Tag Archives: Talk Cinema

Declaration of War

I’m beginning to understand the logic behind heading to “Talk Cinema” films at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts without knowing what they are. “Talk Cinema” is a monthly film screening featuring works selected by New York film critic Harlan Jacobson, and many of its subsribers choose to attend each month not knowing his selection.

But I always peek first, just like I did when Christmas presents called my name from under the tree as a very young child. The venue posts a link with information on the film just days before it’s screened, for those of us who like to look. I expected to watch a war film after seeing that the January selection was titled “Declaration of War,” and I did.

But “Declaration of War” doesn’t recount a battle of countries or ideas. Instead, it’s the tale of two French parents tackling their young son’s brain tumor. I wasn’t feeling particularly perky Tuesday night before heading out to the screening, and expecting to be hit with a depressing flick made it harder to get up and go. But something in the movie’s poster signaled it might be more joyous than morose.

And I was curious, having seen one of our own children battle cancer, about how another family’s struggle might look different from our own. Many in the audience spoke after the film of feeling incredibly sad while viewing it, but I felt quite the opposite — because the boy expected to die before he could start school instead becomes a cancer survivor. And despite the family’s tragedy, their lives are filled with simple joys that others facing less trying times often have a hard time mustering.

“Declaration of War” was written by Valerie Donzelli and Jeremie Elkaim, the parents at the heart of the film, and directed by Donzelli. Both were working actors in France prior to creating and starring in this film, which premiered during critics week at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was submitted by France for the foreign-language film Oscar. Donzelli was also writer, actor and director for a 2009 film called “The Queen of Hearts.”

Their characters in “Declaration of War” are young parents named Romeo and Juliette. As the film opens, we hear two oddly similar  but jarring sounds — the beat of club music and the drumming sound of an MRI machine in action. Their time with one quickly shifts to time with the other, hasted cinematically by quick, rough shots using a Canon 5D camera and pulsating music that drives them quickly from the diaper stage to diagnosis — from feeling inept within the walls of their home to being empowered inside hospital corridors.

In the film, infant son Adam (César Desseix) seems perfectly normal at birth. Once home, he cries nearly non-stop — something parents and professionals chalk up to being overfed or getting new teeth until other problems emerge. The 18-month old can’t balance to walk and begins vomiting for no apparent reason. Eventually a doctor spots something suspicious, and orders the test that launches the couple’s journey into childrearing and cancer.

Our first look at Adam comes quite early in the film, when he’s eight years old and played by the couple’s own son, Gabriel Elkaim. Jacobson says it frees the viewer to follow the film’s sometimes wild ride rather than fretting throughout about the boy’s possible death. Gabriel survives cancer but the couple’s romantic relationship, conveyed in the film by singing to and with one another, does not — though they continue to parent and work together.

Jacobson shared his film expertise during a talk-back session after the screening, noting that box office sales in France rose last year as box office sales in the U.S. sagged. Despite higher ticket sales, he says, our box office revenues fell by 12%. 

Apparently Americans don’t have much appetite for foreign films. “If you like  foreign films,” quiped Jacobson, “you’re part of the one percent.” About 1/3 of foreign film revenues in the U.S. are earned in New York City, he says. Hence my daughter’s delight in seeing movies in Manhattan weeks before they open in Arizona.

The current “Talk Cinema” series at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts includes four more screenings — on Feb. 7, March 20, April 17 and May 8. Tickets for students (with current student I.D.) are just $10. There’s no popcorn, and the crowd is remarkably quiet, making for a lovely low-cal evening enjoyed alone or with friends.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about a Scottsdale-based organization called Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research, which presents their 2012 Phoenix/Scottsdale walk-a-thon on Sun, Feb. 12.

Coming up: Celebrating MLK the arts & culture way


Need a film fix?

Fans of films that are a bit off the beaten path have plenty of options in coming months. Here’s a roundup for those of you needing a frequent film fix:

The Film Bar in Phoenix. Offerings include indie films, including the first screenings of “A Boy in China” Jan. 13 and 14. The film follows a boy from Phoenix who pursues Kung Fu training in China (Andre Magnum, plus his parents and coach, will attend both screenings). www.thefilmbarphx.com.

The Film Festival at Paradise Valley Community College. Offerings, focused this year on women in film, include “Catching Babies” (Feb. 2), “Caramel” (Feb. 8), “Water” (Feb. 22) and “Maria Full of Grace” (March 7). “Catching Babies” is a film about midwifery. Free. www.pvc.maricopa.edu.

