Review: ‘Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,’ starring the voice of Jenny Slate

June 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (Image courtesy of A24)

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”

Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the animated/live-action film “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one Latina) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young male seashell and his grandmother, who are living by themselves in an Airbnb rental house after their other family members have gone missing, have to adjust to a new life when a documentary filmmaker moves into the house.

Culture Audience: “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky films that blend animation with live action.

Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) and Dean Fleischer Camp in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (Image courtesy of A24)

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” could have been an excessively cute film about tiny sea shells with human-like characteristics, but this unique movie is an offbeat charmer with an appealing mix of comedy and sentimentality about life and love. The movie has an artistic blend of live action and stop-motion animation that looks organic, not forced. And although there are some parts of the film that get repetitive and not all of the jokes land well, the positive aspects of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” far outnumber any of the movie’s small flaws. “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” had its world premiere at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival and made the rounds at other film festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW), the Seattle International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The origin story of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is self-referenced throughout the movie, which has a plot that’s similar to how the movie’s title character first became an international sensation. In real life, filmmaker Dean Fleischer Camp and actress Jenny Slate did a series of short comedy videos called “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” beginning in 2010. In these videos, Slate voiced the character of Marcel, a talkative one-inch sea shell with one eye, human feet and a wryly observant and inquisitive view of life. Based on the way that Marcel talks, he has the intelligence and emotional maturity of a human boy who’s about 9 or 10 years old.

These videos about Marcel became a worldwide hit on the Internet and inspired children’s books written by Slate and Flesicher Camp. And now, there’s an entire movie about Marcel. The feature film “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” directed by Fleischer Camp (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Slate and Nick Paley) takes viewers on Marcel’s often-emotional journey to find his missing family members. Marcel lives in a middle-class house somewhere in Los Angeles, where the unmarried human couple named Larissa (played by Rosa Salazar) and Mark (played by Thomas Mann), who previously occupied the house, had a bitter breakup. The house is now being used as an Airbnb rental.

Marcel’s wise and practical grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) is Marcel’s only family member who hasn’t gone missing. Among the those who have gone missing in Marcel’s family (they are all one-eyed small shells with feet) are Marcel’s parents Mario and Connie and Marcel’s brother Justin. What bothers Marcel and Connie the most is that they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, and they have no idea where the other family members went. Marcel and Connie have photos and illustrations of their family members as visual mementos.

Marcel and Connie have a very close relationship. She often teaches Marcel things about life, often in answer to Marcel’s seemingly endless stream of questions. Connie and Marcel also love to watch “60 Minutes” together and are big fans of “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. Marcel describes Connie as very independent and resourceful. For example, Marcel says that Connie taught herself how to farm. Connie also loves to garden and spends a lot of her time in the home’s garden.

At times, Marcel has a childlike wonder and curiosity about the modern world. Other times, he has a simple clarity about how to react to difficulties or problems because he doesn’t have as much emotional baggage or insecurity as someone who is an adult. Throughout the movie, there are whimsical moments and more serious moments where Marcel’s personality and quirks get various reactions to those around him.

In the beginning of the movie, Marcel says that he and Connie are living by themselves in the house, along with their pet lint named Alan. Their solitude ends when an Airbnb renter moves into the house with his white terrier mix dog named Arthur. He’s a mild-mannered filmmaker named Dean Fleischer-Camp (playing a version of himself), who needs a new place to stay because he has recently separated from his wife. In a case of art imitating life, Slate and Fleischer Camp (who used to spell his surname as Fleischer-Camp) got married in 2012 and then got divorced in 2016.

As expected, Marcel is curious about the house’s new human resident, and the feeling is mutual. It takes Marcel much longer to get used to Arthur, Dean’s dog, since Marcel is sometimes annoyed by how the dog smells and keeps interrupting Marcel like a curious and playful dog would do. Marcel shows Dean around the house, including the potted plant where Marcel sleeps on a slice of bread. Marcel describes where he sleeps as his “breadroom.”

Marcel might seem like a precocious child, but he doesn’t know a lot about modern technology. Dean tells Marcel that he’s making an online documentary. Marcel’s response is “Online? You lost me.” Eventually, Dean shows Marcel how the Internet works when Dean begins posting videos of Marcel online. The videos become an international sensation, with Marcel developing a huge fan base. (Sound familiar?)

Marcel is overwhelmed and often flabbergasted by all this newfound attention. However, he thinks it can be put to good use when he asks Dean to help get the word out about Marcel’s missing family members. You can easily predict which TV news show might get involved. Someone who doesn’t really want to get too caught up in the fanfare is Connie, who is very skeptical of the Internet and all modern technology.

The first third of “Marcel the Shell With the Shoes On” seems like a series of skits weaved together, with a lot of wisecracking remarks from Marcel, as he and Dean start to get to know each other and eventually become friends. The other two-thirds of the movie begin to have more substance when the story focuses more on the search for Marcel’s family members. The movie has themes of love, heartbreak and grief that are handled with sensitivity without being mawkish.

For example, Marcel begins to notice after a while that Dean is very curious about Marcel, but Dean is very reluctant to talk about himself. And it’s not just because Dean wants to be an journalistic documentarian. Dean is having difficulty processing the breakup of his marriage. Dean’s preoccupation with Marcel’s problems are a way for him to cope with or avoid his own personal problems.

