Tag Archive for Film

Derry and Puffin D’Oench ’73 Film Award Open to Submissions

Community Health Center logo

The Community Health Center of Middletown is a sponsor of the film contest.

A new annual contest for budding filmmakers is now welcoming submissions. The Derry and Puffin D’Oench Film Award, sponsored by Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), of Middletown, is open to Wesleyan University and Middlesex Community College students and alumni.

The contest’s name honors Derry and Ellen “Puffin” D’Oench ’73, community members who contributed to the local arts and cultural community. At Wesleyan, Puffin served as curator of the Davison Art Center, adjunct professor of art history, and a trustee. Russell “Derry” D’Oench was editor-in-chief of the Middletown Press from 1959 to 1991. The couple was involved in many organizations, including the Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex Hospital, Community Health Center, and the NAACP.

The film contest, accepting submissions from Nov. 1, 2019, until May 1, 2020, seeks “to find talented, emerging filmmakers who are getting their start or have roots in our Middletown community,” said Mark Masselli, Hon. ’09, P’16, CHC’s founder and president/CEO. “We’re looking forward to screening the submissions, and giving a new generation of filmmakers a launching pad.”

New Environmental Film Series to be Presented by COE, CFA

Beginning this month, Wesleyan’s College of the Environment, Center for the Arts and other outside partners will present “The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series.”

The first film, Elemental, will be screened at 7:30 p.m. March 30 in the Center for the Arts Hall. The award-winning film follows three activists as they work to protect air, water and earth around the world, and offers a call for global action.

The second film in the series, WATERSHEDwill be screened at 7 p.m. May 4 in Middlesex Community College’s Chapman Hall, 100 Training Hill Rd. in Middletown. Executive produced and narrated by Robert Redford, this film tells the story of threats to the “once-mighty Colorado River, now dammed and diverted and struggling to support 30 million people.” The film offers solutions for “meeting the competing interests of cities, agriculture, industry, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities with rights to the waters, and the future of the American West.”

Admission to the screenings is free. For more information about the film series, call 860-685-3733. More information is available on the College of the Environment’s website.

The series is presented in partnership with The Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program and The Rockfall Foundation.

Rich ’06 Covers Hollywood for Vanity Fair

Katey Rich '06

Katey Rich ’06

Katey Rich ’06 has a new position as digital Hollywood editor at Vanity Fair, where she is overseeing The Hollywood Blog.

Before Vanity Fair, Rich worked at the Cinema Blend website for six years, and her last job there was editor-in-chief. She was previously an editorial assistant at Film Journal International. As Wesleyan she major in film studies and English.

For those who have read Rich’s writing at Cinema Blend, they already know she has been a savvy chronicler of the film scene and an entertaining film critic for years.  At vanityfair.com, Wesleyan alumni can currently enjoy her thoughts on a possible film of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the current state of silent films, and the new Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis.

Wasson ’03 Writes Biography of Entertainment Icon Bob Fosse

Sam Wasson '03

Sam Wasson ’03

Best-selling author Sam Wasson ’03 has published Fosse (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), an authoritative and fascinating biography of the renowned dancer, choreographer, screenwriter, and director Bob Fosse. The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Fosse was a masterful artist in every entertainment medium he touched, and forever marked Broadway and Hollywood with his iconic style that would influence generations of performing artists.

Biography by Sam Wasson '03

Biography by Sam Wasson ’03

Wasson reveals the man behind the swaggering sex appeal by exploring Fosse’s reinventions of himself over a career that would result in his work on The Pajama Game, Pippin, Sweet Charity, the film Cabaret, All That Jazz, and the original Broadway production of Chicago. The author researched a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources including friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of whom have never spoken publicly about Fosse before. He touches on Fosse’s prodigious professional life and also on his close and conflicted relationships with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Ann Reinking to Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman.

