Way Too Indie Independent film and music reviews 2016-12-02T17:34:42Z http://waytooindie.com/feed/atom/ Dustin Jansick http://waytooindie.com <![CDATA[All Good Things Must…]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45129 2016-05-06T15:50:14Z 2016-05-06T15:50:14Z 'It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.' ]]>

The decision wasn’t easy, but after 6 years of operation Way Too Indie will be taking its final bow. We all feel proud of what we were able to accomplish over the years. The site allowed us to travel the world, meet amazing people, attend top-notch film festivals, and be part of film societies—all while doing the thing we all love; watching and discussing film.

More and more lately, it seems like film criticism websites are slowly disappearing in a space that was once crowded but now starting to consolidate. Way Too Indie shared many of the same difficulties as those other publications; readership numbers, financial reasons (though we were always realistic about this—after all, we were running an independent film site), and life itself. Film criticism is still a vital part of the art form, and hopefully it will continue to be relevant indefinitely.

Way Too Indie meant a lot to us and hopefully to some of you as well. I’d like to personally thank our readers and our crazy talented staff. Several of our writers have already found new outlets to write for, so I’m happy that Way Too Indie was able to help in that way. The site wouldn’t be where it is today without the help from our amazing staff. And thanks to the countless other critics, colleagues, and publications who helped and inspired us along the way.

Way Too Indie has been, and always will be, an amazing chapter in my life. So I thank you all for being a part of it. I encourage everyone to continue seeking out small independent films, because the volume of a voice shouldn’t determine the importance of the words.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Captain America: Civil War]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45145 2016-05-06T06:40:25Z 2016-05-06T06:40:25Z In large part, what made Joe and Andrew Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier such a successful and somewhat transcendent superhero movie was that its going concern wasn’t a global or even galactic catastrophe, but a personal one. The friendship between Brooklyn bros Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) threatened […]]]>

In large part, what made Joe and Andrew Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier such a successful and somewhat transcendent superhero movie was that its going concern wasn’t a global or even galactic catastrophe, but a personal one. The friendship between Brooklyn bros Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) threatened to fall apart over the course of the film’s explosive events, though, in the end, their lifelong bond endured.

“I’m with you to the end of the line,” Captain Rogers says to his brainwashed, killing-machine friend at the close of Winter Soldier in a chilling, melodramatic declaration of brotherly love. Their bond is once again the beating heart of the story in the Russos’ follow-up, Captain America: Civil War, and it’s the key ingredient that makes Marvel Studios’ latest offering their best yet.

Unlike last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War is an ensemble superhero movie whose heroes don’t get lost in all the ass-kicking commotion. Sure, there’s more than enough ass-kicking to satisfy even the most rabid MCU fan (more on that later), but the impressive thing is that each character has an emotional arc that’s at once affecting and easy to keep track of.

Take for example Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. In Age of Ultron, we learned that her parents were killed in a city-leveling act of war; at the outset of Civil War, we see her on the other side of that scenario as we watch her inadvertently kill innocents during an Avengers mission in Nigeria. The wicked irony of the situation leaves her in an awful state of mind, but she finds solace in the arms of her otherworldly android teammate Vision (Paul Bettany), who’s feeling romantic butterflies in his semi-synthetic belly for the first time.

You’ll find simple, affecting side stories like this running throughout the movie, but the going concern is the moral divide between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Following the destructive events in Nigeria, the governments of the world decide it’s time for the Avengers to answer to a higher power, stripping them of the liberty to choose when and where to act. Tony, tormented by guilt (the lives lost in Nigeria, New York and Sokovia as a result of the Avengers’ gigantic battles hang over his head like the sword of Damocles), is in favor of the proposal; Steve still feels the world is safest in the Avengers’ unshackled hands.

Some of the heroes vote with Tony, like Vision, his best buddy, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the painfully conflicted Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson). Falcon (Anthony Mackie) goes into hiding with his Captain, and they finally track down Bucky, the ever-elusive Winter Soldier, who’s deemed public enemy number one when he’s framed for recent deadly terrorist attacks. When Steve uncovers that the person responsible for the attacks is a man named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), he gathers fresh recruits to help him stop the mad bomber, including Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Tony’s counter move is to recruit two new faces to the MCU: The Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a bright, super-powered teenager from the Bronx named Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Yes, Spider-Man’s MCU debut is as amazing (no pun intended) as anyone could have hoped.

The ensuing clash between team Stark and team Rogers (taking place in an evacuated Leipzig/Halle airport) is the most gloriously nerdy thing I’ve ever seen. It’s so fun I wanted to burst, with the Russos giving each of the heroes an incredibly cool moment or two to flex their powers in strange and inventive ways. What really puts things over the top is the dialogue, which showcases each character’s colorful personality in an economic, wildly entertaining way. Spider-Man is fascinated by Bucky’s metal arm (Holland is terrific), Ant-Man is still getting used to the abilities he gained in his solo movie (he even breaks out a new trick), and Black Widow and Hawkeye discuss how bizarre it is to be fighting each other as they pull their punches.

The airport showdown (shot in glorious IMAX) is hard to top, but the climactic one-on-one battle between Iron Man and Captain America (with poor Bucky caught in the middle) raises the stakes to new levels of tear-jerking high drama. The unexpected star of the show here is RDJ, who gives not just his best performance as Stark, but one of the best performances of his career. Civil War is as much his movie as it is Evans’, and the emotional rollercoaster he takes us on is unpredictable and utterly heartbreaking.

Civil War is the best thing Marvel Studios has produced. Not only does it work well as the third act of the ballad of Steve and Bucky, but it sets up the future of the MCU brilliantly. I can’t wait to see how the odd mentor/pupil relationship between Tony and young Peter Parker develops in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the romance between Scarlet Witch and Vision is so strange and delightful that it may be one of the main reason’s people will shell out even more dough when we arrive at Avengers: Infinity War (or whatever they’re calling it these days). Then there’s Black Panther, whose forthcoming solo movie will mark the first minority-led (and directed) entry for Marvel studios. Somehow, eight years in, the future of the ever-expanding MCU looks brighter than ever.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Ukrainian Sheriffs (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44924 2016-05-05T14:55:52Z 2016-05-05T14:55:52Z 'Ukrainian Sheriffs' can't meet the challenge to make its own subject matter interesting.]]>

On March 11, 1989, Cops premiered on American TV. The reality show—still going strong today after 33 seasons—pairs camera crews with American law enforcement, giving small-screen viewers a front row seat to the day-to-day protection provided by the men and women of countless local, state, and federal jurisdictions. Invoking memories of Cops comes Ukrainian Sheriffs, a ride-along documentary from director Roman Bondarchuk.

The doc follows the exploits of a pair of sheriffs—Victor and Volodya—in the remote Ukrainian village of Stara Zburjivka. The duo, appointed by village Mayor Viktor Marunyak, respond to any and all calls from the town’s 1,800 residents, be they issues as mundane as domestic complaints or as serious as the discovery of a dead body. With cameras ever at the ready, the film is reminiscent of that American reality crime show.

Truth be told, Ukrainian Sheriffs pales in comparison to Cops from the angle of pure onscreen gratification. Where the US television show has the luxury of cherry-picking from only the sauciest of crimes recorded, this film, despite covering a period of time that is at least a year long (based only on seasonal clues), has very little excitement in the area of criminal activity. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe, in a town of 1,800 citizens, things like broken windows and domestic squabbles are good to be the worst things these men see. But that doesn’t make it a compelling documentary. And while it’s quaint that Victor and Volodya are less enforcers of law and more voices of reason (arbitrating conflict in most cases and deferring real crime to Ukrainian police officials), it all grows tiresome.

Bondarchuk also struggles to find anything interesting in the personal lives of his two protagonists. The film attempts to humanize these individuals, but instead only succeeds in giving the viewer a look behind a very dull curtain, revealing activity that isn’t interesting beyond the base curiosity of seeing how people live in a part of the world otherwise unknown.

Where the film excels, though, is its look at the bigger political picture. The film is slow to start, but as it gets going, it delves into political areas similar to those found in other Ukraine-centric docs like Maidan and Winter on Fire, by visiting and revisiting the escalating Crimean tensions. However, Ukrainian Sheriffs does so on a local scale—namely, how the national crisis and the battle with Russia could affect local men subject to being drafted. It’s thought-provoking stuff that offers insight into the conflicting approaches to responsibility, survival, and patriotism that these men wrestle with, and that other men judge them on.

As a whole, Ukrainian Sheriffs can’t meet the challenge to make its own subject matter interesting. It might have its moments, but those moments aren’t enough to compensate for the rest. This is a film best suited for Ukrainian doc completists or people with a vested interest in the regional ongoings.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Fraud (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45126 2016-05-05T14:43:47Z 2016-05-05T14:43:02Z This found-footage doc about one family's addiction to materialism is impossible to believe but impossible to resist.]]>

The story behind Dean Fleischer-Camp’s documentary Fraud is an interesting one. The director is said to have stumbled upon footage on YouTube—over 100 hours worth—of a American middle-class family of four living out their lives in front of a video camera, but this isn’t just any wannabe reality story. Fleischer-Camp pared that footage down to a scant 52 minutes to paint a picture of a man and woman so materialistic, they would jeopardize their own freedom and their children’s future for the chance to spend, spend, spend.

The family of four—thirty-something parents and two young children both under the age of about seven—is introduced to the viewer on 5/26/12 (according to the camera’s date stamp). Little is known about the family other than what can put together through the footage: they live in a small, cluttered house, suggesting lower-middle-class, and they are obsessed with anything related to an affluent lifestyle. As their bills mount and their resources dwindle, the family takes desperate measures to improve their cash flow so they can live what they perceive to be the good life, consequences be damned. The film ends on 10/3/12.

Less than five minutes into Fraud, I had my hand raised, calling shenanigans (please forgive the granularity of the next paragraph; it’s in support of a greater point).

At the film’s start, The Man, who does 99% of what presents itself as around-the-clock filming, records The Woman reading a pair of bank notices. The first notice is a decline letter for a new credit card. The other is in reference to a bounced payment. I understand the narcissistic obsession that comes with self-recording, but that The Man would record something as humiliating to himself and his family as that, and The Woman wouldn’t object, felt like a stretch. Still, and despite any change in tenor to The Family’s mood, I allowed that maybe reaction shots and debates had been edited out. I allowed it, that is, until the next scene where, in the interest of raising money, The Family has a yard sale. By the time the dust settles, they take their loot and head off to several retailers, including an Apple store, where everyone in The Family scores a new iPhone.

I called shenanigans again. Their declined credit card application suggests they were maxed out on their existing plastic, and the bounced payment suggests they were cash-strapped too, leaving only their yard sale earnings to fuel their shopping spree. I’ve never known a yard to generate north of $1000 in a single afternoon, and while the quick cuts of the film don’t afford a good look at the wares on sale, The Family’s living conditions suggest they didn’t have anything of high value to begin with, nor did they have a high quantity of lower-value items to unload.

This sequence is a terrific example of the film’s strength—it moves fast—but it’s also emblematic of the film’s great, great problem: it strains credulity from start to finish. Even if the action in the first five minutes of the film is factual, it raises such an eyebrow that all subsequent moments become the subject of intense scrutiny. That scrutiny then helps expose other improbable actions and events, up to and including the crime the film is named after and the subsequent cover-up; blatant timeline discrepancies between when events actually happen and the time stamp of the video; more private, humiliating moments filmed without shame or objection; the complete absence of questions from people The Family interacts with; and, perhaps most unsettling, the lack of any sense of genuine emotion between The Man and The Woman (and by extension, The Kids). These two people are more like high school buddies than a committed couple, and not once did I believe they were emotionally involved with each other or their children.

By the end of the film, so many unbelievable events and moments and decisions had happened, I called shenanigans on all 52 minutes. In a world where anyone is capable of anything, and anyone is capable of filming anything they are capable of, the four months this family spends on a money-burning binge rang as improbable as anything can.

And yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the film after it was over…and the next day, too. Despite the superficiality of it, I couldn’t deny how mesmerizing it was. Part of this is because of the audacity of the director, but the other part of it, the larger part of it, is that while this so-called family might not have gone through those onscreen moments “in real life,” a lot of families in America have indeed suffered (or enjoyed, depending on how you look at it) some of those moments—living beyond their financial means, committing fraud, endangering children, you name it—all in the name of being able to spend money they otherwise wouldn’t normally have to spend. The nuclear (wasted) family Fleischer-Camp presents onscreen is like a composite of the unseemly denizens of an America obsessed with materialism and wealth, and it is chilling.

Therein lies the dilemma in terms of rating this film. As a documentary, it’s bad, and the title is apt. In fact, I wouldn’t even grant this specious work a “docudrama” moniker. But as a piece of visual art, effectively lean in runtime and edited with surgical precision, its statement on the skewed perceptions of the importance of money versus responsibility held by so many Americans, is like nothing I’ve seen before. That it achieves this without passing judgment makes it all the more impressive. Fraud is not a documentary about one family; it’s a reflection on a culture—a reflection that is as hard to look at as it is as hard to look away from.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Sonita (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45117 2016-05-01T22:07:52Z 2016-05-01T22:07:52Z 'Sonita' follows the beats of a traditional success story, but its director's self-interests threaten to overpower the entire film.]]>

When Sonita premiered last year at Amsterdam’s documentary film festival IDFA, it walked away with the audience award, a win that isn’t too surprising considering the film’s story. Director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami follows Sonita, an 18-year-old Afghan immigrant living with her sister and niece in Iran. Sonita is a restless creative, who aspires to become a rapper despite the personal, cultural, and political hurdles in her way. And perhaps the biggest hurdle comes from Sonita’s own family, who tell her she needs to come back home so they can force her into an arranged marriage. The reason for the marriage is purely financial: they’ll be selling her off to another family, and by doing so will have enough money to pay for the wedding of Sonita’s brother.

Sonita plays out as a conventional success story, and Maghami’s commitment to this structure eventually holds the film back from exploring issues beyond Sonita’s own story. It’s an issue that comes to a head around the midway point when Sonita is days away from being taken back to Afghanistan. After Sonita’s mother says she’ll postpone the wedding if they get some money, Maghami considers paying the family off herself, a breach of ethics that even her own crew tells her to avoid doing. Maghami’s transparency about her own involvement into the story, along with her selfish intentions (at one point she says that if Sonita goes to Afghanistan her movie will be over), adds a layer of complexity that winds up highlighting her film’s shortcomings.

By paying off Sonita’s family to let her stay in Iran, Maghami exposes her desire to mold the film in a way that fits the success story narrative. And while Maghami’s openness about becoming a direct player in her film is commendable, it’s not a topic she dwells on too much; the debate over her actions gets swept under the rug not long after it’s brought up, and the focus switches over to Sonita making a music video for her first proper single. It’s not the manipulation itself that’s bothersome (documentaries always manipulate in some form or another, and the expectation of objectivity is an archaic one), it’s that Maghami does it to help her film follow a smooth, accessible narrative arc.

Still, Maghami has found a compelling presence in Sonita, and her film has a feel-good quality that’s undeniable. But it’s hard to remove the feeling that, because of her motivations, Maghami is less of an observer and more of a puppet master.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[NUTS! (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45077 2016-04-27T05:48:41Z 2016-04-29T14:00:07Z Penny Lane's documentary 'NUTS!' is deceitful for all the wrong reasons.]]>

The implicit trust that comes with viewing documentaries gets abused in Penny Lane’s NUTS!, a documentary about an interesting—and overlooked—story from Depression-era America. The subject in Lane’s film is Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, a doctor from Kansas who attempted to cure impotence by putting goat testicles into his patients. The method appeared to work, and Brinkley went on to be a success, turning his fortune into an empire when he invested it into building a radio station. As Brinkley’s success grew, the American Medical Association began targeting him because of his unorthodox medical practices, taking him to court and trying to ruin his businesses. Lane tells Brinkley’s story entirely through animated re-enactments, with a few talking head interviews along the way.

If the idea of goat testicle transplants curing impotence sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is; Brinkley was nothing more than an excellent con artist who took advantage of the placebo effect to paint himself as a medical genius. And Lane, taking inspiration from Brinkley, structures her film as a con job on viewers, treating Brinkley’s story as true until she pulls back the curtain in the final act. But Lane’s decision to deceive is misguided. In her attempt to point out how people are easy to let themselves be duped Lane only highlights the staleness of her message, along with the ethical murkiness of lying about such slight material. In reality, Lane’s deception is fueled by entertainment more than anything, as it gives her the ability to manufacture a twisty narrative while excusing her own behaviour by explaining herself at the end.

If NUTS! had a purpose for its narrative structure beyond trying to pull a fast one on viewers for kicks, it might have been less objectionable. Instead, Lane takes advantage of non-fiction for petty and selfish reasons, which makes Lane not too far removed from her own subject.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Cheer Up (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44838 2016-04-29T15:51:33Z 2016-04-29T13:40:29Z This sluggish documentary about Finnish cheerleaders suffers from a flat presentation.]]>

Watching a documentary filmed in real-time is always fascinating to me. Unlike a traditional doc that starts with an idea and involves months of planning, research, scheduling, and execution, a real-time doc feels much more adventurous; the filmmakers are just as unaware of what will happen next as the viewers. It requires a little luck, too. Picking a compelling subject for a traditional doc is one thing, but for something compelling to happen to a subject in a real-time doc is another thing entirely. Director Christy Garland hopes to capture some of that magic in Cheer Up.

The city of Rovaniemi, Finland is located at the Arctic Circle and, as one might expect, offers a stunning and picturesque winter landscape. But in addition to all that beautiful snow and cold, the city is home to the Ice Queens, a competitive cheerleading squad led by Coach Miia. The term “competitive” is as literal as it is generous, though. The squad technically competes at the Finnish National Qualifiers, but they are dreadful, even to the amateur eye. Tired of losing and tired of coaching a lackluster team, Miia seeks inspiration where nobody does cheerleading better: Dallas, Texas, USA. At Cheer Athletics, Miia visits with the staff and squads who put on a cheering (and coaching) clinic, producing the kind of results Miia could only dream about. Dazzled by the energy of the staff and the commitment of the cheerleaders, Miia returns home energized and ready to make some changes for—and to—the squad, until developments happen in her personal life that change the course of the team’s collective future.

In her third feature documentary, Christy Garland doesn’t simply cover the sad-sack exploits of the cheerless cheer squad. She also focuses her lens on the private lives of three individuals from the team: Coach Miia and two teenage cheerleaders, Aino and Patricia. On the surface, they are all unique. Aino is the raven-haired rebel, smoking behind the school and partying at night when she isn’t trying to land a flip. Patricia is the girl-next-door, but one garnering sympathy with a life marred by the loss of her mother. And Miia is the single woman whose obsession with Marilyn Monroe ranges from decorations on her walls to bleach-blonde hair and a “Monroe piercing” above her lip.

While these differences make the young women unique, and while cheerleading connects them, what bonds them (unbeknownst to them) are their fractured relationships with men and their sometimes staggeringly-poor life choices. Aino rushes to live with her immature boyfriend, Patricia is at stubborn odds with her father, and Miia’s man trouble defies even a veiled mention here for fear of revealing too much.

This is the kind of narrative that makes real-time documentary filmmaking so great—a director chooses a general topic that is unique, finds the smaller stories within the larger tale that might lead to something special, and pursues those stories. All of these components are present in Cheer Up, and yet the magic never quite happens.

Most of where Garland struggles is with trying to keep the story compelling. The monotony of the lives of these women seeps through the screen to turn the experience into a monotonous experience. This is no indictment of the women or their lives, but rather how they are presented on film. It’s as if Garland is concerned with being melodramatic, so she reigns everything in so tightly she creates something anti-dramatic. The result is observation to a fault.

Even the most structured and well-planned of documentaries need some kind of drama, so surely a real-time doc needs it too. Cheer Up doesn’t have it.

Garland also retreats from any kind of ongoing focus on the cheerleading aspect of the story, instead occasionally returning to it as a reminder that, oh yes, this is what these girls do. There are moments in practice when Miia pushes the girls harder, and there are moments when more than one girl loses a little blood in the process, but it’s all very rote in its revisitation. The lessons learned in life never translate to lessons learned in the gym, nor vice-versa.

Cheer Up is incredibly well-intended and has some good moments, particularly Sari Aaltonen’s cinematography. But with its flat presentation and dearth of any riveting moments, the film plays more like an after-school special about the pitfalls of teen decision-making than it does a documentary about young women struggling to make something more of their lives.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Wizard Mode (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45094 2016-04-28T04:56:02Z 2016-04-29T13:30:48Z A pinball wizard tries to overcome personal hurdles in this one-sided documentary. ]]>

Wizard Mode, from directors Nathan Drillot and Jeff Petry, is named after a term used in the pinball community. Some pinball machines have something akin to a video game’s hidden or locked bonus level achieved after executing a series of difficult tasks. Salazar attempts to make a metaphoric connection between this achievement and the achievements of Robert Gagno, a top-10 globally ranked competitive pinball player and a twentysomething young man suffering from autism, who has been trying to live his life as normally as possible.

At a high level, the metaphor works. Just as Gagno strives to win pinball tournaments, climb the world rankings, and achieve “wizard mode” in those machines that have it, he realizes over the course of the film he has to put the same kind of focus on gaining his independence. He has goals—a job, a driver’s license, living on his own, and eventually romance—but it will take a “wizard mode”-level effort to achieve this.

Presented in the film are some components one would expect about the life of an autistic pinball wizard, like old home movies flashing back to Gagno’s youth while haunting voiceovers from his parents offer memories of learning about their son’s condition. There’s also footage of some tournaments Gagno competes in (with his father playing the role of chaperone, driver, and coach), plus a who’s who of globally ranked pinball players, about each of whom Robert can point out player strengths. But with the exception of that narrated home footage, none of these parts are the least bit compelling in their presentation. Even the moments at the tournaments—regardless of how Gagno performs at them—fail to generate any sense of excitement or intensity.

Those tournament scenes also expose two fatal flaws in the film. The first is that it’s incredibly one-sided. Perspectives are offered from Gagno and his parents, but the pinball community is not tapped to speak to the type of person or player Gagno is. The second is more of a technical issue: Salazar doesn’t know how to make pinball very interesting. There is a lot of visual action in the game of pinball, from the speed of the silver sphere to how much of a nudge will earn the player a tilt. All of that visual action, combined with the glorious sound of an arcade running at full speed, should grab the viewer’s attention, but that never happens.

Despite some strengths, Wizard Mode’s inability to ever find a rhythm is too much for the film to bear. Gagno seems like a good person, and pinball sure looks fun, but in this film neither of them are sold very well.

Aaron Pinkston http://letterboxd.com/pinkstonaa/ <![CDATA[Movies to Stream This Weekend – April 29]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45073 2016-04-29T02:14:33Z 2016-04-29T13:05:32Z If you're looking for something to stream this weekend, in particular four very different documentaries, check out this week's streaming recommendations.]]>

The biggest news on streaming film this week (and in quite a while) was the announcement of FilmStruck, a new service featuring the broad library of Turner Classic Movies and the new exclusive streaming home of the Criterion Collection. While the price and launch date haven’t been disclosed yet, we know the service will feature thousands of advertising-free classic and contemporary films from both independent and Hollywood studios, making it an enticing new entry in the crowded streaming game. What’s more, the Criterion library will include additional content such as commentaries—this is a particularly interesting and unique offering for streaming sites and may help bring in the most hardcore film fans. It remains to be seen how special features will be integrated into the service (I recall similar promises when Criterion announced their partnership with Hulu, which will continue until November). There’s certainly a lot of warranted excitement surrounding FilmStruck. If you’re looking for something to stream this weekend, in particular documentaries, check out our recommendations below.


Team Foxcatcher (Jon Greenhalgh, 2016)

Team Foxcatcher movie

Netflix’s next journey into the true crime genre, Team Foxcatcher takes a look at the infamous murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz, previously dramatized by Bennett Miller’s underrated 2012 thriller Foxcatcher. John du Pont is certainly one of the most interesting true crime figures, perhaps even as eccentric as Robert Durst, so there is a deeper psychological study left here which Team Foxcatcher dives into using interviews and archival footage. Like the amazing current run of true crime stories, the film doesn’t need to over-sensationalize the unbelievable true story to make for a compelling character study and horrific recounting of events. And if you are inclined to dig even deeper on the Jon du Pont saga, you can also see the ESPN-produced documentary The Prince of Pennsylvania on Netflix.

Other titles new to Netflix this week:
Begin Again (John Carney, 2013)
Democrats (Camilla Nielsson, 2014)
Hellion (Kat Candler, 2014)
Special Correspondents (Series, Season 1)
We Are Twisted Fucking Sister (Andrew Horn, 2014)


For All Mankind (Al Reinert, 1989)

For All Mankind documentary

Al Reinart’s seminal space documentary For All Mankind has long been a member of the Criterion Collection and is now a highlight of Fandor’s “Criterion Picks”—this week boldly looking at science-fiction. The story of the men who have walked on the moon is much more dedicated to its breathtaking cinematography and philosophical concepts than simple profiles, making For All Mankind one of the most artful documentaries ever made. Other films included in sci-fi extravaganza are Fassbinder’s recently rediscovered World on a Wire, Chris Marker’s incredible short film that inspired 12 Monkeys, La Jetée, Japanese cult film The X from Outer Space, Tarkovsky’s serene Solaris, and more. This wide variety of selections from the popular genre are all available on Fandor until May 8.

