GOOD

Thora Birch on film

Thora Birch on film festivals and the indie spirit.


As any movie buff can attest, the major festivals still set the tone for industry-wide interest. The movies we "in the biz" end up buzzing about when the award season rolls around are the ones that won either the Audience Award or Jury Prize-or at least a standing ovation. Meanwhile, many in the film community can be heard complaining that these same festivals have lost their indie spirit. "Sundance is too formulaic in scope and it's commercialized," they say. "And Toronto has become star-obsessed."Arguably good points, if not overly generalized. Whenever I hear people talk about the lost spirit of major film festivals, I can't help but reflect on the reality: Indie for indie's sake doesn't always work. Sometimes it requires embracing a film that doesn't resonate with an audience larger than might fit in the VIP room of a New York club. How many times have I asked myself, "Whatever happened to the movie that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes-what was it called again?" (In 2006 it was Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley; a few years earlier it was Gus Van Sant's Elephant. Remember that one? No?) Some festivals were created simply to showcase movies that might not make money, but the current purpose of most major fests is to serve as a mechanism for studios to find saleable films. Little Miss Sunshine, an archetypal example of an indie smash, first made noise at Sundance last January. It went on to bank a killing at the box office.Indie or not, I'll agree there has been a return to form at festivals. There was a moment when the hot film festivals were less focused on showcasing fresh cinema than they were on acting as a glorified mini-mall of future would-be fashion and technology trends. More recently, it seems, film festivals have all become really serious, really quickly-most likely in response to the avalanche of bad news the past five years has bestowed upon us. Now, the major acclaim seems to be going to highly topical features with Newsday-worthy resonance: The Last King of Scotland, United 93, and Catch a Fire are festival successes that could never be described as "easy crowd pleasers." It's almost as though the heavy subject matter forced directors to screen at a few choice festivals beforehand to "gain audience awareness." Therein lies the paradox3 of the festival circuit.Thankfully, though, there are still a number of festivals young enough to be exuberant, where the film-going public-not just industry insiders, stars and critics-fills not only the seats but the screens as well. To attend these festivals, you just have to be willing to travel off the map-sometimes way off.Two of the most interesting indie movies I've seen this year were screened at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. This Wyoming festival doesn't stray from the set-in-a-beautiful-location-with-many-outdoorsy-diversions formula: the locale is truly peaceful, even for visitors who aren't stocked up on sunblock4 and weatherized hiking boots. That, and there's also a program of great films you're sure to have missed otherwise. On the roster this year was the refreshing, hard-to-find little gem Aurora Borealis-from James C.E. Burke-about mundane people living in a mundane town. Despite its sedate plot, the film is blissfully memorable and unapologetically heartwarming. Another standout was Red State, a choppy, downright awkward documentary from first-time director Michael Shea, about his struggle to reconcile how his own countrymen could ever have been persuaded to vote for the current administration. While the piece is a real conversation starter, I highly doubt it will ever land distribution of any sort, not even by Red-State-hating cable networks like HBO.But beyond the fests that only seem to indulge in the red-carpet rigamarole, there is a long list of festivals comparable to the one in Jackson Hole: Aspen, Telluride, Savannah, Rhode Island-and those are just in the U.S. The international choices are seductive as well, not to mention the many specialty fests (family films, horror, documentaries, digital, and shorts, to name a few). Outside of film-school classrooms and the internet, there is no real home for smaller genres. I was recently a judge at the Los Angeles Shorts Fest, and while their programs were intriguing, it was actually the audience that took the cake because it's at these smaller festivals where you can get a feel for what's on people's minds. Most of the work is by laptop filmmakers, who tackle the art as a replacement for hobbies, but with the obsessive passion of a collector. These writer/director/creators, who are almost always around, are very open and fun to talk to. They're also usually upfront about their process and so pleased to be exhibiting their work to anyone, anywhere, that they come off as endearingly excited, which is infectious. For those who rarely encounter genuine ebullience within the film community, the experience can be akin to getting a pep talk from a cheery Ghost of Future Film.
Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet