Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, and More Head to The Inaugural First Time Fest

And in more festival news of the day: the inagural First Time Fest—a new New York festival showcasing the talents of first time filmmakers—has offered some exciting news as of today. The premiere Fest will be held between March 1st and March 4th at the Loews Village VII Cinema in Manhattan, and includee a hefty lineup of wonderful new films, as well as a retrospective of established directors first films. The organization hosting the event, The Player’s Club, have also announced that the John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema will go to the thrilling genius Darren Aronofsky. And better still, he will be presented the award by none other than Hollywood’s greatest living cinematic treasure himself, Martin Scorsese. 

Check out the full line-up of films below, as well as what will be showing at the First Exposure retrospective from The Virgins Suicides to Welcome to the Dollhouse.

New York Premiere. USA, 86 minutes.
Written and directed by Seth Fisher. With Fisher, Brian Cox, Mark Blum, Laila Robins, Mei Melançon.
U.S. Premiere.  Belgium/France, 89 minutes.
Written and directed by Amélie van Elmbt. With Alice de Lencquesaing, David Murgia, Jacques Doillon.
World Premiere. Belarus, 133 mins.
Written and directed by Dmitry Marinin, Andrey Kureychik. With Leonid Pashkovsky, Tatyana Bovkalova, Viktor Rybchinsky, Anna Sirotina.        
U.S. Premiere.  Argentina, 75 mins.
Written, directed, and produced by Luciano Quillici. With Ramiro Aguero, Santiago Gobemori, Diego Jalfen, Valeria Louis, Leticia Mazur, Margarita Molfino, Alan Sabbagh.     
USA, 90 mins.  
Written and directed by Tony Glazer. With Tom Pelphrey, Neal Bledsoe, Harris Doran, Summer Crockett Moore, Anthony Rapp, David Zayas, Michael O’Keef.
U.S. Premiere. Australia/Mongolia, 90 mins.
Documentary, directed by Benj Binks.
New York Premiere.  Chile/Argentina, 112 mins.
Written and directed by Diego Rougier. With Fele Martínez, Patricio Contreras, Sergio Hernández, Javiera Contador.
World Premiere.  Australia, 90 mins.
Directed by Sophie O’Connor. With Lily Hall, Christina Hallett, Kevin Dee, Georgia Bolton.
New York Premiere.USA, 90 mins.
Written and directed by Max Weissberg. With Lethia Nall, Eric Garcia, Rob Hollander, H.R. Britton, James Eason, Jenny Grace, Olivia Horton, Michele Cesari.
USA/Egypt, 85 mins.
Documentary directed by Fredrik Stanton.
U.S. Premiere. Israel, 90 mins.
Written and directed by Eliav Lilti. With Barak Friedman, Noa Friedman, Esti Yerushalmi, Zohar Shtrauss, Ohad Knoller, Michal Shtamler.
USA, 77 mins.
Documentary directed by Amy Nicholson. 
USA, 1996, 91 mins. Speaker TBA.
Directed by Wes Anderson.
Written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.
Cast: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Andrew Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, James Caan.
USA, 1976, 103 mins.
Barbara Kopple in person.
Documentary directed by Barbara Kopple.
USA, 2010, 91 mins.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan in person.
Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Written by Robert Glaudini.
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega.
USA, 1941, 101 mins.
Speaker TBA.
Written and directed by John Huston.
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr.
USA, 1998, 83 mins.
Speaker TBA.
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman.
USA, 1991, 85 mins.
Producer Christine Vachon in person.
Written and directed by Todd Haynes.
Cast: Edith Meeks, Millie White, Buck Smith, Anne Giotta, Lydia Lafleur, Ian Nemser
USA, 1968, 87 mins.
Melvin van Peebles in person.
Written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles.
Cast: Harry Baird, Pierre Doris, Christian Marin, Nicole Berger
USA, 1989, 84 mins.
Nancy Savoca in person.
Directed by Nancy Savoca.
Written by Nancy Savoca and Richard Guay.
Cast: Annabella Sciorra, Ron Eldard, Aida Turturro, Roger Rignack
USA, 1989, 90 mins.
Hal Hartley in person.
Written and directed by Hal Hartley.
Cast: Adrienne Shelley, Robert John Burke, Edie Falco, Gary Sauer.
USA, 1999, 97 mins.
Sofia Coppola and cinematographer Ed Lachman in person.
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Josh Hartnett, Michael Paré, Danny DeVito
USA, 1996, 88 mins.
Todd Solondz in person.
Written and directed by Todd Solondz.
Cast: Heather Matarazzo, Brendan Sexton III, Matthew Faber, Daria Kalinina, Eric Mabius

Movies Opening This Weekend, In Order Of How Much We Like Their Trailers

Some people judge a movie based on reviews, other will go see something just because it features a favorite actor. Here, we’re judging this weekend’s offerings based solely on what we see in the trailers and ranking them accordingly.