The Loft Cinema in Tucson. Offerings include new indie works, mainstream and cult classics, film festival shorts, award-nominated shorts and more. Also National Theatre Live broadcasts — including “The Collaborators” (Jan. 15), “Travelling Light” (Feb. 26), “The Comedy of Errors” (March 25) and “She Stoops to Conquer” (April 15). www.loftcinema.com.

Mesa Contemporary Arts (part of the Mesa Art Center). Offerings include “Community Cinema” screenings (“Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” by Sharon La Cruise Jan. 19). Free. www.mesaartscenter.com.

Phoenix Art Museum. Offerings include individual films, National Theatre Live broadcasts (including those noted in the Loft Cinema list above) and the Masterpiece Film Challenge (a six-week challenge in which 15 filmmaking teams create 5-7 minute films inspired by art from the museum). Also the Ab/Ex Film Series (“The New York School” Feb. 12) and filmed museum tours (“Leonardo Live” exhibit at the National Gallery of London Feb. 19). www.phxart.org.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Offerings include the “Talk Cinema” series (Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 20, April 17, May 8) and the “Discovery Film Series” (“This Way of Life” Jan. 22). “Talk Cinema” titles are announced on the center’s website just days before screenings (this month’s film is “Declaration of War,” about a couple whose baby is diagnosed with a brain tumor). www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

The Anti-Defamation League and Scottdale Community College. Offerings include “The Many Faces of Hate” film series at SCC (including Jay Rosenstein’s “In Whose Honor” Jan. 18). Free. www.scottsdalecc.edu.

Harkins Theatres. Offerings include various film festivals and broadcasts of  “Opera & Ballet in Cinema Series” performances — including “Le Corsaire” (March 11), “La Boheme” (March 13), “Romeo and Juliet” (March 22), “Rigoletto” (April 17), “The Bright Stream” (April 29), “La Fille Mal Gardee” (May 16) and “Raymonda” (June 24). www.harkinstheatres.com.

Many museums, performing arts centers and universities offer film screenings, so check with your local venues for additional options.

— Lynn

Note: If your venue or organization offers film fare with an arts and culture twist, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Theater meets classic literature

Get reel!

The Tucson Jewish Community Center presents the 2012 Tucson International Jewish Film Festival Jan. 12-21 at the JCC Auditorium in Tucson. Their “Fabulous Faygeleh LGBT Film Series,” featuring three films, takes place Jan. 22. The festival’s opening film, “The Round Up” (“La Rafle”) is being screened at Tucson’s Loft Cinema.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival presents “Get Reel with Director Bryan Singer” Jan. 14 at the Chandler Center for the Arts — which benefits the Holocaust and Tolerance Museum and Education Center currently being developed by the East Valley Jewish Community Center.

The “Desperado LGBT Film Festival” takes place Jan. 27-29 at the Paradise Valley Community College Center for the Performing Arts.  A couple of short films and panel discussions are free. Proceeds from ticketed screenings and events support LGBTQA scholarships.

The 2012 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival takes place Feb.12-26 at three Harkins Theatres in the Valley — Scottsdale Camelview, Chandler Crossroads and Peoria Arrowhead. It features 11 films, for diverse audiences, that “offer a wealth of Jewish life, culture, humor and drama.”

The Sedona International Film Festival takes place Feb. 18-26, and will feature more than 145 films. Peter Bogdanovich, the son of immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during a special ceremony at the Sedona Performing Arts Center — followed by a screening of his “Last Picture Show” and a Q & A session featuring both Bogdanovich and Glenn Scarpelli.

The Prescott Film Festival takes place July 18-22. It’ll feature work by Arizona filmmakers in celebration of the state’s centennial, plus films from the U.S. and abroad. Details about free workshops and ticketed events will be released as festival dates draw near.

Watch for film screenings at local museums (including the Phoenix Art Museum), performing arts venues (including the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts), public libraries and other arts & culture destinations. And don’t forget to film your own kiddos now and then — family film festivals are the most fun by far!

— Lynn

Coming up: A guest blogger shares his “Wicked” ways

2012 Film festival fare

For true movie buffs, just one movie never enough. But 145 movies just might be. That’s the number of selections being featured at the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival, which takes place Feb. 18-26. Think full-length features, shorts and documentaries. Also animated, foreign and student films.

I’m told that Kevin Clash, the puppeteer featured in the documentary “Being Elmo” (which is narrated by Whoopi Goldberg) will be making an appearance at the 18th annual festival. “Being Elmo” won the special jury prize for documentary at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The Sedona International Film Festival is partnering with Arizona Musicfest to present a jazz concert featuring the Brubeck Brothers, and the screening of a new film about Marian McPartland, at the Sedona High School Performing Arts Center.

