Tuesday, March 29, 2016

“Green Room”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a sneak preview at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center for the new thriller, “Green Room”, starring Alia Shawkat and Patrick Stewart.


When a punk rock band witnesses a crime at the club where they’re playing, can they escape the clutches of the evil club owner who’s trying to prevent them from going to the police? 


Punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are struggling. While their gigs are sometimes hard to come by, the few that they do get frequently don’t pay very well – when they don’t have enough money to pay for refilling their van to get them to the next performance, they just wind up siphoning gas from other cars. During their tour throughout Oregon, they manage to get a booking at a club outside of Portland; although it appears to be paying a bit better, there’s one drawback: the club is known to be run by neo-Nazi skinheads who draw similarly-minded crowds.

Once at the dingy, run-down club seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the band somehow manages to finish their set amidst a hostile audience that shouts abusively at them, spits on them and tries to injure band members by hurling various objects towards the stage. Packing up to leave for the night, Sam (Shawkat) suddenly realizes she forgot her cell phone in their dressing room. When one of her fellow band members goes back there to retrieve it for her, he finds a number of people occupying the room – one of them being a young woman who has been stabbed in the head and is apparently dead.

Although he didn’t see who stabbed her, he found the body – as a result, club owner Darcy (Stewart) decides to hold the entire band members at his club to prevent them from going to the police. He tells the band they won’t be hurt and will let them go once his henchmen dispose of the body. Given the circumstances, however, it is understandable that none of them believe Darcy. Learning that the club also houses a drug lab in its basement, the band members fear for their safety even more and try to bolt – but with Darcy’s team of armed and maniacally violent workers keeping guard, will the band succeed in their plans to flee? 


Calling “Green Room” an exploitation flick wouldn’t necessarily be a pejorative term – in fact, the filmmaker would probably wear that appellation like a badge of honor.  For fans of slasher films with lots of gruesome gory visual images consummated with a classic Grand Guignol-like denouement, “Green Room” will fail to disappoint.  Of course, in movies such as this, the plot generally tends to take something of a backseat so expectations of nuanced character development and intricate storytelling devices with be dashed rather severely. 

“Green Room” is one of those “who will survive?” guessing games with the obligatory scenes where the various protagonists make bad decisions along the way.  But that’s all part of the fun when it comes to slasher porn.  While Alia Shawkat is somewhat wasted in this film, Patrick Stewart is a joy to behold as the villainous Darcy; in fact, he’s not in the movie nearly enough.  In some ways, it might’ve been more of a fun experience if we had seen the band members directly trying to overcome Darcy alone rather than attempting to defeat his henchmen. 

Following the screening was a brief question and answer session with “Green Room”’s writer/director Jeremy Saulnier.  Saulnier said that he started writing the screenplay for “Green Room” towards the end of the time he was taking his previous film, “Blue Ruin”, around the film festival circuit.  He recalled choosing this story because it was an idea that had been on his mind for the past decade or so; he felt that the concept was substantially different from that of “Blue Ruin”, a tale of revenge.  What also appealed to him about “Green Room” is that he could incorporate his love for punk rock music.    

Green Room (2015) on IMDb

Sunday, March 27, 2016

“Weiner”– Movie Review


In the closing weekend of The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films series, I attended a screening of the new documentary “Weiner” about disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner. 


When politician Anthony Weiner attempts a professional comeback, will he succeed?


As a United States Congressman from New York City, Anthony Weiner was a progressive Democrat in The House Of Representatives who worked hard for his constituents and was unafraid to mix it up with various members of The Republican Party, going toe to toe with them both in The House and on political television shows.  Perhaps his best or most famous moment came in 2010 when he vehemently argued in favor of funding medical assistance for the heroes of September 11th when the Republicans tried to block it due to the fact that they opposed a corporate tax increase.  A deeply flawed human being, it eventually became evident that his passions were in no way confined to politics alone. 

When it was uncovered in 2011 that Weiner, a married man whose wife was then expecting their first child, had been sexting with young single women, he was forced to resign from Congress.  Weiner had resisted this from the beginning of the scandal, initially denying any wrongdoing – but when growing evidence mounted, it could no longer be denied.  His wife, Huma, had been publicly embarrassed; a successful woman who works as Hillary Clinton’s loyal and trusted aide, she is a deeply private person who never seeks the spotlight – unlike her meretricious and ambitious husband. 