The movie doesn’t fully show Dean on camera until a pivotal part of the story when he’s essentially forced to talk about himself. It’s a clever way that the movie has Dean “coming out of the shadows” that reflect his own willingness to be open up more about himself and show more vulnerability. Fleischer Camp gives a solid performance, but the character of Dean seems to know that Marcel is the real star of the show.

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” has terrific voice work from Slate and Rossellini, who make an endearing and believable duo as a grandparent and grandchild. Connie isn’t a new character, but this movie is the first time that Connie gets her own backstory and story arc. Not everything in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is comedic, since the movie has some tearjerking moments that might catch some viewers by surprise. In a cinematic era when animated/live-action hybrid films are so focused on dazzling viewers with big adventures that are visual spectacles, it’s nice to have a movie like “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” that focuses more on everyday emotional connections and appreciating loved ones during life’s ups and downs.

A24 will release “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” in select U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2022.

Review: ‘Petite Maman,’ starring Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse and Stéphane Varupenne

April 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Joséphine Sanz and Gabrielle Sanz in “Petite Maman” (Photo courtesy of Lilies Films/Neon)

“Petite Maman”

Directed by Céline Sciamma

French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in France, the dramatic film “Petite Maman” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An 8-year-old girl meets another girl of the same age who is eerily similar to her.

Culture Audience: “Petite Maman” will appeal primarily to people are interested in unique movies about families and time travel.

Nina Meurisse and Joséphine Sanz in “Petite Maman” (Photo courtesy of Lilies Films/Neon)

The very memorable drama “Petite Maman” takes an insightful and endearing look at parent-child relationships and how personalities are formed in childhood. It also depicts the rhetorical question: “What would you do if you met one of your parents as a child but didn’t know it right away?” The results are fascinating, charming and often sentimental without being mawkish.

Written and directed by Céline Sciamma, “Petite Maman” clocks in at a brisk 72 minutes, which is really all the time needed for this engaging cinematic story to be told. “Petite Maman” (which takes place in an unnamed city in France) made the rounds at several top film festivals in 2021, including the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. Sciamma has made a name for herself as a filmmaker who does female-centric movies about authentic personal relationships. “Petite Maman” (which translates to “Little Mother” in English) is Sciamma’s first movie where the central female characters are pre-teen girls.

“Petite Maman” is a movie with a relatively small cast of characters (less than 10 people have speaking lines), because it’s a fairly simple story that’s rich in detailing the meaningful experiences of an 8-year-old girl who meets her mother when her mother was also 8 years old. There’s no elaborate science-fiction explanation for this time-traveling experience. Observant viewers will figure out the mystery fairly early on in the story, but it’s a delight to watch the unwitting girl discover what her mother was like at her own age.

In the beginning of “Petite Maman,” 8-year-old Nelly (played by Joséphine Sanz) is visiting a nursing home where her maternal grandmother, who was a widow, has passed away. Nelly asks her unnamed mother (played by Nina Meurisse) if she can keep a stick that used to be owned by Nelly’s grandmother. Nelly’s mother says yes.

Nelly then accompanies her parents to the house where Nelly’s grandmother used to live. It’s also the childhood home of Nelly’s mother. The house (which is located in a wooded area) is going to be sold, and most of it is already packed up, except for some essential furniture, most of it wrapped up in sheets. The kitchen is the only room in the house that looks like it hasn’t been packed up or wrapped yet in the process of the house getting a new owner.

Nelly’s mother and Nelly’s father (played by Stéphane Varupenne) have stopped by the house for some final moving arrangements. They decide to stay in the house for a few days. Nelly sleeps in the bedroom that her mother had a child. When Nelly’s mother tucks her in before Nelly goes to sleep, she mentions to Nelly that when she was a child, she didn’t like being in the room at night.

It’s soon revealed that although Nelly is a fairly obedient child, she’s more of a “daddy’s girl.” Nelly is more likely to get into disagreements with her mother, who has an unspoken air of sadness and regret about her. Nelly’s parents also don’t like to talk about their childhoods very much. Nelly’s father explains that the only thing they like to discuss about their childhoods is the Christmas presents that they received when they were kids.

But one thing that Nelly knows about her mother’s childhood is that her mother had a special hut that she built in the woods. This hut was her place where she could go when she wanted private time to herself. One of the first things that Nelly asks her mother about when they arrive at the house is: “Mom, where was your hut? Can you show me? I want to make one.”

Nelly’s mother seems too distracted with grief to grant this request. However, one day, Nelly is out walking in the woods when she sees a girl who looks exactly like her making a hut out of tree branches. The girl, whose name is Marion (played by Gabrielle Sanz, the identical twin of Joséphine Sanz), asks Nelly for help in building the hut. Nelly notices that Marion has the same name as Nelly’s mother.

It’s the beginning of a friendship where Nelly develops a deeper understanding of Marion and her childhood. Viewers find out that Marion grew up with a mother who was very overprotective. In her childhood, Marion had an operation to correct a problem that she might have inherited from her mother. Marion’s mother (played by Margot Abascal), who walks with a cane, is shown in a scene where she’s scolding Marion for playing outside because it’s against doctor’s orders.

