The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Oak Cliff Film Festival - Satanic Panic

It's Sam’s (Hayley Griffith) first day as a pizza delivery girl. As the new employee, she’s given the worst customers to deliver to – those who don’t tip. Hearing her boss call out a new delivery for a party happening in a ritzy part of town outside the restaurant’s delivery area, she quickly volunteers in hopes of receiving a large tip. Her boss has demanded a five-dollar deposit for her to use the delivery bags, leaving her desperate for tips to use as gas money. Sam arrives at the large house only to have the man who accepts the order silently close the door in her face without leaving her a tip. Discovering that her scooter won’t start, the already enraged Sam finds her way into the mansion to demand a tip, never a smart idea but an especially poor one this time. The party-goers are a group of Satanists who have just found out that their sacrificial virgin isn’t one and quickly find out that Sam is.

Danica (Rebecca Romijn) – sleek, stylish, commanding – is the leader of this cult, which seems to include everyone living in the immediate area. After unsuccessfully attempting to hold Sam until they are ready to perform the ritual, she and her cohorts do everything in their power to find her.

“Satanic Panic,” directed by Chelsea Stardust and written by popular horror author Grady Hendrix, is a cheeky horror-comedy. The film, produced by Fangoria, attempts to take a tone similar to something Sam Raimi (“Drag Me to Hell”) would make, combining humor with over-the-top horror elements. The snappy dialogue, mostly from the cult’s ex-virgin Judi (Ruby Modine) and Danica’s right-hand Gypsy (Arden Myrin), creates a lot of the movie’s humorous moments.

Fangoria’s preference for practical effects over computer wizardry gives the movie an edge. Stardust allows all hell to break loose in her movie – cast members are attacked by inanimate objects, organs are turned into monsters, etc. There’s plenty of gunk flying around the screen. As a whole, the effects used look great, even if they occasionally don’t look completely believable. This mostly applies to the monster make-up which leans toward goofiness.

Although “Satanic Panic” has a lot of the ingredients horror fans seek out, it still came across as lacking. The humor often didn’t work and the sense of “fun” (fun is only in quotation marks because some people will surely scoff at the idea of a horror movie being fun) the filmmakers were going for didn’t totally come through. Stardust’s movie is entertaining enough, it just never rises up into something stellar. It’s likely to become a cult hit with some horror fans and is worth seeking out later in the year when it’s released (September 6) in theaters.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Oak Cliff Film Festival - Veslemøy's Song / The Grand Bizarre

The first of Sunday’s screenings at the Oak Cliff Film Festival was a double-header of sorts, two short films. One a brief short that didn’t end up fitting into its original block of shorts and the other a longer short that isn’t long enough to be considered a feature.

This block opened with “Veslemøy's Song” directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz. In the short, a young woman, Audrey (Deragh Campbell), discovers that her grandfather’s violin teacher, Kathleen Parlow (somewhat famous during her lifetime but since faded into obscurity), had an orchestral piece dedicated to her. Audrey’s quest to hear the piece takes her to the New York Public Library where an appointment has to be made to listen to the rare recording. Apparently, Bohdanowicz’s film combines documentary with fictional drama, something I didn’t pick up on while watching it. There really wasn’t anything special about this short, told mostly through voiceover supplied by Campbell. It’s not a particularly interesting story and nothing much happens before it abruptly ends.

The second selection, “The Grand Bizarre,” is more experimental in nature. Directed by Jodie Mack, “The Grand Bizarre” doesn’t attempt to tell a story. Instead, Mack creates a mood, established via a series of photographs featuring multiple pieces of fabric. Her film has a visual style reminiscent of the stop-motion some musicians used for their music videos in the 1980s, think Peter Gabriel’s video for “Sledgehammer” or Nu Shooz’s video for “Point of No Return,” or animator Norman McLaren used in shorts like “Neighbours” and “Dots.” The imagery is driven by a soundtrack that also veers towards the experimental. The lack of a traditional narrative may sound daunting but if you allow yourself to go with the flow and get absorbed in the mood she’s creating you might like what you see. I’d be lying if I said I completely enjoyed Mack’s film, it does feel like it goes on a little too long. There were several moments I found myself wondering how much longer it would last.

