main protagonist.

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The movie begins during one of the more important rituals of Jewish life—a wedding. Max Abadi (Javier Drolas), an attorney in practice with his brother Lucas (Martín Slipak), is marrying another attorney in their firm, Paula (Eugenia Capizzano). We, the audience, tune in right before the end of the wedding ceremony and watch Max smash the wine glass underfoot as the guests yell “Mazel tov!” The film quickly cuts to the wedding reception where a nervous Paula asks Lucas whether he can tell that there is a rip in her dress, and he assures her she looks fine and is too good for his brother. Lucas then delivers Paula and Max’s speech, which he has written, to the head table. Max opens the envelope containing the speech, unfolds it, and says the first two lines: “How do you win enemies? By telling the truth.” We then go back in time to two days before the wedding, when a series of misadventures turns Lucas, an Agatha Christie fan who has written a mystery novel, into an amateur detective.

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However, we do not go right to the mystery and instead go through a somewhat long introduction to the likely suspects of a theft that Lucas will soon investigate. Most of the suspects seem innocent and nice to be around. The fun of the movie is not about solving a mystery, but about the members of the cast who represent the different aspects of Argentine life.

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The mystery itself involves a set-up in which Lucas is the target. His instincts tell him that he was specifically marked and not just some random victim. He begins looking for evidence in various places— Facebook, a library, a seedy part of town, and then closer to home and we meet a very resourceful woman (Inés Palombo) with some muscle to back her up, a sarcastic librarian (Carla Quevedo) who may turn out to be the woman of Lucas’ dreams, and a professional criminal (Ezequiel Rodríguez) who seems to think Lucas isn’t entitled to enter a conference room in his own law firm.

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These are realistic vignettes that are sometimes comical but not really funny. We go with Lucas through the streets of the city as he follows an attractive woman, very likely a hooker, to an elementary school to pick up her son and bring him back to an apartment complex with burglar bars over the windows.

At Max’s bachelor party we see some very attractive hookers while a porn movie blares in the background. Lucas does not care for the throwback machismo Max displays with entitled ease, and we sense that Paula will be turning to Lucas almost immediately after the ink on her marriage license dries, and that Lucas knows it.

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We also see Lucas and Max bickering and looking out for each other in equal measure. Lucas puts up with Max’s bachelor party, while Max indulges Lucas’ reminiscing in their childhood home and the recent death of their mother. These moments of being together really appeal to Lucas’ romantic side, while Max has little use for anything that doesn’t matter in the here and now.

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We then return to the wedding reception where there will be a payoff and a payout and while I did not care for the way it ended, it was inevitable that it end that way. After all, we do see the absurdity of human existence.

The actors try hard and are certainly believable…and Martin Slipak is great as a schlimazel, younger brother, and amateur sleuth.


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“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”

Illusion and Reality

Amos Lassen

One of my favorite “intellectual” movies in this cleverly inspired twist on “Hamlet”. Even though it is almost fifty years old, it still holds its own. Two of the supporting players in Hamlet are elevated to full actors for a game of game of illusion and reality that delivers one-of-a-kind entertainment. It centers around two born losers who are summoned to Elsinore to cheer up the Prince who has been obsessing about the murder of his father. These two outsiders are baffled by Hamlet’s antics and confused about their mission. To make matters worse, (Richard Dreyfuss) as the Chief Player in a scruffy band of traveling actors, constantly keeps them off balance with his quips about the uncertainty of life and the absurdity of death. Despite all their snappy vaudeville-style patter, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have very few whimsical remarks left when they find that the sealed note they are carrying to England’s King is their own death warrant.


Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) is amusingly slow-witted and childlike whereas Guildenstern (Tim Roth) seems to be wiser and quicker. It is he who notes near the end, “There must have been a point somewhere at the beginning when we could have said no. But somehow we missed it.” This is so true for many of us—we do not act and find ourselves at the mercy of events. The film compels us to consider the fear and fate and folly in our own lives.

“Hamlet” is viewed through the eyes of two of the bit players, Hamlet’s college friends, who accompany him on his trip to England. We know “Hamlet” is about Hamlet but they think it’s about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The theatrical experience of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,” by master playwright, Tom Stoppard, which I saw on Broadway in the 1960s, was an intellectual tennis game between playwright and audience, with Shakespeare’s original text as the net. There was an audacity and freedom to the way Stoppard’s characters lurked in the wings of Shakespeare’s most perplexing tragedy, missing the point and inflating their own importance. The tension between what was center stage and what was offstage was the subject of the entire evening.


