[The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.]
Fruitvale Station (formally Fruitvale, a name I actually prefer) did in fact make its debut at Sundance 2013, and I was there at the premiere among the brilliant cast, director (expecting great things from Ryan Cooglar in the future), press, and members of the Grant family as we witnessed something amazing on screen. I actually don’t think this trailer does the film justice; it is one of the most touching films I have ever seen and definitely will be on top of everyone’s mind come Oscar time. Here were my thoughts from Sundance after seeing the film:
[A film that documents the relationship between the narrator Terence and a lovely young woman as it teeters on the divide between platonic and romantic.]
The Sundance 2012 selection Oversimplification of Beauty marked the feature film debut of the visual artist Terence Nance who uses animation, video vignettes, and music to present the true almost romantic relationship Terence had with Namik Winter (who “plays” herself). Because of this, the film stands as both a documentary and fictitious account of an obsessive moment in time, when Terence pondered where he stood in his relationship with Winter. Oversimplification of Beauty opens in limited release (NY) on April 26. For now check out this stylish (and frankly really awesomely poetic in its moving images) for the film.
Read more about Terence Nance in this profile for Filmmakers Magazine.
Seems like alot of the great little indies from festivals of 2012 and 2013 are all being nestled together for release this spring. So much so that I had to do a post on just April film releases alone. Here are the ones I am most excited about and will be heading to the theater (or VOD) for. Check back in my Film Calendar section to see related blog posts on these films after I see them.
The Company You Keep: After its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, I seriously wanted to see Shia LaBeouf as a young, ambitious reporter who exposes the identify of a wanted criminal, which causes him to come out of hiding and go on the run. What can I say; I keep giving him chances. See the trailer and read more about the film here.
Synopsis: Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young and are growing apart. This divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.
My Take: Celeste and Jesse Forever stands as a romantic comedy that tries to reverse the formula. Instead off witnessing two people fall in love and try and overcome the obstacles put in their way to be together, we are presented with two people who have been joined at the hip for so long but now are attempting to find a way to separate their lives. After taking their high school best friendship to the next level and spending years married, Celeste (Rashida Jones) realized that Jesse (Andy Samberg) was just not the responsible, motivated man she wants to have a family with yet still depends on his friendship; Jesse holds out hope that being in her life will change her mind and allow her to let go of what he perceives to be her control issues. Though the flaws that make them so different don’t hinder their dynamics as best friends, it has worked its way into slowly destroying the foundation of their romantic relationship. Here is where the movie starts, with this couple in a sort of unhealthy overly co-dependent limbo where they laugh at the same lame jokes, flash heart signs to each other, have standing dinner plans, but where a divorce is also pending. The weirdness of the situation is not lost on their close friends around them who try and help them crave out lives of their own separate from each other. As they still work to avoid really discussing what their new relationship to each other is, they fall into old patterns, send out mix signals, and indulge in their co-dependence. As other potential love interests enter the picture (including Chris Messina… what indie movie in the last 3 years is this guy NOT in? Not complaining though), they are forced to deal with the fact that they may need to cut the cord once and for all.
