Podcast: Here's Why Fox's Empire Rules

Categories: Film and TV

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Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in Empire.

There are five reasons why Fox's Empire has become a breakout hit, and on this week's Voice Film Club podcast, we run down why the show, introduced as a mid-season replacement, has surged to nearly 14 million viewers an episode by its eighth week. Joining Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl are Voice TV columnist Inkoo Kang, Brooklyn bon vivant Meave Gallagher, and LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson. We also ask why Focus, the Will Smith-Margot Robbie vehicle, flopped at the box office, and wrap up by recommending three mighty little TV shows Mike Tyson Mysteries on Adult Swim, RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo, You're the Worst on FXX, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. As always, send barbs, jabs, claims, or jokes to filmpod@villagevoice.com and follow us on the Twitter at @voicefilmclub. Read all of our movie reviews, interviews and news over at miaminewtimes.com/movies.

[Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast on iTunes]


Miami International Film Festival 2015 Embraces Local Filmmakers

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Courtesy of Miami International Film Festival
Hot Girls Wanted
From Sundance to Toronto to South by Southwest, Miami filmmakers have made their mark on the festival circuit. The city's most buzzed-about collective, Borscht Corp., has had work accepted at major gatherings around the world -- but never at the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF). Until now.

MIFF, which returns this Friday and runs through March 20, changed its requirements for submissions this year, in part to allow films like Borscht's to be screened. Before this year, every MIFF screening had to be at least a Florida premiere. "But obviously the Borscht festival is a different forum," explains Jaie Laplante, MIFF's executive director. "They're involved in production, and we're not... We don't want to exclude any of the great work being done here on a technicality."

See also: Cuban Filmmaker Jessica Rodriguez Shows Life Through a Different Lens

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Leonard Nimoy Represented the Best of Humanity

Categories: Film and TV

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Caption: Nimoy in a publicity still for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock .
Leonard Nimoy has died at the age of 83. Both on camera and off, he exemplified the best of what Star Trek, and thus humanity, could represent.

Part of that was Trek's writing, of course. But it was Nimoy who took what was on the page — often repaired what was on the page — and brought Spock alive, making a half-human, half-Vulcan with pointed ears the most relatable character on the show. Not everyone is a Captain Kirk, or would even want to be, but Nimoy's portrayal of Spock touched on a key human experience: the sometimes unbearable difficulty of having emotions. He brought a truth and an authenticity to the role that kept it from ever descending into camp, no matter what the script called for him to do.

According to the title of his 1975 autobiography, I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy was not Spock. But he also was Spock, according to his 1995 follow-up, I Am Spock, in which he explained that he had meant that he never was not Spock, as such, just that there was more to him than just being Spock, and it was a legacy he had finally come to terms with.

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Cuban Filmmaker Jessica Rodriguez Shows Life Through a Different Lens

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Courtesy of Jessica Rodriguez
The filmmaker.
You may not realize that Cuban filmmaker Jessica Rodriguez makes documentaries. The Havana-born, Madrid-based 28-year-old has a gift for making her subjects forget they're telling their most personal secrets to an unknown audience. "I think people only tell us what they want to, and the things they don't say are often much more interesting," she says. "I like working with people who feel like talking, feel like telling things to the world."

Rodriguez's selection of short films, presented during an Emerging Cuban Filmmaker showcase at the Miami International Film Festival, seek to tell a story of four disparate lives, each story intertwined with the other as the director seeks to unravel the human condition. "I don't like textbook characters; I prefer to humanize stories in a way that shows what the human experience is; vulnerable, and imperfect," Rodriguez says. I think that the 'textbook' story has been told a million times, and I think it's far more interesting to explore uncharted territories, and seek out those stories and anecdotes that people don't often share."

See also: Gett: The Trial of Vivane Amsalem Pulls Back Curtain on Israeli Divorce

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Gett: The Trial of Vivane Amsalem Pulls Back Curtain on Israeli Divorce

Categories: Film and TV

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Courtesy of the filmmakers
Directors Ronit Elkabetz (at left) and Shlomi Elkabetz, on the set of 'Gett.'
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, is a film that makes you want to talk to the movie screen. The phenomena took co-director/co-writer Shlomi Elkabetz and his sister, co-director/co-writer and the film's star Ronit Elkabetz, by surprise when they premiered the film at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Speaking via phone from Los Angeles, the brother of the Israeli filmmaking duo says, "When we first showed the film in Cannes, we were completely shocked how strong the initial reaction of the audience was throughout the film. We were sitting there, and people were talking to the screen, and also in different screenings, when Vivianne says something, people applaud."

