Sunday, October 4, 2015

@NYFF53 Day 10:On the Road With 'Microbe and Gasoline' and Loving Every Mile of the Ride; Nothing Really Special About 'Maggie's Plan'

Theo (Theophile Baquet) and Daniel (Ange Dargent) have to avoid trouble on the road in "Microbe & Gasoline. Photos from "Microbe & Gasoline" Facebook page.

WATCHING a coming-of-age-movie is always a tricky proposition. The viewer never knows what s/he is going to get. It can be insultingly shallow, puerile, gross. It can also be intelligent and thoughtful.

Thankfully, Michel Gondry’s “Microbe & Gasoline” (“Microbe et Gasoil”) is the latter. The film has its U.S.
premiere today at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

Microbe/Daniel (Ange Dargent) and Gasoline/Theo (Theophile Baquet) are like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. The whole is greater than its parts. Both are outcasts. Microbe, because he is diminutive compared with his classmates. Gasoline, because he reeks of petrol and is the new kid in school.

In each other they recognize brilliance and a kindred spirit. The boys bond almost instantly.

MG, an Academy Award winner for the screenplay of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” wrote the script. As in that film, in “Microbe & Gasoline” he employs touches of the fantastical.

The boys not only build a car that looks like a small house, they – unbeknownst to their parents – embark on a roadtrip in it. How they avoid an encounter with the police is the stuff of pure fantasy!

Myriad adventures – sad, surreal, funny, potentially dangerous – await.

The best part of the film, however, is the sparkling dialogue between Daniel and Theo when they are building the house-car and when they are riding in it. Here is a buddy film for the intellectual set.

Theo (Theophile Baquet) and Daniel (Ange Dargent) are ready to rock and roll in "Microbe & Gasoline.

MG has said he is drawn to emotions, and they inform much of the conversation between scientific-minded Theo and artistic Daniel who is experiencing existential crises, including puppylove. The young actors take to the dialogue like a duck to water, fiercely owning the words coming out of their mouths. Their exchanges have nuance and depth often lacking in characters their age.

“Microbe & Gasoline” is a coming-of-age film that has wide appeal.

'Maggie's Plan' Doesn't Exactly Grab Me

Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig in "Maggie's Plan." Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

IT’S a harmless, offbeat, not particularly interesting romantic comedy set in New York City.

What else to say about “Maggie’s Plan,” the latest from director Rebecca Miller who also wrote the script?

It has its U.S. premiere tonight at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

From an original work by Karen Rinaldi, it stars Greta Gerwig as the title character, winning as a Managing Miss who greets the world with near wide-eyed wonder

Ethan Hawke (John) is credibly clueless as the man volleyed between Maggie and Georgette, a cold, superior, dismissive, self-centered, self-possessed, superstar anthropology professor at Columbia University. She is portrayed by Julianne Moore, speaking in a superfluous, vaguely Eastern European accent.

All three work in academia, actually.

Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore in "Maggie's Plan."

Maggie’s plan: return John to Georgette. He left the latter – the mother of his first two children – for the former because he was not getting enough love, support and understanding. Maggie’s wants no more of him because after he gives her a child he seems to have no more LSU.

It is this quagmire and GG's performance that are the only interesting aspects of the film, saving it from utter tedium. An honorable mention is that Maggie is not cast in the role of homewrecker; John gets and deserves that dubious honor.

Maggie’s plan initially works, then sputters, backfires and finally rights itself. All and sundry return to co-parenting.

The end, thankfully.

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

@NYFF53 Day 9: Expect Few Complaints About Michael Fassbender's Work as ‘(Steve) Jobs'

Michael Fassbender and Seth Rogen as the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) in "Steve Jobs." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

BY all accounts, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a genius. A visionary.

By all accounts, he was also a world-class asshole.

Michael Fassbender delivers a super-turbo charged performance of this tortured, complex man in "Steve Jobs."

The film, adapted to the screen by Aaron Sorkin from the Walter Isaacson biography, runs tonight as the centerpiece selection at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

It opens nationwide on 9 Oct.
(More shortly ... For now, enjoy the trailer as well as videos from the press conference following the press and industry screening at NYFF53).

Danny Boyle (Director)

Aaron Sorkin (Screenwriter)

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman)

Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak)

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

Friday, October 2, 2015

@NYFF53 Day 8: In ‘Where To Invade Next’ Michael Moore Goes Gallivanting, Reclaiming American Ideas That Are Making Others Great

Michael Moore goes flag-planting in "Where to Invade Next. Photo courtesy of Dog Eat Dog Films.

