IFFBoston ’12 Review: The Queen of Versailles

IFFBoston ’12 Review: The Queen of Versailles

What happen’s when you go from having anything, to not being able to afford it?

It’s easy to look at Lauren Greenfield’s documentary the The Queen of Versailles and be shocked, even disgusted at the wealth of David and Jackie Siegel. But that’s not what the film is about. Not once did I feel that Greenfield was mocking, or asking the audience to laugh at her subjects. What she was doing was painting an elaborate, detailed portrait of an extremely wealthy family. Queen of Versailles is the anti-Real Housewives of wherever – rather than romanticizing their position in life, the film does a really great job of showing them us as they are. This isn’t a caricature, it’s definitely the real deal.

The film starts as David and Jackie Siegel are in the midst of planning and designing the largest single-family home in America. Both came from humble beginnings, and in the 70s and 80s, Siegel built his empire, Westgate, a timeshare company. Jackie, his fourth wife, was former Miss Florida, and married David in the mid 90s. Together, the couple has 7 children, and have taken on an 8th, Jackie’s niece.

The home, a merger of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris hotel in Vegas, is a 90,000 square foot structure that is the definition of luxury. The plans for the finished house have marble everywhere, gold plating, paintings, antiques, and 30 bathrooms.

The film turns from a story about living in luxury to a riches to [almost] rags tale – following the completion of the Planet Hollywood Westgate towers in Las Vegas, the bottom falls from underneath them as the sub-prime mortgage based timeshare business falls apart along with the rest of the economy.

Greenfield followed the Siegel family for two years, and it seemed like nothing was denied as far as access goes. There’s a lot of stuff that could be fairly embarrassing for the family, moments like Jackie asking what the name of her driver is while renting a car from Hertz. With limited staff at their home, the house becomes overrun with dog feces and clutter.

Should we feel bad for the Siegel’s? No, because I don’t believe that was Greenfield’s intention either. What we have here is an amazing record of just how the economic downfall affected even the most well off family. What’s it like for the super rich to have to cut back? Just as much a culture shock as it’d be for a middle class family to cut back. Just super amplified. To borrow a quote from a friend who also saw the film, if I’m ever that rich, I’ll be sure to have a rainy day fund.

IFFBoston ’12 VIDEO: Q&A with Xan Aranda – Andrew Bird: Fever Year

IFFBoston ’12 VIDEO: Q&A with Xan Aranda – Andrew Bird: Fever Year

Xan Aranda talks candidly about making Andrew Bird: Fever Year, at a Q&A following the screening at IFFBoston 2012.


IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Downeast

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Downeast

The recent closure of a sardine canning factory has brought Gouldsboro, a small coastal town in Maine, to a total standstill. Made up of mostly 70-year olds, the laid off residents of the town are eager to get back to work. So when Italian immigrant Antoniio Bussone arrives from Boston looking to open a new lobster processing plant, most of the local labor welcomes him with open arms.

The film Downeast is about finding hope, a man who’s willing to risk it all to succeed, and a generation that still gives a 110%. Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin.

The film screens at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Sunday, April 29th, at 12:15pm. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film

Everyone remembers Polaroid cameras vividly. I remember as a kid being amazed at this strange technology that produces a printed picture magically in front of your eyes. But, the advent of digital cameras completely tore the company apart, rather than the instant gratification of a printed photo, you now have the instant gratification of a digital screen.

TIME ZERO: The Last Year of Polaroid Film premieres at the 2012 Independent Film Festival of Boston – a mere 3 miles from Polaroid’s former headquarters. The documentary chronicles the death, and rebirth, of Polaroid instant film. After documenting the day when Polaroid announced it would cease production of instant film, the film shares the stories of several photographers, including film maker John Waters as they recount hearing the news, and follows the efforts of a small team who tried to keep instant photography alive.

The film, directed by Grant Hamilton, looks incredibly nostalgic, and extremely fascinating.