“Petite Maman” has a plot twist revealed at the end of the movie that is emotionally poignant, especially for people who feel that this story of friendship within a family is relatable on some level. Sciamma’s telling of this story is at times whimsical but always genuinely observant of the nuances in how people relate to each other as children and as adults. The casting of identical twins Joséphine Sanz and Gabrielle Sanz (who are both very good in their respective roles as Nelly and Marion) is an inspired choice because it makes viewers pay more attention to how to tell these girls apart, in terms of their personalities.

“Petite Maman” also touches on the issue of what friendship can mean between a parent and a child. Parents of underage children often have to show or tell their kids, “I’m your parent, not your friend,” in order to set discipline boundaries. What “Petite Maman” does in a special and creative way is show that every parent’s inner child is never really lost but becomes part of who that person is as a parent and a possible friend.

Neon released “Petite Maman” in select U.S. cinemas on April 22, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on May 6, 2022. The movie was released in several European countries and in South Korea in 2021.

Review: ‘C’mon C’mon,’ starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann and Woody Norman

November 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman (center) in “C’mon C’mon” (Photo by Tobin Yelland/A24)

“C’mon C’mon”

Directed by Mike Mills

Culture Representation: Taking place in various U.S. cities (including Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans), the dramatic film “C’mon C’mon” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A never-married, middle-aged bachelor, who works as a radio producer, finds out for the first time in his life what it feels like to be a parent when he takes care of his estranged sister’s 9-year-old son for an extended period of time.

Culture Audience: “C’mon C’mon” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching emotionally intimate, well-acted movies about family relationships.

Woody Norman and Gaby Hoffmann in “C’mon C’mon” (Photo by Tobin Yelland/A24)

What does “family” mean to you? The answer depends on who’s answering the question. The dramatic film “C’mon C’mon” (written and directed by Mike Mills) is an emotional portrait of three family members coming to terms with their individual identities and what the concept of “family” means to them. The movie also takes an equally impactful, broader look at children’s various perspectives of the world, because the male lead character (who’s a radio producer) travels across the U.S. to interview children about the world for his radio show.

As the three family members who go through various ups and downs in the story, Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann and Woody Norman give noteworthy performances that will make more than a few viewers shed some tears, but not in a manipulative, melodramatic way. The acting in the movie looks natural and somewhat effortless. In some ways, “C’mon C’mon” is a road trip movie, but the real journey is how the three main characters discover new things about each other and themselves.

“C’mon C’mon,” whose cinematography is entirely in black and white, was filmed from November 2019 to January 2020, before the COVID-19 virus infection rate turned into a pandemic. However, the movie seemingly aims not to identify the story by any particular year in the early 21st century. “C’mon C’mon” made the rounds at a few film festivals (such as the Telluride Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival and New York Film Festival), because of the movie’s pedigree as an awards contender. The entire story of “C’mon C’mon” takes a low-key approach, so don’t expect extreme plot developments or surprising twists to happen.

In the movie, Phoenix is a radio producer named Johnny, who lives in New York City, but he travels a lot because of his job. Johnny is a never-married bachelor in his 40s, he has no children, and he’s currently not dating anyone. Later on in the film, it’s revealed that Johnny hasn’t had a special love in his life for quite some time. He’s essentially “married” to his work. He’s good at his job, but he doesn’t seem emotionally attached to anyone. That’s about to change.

Johnny is currently working on a series that interviews children from all over the United States. In the interviews, Johnny asks them things such as “What do you think about the future?” or “What scares you?” or “What makes you angry?” Sometimes, the children are interviewed with their parents in the room, while other times no adults are in the room except Johnny and a co-worker. Throughout the movie, various children are shown being interviewed by Johnny. Most times, they appear on screen, but other times, Johnny is seen playing back snippets of these audio interviews.

“C’mon C’mon” opens in Detroit, where Johnny is doing some of these interviews. A 13-year-old girl who’s being interviewed says that adults have to pay more attention to what’s around them. Throughout the movie, many of the children’s comments express a hopeful but concerned outlook on life. Many of the kids worry about some of the problems that they have to deal with (a decaying environment, racism, economic insecurities) that they think will become heavier burdens when they are adults.

One day, when he’s in a hotel room, Johnny gets a call from his estranged younger sister Viv (played by Hoffmann), who is is only sibling. Viv, who is a single mother living in Los Angeles, has called to tell Johnny that she needs him to come to Los Angeles to temporarily take care of her 9-year-old son Jesse (played by Norman), who barely knows Johnny. Viv explains that Jesse’s father Paul (played by Scoot McNairy), who moved to Oakland (which is about 370 miles north of Los Angeles), is going through some personal issues, and Viv wants to be there for Paul. Viv and Paul (who were never married) are no longer a couple, and she has sole custody of Jesse.

The conversation is polite but strained. There’s obvious tension between Johnny and Viv, which they don’t want to get into over the phone. However, it’s revealed in this phone call that Johnny and Viv have some lingering resentment toward each other over their mother, who died about a year ago after an extended period of being in ill health. Eventually, viewers find out that Johnny and Viv disagreed over how their mother should be cared for in her final months of life and whether or not taking her off of life support should be an option.