Neither short is something I’d recommend to casual viewers but if you’re curious I’d check out “The Grand Bizarre” over “Veslemøy’s Song.” While both lack a good narrative, Mack’s film feels more purposeful than Bohdanowicz’s.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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*** (out of ****)

5B is expertly, if deliberately, balanced between the personal and the political. The first half of Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss’s documentary archives the lives and, in some cases, deaths of the earliest survivors and victims in the AIDS crisis, and upon a clearly delineated shift in tone and pacing, the second half examines the wrongful perceptions of the disease and the political response to it, at least in the United States. There is something a bit clinical in the film’s approach, which must inevitably include some surprises at the end of a couple of the stories it tells. Perhaps framing those developments as surprises is a bit of a cheat.

Perhaps, though, the impulse is a different one. After all, this is a documentary that seeks to break down the misconceptions of the fatal syndrome that swept through vulnerable parts of the world most intensely in the late 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, until a type of protease inhibitor made contracting AIDS, following a diagnosis of HIV, thankfully less likely. The documentary is constantly a kick in the stomach by the realities of this disease. Many of the interview subjects, for instance, must be the doctors and nurses who attempted to treat the disease in patients with that fateful prognosis.

The reason, of course, is its own, somber reality check: Most of the interview subjects who would be in a position to talk about the effects of the disease have long since succumbed to it. Only half of Haggis and Krauss’s intentions lie with an account of those effects, however. The main subjects were once healthcare workers on the eponymous ward, dedicated to AIDS patients after an excruciating period of misinformation and paranoia about the disease, of the San Francisco General Hospital. The ward closed in 2003, twenty years after being established by a few handfuls of rebellious doctors.

The need for the ward rose from the prevailing and incorrect belief that mere touch, then the swapping of mucus or other fluids, spread the disease that would kill tens of thousands of people by the time it was addressed by those in a Presidential administration. It would be several years before the realization of its being a bloodborne illness occurred, and by then, an old prejudice had already set in. Doctors and nurses in what would become ward 5B had a radical solution: Physical touch was sympathetically nurturing to these wounded and weathered souls.

The outrage came from that old prejudice: It was believed that the illness, which first and most seriously affected gay men, sprung up out of the ether of, what was considered to be, a delinquent lifestyle. Bathhouses were seen as massive orgies and grounds-zero for the epidemic (and news reports, specifically calibrated to underline this fear, are eye-opening to that effect). Medical professionals sent away those suffering the disease to die in agony and solitude. A nurse, infected with the disease after an accidental needle prick, was then ushered into anonymity when it was believed that mere exposure to the disease was synonymous with sexual deviancy.

One of the great coups of this achievement, by the way, is the revelation of who that nurse, labeled “Jane Doe” in the wake of the incident, really is and the perspective of the person who went through that initial fright of contracting an incurable disease. Facts and the names of people come and go quickly, which may be why this review hasn’t mentioned any. Haggis and Krauss are more interested in the broad story of the ward’s opening and, through a brief examination of President Ronald Reagan’s weak response, political impact. 5B could do to go deeper, but as a document and act of political activism, it’s quite affecting.
(Review by Joel Copling)

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Late Night

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Although it’s a well-known topic, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s is hard to grasp for those of us who were not alive during that time period (or old enough to comprehend - or care about - the then happening current events). It’s a topic that has occasionally popped up when talking with older generations but hearing (or reading) about an issue isn't as impactful as seeing it.

"5B" focuses on the nation's first ward, located in San Francisco General Hospital, designed specifically for the purpose of treating people with the disease. As with any new epidemic, victims were often met with fear and open hostility. Things weren't helped by the fact that this was happening solely in the homosexual community, a demographic already met with derision and condescension.

Even those who worked in the medical field dreaded interacting with the exponentially increasing number of patients. Some nurses and doctors flat out refused to work with them, resulting in patients being left without food and lying in soiled sheets. While their fear is understandable, something needed to change. Enter Cliff Morrison, a young nurse who worked for San Francisco General Hospital, the mastermind behind ward 5B.