Advance-sale passes for the 18th annual Sedona International Film Festival are now available through www.sedonafilmfestival.com. Full-time students can purchase a 10 ticket package for just $80 by calling the festival box office at (928) 282-1177.

The 2012 Arizona International Film Festival takes place April 13-29 in Tucson and other southern Arizona communities. They’re currently seeking works by filmmakers age 18 and under to be featured in their “Indie Youth” program.

Submissions are welcome in several categories — dramatic, comedy, documentary, experimental and animation short. Information about opportunities for youth and adult filmmakers is available at www.filmfestivalarizona.com.

The 2012 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, featuring works that honor Jewish tradition and heritage, takes place Feb. 12-26 at three Harkins Theatres in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The festival includes numerous Arizona and “area” premieres, and several guest speaker presentations. I’m especially pleased to see “The People v. Leo Frank” and “Hidden Children” in the festival line-up.

If you’re eager to sample a bit of independent film fare before 2012 festivals open, check out FilmBar in Phoenix (which has a nifty “Arizona Storytellers Project” event taking place Mon, Dec. 5 to benefit Republic Charities), The Loft Cinema in Tucson (which is doing a fun Eames chair giveaway on Thurs, Dec. 8) and Reel Arts 6 in Tucson (which is just wrapping up this year’s “Native Eyes Film Showcase“).

Or head to Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, Harkins Valley Art in Tempe, or the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — which is featuring an especially controversial mature content movie for this month’s “Talk Cinema” selection.

— Lynn

Coming up: More film festival news, Family fun in Prescott

Let’s talk cinema

I’ve been meaning to check out the “Talk Cinema” film series at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for years, and finally took the leap on Tuesday night after realizing the only other real entertainment I’d be able to drum up was watching Nancy Grace make a tearful exit from “Dancing with the Stars.”

Why settle for melodrama when you can experience “Melancholia” — the latest film from Danish director Lars von Trier. I knew it was this month’s “Talk Cinema” offering because I peeked at the spoiler on the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website. Folks who like to be surprised can skip the link that leads to the lowdown.

“Melancholia” had a good turnout, and the crowd was amazingly quiet throughout the movie. These folks appreciate film as fine art, rather than mistaking it for a giant popcorn and soda fest. That fact alone is ample reason to become a “Talk Cinema” regular.

About half the audience stayed after the film for a fun Q & A with Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic. Sometimes the films are moderated by experts with a more scholarly bent. Most of the audience gave the film a big thumbs down — saying it was too long or composed of too many disparate elements.

The film is broken into two parts, each devoted to one of two sisters. In the first, we meet a sister on the night of her wedding, which doesn’t end well. We also meet the sisters’ parents, who share some awkward moments and reveal a bit of their own baggage.

In the second, we learn more about the other sister, who has a husband and a young son. The husband has a telescope and seemingly unshakeable faith in science. The son crafts a less sophisticated tool that reveals infinitely more. Together these characters face the prospect of a planet called “Melancholia” colliding with our own.

I was happy to let the film’s beautiful images — of galaxies, of horses, of green spaces — wash over me. I enjoyed the music, which is well matched to the film’s title, but relished the sound effects even more. Clanking silverware during the wedding reception. Rumbling as “Melancholia” approaches.

All those years of reading Kierkegaard in graduate school make it easier to appreciate films steeped with existentialism. Seeing his work for the first time, I’m not at all surprised by the fact that von Trier hails from Copenhagen — or by the fact that those who try the hardest to understand “Melancholia” on a purely cognitive level leave the film feeling frustrated.

Viewers can read all sorts of messages into this movie. That the smartest among us are the most depressed, because they see the things others miss. That human attempts to tame or control the wild are futile. That those who seem weakest sometimes possess the greatest strength.

Maybe it’s a tale of von Trier’s own stuggles with depression. It’s possible, I suppose, that the peace experienced by the depressed sister as the end seems near is meant to mirror the “happy” mood sometimes ascribed to people whose newfound calm is actually a red flag of their resolve to commit suicide.

I have a nagging feeling that the real star of “Melancholia” is “Antares.” It’s the red star in the constellation “Scorpius” that seems to disappear early in the film. If I find myself moved in coming days to explore more about the movie’s possible meanings, that’s where I’ll start.

— Lynn

Note: The next “Talk Cinema” screening takes place Wed., Dec 7 (a change from the usual Tuesday night). Click here to learn more.

Coming up: A chip off the old bassoon?, Through a prism…

Playing favorites?

Works by Nicholas Bernard previously exhibited at the Scottsdale Art Festival

My virtual in-box gets plenty of “vote for me” messages, which I rarely run with because I hate to play favorites. I didn’t push the potty at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts when it was nominated for a top bathroom prize a while back, and still feel wracked with guilt each time I think about those other people taking the prettiest potty prize.