Two years later, Weiner decides he can revive his political career by running for Mayor of New York City.  Believing New Yorkers will be willing to forgive if not forget, Weiner is convinced the people of the city will give him the second chance he so sorely feels he deserves.  But in order to do so, he must make Huma, normally a behind-the-scenes type of person, go out front-and-center in his campaign.  Surprisingly, Weiner takes an early lead among the many candidates in a crowded Democratic field.  But when news breaks of a second sexting scandal with another young woman, can Weiner’s campaign and marriage survive yet another humiliation?


When watching the crash and burn of what had otherwise been the promising political career of Anthony Weiner, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or gasp in horror.  Perhaps both reactions are appropriate.  By the end of this documentary, Weiner has no one to blame but himself, which he seems to know.  One question that the film never adequately answers is why his wife Huma stayed with him even after the second scandal.  It might be because she doesn’t know herself.  Possibly the only thing keeping the marriage intact at this point is the fact that she’s out of the home much of the time working on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

The discomfort viewers may feel watching this documentary is deserved; you are always aware that you’re observing a sleazy soap opera – a car wreck from which you cannot turn away precisely because you don’t want to turn away.  While horrified by it, it is also simultaneously entertaining.  Weiner should be ashamed, of course, but perhaps, we also share in that shame because we have allowed his personal misfortunes to be a source of amusement for all of us.  If he is in fact nothing more than the punchline to a joke at this point, both the media and the public are complicit in putting him in that position. 

Following the screening, there was an interview with the documentarians Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg.  Kriegman said that he had worked as Weiner’s Chief Of Staff during a couple of his years in Congress; leaving politics to pursue a filmmaking career, he reached out to Weiner after the initial scandal that forced him out of office in 2011 and proposed a documentary to allow his former boss to give his side of the story.  Ultimately, Weiner declined, but when announcing his intention to run for Mayor in 2013, he contacted Kriegman to shoot the documentary about what he assumed would be his resurrection – but instead resulted in another crushing fiasco. 

Weiner (2016) on IMDb

Sunday, March 20, 2016

“Donald Cried”– Movie Review


As The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films series continues, I attended a screening of the comedy-drama “Donald Cried”. 


When a man returns to his hometown for his grandmother’s funeral, he calls on an old high school buddy once he finds himself in a bind – but when that buddy tries to rekindle their old friendship, can he avoid it without seeming rude?


Returning to Warwick, Rhode Island in the dead of winter, Peter is very focused on his mission:  to collect the ashes of his late grandmother, sell her old house and gather the belongings from the nursing home where she spent her last days.  Although it’s been about 20 years since he was last there, he’s not feeling terribly nostalgic; as a New York City resident who now works in the financial sector, he merely wants to do what’s necessary and return home as soon as he possibly can.  However, his plans have hit a major speed bump:  during his bus ride from New York, he’s managed to lose his wallet.  Now, he has no cash, no credit cards and no drivers license. 

After meeting with Kristin, the real estate agent who’s taking on the task of selling his grandmother’s house, Peter realizes that she’s someone who he vaguely knew back in his high school days – Kristin is the younger sister of one of his classmates and had a huge crush on Peter back in the day.  Since Peter’s grandmother was cremated, he must now make his way to the funeral parlor to pick up the urn containing her ashes.  Unfortunately, he now has no transportion, so he’s stuck.  Suddenly, next door neighbor Donald appears – a friend from high school whom he hasn’t seen in years.  Although a bit of an oddball, Donald agrees to help his old chum by giving him a lift to the funeral parlor. 

The more time Peter is forced to spend with Donald, the more he comes to realize that his obnoxious behavior may be symptomatic of the fact that Donald may be suffering from a severe case of arrested adolescence; despite the passage of a significant amount of time, it would appear as though Donald never really grew up.  Donald, sadly, is still stuck in his teenage years and wishes to relive what he thinks of as his glory days from long ago.  Peter, on the other hand, is desperately trying to ditch Donald so that he can get on with the rest of his life.  But can he do it without looking like a jerk?