The film screens at IFFBoston at the Somerville Theater, Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 12:30pm. Tickets are available at iffboston.org.

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself

Directed by Tom Bean and Luke Poling, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself is a documentary about the writer, editor, amateur sportsman,and friend to many, George Plimpton.

The film uses Plimpton’s own voice, along with stories from friends, family, and contemporaries to paint a colorful picture of richly filled life.

Plimpton of course co-founded The Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines in history and is known for his participatory journalism – highlighted by books like Paper Lion (when George played quarterback for the Detroit Lions).

The IFFBoston screening is a preview screening, and has sold out! However, there rush tickets still available (IFFBoston holds a number of seats for pass holders, but 15 minutes before the show, they release any empty seats to the rush line). Make sure to show up well before the screening to try to get in. Lonelyreviewer will have a one-on-one interview with the filmmakers during the festival, so make sure to check back for that!

Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself screens at IFFBoston at the Brattle Theater, Sunday, April 29th, at 5:30pm.

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Ok, Good

IFFBoston ’12 Spotlight: Ok, Good

Ok, Good from director Daniel Martinco is a character study of an actor beginning to unravel. The teaser trailer features actor Paul Kaplan (Played by Hugo Armstrong) in what appears to be pulled from a series of “auditions,” saying his name over and over again – at the end, clearly expressing a bit of frustration.

The film is the story of Paul Kaplan, a typical LA actor, going to auditions, sending out headshots, taking movement class, and listening to motivational tapes in his car. Paul, struggles through a series of setbacks that pushes him closer to the edge.

Being in actor in LA is a constant flow of rejection, and as a sucker for narrative films that come of almost as cinema vérité that this one seems to be definitely peaks my interest.

The film had its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, and played in competition at the Atlanta Film Festival.

Ok, Good screens at IFFBoston at the Somerville Theater Saturday, April 28th, 2:15pm. Tickets can be purchased at iffboston.org.

IFFBoston 2011 Wrap-Up

The Independent Film Festival of Boston came to a close last night at the Coolidge Corner Theater with the screening of CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP. A week filled with 90 narrative, documentary, and short films, the festival as always, was a great success.

While I’ve still got a few more reviews I’m working on, I wanted to post about the various winners of Grand Jury Prizes and Audience awards.

2011 Narrative Feature Award Winners:

Grand Jury Prize: LITTLEROCK directed by Mike Ott
Special Jury Prize: GREEN directed by Sophia Takal
Audience Award Winner: 13 ASSASSINS directed by Takashi Miike

2011 Documentary Feature Award Winners:

Grand Jury Prize: LAST DAYS HERE directed by Don Argott & Demian Fenton
Special Jury Prize: CONVENTO directed by Jarred Alterman
Audience Award Winner: RAISING RENEE directed by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing: HOW TO DIE IN OREGON

2011 Short Film Award Winners:

Grand Jury Prize: ICH BIN’S HELMUT directed by Nicolas Steiner
Special Jury Prize: THE STRANGE ONES directed by Lauren Wolkstein & Christopher Radcliff
Audience Award: FLYING ANNE directed by Catherine van Campen

Only 51 weeks till the 10th Annual Independent Film Festival of Boston (yeah so what, it is never too early for a countdown!), to stay up to date with the festival, you can join their mailing list at iffboston.org, or follow them on Twitter.

IFFBoston ’11 Review: The Future

IFFBoston ’11 Review: The Future

‘The Future,’ is Miranda July’s follow up to her debut film ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know.’ It tells the story of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), and their decision to adopt a terminally ill cat named Paw Paw.

Their good intentioned decision is to prevent Paw Paw from being euthanized at the Vet, and for the last six months they believe she’ll live, the pair will give her a happy life. However, it turns out that under good care, Paw Paw could live up to five years. Because of the constant care the cat will need, Sophie and Jason view the adoption of Paw Paw like getting a newborn baby, and quickly become terrified at the idea of losing their freedom. Given 30 days to pick Paw Paw up, they quit their jobs to use the last 30 days of freedom they have to do whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do.