Johnny agrees to put some of his work on hold to go to Los Angeles and look after Jesse. When he arrives at Viv’s home, Jesse is shy with Johnny, an uncle he hasn’t seen for years. However, Jesse is aware that Viv and Johnny have barely spoken to each other and have had an estranged relationship for quite some time. And this family discord isn’t just because of Johnny and Viv’s mother.

The tension between Viv and Johnny is also because Johnny disapproves of Paul. Not everything about Viv and Paul’s history with each other is revealed, but enough comes out in conversations for viewers to find out why Johnny considers Paul to be a disruptive force in their family. It’s implied that Johnny never really thought that Paul was good enough for Viv, especially because of the emotional pain she went through by being in a relationship with Paul.

Paul is bipolar, which is not specifically said out loud in the movie, but it’s implied based on his symptoms and other clues in the movie. For example, Jesse has a children’s book called “The Bipolar Bear Family: When a Parent Has Bipolar Disorder,” written by Angela Ann Holloway. Paul has been in a psychiatric facility before to get treatment for his mental illness.

Paul apparently doesn’t have any close relatives who can look after him, because Viv seems to be the only person in his life who’s taken on the responsibility of getting him the treatment that he needs. And because Paul and Viv were never married and are no longer a couple, it explains the murky situation that comes about when Viv has to make certain decisions about Paul’s medical care. Paul is shown briefly in the movie in present-day scenes and in flashbacks.

Paul is a symphony musician, who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area because he wanted to work for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. As Viv explains to Johnny, “the transition fucked him up,” and Paul is having some kind of breakdown. Viv needs to go to the San Francisco Bay Area to see about convincing Paul to check himself into another mental health facility again. She would rather that he get treatment voluntarily, because she doesn’t want to be the one to force him into an involuntary admission to a psychiatric institution.

Meanwhile, Jesse is aware that his father has bioplar disorder, but no one in the family has ever told him any specific details about why Paul’s illness is severe enough that he has to get in-patient treatment for it. (The word “suicidal” is never mentioned to Jesse, but it’s implied that Paul has been a danger to himself.) All Jesse knows is that his father sometimes has to go into a hospital when he has another episode that needs treatment. The stigma of mental illness is realistically portrayed in “C’mon C’mon,” as something that family members feel secret guilt or shame about, because they often try to hide or deny the illness.

During the course of the movie, Viv has to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area longer than she expected. And so, Johnny ends up taking care of Jesse for longer than Johnny expected. The majority of “C’mon C’mon” is about how Johnny and Jesse’s uncle/nephew relationship evolves to the point where Johnny becomes the closet thing that Jesse has to a father figure. At one point, Johnny contemplates whether or not he should move to Los Angeles.

Johnny’s caretaking of Jesse doesn’t happen in one, long continuous stretch. There’s a point in the movie where Viv returns to Los Angeles and then has to go back to the Bay Area again, but Johnny can’t be in Los Angeles because of work commitments. Jesse begs Viv to let him stay with Johnny in New York City and then travel with Johnny on the job. Johnny and Jesse’s travels are not spoiler details, because they’re shown in the movie’s trailers.

Jesse is a precocious and curious child who loves to read. Viv encourages Jesse to be a free thinker and allows him to question things. It’s why Jesse asks Johnny some questions that make Jesse uncomfortable, such as why Johnny isn’t married. Johnny says that he was with someone named Louisa, but she broke up with him. Johnny says he still loves Louisa, who is not seen in the movie.

One question that’s harder for Johnny to answer is why he and Viv stopped talking to each other for a long time. Johnny tactfully explains to Jesse that it’s because he and Viv couldn’t agree on the caregiving for their dying mother. The mother’s cause of death is never mentioned in the movie, but there are flashback scenes of Viv and Johnny visiting their mother on her deathbed.

There were resentments and jealousies between the two siblings before their mother got sick. Viv always felt that she never got the full approval of her mother and that Johnny was the favored child. Johnny felt like Viv’s tension with their mother was the reason why Viv seemed to not be as compassionate with their dying mother as Johnny thinks Viv should have been.

Johnny doesn’t want to badmouth Viv to Jesse, so he doesn’t tell Jesse these things. However, Johnny and Viv do confront their bitter feelings for each other with arguments over the phone. Paul’s current mental breakdown has also triggered bad memories of when Johnny told Viv to break up with Paul in the past, when Viv wasn’t ready to end the relationship. Viv thinks that Johnny meddled too much in her relationship with Paul.

Soon after Johnny begins taking care of Jesse, Jesse tells Johnny that Viv correctly predicted that Johnny would be a little awkward with Jesse, but that Johnny will eventually get used to Jesse. During the time that Johnny spends with Jesse, he finds out that taking care of a child is a lot harder than he thought it would be. Viv has certain bedtime rituals for Jesse that Jesse wants Johnny to do too. Jesse also shows signs of hyperactivity, so Johnny calls Viv for advice on how to get Jesse to go to sleep.

Another thing that Johnny has to learn is how to be a responsible caregiver when it comes to children’s meals. Like a typical bachelor who lives alone and travels frequently, Johnny has a refrigerator that is not stocked with much that’s appropriate for a child. When Johnny takes Jesse with him to go grocery shopping, Johnny gets a scare when Jesse wanders off and Johnny frantically tries to find him.