Other titles new to Fandor this week:
2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Sébastien Betbeder, 2013)
Below Dreams (Garrett Bradley, 2015)
Don’t Play Us Cheap (Melvin Van Peebles, 1973)
Lines of Wellington (Valeria Sarmiento, 2012)
Wake Up and Kill (Carlo Lizzani, 1966)


Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog, 1992)

Lessons of Darkness

Over the past month or so, MUBI has focused on a run of Werner Herzog’s best documentaries, and this week comes one of his most cinematic. With minimal use of voice-over interviews, Lessons of Darkness photographs the oil fields of Kuwait, ravaged by war, in stunning detail. Anyone who knows Herzog’s work knows his complicated relationship with nature, and Lessons of Darkness is one of his most beautiful and devastating meditations. Lessons of Darkness is available on MUBI until May 28. For those who need to catch up on MUBI’s focus on Herzog documentaries, the other films now available are Fata Morgana, Land of Silence and Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and Ballad of the Little Soldier—you’ll need to act fast to catch those while they last.

Other titles new to MUBI this week:
Blue in the Face (Paul Auster & Wayne Wang, 1995)
Fragment 53 (Federico Lodoli & Carlo Gabriele Tribbioli, 2015)
On Football (Sergio Oksman, 2015)
Poet on a Business Trip (Ju Anqi, 2015)
Il Solengo (Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis, 2015)

iTunes & Video On-Demand

Where to Invade Next (Michael Moore, 2015)

Where to Invade Next

With election season ramping up, one of the most politically charged filmmakers working today takes on the concept of “American exceptionalism” with one of his most entertaining and least controversial works. Where to Invade Next uses a simple high concept that allows for Moore to travel through Europe and North Africa and find where countries are doing things right. He breaches a wide variety of political and social issues, from gay rights and gender equality to the prison system and education. The film is a far cry from a consistent and thorough look at these complex concepts, but it is a funny and enjoyable survey. Though it was a moderate success at the box office earlier this year, Where to Invade Next doesn’t seem to have reached the cultural consciousness to the degree of Moore’s other work. Still, it is definitely a film worth seeing, and you can now on iTunes and Video On-Demand.

Other titles new to VOD this week:
Backtrack (Michael Petroni, 2015)
Black Sails (Series, Season 3)
Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016)
Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)
Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Hotel Dallas (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44836 2016-04-28T03:56:03Z 2016-04-28T13:20:59Z Fantasy and reality blur on multiple levels in this uneven arthouse film posing as a documentary.]]>

One of the great joys for fans of true independent documentary filmmaking is having the chance to hear stories that might not otherwise be told. High-profile documentaries are great, and those stories need to be heard as well, but for every flashy doc there are countless other docs that offer unique glimpses into unknown lives, uncharted worlds, and times that have long since passed. Such is the story of Hotel Dallas from Livia Ungur, who acts as co-writer and co-director on a film about her own experiences.

As the 1980s wound down, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu recognized that the people oppressed under the boot of his Communist tyranny were growing restless and itching for freedom. In a placating move, Ceaușescu allowed the state-run television station to air reruns of America’s wildly popular drama Dallas. The prime-time soap starred Larry Hagman as evil oil tycoon J.R. Ewing and Patrick Duffy as his much kinder brother, Bobby. So popular did the show become in Ceaușescu’s corner of the Eastern Bloc, an entrepreneurial individual modeled a building after the home of the Ewings’ fictitious Southfork Ranch and turned it into a hotel, where guests could temporarily pretend they were living in 1980s Dallas.

While it’s technically accurate to call Hotel Dallas a documentary, the term both oversells and undersells the film, a juxtaposition that offers an interesting opportunity for Ungur (and her co-creator/husband Sherng-Lee Huang), but one that hampers the work as a whole.

From the oversell perspective, Hotel Dallas offers less in the way of what a viewer might expect in a documentary set in this place and time. While the filmmakers properly frame the geopolitical landscape so the importance of the TV show to oppressed Romanians is clear, there isn’t a great amount of interest from the filmmakers in exploring it too deeply. There are some fine voiceover testimonies to be heard from people who lived there and then, and it’s clear the show was a godsend to those people (and perhaps something of a backfire on Ceaușescu), but they are only soundbites offering a sketch, not narratives offering a complete picture.

This is where calling it a documentary somewhat undersells the film, as it is far more artistically experimental than the average documentary, with parts of the film delving into everything from philosophical oppression to complete fantasy.

The highlights of this avant-doc portion of moviemaking are three scenes played out by Romanian child actors dressed as Pioneers—Romania’s Communist youth organization. In one scene, the kids reenact the death of Bobby Ewing as seen on TV (something Ungur admits to being traumatized by when she was a child). In another scene, Bobby Ewing is “reborn,” a moment taken from Dallas‘ now-infamous shower episode. In the third scene, and in keeping with themes of life and death, the children replay the Christmas execution of Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena—a chilling moment in stark monochrome, especially as performed by youngsters. There is also the chance to see an old Romanian oil company commercial starring Larry Hagman.

But the most fascinating artistic piece is the inclusion of Patrick Duffy himself throughout the entire film. He plays a character named Mr. Here (with a clever comic reason behind the name), but he channels his Bobby Ewing persona as if it were in a constant state of semi-consciousness. He is only seen onscreen once (in a recording studio scene that is slickly edited), and the rest of his “appearances” are voiceover, but from his POV. His purpose in the film is to bridge the gap between Hollywood fantasy and Romanian reality, along with bridging the time between Ungur’s modern-day existence and her Romanian youth. The pair actually travel back in time throughout the length of the film.

While some of the filmmaking is quite good when being judged on its own merits, the blending of documentary and drama becomes too cute by half. Even if every scene was good, the filmmakers don’t quite have the skills to pull off something this audacious. Using fantasy to tell the truth, or injecting the truth with fantasy to make a point, is tricky, and too often I found myself wondering what was real and what wasn’t, a question a viewer shouldn’t have when watching something that presents itself as factual. The filmmakers’ raw talent here is evident, but it’s unfocused. The facts are interesting, and the artistic choices are compelling, but the two aren’t meaty enough to work together very well.

Byron Bixler <![CDATA[Off the Rails (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44843 2016-04-24T20:24:04Z 2016-04-28T13:05:06Z A serial impersonator of subway workers is documented in this compelling portrait of institutional neglect.]]>

Darius McCollum loves public transit. More specifically, he loves the trains that stream through the MTA system. The New York subway has been a lifelong obsession for him—a playground, a safe haven, and a place where new friends are never in short supply. It’s also a forbidden source of temptation, as Darius has been arrested more than 30 times for impersonating a train operator as well as various other transit employees. Considering his passion for the Transit Authority and his considerable knowledge of subway routes and procedures, one might wonder why Darius doesn’t apply for a position with the MTA rather than continue on as a criminal. As director Adam Irving details in Off the Rails, the reality of the situation is not so simple.

At the root of Darius’s compulsion is his Asperger’s syndrome. A defining characteristic of the disorder is an intense interest in one subject, and this has led Darius to study everything there is to know about the New York subway system. There is nothing malicious about his repeated transgressions. While most hijackings of public transit might spring from violent derangement or anarchistic intent, Darius’ actions rise from personal fulfillment and uncommon dutifulness. He follows the schedules, making every stop without deviation and carefully attending to any malfunctions with the necessary precautions.

Off the Rails takes viewers through the origins of this infatuation using home movies, cartoons, and testimonies from his mother as well as extensive interviews with the subject himself. We learn that Darius was bullied as a child and struggled to make friends. He found solace in the subway, where people didn’t judge him. Beloved by MTA employees for his enthusiasm, Darius became a kind of junior volunteer, helping out the operators with various tasks and eventually being taught how to run the train (an experience he compares to losing his virginity). But things turned sour when he was spotted behind the controls by police at the age of 15. Darius was arrested on the spot and soon became Public Enemy Number One to MTA executives for his repeated crimes, as posters bearing his image covered the subway walls. Even after growing to be of age, every application Darius sent to the corporation was rejected. Most of his life since that first arrest has found him wavering between jail time and virtual homelessness.

The documentary builds upon the context of Darius’s past to deliver a compelling study of his character and inner conflicts. We spend a lot of time with Darius, as the filmmakers capture his feelings with a compassionate camera, juxtaposing personal reflections with vibrant montages of train yards, bustling subway stations and brief scenes of everyday NYC street life. Listening to Darius, one gets the impression of a heartbreakingly sincere man—a man who sees the value in a few words of levity spoken to brighten another person’s day, who refers to Superman as a moral standard to live by, and who wrestles with delusions of his capacity for self-control. Darius may call himself “shy,” but he makes some fascinating insights, and his consistent presence really holds the film together.

Unfortunately, the audience isn’t allowed to draw its own conclusions on his behavior, as multiple therapists and Asperger’s specialists are brought on as talking heads. A certain degree of clinical observation is necessary to better understand Darius’ needs, but the impulse to frequently cut to the experts feels excessive. Rather than letting the implications of the subject’s words and actions stand by themselves (with perhaps some minor supporting commentary from those close to him), the filmmakers lean a little too heavily on the objective assessments to fill out their central characterization. As a result, Darius’ narrative comes off as slightly less intimate and more constructed.

About halfway through Off the Rails, the film begins to shift its focus from Darius to the legal system he finds himself ensnared in. Irving confronts the perpetual cycle of law-breaking and incarceration, taking aim at a courtroom that fails to acknowledge Darius’ unique psychological circumstances and a correctional department that doesn’t know what to do with him. This is where the sound bites from therapists and experts are most meaningful. The film campaigns for common sense solutions, calling upon the MTA to hire a man who would likely be their best employee and arguing for court rulings that wouldn’t serve to exacerbate the situation. A portrait of injustice begins to take shape and Darius is effectively painted as the victim of institutional neglect.

Pulling its unusual subject matter from the tongue-in-cheek headlines of local TV news, Off the Rails serves to humanize a person too often made out to be an eccentric curiosity. It’s a solid character study that admirably balances empowerment, hardship, empathy, and advocacy.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[League of Exotique Dancers (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44834 2016-04-24T21:09:25Z 2016-04-28T13:05:03Z There's a story to be told about the golden age of burlesque. This film isn't that story.]]>

Regardless of industry—sports, music, journalism, etc.—a Hall of Fame is the last stop for anyone who has had an impact on, or is a legend within, their field. And what usually accompanies an induction into a Hall of Fame is a retrospective of that person’s life and/or career. Burlesque is no different, and director Rama Rau uses the Burlesque Hall of Fame induction weekend as the backdrop to her new documentary League of Exotique Dancers.

The film looks at the lives and careers of golden-age burlesque dancers, as recounted by the dancers themselves. The women, with sensational names like Gina Bon Bon, Kitten Natividad, and Lovey Goldmine, are as brash, sassy, and unfiltered as one would hope retired burlesque dancers would be. These “titans of tease” are also quite eager to capture one more moment in the spotlight, and they get their chance when asked to perform in front of a live audience as part of the induction weekend. The revisiting of their professional paths and personal perils within their vocation is positioned to offer a unique and thorough perspective on the history of burlesque dancing and the lives of its dancers.

In addition to the women’s tales, there are plenty of greater stories to be told in League of Exotique Dancers, including the history of burlesque (or at least its golden age), the impact—good or bad—the burlesque trade had on women (and not just the women featured here), and in the case of the dancer Toni Elling, how being an African-American burlesque dancer affected her in a racially-charged time in our country.

By the end of the film, none of these larger themes are ever explored. The perspectives of the dancers are certainly unique, but the thoroughness of their stories is the film’s ultimate weakness. This doesn’t happen in spite of the fact Rau has the shared experiences of these dancers in front of her, it happens because of it. Rather than pluck stories from each dancer’s life and use them to build any kind of greater narrative, Rau offers a hailstorm of experiences presented in such a staccato fashion that the film leaves the impression that each of the dancers filled out the same questionnaire and filmed their answers.

A few ladies talk about bad relationships. A few ladies talk about addiction. A few ladies talk about their current professions, and so on. It’s an attempt to tell history by way of list-making, and it fails to resonate. To its benefit, League of Exotique Dancers offers a terrific collection of vintage imagery, including still photos, old reels, etc., but these become nothing more than slideshow images accompanying a collection of verbal bullet points. There’s a story to be told about the golden age of burlesque. This film isn’t that story.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Tickled (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44827 2016-04-17T17:58:02Z 2016-04-27T13:25:34Z One reporter's curiosity about a strange internet video leads to a series of unbelievable discoveries in this engrossing documentary.]]>

What begins as a search for a humourous news story turns into something far more insidious in David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled, a documentary that’s living proof of how truth is always stranger than fiction. Farrier, a reporter in New Zealand, comes upon a website offering young men money to get tied up and tickled in front of a camera (something the site calls “Competitive Endurance Tickling” in the hopes of making it sound more professional). When he tries getting in touch with the site’s owners about doing a story, he gets a nasty reply mocking his sexual orientation followed by legal threats. The unexpected response only interests Farrier more, who recruits his friend Reeve to help investigate by flying to America in the hopes of finding out who creates these tickling videos. What they find is the stuff of conspiracy thrillers, except it involves an empire of online tickling fetish videos (like I said: truth is stranger than fiction).

Tickled is the kind of documentary that relies almost entirely on the twists and turns of its story, meaning that it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible about what Farrier and Reeve discover as they dig deeper into the rabbit hole they stumbled upon. It’s as if both directors know just how incredible their story is, preferring a straightforward, investigative approach that’s paced like a mystery/thriller. And while this approach is entertaining enough, its adherence to a more conventional narrative format winds up sidestepping some of the important questions and ideas that come up during the course of the investigation. There might be plenty to say here about the power of the internet, how for some it can be used more as a weapon than a tool, but it’s drowned out by Farrier and Reeve’s desire to package their film as something more accessible and familiar. Tickled tells a great, sensational story, one that will have people buzzing the same way that Catfish did back in 2010, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that Farrier and Reeve could have done a lot more with their story than simply tell it as is.

Byron Bixler <![CDATA[KONELĪNE: our land beautiful (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44846 2016-04-28T03:37:19Z 2016-04-27T13:05:22Z A lyrical ode to a First Nations tribe and the land they call home.]]>

Deep in the wilderness of northern British Columbia beats the heart of the Tahltan people. They’re a First Nations tribe, surrounded by breathtaking snow-capped mountains and sharing space with various beasts they’ve called neighbors for thousands of years. The glorious expanse is seemingly timeless, largely unspoiled by deforestation and man-made structures. But as the Tahltan people struggle to retain their language and keep up native traditions in the 21st century, a new threat to their land and way of life looms. Companies wanting to mine the area for its copper and gold set up shop, and their plans put the health of the land at stake.

Director Nettie Wild weaves a dazzling tapestry with KONELĪNE: our land beautiful. More formally experimental than the average documentary, the film doesn’t attack the environmental issues through any one perspective. In fact, there isn’t much of anything here that qualifies as an “attack” at all. The approach is far more meditative. A multitude of voices overlap, sharing feelings and personal histories while Wild showcases the region through expressive cinematography and editing. What this method produces is a lyrical ode to a bountiful and diverse landscape, along with the human beings who make it their home.

For all the beauty of KONELĪNE’s visuals, it’s the human subjects who make up the bedrock of the film. A series of vignette-like sequences are threaded throughout, giving the audience some quality time with the lifestyle and viewpoints of Tahltan natives and foreigners alike. Wild follows local fishermen as they cast their nets, a woman guiding hunters on horseback through steep mountain ranges, and a man with a dogsled who speaks with pride about running the same trails his ancestors followed. She speaks with a driller who chronicles the area’s geological history, and turns her camera on a pair of conflicted Tahltan mining employees who say that, in their impoverished state, they can’t afford to turn down the jobs.

This is only a sampling of the subjects that take the spotlight. The doc’s colorful tableau of experiences brings the viewer close to the realities of living in the region, and Wild appears to take pleasure in documenting the nitty-gritties of everyday work, showing a narrow focus on the work each person does with their hands. Horseshoes are fashioned and fastened to scuffed hooves, transition lines are painstakingly set up by a small crew, and fish are carefully cleaned at homemade butchering stations by the riverbank—all of this captured with a strong attention to detail. For fans of Werner Herzog, some of these scenes may feel reminiscent of his film Happy People: A Year in the Taiga in their fascination with the earthly qualities of independent living.

The film cannot be discussed without addressing its handling of the environment. The remote countryside is lensed with the same attention to detail as the people, but the land conveys the added weight of something formidable and pure. Wide shots capture postcard-ready vistas, and well-placed close-ups—such as one of hailstones falling on butterfly wings—express a measure of fragility. As one of the interviewees notes, it’s a land “with a personality.” Aided by a soundscape that mixes twinkling bells with wind gusts and rhythmic tribal drums, Wild demonstrates how that personality transfers to the spirit of the people who live off the land.

KONELĪNE: our land beautiful is a serenely delivered tribute to the Tahltan people and the earth they’re tied to. The themes here echo environmentalism, but the film moves more like a poem than a preachy assault on corporate greed. This is transportive, ethereal documentary filmmaking that is well-worth experiencing on the biggest screen possible.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[My Blind Brother (Tribeca Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44989 2016-11-30T21:01:39Z 2016-04-26T16:11:41Z 'My Blind Brother' is mostly amusing and its performances are strong, however, the tone remains unwavering until the film’s ending: lightly comedic, but unrelentingly self-serious.]]>

Two siblings’ underlying resentment for one another is put to the test by a new love interest in My Blind Brother, a rom-com that often feels like it’s cutting with a blunt edge. In a clever bit of character building, the film opens with Robbie (Adam Scott) effortlessly running through the end of a marathon while his brother, an able-sighted Bill (Nick Kroll) sweats the last leg out trailing behind on Robbie’s guide rope. Here both the plot and joke remains purely on the surface; Bill’s life and accomplishments are performed in his blind brother’s shadow. Often, the unsatisfying aspect to Sophie Goodhart’s directorial debut is in its inability to mine its premise further.

The brothers become increasingly petty to one another over Robbie’s new girlfriend Francie (Jenny Slate), a woman in crisis after her ex-boyfriend gets blindsided by a bus. Slate and Kroll have worked together previously and share a dynamic chemistry on-screen as a romantic pair. Her presence elicits a warmer, more verbally unhinged side to his character—the only version of him in My Blind Brother with charisma. She also has moments of unexpected vulgarity spoken with her delightful, squeaky tone. This movie and everyone in it knows that Francie is dating the wrong brother; however, in the frustrating tradition of romantic comedies, the tension is left to linger everyone cowers away from confrontation.

Considering the level of comedic talent involved, one of the most surprising elements to My Blind Brother is its saccharine quality. Robbie is treated as an unrepentant dick throughout the movie, only to be given a tearful confession at the movie’s end. The character’s disability provides a few solid gags but is handled with a level of naturalism. Kroll, Scott and Slate are all charming presences in their roles—as is a totally magnetic and slightly underserved Zoe Kazan as Slate’s roommate—but knowing each of those actors’ penchants for hilarity, My Blind Brother feels lean on humor.

My Blind Brother is mostly amusing and its performances are strong, however, the tone remains unwavering until the film’s ending: lightly comedic, but unrelentingly self-serious. With so little actively happening in the plot the movie grows dull between stretches of more consistent humor. Sophie Goodhart’s My Blind Brother is thinly plotted and familiar, but this mostly pleasant comedy has a winning romance at its center which elevates the film beyond standard fare.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Obit (Hot Docs Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44922 2016-04-24T18:50:24Z 2016-04-26T14:05:21Z History, journalism, and storytelling converge in a marvelous doc that heralds the most unappreciated section of the newspaper.]]>

“It’s a once-only chance to make the dead live again.” So states William Grimes, former book and restaurant critic, and current obituary writer, for the New York Times, in director Vanessa Gould’s marvelous documentary Obit. While the quote perfectly captures the essence of what real obituary writing is about, the film goes deeper than that, offering a lesson in history, a glimpse behind the scenes at the New York Times, a course in journalism, and a clinic in succinct writing.

It’s a tricky story to tell, as it combines a morbid subject with an activity—writing—that doesn’t necessarily make for compelling viewing. Gould understands this and rises to the challenge by approaching her subject from several angles. The backbone of the film is the linear thread: the anatomy of an obituary, from a fact-finding phone interview with a decedent’s widow first thing in the morning, to discussions on narrative approach in the afternoon, to filing the piece just under deadline in the evening.

Routinely stepping away from this so as not to get lost in function, Gould features a collection of deftly edited discussions with the NYT’s obit writing and editorial staff. Each discussion is fascinating, but none more so than those with Jeff Roth, the gloriously eccentric man in charge of “The Morgue,” where the newspaper’s history, and by extension the history of everyone who has ever been mentioned in the paper, is stored and catalogued. These discussions offer terrific anecdotal insight into the perception of obituaries and, more importantly, their history. This is where Gould’s film takes off.

A highlight reel of dazzling breadth, consisting of memories, news clips, and even video footage, spotlights one of the most interesting facets of obituaries: who gets one. Unlike your local paper, the NYT doesn’t publish everyone’s obit; someone has to have had a measurable impact to warrant one.

And it isn’t just celebrities, world leaders, or titans of industry who are considered to have had an impact. Included in this collection are the inventor of the Slinky, the pilot of the Enola Gay, an exotic dancer with ties to Jack Ruby, and the last surviving plaintiff from Brown v Board of Education, to name only a few. Every story is as amazing as the one before it and after, and if the anatomy of an obit is the backbone of the film, these highlight reels are the alluring soft parts.

With Obit, Vanessa Gould proves something I’ve said for years: pound-for-pound…or perhaps word-for-word is more apt…there is no better writing, and no better storytelling, in any national daily newspaper than there is in the obituary section. Obits are more than resumés of the deceased; obits are everyone’s last chance at life.

Lee Adams <![CDATA[Revisiting Coen Brothers & Sam Raimi’s Flop ‘Crimewave’ 30 Years Later]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44853 2016-04-26T15:45:41Z 2016-04-26T12:10:42Z 30 years ago Crimewave made its disastrous bow at the box office. Has the past three decades been any kinder to Raimi's slapstick stinker featuring a script by the Coen Brothers? ]]>

This year’s Oscars saw the Coen Brothers receive their sixth screenwriting nomination for Bridge of Spies. It was a solid effort, mostly remarkable for being the first time in 30 years that someone else has directed one of their works and it not being a major letdown. But then again, Spielberg could turn just about anything into a Best Picture contender by his reputation alone.

The first attempt by the Coen Brothers handling just the screenplay credits was for Sam Raimi’s 1985 film Crimewave, which limped out on a limited release 30 years ago. Critics were not impressed. Vincent Canby of the New York Times tried to be nice, but couldn’t help noting that it was “not funny” and “dimly humorless”—and no-one went to see it. The film made just over $5,000 against its modest $2.5 million budget. (For comparison, the highest grossing film of 1986, Top Gun, made around $386 million versus a $15 million budget).

So now that Crimewave is three decades old, how does it stand up over time? I approached Crimewave aware of its reputation but hoping that it would play better now that we’re attuned to the Coen’s sense of humour. Unfortunately, it hasn’t aged well. All early Raimi movies have the same cartoony aesthetic, but Crimewave looks particularly cheesy, as if shot on left over sets from Police Squad. It has received some retrospective turd-polishing in certain circles—Slant Magazine awarded it four out of five stars, the same rating they gave The Big Lebowski.

Back in 1985, Crimewave must have sounded like a good idea at the time. Raimi was still hot after his debut (now cult classic) The Evil Dead, and Blood Simple announced the Coen’s as a remarkably precocious writing-producing-directing duo. Sometimes match-ups that look good on paper turn out to be stinkers—see the putrid chemistry vacuum of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in The Tourist.

Crimewave movie 1985

Raimi’s hyperactive visual style would seem a great match for the Coen’s stylized dialogue, and some of the former’s directorial pizzazz bled over into the Coen’s earlier work. Yet the combination also failed in the Coen’s highest profile flop, The Hudsucker Proxy, where Raimi co-wrote and served as Second Unit Director. Tellingly, the Coen’s were working on the script for Hudsucker while Crimewave was in production, and both films share DNA with Raising Arizona at the zanier end of the Coen’s screenwriting spectrum. All three are postmodern spins on old Hollywood movies of the ’30s and ’40s that the Brothers love so much.

Crimewave starts well enough. Like Hudsucker, we meet our protagonist just as he is apparently about to meet his demise—Victor Ajax (Reed Birney) is a typical Coen-esque schlub dragged from his cell for a midnight date with the electric chair. Meanwhile, a carload of nuns race through the silent city streets to the rescue. Via flashback, we find out what led Victor to his perilous state. Ajax was once a regular joe installing security cameras for the Trend-Odegard security company. One partner—Mr. Trend—employs some repulsive contract killers to whack the other, Mr. Odegard. Through a series of woefully unfunny scenes Ajax falls in love with a femme fatale, butts heads with his love rival Renaldo (Bruce Campbell, a frequent Raimi associate), and ends up taking the fall for a series of murders committed by the unhinged exterminators.

Coen aficionados should enjoy some of the characters in Crimewave. The hitmen are the first in a series of big man-little man combos that would serve them so well, from John Goodman and William Forsythe in Raising Arizona to Goodman and Steve Buscemi in The Big Lebowski. This links in with a less appealing Coen trope, that of fat men screaming, hollering and shouting, which they like to work into any movie when they get the chance.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty juvenile and ugly exercise, and the pace of the film suffers from the studio’s intervention. Raimi was denied the final cut, and the editing is at odds with the director’s usual dynamism—even at a trim 83 minutes it plods terribly. Scenes drag on forever because the editing is so slack, exposing the weakness of the script. The screenplay is the real villain of the piece, with barely enough dialogue to get the characters from point A to B in a scene. It feels like a rough draft dashed off to set up the story’s structure, and got made into a movie by accident before the Coen’s could revise.

