Post(s) tagged with "Special Screenings"

Exploring a Labyrinth

ROOM 237
11/04/12 - Chinese 1, 9:00 p.m.
11/07/12 - Chinese 3, 1:15 p.m. 

By Dennis Cozzalio

When I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s film of THE SHINING back in the summer of 1980, one of the many questions swirling around in my head as I stumbled out of the theater into the midday sun was, Why would Kubrick change the number of the sinister hotel room from 217 (as it was in Stephen King’s book) to 237? It seemed like such a random choice, but it gnawed at me, right along with the many reservations I had about the movie itself. My own efforts to contemplate Kubrick’s motivation never moved beyond the rudimentarily mathematical, not to mention the absurdly inconsequential — “Is the director saying his movie is better than King’s book by, um, 20?” — before I gave up altogether.

It’s been 32 years since the movie came out, and over the course of subsequent summers the movie — which got very mixed reactions from critics and audiences at the time — has been embraced by many as yet another Kubrick masterpiece. But it turns out some people never gave up wondering about that room number, and scores of other mysteries apparently buried within the text of the movie’s visual and aural design.

Rodney Ascher’s delightful, nimbly directed, perplexing but never condescending ROOM 237 allows that freeform wonderment a postmodern sort of forum, charting the conspiratorial theories of five people who have poked at the carcass of THE SHINING for decades, each unearthing wildly divergent, improbable, thought-provoking and, of course, conflicting conclusions.

The movie, blessedly talking heads-free, uses plenty of fair-use justified clips from Kubrick’s movie as a sort of an illustrative guide, functioning as an exhibit of evidence to support the various claims made by its multiple narrators, alongside scores of found footage and clips from other films, some directed by Kubrick, some not.

If ROOM 237 never allows the viewer the luxury of “getting to know” the folks who have submersed themselves so profoundly into Kubrick’s methods, then the very nature of their obsessions provides clues for further psychological archaeology. One man claims the movie as a treatise on the genocide of the American Indian, another on the Holocaust. There’s a woman who tracks with three-dimensional precision the lay of the Overlook Hotel (Ascher cleverly places us inside her maps) and the meaning taken on as the various characters move through it. And two different observers focus on how Kubrick apparently used the nascent trend of technological manipulation of imagery (originated in the groundbreaking effects of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) to his own end — one weaving an elaborate theory involving that changed room number and Kubrick’s involvement in the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the other postulating that the simplest answer to why the movie is so packed with seemingly random information might be the most reliable — Kubrick was bored.

ROOM 237 has been criticized for elevating the nitpicking mania of marginalized viewers to the level of film criticism, and it is true that there’s a certain similarity between what goes on here and the sort of geeky-smart exegesis found in modern video essays, ones produced by reliably intelligent writers as well as the kookier fringes of the fanboy brigade. But what Ascher does here hardly negates 32 years of serious consideration of a movie that by no means holds a consensus of quality either among critics or the public.

Some of the defensive railings against the film from reputable critics imply a presumption that Ascher lends credulity to either the notion that the theories in his film belong on the same platform as traditional film criticism, or to the veracity of the ideas themselves. But what makes Ascher’s approach admirable is his refusal to editorialize about his subjects, to use his movie to demonstrate a hipster’s directorial aloofness, a constant invitation to chortle at the plausibility of what’s being offered. The invitation is not to award these theorists the credibility of seasoned film critics but instead to allow the audience the luxury of deciding for themselves how to process the wildly conflicting information, a method strangely similar, if the interviewees are to be believed, to the one which Kubrick employs in his own film.

Ascher’s clever and illuminating movie ends up offering a road map into the consciousness of obsession not only of those who have plumbed THE SHINING for its secrets, but also into that of any cinephile who has ever found a measure of passionate derangement in whatever their cinematic obsession might be, film critics included. To a certain degree it is to Kubrick’s THE SHINING what Les Blank’s BURDEN OF DREAMS is to Werner Herzog’s FITZCARRALDO, a demented wrinkle on the traditional “making of” promotional documentary, with a particularly obsessed and gesticulating portion of the audience taking up the mantle of a notoriously reclusive director who is in death only marginally more reluctant to pontificate on his motivations than he would be if he were alive to see ROOM 237 for himself.

Dennis Cozzalio writes for his Los Angeles blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

Films in the Special Screenings section of AFI FEST 2012, November 1-8.