Hence I’m passing along the latest plea from my friends over at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — who hope we’ll all vote in the “2012 Top 10 Fairs and Festivals” contest now underday on the “AmericanStyle Magazine” website.

Votes are being accepted at americanstylemagazine.com, and those who vote are entered to win a cool cash prize. I’m told that Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts has placed in the top ten each year the magazine has held this competition, often making the top five — and securing the top slot in 2005. Last year it was rated #2.

Gerber Daisy Brooch by Michele Friedman

The center’s “Scottsdale Arts Festival” is one of three Arizona nominees, along with the “Celebration of Fine Art” in Scottsdale and the “Sedona Arts Festival.”

Happily, the magazine’s lovely ballot lets you choose up to three fairs and festivals, so the faint of heart needn’t pit one Arizona festival against another.

I was miffed about the lack of Shakespeare festivals in the pack before discovering that all the nominees are art fairs and festivals. So glad the lightbulb went on before I whipped out all my magnificent Shakespearean insults.

If you’ve never seen the beautiful bathrooms at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, this is a good week to take the plunge. There’s a “Harlan Jacobson’s Talk Cinema” event at 7pm tonight, and a “Pandora Showcase” this weekend featuring the works of Arizona women playwrights — including Debra Rich Gettleman, who writes the “Unmotherly Insights” blog published by Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

If Gettleman hasn’t yet written on the topic of beautiful bathrooms, she certainly needs to. Even the ugliest parts of daily life are transformed through the prism of her pen.

— Lynn

Note: I’m looking for American flag art for an upcoming Veterans Day post. If you have something to share, please send it to me at rakstagemom@gmail.com before Friday at noon — thanks!

Coming up: Musings on Mannheim Steamroller, Valley art meets Veterans Day

Film finds

!Women Art Revolution is one of several current offerings at FilmBar in Phoenix

You can find much more than film fare at plenty of movie theaters these days. Even Shakespeare in Cinema works that seem to transport you straight to the Globe Theatre in London.

And film offerings seem to be finding their way to lots of places other than traditional cinemas. Think bookstores, museums, performing arts venues and more. Even stores like Hoodlums Music and Movies and Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, which presents “In Transition” during their next community movie night, scheduled for Fri, Aug 26.

When you have a hankering for films or movie venues that are just a bit out of the ordinary, consider making an afternoon or evening of it with one of these Valley options…

Finding film at a joint called FilmBar Phoenix is hardly a shocker, but their offerings are certainly out of the ordinary. In August alone featured works deal with martial arts, the culture of war, feminist art and changes wrought on nature by increasing industrialization.

The 2011-12 Talk Cinema series at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts opens in October. You can enjoy the surprise of not knowing what to expect or check the center’s website the day before each screening to explore the month’s offering. Each “Talk Cinema” screening is introduced and followed by “moderated conversations hosted by distinguished guest speakers.”

Performing arts venues like Tempe Center for the Arts and Mesa Arts Center sometimes present special movie screenings, so film buffs should watch the calendars of these venues to see what pops up throughout the season.

Several community colleges offer film series or festivals with diverse themes. Scottsdale Community College has partnered for many years with the Anti-Defamation League to present a film series with an anti-hate theme.

Paradise Valley Community College is focusing on “women in film” this season. The first film of the season is “Amelie” — a French film they’ll present on Wed, Sept 7. Other fall films in the series hail from Spain, China and the U.S. Offerings next year include films from Germany, Lebanon, India and Columbia.

Several Valley museums, including the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Phoenix Art Museum, present intriguing film works — including some it’s hard to find anywhere else.

Several films being shown this month and next at the Phoenix Art Museum are Spanish-language films with English subtitles — including works about circus life, women matadors, immigration and more. My favorite is a one-hour film called “Biblioburro” about a one-of-a-kind library and librarian in a violence-ridden region of Colombia.

Cultural Centers like the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix sometimes offer screenings of independent works, as do other cultural resources like libraries.

The Arizona Humanities Council website offers event listings by region so its always easy to find film and other offerings in your area. Film screenings and discussions of “Johnny Guitar” take place later this month in Florence and Glendale — and they’ve got several “Borderlands” films listed for the coming months.

Films don’t need to include talking animals or non-stop explosions to be fun. You’ll even learn to love them without salty popcorn or sugary drinks. Leave the kids behind once and a while to expore a world where films foster adult conversations on fascinating topics other than organic baby food and homework wars.

— Lynn

Coming up: Film festivals in the Valley — and beyond, Lynn & Liz review “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie”