Molly’s Game (2017)

Molly’s Game
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Based on: Molly Bloom‘s autobiographical book
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, J.C. MacKenzie, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Justin Kirk
Seen on: 21.3.2018
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Plot:
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) used to be an Olympic skier but an injury put an end to her career. Looking for a new way to make a living, she moves to Los Angeles and stumbles into the world of gambling. Sharp and business savy as she is, she quickly moves up and becomes a successful host of high stakes poker games – which in turn puts her into the sight of the FBI.

Molly’s Game is the rare case of a film that reaches its climax with the very first scene. But that’s not the only reason it is ultimately disappointing, despite the excellent cast.

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Herr Tartüff [Tartuffe] (1925) + Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich / Frank Strobel

Herr Tartüff
Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Carl Mayer
Based on: Molière‘s play
Cast: Emil Jannings, Hermann Picha, Rosa Valetti, André Mattoni, Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover, Lucie Höflich, Camilla Horn
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Giuseppe Becce, played be the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Frank Strobel
Seen on: 20.3.2018
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Plot:
A young man (André Mattoni) suspects that his grandfather’s (Hermann Picha) housekeeper (Rosa Valetti) is trying to kill him to get to his money. So the young man tries to warn his by then isolated grandfather of her machinations by showing him a film. In that film, Tartüff (Emil Jannings) pretends to be a devout priest. He is staying with Herr Orgon (Werner Krauss) and his wife Elmire (Lil Dagover). Elmire is suspicious of Tartüff and his intentions, but Orgon doesn’t want to hear it…

Herr Tartüff is an enjoyable film and Becce’s music is really quite something. I wouldn’t have needed the entire thing to be longer than it was, but I had a good time throughout.

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Sunset (2018)

Sunset
Director: Jamison M. LoCascio
Writer: Adam Ambrosio, Jamison M. LoCascio
Cast: Liam MitchellBarbara Bleier, Austin Pendleton, Suzette Gunn, Juri Henley-Cohn, David Johnson
Seen on: 2.6.2018
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Things look normal: Henry (Liam Mitchell) and Patricia (Barbara Bleier) are celebrating Patricia’s birthday with their friends – Patricia’s ex Julian (Austin Pendleton), Chris (David Johnson) and Ayden (Juri Henley-Cohn) who both have found surrogate parents in Henry and Patricia, and Ayden’s partner Breyanna (Suzette Gunn). As their talking turns to politics, it becomes clear, though, that tensions are high and ouright nuclear war seems just around the corner.

Usually nuclear war is used in films to conjure up a post-apocalyptic scenario, or it is used as a threat that the (action) heroes of the story have something to prevent. In Sunset’s case, it’s the backdrop for a thorough and thoughtful character study that stumbles sometimes, but remains engaging throughout.

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29 to Life (2018)

29 to Life
Director: Alex Magaña
Writer: Alex Magaña
Cast: Murphy Patrick Martin, Diana Cristina (aka Diana Solis), Hayley Ambriz, Kaden Cole, Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart
Seen on: 29.5.2018
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Barnaby (Murphy Patrick Martin) is 29, but so far he successfully avoided growing up. But it’s time to face life when his girlfriend Elaina (Hayley Ambriz) breaks up with him and his parents (Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart) kick him out of their house the very same day to try and force him to get a job. Barnaby finds himself living in his car and still trying to avoid any kind of responsibility. When hunger motivates him to go to his high school reunion (in the hope of finding a buffet there), he runs into Madison (Diana Cristina) and the two re-connect. And maybe Madison can give Barnaby the final push he needs.

29 to Life is very obviously a film by a young man made without a budget who hasn’t made a feature before. How forgiving you are about the drawbacks that come with that will vary. Personally, I struggled a little with Barnaby and the male perspective that permeates the script. That being said, it does have its sweet touches.

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Ghostland (2018)

Ghostland (aka Incident in a Ghostland)
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer: Pascal Laugier
Cast: Crystal Reed, Mylène Farmer, Anastasia Phillips, Emilia Jones, Taylor Hickson, Kevin Power, Rob Archer
Seen on: 18.3.2018
Part of: /slash Filmfestival special screening
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Plot:
Pauline (Mylène Farmer) inherita a house from her aunt. She moves there with her two daughters, Beth (Emilia Jones) and Vera (Taylor Hickson). But they have barely arrived when they are attacked in the house by two strangers. Pauline barely manages to save them all, but the trauma of the attack sits deep. Years later, Beth (Crystal Reed) has become a writer who just published a book about the experience, when she gets a call from her mother that she has to return home to help with her sister (Anastasia Phillips) who never got over the night. So Beth leaves her husband and kid behind and comes home – where strange things start happening again.

Ghostland is a relentless film and that lack of a break is its biggest strength, but I found it absolutely problematic and couldn’t really get into it.

