Movie reviews, some of my favorite films at 2017 LAFilmfest
by Oliver Carnay
The 9-day LA Film Festival ended on Thursday with the announcement of winners held at the Culver Studios adjacent to the Arclight Cinemas in Culver City. This year, three Arclight venues were picked to screen features and shorts -- Arclight Hollywood, Arclight Santa Monica, and the Arclight Culver City. In addition, a couple of films were also screened at the LACMA and The Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown, Los Angeles. For panel discussions (Coffee Talks with Directors, Actors, Screenwriters, etc.), they were held at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, which is a walking distance from the Arclight - Culver City.
In random order, but may be on top of my list that I truly enjoyed, and you might want to check out once these films come out in theatres ... there’s “Lady Macbeth,” directed by William Oldroyd, an adaptation from the classic Shakespeare story set in 19th century rural England where the young bride Katherine (brilliant actress played by Florence Pugh) takes a forbidden affair with one of her estate workers, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). While her sexually inadequate husband was absent taking long trips outside their estate, their sexual innuendos are witnessed by her loyal black servant housemaid Anna (Naomi Ackie). Anna’s loyalty is not spared of Katherine’s cunning ability to survive. When Katherine and Sebastian got caught of killing a young boy and the mastermind of her husband’s disappearance, Anna was forced to take the responsibility. The film shows how tyranny, power, class, loyalty, sex, and, race, can be rules of society . The cinematography is excellent combined with a good screenwriting.
And speaking of brilliant performances, I was floored by Auden Thornton’s performance (very deserving this year, taking the “Breakout Performance Award”) in the movie “Beauty Mark,” playing a poverty-stricken young mother to her three-year old son and dependent mother who were evicted at their shanty apartment. She was forced to beg money from the same old guy who molested her when she was growing up. The film directed by Harris Doran is a well-made indie that is heartbreaking as Thornton takes you to her sympathetic hard life. One of my favorite movies during the festival!
From the Nightfall competing films, “Serpent” is nerve-thrilling and scary. Amanda Evan’s feature suspense-thriller debut is intense, with great performances from Tom Ainsley and Sarah Dumont playing a couple who decided to have a getaway in the woods, but when a venomous aggressive black mamba slipped into their tent, the wife’s secret love affair is discovered from her phone’s text messages. The plot seems simple but with complex characters laid out in the 85 minute film, it became a well-crafted, remarkable and is visually entertaining feature.
I didn’t see much from the “L.A. Muse” category but two of them caught my interest, and was happy I didn’t missed them. I was very pleased with Director Timothy McNeil’s well-told debuting feature “Anything,” starring John Carroll Lynch, who took away a Special Mention Award at this year’s festival for his subtle but very effective performance playing the depressed widower - ‘Early Landry’ who, upon moving from Mississippi to Hollywood, gets involved with Freda, a trans sex worker (an off-beat role played convincingly by Matt Bomer). The film is adapted from McNeil’s own 2007 play, executive produced by actor Mark Ruffalo. Another angle in the story is the relationship between Early and her sister (Maura Tierney) and her son’s (Tanner Buchanan) relationship with his uncle Early.
Next one is “Your Own Road” directed by Brandon Buczek is a road trip feature that a lot of audience would relate to specially if you are working in this industry. Brian (played by Ashton Moio) is a passionate filmmaker who always get fired from his job so decided take a trip from Ohio to California tagging along his best friend and his long-time crush. The chemistry between the three actors are very natural and believable. This is a sweet small indie film with low budget but with video quality that works in all aspects. One of my favorites in the festival.