REVIEW: The 35th Boston Film Festival brought comic wit and moving narratives to Shorts Program I

Sponsored in part by Starz and supported by The Hollywood Reporter, The 35th Boston Film Festival had a lot to offer on this landmark year.  Though it took place on a gorgeous fall weekend, audiences gathered to attend the four-day festival that included world premiere shows and films (Whaling, American Tragedy and She’s in Portland), a wide variety of short films, and clever independent films from Thursday, September 19 through Sunday, September 22.

Some of the highlights included the US Premiere of JoJo Rabbit, the East coast premiere of Once Upon A River and A Hidden Life, and special event screenings such as NBC’s Bluff City Law and The Dog Doc.  The festival also featured powerful documentaries such as The Last Harvest:  You Can’t Grow Without Change and The Wild.  Click here for a closer look at the full schedule.

jo jo rabbit_

The Boston Film Festival presented US Premiere of indie film, ‘JoJo Rabbit’ Photo credit to Fox Serachlight Pictures

The Boston Film Festival took place for the most part at the stellar Showplace Icon Theatre.  Located at the Boston Seaport and conveniently located at the Courthouse stop on the Silver Line, The Showplace Icon Theatre features state-of-the-art stadium seating with plush reclining chairs, a beverage holder, and a place for your popcorn.  Click here for a closer look at this amazing theatre and here for more information and tickets.

Showplace Icon Theatre

Showplace Icon Theatre, located at Boston Seaport. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

The Shorts Program I took place on day three of the festival on Saturday, September 21 and featured a dynamic group of films that ranged from heartrending to hilarious to the macabre.  It was a selection likely to appeal to everyone.

Boston Film Festival 'Class of 84'

Alex Salsburg as Mom and Harley Harrison as Mike Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and Class of 84

Directed by Alex Salsburg and Joe Andrade, Class of 84 is a narrated animated short film that offers an amusing and clever angle on helicopter parenting.  Dr. Katz’s Jonathan Katz is involved in the project.  Through clean, colorful, and two dimensional animation, Class of 84 delves into the life of a teenager living with his constantly hovering, overprotective mother.  From eating raw cookie dough to crossing the street, Class of 84 has its share of silly moments, but overall a fun and interesting look at the virtues of listening to your mother.

Directed by Jon Bloch, Waiting Game takes a darker turn exploring a tough and complicated relationship between constantly worried and well meaning Kenny, portrayed by John Patrick Amedori and his ailing, frustrated father, portrayed by Bruce McGill as Mel.  It doesn’t take long for this meaningful short film to cause a lump in one’s throat.

Boston Film Festival 'Waiting Game'

‘Waiting Game’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and ‘Waiting Game’

Waiting Game is a relatable tale about how family can have the best of intentions and those intentions can end up getting misconstrued in the worst way.  John Patrick Amedori Bruce McGill deliver powerful and moving performances that can sometimes be painful to watch as they build a fragile, tension-filled chasm between them.  Waiting Game balances a few lighter moments between Kenny and sweet waitress Alyssa, portrayed by Dilshad Vadsaria.

On a lighter note, director Barbara Elbinger directs You Need Help, a heartfelt look at a retired married couple.  Featuring a fitting soundtrack, Fred, portrayed by Edmund Dehn, is a depressed husband who longs to put vitality and fun back into his life with his all too practical wife, Doreen, portrayed by Eileen Nicholas.   These two have a wonderful chemistry even when they do not see eye to eye and there is much more to these two than they seem.  To witness Fred’s unconventional antics in recapturing the joy in their marriage is worth the price of the ticket.

The Boston Film Festival The Seal

Shahana Goswami as Sheetal in ‘The Seal’ Photo credit to Boston Film Festival and The Seal

Directed by Richa Rudola, The Seal takes a look at Shahana Goswami as Sheetal, a woman haunted by her past when she receives a mysterious, sealed package.  Though the story is fictional, Director Richa Rudola was inspired to create this tale based on events she witnessed and experienced as a woman growing up in India.

The Seal delves into the struggles that keep people stuck in their pain, unable to move on with their lives.  As the haunting phrase, ‘Remember what Mama used to Say’ permeates Sheetal’s thoughts, she seeks comfort in caring, but shady Daquane Cherry as Ruben.  However, some of The Seal’s best scenes are in the unspoken moments, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Boston Film Festival 'Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story'

Photo credit to the Boston Film Festival and ‘Boy Eats Girl: A Zombie Love Story’

Director Sarah Gurfield puts a little love in a zombie’s heart in Boy Eats Girl:  A Zombie Love Story.  Zombies seem to be all the rage and a love struck zombie picking flowers can be humorous, but found these seven short minutes all too dark and grisly to muster adoration.

The Bigonia Garden, directed by Ron Goldin and based on Goldin’s own experiences, is a foreign short film that explores an unexpected connection between neighbors in war torn Ashdod in Tel Aviv.  As missiles are launched over their heads, Sound Producer Adam and neighbor Bar retreat to the stairwell in their building, the safest place during a crisis.  It is a snapshot into the lives of people who have no choice but live in the moment during a tumultuous time.