Wasson captures a man who was never satisfied with his achievements and lived an offstage life full of turmoil. He uncovers the deep wounds that encouraged Fosse’s insatiable appetites for spotlights, women, and life itself.

In her review of Fosse in The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes: “Mr. Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand tales. … Whoever Fosse was and whatever his work meant, Mr. Wasson’s book is required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of — to use a term that appears here constantly, and can’t be outdone — razzle-dazzle. And to see through his darkness.”

Wasson is also the author of The New York Times best seller Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman and two books published by Wesleyan University Press, A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards and Paul on Mazursky.

Garcia ’99 Talks About Her Film The Lifeguard, in Theaters Aug. 30

Liz. W Garcia '99 (Photo: Leslie Zak)

Liz Garcia ’99 at the Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Leslie Zak)

Liz Garcia ’99 is the director, screenwriter, and co-producer of The Lifeguard (Focus World and Screen Media), in which a young woman (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars) nearing 30 quits her Associated Press reporting job in New York and returns to her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and has an affair with a troubled teenager (David Lambert), the son of a co-worker.

The film’s also stars Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Adam LeFevre and Joshua Harto, who also is a co-producer (and Garcia’s husband).

The Lifeguard premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January and was released in late July for viewers to rent on iTunes and a number of cable video-on-demand systems. The movie has its big screen release on Aug. 30 in 15 cities.

In this Q&A, Associate Director of Publications David Low interviews the multi-talented Garcia, who also has worked as a writer, director, and producer on several television series, including Cold Case and Memphis Beat, which she created with Harto.

Q: What inspired the script of The Lifeguard?

A: I worked as a lifeguard at a pool when I was in high school and on break from Wesleyan, and it was a job and environment I always wanted to tell stories about. I just wasn’t sure exactly how. But I loved the feeling of the quiet pool, and what it was like to observe peoples’ lives, families, and couples, while sitting in that chair. I noodled over the idea of a lifeguard who was an overachiever and thought she knew how life was to be lived intersecting with some lost teenage boys at the pool, and I let that idea grow. Then it converged with the idea of facing adulthood, of turning 30, and when I knew that this would be about a young woman returning to the dream job of her youth, the story came together quickly.

Junger ’84 Directs HBO Documentary about Photojournalist Tim Hetherington

Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Sebastian Junger ’84 has directed a new documentary, Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, which premiered on HBO this month.

The film covers Hertherington’s career as a war photographer, from his earliest days covering the civil war in Liberia to his final days in Misrata. He was killed in 2011 at age 40 in the siege of Misrata during Libya’s civil war. Junger pays tribute to Hetherington’s video and still photography and how he engaged himself on a personal level with his subjects.

Junger and Hetherington were co-directors of the acclaimed documentary Restrepo, which focused on an American platoon on a remote but extremely dangerous mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary in 2011.

In a recent interview Junger gave to CBS This Morning, Junger said that when he worked on Restrepo, Hetherington told him that one of the least interesting things about covering war was combat and what Hetherington found more interesting was the emotions out there and the relationships between the men. After he found out about Hetherington’s death, Junger decided within an hour that he would no longer cover war–a topic he had covered since the early ‘90s in Bosnia.

In a review of the HBO documentary in The New York Times, Mike Hale writes: “The new film is a touching tribute … It’s consistently animated, though, by Hetherington himself, seen in excerpts from interviews. He’s larger than life, with leading-man good looks and a seriousness that’s earnest without being annoying. And the real revelation is his still photography… Less interested in chaos and graphic violence than other war photographers, he favored quiet, reflective, classically composed images; among his most celebrated photos was a series of portraits of American soldiers sleeping in their bunks.”

Interview with Junger on NPR

Junger talks to WSJ Live YouTube Preview Image

Toronto Film Festival Showcases Films Directed by Cohen ’84, Springer Berman ’85, Whedon ’87

Kristen Wiig and Darren Kriss in Imogene, directed by Shari Springer Berman ’85 and Robert Pulcini

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival in September featured the North American Premiere of Museum Hours, directed by Jem Cohen ’84, and the world premieres of Imogene, co-directed by Shari Springer Berman ’85 and Robert Pulcini, and Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon ’87. All three films were well received by Toronto audiences and film critics.

