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Friday, October 31, 2014

Movies You Missed: Witching and Bitching

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Grandma, what big teeth you have! - IFC FILMS
  • IFC Films
  • Grandma, what big teeth you have!

This Week in Movies You Missed:
Of course I have a Halloween movie for you — if you don't mind that this outrageous Spanish import is more funny than scary.

What You Missed
Deep in the woods, three witches are receiving a prophecy about the "chosen one." "A yellow sponge?" one says dubiously, reading the cards. "Jesus Christ? A green soldier?"

It all becomes clear in the next scene, set in Madrid, where we discover a fellow named José (Hugo Silva) robbing a gold dealer dressed as Jesus, complete with loincloth and crown of thorns. His accomplices have equally silly getups, including SpongeBob SquarePants and a green soldier. Oh, and he's brought along his 10-year-old son (Gabriel Delgado) so they can bond while aiming semi-autos at cowering employees.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Graveyard Girls Slink Into a Graveyard Near You

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Mallyn as Ms. August - HUTTON VON DARTE
  • Hutton von Darte
  • Mallyn as Ms. August

Just in time for Halloween comes a treat for lovers of the holiday who have outgrown the thrill of candy. The Graveyard Girls, a Burlington-based pin-up artists' group, has just released its 2015 calendar.

Inspired in equal parts by horror movies and midcentury pin-up art, the calendar features a dozen female Vermont models posing in some of the state's many old graveyards. The unusual combination of scantily clad women and mortuary settings is tied together by a good-natured, "Addams Family" vibe. Hutton von Darte, the driving force behind the calendar, says she didn't intend it to be "too serious."

Von Darte, who lives in Malletts Bay, hired the models, snapped the photos and did much of the makeup and costuming. She also came up with most of the themes for the photo shoots, such as the barbarian warrior who graces November and the antenna'd alien temptress of July. Von Darte cites as her major influences the renowned pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager and the overall aesthetics of Roger Vadim's Barbarella and the output of the renowned British studio Hammer Films. Photoshop was used only minimally, says von Darte, and none of the models' body shapes were in any way altered. "It's very real fantasy," she tells Seven Days over coffee at Burlington's Maglianero Café.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

VTIFF Announces Vermont Filmmakers' Showcase Awards

Posted By on Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 4:19 PM

11 Paper Place
  • 11 Paper Place
Last evening, at the opening-night party that immediately followed the screening of Lukas Moodysson's crowd-pleasing We Are the Best!, the Vermont International Film Foundation announced the winners of the state's equivalent of the Oscars.

Announced by Eva Sollberger, Seven Days employee and creator of the long-running video series Stuck in Vermont, the awards celebrated the best and most innovative Vermont films and filmmakers submitted to the fest, as decided by VTIFF judges. (Not all of the Vermont Filmmakers' Showcase films had been screened at the fest at press time; judges viewed all submissions in advance of the festival.) A packed house at Burlington's Skinny Pancake noshed on noshables as Sollberger read the results from a small stage.

The big winner of the evening was "11 Paper Place," a charming, digitally animated film supervised by Daniel Houghton and featuring the talents of several of his film students at Middlebury College. "11 Paper Place" won the evening's two most prestigious prizes: the Ben & Jerry's Award, which goes to the Vermont film that most eloquently raises environmental issues; and the James Goldstone Award for the most promising emerging Vermont filmmaker. (Disclosure: Houghton is the spouse of Kids VT Managing Editor Megan James.)

11 Paper Place from daniel houghton on Vimeo.

Another multiple-award winner was Robert Fritz's feature-length supernatural drama Past Tense, which picked up the awards for both Best Acting and Best Screenplay. 

"Dark Legacy," a short film about evil porcine spirits, won Best Cinematography; Rob Koier's "The North Star," a short about an escaping slave, won the Footage Farm USA award for its raising of important global issues. The ceremony concluded with an open invitation from Vermont PBS for Vermont filmmakers to submit their works to the network for its planned showcase of in-state cinematic talent on the new channel Vermont PBS Plus.

This was just Day One of the festival. VTIFF will screen nine more days of films, both local and global, at this 29th annual event.

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What I'm Watching: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Posted By on Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 9:00 AM

When a film's closing credits provide its best, and most watchable, moment, you have a problem. - MGM PICTURES
  • MGM Pictures
  • When a film's closing credits provide its best, and most watchable, moment, you have a problem.
What makes a film a cult film?

I struggled with this question when I wrote a short book on the film This Is Spinal Tap, because that movie didn't seem to jibe with any of the prevailing theories about the nature of film cultishness. It isn't beloved by only a small, devoted audience; it doesn't contain esoterica graspable only by those "in the know"; it is certainly not "so bad, it's good"; it does not court controversy; it is not a "lost treasure," rediscovered by fans after failing to receive its due in its original release. But I think few film lovers would deny that This Is Spinal Tap is indeed a cult film.

Ultimately, I concluded, rather plainly, that a cult film is simply one that, for any number of reasons, attracts a devoted following. Furthermore, the term "cult" implies no particular scale: A film's cult may be small (like that of, say, the oddball semi-satire The Wizard of Speed and Time) or large (I see no reason why we can't call films in the Star Wars series "cult films"; same for The Lord of the Rings movies, and even for beloved classics like Casablanca). All of these films have inspired devotion in a certain segment of their audiences in ways that movies such as, say, 27 Dresses and Shooter do not. Cult films, it seems to me, can achieve that status in any number of ways. If they strike the right note with their audiences, they're in the club.
MGM PICTURES
  • MGM Pictures
A few weeks ago, I saw, for the first time since approximately 1990, one of the definitive cult films of the 1980s: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. This film, in a word, sucks. I thought so when I was in high school and I still think so now. That is not, in itself, a problem for its cult status, as there are lots of sucky films that have achieved that mantle: the oft-trotted-out Plan 9 from Outer Space, the MST3K-bolstered Manos: The Hands of Fate, the marvelously daft Troll 2. The weird thing about the cult of Buckaroo Banzai is that the members of that cult seem to me to have granted the film cult status for all the wrong reasons.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Movie Not to Miss: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Posted By on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

screen_shot_2014-10-24_at_10.14.46_am.png

This week in movies you might miss:
the "first Iranian vampire western."

You can kick off Halloween week in style by catching A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the debut feature from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, on Sunday, October 26, 10 p.m., at Burlington's ArtsRiot as part of the Vermont International Film Festival. (Tickets, $5-10.)

What You Might Miss
Somewhere in Iran, there's a place called Bad City dominated by a gigantic power plant and a fleet of idle oil wells. A place that appears to be inhabited mostly by pimps, whores, drug dealers, addicts and party girls.

Arash (Arash Marandi) is none of the above. He's a gardener with a sports car who likes to wear tight T-shirts and pose like James Dean. When his junkie dad (Marshall Manesh) runs afoul of a vicious dealer (Dominic Rains), he's in danger of losing everything he loves — but not for long.

Because someone else stalks the streets of Bad City. She (Sheila Vand) wears a chador and a Breton-stripe top like Jean Seberg in Breathless. She follows men. Quiet and demure, she invites them home with her. She decides for herself what they deserve. And she executes her judgment — sometimes with fang and talon.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Southern Vermont Invaded by Cinema!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

A mysterious underwater typist in Angel Azul, screening at the Brattleboro Film Festival. - COURTESY BRATTLEBORO FILM FESTIVAL
  • Courtesy Brattleboro Film Festival
  • A mysterious underwater typist in Angel Azul, screening at the Brattleboro Film Festival.

Its sister festival to the north may sport a larger budget and a wider sampling of films, but the Brattleboro Film Festival is seriously bringing the cinema to southern Vermont.

With a program that spans more than 10 days, the third annual Brattleboro Film Festival, which will take over the town's historic downtown Latchis Theatre, features 31 films and a number of special events. Cinephiles who live halfway between Brattleboro and Burlington may find themselves torn, as the BFF and the Vermont International Film Festival overlap from October 31 through November 2.

In fact, the two festivals share more than the same space in the calendar. Five films — including the undersea documentary Angel Azul, the Brazilian animated feature The Boy and the World and the acclaimed documentary The Overnighters — will play at both fests.

Other films in the Brattleboro Film Festival hail from such countries as South Africa, Sweden and Japan, and include everything from anime to films about sex-centric road trips to a documentary about two of the royal families of American folk music. Fiction films, documentaries, features and shorts are all represented in a wide-ranging, diverse program.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Steel Cut Theatre and Dance Deliberation Put on The Show

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Four performers put on The Show. - COURTESY OF JAMES MOORE
  • Courtesy of James Moore
  • Four performers put on The Show.