Prometheus: What more could you want from a movie? Space travel, disaster, Ridley Scott and a stellar cast, including the fantastical Noomi Rapace, make this the trailer to beat this weekend. And it’s going to own the box office, so there’s also that.

Bel Ami: Does this movie, featuring Robert Pattinson as a social-climbing ladies’ man in ancientish Paris, look good? Not really. Does the trailer get us excited? Absolutely. There’s no way that two hours of this powdered-wig seduction would hold our attention, but for a few minutes it’s exciting enough to rank highly.

Dark Horse: The latest from Todd Solondz looks funny, offbeat and perhaps less I-need-a-shower-after-this than his previous work. And even though Selma Blair kind of looks like Katie Holmes is trying to escape from her face, this coming attraction definitely does its job.

Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass can sell almost any movie, and this Seattle-based caper about a guy who thinks he’s discovered the secret to time travel doesn’t need a whole lot of help in that category. This movie doesn’t look like it’s going to scratch our blockbuster itch, but if Prometheus is sold out, we’d definitely sneak in.

Lola Versus: We love Greta Gerwig, we really do, but there’s something a bit too post-rom-com about this movie, from the looks of the trailer, to draw us in. Ask again when it’s on TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but chances are we won’t be rushing to the multiplex.

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding: Unless you’re taking your mom to the movies for, uh, Father’s Day, no way.

Watch the Trailer for Todd Solondz’s ‘Dark Horse’

The strangest thing about the trailer for Dark Horse, the new movie from Welcome to the Dollhouse mastermind Todd Solondz, is how not-strange it is.

Over the years, the director has treated us to discomfiting films about outcasts, perverts, and misfits of all stripes, often with painfully awkward and drawn-out scenes that have made him an art-house, if not always a box-office, favorite.

So, to look at the just-released trailer for Dark Horse, starring Jordan Gelber and Selma Blair as two not-so-young anymore weirdoes who fall in love to a soundtrack of upbeat pop, it’s strange to, well, smile. They’re strange, sure, but they’re romantic comedy strange—he lives at home with mom (Mia Farrow) and dad (Christopher Walken), for whom he also works—and all signs point to them overcoming whatever is holding them back.

Perhaps there’s the rub; trailers, after all, can be misleading. But maybe, just maybe, neither of them will be molested or too deeply damaged and Todd Solondz will find himself with something a bit more profitable than a cult classic on his hands.

Well, in addition to whatever else is on his hands… you never know with that one.

It’s Friday, Go to the Movies!

Now that Inception is old news—everyone I know either hates it, loves it, or is still trying to figure out the fourth level—it’s time for the onslaught of post-blockbuster summer comedies featuring the same revolving cast of actors who seem to star in every new comedy. We just had Dinner For Schmucks, which has one of the greatest film titles in history (though I haven’t found a single person who agrees) and this week we’ve got The Other Guys featuring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as mismatched buddy cops. Maybe its worth actually seeing these flicks before passing judgment, but it seems like we all might be better off if these dudes—Ferrell, Steve Carrell (Date Night, seriously?), Paul Rudd—made a few less movies per year, abandoned some scripts, took the best jokes from the abandoned scripts, added those jokes to better scripts, and created a slightly lesser amount of slightly higher quality movies. Then again, I complain about prissy auteurs like Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson making us wait three years between movies, when Godard and co. were pumping out classics yearly like clockwork. So you never win.

Speaking of prissy auteurs, the new Todd Solondz—Life During Wartime—is out, and according to the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane (aka the sharpest tool in a shed full of dull film critics), it’s Solondz’s “Best to date.” This is good news. Solondz was on the brink of being amongst that unfortunate cast of directors whose films get progressively worse each time out (I put Wes Anderson in this category, too, though others will strongly disagree). Welcome to the Dollhouse was a bona fide masterpiece of awkward sexual tension, an ugly duckling/not-so-beautiful-swan bildungsroman. Happiness was weird and uncomfortable and almost a classic, but somehow not quite. Storytelling had some funny jokes and a memorable rape scene, but ultimately failed to cohere. And Palindromes was just plain bad. We’ll see if Life During Wartime breaks the spell. It’s named after a great song, so that’s a start.