Both Imogene and Much Ado About Nothing were picked up in Toronto by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions for release in North America. MPM Film is handing international sales and The Cinema Guild has acquired U.S. distribution rights for Museum Hours.

Museum Hours deals with the friendship that develops between between Anne (Toronto multidisciplinary artist and singer Mary Margaret O’Hara), a Canadian woman who has come to Vienna to visit her comatose cousin, and museum guard Johann (non-professional actor Bobby Sommer). Anne finds refuge in the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, and the two explore how their lives, the city, and the works of art influence and relate to their daily experiences.

In an article about the film in the National Post, Jem Cohen says: “This film is a culmination of my life in thinking about why we make art and why it works when it works, but also about how to incorporate life stuff and art stuff into a movie in a very kind of odd but unpretentious way.”

Bobby Summer as a museum guard in Museum Hours, directed by Jem Cohen ’84

In his review of the film, Eric Kohn in Indie Wire says:

“While his new feature Museum Hours is technically his first narrative effort, with a pair of amateur performances and the backbone of a fictional story, its constant introspection and remarkable sense of place provide a fluid connection to the earlier work. With a keen eye for the capacity of fine art to address a complex range of attitudes and experiences, Museum Hours effectively applies Cohen’s existing strengths to a familiar scenario and rejuvenates it by delivering a powerfully contemplative look at the transformative ability of all art. On the one hand a sad, poignant character study, Museum Hours is also a treatise on art history and a love letter to architectural wonder.”

Imogene is a very funny and quirky comedy about Imogene, a washed-up, somewhat delusional playwright who fakes her own suicide to gain her ex-boyfriend’s attention and winds up remanded to the custody of her dysfunctional family who reside on the Jersey Shore. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini co-direct a wonderful cast including Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Darren Kriss, and Matt Dillon. The film played to a packed and highly receptive house in its first public screening in Toronto.

The film allows Wiig as Imogene to extend her range as an actress and she has memorable scenes with both Bening as her impudent mother and Kriss as her mother’s young lodger who offers Imogene an unconventional relationship.

In her review of the film in the Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young writes: “The film’s great strength is its intuitive casting. The actors interact so well that it’s hard to single out one performance … [Michelle] Morgan’s screenplay is full of intelligent dialogue that got real laughs from the audience on its Toronto bow, and it hits a number of high points …”

And Christopher Schobert in his Indie Wire review writes: “Kristen Wiig … once again proves her value. Whether smuggling a library book under her old phys ed shirt or weeping in the rain on a broken chair, she is adorable, heartfelt and smart.”

Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon ’87

Joss Whedon follows up his megahit The Avengers with a skillful and buoyant adaptation of Willliam Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Whedon sets the classic comedy in contemporary times using the original text, and his cast includes several actors who have appeared in his previous projects, including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, and Clark Gregg. The film was shot in black and white to evoke a film noir mood over twelve days, on location at Whedon’s own Santa Monica home.

The winning cast handles the Shakespearean language adroitly, and the film is well-paced and a consistent delight. Whedon proves himself thoroughly at home in Shakespeare’s world, directing the material with a light touch.

The first sold-out public screening in Toronto was received enthusiastically by the audience, many of them Whedon’s fans, but this new film is also likely to appeal to those who aren’t acquainted with the director’s previous work.

In a recent interview in The New York Times, Whedon says: “I wanted to give a little bit of that house party feel. The movie is kind of a party to which you’re invited. And at some points, you’re like, we should all go to bed and stop drinking! This party is going very badly! But the feeling we had when we made it was a happy one. We were so into it, so focused and yet giddy. And you want that energy to show up on film.”

