Archive for the ‘KC Film Scene’ Category

I’m happy to report that once again this year I’ll be hosting Movies That Matter, the KC Public Library’s  series devoted to some of the greatest titles in cinema history.

Last year for our kickoff  we offered such classics as Buster Keaton’s “The General,” Orson Welle’s “Citizen Kane,” Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull,” Carl Theodore Dryer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” the screwball comedy “Bringing Up Baby,” Disney’s animated “Snow White,” the musical “Singin’ in the Rain” and Wim Wenders’ haunting “Wings of Desire.”

Movies That Matter: The Sequel  consists of 10 titles from both the silent and sound eras. We’ll be showing comedies, musicals, adventures, searing drama, horror – even an animated classic.

All screenings are at 1:30 p.m. Sundays in the Truman Forum of the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. Admission is free.

The schedule:


Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013

On the outside it’s a World War I escape movie about Frenchmen breaking out of a German POW camp.

On the inside Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion is a meditation on the inevitability of armed conflict and the changing face of European society.

Grand illusionThe titled French officer De Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay) has more in common with the aristocratic German commander of the prison camp (Eric Von Stroheim)  than he does with his own working-class fellow prisoner, Marechal (Jean Gabin). Then there’s Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), the Jew whose “new money” denotes a future in which competence, not birthright, determines the pecking order.

Renoir, the son of impressionist painter August Renoir, was a humanist who observed that no matter which side you’re fighting for, the basic qualities we share should trump the politics that push us apart. But it never works out that way.

An end to war? Alas, Renoir argues, that’s the grand illusion.


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So many KIFF titles.

So little time.

Yes, blogheads, I’ve only recently completed my annual ritual of watching all (well, most of) the movies screening at this year’s Kansas International Film Festival scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 6 at the Glenwood Arts Theatre in Overland Park. And, as we’ve come to expect from KIFF, it’s an impressive lineup. (For a complete schedule and synopses of the fest titles, visit www.kansasfilm.com).

There are several ambitious and effective social issue documentaries: “Another Planet” (child labor), “Deforce” (racism and political repression in Detroit), “Genocide Revealed” (Stalin’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Ukraine), “Left by the Ship” (the abandoned Philippine offspring of American military personnel), “Project Happiness” (American teens travel the globe to understand the sources of contentment), “The Phantom Wolves of Sun Valley” (the war over reintroducing wolves to the American West).

There’s a trio of very well-produced films about the Nazi era: “Haberman,” “ Berlin 36” and “A Hitler.”

And there’s a handful of Hollywood movies making their regional debut at KIFF: The psychological thriller “Take Shelter” with Michael Shannon and the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain; “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” with Tilda Swinton as the mother of a boy involved in a high school killing spree; “Like Crazy,” a Sundance hit about a British student (Felicity Jones) separated from her American lover (Anton Yelchin) when her visa runs out.

Generally speaking, KIFF documentaries tend to impress me more than the narratives. This is no surprise. One person can make a pretty great documentary.

A “story”   film, on the other hand, is an incredibly complicated venture that requires the participation of dozens of people. There’s so much more that can go wrong. This is why my list of 10 Gotta-See KIFF films is so heavy on nonfiction titles. So here’s my list of the movies you should make an effort to catch:

“ISRAEL vs. ISRAEL” (3:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2):  A GREAT documentary guaranteed to start fistfights in the lobby.

Terje Carlsson turns his camera on several Israeli peace activists (one of them a former Israeli soldier, another a grandmother) working to stem what they view as their own country’s illegal annexation of the West Bank and the eviction/subjugation of its Arab inhabitants.

These individuals — all Jews — are regarded as traitors by many of their countrymen.

What they’re up against is shown in several key confrontations between right-wing Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbors. Carlsson’s cameras film these incidents from the Jewish side of the battle lines, perhaps giving the settlers the impression that the filmmakers shared their agenda. As a result the cameras captured several cringeworthy displays of racial hatred and religious arrogance. (more…)

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One of the long-standing traditions of the Kansas International Film Festival continues this year with a live appearance by Boston’s Alloy Orchestra, a three-man ensemble (Terry Donahue, Roger Miller, Ken Winokur) specializing in original scores for silent films.

"Dream of a Rarebit Fiend" (1906)

This year’s Alloy offering (scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2) features the boys’ new project,  “Wild and Weird,” a collection of classic silent shorts.

The 10 films on the program include such noteworthy titles as “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” (1906),  “Red Spectre” (1907), “The Acrobatic Fly” (1908), “Princess Nicotine, or the Smoke Fairy” (1909), “Artheme Swallows His Clarinet” (1912) and “The Life and Death of 9413, A Hollywood Extra” (1927).

These titles come from the U.S., France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Russia and lean toward the fanciful and surreal.

Interspersed with the films is a collection of vintage slides used during the silent era to advise and admonish audiences, promote coming attractions and advertise local merchants.

| Robert W. Butler

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Generally speaking, August sucks.

It’s hot and humid. My lawn dies.

But August does have one thing going for it. It’s the best month of the year for watching movies.

Granted, this wasn’t planned. In fact, it’s kind of like one of those experiments where a lab geek is trying to develop a new hemorrhoidal jelly and ends up discovering a cure for cancer.

If you’re into big, expensive (and dumb) popcorn pictures, you might want to stick to May, June and July.

If your taste runs to portentous Oscar hopefuls then November and December will be your months.

