Monday, January 26, 2009


This film was an absolute delight to view and I am glad I made time for it, cause I almost missed the screening. In any case this is a "just 'cause" film. There is no striking revelation; there is no deep seeded message. The film just exists as life, memory, and experience has created it. This film didn’t profoundly move me but I was touched by it’s honesty. O’Horten’s writer/director Bent Hamer brings us an enchanting old man, Odd Horten. Odd is a train conductor and on the eve of his retirement he goes through a series of, what one could only expect, unusual, out of character experiences.

The film is set in Norway, in the dead of winter, and the score and music generate this otherworldly wonderland of snow, trains and childhood. As children play with train sets, Odd and his co-workers play guess what train with audiotapes. There is this beautiful sense of coming of age to this film which was quite unexpected, since the film has a sixty-seven year-old as it’s protagonist. But Odd is breaking apart from certain sets of codes and conduct he has come to understand, accept and have regulate his life. However he's experiences aren't subversive or inappropriate, Odd is just a man, and we’re just bearing witness to this life-changing event, as he is growing up.

It’s Norway in the dead of winter and there is Odd and this burning flame of liberty and independence. For Hamer to have a sixty-seven-year-old ignite, in a twenty-two-year-old, a sense of liberation is something I just can’t help but applaud. This is a true coming of age film. Odd is almost analogous to Alise (pronounced Aleesa & picture below) from Mermaid which I also watched at the Palm Springs Film Festival that you will read about soon. But Alise is eighteen and Odd is sixty-seven; so what this film accomplishes is remarkable. Overall Hamer has created a charming, and captivating film revolving around (I believe at least) a simple question; do we ever stop growing up? If you asked Odd Horten or me, we would have to say no, we never do.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

If your curiosity is peaked (even in the smallest degree) by any of the films that I will post about in the coming weeks please take the time to find a way to watch them. It’s a shame that so many extraordinary films are left unseen by a number of the film going population. As people give up on seeing them because they’re foreign or not playing in the most obscure theatres in their city, many of these film go unnoticed. Make a legitimate effort to watch these films or get other people to watch them, or hear about them because that's how we can spread the word and celebrate them. So many remarkable films go unacknowledged because they don’t get circulated enough. I believe if more time is taken to watching movies like these and making a viable effort to spreading the word about them they will get the recognition they deserve. Please make the time to go watch movies; movies that you cannot find at your local Blockbuster Video Store.

Your Cinephile at Arms,
Amanda Ondretti

Friday, January 16, 2009

Palm Springs International Film Festival

So this past weekend I went to the Palms Springs International Film Festival courtesy of my recent employers, Moving Pictures Magazine. As a sponsor of the festival, Moving Pictures Magazine was offered in the filmmakers lounge at festival events but wasn’t participating in any interviewing for the festival. So I was there to observe and enjoy the spectacular array of global cinema the festival prides itself on celebrating. I saw a total of fourteen films in three days and only two of those titles were in the English language. So aray of global cinema...check!

The drive down to Palm Springs was nothing short of spectacular. You’ve never seen the desert until you’ve seen it at night. There was this enchantingly eerie field of larger than life windmills on the drive down. Eerie because it bore a striking resemblance to a location in one of the defining films of my childhood, Mac & Me. Otherwise once in Palm Springs your surprised at how a small and synthetic it seems. I was thinking of Blazing Saddles the whole time and just waiting for some of the buildings to blow over like cardboard.

The average age of the inhabitants of this town is about Sixty-eight. I can’t help but be skeptical about the elderly because most of the ones I know in my life, coming from small towns in Italy, are rather narrow-minded and don’t care to know much else about the world around them then what they already know. But the folk in this town, well some live up to the stereotype I’ve just reiterated, but the ones that I had the pleasure of speaking with were rather delightful and refreshing. Despite all this I still couldn’t help but get the film Cocoon out of my head. (Click the photo to see Governor Schwarzenegger’s address to the festival)

Over the next few weeks I will post my reactionary revelations about five of my favorite films that I saw at the festival. Hope that if I can achieve anything, you are intrigued enough to look into the films and hopefully watch them. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stay Tuned

Please stay tuned for my posts about the Palm Springs International Film Festival and some of the amazing films I saw there this past weekend!

Elderly Man: Where's Harvey? Jimmy Stewart: Harvey has a cold and is back at home.

At the request of a dear friend, Ms. Shaw, for more reviews I am taking this one out of the wood works. I watched Harvey a while ago and kept it in my notebook for this precise purpose. I will focus on Jimmy Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd, and just my reaction to him in general.

Stewart has an introduction before the film begins where he informs the viewer about his time working on Harvey and his experiences with the processes from stage to screen. As Harvey was a stage play before it was a film, Jimmy had the pleasure of playing Elwood P. Dowd on both mediums. He said that once he was doing a matinee show and there was little boy in the first few rows and as the play progressed he watched the child grow increasingly antsy. By the middle of the second act the child stood up from his seat and yelled at Jimmy, “Where’s the rabbit?” When I heard Jimmy saying this I was slightly baffled about why people wouldn’t just accept that Harvey existed as long as he exists for Elwood P. Dowd. But to my surprise I found out that more then one person feel this way about Harvey and get frustrated as they can’t get their heads around that you can’t see the rabbit throughout the whole film.

Now I’ve never had an imaginary friend, although I know people who have, mostly as children but have had one nonetheless. And I what I can’t get my head around is just why people wont tolerate this occurrence in someone’s personality. Now my tune my change if I had to deal with it directly, I am sure, but for now I will just entertain this idea as a third party. If I would be dealing with Elwood P. Dowd, not as character in a film but as one in my life I would be confused as to why anyone would want to rob him of something that makes him as pleasant as he is. Elwood P. Dowd is one of the most genuinely nice characters I’ve ever encountered in cinema and I think this should be measured against him as a person not the fact he has a imaginary friend.

Aside from this Jimmy Stewart is just a gem per usual. It’s stunning how well this man can charm the viewer even when playing a thirty-year old plus man with an imaginary seven foot rabbit for a friend. It’s incredible that despite the babbling man most people parody Stewart for, he has a bumbling magnificence that not one actor can duplicate in cinemas history and this is demonstrated in Harvey. This film was just a joy to watch and if you are a long time fan of Stewart or just getting to know him this film satisfies fully.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Betrayal Reviewed by: Amanda Ondretti for Moving Pictures Magazine

In apology for the almost two month absence and in an effort to let you know what I've been up to I am posting my review for Moving Pictures Magazine on Ellen Kuras' documentary The Betrayal. The film comes out this January and has already been short listed for Best Documentary at this years Oscars. I suggest a viewing to all those who wish to appreciate superb quality. A merit that comes in the form of the utterly humbling tale of a Laotian family's hardships in escaping Laos and surviving in America after the Vietnam war.

*Click on the photo for a link to the review.