Tag Archives: Ben Sears

Ben’s Column: Top 10 Movies of 2020

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

  • Athlete A
  • Babyteeth
  • Bad Education
  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
  • Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
  • Deerskin
  • Dick Johnson Is Dead
  • I Used to Go Here
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things
  • Let Them All Talk
  • Nomadland
  • The Nest
  • Palm Springs
  • Sound of Metal
  • Time
  • Undine
  • Yes, God, Yes
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Ben’s Column: Wolfwalkers (2020) – Review

Wolfwalkers (2020)

Premise: A young apprentice hunter and her father journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumored to transform into wolves by night.

It’s been 6 years in the US since the latest film from Japanese master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, which means that the animation world (and yours truly) has been sorely lacking an animated film with enough style and heart to break through the candy-coated onslaught of Disney and Pixar films.

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Ben’s Column: Let Them All Talk (2020) – Review

Let Them All Talk (2020)

Premise: A famous author goes on a cruise trip with her friends and nephew in an effort to find fun and happiness while she comes to terms with her troubled past.

The title of director Stephen Soderbergh’s latest film feels less like a thematic summation and more like a way to describe Soderbergh’s method of approaching his subject matter. Filmed almost entirely aboard a cruise ship as it makes its way from New York to Southampton, the script reportedly consisted of minimal outlines from scene to scene, and the actors were left to improvise the rest. Soderbergh, who has made a habit lately of experimenting behind the scenes by filming entire movies on iPhones, may have finally found a gimmick that meshes successfully with his sensibilities. Of course, a film with no script can only be buoyed by the performances of its cast, and Let Them All Talk is brimming with talented actors.

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Ben’s Column: Sound of Metal (2020) – Review

Sound of Metal (2020)

Premise: A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

I had an optometrist appointment several years ago, in which I was told by the end of it that my vision in my right eye was slightly worse than my left. Naturally, the diagnosis wasn’t ideal, but, considering my work as a photographer, the development left me even more worried. As most photographers do, I primarily use my right eye to look through the viewfinder while using my camera. How could I continue on as a photographer if I couldn’t see the pictures I wanted to take?

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The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 331 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 5 – JFK (1991) & Mulholland Drive (2001) – Elliot Page, Warner Bros Movies on HBOMax

RIGHT CLICK IMAGE, SAVE LINK AS TO DOWNLOAD THE EPISODE…

OV331 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 5 – JFK (1991) & Mulholland Drive (2001) – Elliot Page, Warner Bros Movies on HBOMax

In this episode, Ben and I continue our journey through Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list with reviews of Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001). We also discuss the recent Elliot Page news and the surprising news regarding Warner Bros and HBOMax.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 102 – OV B-Roll – “Mister Sir” – Marathons, Movies We’d Screen in Theaters, Tepid Tenet Expectations, Private Screenings – Dec 3, 2020

Runtime: 2:19:48

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The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 328 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 4: Rear Window (1954) & Vertigo (1958) – Heartland Film Fest Hitchcock Night, Awards Season 2020, Picture Character, Sophie Jones, and The Outside Story

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OV328 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 4: Rear Window (1954) & Vertigo (1958) – Heartland Film Fest Hitchcock Night, Awards Season 2020, Picture Character, Sophie Jones, and The Outside Story

In this episode, Ben and I continue our journey through Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list with a special Heartland Film Festival edition of our review series. We discuss two Hitchcock films on the list that were part of Heartland’s lineup of special drive-in screenings. First, we review 1954’s Rear Window and then follow it with 1958’s Vertigo.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 096 – OV B-Roll – “Carving Out Time to B Positive” – Criterion Shopping, Patreon Restructuring, Time (2020), B Positive, TV Homes – Nov 10, 2020

Runtime: 1:33:29

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Ben’s Column: David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020) – Review

David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)

Premise: Spike Lee documents the former Talking Heads frontman’s brilliant, timely 2019 Broadway show, based on his recent album and tour of the same name.

How does David Byrne follow-up Stop Making Sense, the concert documentary that birthed an entire genre, even if it’s had 36 years to marinate? As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Many of the elements that make Sense such a delight – the boundless joy and energy of everyone onstage, the production value, the musicality – are on display here, and it feels like Byrne hasn’t missed a step in the intervening years. And yet, it’s the moments between the music that sets American Utopia apart from its predecessor. Sense was simply a documentation of a band’s place in time, while Utopia has more on its mind, as Byrne tries to make sense of his place in the world. Sure, Talking Heads had larger ideas on display and made some grand statements with their lyrics, but Sense never aspired to be more than a concert documentary.

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Ben’s Column: On The Rocks (2020) – Review

On the Rocks (2020)

Premise: A young mother reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father on an adventure through New York.

Sofia Coppola’s films have, regrettably, been one of my biggest film blind spots of the 21st century. Until recently, when I watched her directorial debut (1999’s The Virgin Suicides), I had yet to see any of her films. Suicides revealed an auteur who could confidently write complicated characters in a unique and interesting way. Her latest film, On the Rocks, which is streaming now on Apple TV+, retains those same capabilities but slightly misses the mark on some crucial character work. The film reunites Coppola and Bill Murray, the star of her most successful film, Lost in Translation, for the first time since 2003 (save for a holiday special in 2015). Murray has built up a solid reputation as a comedian-turned-dramatic actor, and while his role here steers more towards comedic relief, he has clearly found a director who can utilize him properly while keeping him from going off the comedic deep end (again, I haven’t seen Lost in Translation, but he was nominated for an Oscar for the role).