The film deals with a relationships, and the struggles of making something of your life – all through July’s unique voice. The film takes place a world that looks like reality, but has fantastical aspects – we hear the voice of Paw Paw, a t-shirt that has a life of its own, and a Moon that talks.

Sophie and Jason are essentially living a bohemian lifestyle somewhere in Los Angeles, Jason doing tech support and based at home, and Sophie teaching dance to children. Once the two quit their jobs, Sophie decides she’s going to make 30 dances in 30 days that she’ll post on the internet, and Jason takes up the task of going door to door selling trees for a greener city.

Things become complicated when Sophie begins speaking with an older man, taking in the suburbs so to speak – a decision which changes many things between Sophie and Jason as the film moves on.

With July the word ‘auteur’ comes to mind – she has a unique style that if I started watching this film in the middle, I would recognize it as hers. The performances by all the actors can only be described as unique. They don’t necessarily “act” the way normal people do, but in this world, that’s ok.

Technology is featured quite a bit in ‘Future,’ the film opens with the two leads sitting on a couch typing away on their laptops, barely interacting with each other. A little into the film, Sophie cancels their internet, believing that anything they want to accomplish is going to be ruined by it. In the Q & A following the film, a question was asked about her reference to “Facebook” and the way technology is featured in the film. July said that it was important to show technology because it is such an important part of our lives, but she also had to take it away for anything to really happen to the characters.

Surrealist, dark, and emotional, ‘The Future,’ is a wonderful film, that will definitely be seeing a wider theatrical release in the next few months.

Check out some great video from the Q&A here!

IFFBoston ’11 VIDEO: ‘Being Elmo’ Q&A

IFFBoston ’11 VIDEO: ‘Being Elmo’ Q&A

Kevin Clash, Constance Marks, and Elmo answer questions from the audience at opening night of the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Elmo chimes in with what its like living on Sesame Street, and does his best impression of Barry White. ‘Being Elmo’ is an amazing film! SEE IT. Elmo comes in at the 2’40” mark!

Also, a quick segment with Kevin talking about Baby Sinclair on Dinosaurs and Splinter on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

IFFBoston 2011 Line Up Announced

IFFBoston 2011 Line Up Announced

The Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced their lineup for the 2011 festival. The 9th Annual Festival opens April 27th, and ends May 4, 2011, as in years past, screenings will take place at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, and the Stuart Street Playhouse in downtown Boston.

The festival will feature 110 film screenings, Q&As with filmmakers, panel discussion, visiting filmmakers, parties and events that will showcase the best in current American and International cinema.

The opening night film of the Festival is “Being Elmo,” directed by Constance Marks, this will be the first time the festival is being opened by a documentary. The film tells the story of Kevin Clash, from his dreams to becoming a puppeteer, and to work with Jim Henson, to the present day, where he performs as Sesame Street’s star Elmo. Director Constance Marks, Kevin Clash, and Elmo will be in attendance Opening Night.

The closing night film will be “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,” a documentary following late night host Conan O’Brien from the days just after his NBC breakup to the creation of his stage tour in 2010. Director Rodman Flender will be in attendance.

Lonely Reviewer offers extensive coverage of the entire Festival, from previews and spotlights, to reviews of the screenings and events. As always, we look forward to IFFBoston, as it is one of the best programmed festivals we’ve ever been to.

Film-only and Chrome All-Access passes are now available on the festival website at http://www.iffboston.org/buypasses. Individual film tickets and the festival schedule will be available on the festival website in early April.