The movie shows in a lot of tender and quiet moments how this uncle and nephew eventually learn to trust each other, like each other, and eventually become friends with each other. Johnny and Jesse find out that that they have a lot more in common than they originally thought. They both love Viv but they both dislike how she lets Paul’s problems consume her. Johnny and Jesse are also more comfortable talking about things outside of themselves rather than their innermost feelings. When Johnny tries to interview Jesse for his radio show, Jesse is very reluctant and says no.

However, Jesse notices that Johnny likes to make audio diaries, so Jesse starts making his own audio diaries too. Johnny also shows Jesse how to operate Johnny’s professional audio equipment. There’s an adorable scene that takes place on California’s Venice Beach where Johnny and Jesse discover that Jesse not only likes operating this equipment, he could end up having a passion for radio. When Jesse arrives in New York City, Johnny introduces Jesse to two other radio producers who work closely with Johnny: Roxanne (played by Molly Webster) and Fern (played by Jaboukie Young-White), who are both very friendly to Jesse.

One of the most effective aspects of “C’mon C’mon” is how unpretentious it is in showing that learning and protection between adults and children can go both ways. Too often, dramas with a story of an adult taking care of a child for the first time will put an emphasis on what the adult is going to teach the child. However, “C’mon C’mon” shows that Johnny learns a lot from the children he’s in contact with, whether it’s someone he met briefly during an interview, or a nephew who turns out to be a special and unexpected friend. The movie has a pivotal scene in New Orleans that’s an example of how powerful a child’s emotional protection and wisdom can be.

The black-and-white cinematography gives “C’mon C’mon” a timeless vibe to it that looks best in the New York City scenes. In other scenes, such as in the vibrancy of a New Orleans street parade or in the sunny glow of Venice Beach, some viewers might wish that the movie had been in color. The movie’s lack of color doesn’t take away from the exemplary performances and screenplay for “C’mon C’mon,” which have such authenticity, it will resonate with viewers.

In “C’mon C’mon,” Phoenix gives an understated and nuanced performance as a “regular guy” (the type of character that he usually doesn’t play), who finds out from a child that he’s not as emotionally mature as he thought he was. In the role of perceptive Jesse, Norman gives a breakout performance that will stand as one of the best from a child actor in a 2021 movie. Hoffmann brings heartache and grit to her performance as Viv, who feels conflicted and guilty over the messiness in her life, while doing her best to make what she thinks are the right decisions.

“C’mon C’mon” could have been a very sappy movie that goes off in very phony directions. Fortunately, it is not, although some viewers might be a little bored if they’re expecting more exciting action in this movie. As for the movie’s most emotional scenes, there are some genuinely sentimental, tearjerking moments, but this is not a tragic story. There are no over-the-top villains or crazy adventures.

It’s a story grounded in reality about people trying to get through life in the best way that they can. What inspired the title of this movie? It’s from one of Jesse’s audio diary entries, where he says that when unpredictable things happen in life, you just have to “c’mon c’mon.” This human resilience is celebrated eloquently in “C’mon C’mon.”

A24 released “C’mon C’mon” in select U.S. cinemas on November 19, 2021.

2019 Telluride Film Festival: programming slate announced

August 29, 2019

by Carla Hay

The 46th annual Telluride Film Festival—which takes place August 30 to September 2, 2019 in Telluride, Colorado—has announced its lineup of movies. They include the world premieres of “Judy,” starring Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland; “Ford v Ferrari,” starring Christian Bale as a race-car driver and Matt Damon as a car designer who team up to build a champion race car; “Waves,” an African American family drama, starring Sterling K. Brown; and “Motherless Brooklyn,” a crime drama starring and directed by Edward Norton as a private investigator involved in a murder case.

The Telluride Film Festival, along with the Venice International Film Festival in Italy and the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, can be considered one of the most important Oscar-contender launching pads from August to September. Unlike other major film festivals, which announce their movies weeks in advance, the Telluride Film Festival keeps its slate of movies a secret until a day or two before the festival begins.

Because the Telluride and Venice film festivals overlap in time frame, they both tend to have a lot of the same films, with Venice (the larger festival) usually having the edge in getting world premieres. For example, in 2018, both festivals had “Roma,” “The Favourite” and “First Man”—three movies that had their world premieres at Venice, and went on to win to win several awards, including Oscars and Golden Globes. In 2018, Telluride had the world premiere of the mountain-climbing documentary “Free Solo” (which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature) and the true-crime drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” which received three Oscar nominations.

The 2019 Telluride Film Festival will also have a tribute to the late Belgian French filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died on March 29. The last film she directed, the documentary “Varda by Agnes,” will screen at the festival.

In addition, the festival’s 2019 Silver Medallion Awards (given to those who’ve had significant achievements in movies) will go to Zellweger; actor Adam Driver (whose movies “Marriage Story” and “The Report” are at the festival); and writer/director Philip Kaufman, who will have two of his  movies screening at the festival “The Right Stuff” (1983) and “The Wanderers” (1979).

Dolby Laboratories will receive the festival’s 2019 Special Medallion Award.

Also at the festival is the Aretha Franklin concert documentary “Amazing Grace,” which was filmed in 1972 but wasn’t officially released in theaters until 2018 for a limited run, followed by a wider release in 2019.