In a review at Hit Fix, Drew McWeeny writes: “Here, everyone is able to find a very simple, naturalistic style and rhythm, and it feels like they are all incredibly comfortable with the words. Whedon’s love of language comes through in his own writing, so it should be no surprise that he digs in with such zeal here, or that he is able to clearly communicate what it is that Shakespeare wants us to take away from this romp.”

Music Department, Local Musicians Create Film to Benefit Japan Relief

To help the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, Wesleyan graduate students Maho Ishiguro, Akiko Hakateyama, Ellen Loeck and Shoko Yamamoto arranged a benefit concert titled “Voices United.” Students and faculty from Wesleyan’s music department, and resident performers from the Middletown area, assembled at Crowell Concert Hall for an afternoon of music and dance performances.

The concert was filmed and will be available on DVD this month.

Eleven performances, which included different genres of music from 10 countries, were featured. Participating ensembles and musicians included Chinese Ensemble, Balinese Gender Ensemble, Carnatic Music Ensemble (Indian vocals), The Mixolydians (vocal ensemble singing Rennaisance madrigals), Slavei (vocal ensemble singing folk music from Eastern Europe), Collegium Musicum (vocal ensemble singing music from Medieval and Rennaisance periods), Kaze Taiko Ensemble, Ceol go Maidin (Irish traditional music), Green Street’s Fresh Obsessed (Breakdancing group), Andrew Colwell Mongolian Homii (Mongolian throat singer), and House of Moses (R&B music).

To order a copy of the DVD, send $15 to Jody Cormack, World Music Archives, Olin Library 252 Church Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Make checks out to The Japan Society New York, and write “Japan Earthquake Fund” in the memo. All proceeds go to the Japan Society where donations will be divided and sent to a number of relief agencies.

Weitz ’88 is Director-Writer of Being Flynn, Starring Robert De Niro

Paul Weitz '88

Paul Weitz ’88 is the director of the film Being Flynn (Focus Features), which he adapted from an acclaimed memoir by Nick Flynn and which opened in theaters on March 2. The movie drama deals with a young, self-destructive writer (played by Paul Dano) who works in a homeless shelter where he reconnects after 18 years with his alcoholic father (played by Robert De Niro), also a writer, who comes to stay at the shelter. The film also stars Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby.

Weitz’s film had a long journey to the screen and along the way, the director wrote 30 versions of the script. In a recent article by Ari Karpel in The New York Times, Weitz said he was intrigued by memoir’s themes, including “whether you’re fated to become your father, or whether you can become your own person.”

Karpel writes: “While the circumstances of his upbringing differ dramatically from those of Mr. Flynn’s, Mr. Weitz has struggled with comparable issues. ‘My dad was a pretty successful fashion designer,’ he explained, referring to the John Weitz, a men’s wear heavyweight, who died in 2002. ‘But what he wanted to be in life was a writer, and he was a very loving but fairly tortured fellow. And so I’ve always wanted to react to that, to try to avoid some of his specific brand of pain, coming from creativity.’”

Todd McCarthy praised Being Flynn in The Hollywood Reporter:
“Robert De Niro and writer-director Paul Weitz find the most congenial material either of them has had in quite some time in Being Flynn, a fractious father-son drama with a soul-warming gentle core. What sounds predictable and vaguely unappealing in summary—a young aspiring writer struggles with addiction while trying to deal with his delusional, homeless dad—credibly engages in elemental human ways thanks to insightful writing and sensitive performances all around.”

Bob Montello at NPR also liked the film:
“Writer-director Weitz finds grace everywhere, plunging headlong into a scarily persuasive skid row, then seeking more stable ground for his characters. His script makes much of parallels — two aspiring writers, one working in a homeless shelter, the other freshly homeless. Three family members: a mother, father and son who face their demons by respectively fighting them, embracing them and learning to live with them.