Crimewave 1985 film

If it played faster they might have gotten away with the “jokes”, which are about as sophisticated as Stan and Ollie getting their hats mixed up. An example is a character walking into a broom closet instead of his apartment…that’s it, that’s the joke. These gags have whiskers on them, as someone in Hudsucker might say.

The only truly enjoyable part of the film is Bruce Campbell, making the most of slim pickings. Campbell was still a few years away from becoming a B-movie idol, but delivers the lines with his typical cult hero drollery. Raimi wanted Campbell for the lead, but the studio insisted on someone more “Hollywood”, resulting in the baffling casting of Birney as Ajax. He’s a completely insipid screen presence and the action grinds even further to a halt as he bumbles through his scenes. It’s the film equivalent of watching a stand up act die onstage.

After Crimewave flopped, Raimi retreated to his cabin in the woods to create Evil Dead II, one of the greatest sequels of all time. He would pare back his Loony Toon instincts to make his best film to date, A Simple Plan, and also helm one of the most emotionally satisfying superhero adaptations, Spiderman 2. Of course, the Coen’s career as filmmakers grew immensely over time, though it’s fascinating how they stuck to their guns with the same vein of wackiness in their next feature, Raising Arizona.

Crimewave is perhaps best remembered as a cautionary tale, carrying the whiff of hubris from three young filmmakers who perhaps felt they were too cool to fail. Careers have been ruined by less, and we can be thankful that Raimi and the Coen’s managed to survive after the unwatchable mess of this collaboration.

Eli Hayes <![CDATA[3rd Street Blackout]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44590 2016-04-22T13:50:39Z 2016-04-25T13:08:03Z A lo-fi romantic comedy with a New York sense of humor and a tremendous supporting cast.]]>

Not every sub-genre of cinema needs to contain likable characters for films to be successful. A huge number of affecting films have been produced, for years, concentrating on antiheroes: unpleasant characters not featured for the sake of enjoyment. However, when filmmakers are working within the confines of a tight sub-genre like talk-heavy, NYC-based tales of flawed romance, which is essentially what Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf‘s 3rd Street Blackout is, the characters must be relatively pleasant. That’s because rather than focusing on philosophy or atmosphere, the film chooses the route of a double character study and centers entirely on the mind state of the two protagonists, a seemingly happy couple named Mina and Rudy, played by the directors themselves.

Sometimes, when a director makes the decision to place themselves in the spotlight of their own film, they can become so wrapped up in their own vision that the story becomes overly personal and difficult for those who haven’t shared their life experiences. Here, the opposite is true; Farsad and Redleaf are so naturally able to realize the characters they’ve written for themselves that it’s difficult to remember that they’re the co-directors and not a silly New York couple with a set of eccentric friends.

3rd Street Blackout tells the story of a few days in the life of this couple, during which a blackout occurs across the entire city and they’re forced to actually communicate with one another rather than spending all of their time on their phones, as they usually do. This eventually leads Mina to reveal something to Rudy that she’s been bottling up for some time; said “something” is also revealed to the audience in flashback fragments throughout the majority of the film.

The non-linear style of editing that the film utilizes works to its advantage in raising the emotional stakes of the narrative, and simultaneously, creates a feeling of palpable suspense not common in most lo-fi romantic comedies. The film is indeed a comedy, but not in the pure sense at all because the audience is, for the most part, left in the dark regarding the portion of the story being flashed back to. It’s a sincerely funny film—you could draw comparisons between 3rd Street Blackout and shows like Broad City or High Maintenance with regard to its uniquely New York sense of humor—but its structural fragmentation also makes it an effectively frustrating and anxiety-inducing experience.

One of the main reasons why the film works so well is because of the talented supporting cast. Farsad and Redleaf are fantastic and believable as the leads, but the film wouldn’t have been nearly as strong had the slew of supporting characters not been so comically satisfying. The cast is stacked with recognizable faces such as Janeane Garofalo (Wet Hot American Summer), Devin Ratray (Home Alone), John Hodgeman (Bored to Death), Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project), Michael Cyril Creighton (Spotlight) and Phyllis Somerville (Little Children) who, in particular, gives an utterly delightful performance. Lesser known actors such as Katie Hartman and Becky Yamamoto show that they deserve recognition, the former taking on one of the chief supporting roles in the film and nailing every scene, and the latter having only one scene in the whole film, though it was possibly the film’s most hilarious moment.

Ultimately, 3rd Street Blackout is a simple movie focusing on complex characters. The way that the couple avoids addressing important issues through comedy is a realistic dynamic that’s easy for viewers to understand and even sympathize with. Much of the comedy in the film is admittedly crude, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Farsad and Redleaf pull off the crudeness, mostly because the audience can tell it’s not malicious and poorly intended; it feels harmless and reminds one of how important it is to be goofy every once in a while. Characters pop in and out of the film without much introduction, but it doesn’t matter. Actually, it works to the film’s advantage because every character is captivating, and that’s sort of exactly how it is in New York City anyway.

3rd Street Blackout isn’t just great because provides a good laugh; it’ll make you want to sit down and write some comedy of your own. It’s exciting to see a pair of independent directors with such an inspiring and authentic comedic voice.

Tanner Stechnij <![CDATA[The Best Performance of 2016 Is Already Here]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44638 2016-04-24T18:36:09Z 2016-04-25T13:05:47Z Jia Zhangke explores the human condition in 'Mountains May Depart' with a masterful performance from Zhao Tao.]]>

Although 2016 is not even halfway done, one of the year’s most affecting powerhouse performances has been making a quiet rumble in limited markets after hitting last year’s festival circuit. There are many confounding elements to unpack in Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart, whether it be its framing methods or its extended prologue, but Zhao Tao’s masterful performance is what makes the film a momentous achievement for Zhangke’s career. Starting last year at Cannes, audiences have been immediately enthralled by the youthful and perky dance instructor who lights up the first sequence of Mountains May Depart. Where other actors would reduce Shen Tao, the character who happens to be named after the actress, to a charming simplicity, Zhao makes her character her own and embraces a whole range of characterizations and flaws that a woman would encounter in 25 tumultuous years of life.

Shen’s evolution through the film is visible through the three distinct acts that encompass Mountains May Depart. Her character grows in the short time spans that are presented as obstacles are thrown in front of her, but her maturation is increasingly visible in 1999, 2014 and 2025. Many characters affect Shen’s life through the years, but she commands the story and the screen. Despite Mountains May Depart’s point-of-view being omniscient, it lives through the eyes of Shen, and the film excels when the focus is on her. Zhao molds Shen into a fully fleshed out human with complex traits that follow her whole life while displaying a childlike wonderment, maternal jealousy, and sweet sentimentally in each respective time period.

In the first act, Zhao portrays Shen with an ingenuity and innocence. She is introduced with Liangzhi, portrayed by Jing Dong Liang, but she quickly hops over to Jinsheng, portrayed by Yi Zhang. Shen balances the two men in her life selfishly, picking between which one has more to offer her. Yet, because Zhao is such a master actress, Shen never comes off as unpleasant or less than endearing. In fact, this selfishness, which is present throughout the film, only paints her as more relatable and grounded.

Mountains May Depart indie

Zhao plays Shen with a lot of reservation in the first act, whether it be about choosing a man or the way she takes in her surroundings. This reservation results in a quiet performance, full of nuances and gestures. Even as the two men have conversations, it is hard for one to take their eyes off of Shen—her eyes twinkle, her mouth twitches, her face engages. The performance is even realized in the tiniest moments, like when Shen softly hears a Cantonese song and is deeply affected by it. In many ways, Zhao diminishes Shen’s age. She represents youthfulness and abandonment, willing to live her own life no matter what comes her way.

In the second act, Shen is noticeably older and more demure, but her life is even more uncertain. Shen’s life takes a left turn between the two time periods, leaving her matured in both life experience and presence. At the opening of the second act, Zhao is often found with a soft smile that alludes to a deeper feeling of discontent.

Mountains May Depart

It is the relationship with her son Dollar which really drives home the duality of Zhao’s performance. Zhao is given a chance to be more emotive in the second act since her sans souci attitude is replaced with grief. As the act progresses, Zhao opens herself up to hit the highs and lows of an emotionally susceptible woman, stuck between motherhood and daughterhood. Until Dollar becomes more involved in the story, Zhao always plays Shen as someone comfortable in her own skin, but she struggles as someone else takes a stronger grasp on her life. Zhao juggles a complicated combination of being a tyrannical matriarch and a tender mother. In the end, her care for Dollar is well portrayed, but it is as complex as her character.

In its third act, Mountains May Depart breaks away from Shen and Zhao to focus on Dollar and his father Liangzhi’s life in Australia in 2015. The last forty minutes are almost universally deemed the most turbulent part of the film due to the Zhangke and the actor’s unfamiliarity with the English language. More bothersome though is the absence of Shen, who didn’t experience the redemption her character deserved. Shen returns in the epilogue, which pays homage to the most tender moments of the film. Zhao illuminates the epilogue with a graciousness and subtlety, and Shen comes off naturally more aged, capable and refined, despite Zhao staying the same. The last scene doesn’t say much, but ties the film together with nostalgia and hope, and leaves room for the viewers to contemplate the timeless iridescences of Zhao’s performance.

Mountains May Depart is now out in limited theatrical release from Kino Lorber in the US and Films We Like in Canada. For a slightly different take, click here to read Michael Nazarewycz’s review of the film.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[‘Always Shine’ Director Sophia Takal Talks Feeling Competitive and Struggling with Perceptions of Femininity]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44948 2016-04-24T22:21:39Z 2016-04-24T22:21:39Z "That's why we used a lot of alienation and breaking of the fourth wall techniques, too, to remind people it's not just actors who perform. It's all of us who perform in our everyday lives and are choosing to present something to the world, [something] that's been fed to us, rather than [present] who we really are."]]>

With her discomforting new psychological thriller Always Shine premiering as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, filmmaker Sophia Takal has already drawn comparisons to Brian De Palma, David Lynch, and even Ingmar Bergman with her new film. Yet, reviews of Always Shine that point to the film’s central pair of femme fatale-style blondes or the voyeuristic lens it applies to its actresses overlook a significant quality of Takal’s 2nd feature. “I don’t really know that there are a lot of movies about female friendships that ring true to me,” she begins during an early interview one morning in Midtown. “At least none that I’ve seen that I can think of right now.”

The tension in Always Shine is fueled by the mutual envy between its leads Anna (Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) best friends who decide to rebuild their broken bond by spending a weekend together in Big Sur. More than just spending time with one another, the trip is a chance for both actresses to escape how the outside world views them, as well as the roles—both personal and professional—in which they feel trapped. As the two old friends reconnect, their underlying resentment for one another turns their vacation into an anxiety nightmare with dangerous consequences.

In her sit-down interview with Way Too Indie during Tribeca, Always Shine director Sophia Takal discusses the competitive jealousy that inspired her film, the thematic importance of having female characters portray actresses, and how Always Shine helped the filmmaker come to terms with the competing aspects of her own personality.

Always Shine was written by your husband [screenwriter Lawrence Michael Levine, who also plays Jesse in the film], were you part of the initial development of this idea?
Sophia Takal: I came up with a tiny seed of the idea of wanting to make a movie about my own struggles with fitting into a normal idea of femininity. I made a movie called Green, and right after that movie came out something got triggered in me where I felt insanely competitive with all my friends—actor friends, director friends – and I was sabotaging those relationships. I was filled with all this rage and I was so angry.

I was taught that the right way to be a woman was to be shy and deferential—to not take up too much space—but I felt so big and bossy and aggressive and I just felt so bad about myself. It was creating this very violent conflict within me, and Larry was sort of just watching me unravel, go totally crazy and alienate everyone around me. We started talking a little bit about how I was feeling. I always gravitate toward making movies about really personal things.

I started talking to other women about saying “I really don’t feel like a woman, I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job at this,” and they would say “I don’t feel that way either.” I realized that it wasn’t just specific to me, but maybe there was a little bit more of a universal struggle that we were experiencing as women. So I wrote a one-page outline of ideas for how I could make it into a movie.

Larry really connected with these feelings. He had felt [competitive] towards me, [like] I was feeling towards other people. He had similar feelings about not fitting into the typical masculine roles of being really, really rich, and really, really powerful, and not emotional, and not crying. He said, “I felt a similar alienation from the set of expectations of my gender and I think that we could do something really interesting.” He’s an incredible writer, a much better writer than I am. So I just trusted him to create a script based on our shared set of experiences.

We did think it was important to address femininity rather than [make it] about a man. He read a lot of feminist books about female archetypes. There’s this one really great book called “Down From the Pedestal” [by Maxine Harris], which was all about different female archetypes and how women fit into them. He read books about celebrity obsession, “Fame Junkies” [by Jake Halpern] and “Gods Like Us” [by Ty Burr]. A lot about feminism and celebrity.

So that increased attention to your careers was a part of the inspiration, as well?
Definitely. Larry and I both got very career-obsessed. Just striving, grasping, not being satisfied with anything we had. Really feeling that our self-worth was bound up in this idea that we needed to become famous. And I feel like we just fell prey to what our society tells us, where celebrities are the new gods. It’s hard to feel valuable in a society that tells you that the most valuable people are these tall, beautiful men and women. It’s a bummer.

I was talking with Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote Nerdland, about this desperation from the fringes of the entertainment industry. The tangible aspects of modern fame, I think, makes it seem not so out of grasp, which can drive you insane if you’re in that periphery.
Yeah. Also, because a lot of people are famous for no reason. The act of getting famous is a focus, rather than the act of creating and fame [coming] as a byproduct of that. It seems to have taken people over more and more. I talked with Mackenzie and Caitlin about that a lot. That when you become an actor you become an actor because you want to create something and enter this secret space where you’re connecting with someone. Then the weird by-product of being successful at that and getting to work is being pigeonholed into these tinier and tinier boxes.

[You] go to fashion shows and wear makeup and it’s not at all to do with why you started wanting to be an artist. A lot of business type people in the industry convince you that that’s essential in order to be an artist. Especially with actors. The less you know about an actor, the better the experience watching them work is going to be because you don’t have all the baggage. This internet age where you know everything about everyone is especially bad for everyone. Who’s someone really famous?

Ben Affleck.
Ben Affleck, yeah!

We spent a whole two years saying, “He doesn’t look like Batman.”
There’s just so much stuff, yeah. Like, “He had an affair with his baby sitter,” or whatever.

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The femininity aspects in the film are really interesting, too. Particularly relating to the whole duality of these characters, balancing, “is this who I am?” with, “is this who I want to be?”
Definitely. To me, thematically, those are two sides of one woman. The process that I’ve undergone in my life is to synthesize those two aspects, rather than feeling pulled toward feeling small, getting angry that I wasn’t that way, and getting pulled in two directions. My personal journey has been to merge those two sides to become a more whole, balanced person. To not be mad at myself for not feeling one way, or reacting another way. They are two sides of the same person. And some people may naturally gravitate towards one. But both are kind of a performance.

There is that really interesting moment when you first introducing Mackenzie’s character and it’s made to look like an audition scene. Do you feel like that desire to be a certain type of person forces us to be performative in real life?

Yeah, I can only speak to my experience. But I feel like I’m performing all the time. Interacting with people is a negotiation. And I think as a woman, you’re taught how to perform to get what you need. Like, to seduce, or all these [prompts] that you could give to an actor at any time in a scene.

I think that was true, and that’s something we wanted to hone in on in the movie. And that’s why we used a lot of alienation and breaking of the fourth wall techniques, too, to remind people it’s not just actors who perform. It’s all of us who perform in our everyday lives and are choosing to present something to the world, [something] that’s been fed to us, rather than [present] who we really are.

To literalize some of that conflict by making them both actresses, was that something you debated at any point or was that there from the beginning?
It was always going to be actors in my mind. Mainly, because I started as an actor, so I really related to that. Then, a couple of producers and money people said, “Does it have to be actors? Because that’s not so accessible,” but I disagree. Birdman won an Oscar.

I always said, “No, it has to be actors.” I could never really articulate exactly why. And then this one filmmaker named Elisabeth Subrin has this really awesome blog called “Who Cares About Actresses?” And she articulates it so well, so I’m kind of just copying what she says. But it says that actresses represent to women what women are supposed to be. So when you choose how to portray a woman by picking an actress, you’re just telling women how to behave.

And then they become these archetypal figures.
Yeah, they’re just like tools to pigeonhole. I wanted to play around a lot with how actresses are used, which is why one thing I was excited about when I came onto it was obscuring the nudity. Almost showing them naked so that the audience would feel in their bodies that they wanted to see them naked and have to confront that feeling. Or obscuring the violence was another thing. I don’t know if this is the reaction people had, but it would be so cool if people were like, “Why can’t I see her kill her?!” and then get frustrated and say, “Why do I want to see her kill her?”

It’s that thing where you’re sort of seeking an answer that you already know. I found myself sitting there waiting to see a death scene but also knowing I didn’t need it. That’s a weird impulse.
Yeah, I just thought it might be interesting for people to sit with their desires rather than being given everything.

What were some of your visual influences? The quick splicing of scenes, the unsettling, disorienting style was really engaging and disorienting.
Mark Schwartzbard shot the movie and we watched Three Women like eight or nine times, and Images, the Robert Altman movie. We bought this 1960s zoom lens that was totally unused off of eBay, which was really cool. That was the only one we used for the whole movie.

Then Zach Clark edited it, and I had shown him a couple minutes of something that I had cut myself. I said, “I really want this to be weird and unsettling but I have no idea what to do.” Then he cut the opening credit sequence first and I was like, “Oh yeah, do that always, everywhere in the movie.” He kind of just brought the blinky, splicy stuff to me, and I thought it was amazing. He’s the one kind of responsible for more of the avant-garde elements. Seeing the slates – all those things – he added a whole other layer to the film. He really found visual ways to make it interesting.

A lot of what’s happening on-screen is not that unsettling or strange, but it’s the presentation of it – whether it’s the score or just that interstitching – that makes it so tense. Particularly, the scene where they’re running lines together.
Yeah, it’s so cool, they were really good!

Were you deliberately looking to make seemingly smaller moments play big?
Yes, definitely. My first movie, Green, I was also playing around with elements of genre, but it wasn’t as much of a genre movie. And this I really wanted to make it a psychological thriller, but I still wanted to root it in naturalism and [keep it] performance-driven. So all the choices we made with shooting was to make it as scary as possible

Same with music and editing. And I got really lucky with the actors because I love single-take scenes and they were so talented that we didn’t need to cut a performance. They were just able to do it on set. Not cutting away in certain tense moments built more tension, so I was really glad to be able to have that.

Always Shine 1

How did Mackenzie and Caitlin get involved? Did you seek them out?
They both came to me through agents and casting directors in the more traditional way. We cast Mackenzie first, and she just really understood Anna, understood the script. I was really excited and I was a huge fan of her work. Caitlin’s agent reached out to me, I was also a huge fan of her work. They were the two women that I spoke to that totally understood the script backwards and forwards, and had clear, specific ideas for their characters.

For me, as the director, casting is essential. Part of the way I decide to cast someone, I choose the person who I think is going to need the least amount of help. For everyone in the cast and crew, I just want everyone who can do their job so I stay out of the way. That’s a big part of what I was looking for. People who really understand this material, people who were willing to come out with me into the woods, work with a really small crew, do the weird hippy new-agey warm-ups I insist on doing and the meditation. People who feel that this is an important movie to make with important themes. Not just people who say “Oh I get to have the lead in an indie.” There was a lot of trust between the three of us that really moved me. It was really exciting and cool. It was the first time I worked with actresses that I didn’t have a relationship with before.

I was wondering if at any point you had considered casting either of them in the opposite role.

It was clear from the start?
It was clear from the start. Yeah.

You’re a multi-hyphenate, actress being one of them. Was there any point where you thought you might be in this film?
At the very beginning when I gave Larry that one page I was like, “let’s just go into Big Sur and improvise a movie.” And he was like, “No, this could be better than that,” And I said, “I’m only going to give up my part if I find someone who I think can do a better job than me.” Then I did. And the role is so intense and aggressive that in order to inhabit that space I would be a terribly mean director.

The process was really important to me. Not knowing what was going to happen to a tiny independent film, I just focused on making sure that making this movie was as fulfilling as possible for everyone involved and that we learn and grow as a group and as individuals through this one month. So I thought that I could facilitate this kind of energetic whatever by being just a director. And it was so much easier than acting and directing. I acted in my first movie. Part of what’s fun about acting is losing yourself in the moment, but if you’re directing too, you can’t.

So you prefer to focus your energy in that way?
I think I do now.

Are you planning any other projects now?
Yeah, I have a script ready, but still not really big. But it’s more of a light dramedy. It will be an interesting shift to move away from these genre elements and focus more on like real life. I definitely don’t want to get pigeonholed as a genre director. Someone talked to me after the movie and said, “There are so few female genre directors, you could really make a big career out of it, do studio stuff,” and I was like, “Uh, I don’t know.”

That to me seems weird, I don’t like genre movies more than any other movies. For me, the through-line with all my ideas is that I’m talking about issues that women have that they’re maybe ashamed to acknowledge publicly. It can spark a dialogue and make them feel less alone, and I don’t think it needs to be any particular genre to do that.

One of the very interesting things about Always Shine is that it does talk about jealousy between friends in a way people tend to not acknowledge or not want to acknowledge, at least. Have you thought about why it’s so difficult to confront?
Do you have that feeling with other male friends?

I think I do. For me, it’s about relative positions in life. And certain people get, like, a nice apartment, or a nice promotion. It’s like a milestone type of thing.
Yeah, I guess I could go deep into an anti-capitalism rant right now. I think it’s the nature of capitalism to have a scarcity mentality and to feel like there’s not enough to go around for everyone. I think that’s particularly true about actresses. That’s another reason I think it’s a cool career to give these two characters. There’s one part and one person can get it.

And it’s not necessarily about talent or anything.
Yeah, I really think that’s true for everyone, I think that that’s a big problem with this society’s obsession with money and power.

It’s an unflattering obsession to have.
Yeah, and then it’s embarrassing. The reason I asked you about men was because with women there’s a huge emphasis on perfection and quietness and not challenging, and so that’s why I was wondering if that was why we don’t like to talk about it, but I don’t know. If everyone feels that way then I don’t know what it is.

Maybe it is just the sense of acknowledging that you don’t feel good enough or you haven’t accomplished enough.
Right. Because everyone’s performing, so you want to create this image of success or having it all together and not being jealous. But then it’s eating away at you inside, making you go crazy, and all of the sudden you’re screaming and crying in the post office. Just like, “Why can’t you give me my package without an ID?!” That didn’t actually happen.

It’s a metaphorical post office.
But I did really shove my boyfriend’s manager because he called me a primadonna. So [the movie’s] based on real life.

Transcription assistance from Jason Gong

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[‘Win!’ Documentarian Justin Webster on Bringing Vérité-Style Filmmaking to NYCFC’s Founding]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=45002 2016-04-24T22:12:52Z 2016-04-24T22:12:52Z Director Justin Webster talks about getting access to world-renowned superstars like David Villa and Frank Lampard and the challenge of vérité-style documentary filmmaking.]]>

As a Brit who lived for many years in Spain before coming to America during New York City Football Club’s inaugural season, documentarian Justin Webster’s background mirrors that of many of the players on Major League Soccer team rosters. Benefiting from his personal connection to the City Football Group, as well as some fortunate timing, Webster found himself preparing to start a new vérité-style film project right as City were ready to announce their entry into America’s 20-year-old soccer league. Yet, the final result of Win! is about as far from PR promotional product as one could imagine. Using unprecedented access to locker rooms, player retreats and board rooms, Justin Webster’s new documentary gives an intimate look into the lives and struggles of a professional soccer organization going through the ups and downs of its founding.

In his sit down interview with Way Too Indie from the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, Win! director Justin Webster talks about getting access to world-renowned superstars like David Villa and Frank Lampard, the challenge of vérité-style documentary filmmaking, and making calculations about how much information to make explicit.

How embedded did you want to become in this process? How day-to-day was your involvement following the birth of NYCFC?
Justin Webster: For viable, practical reasons, and budget reasons, we couldn’t follow the whole thing for a year and a half every day. So we had about four and a half months of filming and I had to choose when to go. It was spread out to try to capture the twists, stories and the characters. Sometimes things happen that needs to get covered by somebody else. But as this style of filming isn’t that easy to do, that was a challenge, too. So to get somebody else to film while we weren’t there wasn’t the ideal situation. My production team is highly trained and highly skilled in this kind of filming.

The vérité style really lends a really immersive aspect to Win! It gives an unfiltered look at professional athletes that isn’t often on display. Was it tricky to coordinate, or to get these athletes to open up and allow themselves to curse or say something off-color on camera?
Sure. There’s a whole art to this observational filming, done well. Part of it is explaining very carefully and then filming an awful lot. Because when they trust you and they ignore you, then you’re in the position to start getting some real scenes.

And you may not [get good footage], you may be filming for hours and hours and hours and nothing gets into the cut. The team filming has to be on the same level of attention the whole time. When it comes to the players, we got along very well. They very, very graciously ignored us.