From the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival, closing night…
I have to preface this whole review of The Spectacular Now by saying that I had been hesitant in seeing this movie for awhile. I remember going through the Sundance 2013 selections in the film festival guide, seeing the description of this movie, and deciding that I did not want to see yet another adolescent movie that was so… adolescent. Yep, I wrote it off because it seemed just like one of those underwhelming and transparent after-school special-type of movie. Even the promo pic and the title seems all cutesy and sugary sweet. This was until I discovered that this is actually a movie that finds its teenage characters taking on some very adult themes with grade A honesty, courage, and dare I say… reality. Directed by James Ponsoldt and written by the (500) Days of Summer co-writing team of Michael H. Weber & Scott Neustadter who adapted the material from the Tim Tharp novel, the movie captures much of what they one did for me, a precious love that may not be forever but remains an integral part of growing up and moving forward. It was also another one of those movies that made me long for my days in high school. Where the recent Perks of Being a Wallflower made me yearn for that ride-or-die supportive group of friends who made me feel ok with myself, The Spectacular Now made me yearn for that feeling of being on the brink of discovering that I had a whole beautiful life ahead of me, that feeling that I had overcome that hardship in my life called the teenage years and can now be better equipped to take on the world. My Grade: A
In the last week, I’ve seen alot of Matthew McConaughey. For the record, this is not a complaint. Between Netflix’ing Killer Joe (yes, I FINALLY saw it) and attending the opening night screening of Mud for the Atlanta Film Festival (quite a coup from Sundance, ATL film), I have witness some of what has been considered the new era of Matthew McConaughey. He wipes off that unattainable-pretty-boy-dream-boat-undercover-romantic-persona that he wallowed in during his infuriating stream of medicore-at-best rom-coms in the last decade and finally decided to fall into more complex, dirty, dare I say wickedly obscene characters that are not apologetic about their less than savory past indiscretions that have molded the people they have become. We see this in his portrayal of the outwardly composed, inwardly crazed rouge Texas detective who harbors the knowledge to meticulously carry out a number of contract hits in Killer Joe, a fact meant to horrify you as there seems to be enough business to keep him busy. We see it again when he plays a not-so-pretty, hapless, gun-touting Arkansan wanderer who is both passionately lovelorn and also capable of violence.Bearing the weight afforded to these titled characters, at the beginning he pays it cool, not putting all of his cards on the table and slowly lets us discover who these characters are at their core. And for it, we can now discuss Matthew McConaughey the actor in serious terms.
“You want some chicken? I stopped by the K-fried-C.”… or A Look atKiller Joe
Killer Joe is a movie that keeps you tethered to the despicable story with its dark humor even with the sense of lingering evil and violence hanging around. In this movie, we meet Chris (Emile Hirsch), a guy who is stuck with a $6000 drug debt after his mother has taken the cocaine he was suppose to sell. His boss is after him for the money so what is a guy to do? He believes that his saving grace is the $50K life insurance policy on his mother that will go to his teenage sister Dottie (Juno Temple) in the event of her untimely demise. And with that begins some unsettling and emotionless conversations between Chris, his dumb father (Thomas Haden Church), and his skeezy stepmother (Gina Gershon) on offing his mother. A deal is made with Killer Joe to do the deed but since they won’t have the money until after she is dead, the innocent yet eerie Dottie (Temple is brilliant in this role), who Joe has become smitten with, become his retainer. The erotic interplay between Joe and Dottie gives a new dimension to Joe’s moral impropriety and leaves us to wonder just how similarly depraved he and Dottie really are. When things do not go as plan and Joe can not be paid, McConaughey shows us all a bigger glimpse into Joe unpredictable nature. We are left with a horrific conclusion punctuated with sexual humiliation (via fried chicken) and violent maddness that revolves around the interactions between the main characters. This movie is about the karma that lies in their dark intentions; violence begets violence. And we remain entranced by the horrible actions of these f-ed up people. My Grade: B+
[Simon is a well-educated, handsome and seemingly sympathetic college graduate with just a hint of something off putting enough to ignite a sense of concern. Recently heartbroken, Simon travels to Paris to clear his head. After several days of wandering aimlessly, Simon finds himself drawn into a sex parlor and has a sexual encounter with an exotic prostitute, Victoria. The chemistry builds between the two until they find themselves in a serious relationship, one that leads to blackmail, betrayal and the ultimate revelation of Simon’s true nature.]
A 2012 Sundance selection, Simon Killer, one was one of the movies I couldn’t stop hearing about after the festival. From the seemingly brilliant mind of Antonio Campos, director of the critically acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene (which put Elizabeth Olsen on the map), comes to seemingly comparably intense examination of a person’s psyche… this time to potentially murderous proportions. What I’m getting from the trailer is that this movie will be punctuated with an equally heart-pounding soundtrack. Simon Killer hits US theaters on April 5th and will be available On Demand April 12th.