There's a modern dance show coming to Burlington performing arts venue Off Center for the Dramatic Arts this Friday and Saturday. And not just any show. The Show.

Choreographed and performed by James Moore and Frankie Binder, the couple behind Steel Cut Theatre, in collaboration with Kelsey Wilson and Annie Brady of the newly christened local dance duo Dance Deliberation, The Show is a 70-minute movement arts production with 14 original choreographed dances and maybe a hidden "bonus track." Two of those dances are presented through video.

The four performers first collaborated during an Eat My Art Out event last year. Buoyed by positive audience feedback, they've been preparing The Show's eclectic, zany and occasionally serious movement pieces for months.

"We are interested in using movement to push through the mundane to find something real and true, sometimes serious, sometimes silly," writes Moore in the event's press release. "We find inspiration in music and have been exploring ways to support or actively fight against certain songs."

Beyond that, leave any preconceived expectations by the wayside. "There are dances that are more serious, and there are dances that invite you to laugh," Moore says. "We want to keep everyone entertained, and if you don’t like something, don’t worry, it won’t be there very long!" 

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Awkward Family Photos Creator Speaks at Middlebury

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 10:35 PM

The awkward family photo that inspired it all. - COURTESY OF MIKE BENDER
  • Courtesy of Mike Bender
  • The awkward family photo that inspired it all.
I don't know about you guys, but my awkward family photos tend to just gather dust on the mantel. I see them, I cringe, I walk away. Not Mike Bender, the 1997 Middlebury College grad behind the popular website awkwardfamilyphotos.com. 

In April 2009, the Los Angeles-based screenwriter — who penned the script for Not Another Teen Movie (2001) and several seasons of the MTV Movie Awards — traveled home for a vacation and spotted his mom displaying a ski vacation photograph. He admits that his first impulse was to cringe. 

"At first, I couldn’t understand why she was memorializing what I thought was an awkward moment," Bender recalls.

Then inspiration struck: "I sat down with my writing partner [and childhood friend Doug Chernack] at the time and told him about it. He was like, Oh, my God, my house is full of those. We thought if we had them, everyone must have them. So we launched a website to see if people would submit theirs."

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Scientists Get Arty on Burlington Biz Cerebella's Interactive Platform

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Bow ties in various patterns by Cerebella Design - COURTESY OF ARIELE FABER
  • Courtesy of Ariele Faber
  • Bow ties in various patterns by Cerebella Design

Since September 2013, Ariele Faber has been fusing her background in laboratory science with a passion for art and design through Cerebella Design, the "digital surface design" company she launched while still enrolled at Middlebury College.

The 24-year-old creates scarves, neck ties and bow ties in striking, colorful fabrics that she designs using images of the surfaces of microscopic organisms taken through a microscope lens (called "photomicrographs"). She uses digital printers to transfer these onto organic cotton or imported silk fabrics. The results: abstract, geometric patterns that one would hardly guess came from microscopic pictures of frog skin, pollen tetrads, tapeworms and other organisms.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

What I'm Watching: The Telegraph Trail

Posted By on Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 9:04 AM

WARNER BROS. PICTURES
  • Warner Bros. Pictures
For a dollar or two at a recent library sale, I picked up a DVD that contains not one, not two, but three feature-length (well, sort of) John Wayne films from 1933: The Man from Monterey, Somewhere in Sonora (both directed by Mack V. Wright) and The Telegraph Trail (directed by Tenny Wright, who may or may not have been related to Mack V.). I knew that these would be resolutely average, run-of-the-mill westerns, and that's why I purchased the disc. You can learn a lot from exceedingly average movies.

My viewing of The Telegraph Trail confirmed my expectations: It was solidly average, with few if any outstanding features. Which is why I liked it. The film is one of the 11 (!) movies that John Wayne made in 1933, back before he graduated to "A" pictures. These three films are most assuredly "B" westerns of the type made in great number from the 1910s through the 1960s, and are entirely typical of that form. By which I mean: They are all in the neighborhood of 60 minutes in running time (just barely feature-length); they were directed by workmanlike filmmakers with little, if any, personal style; they abide by — and indeed define — the typical narrative patterns of the genre; and they were made for relatively small budgets.

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