The character of Donald (played by director and co-writer Kristopher Avedisian) is the kind of guy you either want to stab in the ear with an ice pick or strangle with piano wire.  Either way, you get the idea.  Obnoxious doesn’t even begin to cover the problems this guy has.  As far as Peter is concerned, he’s not much better; as someone who allegedly has a responsible job, exactly how does he manage to lose his wallet on the bus ride from New York to Rhode Island?  The answer, apparently, is that he is just as irresponsible as Donald.  Or maybe it’s just a dramatic conceit. 

“Donald Cried” (a terrible title) might be considered something of a combination of a buddy movie and a road movie.  A buddy movie, with at least one of the buddies being a reluctant buddy; a road movie, if you are willing to accept the various extents of Warwick, Rhode Island as the “road” in this case.  Nevertheless, it is episodic and lacking in much of what might be seen as a resolution – that is to say, the film ends with little of the story’s loose ends tied up.  Although the relationship between Pete and Donald somewhat gets resolved, how this happens may not be believable. 

Following the screening was a question and answer session with Avedisian and a couple of the actors from the movie –  Jesse Wakeman, who played Peter and also co-wrote the screenplay and Louisa Krause who played Kristin.  Avedisian said that “Donald Cried” came about from a short film he directed with his collaborators; he decided to develop it into a longer form because he felt that he wanted to explore how society dealt with people who were like Donald – that is to say, people who were on the outer fringes of society and how people lacked a certain degree of empathy for them. 

Donald Cried (2016) on IMDb

Friday, March 18, 2016

“Kill Me Please”– Movie Review


With the beginning of The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films series this week, I attended a screening of “Kill Me Please”, a new drama from Brazil. 


When a group of high school girls become obsessed with a series of murders in their community, how will their personal lives suffer as a result?


Barra da Tijuca is an upscale neighborhood located in the West Side Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The otherwise pleasant life of its residents is intruded upon when a series of grisly murders occurs, with most of the victims being pretty young brunette women. A group of adolescent teenage girls become captivated by this increasingly visible news; their obsession with boys competes with their obsession over these serial killings. Bia is one girl who gets particularly swept up in all of this; with plenty of free time on her hands since her mother is out of town and her older brother João ignoring her, Bia’s thoughts turn increasingly dark when she realizes the victims bear a striking resemblance to her.

Perhaps to take her mind off these horrors – or perhaps she’s just got a prodigious libido – Bia gives her boyfriend growing attention. She pressures him for physical intimacy but being religious, he declines. Frustrated, Bia focuses her attention on the murders; the thought that she might be one of the next victims appears to simultaneously scare and excite her. Ultimately, this has a negative impact on her friendships, particularly when one of the girls displays a romantic interest in João – who’s completely indifferent to her since he’s lamenting the loss of the girlfriend who apparently recently dumped him.

Bia gets too close for comfort with these killings; when going home after school, she happens upon a young woman who appears to have been the latest victim of this serial killer. Badly bruised, bloody and beaten, she’s barely alive. Bia sends her friends to get help while she stays with the girl, encouraging her to hang on – given her condition, it doesn’t look like she’s going to last much longer. Eventually, Bia’s macabre behavior alienates what remains of her friends, leaving her virtually alone. Will Bia’s fetishistic preoccupation with these killings permanently isolate her from society?  


Is “Kill Me Please” a coming of age story or a slasher flick? Curiously, the answer may be both. The film has a compelling opening – for the first minutes, there is absolutely no dialog and each gloomy, foreboding shot wonderfully sets the tone for the story to follow. For much of the movie, the audience is invited into an unfamiliar world and we hang in there wondering where all of this is going. The problem is that by the third act, the main spine of the story seems to have been either lost or intentionally discarded along the way; what results is a deeply unsatisfying ending which is about as clear as mud.

While the idea of “Kill Me Please” is certainly unique – combining a murder mystery with the angst of teenage females – it may have been too much for a first-time feature filmmaker to attempt. It’s too bad because each story unto itself would have made an interesting film. What’s particularly unusual is the fact that Bia is a young woman of multiple lusts: one for sex and one for blood. Both appear to be equally as strong. Religion takes quite a beating, too: evangelicals are made out to be morons and prayer services come off looking and sounding more like a Rave Party.  

Following the screening was a question and answer session with “Kill Me Please” director Anita Rocha da Silveira. With this being her first feature film, she said it was based on one of her earlier short films which had a similar theme. Both movies were inspired by a true incident: when she was a teenager, one of her closest friends committed suicide and she wound up having a tremendous amount of difficulty coming to terms with her loss. The director admitted that much of the visual style of this motion picture was inspired by David Lynch’s short-lived television show,“Twin Peaks”.