See also: Review and showtimes for Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

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Interview With (Totally Lame) Vampires

Categories: Film and TV

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Weird vampires are weird
Ten years ago, Wellington, New Zealand, was less welcoming of vampires. When Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, two unknown comedians, walked the streets in velvet frocks and ruffles for a 2005 sketch, dudes would drive by and scream homophobic slurs. Says Clement, "We were constantly abused."

Over the next decade, things changed. In 2006, Clement landed an Outback Steakhouse commercial. In 2007, he and college classmate Bret McKenzie launched the cult hit Flight of the Conchords and played the lead in Waititi's first feature, the cross-continental indie darling Eagle vs Shark. Their gang put a generation of New Zealand comics on the map. By the time Clement and Waititi had earned the clout to go back and expand their vampire short into a feature, What We Do in the Shadows, even Wellington had evolved. Clement and Waititi slithered into their bloodsucker threads and steeled themselves for more showdowns with brutes in too-big suits and running shoes. But today, Wellington out-hipsters Brooklyn.

See also: What We Do in the Shadows

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All the Oscar 2015 Losers Still Worth Seeing

Categories: Film and TV

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Many people won't watch a film based solely on the fact that is was simply nominated for an Oscar. But if said movie takes home a statue, that's another story. "Academy Award winner" in front of a film title, actor, or director carries weight.

So here we are, just days after the 87th Academy Awards, with 24 winners chosen from 60 nominees. So, what about the films that didn't win? Here are all of the Oscar losers still worth seeing.

See also: David Cronenberg Talks About His New Film, Maps to the Stars

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Podcast: Winners, Awkward Moments, and Losers from the 2015 Oscars

Categories: Film and TV

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Screenshot of Academy Awards Coverage
An awkward moment

There was an awkward moment between Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson and her mom, Melanie Griffith, on the red carpet before the Oscars on Sunday. But the world got to see Johnson's impressive talent for pretending uncomfortable situations don't seem to bother her (see also: Fifty Shades of Grey). It was an eventful Oscars, and that was only the start. Your Voice Film Club hosts Amy Nicholson, Alan Scherstuhl, and Stephanie Zacharek break down the 2015 Oscars winners and losers, while Amy and Stephanie unveil their all-time favorite Oscar dresses. Plus, Amy tells us about how Channing Tatum is going to blow our minds in the new Coen Brothers movie, Hail, Caesar! As always, send mail to filmpod@villagevoice.com and follow us on the Twitter at @voicefilmclub.

[Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast on iTunes]



David Cronenberg Talks About His New Film, Maps to the Stars

Categories: Film and TV

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Courtesy of Le Pacte Films
Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars

Celebrities are flesh, David Cronenberg would say. Maps to the Stars, the latest film from the cult director, paints a grim picture behind the veneer of celebrity, but it also probes deep below the surface to explore damaged people in search of validity through speciousness.

Maps to the Stars follows a family of Hollywood archetypes disrupted by the appearance of an interloper (Mia Wasikowska), whose face and arms are mutilated by a childhood fire. She is Agatha, the sister of 13-year-old child star Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), who is fresh out of rehab and hooked on energy drinks. Benjie's mother, a archetypal stage mother (Olivia Williams), pushes him to get back work on a sequel for a schlocky comedy hit called Bad Babysitter. His father (John Cusack) is a new-age sage who has his own TV show and offers private sessions that combine reflexology and Jungian psychoanalysis.

See also: Film Review: Maps to the Stars Has Little Fire, but Julianne Moore Is Grand

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Film Pod: Kevin Costner Eases White America Into the Present with McFarland, USA

Categories: Film and TV

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Ron Phillips/© Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Disney's McFarland, USA

Kevin Costner eases white America into the now with McFarland, USA, we hear about the Berlin Film Festival's highs (Queen of Earth) and lows (Knight of Cups), and dip into the lukewarm waters of a second Hot Tub Time Machine movie. Also, there's much praise for teen comedy The DUFF and Wild Tales, a movie filled with stories of humans acting badly. We also hear about the plight of Fluffy, the cat owned by film director Alex Ross Perry. Your hosts (Amy Nicholson, Alan Scherstuhl, and Stephanie Zacharek) are joined by film critic Jordan Hoffman for this week's feature-length pod. As always, send barbs, jabs, claims, or jokes to filmpod@villagevoice.com and follow us on the Twitter at @voicefilmclub. Read all of our movie reviews, interviews and news over at villagevoice.com/movies.

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