Movie Reviews: ‘Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,’ ‘Life During Wartime,’ ‘Cyrus’

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky opens with a fleeting glimpse of a youthful Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) battling her corset, a feminine symbol she later trades for a signature style: polished androgyny. Chanel is first exposed to Russian composer Stravinsky’s misunderstood genius at the premiere of The Rite of Spring at Paris’s Théatre des Champs-Elysées. Chanel is instantly smitten with Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), even as she enters the heyday of her renown. At her insistence, he relocates his wife and four small children from a dingy tenement to her picturesque country home. Their romance deepens as Stravinsky’s wife battles tuberculosis and suffers from the strain of her husband’s betrayal. The affair is brief, but director Jan Kounen locates, with magnificent precision, the passion and intensity that forever changed their lives. (June) —Eiseley Tauginas

Winter’s Bone – This year’s winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone is an exploration of human endurance. The drama follows Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), a strong-willed, 17-year-old loner, as she bravely defies her rural community’s code of silence in a quest to hunt down her meth-making, bail bond-ditching father and save her family. Along the way, she battles drugs, moonshine and a bevy of other impoverished mountain life clichés. With restrained direction and subtle, compelling performances from Lawrence and John Hawkes (as her uncle, Teardrop), the film never feels hammy or maudlin. Winter’s Bone is as chilling, saturnine and breathtakingly barren as its title suggests. (June) —Ashley Simpson

Life During Wartime – History haunts the characters in Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, the pseudo-sequel to his much-praised 1998 ensemble feature, Happiness. Purists might be perplexed to find that Solondz has recast each role in the new film—Ally Sheedy replaces Lara Flynn Boyle; Allison Janney, Cynthia Stevenson; Shirley Henderson, Jane Adams—but that shouldn’t detract from the thrill of the ride. Life During Wartime highlights the twisted but talented writer-director’s darkly acerbic humor and sideways exploration of upper-class American suburbia. Narrative threads weave in and out of each other as the film’s oddball characters grapple with divorce, newfound romance, pedophilia, mental illness and suicide in a way that is both wry and suffused with pathos. A son’s recrimination of his child-abusing father (Ciarán Hinds in the role once played by Dylan Baker) is simultaneously hilarious and tragic. Darker than night, yes, but absolutely delicious. (July) —Michael Jordan

Cyrus – What can a few million extra bucks buy you in Hollywood? Well, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, for starters. And that’s all Mumblecore grads Jay and Mark Duplass need to elevate Cyrus from a quaint indie flick into a highly watchable, slightly warped romantic comedy. It’s the Duplass Brothers’ first film with major studio backing, and besides a crisper stock and wider release, it’s got their distinct mark, all embarrassing moments and start-stop dialogue. Cyrus takes its name from Hill’s character, whose Oedipal relationship with his mother, Molly (a radiant Tomei), stands as the primary obstacle to her finding happiness with glum divorcé John (Reilly). The rivalry between the two man-children, as they battle for Molly’s affections, is at once hilarious, unsettling and truthful. (June) —Ben Barna

Todd Solondz Talks ‘Life During Wartime’ at NYFF

Life During Wartime is sort of a sequel to director Todd Solondz’ 1998 film Happiness. I say “sort of” because although it features many of the same characters, none of the original performers remain. In a move that recalls the dizzying role re-assignment of Palindromes, Solondz has deliberately re-cast each part with a new actor. Gimmicky? Yeah, and it doesn’t add much of a new dimension to things if, like me, you haven’t seen Happiness since it was at the Angelica. That, said, I don’t think it takes much away either. After a screening at the New York Film Festival yesterday, Solondz fielded questions (from Singapore, via Skype) from the press corps about why he went back to go forward.

On where the idea to revisit previous work came from: I always feel that one never ends up doing what one plans. When I made Happiness ten years ago, I never thought I’d make a sequel. It was done. Move on. So…I never know what I’m doing.

On the re-casting of roles: I thought it would bring new light. I didn’t want to be beholden to the details of the first film. This is a different movie with different aims, and I like the idea of things being fluid, bringing out different colors and nuances. Nothing’s set in stone.

On the different mood of Life During Wartime: It evolved over the course of the writing. The theme of forgiveness works as kind of a lube for all of the trials and tribulations of these characters, so I think this picture is more sentimental. If Happiness ran hot and cold, I think Life During Wartime is a little warmer.

On shooting digital instead of film: I think when given certain economic restraints, you try to make them work for the film instead of being just another compromise. Digital has it’s own look. It’s different from film and you have to embrace it for what it is. It also takes the stress off of worrying so much about the cost of film.

On what he’s doing now: I’m teaching here in Singapore at NYU. It’s got a branch here. Like department stores have branches in other countries—DKNY, McDonald’s—now NYU does too.

Paris Hilton + Todd Solondz = Indie Nightmare

imageLike the bimbo cheerleader who finds herself unwittingly sitting at the lunch table populated by Nietzsche-spouting vegan art geeks, Paris Hilton has joined the cast of the untitled follow-up to director Todd Solondz’s Happiness. Although the inclusion of America’s favorite write-in candidate in a casting line-up that includes Allison Janney, Ciarán Hinds, and Charlotte Rampling appears incongruous, Hilton’s apparent lack of acting prowess is what makes her ideal for the film. Solondz has forged a reputation with work that juxtaposes beauty with ugliness. So what better muse is there for such a filmmaker than an entitled, vacuous princess who’s managed to buck jail time and whose previous film credits feature such stunners as House of Wax?