And enough to get some of those really candid, interesting moments that anyone interested in the sport wants to see. Those little interactions between a coach and a player or a coach and a manager aren’t normally for public consumption. Was part of your interest in capturing those moments that might seem minor but reveal bits of personality?
I couldn’t put it better myself, in fact. People ask me, “What was the message of the film?” and in a way the message of the film was the style. You see what you think you know, but you don’t really know until you see it. It’s like they’re acting. They’re not acting, but if an actor glances one way, or twitches some way, or looks up, it becomes much more revealing. You see everything in a slightly different light. It’s like actually being there, and that’s stimulating for you to think about what you thought you knew. I think you put it better. Those little details can be very revealing.

There’s a version of this movie that could be made where you explain the MLS rules of the expansion draft, or the protected players clauses; however, a lot of it is left for the viewer to piece together. How much of a calculation is that for you? Explaining the complexities of a world without become bogged down by those intricacies?
Well, that’s a really interesting point when it comes to making film. You need to tell enough that it’s not confusing, but if you start telling too much it becomes boring. Things like the expansion draft, even Claudio and Jason when we interviewed them said, “I’m not sure we can explain it completely,” it’s so complicated. You just have to know enough so you’re not confused. So you know the in expansion draft they’re competing to get some players, actually American players. That’s the important thing.

I’m hoping, and it was a calculation, you’re right, that I put in the right layer of information so that it helps the story, because there is a storyline about how this is the tipping point of soccer in the US, for instance, and the pressures around that.

You pick up that this is this post-World Cup wave, but it’s only a few clips in the actually movie where we see them. Is that something you decide to include in post or is this something you feel you have a natural felt would be part of the story?
I have a boring, kind of [mantra] I repeat again and again. I always say that you have to have two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time and still maintain the ability to function, which is a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two ideas are, “this is the script,” “there is no script.” So you start off with an idea. And so those sort of ideas about the World Cup and where we were, I think they’re always there.

Of course, just a little is enough. Threading in the right level of information, the longer cuts were around 2.5 hours. I started editing fairly early on. It’s a process. With any luck you end up with everything in the right kind of proportion.

You mentioned that you lived in Spain, and you get some really great access with David Villa in the documentary. Was your ability to speak with him or relate to him part of what facilitated getting some of those honest, revealing moments where you see him frustrated with his inability to communicate?
I think so. It’ll be very interesting to see what he says. It wasn’t necessarily easy to film closely with anybody, and he opened up steadily. The fact that we speak Spanish – not just me but the director of photography, my assistant director and producer, the sound person, we’re all bilingual Spanish-English. We talked a lot with David’s father, as well, when he came to training sessions. I think it all helped; building trust like that was essential.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[Sharon Horgan talks Rom-Com on TV vs Film and the Hopeful Tone of ‘Catastrophe’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44997 2016-04-23T19:47:02Z 2016-04-24T13:39:42Z Sharon Horgan discusses the advantage television has when developing romantic comedies and the importance of making a show that was more than just gags.]]>

With her background as the star and creator of Pulling, as well as her other work British TV shows, Sharon Horgan has become a recognizable face on British television; however, her latest show Catastrophe marks her first with an American audience. The Channel 4 / Amazon Studios co-production dropped its entire second season earlier in April, picking up years after the drama of the first season, with Rob and Sharon (the show’s co-creators Horgan & Rob Delaney share first names with their characters) married and struggling to raise two children. Both seasons of the Catastrophe are not only hysterically funny, they’re warm and optimistic in a way that runs counter to many cynical, modern TV comedies.

In her short interview with Way Too Indie on the red carpet for Catastrophe‘s panel at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, Sharon Horgan discusses the advantage television has when developing romantic comedies, the importance of making a show that was more than just gags, and why it’s better to just laugh at Rob’s jokes on screen.

Romantic comedies in film haven’t been quite as popular this decade as they were in the past; however, the first season of your show Catastrophe, as well as several others on TV right now, function as really successful romantic comedies. Do you think romantic comedies function better in that episodic format rather than in film?

I guess it does but it’s also easier to make a romantic comedy because you’re not pandering to a huge audience. I think a lot of romantic comedy in film is aimed at a massive audience, so you’ve got to tick a lot of boxes and please a lot of people. The only people we had to please [on Catastrophe] were ourselves.

Also, we never thought about it as a romantic comedy so we weren’t trying to fit it into a formula. I think that can sometimes be the problem with romantic comedy in film. It has to hit all [those] beats.

We had an easy job. I think it’s harder on film but it’d be fun to have a go.

You and Rob Delaney have a delightful chemistry on the show, even small details like laughing at one another’s jokes really illustrates the healthy dynamic between your characters as a couple.

Yeah, I mean it is a bit of a cheat because it’s easier to laugh when someone says something funny on film than not laugh. But also, the big thing about the characters and why they like each other is because they find each other funny. Any romance or relationship is generally – apart from sex – based on someone who makes you laugh.

We thought it was really, really important that even in season two, even when they’re in the deep quagmires of marriage that they still made each other laugh. It just felt like more of an honest representation. I don’t think anyone tells anyone a joke in real life and they meet it with a frozen face.

But that is something you’re consciously making sure is a part of the dynamic?

Sure, but also it’s easier to do it that way. It’s easier when Rob says something funny to just laugh.

Your characters face adversity, different ups and down on the show, but it retains a hopefulness throughout. Was that something you wanted to be part of Catastrophe from the onset or did that come from writing the show?

It was really important from the outset. I think we both got to a point in our lives where we felt like we didn’t just want to make a show with a load of gags. We wanted it to be saying something and to hit all those spots. So that people who are watching feel that we’re invested in them and therefore they’ll invest in us. None of it’s easy. Having kids isn’t easy. Being married isn’t easy and we kind of wanted to tell people that things can be ok. All these terrible, shitty things can happen to you but there’s quite often a light at the end of the tunnel, and you’ll get through it.

I think comedy is just such a brilliant medium for that. It’s so great to be able to talk about serious subjects through making people laugh.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[Filmmaker Sophie Goodhart on Her 10+ Year Wait to Make ‘My Blind Brother’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44873 2016-04-23T19:41:00Z 2016-04-23T19:34:11Z Sophie Goodhart discusses the long path to production for her debut, spending her option money too quickly, and the benefits of working with longtime friends like Nick Kroll, Adam Scott, and Jenny Slate.]]>

Feeling oddly jealous—and embarrassed about that jealousy—when her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Sophie Goodhart began developing a story about a tense sibling relationship largely built around resentment. That inspiration led to her 2003 short film My Blind Brother, which at the time seemed like a launching point for her smooth transition into feature filmmaking. “Since then I’ve had three or four films green-lit, ready to go, and then something happened,” Sophie laments from the Tribeca Film Festival. Her new feature-length directorial debut, also titled My Blind Brother, has been a long time coming, but the version Sophie finally got to make comes with a standout cast.

In her interview with Way Too Indie, My Blind Brother writer / director Sophie Goodhart discusses the long path to production for her debut, spending her option money too quickly, and the benefits of working with longtime friends like Nick Kroll, Adam Scott, and Jenny Slate.

I wanted to ask you about the film’s journey into development because this is a story that’s personal to you, but it’s also a movie that was based on a short film that you had directed.
Sophie Goodhart: Yeah, [the idea started with] my sister being diagnosed with M.S. [multiple sclerosis] when I was in my early twenties. I was sort of embarrassed and kind of surprised to find that I was feeling kind of jealous—and really embarrassed by my jealousy—about the fact that I knew that she was always going to be this incredible hero that battled against great misfortune. So that’s where the short came from.

I got incredibly lucky and worked with three great actors—Tony Hale, John Mattey and Marsha Dietlein—in the original. The short kind of got me agents, and got me certain contacts. Immediately I got these films optioned, and I was like, “Look at me, I’m about to really do it!” I had parties where I bought lots of people drinks where I celebrated my success. Unfortunately, I was, like, way, way, way too soon. I realized that was an expensive mistake to make.

Since then I’ve had three or four films greenlit, ready to go, and then something happened. 2008 happened, everyone needed their money and you couldn’t make films. Or one of the actors leaves and I can’t find a replacement or you couldn’t spend a certain budget on the film. I was writing something completely separate from [My Blind Brother], and was just focused on the Jenny Slate character—about a woman who was going out with this guy who gets killed by a bus just after she’s dumped him. She feels terrible, she kind of hates herself and finds herself on a weird path where she would have been a tragic victim and instead she was just a cruel ex-girlfriend. I realized that her story fit really, really well with this other story so I put them together in this feature. I had to wait around for the perfect cast, the perfect three people, who would mean that I could get over a million to shoot the movie.

There’s a way to interpret the logline of this movie as a broad, Mr. Magoo-style comedy, but your movie stays very tethered to reality. Was there an impulse to go broader or do you prefer to keep your writing grounded?
SG: I always write about things I’m feeling, or worrying about, or have experienced in one way or another. You know, I could research the whole world, or a new environment or a new job, but to have that kind of basic character issue that I’m not connected to I think would make it difficult. I think that the fact that it’s based on some of these feelings that I’ve had, meant that it could [depict] a mean-spirited aspect of humanity. Because it wasn’t just an outsider looking in and mocking it. It was something familiar that I felt and believed.

You had mentioned your three lead actors came aboard as a kind of package. How did you get Jenny Slate, Adam Scott, and Nick Kroll all become involved?
SG: It’s one of those things where you never know which people you meet in your life are going to be the ones to make things happen. It turned out that Sharon Jackson at William Morris Endeavor really connected to the movie, and she had confidence in it. She had enough power to make connections to these people. But I didn’t know that when I initiated talking to her. I wasn’t like, “This is the woman that’s gonna package it.”

The three people who kind of made it happen were my initial producer, Tori, who found the short film. That was reassuring and good news for people doing shorts is that [making them] actually can make a huge difference. Somebody can like it, and they can mention you to try and help you get a feature. Then, Sharon; it’s not often in big agent’s interests to put their time into small films—and this kind of a low budget indie film—but she took a fancy to it and sent it to these bigger actors. Finally, Tyler Davidson saw [our cast], read the script and was like, “Fine, I’m happy to give you a bit more money” than he originally would have been inclined to. It just takes so many happy accidents to get off the ground. And it took such a long time. I felt like I was ready for those happy accidents.

Sometimes it can feel fated in a way.
SG: Yeah, I think after 13 years sitting in my kitchen writing I was like, “oh my god.” It was only hardcore delusion and denial that has meant that I made this because any other human would have just thought, “fuck this, it’s not working.”

What was it like for Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll—who have worked together several times before—and to work with them on developing a romantic dynamic, especially one that is played pretty straight throughout?
SG: With Jenny and Nick and Adam, you just get this unbelievable mix of people who are so intelligent and so good at acting. So nimble about playing jokes and playing them so straight or so small, that they can do pretty much anything. When they read this script, they knew that it was this romantic element, and I didn’t want to play it jokingly. I think they totally delivered. I think the fact that they’re friends meant that I didn’t have to do as much work as I might’ve. And there’s such a beautiful ease between them that I could just say, “And kiss now,” and they just were comfortable, grown-up and intelligent. They were good at acting so it was easy.

What other movies and directors did you look to for influence when putting this movie together?
SG: Two directors that I love are James L. Brooks and Elaine May. I also looked to David O. Russell and Silver Linings Playbook. Then, Knife in the Water, even though tonally it’s so weird—I love the kind of graphic quality of [Polanski’s] work. Elaine May! Her original The Heartbreak Kid is just so fucking good. So those are my inspirations, obviously.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[‘Between Us’ Filmmaker Rafael Palacio Illingworth Talks Vulnerability and Novelty]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44991 2016-05-30T17:26:44Z 2016-04-22T17:24:59Z Rafael Palacio Illingworth discusses the real-life spat that inspired the movie, what types of questions he peppered the actors with prior to casting, and more.]]>

There aren’t many professions in which asking your co-workers whether or not they’ve participated in an orgy is part of regular life, and even fewer outside of the adult film industry. Between Us filmmaker Rafael Palacio Illingworth doesn’t want to shy away from exploring sexual fantasy, as well as the disparity between those desires and reality. It’s what prompted him to appear fully naked as the lead actor in his debut feature film Macho. It’s also what inspires his deeply intimate story about a couple tempted with adultery in Between Us.

As for the filmmaker’s penchant for asking frank, sexually-skewed questions of his co-stars during their first meetings over coffee, Rafael explains that he was seeking, “an assurance that we can tell an honest story. For me, when somebody shows up and he comes with his social media in mind or publicist in mind, all these things are blocks to the story. If they have a problem with telling that truth then I have a problem.”

In Rafael Palacio Illingworth’s interview on Between Us with Way Too Indie during the Tribeca Film Festival, the filmmaker discusses the real-life spat that inspired the movie, what types of questions he peppered the actors with prior to casting, and how Mad Men helped put Ben Feldman on the director’s radar.

What lead you to the creation of Between Us?

I developed it for three years but the idea first came to me a couple years before that. I had this fight with my girlfriend, and I stormed out of the apartment – which I had never done before – and then walking I thought to myself, “What I find the perfect girl right now?”

Of course, that never happened. I came back 20 minutes after. Actually, I’m married to her now, even. It was then I realized that all these fantasies are more like an antidote for your anger than anything [else]. It’s easy to think, “If I leave you I’ll have a line of girls waiting for me.” But the reality is not that.

So that idea came a long time ago and I wanted to shoot it as an unscripted thing before having my first child – only child for now – but I didn’t have time. So then I connected with Caviar [Production Company, which also produced last year’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl] and it just organically happened from there with a script.

How did the idea mold from your writing process?

Talking about these impulses – these kinds of naïve impulses – of doing something unscripted and powerful. Usually, at that point, your ideas are like, “I’m going to do a movie about everything.” You know? [A movie] about everything that’s ever existed. QW you sit down to write the words and realize you have to translate whatever you’re feeling to something it becomes real.

I think the process was really good for the project, and really helped shape it into something because it had to become real and intimate. For example, there are these bookends of the clouds. The movie used to be called The Force, up until recently. Because it spoke about that force always wants to push us around and make you think there’s someone else around; all this temptation and desire. In early versions of the script, [this sense] came from outer space to the inner world through clouds.

I realized whatever it is, it’s between them. It’s there in that apartment where they’re sitting. In front of them, between them, no pun intended.

That [process] is what I went through for the whole script. It was a grand story that tried to talk about everything until we shaved it down to be about this intimate couple and these struggles that they have.

Right, at some point you have to hone in on your focus.

So finding that was the challenge but compared to the general structure, the script didn’t change much. It was always the story of this guy walking out of the house in a rage and then dealing with the consequences of finding this girl that he thinks is the perfect girl.

How early did you get Ben Feldman and Olivia Thirlby involved, and what made you know they’d be right for their parts?

When we went out to start casting it was very important for us to get that main couple right. First, we started going out to guys. The first person that really responded on my list of preferred guys was Ben. This was when he had just finished Mad Men, and he had done an amazing job there. He liked the script. At that moment he hadn’t done any dramatic films, he had only been in horror films.

So I found it interesting that he was not a guy who would come with his own baggage or his own brand. He responded to [the script], we met, had a nice conversation and we connected really well as friends. That was the most important thing to me because being a small movie I needed someone that I could trust that was going to help me out. Whatever that means.

I wasn’t experienced in directing A-list actors, so I also wanted to be open in expressing what I was expecting and what I was fearing. I shared all that and I realized this guy’s a friend. We barely talked about our film; it was more about, “Where do you live? What do you like?” I knew we could sit down for a coffee regardless of any movie. That was what made me think that this guy was going to be right.

After [Ben was cast] we went out for girls, and Olivia also responded [to the script]. Funny enough they hadn’t met until after they were both cast. I had the same experience with Olivia when we met. In a different way, obviously, but I also felt like she was into exploring, and helping, and being open. I realized that if they both can do this then the three of us could do it. It was risky but I think it was fine and they’re both so open and nice.

Were those conversations with the actors partially about their own views toward love or intimacy, since those feelings play such major roles in Between Us?

Yes, I think most of our conversations were about our very private lives. Look, I have nothing to lose. Everything’s on the screen. Sometimes I would just come to them and say, “How is it? You’re married. Have you ever cheated? Have you ever gone to an orgy?” It was all these things. It was kind of rushed, very quick, but it was nice. The advantage that I have is that my movies are clearly self-referential so there’s no secret. I’m not talking about a character.

Especially if you’ve seen my first feature film, which has me acting [in it] and I also get naked. That gave me a really good platform to say, “It’s not going to be as explicit as my first movie but it is in this world of honesty.” I don’t want the camera or the Hollywood desires to be in front of us telling an honest story.

So I would ask if they were okay getting naked or how okay they were with sex scenes. How not [okay they were]. Where could I go with it. I had that conversation with Ben although he had no nudity [in the movie]. It was just about knowing that if needed we will go there.

And also to know that they would be open to feeling that necessity. They could suggest it to me. Which would happen with Olivia. Sometimes I would be like, “Cover her here,” to be very proper and she would say, “Come on, it has to be real.” I expect that and those are the things I make clear from the beginning.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Jeremy Saulnier and Anton Yelchin Talk ‘Green Room’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44970 2016-04-23T19:49:39Z 2016-04-22T15:37:01Z Green Room is sure to go down as the most overwhelmingly intense movie of 2016, and unless another filmmaker can match Jeremy Saulnier’s knack for suspense, violence, and pulling the rawest performances out of his actors possible, it’ll reign as genre-movie king for a good long while. Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Blue Ruin‘s Macon Blair, and […]]]>

Green Room is sure to go down as the most overwhelmingly intense movie of 2016, and unless another filmmaker can match Jeremy Saulnier’s knack for suspense, violence, and pulling the rawest performances out of his actors possible, it’ll reign as genre-movie king for a good long while.

Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Blue Ruin‘s Macon Blair, and Patrick Stewart, the film finds a hardcore band trapped in the green room of a secluded punk rock venue in the forested Northwest, surrounded and outnumbered by murderous neo-nazi thugs led by a cunning leader (Stewart). Over the course of one night, blood and limbs fly, bones break, flesh gets ripped to shreds, and egoes get smashed to pieces as we bear witness to the ensuing melee.

In a roundtable interview, we spoke to Saulnier and Yelchin in San Francisco about the movie, which is in theaters now.

Green Room

Murder Party was also primarily shot in one location. That was shot about a decade ago. I’m curious how you’ve approached Green Room differently and how you’ve applied the things you’ve learned over the past ten years.
Jeremy: After Murder Party, which is an overnight, sort of contained scenario, I swore I’d never do it again. So…I’m an idiot. I learned a lot about what’s supposedly cheapest and most convenient, which is shooting a film in one location so that you have control over it. But, cinematically, I found it lacking. I was using a great steadycam operator and kind of set him loose, but I didn’t feel like it was fully realized, visually and cinematically.

For Blue Ruin, I did the opposite: tons of locations, open air, eight-page scenes. That was what I was attracted to. Green Room was just an idea I loved but was resisting because of the nature of what it contained. The siege scenario. But I felt like, because of the dynamics of it taking place in the green room of a concert venue during a live show, it was just something I couldn’t let go of.

Visually, I had an exterior element that was kind of swirling and always moving, very visually rich and kinetic. Inside, I had had to work on how to cover these scenes without exhausting the actors. I didn’t quite figure that out because you had to get these performances and you couldn’t be so kinetic. Green Room is much more visually precise and better realized. I wasn’t afraid. When we had to lock a camera and just shoot what the actor was saying, the impact of the performance is what’s really driving the story, not so much how I use the camera. We let the actors lead the way.

You’ve been DP on all of your films until now. What was it like passing on the torch and focusing on directing?
Jeremy: Based on the necessity of this production, it was easy and kind of inevitable. For Blue Ruin, it’s a kind of quiet film. There are about three major dialogue scenes, and the rest is primarily wordless. Every shot was the story. My intuitive approach to how I was moving the camera and how I was framing the camera is how I told the story. I couldn’t do it any other way.

Green Room, with the ensemble cast, the stunts, the bloodwork, the special effects…it was way more of a challenge than Blue Ruin. I wasn’t going to try to shoot this. Sean Porter was brought on because he has a diversity of styles. He isn’t trying to put his imprint on a director’s film. He tries to translate what they’re going for. I saw It Felt Like Love and Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, which are very different films, and I would never peg them as being shot by the same person. For that reason, I knew that he could translate the visuals as I would have.

I love following your career, Anton. Your role choices are interesting to me. I don’t know you, but from everything I’ve heard, you’re an incredibly intelligent person.
Anton: That’s debatable…[laughs]

I think you exude a keen intellect when you’re onscreen. Do you choose roles that allow you to display that?
Anton: The thought just crossed my mind that I should find someone really stupid to play. [laughs] I think at this point I want to be doing different kinds of characters and changing physicality…It’s hard, because movies don’t really come out in order. Sometimes they never come out. So work that [I] do that in my mind I’m plotting my…not so much career trajectory, but my creative trajectory…a lot of times, people don’t get to see that. Something that I may have done three years ago may come out tomorrow, and three years ago I was on that creative page, but I’m not anymore! You get judged by that moment. For me, at this point, I’m trying to figure out what I can do creatively. It’s about trying to find new things and trying to figure out voices and borrowing from things and learning as much as possible so that I have an archive of things to borrow from.

Jeremy: I can attest to the fact that he is an overthinker. He gave me a huge phone book of notes about his character, not to change the script, but just his insights and how he would steer the character, emotionally. That I loved. Anton has a very good idea of what he wants to do, and he wants to talk about it a lot. Sometimes I want to, you know…

Anton: Not talk about it. [laughs]

Jeremy: This film is so physical. The dialogue, if you look at it line by line…it’s like, what are we saying here? It’s all kind of throwaway. But when you see the character, he’s not very proactive. He’s forced to live or die. He’s not trying to be a cinematic movie hero. He’s forced into that role and has to go kind of full-gonzo to get there. It’s really fun to see it come alive on camera.

Anton, are you the kind of actor who needs to be riled up before a tense scene? This film is obviously full of them.
Anton: It’s just focus. I know Jeremy’s really busy, but I send him all of that stuff. It’s a selfish thing. I need what I’m thinking to come out into the world, even if it’s a two-word approval, like, “Yeah, I agree,” I need that approval so that in the morning I can get up and use that when I go to work. It’s a weird version of focusing. That being said, it’s not just me focusing. I was thinking a lot about Callum and [Imogen] and Alia and Joe, watching those guys. Patrick Stewart on the other side of the door. When you’re part of a cast like this, you’re fortunate enough to have people who are constantly informing what you’re doing.

It’s very touching for me to see Callum’s face when I get hurt [in the movie]. The empathy and kindness he was exuding in that moment aided me so much. I love that guy, weirdly. We’ve never had an experience like that in real life, you know what I mean? He’s a great guy, and we’re friends. But there was something about that…you share really intimate things with people [on movies] that you just wouldn’t, even if you’ve been friends with them for years. You don’t share the things you’re forced to share [on a movie set].

The big thing I was scared of was that [the cast] would get together as a band and dislike each other.

Jeremy: That wouldn’t have happened. That’s how I cast movies.

Anton: Well, I was still scared, but those guys are good dudes. They’re good people.

Jeremy: The environment we create is, every actor on set wants to be there. They were invested. When you have that chemistry, that mutual support…it becomes real. Everyone feeds off of each other. When you’re in the room, you’re at the mercy of every single performance. You cannot have one that’s off. That real-life energy, that charge, was palpable in every take.

What’s the message of the picture?
Jeremy: There are lots of layers there. There’s subtle political commentary in there. There’s a thesis to the movie, and that’s more about stripping down ideology and affiliation and who we think we are in labels. It’s about a learned aggression and violence…all sorts of shit. But really, it’s entertainment. It’s about good, old-fashioned escapist filmmaking. Drawing from my favorite experiences with Blue Ruin, which were derived from watching audiences respond to intention…that was so fucking exhilarating for me.

With Green Room, what I wanted to do was infuse an archive, my experience in the punk rock and hardcore scene. I wanted to have something to show for it. I wanted to make a genre film but infuse it with the energy of the hardcore punk scene, which I really loved and also defined my youth.

What are some new things the movie brings to the table as far as genre filmmaking?
Jeremy: I really try to not let specific genres influence me. I’m certainly collectively influenced by all of the films I’ve ever seen. I did watch Straw Dogs for a reference. I knew this plot wasn’t going to be very thick. Straw Dogs was about the experience and tension and tone. A very thin plot. This is the point of Green Room. We’re not going for a convoluted plot. Contrived plot twists, injected character conflict or love stories that just don’t belong…it’s this insane, visceral experience. It’s an overnight clusterfuck, and it’s terrifying. It’s designed to be the most tense film I could ever imagine.

I approached it as a war film. That’s what it was. It’s a siege scenario. It has aesthetic elements that could be attributed to the horror genre. Certainly a lot of graphic violence. The way I approached it with the production design and the actors was that it was a very grounded war film, but on the other side of the door, there are amateurs.

We’ve been talking a lot about actors.
Anton: What’s wrong with that? [laughs]

[laughs] Jeremy, is there a technique you have when working with your actors?
Jeremy: [To Anton] What is my technique? No, seriously. Do I have a technique? I don’t perceive myself as having a technique.

Anton: I think, when you watch Jeremy’s movies, there’s a real sensitivity to performance. There are two parts of me. There’s the really critical, film-nerd part of me that loves that, and then there’s the part of me where I’m like, “I really didn’t like that movie, but I want to work with that director because he loves actors.” I think you can see that in Jeremy’s films. I love Macon [Blair]. He’s such a good actor, you know? What a beautiful performance in Blue Ruin. I was geeking out on meeting him. But you see in Blue Ruin that there’s a real sensitivity to people’s performances, and that’s what it’s like on set.