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HIFF2020: Ben’s Column – Molto Bella (2020)

molta bella

3.5 stars

Molto Bella (2020)

  • Narrative Feature
  • Director: Alexander Jeffery
  • Screenwriters: Alexander Jeffery, Paul Petersen
  • Producers: Alexander Jeffery, Paul Petersen, Richard Wharton
  • Executive Producer: Wanda and Bob Ragsdale, Mary Jo and Steve Scott, Paul Burns, Tamra Corley
  • Cast: Paul Petersen, Andrea von Kampen, Jason Edwards, Elizabeth Stenholt, Vincenzo Vivenzio

Premise: In the Sicilian town of Taormina, Italy, an aspiring poet in search of inspiration meets a folk singer trying to write a follow up to her breakout hit.

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HIFF2020: Ben’s Column – Picture Character (2020)

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3.5 stars

Picture Character (2020)

Documentary Feature
Directors: Ian Cheney, Martha Shane
Producers: Ian Cheney, Martha Shane, Jennifer 8. Lee
Executive Producers: Fred Benenson, Peter Friedland
Cast: Rayouf Alhumedhi, Florencia Coelho, Daniela Guini, Carmen Barlow, Francis Mason

Premise: “Picture Character” explores the complex, conflict-prone, and often hilarious world of the creators, lovers, and arbiters of emoji, our world’s newest pictorial language. How do you create a global language on the fly? This film charts the evolution of emojis, and investigates what they may reveal about our increasingly technological world.

It’s hard to imagine modern daily conversations without the ever-present emoji. What emerged after the technological takeover of smartphones as a way to express a wide variety of emotions in a simplistic manner quickly spread outside our phones and became inescapable. Socks, pillows, Happy Meal toys, and bumper stickers are only a sliver of the countless products available that have cashed in on the emoji craze in recent years, with no end in sight. Emojis have largely been viewed as a force for good in the world (we can now order pizza with one simple pizza emoji sent via text message). The “face with tears of joy” emoji was named as Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2015. They’ve even withstood the release of The Emoji Movie in 2017.

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HIFF2020: Ben’s Column – The Outside Story (2020)

The Outside Story (2020)

  • Narrative Feature
  • Director: Casimir Nozkowski
  • Screenwriter: Casimir Nozkowski
  • Cast: Brian Tyree Henry, Sonequa Martin Green, Sunita Mani, Olivia Edward, Asia Kate Dillon

Premise: An introverted editor living a vertical life in his 2nd-floor apartment, always on deadline and in a rut. When Charles locks himself out of his building, he’s forced to go horizontal and confront the world he’s been avoiding in search of a way back inside. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: The Boys In The Band (2020) – Review

The Boys In The Band (2020)

Premise: At a birthday party in 1968 New York, a surprise guest and a drunken game leave seven gay friends reckoning with unspoken feelings and buried truths.

The LGBTQ community is at a crossroads in America in 2020. The Supreme Court may have legalized gay marriage years ago, along with a handful of other civil rights victories, but the current administration has been actively working to roll those protections back since day one, all in the name of “religious freedom”. Seen through this lens, it makes perfect sense why now is a good time for a new adaptation of The Boys in the Band, the Tony-winning Broadway show. This iteration, directed by Joe Mantello, even assembles the original cast from the 2018 stage revival, which was notable at the time for its all-out gay cast – a sign of how far society had come since the play’s inception. Continue reading

The Obsessive Viewer Podcast – Ep 326 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) & 8 1/2 (1963) – Heartland Film Festival 2020 Preview, and Extended Patreon Clip (Feels Good Man & Possessor)

RIGHT CLICK IMAGE, SAVE LINK AS TO DOWNLOAD THE EPISODE…

OV326 – Ebert’s Great Movies Part 3: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) & 8 1/2 (1963) – Heartland Film Festival 2020 Preview, and Extended Patreon Clip (Feels Good Man & Possessor)

Recorded September 22, 2020: In the latest installment of our Ebert’s Great Movies Review Series, our newly promoted recurring co-host Ben Sears joins me to discuss the classic horror/German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2020) and the Frederico Fellini film 8 ½ (1963) from Ebert’s “Great Movies” list. We also chat about the upcoming Heartland Film Festival.

This week’s stinger comes from our Patreon-exclusive recording: 092 – OV B-Roll – “Whole Foods Hot Chocolate and Oatmilk” – Class Action Park (2020), Possessor (2020), HIFF2020 Screenings, Ted Lasso, and Hoops – Sept 22, 2020

Runtime: 1:33:29

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Ben’s Column: Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) – Review

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

Premise: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.

It’s not often that a film can be simultaneously considered a documentary, a drama, and a comedy, but director Kirsten Johnson somehow manages to achieve that feat with Dick Johnson Is Dead. Movies can be used as a director’s way to put their own personal ideas and experiences out into the world: Truffaut channeled his early adolescence in The 400 Blows; Fellini expressed his struggles with the creative process with 8 ½; and Spike Lee used his experiences with racial injustice for Do the Right Thing. Johnson’s latest is not only a loving tribute to her father, but an examination of the grieving process, even when the aggrieved is still alive. Continue reading

Ben’s Column: Cuties (2020) – Review

Cuties (2020)

Premise: Amy, an 11-year-old girl, joins a group of dancers named “the cuties” at school, and rapidly grows aware of her burgeoning femininity – upsetting her mother and her values in the process.

Perhaps you’ve already heard of Cuties because you saw it advertised on Netflix. Perhaps you heard of it through word of mouth. More likely, you’ve heard of it because of the controversy the film has stirred up which has caused it to be shared on social media and even, yes, Ted Cruz. But to really talk about Cuties is to talk about America’s political discourse in 2020. Continue reading