Here is the list of official selections for IFFBoston 2011

Narrative Features

13 ASSASSINS directed by Takashi Miike
BELLFLOWER directed by Evan Glodell
BENEATH CONTEMPT directed by Benjamin Brewer
THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM directed by Todd Rohal
CIRCUMSTANCE directed by Maryam Keshavarz
FANNY, ANNIE & DANNY directed by Chris Brown
THE FUTURE directed by Miranda July
GREEN directed by Sophia Takal
LITTLE ROCK directed by Mike Ott
THE MULBERRY TREE directed by Mark Heller
OLIVER SHERMAN directed by Ryan Redford
ON THE ICE directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
SAHKANAGA directed by John Henry Summerour
THE SALESMAN directed by Sebastien Pilote
SEPTIEN directed by Michael Tully
STAKELAND directed by Jim Mickle
SUBMARINE directed by Richard Ayoade
TERRI directed by Azazel Jacobs
THE TRIP directed by Michael Winterbottom
THE TROLL HUNTER directed by Andre Ovredal
THE WHISTLE BLOWER directed by Larysa Kondracki

Just Added:

ANOTHER EARTH directed by Mike Cahill
TRIGGER directed by Bruce McDonald

Documentary Features

BEING ELMO directed by Constance Marks
THE BENGALI DETECTIVE directed by Philip Cox
BETTER THIS WORLD directed by Kelly Duane & Katie Galloway
BUCK directed by Cindy Meehl
BURMA SOLDIER directed by Nic Dunlop, Ricki Stern, & Annie Sundberg
THE CITY DARK directed by Ian Cheney
Gorman Berchard
CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP directed by Rodman Flender
CONVENTO directed by Jarred Alterman
CRIME AFTER CRIME directed by Yoav Potash
DRAGONSLAYER directed by Tristan Patterson
EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS directed by Gereon Wetzel
GOD WILLING directed by Evangeline Griego
GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR directed by Pamela Yates
HEAVEN + EARTH + JOE DAVIS directed by Peter Sasowsky
HOT COFFEE directed by Susan Saladoff
HOW TO DIE IN OREGON directed by Peter Richardson
by Marshall Curry
IVAN & IVANA directed by Jeff Silva
LAST DAYS HERE directed by Don Argott & Demian Fenton
MAKE BELIEVE directed by J. Clay Tweel
PROJECT NIM directed by James Marsh
PUPPET directed by David Soll
PUSH: MADISON VS. MADISON directed by Rudy Hypolite
RAISING RENEE directed by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan
SONS OF PERDITION directed by Jennilyn Merten & Tyler Measom
SUPERHEROES directed by Michael Barnett
WE STILL LIVE HERE directed by Anne Makepeace
WHO TOOK THE BOMP?: LE TIGRE ON TOUR directed by Kerthy Fix
WINDFALL directed by Laura Israel

Short Films

8 directed by Daniel Laabs & Julie Gould
AFTER YOU LEFT directed by Jef Taylor
ALL DAY YEAH directed by Charlie Anderson
BABY directed by Daniel Mulloy
BOB AND THE TREES directed by Diego Ongaro
THE BOWLER directed by Sean Dunne
BOY directed by Topaz Adizes
CHAINSAW FOUND JESUS directed by Spencer Parsons
THE CONTRACT directed by Lina Mannheimer
DEEPER THAN YESTERDAY directed by Ariel Kleiman
THE DENTIST directed by Alex Mallis
FLYING ANNE directed by Catherine Van Campen
FRACTURE directed by Nicolas Sarkissian
ICE HOCKEY directed by Larry Cohen
ICH BIN’S HELMUT directed by Nicolas Steiner
IRMA directed by Charles Fairbanks
JUPITER ELICIUS directed by Kelly Sears
LITTLE HORSES directed by Levi Abrino
MR. HAPPY MAN directed by Matt Morris
NEGATIVIPEG directed by Matthew Rankin
PIONEER directed by David Lowery
POSTER GIRL directed by Sara Nesson
PROTOPARTICLES directed by Chema Garcia Ibarra
THE STRANGE ONES directed by Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein
TATOOINE directed by Eric Power
WE’RE LEAVING directed by Zachary Treitz
YOUNG BIRD SEASON directed by Nellie Kluz