AFI FEST 2012 Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings Announced


The Centerpiece Galas are LIFE OF PI in 3D (DIR Ang Lee); ON THE ROAD (DIR Walter Salles); RISE OF THE GUARDIANS in 3D (DIR Peter Ramsey); and RUST AND BONE/DE ROUILLE ET D’OS (DIR Jacques Audiard) featuring A Tribute to Marion Cotillard. All galas will be presented in the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

AFI FEST’s Special Screenings are THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (DIR Ken Burns); GINGER AND ROSA (DIR Sally Potter); HOLY MOTORS (DIR Léos Carax); THE IMPOSSIBLE (DIR Juan Antonio Bayona); QUARTET (DIR Dustin Hoffman in his directorial debut); ROOM 237 (DIR Rodney Ascher); SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (DIR David O. Russell); and WEST OF MEMPHIS (DIR Amy Berg).

As previously announced, the World Premiere of HITCHCOCK (DIR Sacha Gervasi) is the Opening Night Gala and the World Premiere of LINCOLN (DIR Steven Spielberg) is the Closing Night Gala.

For the fourth consecutive year, AFI FEST will continue its unprecedented offer of free tickets to all screenings, but only the Star Patron Package and Marquee Patron Package will provide reserved seating for the galas, including the World Premiere opening night gala of HITCHCOCK and the World Premiere closing night gala of LINCOLN. These and other AFI FEST passes, including the Special Screenings Pass, are on sale now at The American Film Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational and cultural organization, and packages and passes are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

AFI members will have a 24-hour advance window on Wednesday, October 24 before free tickets become available to the general public. In addition, AFI members at the Two-Star level and above receive a 10% discount on all Patron Packages and Passes. Information about AFI Membership is available at

Questions of Self-Worth

I melt With You

Egyptian-Rigler, 11/7/2011, 8:00 PM
Chinese 1, 11/9/2011, 1:45 PM 

By Annabel Campos

American director Mark Pellington gives us I MELT WITH YOU, a film with deep themes of emotional and physical insignificance and the loss of youthful ideals. The film can be best described as a “despondent bromance”.  I MELT WITH YOU premiered at Sundance and will be part of the great Special Screenings line up this year at AFI FEST.

I MELT WITH YOU is the story of four friends on an annual reunion—‚Jonathan, a divorced doctor (Rob Lowe), Richard, a failed writer (Thomas Jane), Ron, a troubled financier (Jeremy Piven), and Tim, a deeply heartbroken man (Christian McKay). The film captures the four men drifting away day by day. While feeling lucky to have felt alive at one time, much stronger are their feelings of failure.

The common theme within the film is the loss of courage and significance. The almost eerie lecture Richard gives to his students in the opening scene and the television bite of the sour 1980 John Lyndon interview with Tom Snyder provides way to the distressful and uneasy theme of the film. The emotions of irrelevance and worthlessness each character portrays as the story unravels into a grievous decision intensify the strong performances. First we see Jonathan’s increasing insignificance as a father—he sees his own son not acknowledging him, and instead, the boy acknowledges his stepfather. Richard’s cynicism about a young man’s writing career prove that he has become filled with feelings of bitterness and resentfulness instead of finding the courage he once had to write.  Ron’s inability to face the consequences for his fraudulent actions and failure to apologize to his loving wife and children makes him a blatant coward. Tom’s inability to heal for a lost love paves the way for his soul-consuming guilt.

Overall, I MELT WITH YOU provokes the questioning of how we measure our self-worth. Why should we feel consumed by our tribulations or worse yet by how others view us? Why can’t we forgive ourselves for our mistakes or our derailed goals? You might think it’s easy to give up, but it’s actually easier to start over.

Annabel Campos is a native Angeleno whose writing has been previously featured in AFI FEST NOW.  Her professional interests are digital marketing and creative writing. Her favorite hobbies include digital photography and watching movies

Crime Reveals Social Fabric

Into the Abyss

Egyptian-Rigler, 11/6/2011, 5:30 PM
Chinese 3, 11/7/2011, 1:15 PM 

By Paul T. Bradley

When most folks hear the term “visual tapestry” they often think of the video art project their yoga teacher or anthropology professor heaped on them unwillingly at the last minute—perhaps even the same folks whose walls sport multiple tapestries. No offense to the tapestry-hanging world, but INTO THE ABYSS is Werner Herzog territory, and when he says “visual tapestry,” as he did in a recent Los Angeles Times blurb about his film, he means something entirely different and entirely serious—the man dragged a steamboat over a jungle mountain, after all. 