In their documentary, co-directors Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss unfold the story of the AIDS virus, originally known as "gay cancer." The time period, 1970s San Francisco, is established via a montage of footage as rock-star Blondie's "Dreaming" plays in the background, showing the mood of the city before shifting into the documentary's main focus - the sudden appearance of the disease in the early 1980s and the alarmingly quick rate at which those who contracted it passed.

"5B" follows Morrison and a handful of his nurses as they are interviewed about their time working in the ward. Through their interviews and selected footage found from that time period the horror of the situation is made clear. The footage will surely upset most audience members (several of the viewers in the auditorium were sniffling by the time the documentary finished). Haggis and Krauss don't shy away from showing the nastiness of the disease head-on, focusing at times on footage showing the intense suffering the disease causes in those infected.

One of the strengths of Haggis and Krauss's documentary is that they allow people from both sides of the argument to discuss their points. Morrison and his crew discuss treating their patients with compassion including interacting with patients without the use of protective gear. This is one topic I thought wasn't explained too clearly. Did they mean no gloves at all or no gloves for casual contact? Also interviewed are doctors and politicians who were more conservative with their approach to treating the disease. Some of the points they bring up do make sense. Unfortunately, Haggis and Krauss don't do a good job of explaining why their opinions/solutions were not the best options to solve the problem.

"5B" is an enlightening documentary. It will be hard for some people to watch, but it's definitely worth the effort to watch despite some problems.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Oak Cliff Film Festival - Knives and Skin

Jennifer Reeder’s “Knives and Skin” opens with a mother standing outside her daughter’s bedroom. She’s holding a knife and giving the impression that she intends to harm her child. The scene’s lighting and music giving off the sense of malicious intent – not to mention the fact that she’s furtively holding the knife behind her back as if she plans to surprise her daughter with it once she opens the door. There’s malice present in Reeder’s film, but this woman, Lisa Harper (Marika Engelhardt), whose daughter, Carolyn (Raven Whitley), is about to go missing, is not the harbinger of it.

Lisa uses the knife to pick the lock to her daughter’s bedroom, illuminated in neon blues and reds and bringing to mind the work of some Italian directors, to find her daughter not there. The missing Carolyn is out with a boy, Andy (Ty Olwin), one of the school’s star athletes. Finding that Carolyn isn’t going to put out, Andy abandons her in their isolated make-out spot. It’s a bad decision that comes back to haunt him when Carolyn doesn’t return.

“Knives and Skin,” written and directed by Reeder, focuses on the fallout from Carolyn’s disappearance. How it affects the townspeople, her mother, and her classmates. Reeder’s film covers multiple themes, including subjects like adultery and bullying, in its subplots involving the film’s many peculiar characters. Initially starting strong, the movie begins to lose itself with its multiple storylines. Reeder focuses on so many characters that at times it’s difficult to remember who is who, especially when the focus returns to a character who was only briefly introduced in a previous scene.

Characters often break out into dirge-like covers of 80s pop songs. Since Lisa is the school’s choir teacher, most of these take place while she’s conducting her class. These scenes are also used to illustrate her continually declining mental health in light of her daughter’s disappearance. Other songs occur in ways that make the characters seem as if they are part of some demented version of “Glee.” It’s a quirk shared among the film’s many odd characters, though not used frequently enough to classify this film as a musical. The songs don’t help move the story along either, often acting only as filler.

Oddity for oddities sake seems to rule the world of “Knives and Skin.” From glowing glasses and shining, continually bleeding cuts to an unemployed adult deciding his next career move should be working as a clown, Reeder includes all manner of strangeness in her film. The movie is stylistic enough to be visually interesting but the content starts to get tiresome by the movie’s second half. Eventually, “Knives and Skin” becomes an endurance exercise. Her film takes its time wrapping things up, focusing on the characters while ignoring all the supernatural nonsense brought up throughout, causing the movie’s final impression to be one of frustration.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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