Kill Me Please (2015) on IMDb

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

“Eye In The Sky”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new war drama, “Eye In The Sky”, starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and the late Alan Rickman. 


When the British military attempts to capture a group of terrorists, it’s discovered they’re planning a suicide bombing – but can the military change their mission to kill them instead?


Terrorist organization al Shabaab is making inroads throughout eastern Africa -- so much so that the nation of Kenya has engaged both the United Kingdom and United States governments for assistance in combating them.  British Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is in charge of coordinating various drone missions throughout the region to spy on members of the group; on this particular mission, she’s coordinating with the American military where Las Vegas-based drone pilot Steve Watts (Paul) is stationed for both surveillance and identification of the various terrorists.  The plan is to capture this group so they may be interrogated to gain further information about their organization.

As the mission proceeds, surveillance is able to view inside the building where the terrorists are headquartered and it is found out they have explosive vests which they are apparently planning to detonate in an upcoming suicide bombing.  Once Powell escalates this to her General (Rickman), she gets permission to alter the scope of the mission from “capture” to “kill”; now, instead of merely performing an identification of the suspects, Watts is instead tasked with the responsibility of dropping a Hellfire missile on the building in order to take out the terrorists before they can carry out their attack. 

Prior to firing the missile, a CDE (Collateral Damage Estimate) must be performed in order to determine the degree of unintended severe injury and/or loss of life for those not being targeted; the estimate reveals that there is a 65-75% chance of Collateral Damage occurring.  Just as they are ready to drop the Hellfire, surveillance finds a little girl just outside the building selling loaves of bread to help support her family.  With the likelihood of killing a child raising the stakes, Watts is reluctant to fire the missile.  Can the military officers get approval from their superiors to proceed with eliminating the targets or will they be forced to set the terrorists free to potentially kill many more people?   


“Eye In The Sky” is one of those rare movies that’s a pleasure to review for the simple reason that it’s as close to flawless as you can possibly get.  Guy Hibbert’s screenplay was clearly well-researched, Gavin Hood’s directing style maintains a good deal of suspense all throughout and the acting is sheer perfection.  This is one of those films that will have people talking afterwards because the “heroes” and “villains” will vary based on your own personal perspective and political ideology.  Although Mirren is the big star here, she shows enough of a dark side to make you wonder if she is in fact heroic. 

Although “Eye In The Sky” is well under two hours, it sometimes creates the impression that it’s slow – this is done intentionally to get across to the viewer the frustration the military experiences in the various legal and government bureaucracies in which it frequently finds itself while conducting a war.  This is where the movie excels – it does not make a villain out of the military, but rather a victim.  At the same time that it indicts military policies, it is also indicting government bureaucracy – a truly difficult task, brilliantly executed.

After the screening, there was a question and answer session with director Gavin Hood.  Hood was extremely personable and came across as well versed on the details of drone warfare; he said that statistics show higher incidents of PTSD in drone pilots than in traditional fighter pilots.  Originally, the script was written with Mirren’s character as a man, but it was changed to a woman in order to have more diverse voices represented.  According to Hood, the script had been circulating for about five years before it actually got produced; among the many screenplays he reads, Hood claimed this was one that affected him most deeply. 

Eye in the Sky (2015) on IMDb

Sunday, March 06, 2016

“Disorder” (“Maryland”) – Movie Review



This weekend, I attended a screening at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s French Film Festival of the new thriller, “Disorder” (AKA “Maryland”). 


When an emotionally troubled French Army veteran is hired to guard a millionaire’s wife and child, will he be able to save them from intruders out to harm them or is this all just his imagination?


After serving in Afghanistan under the French Army, Vincent is not without his wounds – but in his case, they are all psychological.   Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he sees doctors regularly and is medicated.  While he awaits his next mission, he takes various odd jobs – among them is serving a security detail for a wealthy Lebanese businessman who requires services during a party at his expansive mansion known as Maryland.  Once the assignment is over, Vincent is hired to serve as a bodyguard to the man’s wife, Jessie, and their son.  Desperately needing the money, he reluctantly accepts the assignment.

