PFS Interview – Ava DuVernay, Director of Selma

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Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Alex Gibson

An early scene in Selma depicts Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, sitting in an Alabama courthouse. She nervously approaches the window and hands in a completed voter registration form. The white man behind the counter, who has clearly thwarted her previous attempts at voter registration, studies her form. He looks up and challenges her to recite the preamble to the Constitution. She does so perfectly from memory. Annoyed, he asks her how many county judges there are in Alabama. Sixty-seven, she answers confidently, probably having been stumped last time. The man sneers back at her, “Name them,” he says.

When she cannot, the man stamps DENIED on her registration form, and she is sent away again.photo (32)

Though by 1965, all Americans technically had the right to vote, experiences like Cooper’s (and worse) were extremely common in the South. African Americans were met with derision, oppression, institutional obstacles, and violence when trying to register to vote. As a result, masses of black people were disenfranchised and denied a basic American right. The marches from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights Leaders of the time, eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voter registration and is considered one of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement.

When Selma opens nationwide on January 9, it will be making history for a couple of reasons. Not only is it the first studio film about Dr. King, but it has also garnered director Ava DuVernay with a Golden Globe nod, making her the first African-American woman to be nominated. She will make history again if nominated for an Academy Award this month.

DuVernay recently visited Philadelphia for a pre-holiday screening of Selma, and I was honored to speak with her about her film and activism for African-American filmmakers.

PFS Interview – Rupert Wyatt, Director of The Gambler

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Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Uncategorized

By Alex Gibson

In one of the many memorable scenes of The Gambler, Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) weaves through a lecture hall See it at the Roxy!lamenting the absence of genius in the world. He teaches his students that genius is born, not bred, and those who don’t have it shouldn’t even try. Though he does not call himself a genius, he will come to admit that three of his students are: the nationally ranked tennis-player Dexter (Emory Cohen), the school’s all-star basketball player (Anthony Kelley), and a shy young writer (Brie Larson). By the end of the film, these three will also be the only people who see Jim in both halves of his life, the only ones who see both sides of the coin, or in his case, the casino chip.

A loose remake of the 1974 film of the same name, The Gambler stars Mark Wahlberg as  Jim, an English professor who racks up over $260,000 worth of debt and is given seven days to repay it. Jim owes the bulk of his money to a Korean gangster Mister Lee (Alvin Ing) and Neville, a genial moneylender (Michael Kenneth Williams). After receiving and gambling away a payout from his mother (Jessica Lange), Jim later goes to Frank, played hauntingly by John Goodman, for another loan. While it seems that The Gambler centers around gambling addiction as the original film did, this version focuses more on a character who wants to get away from his life and finds an escape in casinos.

Earlier this month, The Gambler director Rupert Wyatt visited Philadelphia for a special screening of the film. The next day, I got the opportunity to discuss his film with him.

PFS Rapid Recommendations – Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

In Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year as Lou Bloom – a character as bewitching as Joyce’s fellow wanderer Leopold.  For most of the film Bloom stands hunched over with his videocamera, always at the ready to capture the immensity of our present misery.  After two hours of looking through Bloom’s unflinching lens and trying to make sense of his actions, one cannot help but be reminded of Joyce’s remark: “A lifetime in a night.  Gradually changes your character.”

PFS Rapid Recommendation – Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

Bennett Miller‘s Cannes-winning Foxcatcher tells the true story of Olympic gold medalists Dave and Mark Schultz and their relationship with multimillionaire John du Pont.  Steve Carell’s portrayal of Du Pont, a disturbed individual who claims to see man’s highest potential and makes it his life’s mission to actualize it through others, is the highlight of the film – capturing both the loneliness and the absurdity of an entitled brute painfully aware of his mother’s disapproval and his own masculine inadequacies.

PFS Rapid Recommendation – The Homesman

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Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

Taking place in the Nebraska Territory during the mid-19th century, Tommy Lee Jones‘ sophomore film The Homesman is relentless in its depiction of the formidable bleakness possessing the land our two main characters (Jones and Hilary Swank) must travel through to reach their destination.  Equally formidable is the performance from Swank, bringing life to a wonderfully complex character full of inner torment as crushing as the countryside that surrounds her.

PFS Rapid Recommendation – Jimi: All is By My Side

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Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

With Jimi: All Is By My Side, John Ridley makes it known that he is a filmmaker fed up, like many theatergoers, with the by-the-numbers biopic studios never seem to tire of churning out.  From the brilliant casting of Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix to the impressionistic approach to editing the film, Ridley has crafted a spectacle that perfectly matches Hendrix’s idiosyncratic style.  As Mr. Benjamin once put it: “Invite you to an emotion filled theater / Bring your umbrella ’cause young fella it gets no weirder.”

PFS Rapid Recommendation – Boyhood

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Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

As a native Texan and a fan of great cinema, I had every reason to look forward to Richard Linklater’s twelve-years-in-the-making Boyhood, his portrait of a child maturing from age six to age eighteen.  What I did not anticipate was Linklater proving himself the 21st century’s master of the bildungsroman, on par with Henry Fielding and James Joyce before him.  His achievement is unparalleled and sets the new benchmark for what is possible in the world of narrative cinema.