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February Movies At Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

Classic and witty comedy, the one of the greatest sci-fi epics in recent history, the biggest Oscar contender of the year and a special screening from Saigon-based film festival, Impressions are some of the highlights of this month's film calendar.

4th February @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (USA 2015)

Eccentric, bizarre and satirical, this is Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The fifth and, arguably, the best film to date by writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams , Amores Perros, Biutiful and Babel) who for the first time dives into the comedy genre.

Birdman has taken audiences and critics by storm and collected numerous awards and nominations along the way - 9 Oscars and 10 BAFTAs nominations, 7 Golden Globes (two wins) and four SAG Awards nominations (one win).

Michael Keaton is Riggan, a washed-up actor who made his money and gained success in his early days by playing superhero, Birdman. Now, desperate to be recognised as a "proper", serious actor, he has put his career, private life and own money at stake by writing, acting and directing his very first Broadway play: Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." 

The Mexican director assembled a terrific cast: Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and a magnificent Edward Norton to deconstruct the ego of actors as well as illustrating the break within the industry where prejudice and snobbery of critics stand in opposition with Hollywood's money-making superhero films. It is hard not to think  Iñárritu gets the last laugh since he managed to craft a visionary film with a superhero at its centre while managing to convey something meaningful. The casting choices of Keaton and Norton are also ironic as their characters embody what the two actors have experienced in their real careers. Keaton has been often overlooked due to his comedy films, and he is often solely remembered for his role as Batman. Moreover, Norton's recent "problems" with Hollywood's big studios (on the set of The Incredible Hulk) have characterized him as an artistic-method actor who has turned his back on the establishment.


5th February @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Groundhog Day (USA 1993)

If you look at any list comprising the best comedies of all time (and often the best films of all time), Groundhog Day is bound to rank pretty high, but what is probably more notable is that its star, Bill Murray, considers it the best film of his career. 22 years ago, Murray was cast and directed by his Ghostbusters pal Harold Ramis to play Phil Connors, a sneering and snobbish TV weatherman. Despite Phil's evident discontent, his employer sends him to a small town in Pennsylvania to report the local groundhog's weather prediction every year. Phil gets stuck in a cycle where he has to re-live Groundhog Day over and over again until he figures out how to break this inexplicable spell. Ramis and co-screenwriter Danny Rubin received a BAFTA for their witty redemption-story, which has passed the test of time.

 11th February @ 8 pm – deciBel Lounge 

Impressions presents:Welcome to the Machine (2012)

Impressions is pleased to present the rockumentary, Welcome to the Machine. Is there a set path to glory? Or does it all come down to luck and coincidence, charisma and talent? Based on numerous interviews, Welcome to the Machine traces the inner workings of the global music business.

Writer-director Andreas Steinkogler uncovers "The 12 Commandments" of music business - the secret of success, the purpose of music awards, the whole truth about recording contracts and nine other monstrosities by asking the people involved in the business. He interviewed numerous bands, artists, producers, marketers, PR people and music festival organisers from various countries including White Lies (UK), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (US), director Anton Corbijn (Control), Chilly Gonzalez (CA) and many more to uncover the truth behind the music industry and to answer the question "Is there one right way to fame?"

Filmmaker Andreas Steinkogler will be present at the screening and will participate at a Q&A session with the audience after the film.

Welcome to the Machine has been presented in various countries including Vietnam here it was screened in Hanoi and only once in Saigon at deciBel Lounge.

 12th February @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Interstellar(USA 2014)

Nolan's epic sci-fi adventure, Interstellar, draws references from classics of the genre such as, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien and Star Wars. Matthew McConaughey is Cooper, an ex-pilot-turned-farmer, who is compelled by a now-secret NASA to find an alternative universe for humanity to live in. Accompanied by fellow astronaut Brand (Anne Hathaway), Cooper faces deadly adventures that take him through wormholes, blackholes and timetravel.

As seen in Memento and Inception, Nolan likes to play with time in the editing room, so its use in this film is not going to be a surprise for hard-core fans of the British filmmaker. What is remarkable in Interstellar is how it was filmed. As in The Dark Knight, Nolan used 70mm IMAX film (do you remember the opening scene where Batman is standing on a high-rise building and you felt like you were falling down with him despite not wearing silly 3D glasses? That is the IMAX format) and he did not have his actors play against a green screen. Instead, the visual effects team digitally shot the scenes beforehand and then placed them as backdrops for the actors. 

 24th February @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

Whiplash (USA 2014)

Two years ago, Future Shorts Vietnam closed its international program with a short film in which a music teacher, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), verbally abused and bullied his jazz orchestra students. At that time, the electrifying short by writer-director Damien Chazelle had already won the Sundance Film Festival and was looking for funds to be adapted into a long-length feature film. And so it happened. The release of Whiplash last year was met with awe by critics and audiences alike, and again winning big at Sundance. J.K. Simmons has been showered with awards for his performance and has been nominated for five Oscars. This is not just the typical David versus Goliath story where an indie film makes it big; Whiplash is an audacious piece of filmmaking in every sense. Who would have bet on a story revolving around the relationship between a borderline mad, ferocious music instructor and his young drumming student? The brutal and claustrophobic, yet witty, relationship between the two had critics comparing the film with Full Metal Jacket. In this case, too, the road to success and perfection seems to be filled with sweat and blood (literally). The film deserves praises on many levels: Chazelle's razor-sharp execution, an outstanding Simmons, and the soundtrack just to name a few are noteworthy, but our hat goes off to the editor who stitched together a 15-minute drum solo scene that is more gripping and filled with suspense than a thriller film.

25th February @ 8pm - Saigon Outcast

Nightcrawler (USA 2014)

In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain) delivers his best performance to date in the role of Lou Bloom, a man so desperate to work and achieve success that he appears to have memorized every Human Resource textbook ever written. Lou is willing to do anything, and he is confident his good work ethic and intelligence will allow him to succeed in whatever field will open its doors to him. Lou finds himself work as a "nightcrawler" looking for accidents, car crashes and murders in the streets of a jaded Los Angeles. Meanwhile, he begins a work relationship with a desperate TV News executive (Rene Russo) who, for the success of her channel, is willing to go far in showing the horrific crimes that Lou records for her. First-time director Dan Gilroy patiently and cleverly builds up a crescendo through which Lou's insanity is slowly revealed. Nightcrawler could be seen as an investigation into the mind of its sociopathic leading character or as an accusation towards the cunning media, whose desire to shock with brutality will stop at nothing. What is truly chilling about Gilroy's thriller is the lack of a shred of guilt or morality behind his protagonists and their actions.

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