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L’animale (2018)

L’animale (translates, unsurprisingly, as The Animal)
Director: Katharina Mückstein
Writer: Katharina Mückstein
Cast: Sophie Stockinger, Kathrin Resetarits, Dominik Warta, Julia Franz Richter, Jack Hofer, Dominic Marcus Singer, Simon Morzé, Stefan Pohl
Seen on: 17.3.2018
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Plot:
Mati (Sophie Stockinger) loves nothing more than to ride around on dirt bikes with her (male) friends, above all Sebastian (Jack Hofer). They are loud and brash and cause trouble in the area. But shortly before her final exam in school, Mati is thrown for quite a loop when Sebastian confesses that he is in love with her and Mati meets the older Carla (Julia Franz Richter) who she is drawn to. Both of these things threaten Mati’s standing with her guy friends and force her to make decisions.

I really liked L’animale, even though it gets a little too on the nose with its parallels and metaphors at times. But it’s a strong, emotional, well-made and queer coming-of-age film – and there can never be enough of those.

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Erik & Erika (2018)

Erik & Erika
Director: Reinhold Bilgeri
Writer: Dirk Kämper
Cast: Markus Freistätter, Ulrike Beimpold, Lili Epply, Gerhard Liebmann, Cornelius Obonya, Anna Posch, August Schmölzer, Nives Bogad, Harald Schrott, Marianne Sägebrecht, Rainer Wöss
Seen on: 17.3.2018
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Content note: cis and dya fuckery, trans- and intermisia

Plot:
Erik Schinegger (Markus Freistätter) grew up as Erika, always uncomfortable in what society expects of girls and unable to reconcile it with his own wishes. Until he starts skiing – a sport that he really loves. After he wins some big women’s races for Austria, a medical check reveals that he might not be a girl after all as everybody assumed he was – and Erik has to face some questions about his own identity and make some difficult decisions regarding his body and his career.

Look, I know that my plot summary is less than perfect with how it talks about Erik Schinegger, but honestly, it’s the best I could do and still have it have anything to do with the actual film. Because Erik & Erika is a mess and incredibly biologistic, heteronormative and sexist especially for a film that is about a trans and inter guy.

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Zerschlag mein Herz [Crush My Heart] (2018)

Zerschlag mein Herz
Director: Alexandra Makarová
Writer: Alexandra Makarová, Sebastian Schmidl
Cast: Roman Pokuta, Simona Kovácová, Frantisek Balog, Simonida Selimovic, Maximillian Six, Sasa Makarová, Wolfgang S. Zechmayer
Part of: Diagonale
Seen on: 15.3.2018
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Plot:
Pepe (Roman Pokuta) has been in Vienna for a while and he knows the lay of the land. He works for his uncle Rocky (Frantisek Balog), begging in the streets. When Marcela (Simona Kovácová) arrives from Slovakia to join them, Rocky asks Pepe to show Marcela the ropes. And while Marcela seems pretty hopeless at begging, Pepe and Marcela do get closer. But is their hard life made for love?

Zerschlag mein Herz really is aptly name because my heart was sufficiently crushed by the end of it. It’s a great film that looks at some hard truths about life in Vienna and an absolutely fantastic film, especially for a first feature.

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Phaidros (2018)

Phaidros
Director: Mara Mattuschka
Writer: Mara Mattuschka
Cast: Julian Sharp, Alexander E. Fennon, Nicola Filippelli, May Teodosio, Tamara Mascara
Part of: Diagonale
Seen on: 15.3.2018
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Content note: transmisogyny

Plot:
Emil (Julian Sharp) is an actor, currently working on the role of Phaidros opposite Werner Maria (Alexander E. Fennon) as Sokrates. But their stage relationship isn’t exactly cooperative and Emil is struggling with his own performance, looking for a big break. His private life is also not exactly satisfactory, although easy: he lives with the costume designer Maurizio (Nicola Filippelli) who takes care of his every need and is very much in love with him. But Emil is looking for something else.

Phaidros is a strange film – as a Mattuschka film is wont to be. It works in many ways, but in others not at all. Especially the transmisogyny in it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Bruder Jakob, schläfst du noch? [Are You Sleeping, Brother Jakob?] (2018)

Bruder Jakob, schläfst du noch?
Director: Stefan Bohun
Writer: David Bohun, Johannes Bohun, Stefan Bohun
Part of: Diagonale
Seen on: 14.3.2018
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Content Note: Suicide

“Plot”:
Matthias, Johannes, Stefan and David are brothers. There used to be a fifth one, Jakob, but he killed himself. Now the four remaining brothers are on a hiking trip together in the mountains where Jakob always felt at home. They use it as both a chance to talk about Jakob and to get closer to each other again.

Bruder Jakob, schläfst du noch is a touching documentary and a gift from the filmmakers to share their very private process of grieving with the world. It’s beautiful.

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