However these is no offstage in the movies. The camera is a literal instrument that photographs precisely what is placed before it, and has trained us to believe that what we are looking at is what we should be looking at. Unfortunately Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not interesting characters on their own, this movie might yet survive its medium. But they are not. They are nonentities, and so intended. The most memorable performance in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” is the one by the leading player of the visiting troupe (Dreyfus), and he becomes memorable in the time-honored way, by stealing his scenes.

The parts of Stoppard’s film that work best are exactly the ones that have nothing to do with the original inspiration behind “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” the movie “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” is about a troupe of players who briefly visit a story about some bit players on the outskirts of a great tragedy.


The play, which Stoppard wrote in 1966 and has directed now for the screen, is “Hamlet” turned on its head. The characters are Shakespeare’s but the play is Stoppard’s with snatches of the Bard’s language and pieces of his plot snaking through. The setting, mostly, is Elsinore, where a pair of ragged travelers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wander into the middle of the regal intrigue, unsure of their mission or even who they are.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are this Hamlet’s most insignificant characters, with barely a handful of lines between them, a pair of measly dramatic pawns in Shakespeare’s grand dramatic strategy. The play’s action is seen from their obscure, skewed angle, and at first they can’t make much of it. Slowly, however, they establish that they are friends of the Prince of Denmark, sent for by the king to discern the nature of Hamlet’s distress. This is especially difficult, since they have no recollection of the prince, sane or not — no recollection, in fact, of anything prior to their being summoned to the castle. What we know (and they do not) is that they are mere actors in a play, nobodies, relegated forever to a sideline view of the action and with no life beyond the proscenium.


Stoppard makes fun of making fun of, every actor’s illusion that his character is the center of the action. Stoppard gets to play God in this artificial, “written” world but he is more interested here in game playing than in philosophy. “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” is a farcical play on “Hamlet” and should be directed with the lightness and velocity of farce. Stoppard, however, directs this production as if it were “Hamlet.”

Both Roth and Oldman are fine in their roles; they’re buffoons as they try to find a way through the mirrors that Stoppard has put up in front of them and they are entertaining to watch and listen to. However, the director leaves them all stranded; their absurdity becomes too weighted, too heavy. The film is full of witty non-sequiturs and theatre in-jokes and the play still has a great following but something happened on its way to the screen— its existential absurdism did not survive.





On Dual Format Blu-Ray + DVD

Amos Lassen

Nikkatsu is the oldest film studio in Japan. In the late 1950s, it began a star system by which it looked for and found talent that those who made it were put under contract for a series of genre films for their Diamond Line. In volume one we get three films from directors Seijun Suzuki (“Branded to Kill”), Toshio Masuda (“Rusty Knife”) and Buichi Saito (“Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril”).

Tough guy Hideaki Nitani stars in Suzuki’s “Voice Without a Shadow”. Asako, a former telephone operator heard the voice of a murder suspect and it has continued to bother and haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realizes that his voice is very much like the one she heard and has never forgotten. However, before she can find anything out, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect.

In Masuda’s “Red Pier” we meet 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara “Jiro the Lefty”, a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he is witness to the death of a man in a crane accident but he learns that it was no accident, just a cover-up for murder. He then has to run but he is followed by a cop who is determined to catch him.

Next up is Saito’s “The Rambling Guitarist” starring, Akira Koabyashi, one of Japan’s biggest stars. Here he stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after he saved one of his henchmen in a bar fight. He is to go and evict an offshore fishery and as he does, he realizes that he is in the middle of a very strange domestic dispute.

This disc is presented on blu ray for the first time and we see the best of Japan’s talent. Below are the extras for this special limited Edition Blu-ray collection of 3000 copies.

  • High Definition digital transfers of all three films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara
  • Original trailers for all three films and trailer preview for Diamond Guys Vol. 2
  • Extensive promotional image galleries for all three films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling

The BAFTA Nominations 2015 (to be presented in 2016)

The BAFTA Nominations

The EE British Academy Film Awards take place on Sunday 14 February at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. The ceremony will be hosted by Stephen Fry and will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One and BBC One HD, preceded by a red carpet show on BBC Three. The ceremony is also broadcast in all major territories around the world.2015 NOMINATIONS

(presented in 2016)

THE BIG SHORT Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt
BRIDGE OF SPIES Kristie Macosko Krieger, Marc Platt, Steven Spielberg
CAROL Elizabeth Karlsen, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley
THE REVENANT Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon
SPOTLIGHT Steve Golin, Blye Pagon Faust, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar

45 YEARS Andrew Haigh, Tristan Goligher
AMY Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees
BROOKLYN John Crowley, Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey, Nick Hornby
THE DANISH GIRL Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anne Harrison, Gail Mutrux, Lucinda Coxon
EX MACHINA Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
THE LOBSTER Yorgos Lanthimos, Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Efthimis Filippou

ALEX GARLAND (Director) Ex Machina
DEBBIE TUCKER GREEN (Writer/Director) Second Coming
NAJI ABU NOWAR (Writer/Director) RUPERT LLOYD (Producer) Theeb
SEAN MCALLISTER (Director/Producer), ELHUM SHAKERIFAR (Producer) A Syrian Love Story
STEPHEN FINGLETON (Writer/Director) The Survivalist

THE ASSASSIN Hou Hsiao-Hsien
THEEB Naji Abu Nowar, Rupert Lloyd
TIMBUKTU Abderrahmane Sissako
WILD TALES Damián Szifron

AMY Asif Kapadia, James Gay-Rees
CARTEL LAND Matthew Heineman, Tom Yellin
HE NAMED ME MALALA Davis Guggenheim, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
LISTEN TO ME MARLON Stevan Riley, John Battsek, George Chignell, R.J. Cutler
SHERPA Jennifer Peedom, Bridget Ikin, John Smithson

INSIDE OUT Pete Docter
MINIONS Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

BRIDGE OF SPIES Steven Spielberg
CAROL Todd Haynes
THE MARTIAN Ridley Scott
THE REVENANT Alejandro G. Iñárritu

BRIDGE OF SPIES Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
EX MACHINA Alex Garland
THE HATEFUL EIGHT Quentin Tarantino
INSIDE OUT Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve
SPOTLIGHT Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

THE BIG SHORT Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
BROOKLYN Nick Hornby
CAROL Phyllis Nagy
ROOM Emma Donoghue
STEVE JOBS Aaron Sorkin

MATT DAMON The Martian

MAGGIE SMITH The Lady in the Van

IDRIS ELBA Beasts of No Nation
MARK RYLANCE Bridge of Spies


THE REVENANT Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai
SICARIO Jóhann Jóhannsson

BRIDGE OF SPIES Janusz Kamiński
CAROL Ed Lachman
THE REVENANT Emmanuel Lubezki
SICARIO Roger Deakins

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Margaret Sixel
THE MARTIAN Pietro Scalia
THE REVENANT Stephen Mirrione

BRIDGE OF SPIES Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo
CAROL Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
THE MARTIAN Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Rick Carter, Darren Gilford, Lee Sandales

BROOKLYN Odile Dicks-Mireaux
CAROL Sandy Powell

BROOKLYN Morna Ferguson, Lorraine Glynn
CAROL Jerry DeCarlo, Patricia Regan
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin
THE REVENANT Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert Pandini

BRIDGE OF SPIES Drew Kunin, Richard Hymns, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Scott Hecker, Chris Jenkins, Mark Mangini, Ben Osmo, Gregg Rudloff, David White
THE MARTIAN Paul Massey, Mac Ruth, Oliver Tarney, Mark Taylor
THE REVENANT Lon Bender, Chris Duesterdiek, Martin Hernandez, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS David Acord, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Matthew Wood, Stuart Wilson

ANT-MAN Jake Morrison, Greg Steele, Dan Sudick, Alex Wuttke
EX MACHINA Mark Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, Andrew Whitehurst
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Tom Wood, Andy Williams
THE MARTIAN Chris Lawrence, Tim Ledbury, Richard Stammers, Steven Warner
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, Neal Scanlan

EDMOND Nina Gantz, Emilie Jouffroy
MANOMAN Simon Cartwright, Kamilla Kristiane Hodol
PROLOGUE Richard Williams, Imogen Sutton

ELEPHANT Nick Helm, Alex Moody, Esther Smith
MINING POEMS OR ODES Callum Rice, Jack Cocker
OPERATOR Caroline Bartleet, Rebecca Morgan
OVER Jörn Threlfall, Jeremy Bannister
SAMUEL-613 Billy Lumby, Cheyenne Conway

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)

“AMERICAN JOHNS”— A Girl and Her John

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“American Johns”

A Girl and her John

Amos Lassen

This 12-minute short from writer-director C.L. Hoffa’s twelve minute short shows us a bit of the life of Melissa Masters (Natalia-Christabelle Serrano), a former child actress who now works as a call girl. Loring) into her life.

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We see a guy (Rey Marz) who is out for a good time who meets Melissa and at first seems to be quite confrontational and holding the upper hand. He soon becomes a bit more tender and respectful while the viewers really do not know anything about the kind of relationship we are watching…yet. We soon realize that Melissa is a dominatrix and that the man is her john. There are also hints that she is in some kind of sexual relationship with another woman. She had once been an actress so she knows how to play a role and she uses that in her new job as a prostitute and her role here calls for her to be slutty. Yet she also sees that the men who visit her are also actors playing their own roles.

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The atmosphere of the film can best be described as seedy as what we see is not what we usually seen in society—rather we see something about the squalor of the sex trade. Here Melissa, who at first, seems to be the object of the man, is actually the one who is in charge. Interestingly enough, the woman who is in control works in a profession that is looked down upon and I can only wonder what this means about the general role of women in the world today. I also wonder if that is what we are supposed to think.

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I love that there is no dialogue in the film and that it is left to the audience to decide what the communication between the two entails. In this way we are thrust into the film. I also find it exceedingly difficult to review this without giving something away and there are another couple of characters I have not mentioned. It is amazing to see what Hoffa has managed to convey in just twelve short minutes. It is even more amazing when I consider how much longer that twelve minutes I thought about what I saw. I have not seen anything else by the filmmaker but I can say that from the looks of this film, he is off to quite a start.

“A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS”— Growing Up in Jerusalem

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Growing Up in Jerusalem

Amos Lassen

“You can find hell and also heaven in every room. A little bit of evilness and men to men are hell. A little bit of mercifulness and men to men are heaven”…. Amos OZ

Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman makes her debut as writer and director with this adaptation of the best-selling memoir by celebrated Israeli author Amos Oz. She also stars in the story about growing up in Jerusalem before the establishment of the State of Israel. Oz’s family, one of the many who immigrated to Palestine  to escape European persecution and consisted of his academic father, Arieh (Gilad Kahana) and his dreamy, imaginative mother, Fania (Portman).

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While Arieh was cautiously hopeful about the future, Fania was not satisfied. The terror of the war and anxiety concerning immigration was replaced by the tedium of everyday life that weighed heavily on Fania’s spirit. She was unhappy in her marriage and intellectually stifled, Fania entertained her ten-year- old Amos by making up stories of adventures the desert.  Amos was enraptured when Fania read him poetry and explained words and language in a way that influenced him all his life and certainly contributed to what made him become a writer. Fania never felt the sense of life that she hoped for and she slid into isolation and sadness and she was beyond help. Amos had to say good-bye to her before he was ready.  As he witnessed the birth of a nation he had to come to terms with his own new beginning. With the end of the British mandate and the people living in the area were about to create the new state of Israel, Amos kept pushing forward with the memories of the stories his mother shared with him. His relationship with his mother helped to define him as a future writer, journalist, and advocate of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  However, this film is about his love letter to his mother that she would never be able to read….

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The film begins with our hearing the voice of an older Amos Oz and we see how young Amos and his mother, Fania (Natalie Portman) as they talked with their hands. It was not long before the conflicts that created chaos in the city of Jerusalem and made Fania have terrible and constant headaches began. Fania sees Amos as her only happiness and a reason to keep going as far as her strength allows her. As the movie moves forward, we see Amos in many other situations where he must act like a grown up to not give up the way his mother does. We see how Jerusalem reacts to and deals with poverty, war, and uncertainty and this affects Fania and her family which makes it impossible for them to help her.

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But above all else what we see here are the pointless and dreadful conflicts Jewish people had gone through, and how many more lives are being taken because of people’s acts of inhumanity. This is really about how love is the only thing that can take one person through hell and darkness. We also see that Oz’s writing is concerned the fragility of his home country, Israel, with which he is inseparably connected.

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As Israel itself comes of age, we see the effects on the lives of its new and cosmopolitan population. Amos’ father’s career as a writer is fruitless and his marriage lacks all of the fervor that Fania imagined. Her disillusionment sets in motion a slow process of fading health, depression and solitude, with the adoration of her innocent son being a single source of joy. The film is a slightly sentimental at times, especially when it undertakes to break down complex politics into aphorisms. The film is at its best when it focuses on personal developments, which are quite often triggered by the historical situation. The slow decline of Amos’ mother’s health and her once keen imagination are connected to the harsh realities around her, and this is quite sad. It is in these scenes that the Portman’s best artistic decision becomes obvious: the casting of herself in the demanding role of a melancholic storyteller who breaks under the dissolution of her dreams.

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Natalie Portman has adapted Amos Oz’s autobiographical memoirs in such a way as to attempt to present less-than-straightforward positions around a still very contentious issue. Sometimes the pacing is off but nonetheless, this is a beautiful and assured movie and it makes a place for Natalie Portman on the other side of the camera.