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Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
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Sundance Film Festival: Interesting characters search for a plot in “Axolotl Overkill”
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Jan 22, 2017 | 324 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
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Not rated

Written and directed by Helen Hegemann

Starring Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Laura Tonke, Mavi Horbiger and more

Grade: One and a half stars

Atmosphere can only do so much for a movie.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t do quite enough for “Axolotl Overkill,” a German and English-language movie with fascinating characters and not nearly enough plot. Though the movie manages to be engaging at times, offering a peek into the lives of the kind of people we’d much rather read about than spend time with, there’s only so long a movie can go on without any sort of structure. Unfortunately, “Axolotl Overkill” goes on far longer than that.

The movie follows Mifti, a 16-year-old Berlinite with two half-siblings by two different mothers, a father who lives life like a teenager, and an older actress friend who does every kind of drug under the sun. Mifti samples plenty of her own drugs, gets in constant trouble at school, and falls hard for an older con woman.

Mifti, though not exactly an easy character to root for, is fascinating to watch. Fiction is full of hedonists, but she’s got a kind of dry, dark, practicality that gives her hedonism a slightly different flavor than usual. She’d make a wonderful character in an Oscar Wilde novel, and her father, half-brother and friend would make good supporting cast members. Her older half-sister is just as interesting in her own way, a worrier who tries to bring some sense of responsibility to the bloodline. If this had been a short film, I’d be happy to wander around with them.

But as an hour and a half movie that plays like a string of short films duct-taped together, it doesn’t work. There’s a nod to a metaphor that works, and a suggestion of an ending that would have probably been awesome if we’d been given a clearer idea about the motivation or what the filmmaker was trying to say. 

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Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
slideshow
Sundance Film Festival: “My Life As A Zucchini” a sweet little gem
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Jan 22, 2017 | 376 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
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Not rated

Directed by Claude Barras

Screenplay by Céline Sciamma, with writing by Germano Zullo, Claude Barras and Morgan Navarro, based on the novel by Gilles Paris

Voice Work by Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Amy Sedaris, Ellen Page and more

Grade: Three and a half stars

Stop-motion animation can be magic.

Proof of that can be found in “My Life As A Zucchini,” the sweet little gem of a movie that’s part of this year’s Sundance Kids collection. The English dub of an award-winning French-Swiss film released last year, the movie tells the quiet, moving story of a young orphan finally finding a place he can call home. Though there are serious issues addressed in the movie, the melancholy is matched by a sense of whimsy and even hope.

“Zucchini” follows the story of a young boy who was given his vegetable-based nickname by a bitter, alcoholic mother. When an accident leaves him parentless, he heads to a small orphanage where he has to navigate his place among the other children. Though it’s the same set-up as any number of other classic orphan narratives, “Zucchini” isn’t interested in big narrative drama. Instead, it focuses on what it means to be loved, and is a much richer movie experience for it.

The animation is surprisingly perfect for the subject, fresh with innocence but far from perfect-looking. In fact, the puppets seem to evoke slightly cleaned-up child’s drawings, like the ones Zucchini includes in the letters to various people. The effect sharpens the feeling that this is a story Zucchini himself is telling you, as if you’re one of the people he cares enough about to write to. It makes the movie feel that much more intimate, and left me with the warm feeling that I always get when I’ve spent time with someone lovely.

There are also several moments of quiet humor, including a childish explanation of sex that manages to be both funny and surprisingly innocent. Though perhaps not appropriate for the very youngest children, there’s a lot here that both kids and adults will be able to appreciate when the movie is released in late February here in the U.S. 

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January 21, 2017
Dead Men Don’t Write Plays – Not Even Shakespeare Questions about who actually wrote the works of Shakespeare have been surfacing for decades. However, this year the New Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare credits Christopher Marlowe with some of the Shakespeare body of work. Marlowe, England’s foremost playwright before Shakespeare, was supposedly murdered in 1593, just a few days before he was to be sentenced for treason. He was “immediately buried in an unmarked grave which hasn’t been found to this day.” Some Shakespeare scholars believe that Marlowe faked his death and spent the rest of his life in hiding as William Shakespeare, an unknown actor who had never written anything before, suddenly appears on the scene writing these classic works. After 1616, the year the actor died, 14 plays by “Shakespeare” continue to appear, leading some to believe that Marlowe actually outlived the Bard. My novel, “The Shakespeare Conspiracy” by Ted Bacino, tells the story of Marlowe’s life in hiding as he continues to write. The last third of the book is a supplement detailing the actual facts pertaining to this theory. The article “Dead Men Don’t Write Plays – Not Even Shakespeare” gives an overview of the New Oxford announcement. The stage version of the novel has had successful productions in various U.S. cities. The web site is www.TheShakespereConspiracy.com.
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