It is a beautiful, personal film and loner Adam, portrayed by Adam Hirsch and Bar, portrayed by Bar Ackerman, have compelling chemistry with an unpredictable conclusion.

Directed by Joel Marsh, A Valley explores a couple of adventure-seeking risk takers as they go on a camping excursion together.  It is based on a short story called The Marsh.  They make each other laugh, wax philosophical, and the film gives the impression that all they have is each other.  The film was a bit ambiguous and would have liked to have delved more into their relationship to give the film more emotional weight.

Boston Film Festival’s Shorts Program I also featured American Life and Heirloom, but were not reviewed.  Click here for more about this year’s festival and future updates.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Kristin Chenoweth thrills Boston with her unshakable optimism, humor, and unstoppable vocals

“Boston is my second favorite place in the world,” reveals a glimmering Kristin Chenoweth, “Don’t tell New York.”  Wearing a black, glitzy cocktail dress paired with shining silver pumps and a megawatt smile, award-winning singer and film, television, and musical theatre actress Kristin Chenoweth excitedly burst onto the Boston Symphony Hall stage, standing before an equally shimmering microphone as the crowd roared.  “I feel like I’m in Oklahoma,” she revealed, sipping from a large Dunkin’ Donuts cup, “It feels right.”

It also felt right for the enthusiastic, packed house as Chenoweth kicked off her one night only, Celebrity Series of Boston debut of An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth on Sunday, April 30.  Symphony Hall was appropriately lit in Chenoweth’s signature color as Greek statues above the balconies gave off a violet and pink hue.

Celebrity Series Symphony stage

Celebrity Series of Boston at Symphony Hall Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Greeting the audience with Should I be Sweet by Vincent Millie Youmans from the musical, Take a Chance, a thrilling, flirtatious ode debating the perfect way to present oneself, Chenoweth immediately lured the audience in with her engaging, vivacious, and wonderfully charming personality as well as her rich, unstoppable vocals.  From beautiful stories about her parents to her unfailingly optimistic, humorous, and unbridled reflections on her life and career, Chenoweth proved not only a brilliant entertainer, but an incredible joy just to spend time with.

Accompanied by her Worcester-raised Music Director Michael Orland on piano, who is also the vocal coach to the hit show, Little Big Shots, Kristin Chenoweth spoke about a few of her past career highlights in television such as GCB, West Wing, Glee, Pushing Daisies, and Hairspray Live, to new projects such as a recently filmed pilot set in Boston as well as her new role on American Gods that premiered on Starz that same evening.  Chenoweth also revealed a few significant roles that horrified her God-fearing parents, having been raised in the Bible belt in Oklahoma.  For instance, having heard about Chenoweth’s new role as a witch in Wicked, Jerry and Judy Chenoweth shockingly asked, “Is the show satanic?”  She also launched into the scandalous Broadway tune from the hit musical, A Chorus Line called Dance Ten Looks Three, cheekily toning down the lyrics to coincide with her conservative upbringing.

Kristin Chenoweth in Boston

Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

What makes An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth so powerful is for that evening, Chenoweth’s uplifting view of life helped to make life a bit more bearable, even in its sadder moments.  Her recitation of The Obituary of the Pillsbury Doughboy was a particular highlight as a moment of silly humor following a glorious and emotional rendition of the beloved song, Bring Him Home from the musical, Les Miserables as she alluded to the Boston and Oklahoma bombings, a painful reminder of what Boston and her hometown have in common.

Chenoweth warmly shared her early experiences longing to become a ballerina, her surprising friendship with Julie Andrews, and what inspired her latest Grammy-nominated album full of Chenoweth’s favorite songs from the American Songbook, The Art of Elegance.  She sang a poignant, timeless selection from the album by Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, I Get Along Without You Very Well.  She also delivered a few of her signature songs with lively exuberance such as Taylor, The Latte Boy and Popular from the musical, Wicked, her soaring, silvery, classically-trained vocals dancing from pop to operatic, perfectly complementing her witty sense of humor.

Kristin Chenoweth on Symphony Hall stage

Kristin Chenoweth with the Boston Conservatory and the Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Chenoweth surprised the audience by bringing out the Boston Conservatory and Boston City Singers to join her onstage to perform as she expressed her love of mentoring students and her love of all faiths.  “For those who don’t believe,” Chenoweth added, “this will be over in four minutes.”  Accompanied by the two choirs, she launched into the worship song, Upon this Rock.  Her performance closed with what Chenoweth refers to as her anthem, I was Here, though her tender, memorable encore, Smile, may have also stayed with the audience long after the show was over.

Click here to see where the award-winning Kristin Chenoweth will be touring next as well as how to get a copy of her latest album, The Art of Elegance.  A few performances remain in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season.  Click here for tickets and for a closer look at this season’s shows and here to take a peek at their recently announced 2017-18 season.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook and Twitter for updates.