IN searching for flowers instead of leaves, Michael Moore travels mainly across Europe to ascertain where to invade next.

“Where To Invade Next,” having its U.S. premiere tonight at the 53rd New York Film Festival, is also his latest documentary. The title has to be an intentional misnomer. The provocative filmmaker had to know that most minds were going to go in the direction of war.

In this scathing, surprisingly coherent and often funny indictment of U.S. public policy, MM travels to country after country where the government has embraced with a great degree of success ideas (flowers) that originated in our great nation.

Ideas and ideals that we have abandoned in the name of the almighty U.S. dollar to the detriment of our country and culture. Ideas and ideals he’d like to bring back, inspiring MM to plant the American flag in these lands – the invasion, if you will.

It’s a crying shame.

The Fins credit the U.S. in part for the success of their education system. Norway borrowed a leaf from our constitution in not imposing cruel and usual punishment on its citizens, the prison population included.

Killers roam free on the prison grounds, which could be mistaken for a country club. They have flatscreen televisions, well-stocked and well-maintained libraries.

Prison guards are not armed. Prisoners handle sharp objects such as knives. They retain their voting rights. Killers, rapists, robbers – scum, right? The goal is to reform, not enslave the individual.

Iceland, the first country in the world to democratically elect a female head of state, was inspired by our example of a women’s liberation movement several decades before. Numerous countries adopted our May Day, a day that workers have off unlike here.

On and on it goes. Though "Where to Invade Next" is MM's most lighthearted doc, it is also the most troubling, for it reveals a multitude of our sins. Occasionally, MM allows public officials, public servants, students and ordinary citizens to look into his camera and tell us what they really think about our policies.

Talking points include the criminalization (just say no) of drugs, how to educate our children (enough already with all of that homework and standardized testing) and how we must treat each other humanely; adopt a posture of "we" instead of "me."

Anticipating the critics who will rightly point out that he only focuses on a lone good aspect of these countries, MM emphatically stated that this is the job of their respective citizenry and journalists since he isn't well-versed about the problems of other nations.

He is, he asserted, telling an American story. One he managed without filming a single frame on American soil, he revealed during the press conference after the press and industry screening of the film. (See videos throughout this article).

As a country we have much to do and much to answer for “Where To Invade Next” posits – from the aforesaid, to the state of our education system from pre-K through higher education, to the rise of the food industrial complex, to the pitiful state of the American worker.

What in tarnation are we getting right, Yours Truly, asked MM? Surely, the Michigan native will be taken to task, too, for only airing our national shortcomings. Well, there is rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop and massive cereal choices.

Seriously, Michael, is that all?

“We elected Barack Obama over John McCain. That was a good idea, I think," he said to applause. "That saved us a little bit.”

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Among This Year's LOOT (2015: MAD ABOUT JEWELRY): Debbie, Jill, Anastasia and Martin; Artistic Exchange and Expressions at Inaugural iconic32 Pop Culture Summit

Earrings from Lebole Gioielli are on display and for sell at LOOT 2015: MAD ABOUT JEWELRY. Photos by Yours Truly.

IT looks like a purse, but Debbie Adamson assures an observer that it is a necklace. Jill Fairchild is pressed into service to model it. A quick examination confirms that it is a purse.

Later, JF elbows her way toward a camera for a photo of one of her creations.

Jill Fairchild in one of her designs.

It was a mad, mad world Monday night at the LOOT 2015: MAD ABOUT JEWELRY gala benefit. A select few – including Boo Grace in an audacious amber necklace from her private collection – were watered, fed, wined and dined. Further and more important, they were given an opportunity to preview and purchase the work of the artists.

The benefit, which this year honored journalist and jewelry collector Barbara Tober for her association with both MAD and watchmaker Vacheron Constantin, kicks off the Museum of Arts and Design's annual six-day exhibition and sale. It runs through 3 Oct.

Boo Grace, president of the F. Cecil Grace Foundation, wears an amber necklace from a Russian designer.

LOOT features designs from emerging and established designers like New Zealander DA (Debbie Adamson Jewellery) and design team, JF – daughter of publisher John – and Karen Baldwin. Likewise for mother-daughter design team Nicoletta Lebole and Barbara Lebole, creating under the Lebole Gioielli label.

Speaking of duos, Anastasia Su and Martin Lesjak of 13&9 Design. Their company is based in Graz, Austria, a recently designated UNESCO Design City.

Those two, they struck some serious poses in their bold work (earrings, ring, sunglasses and necklace).

The rubber "purse" necklace, left, by Debbie Adamson, also wearing a necklace of her creation.

Jill Fairchild models the rubber purse necklace by Debbie Adamson.

Anastasia Su and Martin Lesjak of 13&9 Designs show off their wares.

Visit to learn more about LOOT: MAD About Jewelry.

The Place Is the iconic32 Pop Culture Summit

Malik Yoba, in a scene from "Empire," will host the iconic32 Pop Culture Summit. Photo courtesy of Fox 20th Century Television.

DESIGNER Tina Tandon (T.Tandon) is onboard. Male supermodel/entrepreneur Armando Cabral is in, too. So are Shenaz Treasury, Lexz Pryde and White Tiger Society.

It’s the place y'all – the inaugural iconic32 Pop Culture Summit at John Jay College all day on 3 Oct.)

From T.Tandon Fall 2015, a beaded, strapless cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice. Photo from T.Tandon Website.

A mouthful, yes, but designed to do a world of good for "various causes," according to its p.r.

Essentially, a group of established and emerging influencers from the worlds of fashion, music, film, TV, digital and other creative portals meeting up on a Saturday to exchange ideas and information. Ideally, the exchange will yield some sort of action plan. And a multi-disciplinary salon.

A screening of "Bubble Kings" and a discussion around "Time Is Illmatic" are on the agenda. Further, TT ( and others will be doing business in a marketplace that will be open (8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.) during summit hours. Between LP and White Tiger Society, surely song will prevail.

Armando Crabal walks runways and walks in shoes of his own design. Photo from Armando Crabal Website.

The host for the day is iconic32 co-founder Malik Yoba ("Empire", "New York Undercover").

If there is to be no singing at iconic32 Pop Culture Summit, perhaps Poet Ali will throw down some verse, no?

Visit to learn more about the iconic32 Pop Culture Summit, including registration information.

Monday, September 28, 2015

NYFF53 Day 4: Any and Everything Goes in ‘The Forbidden Room’; ‘Mountains May Depart,’ or When Capitalism First Knocked in China

A scene from "The Forbidden Room." Photo from "The Forbidden Room" Facebook page.

MAN, what a trip!

“The Forbidden Room” from Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson is a mind-numbing ride through a fragmented world of absurd silliness. It premieres tonight at the 53rd New York Film Festival.

“The Forbidden Room” is also wonderfully coherent in an incoherent way. A patchwork of old, discarded silent and sound films as well as other found objects, it veers wildly and widely from men trapped underwater in a submarine to a woman captured by a bunch of savage men.

The damsel’s salvation, it initially appears, is in the hands of lumberjacks. It is perhaps the lumberjack leader who turns up out of nowhere in the aforementioned submarine.

Think of “The Forbidden Room” as stream-of-consciousness writing.

Elsewhere, a man illustrates how to bathe. A young woman is gifted a homely, two-headed Janus by her intended. She is not pleased. And other oddities ...

“It thrills me to get cheap-ass effects up there that other people might embrace,” co-director GM almost cooed during a press conference after a press and industry screening of the film. “The Forbidden Room” came about, GM, gave the room to know, as a proof that a film can be created from the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet.

The directors have made a treasure out of their foraging and trashing about. “The Forbidden Room” is a piece of brilliant, controlled chaos.

Also today, in its U.S. premiere, is Jia Zhangke’s “Mountains May Depart.”

It is China 1999. The Internet is arriving. Mobile phones, too. The Chinese are enjoying new-found freedoms. Dancing to their own tune and generally expressing themselves in heretofore unseen ways.

Capitalism is coming. Many are embracing this new god. Those who don’t are left behind – sometimes forgotten. But capitalism has a cost, of course. Much can be lost in the quest for Dollar.

“Mountains May Depart” makes these points in mainly subtle, but sure ways. It is a cautionary tale about discarding one’s past and identity for an uncertain future.

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

NYFF53 Day 3: Nanni Moretti Lifts a Page From His Life and Turns It With ‘Mia Madre’

Nanni Moretta, Giulia Lazzarini and Margherita Buy in "Mia Madre." Photo from "Mia Madre" Facebook page.

“MIA Madre” is a film that can be difficult and uncomfortable to watch because it is so close to the lives of many.

Once we reach a certain age we are beset by life’s vicissitudes: financial reverses, divorce, illness. Dying and death.

Moviegoers looking for escape will not find it in the latest film from Italian director Nanni Moretti.“Mia Madre” (“My Mother”) has its U.S. premiere at the 53rd New York Film Festival today.

Autobiographical, “Mia Madre” revolves around director Margherita (Margherita Buy). Her beloved mother is dying. She is in the middle of making a film with American actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro providing comic relief) who is likable but high-maintenance. And her daughter is neglecting her Latin.