I know that Jeremy was going through a lot of stuff that we had no idea about, actually. And I’d say, in a microcosm, that is your approach. We had no idea what Jeremy was dealing with outside of just trying to man this ship on the day, and it was really about being sensitive to what we were doing and trying to get the right moments. It’s a real love for performance that, as an actor, you appreciate. It’s giving you a chance to make stuff, and I think that is a way of working with actors. That is an approach. I’m sure there are directors who don’t like to work with actors and don’t know how to be sensitive to actors. The groundedness in these films comes from his sensitivity.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[No Men Beyond This Point]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=39777 2016-04-19T17:29:18Z 2016-04-19T15:05:20Z A mockumentary about a world where men no longer have a purpose is entertaining, even when it's uneven.]]>

What if men no longer served any purpose on Earth? That’s more or less the hook of the mockumentary No Men Beyond This Point, which presents an alternate universe where, in the 1950s, women suddenly gained the ability to reproduce asexually (it’s called parthenogenesis, as one of the talking heads explains). As the years went on, and the population of women kept increasing (since they’re reproducing asexually they only use the X chromosomes, meaning no more males being born), men eventually became of no use. No Men Beyond This Point starts in the present day, where the documentary crew follows 37-year-old Andrew Myers (Patrick Gilmore), now the youngest man in the world.

Writer/director/editor Mark Sawers uses a standard documentary approach to his absurd subject matter, employing talking head interviews, archival footage and black-and-white re-enactments, among plenty of other old tricks found in any average middlebrow doc made today. The familiar and banal approach works here because of its pairing with a fantasy/sci-fi concept, and the way Sawers focuses on some of the more nuanced changes that would come from the switch in dominant gender roles makes it easy to go along with his dystopian (or utopian, depending on how you look at it) vision.

Aside from playing out his big “What if?” scenario through social and political contexts, Sawers also focuses on Myers and his situation as the youngest man in the world. With the World Governing Council—a new body of government running the planet—sending men off to sanctuaries across the world to live out their remaining days, Myers manages to get a job as a servant for partners Terra (Tara Pratt) and Iris (Kristine Cofsky). Eventually, Andrew and Iris being showing an attraction for each other, and Sawers uses their flirtations to delve into the messier aspects of his universe.

It’s when No Men Beyond This Point starts exploring sex that the mockumentary begins to falter a bit. Especially giving a rather bland attempt at poking holes in the idea of how women would handle being in power. Earlier on, when Sawers highlights how the stubbornness of men in power ultimately led to their downfall, the idea works. But once women take charge and rule in a reactionary way towards men, essentially trying to speed up their extinction, Sawers portrays their rule as a conservative, sex-shaming authority, where women are not allowed to speak about their feelings of attraction whatsoever. It gives off an implication that women are inherently repressive when it comes to sexuality, a point that some people may take offense to. And with gender and sexuality turning into prominent issues recently, there’s something a little old hat about Sawers’ film operating within the same standards that are being constantly challenged today.

But still, anyone who tries to tackle gender is bound to get into a sticky situation of some sort, and for the most part No Men Beyond This Point is enjoyable despite its issues. It may be a little too deadpan for its own good, but even when the laughs aren’t there it’s fascinating to see just how much Sawers has thought out his idea of a world where women rule everything. I can’t say that No Men Beyond This Point lives up to the mockumentaries of the likes of Christopher Guest (and I’m sure some people will grow tired of Sawers’ premise pretty fast), but I can’t deny that I wasn’t entertained for the most part.

This review was originally published on September 14, 2015, as part of our coverage of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[‘Nerdland’ Filmmakers Chris Prynoski and Andrew Kevin Walker talk Fame and Sweaty-Palmed Desperation]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44875 2016-04-18T18:26:02Z 2016-04-18T18:26:02Z Andrew Kevin Walker and Chris Prynoski discuss Nerdland's nihilistic vision of modern society and their shared appreciation for improv in moderation.]]>

From their collected experiences around Hollywood, both screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker and animation director Chris Prynoski are familiar with the trappings of fame, as well as the desperation of those without it to attain it. Wearing a pair of outfits that Walker noted, “could combine for a really great Hunter S. Thompson costume,” the Nerdland creative team was at ease discussing the first feature film to emerge from animation house Titmouse, Inc. where Prynoski also helms Metalocalypse. Nerdland (read our review) takes a satirical look at a pair of ne’er do well Los Angeles roommates—aspiring actor John (Paul Rudd) and wanna’ be screenwriter Elliot (Patton Oswalt)—hung up on fantasies of making it big in the movies.

In their sit-down interview with Way Too Indie, Andrew Kevin Walker and Chris Prynoski discuss Nerdland‘s nihilistic vision of modern society, their shared appreciation for improv in moderation, and how the dream of writing the Great American novel has shifted.

What was the launching point for this story?

Andrew Kevin Walker: It was an original script I wrote and I tried in different ways to get it made. It was written to be live action – that was kind of the way I imagined it. It’s kind of loosely based on mine, and my best friend John’s life, trying to break into showbiz.

I tried to get it made as an animated TV show; I took the script and broke it down into smaller episodes then left it open-ended. Then when that didn’t happen because no one was interested, I broke it down into little five minute, bite-sized pieces that probably would have added up to one feature but they were made to be little internet shorts and that didn’t work out.

So I just regrouped again. I went back to the feature and I tightened it up. I had been watching and loving Metalocalypse and all the stuff that Titmouse, Inc. does. I’m wondering, “who are these geniuses? These mysterious weirdos who do all this amazing animation.” I managed through agents to get a meeting where I went with my script, they took a look at it, and it was a beautiful thing from there on.

Chris Prynoski: A lot of times you get these scripts and there’s a lot of work that has to be done, but this was very clear. I’ve been those people, I know those people, our studio exists in that neighborhood. It was very clear, I could see how this would worked and I was super stoked.

So the script you brought in to Titmouse was the feature version?

AKW: It was the feature version and that’s what we ended up doing. Fully independent, self-financed, sweat equity feature.

That’s despite Titmouse having not done a feature to that point?

CP: Yeah, we work on features. We do pre-production on features but our own movie that we have control over. We’ve done some direct-to-TV features but this was our first real feature that we had control over. I’m stoked, I’m really proud of it.

There’s a real nihilistic presentation to the world of these characters – is that your general perspective on society?

AKW: I think it’s exclusively about the entertainment industry and the kind of sweaty-palmed desperation you have when you’re outside looking in, trying to get in. I do think it’s interesting that in modern day society, fame can be this big (Andrew spreads his hands apart) like it always was, or fame can be this big (Andrew holds two fingers an inch away from one another). Small fame can become big fame and go back to small fame again then you really want another taste of that.

I don’t think there’s as many people looking to write the great American novel like there used to be, I think everyone’s either trying to write the great American screenplay or shoot the great American YouTube video. Looking in at Hollywood at this point is just kind of looking out at the world, in a way.

There’s a de-evolution in our popular entertainment that you can see through these characters aspirations – is that something concerning for either of you?

CP: I don’t know if it’s concerning as much as it is the way it is. It’s not like we’re trying to be like, “Hey, we’re making this important movie that’s going to change the way things work. If people just like watch this they’re going to have this revelation.” It’s more like, “Hey, this sucks, right?”

AKW: Yeah, isn’t this funny?

CP: This is the way we live. It’s funny, it’s weird. Society is obsessed with fame for fame’s sake.

AWK: Hopefully there’s a certain amount of recognition – especially for our peers. It does go beyond that now since everybody can be famous in their own way, in their smaller or larger social circle.

CP: Yeah you’ve got a phone. You can make your own YouTube video. Everybody’s got their own movie studio.

Andrew, a lot of your previous writing had been comedic but not quite so overtly comedic. You mentioned you had been working on this script for quite a while, was this your desire to do an out-and-out comedy?

AKW: I really do love comedy, I watch a lot of comedy. Humor comes into everything that you’re writing – no matter how serious or self-serious it is. I’ve written darker stuff that’s kind of balanced with comedy and this is almost a comedy that’s balanced with darkness.

Chris, when it comes to the character design, many of the characters have traditionally attractive features that get exaggerated in discomforting ways. What kind of calculation did you make to decide how far out the look of the world would be?

CP: Oh it was definitely a calculation because these days it’s kind of – in a weird way – easier to make stuff look beautiful and shiny and clean. With computers that’s the default. We made a conscious effort to make this very crunchy and rough around the edges. [Make it] feel like hand-drawn drawings. Not use a lot of the bag of tricks we use on other things like there’s no depth of field in this, there’s hardly any lighting on the characters – really just used in special circumstances – there’s not a lot of the, like, fancy stuff we use on other productions.

We really wanted to make this feel almost like films that were shot under an oxberry. You know, the production designer Antonio Canoobio, we really wanted to challenge ourselves by not going slick with it. It sounds kind of counter-intuitive.

That has its own appeal, too. It’s a distinctive look. People talk a lot about “the Adult Swin aesthetic” but it’s got its own distinctive style so it’s not so easy to just lump them all together.

CP: I think it’s more of a sensibility or a tone than an aesthetic with the Adult Swim stuff. I did the first character lineup but beyond that I pretty much handed the whole movie character-wise to Joe Bennett, who did most of the character designs. Obviously I had input on it but you see a lot of his hand there. He’s got a great mind for comedic detail. Little things you’ll notice on the characters that are really, really smart.

At what point did Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt become involved and what did they help bring to Nerdland?

CP: Patton was the first actor of any of the actors to get involved. He had done voices for other cartoons and is a fan of Andy’s. He said yes in the room to it, which was great, and kind of had a cascade effect.

As far as stuff that those guys added… it’s interesting. The way I record, is you record the exact page, you do a loose pass and then you do an improv pass. These guys did so much incredible improve but what ended up in the film was really, largely, what the script was. There’s heightened parts where we used the imrpov but it’s all woven in to what’s there on the page.

AKW: Patton and Paul did amazing improv. Paul Scheer really stuck out to me. He was insanely amazing. Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome in a way had such thankless parts and they made a lot of very little. But every actor did improv in great ways.

I think Chris was very judicious in choosing a balance between improv keeping the flow moving forward. I think we’ve all seen improv where you see a piece of a film get caught in an improv bubble for a minute. You’re kind of there on the day with them, appreciating that moment, and it might be a little longer than maybe [necessary] and then things get started again. So I think [Chris] was kind of great in judging stuff and choosing it very thoughtfully.

CP: Yeah it’s so easy to get caught up when you’re in the booth recording with these guys making you laugh. It’s like, “That’s great! That’s genius!” Having done Metalocalypse it happens all the time. There’s so much more than we can use in any episode. You really, really have to work hard on focusing. Not falling in love with something that is not going to work or ultimately not work as well.

AKW: It’s almost like unless you were there on the day it’s not the same. It stops the movie for a second. But that’s what blooper reels and Blu-Ray extras are for.

At some point you have to kill your darlings.

AKW: Absolutely. Or the darling has to be the thing from the script that gets taken out, and the improv goes in its place.

CP: I got to say, too, the combination of Paul and Patton – they had such good chemistry together. You really felt that these guys knew each other very well, they lived together, they were roommates. These guy were recording on opposite coasts. They could hear each other and see each other on a screen but Paul was in New York and Patton was in LA.

They made these characters likable while they were riding a dangerous line where people could have just checked out and been like, “these guys are assholes and I’m not with them anymore.”

AKW: The most embarrassing thing for me… Every actor was bringing so much more to everything that was on the page. I would be the one laughing the hardest at my own stuff I had written. To hear Patton Oswalt’s voice saying these lines after all this time living with it on the page, and then Paul Rudd and on and on from top to bottom… there’s not a lot in here by an actor or actress you don’t know.

For Rudd and Oswalt particularly they’re not even altering their voices much, it’s a lot through their natural congeniality.

AKW: And also I think it’s selling the friendship between them. It lets you keep caring about them no matter what semi-despicable things they discuss doing and attempt to do.

Is there a future for the characters of Nerdland?

AKW: That will be determined out there rather than in this room but they certainly live in my heart.

CP: I’d love to work with Andy again on something, who knows.

AKW: We’re already trying to figure out what to be able to do next together. It was just the best experience ever.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[Lindsay Burdge and Arthur Martinez on Blurring the Lines of Fiction and Documentary in ‘Actor Martinez’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44879 2016-04-18T13:27:37Z 2016-04-18T13:05:55Z We interview Lindsay Burdge and Arthur Martinez, stars of the experimental film 'Actor Martinez.']]>

Even actors Lindsay Burdge and Arthur Martinez have trouble separating what’s real and what’s fiction from their new movie Actor Martinez. A documentary-style film ostensibly about Arthur’s life as a Denver-area actor, the plot takes a meta-narrative twist when filmmakers Nathan Silver and Mike Ott interrupt the docudrama – in several scenes with the actors – to nudge the film in more interesting directions. “You would feel like you’re authoring something,” began Lindsay, “but it’s like—I honestly don’t know to what extent they were just manipulating me into thinking I was doing these things on my own. I just don’t know.”

Arthur, supposedly the initiating force behind the movie, often appears to be the biggest subject of the filmmakers’ manipulation. Or is he helping to pull the strings alongside Mike and Nathan? In this sit-down with Way Too Indie, Actor Martinez stars Lindsay Burdge and Arthur Martinez discuss the complex concept behind their new film, the freedom of working without rehearsal and the livewire aspect to its production.

Actor Martinez recently held its US premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.

How did this project first come to you both?

Arthur: I was actually, inadvertently, one of the pitchers. I didn’t know what I was pitching for. I knew I was throwing, but I didn’t expect this weird curveball.

Lindsay: Nathan [Silver] and I had hung out at another film festival shortly before he pitched this to me. Then, we were in New York and he said, “We came up with this movie in Denver, we want to make it soon. Do you want to do it?” He said it was about a man, Arthur, and this woman falling in love. I was supposed to be a gardener or something like that and it was supposed to be a regular movie. Next thing I knew months had passed and I was sent this outline which was not that movie at all.

Arthur: Wow, you got an outline though.

Lindsay: You knew that [Laughs].

Arthur: That still blows my mind [Laughs].

Lindsay: I know! I got an outline and it said, “Arthur does this.” Then it says, “Lindsay Burdge, actress from New York, does this.” I was like, “Oh, this is not the movie that I thought we were making at all.”

Arthur: I still haven’t seen the outline. That’s why I’m amazed at what she’s saying. She’s told me this before and I still have a hard time believing it.

Once you actually got into the production phase, were you anticipating the extent to which this would blend between documentary and narrative? Were you caught off guard when you were actually filming?

Arthur: That whole film is me caught off guard. Yeah, no, they didn’t tell me anything. They went to extra pains to hide what was happening. They would hide me off set somewhere and have somebody guard me so I wouldn’t go look beforehand.

What’s it like going into that situation where you don’t have that safety harness—or a script—to guide you?

Arthur: My classical training got in the way. I had to throw it out. You just have to throw it out. So after the first three days, I figured just throw it out.

Lindsay: There was definitely an adjustment period. I definitely knew more than Arthur did, about how it was going to be this blended thing, but there were a couple layers that I didn’t know were going to be there. I knew I was going to be playing myself. I knew I was going to be playing this character, but then there were these other characters also that I didn’t know I was going to have to sort out.

So the first day was very stressful and the second day got a little less stressful and then it became fun once I understood the rules, but until I knew the rules of the game we were playing it was very stressful and uncomfortable. We didn’t have anything really to hold onto at first. There’s no script, there’s no character, and so we weren’t working on a scene together. It was more like manipulating each other [Laughs].

Arthur: She’s right. They used us as weapons against each other and I’m sorry about some of those things I had to say [Laughs].

Lindsay: You got me once. I was like, “Ah nice, they got me. The tables have turned. Fair enough.”

It sounds a lot like theater exercises, almost more so than the traditional narrative structure of film. Did you find it liberating at all?

Lindsay: Yes, I thought it was really fun. It became really fun for me.

Arthur: Yeah, it was always scary, but I’m down.

Lindsay: Sometimes you had fun, right?

Arthur: Well… yeah. I mean, there’s a reason I did this. It’s like riding a roller coaster, I’ve been screaming the whole time. It’s awesome.

Lindsay: But also, we were playing different games. We had different rules that we’re playing by. Because you were like, “I’m going to know nothing,” and I was like, “I gotta know something.”

Arthur: I don’t remember actually making that rule, I think that was [co-directors] Mike [Ott] and Nathan [Silver].

Lindsay: I remember saying to you, “Do you want me to sneak you the outline?” And you were like, “No no no.”

Arthur: Nah, you can’t mess with the director. Not on set.

Actor Martinez

It must take a lot of faith then to just throw yourself into that process and trust it.

Arthur: You trust the talent that you’re working for. It was a lot of pressure to make sure if they spent five hours setting up a shot that I actually did my job. Which is difficult when you don’t know what your job is, but that’s ok. You just do it. Hope for the best.

Lindsay: It was mostly just being. At least from watching you, it seemed like just being kind of open and available and reacting, which was cool to watch actually.

There’s a lot of tension though in some of those interactions. How much of that was authentic?

Arthur: You just defined acting. Serious, that’s the definition of acting and if it’s not, you’re not doing your job.

Lindsay: I think some of it was definitely real and some of it was manipulated. And I’m not sure Arthur still knows which is which [Laughs].

Arthur: I don’t know. I’m just going with it.

Lindsay: And I don’t either sometimes. Some of those times, I think we were recreating that tension or the tension was to swerve the plot of the movie, which there is actually a plot. Other times it was real frustration. It was fun kind of fun for me. Sometimes I felt like your advocate.

Arthur: Thank you, I did need that. It was brutal. They just beat up on me until she showed up. They’d got me so far off what I realized center was and she did a great deal to re-center me.

Lindsay: And also just to have somebody else say, “This is frustrating.”

It gave you a partner in the process.

Lindsay: Sometimes they would do this thing where they were like, “I don’t know, I’ve worked with a lot of different actors who don’t have a problem with this kind of work.” And I’m like, “Oh yeah? I know a lot of them, and they do.”

How much of what’s on the screen do you actually feel responsible for injecting into the narrative?

Arthur: This is like taking bunch of colors—everybody who worked on this—and swirling them all together. How much of that is me? I can’t even tell anymore, maybe none of it. Maybe some of it. I don’t know.

Lindsay: Did you even suggest shooting in your apartment?

Arthur: That was a resource, yes. That was the purpose of it. I didn’t know we were going to shoot what we shot.

Lindsay: I still don’t know what he’s… I don’t trust this guy.

Arthur: I don’t trust me either. It’s crazy.

Lindsay: I don’t how much of it is you… because I arrived and it was already underway.

Arthur: You’re right about that. I was part of the early production process, I just didn’t know what was coming out of it. I just made the decision to trust Mike and Nathan. Those guys are crazy.

Now that you’ve had the chance to see the final film, how closely did it resemble what you thought you were making?

Lindsay: Very closely for me.

Arthur: Ok, I’m down with that. It must have matched the outline at least.

Lindsay: It didn’t match the outline. The outline was four pages long and had almost nothing in it, but it matched what I felt like we were making while we were making it.

Are there any things from this experience, the looseness of it, that you maybe miss in other films that you make?

Arthur: I think they all should be different. They’re all very different experiences and that’s ok.

Lindsay: I feel like there definitely was a sort of livewire element to this because we had to be so on our toes and just ready to go with whatever came at us. Nothing ever became polished, which was really nice. Often we would do a scene and I’d be like, “So are gonna do that again?” And they’d be like, “No! We got it, that was great!” And I’m like, “We did it one time! Don’t you want to do it again? It’ll be better.” And they were just like, “No.”

I liked that. I like how fresh it was, and it would be interesting to think about how to bring that to other stuff. We had to be so quick on our feet. But I don’t know how you could bring that to something when you’ve read the whole script and you know exactly what you’re saying.

Is it wrong to think about this film as percentages? As 50% documentary, 50% fiction?

Lindsay: You’d probably be wrong if you tried to divide it. Even if we tried to divide it. I still don’t know how much Arthur knew what was going on all the time.

Arthur: She’s right, I was part of the initial production, but it was definitely different [by the end]. There’s no way to identify what’s real or not in the scene. I can say this part of the scene is real. I’m sure it would be like reading a story about yourself in a tabloid. In many ways, this is a tabloid film.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Rebirth (Tribeca Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44916 2016-04-25T17:40:44Z 2016-04-18T03:00:23Z A strong ensemble cast helps offset the copycat nature of this psychological thriller.]]>

The sinister potential of New Age practices gets explored yet again in Karl Mueller’s Rebirth, a psychological thriller continuing the somewhat recent trend of films about cults like Faults, The Invitation, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. This time, rather than taking inspiration from the likes of the Manson family or Jonestown, Rebirth bases its eponymous enlightenment group off of the Church of Scientology, and anyone vaguely familiar with L. Ron Hubbard’s creepy “religion” will pick up on the influence within minutes. And while Mueller provides enough intrigue to keep viewers guessing, he has a hard time coming up with a proper conclusion for his small-scale mind games.

Kyle (Fran Kranz) is a typical upper-middle-class office drone, living in a big suburban home with his wife and daughter and spending his days working at a bank in the city. An opening montage establishes the happy monotony of Kyle’s life, which soon gets interrupted when his old college friend Zack (Adam Goldberg) shows up at his work. Zack asks Kyle to cancel all his weekend plans and participate with him in something called Rebirth, which he only describes as “an experience.” Kyle bristles at the boldness of his old friend’s proposal, but he decides to go for it after succumbing to his nostalgic feelings.

Things get weird in a short amount of time, as the hotel Kyle checks himself into for the weekend getaway turns out to be a ruse. A series of clues leads him to a bus filled with dozens of other men, all of whom have to hand over their cell phones and wear blindfolds for the entire ride while they’re taken to Rebirth’s real location. Upon arriving, Kyle and the other bus passengers get taken to a room where a man (Steve Agee) explains Rebirth’s anti-establishment philosophies, making it sound like some sort of college bro’s attempt at copying Chuck Palahniuk. From there, several strange events draw Kyle away from the main group and off into a sort of hellish funhouse, exploring a derelict building where each room offers a different, stranger facet of what Rebirth has to offer.

This section of the film turns out to be its strongest, even though its structure and influences are plain as day. Kyle bounces from room to room, and every door he opens functions as an excuse for Mueller to come up with a bizarre situation to throw his protagonist into. An early highlight involves Kyle stumbling into some kind of support group whose leader (Andrew J. West) torments people both physically and psychologically. It’s a gripping sequence, but it’s a borderline remake of the classroom scenes in Whiplash. Plenty of other influences pop up throughout Rebirth, including David Fincher’s The Game and Charlie Brooker’s TV series Black Mirror, but these comparisons aren’t complimentary; it just shows that Mueller is a competent copycat.

On the other hand, Mueller’s focus is squarely on creating an entertaining game of figuring out what’s real or part of Rebirth, and Kranz and the committed ensemble (including Harry Hamlin and Pat Healy, who take full advantage of their small roles) make the film’s transparent qualities easier to forgive. It’s in the final act, when the group starts exerting its influence on Kyle’s personal life, that the screenplay starts to break down. By breaking away from Rebirth’s controlled environment and into the real world, the plausibility of the whole scenario gets extremely thin, but not as thin as whatever message Mueller tries to tack on in the closing minutes. After an abrupt ending, the film switches over to one of Rebirth’s promotional videos while the credits roll. The video, a deliberate attempt to mimic Scientology’s promos (including the infamous Tom Cruise video), makes the whole film feel like the set-up for a corny punchline. A brief section of the video, where Rebirth promotes its branded product line, suggests a bit of a sly commentary on New Age ideas getting swallowed up by capitalist interests, but it’s drowned out by the parodic, wink-nudge nature of the clip.

Zachary Shevich <![CDATA[Nerdland (Tribeca Review)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44863 2016-04-15T13:35:48Z 2016-04-15T21:25:53Z Patton Oswalt and Paul Rudd voice an inept pair of Hollywood star wannabees that get in over their heads on an all-out quest for fame.]]>

Gangly-armed or thick-necked with off-colored skin tones or noses—the harshly drawn inhabitants of Nerdland don’t have the benefit of beauty to mask their ugly insides. They’re off-putting even when appealing. Like many of the character designs on Adult Swim cartoon shows, the characters’ distinctive features are sharpened and exaggerated in ways that makes their appearances unsettling. It should be no surprise that Nerdland comes from Chris Prynoski (Metalocalypse, Motorcity), veteran of the late night Cartoon Network universe, where absurdist and divisive humor has thrived for the past couple decades.

In the heart of the entertainment industry, nearly 30-year-old roommates John (voiced by Paul Rudd) and Elliot (Patton Oswalt) feel their shot at world fame is dwindling. At first, both seem like familiar characters repurposed for Nerdland’s grimy, stoner sketchbook aesthetic. The pair live together in a rundown Hollywood apartment with old beer bottles and pizza boxes strewn across the floor. Elliot, a would-be screenwriter, who spends more time on the couch playing video games than writing (a depressing familiar conceit) ends up penning a script about a vengeful Rip Van Winkle waking from his slumber to shotgun blast open the skulls of strip club patrons. His roommate John—an aspiring actor—is the gentler, naïf, Lenny Small-type. When John tries to pass off Elliot’s script to a well-known movie star, John fumbles the pages and rips his pants in an effort to pick them up, exposing his puckered anus to the crowd.