Here is the complete lineup of feature-length movies in the “Show” main program at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival:

“The Aeronauts” (Directed by Tom Harper, U.S./U.K.)
“The Assistant” (Directed by Kitty Green, U.S.)
“The Australian Dream” (Directed by Daniel Gordon, Australia)
“Beanpole” (Directed by Kantemir Balagov, Russia)
“The Climb” (Directed by Michael Angelo Covino)
“Country Music” (Directed by Ken Burns, U.S.)
“Coup 53” (Directed by Taghi Amirani, U.K.)
“Diego Maradona” (Directed by Asif Kapadia, U.K.)
“Family Romance, LLC” (Directed by Werner Herzog, U.S./Japan)
“First Cow” (Directed by Kelly Reichardt, U.S.)
“Ford v Ferrari” (Directed by James Mangold, U.S.)
“A Hidden Life” (Directed by Terrence Malick, U.S.)
“The Human Factor” (Directed by Dror Moreh, U.K.)
“Inside Bill’s Brain” (Directed by Davis Guggenheim)
“Judy” (Directed by Rupert Goold, U.K./U.S.)
“The Kingmaker” (Directed by Lauren Greenfield, U.S.)
“Lyrebird” (Directed by Dan Friedkin, U.S.)
“Marriage Story” (Directed by Noah Bumbach, U.S.)
“Motherless Brooklyn” (Directed by Edward Norton, U.S.)
“Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” (Directed by Ric Burns, U.S.)
“Pain and Glory” (Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
“Parasite” (Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, South Korea)
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Directed by Céline Sciamma, France)
“The Report” (Directed by Scott Z. Burns, U.S.)
“Tell Me Who I Am” (Directed by Ed Perkins)
“Those Who Remained” (Directed by Barnabás Toth, Hungary)
“The Two Popes” (Directed by Fernando Meirelles, U.K.)
“Uncut Gems” (Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, U.S.)
“Varda by Agnès” (Directed by Agnès Varda, France)
“Verdict” (Directed by Raymond Ribay Gutierrez, Philippines)
“Waves” (Directed by Trey Edward Shults, U.S.)
“Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema” (Directed by Mark Cousins, U.K.)

Here is the complete list of films for the “Backlot” selection of documentaries at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival:

“63 Up” (Directed by Michael Apted, U.K.)
“Billie” (Directed by James Erskine, U.K.)
“Chulas Fronteras” (Directed by Les Blank, U.S., 1976)
“The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” (Directed by Thom Zimny, U.S.)
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, U.S.)
“Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin” (Directed by Werner Herzog, U.S.)
“Soros” (Directed by Jesse Dylan, U.S.)
“Uncle Yanco” (Directed by Agnès Varda, France/U.S., 1967) + “Black Panthers” (Directed by Agnès Varda, France-U.S., 1968)

Guest Director Pico Iyer, who serves as a key collaborator in the festival’s program, presents the following revival programs:

“Late Autumn” (Directed by Yasujirō Ozu, Japan, 1960)
“The Makioka Sisters” (Directed by Kon Ichikawa, Japan, 1983)
“Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” (Directed by Aparna Sen, India, 2002)
“The Phantom Carriage” (Directed by Victor Sjöström, Sweden, 1921) — new 35 mm print
“Under the Sun” (Directed by Vitaly Mansky, Czech Republic-Russia-Germany-Latvia-North Korea, 2015)
“When a Woman Ascends the Stairs” (Directed by Mikio Naruse, Japan, 1960)
“The Wind” (Directed by Victor Sjöström, U.S, 1928)

2018 Telluride Film Festival: programming slate announced

August 30, 2018

Telluride Film Festival
(Photo by Pamela Gentile)

The following is a press release from the Telluride Film Festival:

Telluride Film Festival, presented by the National Film Preserve, today announced its official program selections for the 45th edition of the Telluride Film Festival. TFF’s celebration of artistic excellence brings together cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers and artists to discover the best in world cinema in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. TFF will screen over 60 feature films, short films and revival programs representing 22 countries, along with special artist Tributes, Conversations, Panels, Student Programs and Festivities. Telluride Film Festival takes place Friday, August 31 – Monday, September 3, 2018.

45th Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following new feature films to play in its main program:

• ANGELS ARE MADE OF LIGHT (d. James Longley, U.S.-Denmark-Norway, 2018)

• BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (d. Pamela B. Green, U.S., 2018)

• BIRDS OF PASSAGE (d. Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego, Colombia-Denmark-Mexico, 2018)

• BORDER (d. Ali Abbasi, Sweden, 2018)

• BOY ERASED (d. Joel Edgerton, U.S., 2018)

• CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (d. Marielle Heller, U.S., 2018)

• COLD WAR (d. Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland-France-U.K., 2018)

• DESTROYER (d. Karyn Kusama, U.S., 2018)

• DOGMAN (d. Matteo Garrone, Italy-France, 2018)

• DOVLATOV (d. Aleksei German, Russia-Poland-Serbia, 2018)

• FIRST MAN (d. Damien Chazelle, U.S., 2018)

• FISTFUL OF DIRT (d. Sebastián Silva, U.S., 2018)

• FREE SOLO (d. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, U.S., 2018)

• GHOST FLEET (d. Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron, U.S., 2018)

• GIRL (d. Lukas Dhont, Belgium-Netherlands, 2018)