“And then there’s the simple fact of De Niro, playing a delusional taxi driver. It’s easy to imagine Being Flynn’s story turning precious in the wrong hands, but Weitz and his cast spin it just right — as a narrative that is both emotionally real, and just writerly enough to suit its leading men.”

At NPR, listen to Paul Weitz and writer Nick Flynn talk about Being Flynn and the memoir on which it is based.

Weitz previously directed In Good Company, American Dreamz, and Little Fockers and co-directed American Pie and About a Boy with his brother Chris Weitz. He is also a playwright and his new play Lonely, I’m Not, begins previews Off-Broadway on April 10.

Paul Dano and Robert De Niro in "Being Flynn" / David Lee, Focus Features



De Siefe ’95 Writes Study of Frank Tashlin’s Comic Films

Ethan de Siefe '95 - Photo by Laura Holtan

Ethan de Siefe ’95 has written an entertaining new book, Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin (Wesleyan University Press). In the preface of his study, de Siefe writes:

“Director Frank Tashlin left an indelible impression on American and global film comedy. His films are some of the funniest, most visually inventive comedies ever made, and they feature landmark performances by some of the greatest comedians in American film history, a list that includes not only Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, but Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Bugs Bunny.”

Book by Ethan de Siefe '95

Tashlin (1913–1972) was a supremely gifted satirist and visual stylist yet his name is not well known today and he has been often regarded as an anomaly or curiosity. De Siefe finally gives the director the attention he deserves in this career-spanning survey.

Tashlinesque examines the director’s films in the contexts of Hollywood censorship, animation history, and the development of the genre of comedy in American film, with particular emphasis on the sex, satire, and visual flair that comprised Tashlin’s distinctive artistic and comedic style. Through close readings and pointed analyses of Tashlin’s large and fascinating body of work, the author gives us original insights into such classic films as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Girl Can’t Help It, Artists and Models, The Disorderly Orderly, and Son of Paleface, as well as numerous Warner Bros. cartoons starring Porky Pig, among others. The book includes a complete filmography.

De Siefe is an assistant professor of film studies at Hofstra University and the author of the book This Is Spinal Tap.

Summer Film Series Features Cary Grant and His Leading Ladies

Cary Grant and Sophia Loren star in "Houseboat," which will be screened July 27 as part of the Summer Film Series at Wesleyan.

Every Tuesday night this July is a Cary Grant night at Wesleyan, though he’ll be joined by some very attractive company.

“Cary Grant and his Leading Ladies” is the title and theme of this year’s installment of Wesleyan University’s annual Wesleyan Summer Film Series.

The film "To Catch a Thief" kicks off the Film Series on July 6.

The free series held at the Goldsmith Family Cinema will feature a classic, fully-restored Cary Grant film each Tuesday night in July, with an introductory talk beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The screenings star on Tuesday, July 6, with “To Catch a Thief” featuring Grant and Grace Kelly. On Tuesday, July 13, Connecticut’s own Katherine Hepburn and a professorial Grant star in “Bringing Up Baby.” On July 20, Audry Hepburn joins Grant in “Charade.” The series wraps on Tuesday, July 27 with Sophia Loren and Grant in the always entertaining “Houseboat.”

The screenings feature fully-restored prints courtesy of the Academy Film Archive, and each film will be introduced by Marc Longenecker, programming and technical manager at Wesleyan’s Center for Film Studies. All screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Goldsmith Family Cinema on 301 Washington Terrace.

The Wesleyan Summer Film Series is presented by Wesleyan University’s Center for Film Studies with support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, The City of Middletown and the Downtown Business District.

Oscar-Nominated Director Jason Reitman Speaks at Wesleyan

As part of the Film Studies Department's 2010 Independent Filmmaker Series and WesFest 2010, acclaimed director Jason Reitman showed his Oscar-nominated film "Up in the Air" to a packed audience at Goldsmith Family Cinema on April 15. After the screening Reitman talked about how he got started in the film business and answered questions about his work.