Film with Fanuzzi

The film’s the thing at Fieldston

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Have you read the texts? Now you can see the movie:  “Weiner,” now out in theaters.  

No, I have no review of this well-publicized documentary for you this week.  But if I did not use this line, someone else would, and I could not have that. For my next column I promise: a movie review, without jokes, about this fascinating figure whose profile might yet rise again in the event of a Clinton presidency.

Worth leaving home for: It’s hard to find a better time for enjoying films in our theater-starved community. Sometimes you get what you wish for but without realizing you did.

Case in point: the Fieldston Film Festival, held May 17 and 18, is now in its fifth year under film teacher Larry Buskey.  If you’re curious about the quality of student films, consider this. The Grand Prize winner of last year’s All American High School Festival was a Fieldston student filmmaker. A current senior, Roma Murphy, was accepted into USC’s prestigious screenwriting program. And the Festival’s special guest was Fieldston alum Randy Wilkins, an editor and filmmaker working with Spike Lee, whose short films have earned festival awards as well as HBO distribution. Little wonder that Mr. Buskey, a longtime filmmaker, has called the Fieldston Festival home to “some of the best cinematic work I’ve been associated with as a teacher.”  

After watching senior Gus Aronson’s “The Gifts of Loneliness,” you’ll agree. Disturbing in its abstraction yet soothing in its embrace of scenic beauty, Aronson’s film shows an usual confidence and trust in the medium that keeps him from spelling it all out for the viewer.

“It was important to let the camera take me,” he said, his reflection on the historical truism that, as Aronson reminds us, “film started without dialogue.”

His work will call to mind Nicholas’s Roeg’s innovative editing in the horror classic “Don’t Look Now” and Michel Gondry’s elliptical storytelling in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” minus Jim Carrey.  

Other Fieldston Film Festival standouts include “Red Wine,” by sophomore Ben Kaiser, a carefully constructed chronicle of middle class disintegration over a series of Thanksgiving meals; and the cinéma vérité “Plans” by senior Sarah Hirschfeld, an inside look at the dark side of progressive school students. Are the kids really alright? Is what you’ll want to ask yourself.

Mr. Buskey’s Fieldston Film Festival has its own Vimeo channel, on which you’ll be able to see past and present student films. When you do, make sure you also take a look at the featured previews of young documentarians.  

A short ride on the No. 1 subway and the express buses to Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street brings you to the JCC/Manhattan 4th Annual Film Festival, which presents “the best of Israel’s groundbreaking new cinema and television programming” and features conversations with filmmakers, writers, and actors.  Running from June 2 to 9, the Israel Film Festival opens with the 2015 Ophir (Israel’s Oscar) award winner “Baba Joon,” and a conversation with director Yuval Delshad and lead actor Navid Negahban.  Yes, he is the man who plays Abu Nazir on TV’s “Homeland.”  

Visit www.israelfilmcenter.org/festival for more information about this international event. 

And now that you’ve seen the films, it’s time to talk about them.  Valerie Kaufman, film critic and film teacher, leads a group of passionate film buffs into the world of Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Walt Disney and David O. Russell and other favorite directors. Bring your favorites — and your popcorn — to the group’s meetings on Wednesdays at 11. You’ll want to be ready for this week’s theme: “Favorite Scenes.” I suggested the deli scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” in case you were wondering.

Worth staying home for: I avoided this movie for years until I understood the devastating impact its failure had on its director. I’m talking about John Carpenter and “The Thing.”  Never a “Halloween” fan, I came to Carpenter as a devotee of the Reagan-era sci-fi satire “They Live” and his total commitment to multi-disciplinary cinematic art. Who else scores his own films? I had passed on “The Thing” because I thought it was about paranoid men in dark hallways.  It is, and now I can’t believe how good a film about paranoid men in dark hallways can be. Just watch the scenes that star the dog and you’ll know how complete Carpenter’s mastery of the craft truly is. Released in a year dominated by the enchantment of “E. T.,” “The Thing” never lets you forget that whether extraterrestrial life exists or not, the real question is whether we are the kind of people that are ready for it. 

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