Sound familiar? Like so many of us, Margherita must buck up and manager the turmoil in both her personal and professional life. Falling apart is not an option.

NM’s mother became ill and died while he was making “We Have a Pope,” he said through an interpreter during a press conference after the press and industry screening of “Mia Madre.” Though he did not elaborate on why he chose a woman to play the director instead of playing the director himself, he admitted to a kinship with Margherita.

“I am more like Margherita than Giovanni. Giovanni is the character that I wanna be but I am not.”

In a departure, NM cast himself not in the lead, but in a supporting role. Giovanni is the brother of Margherita. In another departure, Giovanni assumes the role of lead caretaker of their mother (Giulia Lazzarini).

It is he who spends the most time with her, dealing with medical personnel and meeting what needs of hers he can. He keeps Margherita abreast of developments. It is Giovanni who takes a leave of absence from his job to be there for his mother. It is the man in this situation who has the cooler head in this situation.

Conversely, Margherita is walking a tight rope and brings the audience with her. At any moment she is going to snap. Will it be when she arrives to find her mother’s hospital bed empty? Or when jokester Barry forgets his lines for the umpteenth time on a difficult shoot? A meltdown is imminent.

MB delivers a taut, controlled performance as a woman under siege and it shows in the often haggard appearance of her character.

“Mia Madre” is an engaging drama about difficult circumstances but manages to avoid the melodrama that would surely plummet it to the level of a pedestrian soap opera.

It is also all-too real.

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Wooster Group's Famous BFF's Are Onboard for Couscous and Some Edith Piaf; 'The Gin Game' and Other Tales That Have a Seamless Change in Complexion

Ari Fliakos and Suzzy Roche in "The Room," which will soon be staged by The Wooster Group. Photo courtesy of The Wooster Group.


and special theatrical events are about helping organizations by showing off the people who support them.

After all, everybody needs a little help sometimes. A gala is a great way to do someone a favor and have fun to boot.

Consequently, the stage of The Performing Garage is to be illuminated with star power for the 2015 benefit of The Wooster Group. The Wooster Group is a company of New York City-based artists who make works for theater, dance and media.

A constellation of big names is expected to show for The Wooster Group's soiree on Monday, 5 Oct. Frances McDormand is to host the couscous dinner catered by Chef Alejandro Alcocer of Green Brown Orange.

Said dinner will be consumed by guests as well as the luminaries co-chairing the benefit committee. Martha Wainwright is one of the many co-chairs. She is going to sing (Edith Piaf) for her supper.

Others expected are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Wes Anderson and Sarah Jessica Parker. They, too, will sing (EP) for their supper.

Those who purchase tickets for the dinner and benefit will also receive tickets to The Wooster Group's upcoming production of Harold Pinter's "The Room" later in the season. Further, dinner guests will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with the gala's celebrity organizers.

Many of the stars championing The Wooster Group have a long history with the company. FMcD and Maura Tierney, for instance, are associate members.

MW comes to the benefit through her brother Rufus Wainwright's involvement as an associate member. WA admires the work The Wooster Group does and was impressed by Willem Dafoe's association when he hired him for "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Visit to learn more about The Wooster Group and its 2015 benefit.

One Race and Many Universal Experiences

James Earl Jones and Cecily Tyson in D.L. Coburn's "The Gin Game." Photo by Joan Marcus.

TRULY colorblind casting is exemplified in, say, the role of S. Epatha Merkerson in William Inge's “Come Back, Little Sheba.” SEM is Lola Delaney, the disillusioned wife of a recovering alcoholic played by Kevin Anderson.

Frances McDormand, opposite Morgan Freeman in Clifford Odets' “The Country Girl” was also a production in which the audience is "blinded" to the color of the characters.

Productions such as the recent all-Asian production of CO's “Awake and Sing” change the complexion of the characters. In doing so, they underscore the universality and humanity of the playwright's work. That, of course, really is the point either way.

Cecily Tyson's Tony Award-winning role as Miss Carrie Watts in Horton Foote's “The Trip to Bountiful” is yet another example. CT was joined by a (nearly) all-black cast.

The National Asian American Theater Company staged a production of "Awake and Sing" earlier this year. Photo by William P. Steele.

Now in “The Gin Game,” at the Golden Theatre through 10 Jan., CT plays opposite two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones in the two-hander that originally starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. JT won a Tony for the role. She and HC were also featured in the film version of the play.

Could Lorraine Hansberry's “A Raisin in the Sun” be transposed thusly? Would it make any difference to the universality and humanity in her play?

Probably not.

Visit to learn more about “The Gin Game.”
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