• GRAVES WITHOUT A NAME (d. Rithy Panh, France-Cambodia, 2018)

• MEETING GORBACHEV (d. Werner Herzog and André Singer, U.K.-U.S.-Germany, 2018)

• NON FICTION (d. Olivier Assayas, France, 2018)

• PETERLOO (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2018)

• REVERSING ROE (d. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, U.S., 2018)

• ROMA (d. Alfonso Cuarón, U.S.-Mexico, 2018)

• SHOPLIFTERS (d. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2018)

• THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM (d. John Chester, U.S., 2018)

• THE FAVOURITE (d. Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland-U.K.-U.S., 2018)

• THE FRONT RUNNER (d. Jason Reitman, U.S., 2018)

• THE GREAT BUSTER (d. Peter Bogdanovich, U.S., 2018)

• THE OLD MAN & THE GUN (d. David Lowery, U.S., 2018)

• THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (d. Orson Welles, U.S., 1976/2018)

• THE WHITE CROW (d. Ralph Fiennes, U.K., 2018)

• THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD (d. Morgan Neville, U.S., 2018)

• TRIAL BY FIRE (d. Ed Zwick, U.S., 2018)

• WATERGATE – OR, HOW WE LEARNED TO STOP AN OUT-OF-CONTROL PRESIDENT (d. Charles Ferguson, U.S., 2018)

• WHITE BOY RICK (d. Yann Demange, U.S., 2018)

The 2018 Silver Medallion Awards, given to recognize an artist’s significant contribution to the world of cinema, will be presented to Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuarón (with ROMA), Academy Award winning actor Emma Stone (with THE FAVOURITE) and Oscar nominated Rithy Panh (with GRAVES WITHOUT A NAME). Tribute programs include a selection of clips followed by the presentation of the Silver Medallion, an onstage interview and a screening of the aforementioned films.

Guest Director Jonathan Lethem, who serves as a key collaborator in the Festival’s program, presents the following revival programs:
• ANGEL (d. Ernst Lubitsch, U.S., 1937)
• BIGGER THAN LIFE (d. Nicholas Ray, U.S., 1956)
• NEVER CRY WOLF (d. Carroll Ballard, U.S., 1983)
• THE TARNISHED ANGELS (d. Douglas Sirk, U.S., 1957)
• THE WHITE MEADOWS (d. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran, 2009)
• TO BE OR NOT TO BE (d. Ernst Lubitsch, U.S., 1942)

Additional film revival programs include CHRISTIAN WAHNSCHAFFE, PARTS I & II (d. Urban Gad, Germany, 1920 – 1921), FIEÈ̀VRE (d. Louis Delluc, France, 1921), COEUR FID È̀̀LE (d. Louis Delluc, France, 1923) and REMOUS (d. Edmond T. Gréville, France, 1934).

Telluride Film Festival annually celebrates a hero of cinema who preserves, honors and presents great movies. This year’s Special Medallion award goes to Dieter Kosslick, film critic, journalist and researcher and current Director of the Berlin International Film Festival. The Special Medallion film, ELDORADO (d. Markus Imhoof, Germany-Switzerland, 2018) will screen in celebration.

Backlot, Telluride’s intimate screening room featuring behind-the-scenes movies and portraits of artists, musicians and filmmakers, will screen the following programs:

• A FINAL CUT FOR ORSON: 40 YEARS IN THE MAKING (d. Ryan Suffern, U.S., 2018) + THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES (d. Mark Cousins, U.K., 2018)
• HAL (d. Amy Scott, U.S., 2018)
• HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: SPEAKING OUT IN AMERICA (d. Brigitte Berman, Canada, 2018)
• IT MUST SCHWING! THE BLUE NOTE STORY (d. Eric Friedler, Germany, 2018)
• THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS (d. Peter Medak, U.K.-Cyprus, 2018)
• WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL (d. Rob Garver, U.S., 2018)

Additional Festivities will take place throughout the Festival including a Poster Signing with 2018 poster artist Woody Pirtle; a special screening of RETURN TO PODOR (d. Kevin Macdonald, U.K.-Senegal, 2018) followed by a special appearance by Baaba Maal and Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons); Eliza McNitt’s three-part virtual reality series SPHERES; 10th Anniversary screening of FOOD INC. (d. Robert Kenner, U.S., 2008); a screening of Gregory Nava’s EL NORTE (U.S.-U.K.-Mexico, 1983); and an afternoon celebration of the life of Pierre Rissient.

“I could not be more pleased with the program lineup for the 45th Telluride Film Festival,” said TFF executive director Julie Huntsinger. “The storytelling brought by this amazing group of filmmakers is both tender and fierce. They are able to bring their ideas and images to an audience with such an observant, artful exploration. This year’s lineup is a true testament to the power and force of film.”

Huntsinger goes on to praise the wonderful partnerships that help make the Festival successful year after year. “Collaborations with an incredible group of partners enhance and uplift our Festival experience each year. Of particular note this year, we are thrilled to embark on a distinctive multi-year partnership with Meyer Sound to bring their extraordinary audio experience to the Galaxy and Werner Herzog Theaters. Corporate and institutional support at Telluride Film Festival plays a dynamic role in the life of the Festival and underscores the Festival’s commitment to quality, adventure and distinction in the art of cinema. TFF is honored to feature some of the world’s most renowned consumer and entertainment brands. We are filled with gratitude for their unique contributions and for exceptional long-term relationships with Turner Classic Movies, EY, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Dolby, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, UCLA TFT, Universal Studios, and Criterion Collection. We appreciate deepening relationships with Amazon Studios, FilmStruck, ARRI, and Participant Media. And, a terrific welcome to new sponsors Netflix, SAG Awards® & SAG-AFTRA, and Piper-Heidsieck, and more!”