18 genres. 13 contributors. 1 great city. I sincerely would like to thank everyone who contributed their time and skills to make this collection a reality. As a reminder, here is what ‘London in Genres’ is all about. I hope that this stands as a great collection of London-centric films for many people out there to enjoy. I really want to do this series again, so if you have any suggestions as to what theme you would like to see next, I welcome you to share in the comment section at the end of this post. Until next time…
Action/Adventure —> Layer Cake (2004) My Recommendation
Some have referred to Layer Cake is one of the best British indie films of this decade that not many people have seen. In the past, I dismissed it for many reasons but I can say now I believe it to be rightfully an indie cult classic. Actually, let’s just call what it probably is - Daniel Craig’s audition for Bond. Fashionable, quickly paced, and peppered with plot points that dare you to try and connect them, Layer Cake portrays the sleekness of modern London and shows you that those pretty people walking the streets are more than they seem. It’s an action flick for those who prefer theirs to be alittle less seedy and alittle more stylish (me! me!). We find Daniel Craig as an unnamed big time cocaine drug dealer, nee businessman as he refers to himself, on the cusp of taking all his money and leaving the fast life behind him. His motto is to “have a plan and stick to it. Quit while you’re ahead”. He perfectly crafted his business as to not to be involved in the violent, messy affairs of the business. Before he can put in his exit plan in motion however, he gets call to to meet with his crime boss for a couple of more favors. No big deal except this leaves him entangled in betrayals, miscommunications, half-truths, and threats. These dealings gives us a taste of use how quick witted and resource Craig’s character can be when backed into a corner. Backed by supporting actors Ben Whishaw, Sienna Miller, and Tom Hardy, this is one to stay with until the end. I tried to resist, but Craig charmed me.
Biography —> Bright Star (2009) My Recommendation
This has to be one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It’s literally poetry in sight and sound. It is based on the true-life story of the poet John Keats, Bright Star examines his last three years and his meeting the love of his life, Fannie Brawn, who inspired some of his famous work. They were kept apart by his lack of fortune and Keats’ best friend but had a love for each other that was very powerful. It was trips to cold London that caused the illness that would do him in. Keats was a man who died at age 25, a seemingly unaccomplished poet who believed himself a failure. Today, he is anything but as he is considered one of the best of the Romantic poets. I tear up every time I watch it. Amazing and underappreciated job by Abbie Cornish as Brawn and of course Ben Whishaw as John Keats, my first experience with this introspective British actor.
“Bright Star”by John Keats Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art — / Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night / And watching, with eternal lids apart, / Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite, / The moving waters at their priestlike task / Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores, / Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask / Of snow upon the mountains and the moors — / No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, / Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast, / To feel for ever its soft swell and fall, / Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, / Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, / And so live ever — or else swoon to death.
Witness for the Prosecution pays homage to two British institutions: London’s Central Criminal Courts, a.k,a the Old Bailey, and Agatha Christie. Based on one of her plays, Witness for the Prosecution is a mystery classic directed by Billy Wilder, but many people think it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock (a pretty neat compliment for a suspense movie, wouldn’t you say?) Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton) is a London barrister defending Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), an American veteran accused of murder. Not much more can be said without spoiling the movie. When it was first screened, movie goers had to sign a written statement saying “I solemnly swear I will not reveal the ending of Witness for the Prosecution.” Just like in a theater play, most of the movie’s action happens in one place, the Old Bailey. And Sir Wilfrid prefers to hang out in there instead of going to the sunny Bahamas to recover from his heart attack. I’m not surprised: with all those twists and turns, Marlene Dietrich’s enigmatic coolness and the funny bickering with his nurse, I would too.