The hand-drawn feature animation is the first feature from animation house Titmouse, Inc., a smooth transition to the big screen that borrows animated TV comedies’ fast-paced style. Quick cutaways pepper the dialog-heavy moments with visual gags. They reveal the protagonists’ dreams of red carpets lined with adoring fans or boob-filled, heavenly utopias, many of which feel ripped from an angsty teenage boy’s fantasies. But like a random episode of Family Guy, these jokes range in quality from shocking and fun to predictably cynical. Its misanthropic charms often redeem Nerdland, but John and Elliot’s aversion to productivity can become grating to watch for the duration (even if that length is only 83 minutes).

John and Elliot’s pursuit of fame at any twisted cost makes the pair progressively harder to like. Nerdland‘s mocking vision of LA is short on any redeeming personalities. Filled with silly caricatures of the fame-worshipping underclass, it’s clear that the director Prynoski as well as the screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker hate just about every person in this world. And yes, that’s the same Andrew Kevin Walker who wrote Se7en and contributed an uncredited rewrite to Fight Club—a film with similar nihilistic social satire. With a considerably scattershot plot, one which has a somewhat episode design, Nerdland lacks some of the narrative momentum that comes from more cohesive stories.

While a majority of scenes revolve around the funny duo at the cartoon’s center, recognizable voices make cameos throughout. Comedians such as Molly Shannon, Paul Scheer, as well as Garfunkel & Oats’ Kate Micucci & Riki Lindhome make extended appearances. Among the funniest roles, Hannibal Burress’ discomforting slant on the standard, slovenly Comic Book Guy pairs well with his wry delivery. Like many of the notable comedians that lend their voice to Nerdland, Oswalt and Rudd don’t alter their voice for their roles—they’re each well-suited to the characters and make for an amusing, albeit unlikely pairing.

Victims of a media-driven culture, John and Elliot ultimately determine that their shortest path to recognition is through notoriety—though as a hapless pair of unskilled, intermittently unemployed slackers the duo’s ability to accomplish anything is questionable. Some of their antics are hilarious but as the film progresses, many of the bits drag on too long. Prynoski and Walker find some strange insights on their race to the moral bottom with John and Elliot—a commentary that often acts more searing and urgent than it is—but like a developing TV comedy, Nerdland is often best in small patches.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[The Jungle Book]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44900 2016-04-15T17:45:33Z 2016-04-15T16:32:12Z A spectacular coming-of-age adventure with digital artistry to die for.]]>

The Jungle Book, Disney’s latest cartoon-to-live-action adaptation, gets a lot of things right: It’s wildly entertaining, full of great vocal performances by a stacked A-list cast, and boasts a hilarious/creepy musical number by none other than Christopher Walken. But, as delightful as it is hearing Walken sing a jazzy Disney classic (fond memories of Pennies From Heaven come rushing back), the thing that makes this John Favreau-directed romp so enjoyable is its spellbinding presentation, which is worth the price of admission alone. This thing looks and sounds like pure movie magic and elicits the same gasps of wonder the original 1967 animated feature did at the time. Hell, this modern update may even be better. Time will tell.

Aside from star Neel Sethi, who plays our tumbling, red-loinclothed hero, Mowgli, every character is a computer generated, anatomically correct animal. Cartoons they are not: wolves don’t have insanely big “Disney eyes,” and birds don’t suddenly flash inexplicably human-toothed grins. These animals look real. They’re of our world. The animators and sound designers have done such good work here that it’s hard to express in words how damn amazing this thing looks, so let’s dive into the other aspects of the movie as a sort of respite before I continue gushing about the sound and visuals.

The story feels like a mash-up of the original 1967 animated musical and 1994’s The Lion King (several images—a stampede, a fiery final battle—will give you deja vu). It’s a combination that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But PB and J can get old (especially when you find it). There are no ideas, themes, plot contours, or characters in this modern update that feel fresh or exciting. This isn’t a big issue, though, as the narrative formula Favreau and his team follow is tried and true and will work like gangbusters for those stepping into the theater expecting nothing more or less than a good ol’ time at the movies.

Plot-wise, screenwriter Justin Marks stays pretty close to the ’67 original. Mowgli is found in the jungle by stoic panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), who brings the “man-cub” to a pack wolves led by the noble Akela (Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito). Nurturing Mowgli as his adopted mother is Rashka (Lupita Nyong’o), who rears him as her own. There’s no greater threat in the jungle than prowling tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), and Mowgli has the unlucky distinction of being at the top of his kill list (for reasons learned later in flashback).

To keep Mowgli out of the tiger’s clutches, Bagheera leaves to take the boy to the nearest man village. They get separated along the way thanks to a ferocious interception by Khan, and Mowgli falls in with loafer bear Baloo (a game Bill Murray, which is always a treat). Mowgli uses a pulley contraption to knock bee hives down from a high ridge (the animals disapprovingly refer to his handmade tools as “tricks”) and the two become fast friends. They, in fact, break out a jaunty rendition of “Bear Necessities,” which will please fans of the original and likely underwhelm youngsters who bring no nostalgia into the theater.

Baloo and Bagheera embark on a rescue mission when Mowgli’s captured by monkeys and taken to King Louie (Walken), a gigantic orangutan who’s like the jungle’s Don Corleone. He wants the boy to harness the power of the “red flower” and pass it along, making him the true king of the jungle. The “red flower,” of course, is fire, and when Mowgli learns that his family has been terrorized by Khan in his absence, he chooses instead to use the “red flower” as a tool of revenge.

It’s hard to understand how the digital artists made the animal characters both anatomically accurate while also expressing the wide range of emotions brought forth by the voice actors. Animals can be extremely expressive with their faces, but the fact that these onscreen beasts are speaking English and it doesn’t look weird at all is a feat of animation that’s hard to wrap your head around. Most CG animals look too clinical and fall headfirst into the uncanny valley, but these creatures look utterly seamless. While the plot isn’t anything special, the movie has a unique momentum to it in that you’re constantly dying to see which animal will be brought to life next (the elephants are particularly wondrous).

The unsung heroes of The Jungle Book, no doubt, are the sound designers and engineers. Their work here is astonishing. The animated characters look great, but what really sells them and makes them look convincing are the sounds they make as they walk around the lush jungle environments. Baloo is a big ass bear, so when he plops down to eat his honey, you can hear and, more importantly, feel the thud. Great sound design typically goes unnoticed, but in the iconic scene where Mowgli gets seduced by giant snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), her hypnotizing hisses swirl around you and squeeze like her coils, Johansson’s sultry voice fading in and out, swinging back and forth on the speakers.

Favreau’s always had a knack for giving his movies a sense of constant propulsion, even when there isn’t that much going on. His movies tend to just glide by, and The Jungle Book is no exception. It’s a rollercoaster thrill ride with simple, somewhat clichéd set pieces that nevertheless work like gangbusters because Favreau’s a good filmmaker who knows what beats to hit to get maximum excitement out of an action scene. There’s a tense hide-and-seek sequence involving Mowgli and Louie in the monkey temple that we’ve all seen before (you see the jump scare coming from miles away), but the way it’s edited and shot is just so riveting that you can’t help but eat it up.

There is one aspect of the movie that is, unfortunately, a constant distraction: Sethi’s dialogue delivery. Honestly, the kid’s just not good at saying his lines convincingly, and it makes some scenes just feel weird. It’s not his fault, really. He’s acting opposite imaginary characters whose voices are provided by some of the best actors in the business. But the sad reality is that it’s pretty jarring to hear this kid speak semi-awkwardly while his co-stars coast through their lines like butter.

What Sethi’s is good at is emoting with his body; he’s a physical actor, and a talented one at that. He’s a convincing wolf child, leaping through the trees and sliding down slopes with an effortlessness and sense of purpose, like jungle parkour is all he’s ever known. The film’s best, most touching moment sees Mowgli help a herd of elephants save one of their young, who’s fallen into a pit. The sun is rising, and in semi-silhouette, we see him save the calf (using one of his clever “tricks”) and wave goodbye to his new friends. He feels honest in moments like these, and thankfully, there are several. Sethi’s a mostly worthy Mowgli in a more than worthy retelling of a gem from the golden age of Disney Animation. If they can keep up this standard when bringing more cartoon classics into the world of live action, I say keep ’em coming.

Writer’s note: If you can, watch the movie in IMAX 3-D. The sound is spectacular and the 3-D is some of the best I’ve seen. Also, the closing credits definitely benefit from the added effect.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Jeffrey Brown and Susmita Mukerjee Talk ‘Sold,’ Putting a Stop to Child Trafficking]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44892 2016-04-15T03:55:39Z 2016-04-15T12:15:41Z Sold, an adaptation of the Patricia McCormick novel of the same name, follows a Nepalese girl named Lakshmi (Niyar Saikia) who falls into a world of sex trafficking and abuse when she travels to India. She’s imprisoned in a brothel called Happiness House with several other children, watched over by their tyrannical brothel madam (Susmita […]]]>

Sold, an adaptation of the Patricia McCormick novel of the same name, follows a Nepalese girl named Lakshmi (Niyar Saikia) who falls into a world of sex trafficking and abuse when she travels to India. She’s imprisoned in a brothel called Happiness House with several other children, watched over by their tyrannical brothel madam (Susmita Mukerjee). Life becomes a constant struggle as Lakshmi suffers the harrowing brutality of her dire situation, though she never gives up hope that, one day, she and her new companions will find freedom.

The film also stars Parambrata Chatterjee, Gillian Anderson and David Arquette.

A movie designed to raise awareness about the rampant child trafficking going on around the world, Sold will see a limited theatrical release this weekend, where audience members will be encouraged to bring the film to their hometown, college, high school, or private group. For more information, visit soldthemovie.com

We spoke to Mukerjee and director Jeffrey Brown in San Francisco, where the film is opening this weekend at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.


I’m interested in getting your input on this considering the film’s unique strategy to spread awareness. The movie market has started to squish, in a way, over the past several years. Blockbusters are doing well and small, independent pictures have more avenues to find an audience than ever before. But mid-sized productions are sort of going away or not doing so well at the box office. It’s an interesting time.
Jeffrey: It’s very interesting. It’s a very different world than ten years ago, five years ago. For us, the theatrical distribution of this film is a way for everyone to learn that they can bring our film to their community. Our film was really created as a weapon for change. You can watch it at the theater and bring it to your high school, your college campus, your faith-based community, and you can start using it as a fundraising tool. On our website, soldthemovie.com, you can learn about our partners and you can learn about the fund that we’re creating. We’re channeling money to survivors of trafficking. What we want to do is shine a light on child trafficking. Every year, 1.8 million kids—and I think that’s a massive underestimate—are trafficked every year.

I’m sure the research process was…well, I’m sure it was many things.
Jeffrey: We followed the same track as [Patricia McCormick,] the author of the book that we optioned and turned into a movie. We did the same research she did. We went to the same organizations and went to many beyond that as well to really understand the issue. We took our cast and crew into red light areas, and they had long, in-depth conversations with survivors.

Susmita: I went to the red light areas because I was playing the part of madam. I needed to see what it would be like to be in the head of a person like this who would so ruthlessly sell thirteen and twelve-year-old girls. It was a very difficult and dark journey. The perception of the brothel madam…it’s not what it is in the Bollywood movies. That’s very glittery…it wasn’t real. It was a very difficult thing to go through the head of such a woman. Meeting several of these women helped me connect to them. I was privy to very, very intimate stories. Not all of it was used in the film’s narrative, but to me, as a subtext, I could understand very clearly the kind of dark character I was playing.

It must have been something else entirely to step into the shoes of someone like that.
Susmita: It was so devastating. I watched a screening the other day…there’s a schism. I cannot feel that, oh, I did that particular scene that way. I don’t know who she is. It’s very overpowering. It’s something rancid. Decay. And yet, from this decay, a flower can be born. It can become so big that it destroys the darkness.

If somebody looks at this movie as a propaganda film…so be it. If to do propaganda is to be able to make a difference, so be it. Who says art has to be something intellectual, something where you just see visuals and soak into the beauty of the frames and feel happy? You’re not paying money just to be happy. If you want to be happy, go dance in the rain, soak in the sun.

Jeffrey: Our film is about a very heavy topic, and we spent a lot of time aesthetically figuring out how to tell the story in a way where people would be inspired to action and not overwhelmed and depressed. You can enjoy the movie as a piece of art but also be inspired to take action. We use all the tools a filmmaker has. There’s a Banksy quote I love. He says, “If Michaelangelo and Leonardo and DaVinci were alive today, they’d be making Avatar, not painting chapel ceilings.” He said, if you really want to change the world and not simply redecorate it, make movies. It’s democratic, and it’s the art form that will change the world.

I feel like our film is already doing that. We’ve literally built 20 schools in Nepal. Nepal had 5,000 schools destroyed in the earthquake. We built 20 with one showing of our film.

It sounds like the amount work you guys are doing is a pretty big sacrifice on your part.
Jeffrey: Susmita came on her own dime from Mumbai. Another actress came from London on her own dime. From L.A., New York. Everyone who’s worked on this film has been touched by meeting these kids, who have gone through this harrowing experience. We’re in the service of them. No kid should be treated as a commodity.

As you said, you want to inspire people with this film. I imagine making it inspiring was difficult considering the awful things we see and hear. It’s a challenging film, too.
Jeffrey: Structurally, I think it’s most similar to The Shawshank Redemption. An innocent is forced into a prison situation. The person who runs the prison is incredibly powerful and corrupt. The innocent person is helping others while trying to figure out how to get out of there. There are many movies about disenfranchised children. Imagine if Slumdog Millionaire had a social agenda. How powerful would that be? We could have gotten thousands of kids educated and out of the slums of India. Why aren’t we using the most powerful art form for good? For me, this is a massive experiment to see how much we can do to help kids.

Susmita, you said something that caught my ear. You mentioned that, if people think this is a propaganda film, then so be it. I think people have certain expectations of what a movie can and should be or do, and they don’t know what to do with movies that exist outside of their definition.
Susmita: It’s not just about that Friday on which a film releases and you’re counting how many people see it and how much money is coming in. This movie was not made for that. The director and producers were very clear from the outset that this movie is not about making them billions. It’s a tool of social change. It starts from your the heart, not your pocket.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Above and Below]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44832 2016-04-14T03:42:12Z 2016-04-14T13:30:30Z This doc about people living on society's fringe offers little beyond its gorgeous visuals.]]>

Many documentaries, no matter how good they might be, either follow a traditional structure or achieve the same general narrative goal along a nonlinear path. Even a doc like Listen To Me Marlon, which presents Marlon Brando’s personal audio recordings in such a fashion that the actor posthumously “builds” his life story, is essentially a clever telling of a nonlinear tale. But a new documentary from Swiss writer/director Nicolas Steiner, Above and Below, eschews traditional structures and even clever devices, embracing documentation on film in the most literal of senses.

The film examines the daily existences of five people living on what society would be generous to deem its “fringe.” Cindy and Rick are a couple living in a flood channel beneath the streets of Las Vegas; Lalo, aka The Godfather, lives in the same series of tunnels; Dave is a military veteran living alone in an abandoned bunker in the California desert; and April is a member of the crew at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, living her life simulating exploration on the red planet in the middle of nowhere. These five souls, and their four stories, have more in common than one might think, but the history of that commonality leaves much to be desired.

Above and Below opens like a crackling horror movie. Lalo acts as a tour guide of sorts, leading the viewer into a tunnel as he tells the tale of a family who once lived underground but died during flooding caused by heavy rain; he says the little girl still appears. Lalo’s theatrics, combined with Markus Nestroy’s sumptuous cinematography, is beyond compelling—it’s demanding.

Some technical wizardry continues with wide shots of stunning vastness, paired with great audio, used to frame April’s world as someone preparing to one day colonize Mars (perhaps in the event of the end of Earth). In the desert, Dave takes an acetylene torch to fire ants, crisping them on contact while explaining the pain they cause when they bite, as if he feels compelled to justify his killing. Also using a torch, although as a means to cook dinner, are Cindy and Rick, whose perpetually candlelit underground world has order alongside its chaos.

It’s all so riveting, and yet something isn’t quite right.

Still, Steiner continues to impress by finding connections between and among his subjects that forever link them. Some are superficial, like April playing ping-pong with a crew member, compared to Dave sitting alone in his bunker and bouncing a ping-pong ball off the wall to pass the time, compared to dozens of ping-pong balls flowing through drainage as if en route to Rick and Cindy (while aesthetically pleasing, this bit reeks of being contrived). Others are not so superficial: April and Dave are both military veterans with harrowing experiences, while Cindy and Dave have children and grandchildren in the “real world” they don’t see because they have lost touch with their families.

There is also contrast, not only between those who live above the surface versus those who live below it (thus the title), but also between people’s faith, the creature comforts they have access to, and the degree of solitude in which they live.

But as the film continues, that not-quite-right feeling takes shape. And I use the term “continues” specifically because there is no real progression to be found here. Despite a runtime that’s just shy of two hours, very little happens beyond the observational. It’s quite maddening, really. On one hand, and to Steiner’s credit, there is no opportunity to pass judgment on these people beyond basic moral thumbs-up/thumbs-down consideration, because there is no context available to use as a frame around current behavior. For example, Cindy goes trick-or-treating on Halloween so she and Rick have candy. She’s petite enough to pass for teen-sized, and with a full mask hiding her age and an over-exaggerated squeaky voice belying it, she scores big. Is it wrong? In spirit, sure; trick-or-treating is for kids. But how wrong is it? There’s no way to tell because there isn’t enough revealed about Cindy to make that call.

Therein lies the other hand: with no traditional backstory to these people, and only tidbits of information randomly presented, there is nothing to invest in emotionally. Yes, some sympathy is garnered for April because of her parental situation, and one can’t help but feel sorry for how Cindy or Dave are detached from their children and grandchildren, but without more context, these stories are nothing more than bits of discussions overheard at a café or in an elevator. For two hours.

This sterile, arm’s-length view is a glimpse at lives and not into them, and that is a big distinction. The viewer gets to see Steiner’s subjects, but the viewer never really gets the chance to look at them. Above and Below has artistic merit, but it begs for more from its viewer than it is willing to offer in return. Told without narration or title cards, the film is the epitome of observation, and Steiner tries hard to have it both ways. He offers subjects who might be worthy of sympathy, but never delivers on anything sympathetic, instead remaining all-observant. By the end of the film, the viewer is left wondering if there is something more compelling to look at.

Nik Grozdanovic <![CDATA[The Measure Of A Man (NYFF 2015)]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=41000 2016-04-14T13:22:19Z 2016-04-14T13:08:28Z The Measure Of A Man is one of the most depressing films of the year, featuring a brilliant performance by Vincent Lindon.]]>

“The idea was to bring Vincent Lindon to uncharted waters in terms of his acting.” That’s director Stéphane Brizé describing the main reason behind using non-professional actors alongside the French veteran for his latest little slice-of-life film, The Measure of a Man. Slice-of-strife is more like it, as the story follows Lindon’s Thierry Taugourdeau, an everyman struggling with unemployment and an increasing sensation that his humanity is being eroded in the process. It’s Brizé’s third time working with Lindon, and first time working with DP Eric Dumont, whose previous work was solely on documentaries. Thanks to this naturalistic environment, the cinéma vérité style with the camera constantly following and observing Thierry, and the actor’s familiarity with the director; the weighted resonance in The Measure of a Man oscillates entirely from Vincent Lindon. The film may be little in terms of scale, but the performance at its centre is massive beyond measure.

Lindon disappears into Thierry so completely that he overpowers every other aspect of the film. The sole exception is perhaps Brizé’s and Olivier Gorce’s naturalistic screenplay, which teems with the kind of verbal exchanges that softly tighten the squeeze around a man’s soul. We follow Thierry in the middle of arguments, salvaging whatever pride he’s got left while talking to ex-colleagues from the factory that’s made him redundant. Sitting through partially-humiliating and demoralizing Skype interviews. Getting dissected like a frog in a lab by fellow job seekers, only to hear how none of his organs are functioning. We see him spending time at home with his wife and son, or enjoying a bit of dancing, and our hearts sink lower and lower at the hardships this good man is forced to endure because of an inhumane, profit-driven, system. Thierry finally does get a job, which brings a whole new type of moral challenge.

The kettle is boiling, that piercing whistle grows louder and louder, and it’s impossible to switch off. That’s what Lindon manages to convey through every pore in The Measure of a Man, one of the most depressing films of the year because of how realistic and immediately relevant it feels. The dedication on display by Lindon is let down by Brizé’s handling of the third act, wherein the climactic buildup isn’t nearly as gripping as anything that occurs in the first half of the film, while Thierry desperately searches for a new vocation. This is due to the stylistic choice of keeping Lindon mostly off-screen or on the side for the last half hour, hammering the point that the film is at its best whenever the camera is on Thierry. Those “uncharted waters” Brizé mentions earned Lindon a welcomed Best Actor award at Cannes, and important subject matter notwithstanding, it’s really the biggest reason one should go and seek this film out.

Originially posted on October 11th, 2015 as part of our NYFF coverage.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Andrew Cividino on Being Open to the Power of Nature in ‘Sleeping Giant’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=40062 2016-04-11T16:48:28Z 2016-04-11T13:05:01Z An interview with Andrew Cividino on his lauded directorial debut 'Sleeping Giant.']]>

Adapted from a short film that played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014, Sleeping Giant quickly turned into a Canadian indie success story when it was selected to play at the Cannes Film Festival in the Critics’ Week sidebar. Several months later, Sleeping Giant finally came back home to have its North American Premiere at TIFF in September 2015.

The film takes place over the summer in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where teenager Adam (Jackson Martin) spends his summer vacation with his family. At the start of his trip, he befriends Nate (Nick Serino) and Riley (Reece Moffett), two cousins from the area living with their grandmother. It’s immediately apparent that the friendship between the three boys only makes sense in the context of this vacation, with Adam coming from a sheltered, upper-middle-class life, and Nate and Riley coming from a lower class background. As the summer continues, tensions rise between Adam, Nate and Riley until they tragically boil over.

It’s been said many times already, but Cividino has made an impressive directorial debut with Sleeping Giant. As someone who has made similar trips up north as a kid, it was surprising to see how accurate Cividino portrays that unique feeling of spending your days away from home as an adolescent. In advance of Sleeping Giant’s North American premiere at TIFF, I had the chance to talk to Andrew Cividino about his film. Read on for the full interview below, where Cividino talks about his personal connection to the film’s location, learning how to work with young, nonprofessional actors, his feelings on finally bringing the film home and much more.

Sleeping Giant is currently out in limited release in Toronto, Ontario from D Films.

I never thought of the trip up to Northern Ontario as a rite of passage for kids in Ontario until I saw your film. I did it, my parents did it…I’m assuming this film had to come from a personal place for you.

I grew up spending my summers on the shore of Lake Superior in the exact locations that the film is set in. Every year at the end of the school year [my family] would go up the day school ended, and we could come back on Labour Day. It was like that well into high school, until I had to get a job. I made friends up there that occupied a kind of a special place because we grew up together but separate from our other lives. I think it was a chance every summer to go up and, as your identities form, have this separate group of friends that you’re spending this intense amount of time with. But you’re free from all the expectations of whatever hat you’re trying to wear in your high school in Southern Ontario.

To have that kind of an unsupervised playground hanging out with friends over the summer, you’re really just left to your own devices. You’re in the middle of nowhere. All of the sorts of risks that are associated with living in a more urban setting aren’t there. You just have to come for dinner basically, and that’s about it. You’re free to roam and explore, and that was kind of the genesis for me, wanting to capture what it was like to spend those years up in that place.

Your film feels more about capturing a specific sense of time and place than focusing on a narrative.

I think tone was something that was very important to me from the genesis of the project. There’s something that I saw mirrored that’s inherent to the landscape up there. It’s beautiful, but it’s also foreboding. If you know Lake Superior well, you know that you never feel fully at ease because it’s called Thunder Bay for a reason. There are always storms that could be rolling in, and it’s like the ocean in how the waves will whip up out of nowhere. There was this tension between it being like a romantic postcard view of nature and something much more, if not menacing, certainly indifferent to your existence. I thought was really well mirrored with what adolescent boys are like, the kind of tumult, the lack of empathy and that energy.

I feel like the editing is vital to the film because you’re combining intimate shots of nature, but you’re getting bigger macro shots as well. How did you find that specific rhythm going back and forth between the two types of shots?

I think it was in our philosophy from shooting it on the outset that we wanted to capture the grand scope and the intimate details, from sweeping aerial vistas to fighting insects on bark, and to do the same thing with our characters. It was important to step back far enough with our visuals to get a sense of space and location. It totally affects your understanding of what this story is, what it’s like for these characters to be here, and to get a sense of how isolated they are. There’s something under the surface. Like I mentioned before, [there’s] this idea of the romantic, European version of nature as this inviting thing, and there’s this other side of it which is more nature as a state of chaos. I really wanted to play that duality, both in terms of nature and how we shot it close and wide, and mirroring that with the two sides of the human story.

I’m assuming you had to have a lot of patience while making this in order to capture some of those shots up close, like the insects fighting on the bark.

I think, more than patience, it was about an openness to what’s around you. To recognize that you may be shooting a scene, but if you happen to see two bugs fighting on the tree, you have to run across the island and get your crew, and have them understand that it’s important enough to run with the camera on their back and to stop everything to shoot it. On the day [of shooting] it sounds totally insane, but you need people who can bind to that understanding and philosophy. For instance, we wanted to do a lot of stuff with crayfish. I used crayfish in the short film. We spent a day and a half trying to catch crayfish, but it was not a good year for them. We caught one in total. We couldn’t do it, and we had to re-envision the material. On the other hand, the bugs fighting on the tree was something that was just noticed, and we were able to stop and pay attention and actually capture it.

