A conversation with filmmaker Brian Dannelly about satirical film, ‘Saved!’

Brian Dannelly, director of 'Saved!'
Brian Dannelly, director of ‘Saved!’

Ah, election year! A time for breast-baring, contentious films about crucifixion, the naïve promotion of abstinence, and mind-boggling constitutional amendments to ban the recognition of love in order to preserve the sanctity of a “purer” form of love.

And yes, a time to ask who will save your soul during this epic war being fought on two fronts – the war on terrorism and the war on immorality, the wars on the streets of Baghdad and the culture wars waged by the media, wars fought in the name of Christ and wars fought in the name of mutual respect and genuine tolerance and compassion.

As filmmaker Brian Dannelly aptly puts it, we’re living in “very George Bushian” times. Times when many of us vacillate between seeking refuge in Canada and watching cheesy, seemingly mindless films about high school life. For now, I’ve resigned myself to the latter, hoping that I’ll get a good laugh at a time when contemporary political culture is so rarely a laughing matter.

Read moreA conversation with filmmaker Brian Dannelly about satirical film, ‘Saved!’

A Look at the ‘Films’ of Michael Moore

Michael Moore in 'Fahrenheit 911'
Michael Moore in ‘Fahrenheit 911’

With predictions that Fahrenheit 9/11 could play a role in the November elections, Michael Moore is back in the news. He’s received plenty of criticism already but it’s all been from his ideological opponents, always right-wing types who disagree with his politics. This allows Moore to counter their criticisms on a political or ideological level, and as a result he’s never really addressed on some of the deeper flaws in his filmmaking.

Read moreA Look at the ‘Films’ of Michael Moore

1974’s ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ is a smart, keen thriller

Walter Matthau plots to save the day in 1974's 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three'
Walter Matthau plots to save the day in 1974’s ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’

[rating=4]Starring: Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo
Director(s): Joseph Sargent
Writer(s): Screenplay by Peter Stone, Based upon the novel by John Godey

The number 6 train out of Pelham Park pulls to an unscheduled stop between stations, nesting in a cavernous tunnel below 23rd Street in Manhattan. A dignified man with a mustache and glasses wearing a wool coat and fedora sits in the conductor’s booth. He is not the conductor. As the Manhattan transit system spirals into chaos, the figure calmly retrieves the two-way radio beside him, calling command central.

Read more1974’s ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ is a smart, keen thriller

Peter Dinklage is charming in Thomas McCarthy’s debut film, ‘The Station Agent’

Peter Dinklage and Michelle Williams in 'The Station Agent'
Peter Dinklage and Michelle Williams in ‘The Station Agent’

[rating=4]Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Paul Benjamin, Raven Goodwin and Richard Kind
Director(s): Thomas McCarthy
Writer(s): Thomas McCarthy

In writer/director Thomas McCarthy’s debut feature, The Station Agent, Peter Dinklage stars as Fin, a train enthusiast who inherits an abandoned station house in Newfoundland, New Jersey. Craving the good old fashioned peace and quiet that only a permanent rural retreat brings, Fin embraces his new property with a peculiarly stoic brand of relish and looks forward to a life of solitude right next to the railway.

Read morePeter Dinklage is charming in Thomas McCarthy’s debut film, ‘The Station Agent’

‘Torch Song Trilogy’ is bawdy, quick-witted and proudly sentimental

Harvey Fierstein in 'Torch Song Trilogy'
Harvey Fierstein in ‘Torch Song Trilogy’

[rating=4]Starring: Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Broderick, Anne Bancroft and Brian Kerwin
Director(s): Paul Bogart
Writer(s): Harvey Fierstein, based upon his play

“You know, there are easier things in this life than being a drag queen,” female impersonator Arnold Beckoff says in the opening monologue of Torch Song Trilogy. “But I ain’t got no choice. See,” he murmurs sadly, “try as I may… I just can’t walk in flats.”

Bawdy, quick-witted and proudly sentimental, Torch Song Trilogy was the odds on favorite to be the first gay-themed motion picture to cross into mainstream (read: straight) success. Before the film was released in 1988, it tested through the roof at LA and Midwestern previews. In a business where studio execs pray for a 50% approval from such screenings, and 75% augers a hit, Torch Song was testing in the mid-90’s, with audiences saying they’d definitely recommend the film to friends.

Read more‘Torch Song Trilogy’ is bawdy, quick-witted and proudly sentimental

‘The Last Samurai’ in a masterful period piece

Tom Cruise in 'The Last Samurai'
Tom Cruise in ‘The Last Samurai’

[rating=4]Starring: Ken Watanabe, Tom Cruise, Tony Goldwyn, Masato Harada, Koyuki
Director(s): Edward Zwick
Writer(s): John Logan

The first time I saw the trailer for The Last Samurai, I could not suppress a chuckle. Tom Cruise seemed comically larger than life, dressed-to-kill as a samurai. Here is a man who does not know his limitations, I thought. Does he realize he’s… um, not Japanese? Alright, I confess, I sided with Nicole (and her career) after the breakup. Until I heard that Ken Watanabe had received an Oscar nomination, I wasn’t even remotely interested in what seemed like another film driven by Cruise’s ego.

Read more‘The Last Samurai’ in a masterful period piece

Jean-Jacques Annaud’s ‘Quest for Fire’ gets wonderful treatment on DVD

Rae Dawn Chong in 'Quest for Fire'
Rae Dawn Chong in ‘Quest for Fire’

Starring: Everett McGill, Ron Pearlman, Nameer El-Kadi, and Rae Dawn Chong
Director(s): Jean-Jacques Annaud
Writer(s): Screenplay by Gerard Brach, Based upon the novel by: J.H. Rosny, Sr.

What do Hellboy, a cavity search by London police, and two wooly mammoths running through suburbia have in common? They are all in some way directly connected to one of the most original motion pictures ever made — Quest for Fire (alternate title: “La Guerre du Feu”). Though practically forgotten today, Quest broke box office records at New York’s Ziegfeld and LA’s Cinerama Dome theaters when it premiered in February, ‘82, beating out the previous record-holder, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Read moreJean-Jacques Annaud’s ‘Quest for Fire’ gets wonderful treatment on DVD

Diary from the 48-Hour Film Project

Imagine having only 48 hours to write a script for a film, shoot all of your scenes in a variety of locations, and edit the film so that it is ready to be judged in a competition. Who would want to put themselves under such pressure?? Even faced with these crazy conditions and an insane deadline, local film makers eagerly signed up to compete in the 2003 Tour of the 48-Hour Film Project in Washington DC this month.

Read moreDiary from the 48-Hour Film Project