August is my favorite movie month by default.

It just sort of happened. I realized that so far this month we’ve seen the debuts of “Another Earth,” “Sarah’s Key,” “The Help,” “One Day” and “The Trip.”  Not to mention “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Project Nim,” and “The Double Hour,” all of which opened on July 29 and so in a sense are actually August releases.

In some months I wait in vain to see even one reasonably smart film. That’s not a problem in August.

That’s because Hollywood views August as the dog’s-ass end of the movie year. The big summer releases have already opened. The kids are getting ready for school and won’t be packing the megaplexes any more.

And so by default August has become the month when the industry unloads all the films they weren’t sure how to market, the films in which they have no faith.

The serious dramas. Movies with downbeat elements. Smart films. Subtitled films.

In other words, good films.

So, thank you, August. And thank you, Hollywood, even though you had no idea what you were doing.

| Robert W. Butler

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Tyler Roberds in "Pawn's Move"

Local filmmaker Caleb Vetter will premiere his second feature, “Pawn’s Move,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Palazzo 16 Theater, 135th and Metcalf.

Admission is $6.

Written by northeast Missouri screenwriter Kim P. Wells, “Pawn’s Move” is about a shy young man who inherits from his boss, the late proprietor of an antique story, an item worth several million dollars.

With his life turned around and pursued by a money-hungry young woman, our hero relocates to another town where he encounters an equally shy girl with a clouded past. They’re brought together by chess and faith.

“Pawn’s Move” was produced by CV Productions, Vetter’s faith-based film company, and stars Tyler Roberds, Jami Harris and Sheena Pena.

The film will be shown at the upcoming Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF) at the Glenwood Arts, and at the Marantha International Christian Film Festival. At the Bare Bones International Film Festival it was named Best Family Film and took home the Audience Choice award for best feature.

Vetter’s previous feature was “Anyone Accept David.” He also worked on the sound for the locally-lensed “Works in Progress.”

For more information visit the film’s web site at  www.pawnslinkthemovie.com.

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Every now and then one of the big exhibition chains decides it wants to get into the art film business.

The truth is that they really don’t want to — it’s way too much work for too little money — but they insist on doing so, anyway.

And usually botch the job.

In Kansas City it’s typical for an artsy title to debut at one of our long-established indy theaters — the Tivoli or one of the Fine Arts or Screenland outlets — and if it draws a huge crowd on opening weekend, then the big chains will take notice and demand a run on one of their screens for the second or third week.

Otherwise the exhibition gorillas really don’t have much use for cinema esoterica. They’re selling Big Macs, not handcrafted chocolates.

Still, they continue to make halfhearted stabs. Maybe they’re afraid of being thought of as mercenary cinema philistines and want to be able to say, “Look, we’re showing a classy movie here.”

Naaaaaaah. (more…)

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John Shipp: film peddler

“THE FILM PEDDLER”  (Playing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Screenland Crown Center.)

I’ve known John Shipp for more than 30 years, but it took this lighthearted, utterly charming documentary for me to truly appreciate the guy.

In recent years Shipp has been known as a film booker and as a moving force in Kansas City FilmFest, the Film Society of Greater Kansas City and CinemaKC.

But this film, made by his nephews, Devin and Shannon Kelley (their first effort, and it’s a keeper), opened my eyes to Shipp’s wildly colorful backstory.

More than four decades ago, we’re informed, Shipp became the youngest MGM branch manager ever. But working for a big company wasn’t precisely what this ambitious guy was looking for.

Shipp wanted to be his own boss. And he more or less created (more…)

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Get your tickets and gird your loins.

GayFest is upon us.

That’s the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival of Kansas City, for the uninitiated, and it gets underway Friday, June 24 at the Tivoli Theatre in Westport.

I’ve been able to pre-screen several of this year’s titles; what follows is one guy’s picks of the best of the fest: (more…)

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JUNE  12:

It’s been a crappy weekend for Missouri’s filmmaking community.

After months of buttonholing state legislators to make the case that the film industry is good for the Show Me State, advocates for Missouri moviemaking have received hugely discouraging news.

Gov. Jay Nixon has eliminated the Missouri Film Office, which legislators had voted to continue funding to the tune of $200,000 a year.

Among other things the film office, headed by Jerry Jones, scouts film locations for out-of-state producers and acts as a liaison between filmmakers and local talent, vendors and movie professionals.
But as of July 1 the office will cease to exist.


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One of the summer’s most anticipated films, a documentary about a homegrown C&W star and the story behind Hollywood’s first openly gay feature film are among the attractions of this year’s Kansas City Gay & Lesbian Film Festival scheduled for June 24-30 at the Tivoli in Westport.

But even before the fest gets underway, it’s offering a teaser. “Going Down in La-La Land,” based on the hit novel about a young actor who finds himself a star in the adult entertainment world, will be shown June 16 at the Screenland Armour Theatre in North Kansas City. It’s a benefit for GSP.

For tickets, trailers of all the films and more detailed information visit http://www.kcgayfilmfest.com and www.castromovienights.org.

Here’s the schedule for this year’s Gay Fest:


Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners"

6:30 p.m.:  “BEGINNERS” — Inspired by his own father’s late-in-life coming out, Mike Mills’ celebrated film centers on a son (Ewan McGregor) dealing with his newly widowed — and liberated — father (Christopher Plummer).


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