Did that openness apply to the rest of the production?

The narrative was nailed down, but what happens within scenes, and certainly where scenes happen, was something we had to be very much open to because the weather would repel us from the island. We were constantly having to adapt and reorganize our schedule, but the real openness was within scenes. To be open to allowing the actors to bring their own voices, and being open to explore possibilities while making sure that we don’t get off track of the number of narrative threads and character arcs that have to come together.

How did you approach working with these young, nonprofessional actors?

I was fortunate to do the short and develop a strong relationship with Nick Serino and Reese Moffett. There was a familiarity there, and I learned a lot about working with younger actors. I think the biggest thing of all was casting people who felt close enough to the characters. Not necessarily in terms of the details of their lives, but in terms of their personalities. [It’s] finding those people, and then being willing to change your own understanding of your character to allow them to bring their own element to it. You’re not going to get amazing craft performances out of young actors who usually don’t have any experience, but if you set things up properly, you may have put yourself in a situation where they feel comfortable to bring themselves to that role, to lose themselves in that scene or moment, and to draw on their own experiences if you can find those relatable things. It was about making sure it was a collaboration, and for them bringing their own perspective to it was important.

I wanted to ask specifically about Jackson Martin who plays Adam, because his role is so pivotal.

Jack was the most experienced of the three actors going in. We cast him in a traditional casting session out of Southern Ontario.

Did you deliberately choose a more experienced actor for the role of Adam?

I deliberately wanted a professional actor to play the role of Adam because I felt that the character was going to have to shoulder a lot more of the burden in that way, especially in the earlier drafts of the story. And I also wanted to cast someone who would be a fish out of water. For the other boys, it was essential that they were up there naturally and that was their environment. But I wanted to bring somebody up who felt like this was not their natural habitat.

I did want to talk about the homoerotic aspect between Adam and Riley. What made you decide to put that in the film?

I didn’t want to make a standard love triangle specifically, but I wanted to make something that kind of explored the complexities of sexuality coming online in a person. To me, Adam is not somebody who is necessarily going to land at gay or straight or who knows where on that spectrum. He’s somebody whose sexuality is just coming online, and who has a great deal of…pressure. Not intentional pressure, but expectations around heteronormative behaviour from everybody. There’s nobody in the film that’s homophobic, but the entire world assumes heterosexuality of him. That makes his admiration for Riley confused with [his] affection for Taylor, who’s his female friend as well. All of these things create this intense confusion for him as he’s trying to find his way.

2015 has been pretty exciting for Toronto-based filmmakers. There’s you, Kazik Radwanski (How Heavy This Hammer), and Adam Garnet Jones (Fire Song) to name a few playing at TIFF this year. It feels like a whole new generation of Canadian filmmakers is finally arriving.

I feel like it’s an incredibly exciting time to be making films in Toronto. I feel like I’m part of a community of people who are making really incredible and unique pieces. We share crews, we support each other’s work, we’re inspired by each other’s films, yet the voices are all quite distinct at the same time. I’m not sure exactly why it’s happening right now. I’ve been told by others, and I certainly feel it myself, that it’s something that hasn’t happened in a while. It’s this generation of filmmakers poking through at the exact same time and getting this kind of international recognition. I don’t know what the common threads are, other than the fact that it’s like “by any means necessary.” We go out and we find stories that compel us, and we’re not going to be constrained by financial resources. I’m really excited about where it will go.

You’ve made a film that feels very specific to an experience for people in Ontario, yet this is the first time your film will screen for audiences in Canada. You’ve screened the film at Cannes and Karlovy Vary already. Have you been surprised by the reaction from international audiences, and what do you expect from audiences at TIFF once they see it?

I was really surprised by the international response to the film. I always felt that the location for the film was incredibly beautiful but worried that was always just because of my personal bias towards it. I was really surprised to see how much the setting seemed to speak to people strongly when the film premiered internationally, and it how seemed exotic to them in a way. The colloquialisms, the way the boys speak in the film is so regional in a way that I wondered if that could have ever registered internationally, and I couldn’t believe it fully could. So I’m really curious to bring the film home. I hope that it rings true to people. I hope that it’s more than nostalgia too, I hope that the story connects. I’m curious and a little bit anxious to see how it goes over at home because, for us, this is the home crowd. I’m hopeful and a little bit scared. [Laughs]

A version of this interview was originally published on September 7th, 2015, as part of our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Way Too Indiecast 61: Tom Hiddleston and Marc Abraham, Dennis Hauck]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44816 2016-04-08T18:41:34Z 2016-04-08T18:41:34Z It's a stunning lineup this week on the Way Too Indiecast as Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, joins the show along with director Marc Abraham to talk about their new movie I Saw the Light, based on the final years of country music icon Hank Williams' life. Mr. Hiddleston also talks about working with Elizabeth Olsen, learning to sing with country legends, and his take on irascible MCU fans. ]]>

It’s a stunning lineup this week on the Way Too Indiecast as Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, joins the show along with director Marc Abraham to talk about their new movie I Saw the Light, based on the final years of country music icon Hank Williams’ life. Mr. Hiddleston also talks about working with Elizabeth Olsen, learning to sing with country legends, and his take on irascible MCU fans.

Also joining the show is filmmaker Dennis Hauck, whose new film Too Late is in theaters now, exclusively screening in 35mm. The film stars John Hawkes as a private detective and is divided into five short stories, each consisting of one, uninterrupted shot. He talks about why the movie took years to make, his decision to only screen on 35mm, working with John Hawkes, and everything else you need to know about one of the most unique film releases of the year.


  • Tom Hiddleston and Marc Abraham Talk I Saw the Light (5:36)
  • Dennis Hauck Talks Too Late (43:03)

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Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Tom Hiddleston and Marc Abraham On ‘I Saw the Light,’ Elizabeth Olsen, Spoiler-Hungry MCU Fans]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44805 2016-04-08T17:37:40Z 2016-04-08T17:37:40Z Director Marc Abraham takes a unique approach to the musician biopic with I Saw the Light, a movie spanning the six music-filled, final years of Hank Williams’ life. Intertwining the country icon’s songs with his turbulent life experiences (revolving largely around his wife, Audrey, played by Elizabeth Olsen), the film focuses not on Williams’ artistry, but […]]]>

Director Marc Abraham takes a unique approach to the musician biopic with I Saw the Light, a movie spanning the six music-filled, final years of Hank Williams’ life. Intertwining the country icon’s songs with his turbulent life experiences (revolving largely around his wife, Audrey, played by Elizabeth Olsen), the film focuses not on Williams’ artistry, but the events and environments the art was born out of. From his agonizing bout with spina bifida to his unfaithful marriage to his spiraling addiction to drugs and alcohol, Abraham covers the singer’s darkest days, which culminated with his death at the early age of 29 in 1953.

The film’s star is fan favorite Tom Hiddleston, who bears a striking resemblance to Williams and sings every note of the legendary songs we see onscreen. It’s a layered role with several shades of grey lurking beneath the surface, but the English actor came prepared, having spent long periods of time in Nashville with some of country music’s most respected artists, learning to sing in an accent far removed from his own. The work shows in his tortured performance, which is simultaneously tragic and celebratory of Williams’ spirit.

In San Francisco we spoke to Hiddleston and Abraham about I Saw the Light, which is in theaters now.

I Saw The Light

The opening shot really knocked me over.
Tom: What’s interesting about that shot is that we shot it very fast. Marc had actually given himself and me some time, generously, in the schedule. We had a very tight schedule. We shot 130 pages in 39 days. We had to move quickly. He had actually created a space in the schedule to make sure we had time to breathe so that we didn’t have to rush it. The opening is the first time that the audience will hear me sing, without musical accompaniment, and it’s a declaration of intent. Interestingly enough, after having created all that space and all that time, it didn’t take very long.

I think it was a brilliant and brave decision by Marc, and terrifying for me initially, to start the film with a very cinematic sequence that invites the audience to engage with the poetry of Hank Williams in a completely different way. They may come in expecting to hear “Hey Good Lookin’,” they may come in expecting to hear “Lovesick Blues.” They may come in expecting to see white fringe and cowboy hats and clichés of country music. What Marc did is, he said, “Here’s something else.”

Marc: As Tom said very eloquently, as he always does, it was a statement of intent. There are all these expectations, and a lot of people think they know Hank Williams’ music, but what they don’t understand is that he was one of the most important literary influences of the late 20th century because his poetry changed the way music was actually looked at. The lyrics were extraordinarily vulnerable for a man to be singing. “I’m so lonesome I could cry.” Men weren’t doing that. What I wanted to make sure was that people were hit smack-dab on the jaw with the beauty of his words. The way to do that, I thought, was to make it as unadorned as possible and create it out of space and out of time and, as Tom said, without horsecrap on the boots and the kind of hee-haw aspect people were kind of expecting.

The purpose of it was also to say, this is not an imitation of Hank Williams. This is not us trying to mimic him. This is our version, a portrait of a very important artist, a young man. We had the benefit of one of the world’s great cinematographers, Dante Spinotti. We shot it on a stage and we had painted a giant black circle and hung black all around it with a ton of smoke. We put a stool in the middle of it and asked Mr. Hiddleston to come on out. He came on out, he sat on that stool, we floated those cameras, and Tom, as Hank, was about as naked as you can be. We wanted to let people know right off, this is how naked we’re prepared to go, this is how it’s going to sound, this is who this man is, and he’s doing his own singing.

The movie’s not about Hank writing songs. The songs are almost like punctuation. I think that’s an interesting approach.
Marc: I love that you say that. I have never cared for watching movies where artists are doing their painting or typing at the typewriter and tearing the [paper] out, other than maybe The Shining. That’s not something that I even know how to do. Nor was I interested in any of the psychological explanations for why Hank Williams became Hank Williams. He was a poor kid from Alabama. Why he became who he was and how he had that inside of him…you could get Sigmund Freud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard…they could all spend time trying to figure it out. I doubt anybody could answer that question. What we wanted to do was show an artist as a young man. Not the roots of his psychoanalysis but the cultural environment and personal environment, which is where the fertilizer was.

That’s, in fact, how Tom and I ended up working together. People think he probably played the guitar for me and I sat back, scratching my jaw, and thought, “Well, can he be Hank Williams?” You know how we did it? We talked about what movie we wanted to make. He and I, who had gotten to know each other over a very lengthy period of time; what did we actually want to do?

Tom: Marc drew together the music with the marriage and the man. The placement of the music…What I’d hoped people would see was that these songs came out of his experiences. That’s the other thing: These songs and this film are about a man who loved women. Every song you could listen to that Hank wrote is about women. It’s about falling out of love, being in the doghouse, loneliness, separation from women.

“Why don’t you love me like you used to do/why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart.”

“You’re cheatin’ heart will make you weep/you’ll cry and cry and try to sleep.”

“You’re my gal and I’m your fella/you dress up in your frock of yella/you’ll look swell and I’ll look swell/setting the woods on fire.”

This is a guy with a huge love of women. His whole career was about flirtation and sexuality. I think what was so brilliant about Marc’s script is that he really drew that together, the songs and Hank’s relationship with women. It’s very telling that the majority of characters in the film, apart from Hank Williams, are women. And they’re played by women: Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Maddie Hasson, Wrenn Schmidt. Those were the major figures in his life. That was the fascinating central thesis of the screenplay. The way the songs

The way the songs were dispersed, as you say, was like punctuation and expressive of other things in Hank’s life. I suppose the best example of that is at the end of the end of the film when I sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” He’s not long for this world at that point. Is he singing to himself? I think so. Probably. I think he’s singing about regret. But he could also be singing to Audrey.

So…I’m kind of a failed country musician. [laughs]
Tom: [laughs] That was the last thing I expected to come out of your mouth.

It’s true! I tried to play country music for years, but I’m from [California] and I don’t have the accent to sing that kind of music.
Tom: I don’t either!

But you have license to adopt it because you’re an actor. That’s an incredible opportunity. I’m so jealous. In your research, you got to spend time with Rodney Crowell! That’s amazing!
Tom: Yeah, it’s amazing. And not just Rodney, but everybody he knows, everyone who was open to working with me. The generosity of spirit shown to me by the musicians I met in Nashville is something I’ll never forget. Within three days, I was in Ray Kennedy’s studio, recording music on the same equipment Hank recorded on, standing around a single microphone with Richard Bennett, Chris Scruggs, Rodney Crowell, Wes Langlois…These guys have been making this music for years, and they were just jamming. To sing my first cover of “Lovesick Blues” with them and the band is an insane privilege. You’re absolutely right: a gift.

When some people try to sing country, it sounds fake. I should know. [laughs] It’s almost like a caricature. You really have to connect with the lyric. You can tell that you get the emotion behind Hank’s lyrics.
Tom: That all came from Rodney, in a way. I didn’t know where to start. He said, “You have to find out what these songs mean to you. There’s no way you’re going to transmit the power of these songs if you don’t invest yourself inside them.” It’s got to be real. I love the challenge of that; it is an acting challenge. It’s a challenge of interpretation. Whenever you take on a big acting role, you’re interpreting that character’s emotional truth and filling it with your own. The same is true of these songs. When I was singing “Move It On Over,” that’s my mischief, my rebellion. When I’m singing “Cold, Cold Heart,” that’s my sadness. It’s filtered through the prism of Hank, but really, it’s me. Has to be.

I Saw The Light

There’s something special about Elizabeth that I can’t put my finger on. What is it?
Marc: She has a bearing beyond her years. She’s 26 years old or something, but she has a weight to her that’s undeniable. That’s something that’s genetically inside her. I personally feel that the thing she brings to Audrey that is just so essential is that she’s a keenly intelligent woman who doesn’t really suffer fools or foolishness much. Because of that, she invested Audrey with a sense of intelligence. She took a character who is easily dismissed as being a shrew, a bitch, a difficult person, Yoko breaking up the Beatles…because of her bearing of intelligence, when she performs and you see her with Hank, you come away with, “You know what? You think I’m an asshole? You think I’m a bitch? You try living with this guy.”

Tom: She’s very honest. I suppose it’s best illustrated by describing the opposite. I’ve worked opposite actors who are immaculate in delivering what they’ve prepared, and sometimes they don’t have the life experience to represent the particular emotional truth. So they reach for an idea of what they think that is. Lizzy is incapable of falsity in her acting. She has extraordinary integrity. The choices she makes are very instinctive. When you’re acting opposite Lizzy, you’re acting opposite a real person. The magic of the scene comes from the rally you play with each other. That’s when acting’s fun, to be honest. When you’re doing preparation, that’s a solitary activity. When you’re reading a script, that’s a solitary activity. There’s so much about acting that is, necessarily, a solitary activity. But when you’re on set with your scene partner, the beauty of it is that you take the leap together. You don’t really know where the scene is going to go, and if you’re working with someone really good, as she is, what you have to do is listen.

This is kind of an impossible question, but I’m going to ask you both anyway. You’ve spent so much time getting to know Hank Williams and the man he was. In your opinion, what was his greatest fear?
Marc: This is not to diminish the question, but there is no possible way I can give you a sense of what his greatest fear was. I can tell you that he was incredibly vulnerable. What he wrote was undeniably vulnerable. That’s what he was telling us. I know those are feelings that he must have had. I have no idea what his greatest fear was. You could surmise that one of the things that he most wished had happened in his life was that he had a daddy.

Tom: I can tell you a number of things I don’t think he feared. He didn’t fear death. I don’t think he feared any one person…he wasn’t afraid of people. Maybe his greatest fear was of losing himself, somehow diverting from his own integrity. That there were people who would try to reshape him or change who he was, smooth out his rough edges so that he would stop being him.

Tom, you’re so generous with your fans, me included. We see stuff about you on the Internet and it just makes our day. It makes us smile.
Tom: Thanks, buddy.

It’s great! Thank you. We appreciate it.
Tom: I love what I do. I really love it. And I wouldn’t get to do that without an audience to watch it. There is no such thing as acting in a vacuum. I started in the theater, and I learned that the audience is an integral part of the conversation. I came from the audience. When I became an actor, I just wanted to become a part of the conversation in the way actors I admire contributed to it. Bruce Springsteen said that his life’s work is a conversation. I’m flattered that if I have any fans, they follow my curiosity into wherever my work takes me. I don’t take that for granted. There are people who are willing to pay money to see my work. I wouldn’t be allowed to do what I do without that, so I have enormous gratitude. It’s still a source of constant surprise and delight that I have fans at all.

Some fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are so starved for advance information about the stories you’re telling with those movies.
Tom: I am still so surprised and grateful that I’m allowed to make a living doing what I do. I have loved cinema and theater for as long as I can remember for in all its variety and diversity. The idea that I get to be a part of it is extraordinary to me. But even as much as I’ve loved it, I love to be surprised by it. I don’t want to know too much about a film before I watch it. I might see a trailer, but I don’t want to see articles about it, I don’t want to read reviews about it, I don’t want to know what happens to the main character. I don’t want spoilers. I want to be surprised.

I just worked with Bill Corso, who was the makeup head on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We were working together for three months. He had so many stories he could have told me. But in the makeup bus it was banned. We just didn’t go there. I didn’t want to know what happened to Han Solo. If I had found out, I would have strangled him! He’s Harrison Ford’s makeup artist and he could have told me that in a second, but he was so respectful.

Listen, this is really getting to the heart of the matter. You’re sitting in the theater and you hear the opening fanfare. Maybe it’s the letters of Universal spinning around a globe, maybe it’s 20th Century Fox. It’s the flickering Marvel logo, the Lucasfilm thing. A drama teacher told me this once when I was training: The audience’s capacity for delight at that moment when the lights dim and the music starts is at one hundred percent. There’s an absolutely palpable electricity in the air. If you know what’s going to happen [in the movie beforehand], it’s all over! All I’m trying to do is keep the magic of that expectation alive. I understand the enthusiasm, I understand the curiosity. Unfortunately, my mother and father raised me with some self-discipline, so you won’t get those secrets out of me!

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Louder Than Bombs]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44607 2016-04-08T17:53:57Z 2016-04-08T17:35:54Z A wrenching and intimate tale about the criticality of communication, and the collateral damage of deceit, in the wake of loss.]]>

In Louder Than Bombs, Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) was a world-renowned war photographer who risked her life in pursuit of an endless string of perfect shots. She didn’t always come out of the war zone unscathed, but she always came out. It’s ironic, then, that despite surviving countless dangers around the globe, she wound up the lone fatality of a single-vehicle car crash in a cozy New York suburb. Three years later, a retrospective of her work is being organized, and her widowed husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) has been tapped to display his wife’s photographs; he enlists the help of his grown son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg).

Complicating matters is a New York Times piece set to be written in advance of the showing by Isabelle’s former colleague, war reporter Richard Weissman (David Strathairn). The piece will reveal that Isabelle’s car accident was no accident at all, but rather a suicide, something Gene is fully aware of. Not only would Gene prefer to keep a more positive memory of his wife at the forefront of the celebration in her honor, he would rather his younger son, the teenaged Conrad (Devin Druid), not know the truth about his mother’s death.

Louder Than Bombs, the first English-speaking film from Norwegian director and co-writer Joachim Trier, sets itself up to be a significant melodrama. All of the pieces are there and ready to be played.

There is Gene, the widower and father of two who, thanks to the retrospective being organized in his wife’s memory, must do more than face life’s small daily reminders of a love lost—he must immerse himself in the life she lived. He must look at every photograph she took and know that he’s seeing her life, a life she spent far away from her family, through her eyes. This takes its toll on Gene, which in turn takes its toll on how he handles his relationship with Hannah (Amy Ryan), his coworker and lover.

Next is Jonah, who is a lot like the old man and not just because they’re both teachers. When Jonah is faced with an event of overwhelming emotional magnitude, he also makes poor choices. In this instance, his wife Amy (Megan Ketch) has just given birth to their first child, but when the frazzled new dad scours the hospital halls for a vending machine, he runs into an old girlfriend. Their hug lasts almost as long as the lies he tells.

Conrad, whose life is challenging enough as a teenager without a mother, has all but disconnected himself emotionally from his father, opting to live in a world of loud music and online gaming. He’s awkward and introverted and everything one would expect from a 14-year-old in his situation, but he’s also undaunted in his secret love for his classmate crush, the cheerleader Melanie (Ruby Jerins).

Even Richard, the war correspondent, brings more to the story than just the byline on the revelatory posthumous profile of the revered photographer, wife, and mother.

Again, all of the melodramatic pieces are there, but much to his credit, Trier never plays those pieces the way most would expect them to be played. Instead, the filmmaker lets his characters progress through subtle developments that require the viewer to stay keenly attuned to the little things they say and do, rather than waiting for the next bombastic outburst to occur. A lot of that character progression is negative, but it’s genuine, and it’s fueled by the fatal flaws the trio shares—a wicked combination of denial, deceit, and dreadful communication. Watching them fool themselves and others isn’t like watching people spiral out of control and perish in a fiery crash. It’s more like watching people slowly dissolve. Only Conrad, despite (or perhaps because of) his youth, offers a glimmer of hope with his unflappable crush on Melanie and his refusal to be anything but the person he is. Husbands, fathers, and sons make poor choices that carry with them the potential for irrevocable consequences, and yet just like in real life, they can’t stop making those choices; it’s in their nature.

And what about Isabelle? She appears in flashback and in dreams, but she is more mystery than matriarch. Yes, she was a loving mother and wife, as well as a successful war photographer, but beyond that (and beyond the suggestion of depression), little else is known about her. This is a terrific move by Trier, because it maintains a sense of wonder about who this woman was and why she meant what she meant to the men in her life. To explain more would have done a disservice to the character. In the role, Huppert is mesmerizing, and Trier knows how to capture the best of her, including a long, lingering, dialogue-free close-up of Huppert as she stares down the camera, leaving you wondering what she is thinking about and hoping you’ll have the chance to learn.

The rest of the cast is excellent, anchored by an amazing performance by relative newcomer Druid as Conrad Reed. Byrne and Eisenberg may have (combined) decades more experience than Druid, but they need him to be great more than he needs them to be great, and he delivers.

Louder Than Bombs is a wrenching tale about the criticality of communication and the collateral damage of deceit in the wake of significant loss. The film has barely a false note in it, hardly a moment when a character says or does something that demands to be challenged, and only the ending left me disappointed as ringing somewhat hollow. Still, despite the questionable destination of the tale, the journey is completely worth it.

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[The Boss]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44820 2016-04-11T13:23:06Z 2016-04-08T17:00:57Z A solid studio comedy and star-vehicle for the ever-entertaining McCarthy.]]>

If you saw her recent hosting stint on Saturday Night Live, you know that it’s easy to imagine an alternate universe in which Melissa McCarthy is an SNL alum, using the late night show as a springboard in very much the same way Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have. McCarthy’s new comedic venture, The Boss, directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, feels like a movie based on one of her most popular characters from said alternate-universe SNL (in our reality, it’s a character she, Falcone and collaborator Steve Mallory created during their time with The Groundlings). It’s an unabashed star-vehicle that, while not as successful or funny as last year’s Spy, is still solid entertainment and even harbors some heartfelt moments that add some unexpected dimension to an otherwise straightforward story.

McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, an enterprising billionaire/motivational speaker who wins at everything, stomps over everyone, and pushes away anyone who gets too close to her heart. Ethically impaired and insanely confident, Darnell is both a symbol of white privilege and female empowerment, giving McCarthy lots of room to flaunt her gift of gab and sling inventive vulgarities like only she can (the movie’s R rating is essential). One minute she’s asking her dutiful assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) to apply whitener to her teeth, a plastic contraption holding her mouth open so wide she looks like the Predator; the next, she’s demanding her helicopter pilot remove his shirt as they fly off into the night sky. Darnell is McCarthy’s critique on rich, greedy people and it’s really funny for the most part though some jokes (like a recurring one involving her bullying a young girl for not being effeminate enough) fall absolutely flat. Overall, it’s a sharp performance with some hit-or-miss material, which is common for movies of The Boss‘ ilk.

The story starts with a montage origin story, showing how Michelle grew up an orphan, suffering rejection after rejection as she struggled to find a home and a family. Eventually, she gives up and adopts a one-versus-all attitude, becoming a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners, turtleneck-wearing finance mogul. One of her victims on her rise to the top was ex-lover and fellow big-business bastard Renault (Peter Dinklage), who’s since dedicated his career to stealing and piggybacking on Michelle’s success (though he still has a burning passion for her “wonderful body”). Renault is presented with the perfect opportunity to strike Michelle down when she’s arrested for a white-collar crime that lands her in rich-person jail for a while (inmate tennis court and all) and results in the government seizing all of her assets and belongings.

The only person Michelle can turn to is Claire, who’s hesitant to take her former, tactless, self-obsessed boss in from off the street. Her apartment is cramped as it is, but Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson, cute as a button and full of potential) convinces her to lend a helping hand. From there, a family drama develops, with Michelle building a Girl Scout-adjacent brownie-selling empire for Rachel and her friends; everything goes swimmingly until Claire and Rachel start to feel like a family, prompting Michelle to run away scared and sell the company to the slimy Renault. It’s as contrived a plot as any, but McCarthy makes it work with a tearful scene that sees Michelle admit to her deepest faults. In a movie full of absurdist, in-your-face humor (in an Anchorman-inspired fight scene, McCarthy clotheslines a little girl in slo-mo), this admission of guilt actually feels real, almost jarringly so. The rest of the chosen-family drama that plays out isn’t nearly as genuine, though, which is a big problem considering that the story essentially hinges on the relationship between the three leading women.

