The Minneapolis/Saint Paul Film Festival is upon us!

The 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), the biggest film festival in the Midwest, starts Thursday, April 9 and runs through Saturday, April 25, with the looming probability of hosting another week of “Best of the Fest” picks, continues to make odd decisions year after year. Around a month ago, MSPIFF announced its closing night film, before its opening night film (?), the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy,  directed by Bill Pohlad, on Saturday, April 25, following its Minnesota premiere the night before at the Walker Art Center. This announcement came across as no surprise, but the bigger surprise is why on earth would you use your closing night slot on a film that is premiering a mere four miles away the night before? Was there not another film available to close with, say, director James Ponsoldt’s terrific David Foster Wallace film, The End of the Tour? Continue Reading

Slamdance Film Festival 2015: Lackluster at best

Sitting on its prime location at the top of the hill of historic Main Street in Park City, Utah, it has been weeks since the 21st annual Slamdance Film Festival ended. The excitement in the Treasure Mountain Inn (where Slamdance operates out of) was felt every time I walked into the building meeting with old friends and being introduced to new folks. Truth be told, I did not get the opportunity to see any of the films at the festival, but thankfully, I was sent plenty of DVDs and links to view as part of my planned coverage on Slamdance. The biggest surprise and best film was by MN filmmaker, Britni West, where she premiered her absolute delightful indie drama, Tired Moonlight, which took home the Narrative Jury prize. (I also interviewed her for Continue Reading

Sundance Film Festival 2015: Top 10 of 27 films viewed

PARK CITY, UTAH—With my bags packed and ready to head to the airport at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning the day before the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, there was a feeling of uncertainty heading to Park City, Utah for my eighth year in a row. Maybe I was a bit unprepared this go round compared to years past. The chatter and reports were everywhere on the most vital film industry websites (IndiewireDeadlineVarietythe Hollywood Reporter, etc.) on all the most anticipated films—who will be the breakout stars, what films will be bought, etc. I took very little notice until I arrived at the Salt Lake City airport and made my way into Park City. It was harder than ever to chart a list or map or films to see at Sundance, not to mention Slamdance too, as they had a nice slate of independent/foreign films screening concurrently over Sundance dates. Getting bombarded with emails, interview requests daily, even hourly from publicists and PR companies on coverage for seeing this film, and interviewing this star or director, became nonsensical and frankly, draining, yet I managed to see 27 films. Continue Reading

Top Ten Films of 2014

At the beginning of 2014, my life began looming in different directions right around the time I took my annual trip to the Sundance Film Festival in mid-January. I vowed to begin looking for work outside of the arts, or particularly film, where I had spent a decade working in, once I returned to Minnesota. And then a funny thing happened—I found myself back in our rented condo at Sundance alone as I had retreated back dealing with some nasty altitude sickness. Rather than going to bed, I started looking at different job postings and to my amazement, I saw a listing for a film Program Director position in Austin, Texas. While I did not realize it at time this posting was something of a revelation. A few days earlier, I had seen a magical life-affirming film by longtime Austin resident and founder of the Austin Film Society, writer/director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Continue Reading

Director Justin Simien brings “Dear White People” to the Walker Art Center

PARK CITY, UTAH— Director Justin Simien’s Dear White People was one of the most talked about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also filmed in Minnesota. It had plenty of buzz entering the festival and played to packed public screenings with additional press screenings to accommodate press and distributors. While it took some time after Sundance ended for Dear White People to find U.S. distribution, Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions eventually picked it up and it will be released in the fall of 2014. The film’s much-anticipated Minnesota premiere is this Friday, May 2 at 7:30pm at the Walker Art Center. The series is part of the Walker’s NEXT LOOK series featuring five films premiering at Sundance in 2014. IFP’s Midwest Filmmaker Conference will feature Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper who will introduce Dear White People along with Simien. Continue Reading

Dan Schneidkra​ut’s “Old Man” screens at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Fest

The power of filmmaking can sometimes take hold and lift us into an escapist retreat from our entire life, and other times it can be a wondrous experience of dealing with an emotional turbulence, strange melancholy, or a genuine belly laugh that can make your head hurt from laughter. One of those films I experienced all of these feelings were in local filmmaker, Dan Schenidkraut’s newest film, Old Man, which screens Monday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Main Theater as part of the 2014 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). Dan Schneidkraut’s film opens with Andy Schneidkraut walking out of his record shop in Boulder, Col.—Albums on the Hill, the last standing record shop in Boulder today. Continue Reading

2014 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival features very long, but very good movies

The 2014 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF ), the biggest film festival in the Midwest, starts Thursday, April 3 and runs through Saturday, April 19. The festival is sure to bring in big crowds to the St. Anthony Main theaters, and this year will also include satellite venues at the Walker Art Center and the newly renovated Northrup Auditorium (called the Best Buy Theatre) on the University of Minnesota campus. There is still no Saint Paul venue however, leaving one wondering when the “S” in MSPIFF will finally disappear from its acronym (MPIFF, maybe) or if the Film Society of MSP will eventually find a venue across the river in our state’s capital.The list of films, events, panels, and parties at any film festival is always semi-overwhelming for the average festivalgoer, but could very well be a treat for true cinephiles if they put their head down and get their money’s with a Gold Pass at $425. Continue Reading

The top films from the 2014 SXSW Film/Music/Interactive festival

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The 2014 SXSW Film/Music/Interactive festival has been over for two weeks now and while it was another year filled with great films, there is still an ominous feeling surrounding this year’s festival. A drunk driver killed two people and injured 23 people on March 13th on Red River Street and 11th Avenue. The death toll is up to four now, and Rashad Owens, 21, is now facing capital murder charges with bail set at $3 million. While it was my first time attending SXSW, it will be hard to forget this tragic incident despite the good times I had seeing movies, catching up with old friends, and seeing live music. SXSW started a donation drive, “SXSW Cares” for the victims and within 24 hours they had raised $40,000. Continue Reading

SXSW Music/Film/Interactive festival 2014: More than music

AUSTIN, TEXAS—Being in Austin, Tex. the days leading up to the 2014 South By Southwest (SXSW) Music/Film/Interactive festival (Friday, March 7 –Sunday, March 16) has been an eye-opening experience. The downtown Austin district is overflowing with people putting together stages for outdoor venues, hanging corporate banners flagging inside the Austin Convention Center, and placing parking barriers on nearly every street. Driving or walking down Congress and 6th Street is  confusing and exhilarating as you question your own sanity and the insanity of traffic in downtown when you realize you have only driven a block, or you have not moved at all, in 10 minutes. Yes, the hoopla of attending my first SXSW has been enjoyable thus far without even walking into a movie theater, nightclub, or a conference room yet. Continue Reading

Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar” premieres in the Twin Cities before the Academy Awards

Less than three weeks away is the 86th Academy Awards. Most of the Oscar-nominated films are now playing in local Twin Cities theaters or are available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Redbox, or cable download, but there are a few that have not opened locally yet. This was an issue for many who want to see the entire pool of Oscar nominated films before the awards. Now that the Oscars are pushed back to Sunday, March 2, it gives studios another four weeks to promote and market their potential derby winners and audiences the opportunity to fill out their ballots in confidence, or at least tell their family and friends who they would vote for.The best Foreign Language category is always one where it seems only one or two films play in the Twin Cities. However, three of the nominees have already screened in the Twin Cities: Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown, Italy’s The Great Beauty, and Denmark’s, The Hunt. Continue Reading