INTO THE ABYSS can easily stand in as a title to almost any Herzog film, but there’s something different here. The film weaves together the threads of one Texas man’s execution for a horrific crime. The weft and warp of the crime—a rural Texas triple homicide 10 years ago—reveal the inextricable interconnectedness of the social fabric underlying the  perpetrators, the victims, the setting, the motives and even the natural physical landscape. 

Regular evening news acolytes may be relatively unmoved by the disgusting crime itself given the reliability of Middle American violence on TV news: two teenagers shot a woman, her son and a friend as part of a plan to steal a Camaro. The duo’s lack of attention to covering up their crime and the details of their half-hearted escape exposes a particular thread of apathy that runs through a rural American culture awash in joblessness and poverty. Both perpetrators just pushing 30—one 10 years into a 40-year sentence, the other with eight days to go before his scheduled execution—maintain their innocence despite the preponderance of facts to the contrary. 

Herzog’s visual loom shuttles images worthy of both cable TV news hyperbole (including grisly and graphic details of the crime) and the drawn-out sweeping landscapes of painterly discretion. This is not, however, a solely visual tapestry: the filmmaker interviews the perpetrators, victims, associates and police with his trademark rasp and probing detachment. What he reveals in allowing the subjects speak for themselves is not only the banality of evil but the bizarre banality of grief. 

The relatives of both victim and perpetrator alike speak to strengthen Herzog’s vision of this place and story he has found. A grieving daughter reveals not just the tragedy that took her mother and brother away, but the market-basket of associated tragedies that took away her birth father, her step-father, and even her dog. An incarcerated father of one of the perpetrators lays bare the cyclic nature of social decline—speaking to his own incarceration and his lack of fatherly presence. 

Through windows, grates and plate glass, Herzog focuses the bold spread of his tapestry into poignant moments of insight. We’re shown a killer who’s prison-found Christianity is not only a Get-out-of-jail Free Card but a responsibility sanitizer as he almost eagerly anticipates his own death. We’re shown another killer whose life’s thread continues through romancing and possibly impregnating a woman on the outside (one who is also certain of his innocence). 

For Herzog, this isn’t merely a story or even the presentation of a cycle, but an offhand celebration of life itself. While he concentrates on merely one crime, he pulls at threads of that crime, tugging on and unraveling the fabric of the American social landscape. INTO THE ABYSS is Herzog at his best, a master of introspection and visual uniquity. 

Paul T. Bradley is a freelance writer, cinefile, and former ditch-digger. He is a regular contributor to LA Weekly’s arts section, where he covers haute nerdery, semi-refined vulgarity, and hastily-scrawled pro-Los Angeles jingoism. He reluctantly tweets from @paultbradley.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN screens as part of our Special Screenings section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

Tilda Swinton gives a remarkable performance as Eva, a reluctant mother whose life is shattered beyond repair by her son’s Columbine-like atrocity.

PINA screens as part of our Special Screenings section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

Wim Wenders captures the world of choreographer Pina Bausch and her dance company in spectacular 3D with thrilling performances of many of her most famous works.

I MELT WITH YOU screens as part of our Special Screenings section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

Four friends gather for an annual birthday celebration in Big Sur and come face to face with the hard truths of who they have become.

Win a Pair of Cinepasses to AFI FEST!

For the next seven days, we are giving away a pair of Cinepasses a day to this year’s AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi! 

A Cinepass is a great way to experience AFI FEST, with benefits including:

- avoid the rush lines- avoid online ticket selection- access to all regular screenings in World Cinema, New Auteurs, Young Americans, Shorts & Spotlight and the cinema lounge

It’s easy to enter, go to our FACEBOOK page:

Cinepasses, Special Screening Passes and Patron Packages are also on sale now:

And you can get a discount on all passes if you become a member today!:


MISS BALA screens as part of our Special Screenings section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

Gerardo Naranjo’s haunting and elegant film tells the story of a beauty pageant hopeful swept up in the violent world of Mexico’s drug cartels.


AFI is America’s promise to preserve the history of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI provides leadership in film, television and digital media and is dedicated to initiatives that engage the past, the present and the future of the moving image arts.

As a non-profit educational and cultural organization open to the public, AFI relies on the generous financial support from moving arts enthusiasts like you to provide funding for its programs and initiatives. Become a member today and support your American Film Institute!


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