Jessie is much younger than her husband; she is a beautiful blonde who attracts much attention.  Despite this, Vincent tries to remain both professional and focused on his assignment, especially since his friend Denis was kind enough to set him up for this extremely well-paid job.  Soon, however, Vincent begins to suspect there is much that hasn’t been explained to him – such as Jessie’s husband’s involvement in international intrigue that includes arms dealing and elections.  Does Jessie herself even know about this?

Eventually, Vincent’s worst fears are realized when a kidnapping attempt is made on Jessie and her son.  Although he is able to rescue them, he believes that they may both be in danger and tries to convince them to leave the country for their safety.  In spite of Vincent’s best efforts, Jessie, however, seems to be in denial over both her husband’s business dealings and her family’s danger; as a result, she very much wants to remain in their home, regardless of whatever dangers may or may not exist.  Can Vincent convince her to seek safety or will they all be in danger for their lives? 


For the most part, “Disorder” (or “Maryland”, as it was previously titled at other film festival screenings) is a terrific nail-biting thriller – in many ways, it is extremely reminiscent of some of Hitchcock’s best (except this one’s got a bit more violence).  Ultimately, however, the film self-sabotages with its confusing ending.  With many movies, their quality can be defined by whether or not their conclusion is satisfying for an audience; it is disappointing that “Disorder”, an otherwise satisfying movie, is eventually done in by its denouement. 

What’s particularly interesting about “Disorder” – and certainly one of the things that makes it reminiscent of Hitchcock – is the fact that the audience wonders whether or not all of this is real or is merely a figment of Vincent’s imagination, which may have been severely impacted by his service in Afghanistan.  Director Alice Winocour (who also collaborated on the screenplay) does a great job of resonating this by the various news reports on television that reflect what’s happening in occasional political events around the world. 

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Winocour and Diane Kruger, who played Jessie.  Winocour fielded most of the questions on this evening, stating that she was inspired to make “Disorder” after having met with veterans of the war in Afghanistan who suffered from various psychological problems once their service had concluded.  She also added that the shoot was particularly difficult because of the fact that most of it was done in the house where the family lived and it all felt especially claustrophobic because they were there for a couple of months. 

Disorder (2015) on IMDb

Saturday, March 05, 2016

“Bang Gang”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s French Film Festival and saw the new drama “Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)”. 


When a group of privileged high school students engage in sexual experimentation, what impact will this have on the rest of their lives?


This was a summer the students at one Biarritz, France high school would surely never forget for the rest of their lives – for better or worse.  Laetitia is in her Junior Year, but her curiosity about boys is increasing as she steadily matures; this is something she shares with her best friend George, a gorgeous blonde who may have the name of a boy, but definitely would never be confused for one.  They have befriended some of the male classmates in whom they’re interested – specifically, Alex, Nikita and Gabriel.  Gradually, they spend an increasing amount of time together; since Gabriel is the shyer of the group, Alex and Nikita get more of the girls’ attention.

Alex develops something of an attraction to George and they eventually hook-up; Laetitia is somewhat interested in him, too, but the feeling isn’t exactly mutual – at least not at this point, anyway.  With Alex’s mother out of town for long stretches of time, he decides to throw parties for his schoolmates and it doesn’t take too long for things to get a little crazy.  By now, he’s starting to lose interest in George; feeling rejected, she seeks out male attention from other party guests by inventing a game she comes to call “Bang Gang” – essentially, a sex party. 

These Bang Gang parties become all the rage and Alex throws them with increasing frequency; soon, they come to include excesses in not only sex, but also alcohol and drugs.  Everything gets out of hand when explicit sex videos of George start appearing online and she becomes notorious among the other students at school.  Gabriel, the more sensitive of the bunch, is deeply in love with George, so he gets the videos taken down from the Web site.  But by then, it may be too late.  When an outbreak of venereal disease causes every student at the school to be tested, what impact will this have on their school and family life? 


Certainly a rush to judgment could be made when it comes to assessing “Bang Gang” – but to just write it off as being merely an exploitation flick would be both undeserved and a mistake.  Yes, there are definitely plenty of opportunities to admire the flesh of many nubile young women (including and especially that of  Marilyn Lima, a real stunner, who plays George) – in fact, as a foreign film, it will be interesting to see if this flies under the radar of Mr. Skin.  Where it elevates itself is in the overarching sense of gloom and doom that hovers above all of the supposed merriment. 