Telluride Film Festival’s shorts program, Filmmakers of Tomorrow, includes three sections: Student Prints, Calling Cards and Great Expectations from sixteen emerging filmmakers from around the globe. TFF is also pleased to feature two films by emerging Iranian filmmaker, Saba Riazi: ICE CREAM (U.S.,-Iran, 2018) and THE WIND IS BLOWING ON MY STREET (Iran-U.S., 2010).

Telluride Film Festival’s Student Programs present students the opportunity to experience film as an art and expand participants’ worldview through film screenings and filmmaker discussions. The Student Symposium, celebrating its 30th year, provides 50 graduate and undergraduate college students with a weekend-long immersion in cinema. The City Lights Project brings 15 high school students and five teachers from three schools the opportunity to participate in a concentrated program of screenings and discussions. FilmLAB offers a master-class program for UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television graduate filmmaking students. The FilmSCHOLAR program gives young film scholars and aspiring critics the opportunity to immerse themselves in a weekend of cinema and learn from some of the best in the field. Created in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin. TFF/ Roger Ebert University Seminars offer university professors and students special festival programming throughout the weekend.

Telluride Film Festival’s Talking Heads programs allow attendees to go behind the scenes with the Festival’s special guests. Six Conversations take place between Festival guests and the audience about cinema and culture, and three outdoor Noon Seminars feature a panel of Festival guests discussing a wide range of film topics. These programs are free and open to the public.

Download a copy of the TFF 45 2018 Program Guide here.

TFF 45 2018 Guest Director Jonathan Lethem

We are proud to announce our 2018 Guest Director, Jonathan Lethem. The award-winning novelist, essayist and short story writer is set to select a series of films to present at the 45th Telluride Film Festival running over Labor Day Weekend, August 31 – September 3, 2018.

The Guest Director serves as a key collaborator in the Festival’s programming decisions, bringing new ideas and overlooked films to Telluride. In keeping with Telluride Film Festival tradition, Lethem’s film selections, along with the rest of the Telluride lineup, will be kept secret until Opening Day.

“Tom and I first met Jonathan through Criterion Collection,” said TFF executive director Julie Huntsinger. “Since then, we have forever been impressed with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for cinema. We are thrilled to have him join us for the 2018 Festival!”

One of America’s greatest contemporary writers, Jonathan Lethem was born in 1964 in Brooklyn, NYC to artist Richard Lethem and late political activist Judith Lethem. His impressive body of work spans 10 novels, five short story collections, a novella, two books of essays, a comic series and writings in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and McSweeny’s. Lethem’s first genre-defying novel, Gun with Occasional Music (1994) experimented with science fiction and crime and gained him a strong cult following. In 1999, Lethem’s fifth novel Motherless Brooklyn met with significant commercial and critical success winning the National Book Critics Circle Award, Macallan Gold Dagger for Crime Fiction, Salon Book Award and was named Esquire’s book of the year. The film adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn, directed by Edward Norton and starring Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe and Leslie Mann is currently in production and slated for a 2019 release. Lethem’s more recent novels include New York Times Bestseller The Fortress of Solitude (2003), You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007), Chronic City (2009), Dissident Gardens (2013) and A Gambler’s Anatomy (2016). In 2005, Jonathan Lethem was the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

“From the very beginning for me, my love for literature and my love for film were splendidly mixed-up and inextricable,” said Lethem. “I always saw the two great 20th Century storytelling forms as speaking to and through one another. So, when by my great good luck I fell in with Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger, I immediately recognized them as being of my tribe; they feel the same resonance and have designed their wonderful festival in the mountains to reflect it. When I learned they’d involved writers I admire like Michael Ondaatje and Rachel Kushner and Geoff Dyer in the heart of the program, I was thrilled – and envious! I’m still pinching myself in disbelief that it’s my turn to play at programming the Dream Multiplex.”

Past Guest Directors include Joshua Oppenheimer, Volker Schlöndorff, Rachel Kushner, Guy Maddin, Caetano Veloso, Michael Ondaatje, Alexander Payne, Salman Rushdie, Peter Bogdanovich, B. Ruby Rich, Phillip Lopate, Errol Morris, Bertrand Tavernier, John Boorman, John Simon, Buck Henry, Laurie Anderson, Stephen Sondheim, G. Cabrera Infante, Peter Sellars, Don DeLillo, J.P. Gorin, Edith Kramer and Slavoj Žižek.

The Guest Director program is sponsored by FilmStruck, Turner’s subscription on-demand service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive and constantly refreshed library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary arthouse, indie, foreign, cult and classic Hollywood films. FilmStruck is the exclusive streaming home to the Warner Bros. classic film library and the Criterion Collection. FilmStruck was developed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and is managed by TCM in partnership with Warner Bros. and the Criterion Collection.

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