The pervasive sense of dread and misery throughout the story is palpable for the viewer, despite the fact that the main characters appear to be either immune or oblivious to such things, for the most part.  As examples, some scenes contain news reports on the television or radio about deaths and severe injuries from train derailments and widespread fires; there is the hardship one family suffers as they must care for a quadriplegic father; also, the occasional violent storms that either interrupt or punctuate the good times of these teenagers. 

“Bang Gang” is the first feature film directed by Eva Husson, who also wrote the screenplay; while the movie may be flawed in some minor ways, it is nevertheless a fine debut effort for long-form filmic storytelling.  Husson is definitely a filmmaker worth considering as a serious, meaningful director who deserves being allowed the opportunity to further develop her craft; her future work could be quite promising.  The film also introduces us to the beautiful Marilyn Lima, whose performance of the adolescent George is as seductive as it is distressing.   

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (2015) on IMDb

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

“City Of Gold”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new documentary  “City Of Gold”.


Food critic Jonathan Gold explores obscure restaurants throughout Los Angeles, all the while trying to elevate the city he loves.


As a food critic writing for The Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Gold long ago established himself as not only someone excited by the idea of turning on his reading public to new and delicious food in unlikely places, he also became well known for championing his city – a city in which he has lived for decades.  He has been a cheerleader for small mom-and-pop restaurants just as much as he has been a cheerleader for Los Angeles itself, despite having experienced attempts to destroy it such as the riots that followed the Rodney King arrest in the early 1990’s. 

In his early days with the publication, he was a lowly proofreader; bored in his job, he set out to try to find interesting places to eat throughout the entire stretch of Pico Boulevard.  Eventually, he wrote so enthusiastically about it, Gold earned a job writing reviews for the newspaper.  After putting in many years writing just as passionately about food as he has about the city in which these eateries were located, he eventually won a Pulitzer Prize – a remarkable accomplishment given the fact that the committee had never previously given such an award to a food critic. 

Gold is no snob – he’ll give just as much gravitas to a food truck as he will to a fine-dining restaurant with white linen tablecloth and napkins.  In his mind and palate, they are both equals.  People familiar with Gold’s critiques will provide varied reasons as to why he is so well respected.  Some feel it is because of his innate sense of fairness.   Others maintain it is the fact that he has adventurous taste buds that enjoy a challenge.  There are others still who will staunchly maintain that Gold is driven by his militance for aggressively promoting The City Of Angels.  Regardless of which is true, there’s no denying his success.  


Essentially, the problem with “City Of Gold” as a documentary is that it’s as flat as the Nebraska skyline – without a clear three-act structure of beginning-middle-end, there’s no noticeable dramatic arc.  The film is very episodic, making it extraordinarily difficult to draw in the viewer unless the audience is comprised of fans of Gold who come in with their own preconceived notions;  while Gold may be a cult hero among foodies, chefs and other restaurant critics, those previously unfamiliar with him will be hard pressed to understand just exactly what all of the fuss is about.   Given that Gold’s greatness is through his writing, this is terribly difficult to convey in a motion picture. 

From a technical/stylistic perspective, “City Of Gold” doesn’t exactly break any new ground and we are left with little more than an almost continuous string of talking heads being interviewed about the values of Gold, occasionally interrupted by scenes of Gold joined by friends dining in a number of restaurants for which he has written favorable reviews in the past.  Does Gold cook himself?  When not dining out, what kind of food does Gold cook when he’s home?  Alas, we do not find the answers to these questions – at least, not until the end titles roll.  During the closing credits of the film, we finally see him cooking what appears to be an Italian dish with his family. 

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with the movie’s director Laura Gabbert and Gold himself.  Gabbert said she first became familiar with Gold through his writing; originally from Minnesota, she read his reviews while living in New York City at the time and found his eloquence about Los Angeles so inspiring that she moved there.  Once in that city, she won an auction where a dinner with Gold was being offered; it was at that point she pitched him the idea for the documentary.  Initially, Gold was not receptive to the concept because he didn’t want to lose his anonymity as a critic; eventually, he came to believe that after so many years in the business, his anonymity had vanished long ago, so he had nothing to lose by doing the documentary.   

City of Gold (2015) on IMDb