The crudeness of the comedy won’t be for everyone, but I took a fair measure of enjoyment in watching a Girl Scout gang war break out in a quiet, posh neighborhood. Screwball physical comedy is well within McCarthy’s wheelhouse, and she goes for it big-time, from getting pancaked by a faulty sofabed to selling the classic fall-down-the-stairs. Perhaps the film’s biggest feather in its cap is that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors—this is a movie driven by women, with men existing only on the periphery, which is always refreshing in the male-dominated Hollywood landscape. McCarthy’s been better in other projects, but The Boss is nonetheless a crudely entertaining studio comedy and a solid showcase of the surging actor’s many talents.

Aaron Pinkston http://letterboxd.com/pinkstonaa/ <![CDATA[Movies and TV to Stream This Weekend – April 8]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44754 2016-04-07T16:36:23Z 2016-04-08T13:08:41Z A strong dose of home invasion films are available to stream this weekend!]]>

Years ago, Netflix bolstered their movie library with premium network Starz, which brought many binge-able movies and the excellent series Party Down, among others, to the ever-growing streaming service. Since the partnership between Netlfix and Starz—often considered the afterthought to HBO and Showtime—has ended, Starz has really carved out a niche for itself with original programming with Ash vs. Evil Dead, Outlander, Black Sails, and the upcoming Soderbergh produced The Girlfriend Experience. With this catalog (plus all the mainstream movies that come through), Starz has now launched their own on-demand streaming service.

For $8.99/month you can have access to their programming through an Android or iOS app or on the web. This is another a la carte platform that has increased the palatability of cutting the cable cord and picking out the specific entertainment you want. For all the movies and television new to streaming this week, check out the recommendations from the best streaming services below:


Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016)

Hush Mike Flanagan

A deaf-mute author (Kate Siegel) works away on her new novel in her secluded home when an uninvited guest with a crossbow shows up looking to make her his next victim. That’s all the set-up you’ll need to watch Mike Flanagan’s Hush, the latest film by the director of the underrated Absentia and Oculus (check out our interview with Flanagan and Seigel). Because of the protagonist’s inability to speak or hear, Hush keeps dialogue to an absolute minimum, meaning the majority of its slim, 82-minute runtime is dedicated to keeping the blood pumping as Siegel’s character tries to survive the night. Fans of home invasion thrillers like The Strangers will find plenty to like in Hush, and it should serve as a perfect viewing option on Netflix for anyone wanting to get a good scare this weekend. [C.J.]

Other titles new to Netflix this week:
American Odyssey (Series, Season 1)
The Beauty Inside (Baek Jong-Yeol, 2015)
God’s Pocket (John Slattery, 2014)
The Hallow (Corin Hardy, 2015)
Of Men and War (Laurent Bécue-Renard, 2014)


Jules and Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

Jules and Jim 1962

In this week’s “Criterion Picks,” Fandor once again takes a look at doomed love with some great classic and international films. Among them is Truffaut’s brilliant dramatic screwball comedy Jules and Jim, featuring a love triangle of sorts. The film stars the effervescent Jeanne Moreau as Catherine, an unobtainable, impulsive woman and her long relationship with the title pair. For Truffaut, this is perhaps his most signature film in the French New Wave—a wild and unpredictable film, delightful all the way. The other Criterion Picks in the series include Black Orpheus, Senso, Children of Paradise, Summer Interlude, and more—all are available until April 17. Also included on Fandor this week is a new Spotlight, full of classic Italian cult films like Killer Cop, Zombie, Black Sunday, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

Other titles new to Fandor this week:
The Animal Project (Ingrid Veninger, 2013)
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (Chris Sullivan, 1994)
Modra (Ingrid Veninger, 2010)
mother mortar, father pestle (Gibbs Chapman, 2013)
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)


Mr. X, a Vision of Leos Carax (Tessa Louise-Salomé, 2014)

Mr. X, a Vision of Leos Carax film

MUBI is offering a Leos Carax double-feature this week with his international breakout Mauvais Sang coupled with artistic profile doc Mr. X. With interviews with the filmmaker and unseen footage from his life and films from his debut through Holy Motors, the documentary is a nice retrospective on an important world auteur whose run definitely doesn’t seem over—it is unusual to see a retrospective like this before a filmmaker has passed or hung it up, but this feels more than complete enough. A fantastic look into the mind of an enigmatic filmmaker with plenty of footage from his films, Mr. X is a nice primer on Carax with enough unique insight for his fanatics. You can check out this vision of Leos Carax on MUBI until May 3.

Other titles new to MUBI this week:
Ballad of the Little Soldier (Werner Herzog & Denis Reichle, 1984)
Help Me Eros (Lee Kang-Sheng, 2007)
Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
White Nights on the Pier (Paul Vecchiali, 2014)
A Young Poet (Damien Manivel, 2014)

iTunes & Video On-Demand

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2015)

The Invitation film

Available for rent at the same time as its limited theatrical release, The Invitation is a horror-thriller from the director of Girlfight and Jennifer’s Body. The film has received strong reviews on the festival circuit and premiere at South by Southwest 2015 for its slow-burn tension and clever plot. Slowly unfolding over the course of a dinner party, The Invitation involves a man reconnecting with his ex-wife and her new life after she went missing following a tragic event. While this may be a pretty standard mystery or thriller plot set-up, The Invitation is an intense and visceral film from start to finish. One of our favorite horror films we saw in 2015, you should check out The Invitation in theaters or on-demand this weekend.

Other titles new to VOD this week:
Boost (Nathan Gabaeff, 2015)
Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip, 2015)
Joy (David O. Russell, 2015)
The Masked Saint (Warren P. Sonoda, 2016)
Mr. Right (Paco Cabezas, 2015)
Silicon Valley Season 2

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Everybody Wants Some!!]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44249 2016-04-07T22:27:06Z 2016-04-07T21:30:09Z A well-oiled machine of a hangout movie from Richard Linklater.]]>

Few filmmakers can put together a hangout movie like Richard Linklater has, and his crowning achievement in that realm is, to this day, 1993’s high school cult classic Dazed and Confused. The movie’s trailer recommended you “watch it with a bud,” but most of us who’ve seen it know that there’s no need; Linklater’s wonderfully funny, charismatic, super cool characters are all the company you could ever want.

Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Linklater’s latest, Everybody Wants Some, follows its predecessor’s formula to great success, its director’s tools now several times sharper than before. The two films share a general locale with both taking place in Southeast Texas, but while Dazed followed its characters on the last day of high school in the ’70s, the new film takes us to the early ’80s, following a fictional university’s baseball team as they shack up and party on over the long weekend before the start of the fall semester.

Bromance and romance overflow as we watch the boys get acquainted with each other and with the pretty girls scattered around their little college town. Our in is Jake (Blake Jenner), a chipper freshman who’s joining the team as pitcher. When he arrives at the semi-decrepit campus house designated for the team, he’s met with a mixed reaction: the older players don’t take kindly to pitchers, while Jake’s fellow wide-eyed newbies have no problem palling around. The common denominator is the team’s passion for partying, and party they do. By day, they laze about, smoke pot, sit in circles and space out to psychedelic rock records; by night, they’re tearing it up at local clubs and trashing their already-crumbling abode beyond recognition with all-night ragers.

While this may sound like a re-up of Animal House, the film actually skews more toward the arthouse, with Linklater threading some unexpected poignancy underneath all of the (incredibly funny, entertaining) shenanigans. Jake’s more than happy to partake in all the meathead madness, but as we learn more about where he’s from and the people he used to hang out with, it becomes clear that he’s a bit smarter and more compassionate than the lovable lugs he’s bunking up with. Jake’s full personality is brought out when he meets Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theater major with the proverbial key to his heart. She has a way of stopping him dead in his tracks, and their hot August romance is a showstopper in itself; Jenner and Deutch are that rare onscreen couple who are so easy with each other that you suspect their romance may spill over into the real world.

Enough can’t be said about the rest of the feathery-haired cast as well. Square-jawed Tyler Hoechlin plays team captain McReynolds, whose violent competitive streak is at first repugnant, though his die-hard dedication to the team makes him more endearing as the weekend rolls on. Each of the dozen-or-so housemates has a similar, gradual development to their character that’s facilitated by both the memorable performances and Linklater’s uncanny dialogue, which sounds so natural it’s staggering to learn that absolutely none of it is ad-libbed. Some of the movie’s highlights involve the guys just lounging around, saying stupid stuff. It’s easy, simple viewing on one level, but the artistry lies in the affection that grows for the characters as we spend time with them.

Everyone will walk out of this movie with a favorite character, and the fact that (at my screening, at least) they varied wildly speaks to how great they are. There’s Finn (Glen Powell), the faux-intellectual ladies man; Dale (J. Quinton Johnson), the cool-as-a-cucumber, cultured team veteran; Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), the golden-haired, guru-like stoner with a secret; Beuter (Will Brittain), the cowboy outsider with a needy girlfriend back home. The list goes on, and every one of them is fantastic and hilarious. My favorite is Plummer (Temple Baker), a secondary character who nonetheless makes a big impression with his sleepy-dumb-guy appeal. I had a friend just like him in college (that’s a line you’ll hear a lot of people say walking out of the theater). This was actually Baker’s first acting role, but Linklater’s casting instincts are ridiculously good at this point in his career. The chemistry between the cast members is like butter, which is and always will be the key to hangout movies.

One of the most extraordinary things about Boyhood is that it doesn’t have any sort of forced dramatic agenda. It’s a quality Everybody Wants Some!! shares; there are no big fist fights, shocking betrayals or tearful breakup scenes to be found. There’s emotion running throughout, but it all flows and arises organically, which takes away a lot of the anxiety we’re used to swallowing in coming-of-age tales. This is easy viewing through and through, though that’s not to say it’s shallow. It’s far from it, in fact; living with Linklater’s characters as they explore life, unsupervised, without inhibition, engages the heart and takes you back to a freewheeling, optimistic state of mind and body that many of us let go of a long time ago.

Lee Adams <![CDATA[Omo Child: The River and the Bush]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44738 2016-04-07T14:20:08Z 2016-04-07T14:20:08Z A surprisingly uplifting film considering the harrowing subject matter of children being killed in Ethiopia.]]>

Few documentaries open as dramatically as Omo Child: The River and the Bush. Headlights pierce the dead of night somewhere in Southwest Ethiopia, a jeep pulls up at a settlement, and a man in Western-style clothing gets out. He is led into the darkness to another man, dressed in tribal gear, who is cradling a tiny baby. “He found her in the bush.” someone explains. “Is she alive?” someone else asks. The answer is obvious.

John Rowe’s gripping documentary introduces us to the Kara tribe of the Omo valley. They live off the land in a remote part of the country, their elders strikingly decorating their bodies with white markings. Like many indigenous tribes living in isolated parts of the world, the Kara are a deeply superstitious people, and believe that children can be born with a curse that will threaten their very existence. For generations, these cursed Mingi children have been killed by the women of the tribe, by strangulation, drowning, or leaving them in the bush for wild animals to take care of.

Our protagonist is Lale Labuko, a well-spoken and pleasant-featured young tribesman. His father stood up against the village elders to send him for some new fangled “education”, only recently introduced to the tribe by visiting missionaries. On his return, Lale discovered the truth about the taboo Mingi killings, which claimed his two older sisters as victims. He set out to save Mingi children from certain death by adopting them as his own, bringing them up far away from his ancestral home, and eventually challenging the Kara elders to bringing the barbaric tradition to an end.

Rowe and his intrepid crew filmed over a period of five years, and the documentary works best when dealing with the rhythms of tribal life. He has a real photographer’s eye for both the landscape and the people, and his images are particularly eloquent when focusing on the hard-worn faces of the elders and their women folk, many of whom have lost children to the Mingi curse.

The director is less confident dealing with narrative and the pacing of Omo Child drags because of it. This could be because our modern-day expectations of documentary filmmaking, and the material at Rowe’s disposal in such a challenging shooting location. So many documentaries today are a montage of footage from various sources, from CCTV to smartphones, giving them a sense of urgency and spontaneity that old skool documentaries rarely had. Perhaps by necessity, Rowe has to rely on straight up testimony to tell the tale. There’s plenty of gorgeous landscape shots interspersed with talking heads giving their account. The endless talking heads have the effect of slowing a riveting tale down, and perhaps a more experienced filmmaker may have found ways to show rather than tell. The result sometimes feels a bit National Geographicky.

Still, the retro style of the filmmaking doesn’t hamper the overall punch of the documentary. This is the story of one man who had the courage to challenge the accepted wisdom of his society, dealing with death threats and succeeding in bringing about a change. The film won the Ethos Jury Prize at this year’s Social Impact Media Awards.

Rowe sensibly allows the elders to voice some opinion. They are wistful about the modernization of their culture. One woman tells how traditionally the tribe would wear animal skins, but the kids just want to wear Western attire. Despite their resistance to the modern world, traces of modernity are found—some elders sport bucket hats like those favoured by Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene in their Britpop heyday; guns look even more brutal and deadly when handled by a half-naked tribesman.

The most shocking testimony is from an older woman who unapologetically admits to murdering twelve children without any remorse. Rowe encourages some empathy with the elder’s feelings—Omo Child is also a portrait of a community in transition, and treats their deep-rooted superstitions with respect.

Ritualized infanticide may be shocking to our sensibilities, but the film allows you to understand that to the elder’s sensibilities it would seem crazy not to kill these children when a curse is potentially hanging over the community. As Lale’s crusade gathers pace, one elder talks about letting the Mingi kids live with the air of incredulity some Westerners adopt when speaking about Political Correctness Gone Mad.

Despite the harrowing subject matter, Omo Child is an uplifting film. It enthusiastically demonstrates how one person can make a huge difference, and Lale Labuko’s fearless endeavours make it easy to overlook that Omo Child sometimes resembles an extended showreel for his organization. Beyond his exceptional work saving children’s lives in Ethiopia, his story also offers some hope to us all in our era of fear and intolerance.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel on ‘Hush’ and Making a Film in Secret]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44632 2016-04-07T00:37:26Z 2016-04-07T13:10:39Z We talk to Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel about their horror film 'Hush.']]>

In a short amount of time, Mike Flanagan has become one of the most prolific directors working in horror today. After releasing his micro-budget debut feature Absentia in 2011, he followed it up with Oculus in 2013, which went on to get a wide theatrical release. Since then, Flanagan has been hard at work, and he now has not one, not two, but three films slated to come out this year: his passion project Before I Wake, the sequel to the 2014 genre hit Ouija, and Hush, a slick, low-budget horror film he made in secret. In fact, no one even knew of its existence until editing was completed.

The reason for Hush’s secrecy has to do with its approach, which some might consider radical for a horror film aimed towards mainstream audiences. The film takes place over one night at the secluded home of Maddie (Kate Siegel), a deaf-mute author working on her latest novel. Her house is a gorgeous cabin in the woods, but she soon finds herself trapped when a serial killer (John Gallagher Jr.) shows up at her door hoping to make her his next victim. Because Maddie can’t speak the majority of Hush has no dialogue, and the film plays out as a wordless game of cat and mouse between Maddie and her stalker.

With a slim runtime and minimal plot, Hush is a lean, effective, and fun little horror movie. Fans of home invasion films like The Strangers will find plenty to enjoy here, with Flanagan’s efficient direction and editing keeping the tension up thanks to the incredibly tight screenplay (written by both Flanagan and Siegel). In advance of its worldwide release on Netflix, I spoke to Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel about why the film’s production was so secretive, the challenges of doing a film with little dialogue, and why we should all be excited for Ouija 2.

Hush comes out Friday, April 8th on Netflix.

This film appeared to have come out of nowhere. How did the ball get rolling on this production?

Mike: [Kate and I] had gone out to dinner and were talking about movies we really liked, and the kinds of movies that we wanted to make. We both talked about our mutual admiration for Wait Until Dark and high concept thrillers like that. For years, I’ve wanted to do a movie without dialogue, or mostly without dialogue because I thought it would be a really cool challenge. So we had pretty much figured out what we wanted to do with this at that meal, like before dessert showed up.

I then went to [producers] Jason Blum and Trevor Macy who I had worked with before and pitched them. I said I really want to do this but I think it could be really awesome or it could be a disaster and they kind of agreed. They were nervous about it, so we didn’t tell anybody about it because we didn’t know how it was going come out. If we did kind of announce the movie early, there was a fear that a studio would want to get involved, and they would show up and start messing with it. They’d be like, “Does she have to be deaf?” or “Can’t there be some dialogue throughout this middle section?”

Kate: Or “Can everyone be a teenager?”

Mike: You never know how many different ways this can go bad, so that was another reason why we didn’t want to tell anybody about it. So we wrote the movie in secret, and we shot it without telling anybody what we were doing. We shot it really fast, a three-week shoot, cut it really quickly back in LA, and then looked at the film and said: “I think this is working, now we can start telling people about it!”

This feels like a little bit of a departure compared to Absentia and Oculus. Those films dealt with characters pitted against supernatural forces, but this film is grounded in reality. What made you want to go down this route for your next film?

Mike: I’m certainly not eager to repeat myself as a rule, and I thought this film was going to be a challenge for me on a number of levels. Even just removing dialogue takes away half of your storytelling tools, and I love the pressure of that. For me, it’s about character and suspense, and I think that can be achieved with or without supernatural elements. So there was nothing about it that felt like a departure for me, except for the dialogue angle. That felt like the biggest stretch to me, especially since my earlier movies were, like, 95% dialogue. Letting go of that crutch was really exciting, but also really scary. And I know it’s really tough for Kate too because that’s kind of half of your toolkit as an actor. She was going through the same thing I was.

Kate: At the first glance you think “Great! I don’t have to learn any lines,” but once you get in the intense circumstances, you realize that you can’t make any noise. And you can’t listen, which is what acting really is about. It took away these two things that are the majority of acting. It was very frustrating, but they say when you put a lot of restrictions on creativity often times it will grow to fit the space. You ever see those square watermelons that will grow in a box? It was a lot like that, where at first it was like “This is so uncomfortable!” but then when I watched the movie it ends up feeling like it really pushed my limits in a way that feels successful.

Did you always see yourself playing Maddie?

Kate: Yeah. In the writing stage, I was making jokes like “I don’t want to learn any lines. I hate hearing myself talk on camera,” and whatever insecure, accurate things were coming out of me at the moment. And so because it was such a private, secret project, part of it was, “If we keep this under a certain budget and under the radar then I can probably play Maddie.” One of the thoughts was that, if the studio got their hands on it, then the very first thing they would have done is replace me. I had the support of Mike, Jason, and Trevor in my performance, so they kind of protected me from the Hollywood machine who would have given this role to…

Mike: They would have quadrupled the budget and tried to bring in somebody with a certain amount of foreign sales value.

Kate: I’ll always be grateful for Jason and Trevor for supporting me in the face of people who asked them to do that.

Because there’s no dialogue, you also need to have much more physicality in front of the camera with your performance.

Kate: There were things I loved about it and things that were very frustrating. I learned a lot about acting in the course of this whole movie. With Maddie, who isolates herself and is isolated from the world, you would think that would cause her to be closed in. But there’s something about sign language that is so communicative with the body that kept her so open to the camera. I developed a real intimacy with the camera because it was the only thing I could really listen to and focus on. So where I think there was a certain amount of trepidation and fear in my earlier work about the camera who sees deep in your soul, that’s right in your face in your emotional world, through Hush I learned how to make the camera my best observer and my most trusting friend. That’s something I will take into future projects, knowing that the camera is there to support and trust as opposed to judge and watch.

This is such a lean movie, there’s no fat whatsoever. How important was it in the writing stage to structure things?

Mike: Very important, especially for a movie like this. Our initial outline had it beaten down almost by the minute, where we were like “We know we need the sliding glass door to open by minute 15.” It’s an 83-page script, it’s pretty much a page a minute of a very dense, very weird read. Kate said it reads like a novella more than a script.

Kate: Because you’re getting a lot of internal cues about how the characters are feeling, a lot of cues about what the house looks like, and what you’re seeing at any given moment, which generally speaking you don’t do in a script.

Mike: For this we had to choreograph it on the page. We had to have the layout of the house on the page, [because] we needed to know that house intimately while we were writing.

Kate: As my first feature script it was a boot camp. There’s no room for full dialogue scenes or a lot of exposition to eat up some time before the killer shows up. It was throwing me into the deep end and being like “these are the bones of how you make a narrative story,” and Mike was really generous with his knowledge.

Mike: There’s this thing that happens all the time with young writers where you overwrite dialogue. It’s because you want to get these story points out, but you want it to be conversational. And almost without fail, you can identify a young writer based on how much dialogue they put into the script, how circular the conversations are, and how long it takes to get to the relevant information. The more experienced a writer is, the less important it is to focus on the conversation and the more important it is to get the information out in the most efficient, artistic way possible. And with a script like this it couldn’t really be overwritten, so there was no opportunity for that. This was all about choreography and sound design, which was also scripted. There’s a ton of information about what we wanted the sound design to be in the script.

Kate: The other dialogue scene came in about draft two or three, where we really needed to step away from Maddie for a second.

Did earlier iterations of the script have no dialogue whatsoever?

Mike: There was something really attractive right away about doing a movie with no dialogue. I thought that would have been so fun.

Kate: And in black and white.

Mike: Yeah! We did talk about a black and white version of this.

Kate: We started so artsy.

Mike: It turned out that having no dialogue is not really feasible.

Kate: Or fun to watch. It’s interesting artistically but it’s not exciting.

Mike: There was certain information about who Maddie was and about her situation that, we realized early on, someone needed to say. It would take us five or six pages to get that information out using strictly visual cues, and we just needed someone to say it to set the table so we could pull the dialogue out and let the tension of the movie play out.

Kate: It’s also super cool because part of what Maddie’s deafness and muteness does is bring you into her perspective, and why it’s so specifically terrifying to have this happen to her. And so let’s say when [the other dialogue scene] shows up 60 minutes in, it’s such a weird feeling, and the reason it feels weird is because we haven’t heard anybody talk for about 40 minutes. I love that because it is weird, and when we cut back to Maddie you’re more familiar with what she’s missing out on.

Mike, you edit all of your films. Tell me about your editing process.

Mike: It’s pretty much the same on all of them. I get dailies on set and I’ve got Avid Media Composer on my laptop, so I will do rough cuts and assemblies on set at the monitor in between set ups. I tend to construct the coverage for a scene based on what I need for an edit. There’s really nothing else. I’ve heard my assistant editors describe my footage when it comes in as being like Ikea furniture, in that everything fits together in a specific way and there’s nothing left over. That can be really scary to me, and to a studio in particular because they look at it and say there’s no option to change this. It kind of is what it is, which is one of the only ways you can accomplish [shooting] a movie like Hush in 18 days. It has to be very specific and surgical.

I’m really lucky that they let me keep editing my stuff. It doesn’t happen for everybody, and it almost didn’t happen for me. They weren’t going to let me edit Oculus at first, and I had to actually show them what I wanted to do with it because the editor they hired wasn’t getting it. He was having that Ikea furniture panic where he was saying “I don’t see how this fits.” I had to sit down and actually edit and show them how it works, and they let me do it. But yeah, I think the writing process and everything I do on set are designed to serve me as an editor.

This is a crazy year for you, with three of your movies coming out in 2016. Tell me about Ouija 2, because I was surprised when I heard you were working on a franchise film.

Mike: Everybody was. I was. The thing with Ouija 2 was, it’s through Blumhouse, and I’ve worked with those guys a bunch now. So when they first brought it up to me, my gut reaction was “No way.” Then they said I can do whatever I want and I said, “Really?” I didn’t believe it, so I kind of tentatively moved forward with it, feeling like at any moment they would swoop in and stop me from doing what I wanted to do and then I could just gracefully step away from the movie. But it was irresistible, this idea that I could just do whatever.

So I got to do something really cool that I can’t talk about too much, although I know Blum and everyone’s so happy with the movie they’re going to be screening it for critics well before the release, which is really surprising. We got to do something really unique and unexpected. I think you can pretty much let go of the first movie. Mike Fimognari, who’s been kind of my regular DP, and I got to do things visually on this movie that we never thought we could get away with. So it’s actually a pretty cool and ambitious little movie that I think is hopefully going to really surprise people and defy the expectations that the first movie established.

C.J. Prince <![CDATA[Gabriel Mascaro on Breaking Stereotypes and Empowering Characters in ‘Neon Bull’]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=42621 2016-04-06T19:18:17Z 2016-04-06T19:18:17Z Writer/director Gabriel Mascaro talks about his latest feature 'Neon Bull.']]>

In Neon Bull, writer/director Gabriel Mascaro takes viewers to a familiar yet strange world in northeastern Brazil. The film hones in on the Vaquejada rodeo, an event in the area where cowboys drag a bull to the ground by grabbing its tail. It’s a popular event throughout the region, and one Mascaro has a familiarity with. “I come from Recife, and at the school I studied at as a teenager there was a lot of influence about Vaquejada,” he explains, before talking about attending a Vaquejada party when he was 15 years old. “I never thought that, 15 years later, I would be making a movie about them.”

But Neon Bull doesn’t keep its focus on the rodeo events themselves, although the performance sequences provide some of the film’s best moments. Mascaro focuses on a small group of Vaquieros, people who work behind the scenes transporting bulls to each stop on the rodeo’s tour and making sure each event goes off without a hitch. The group’s makeshift leader is Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), the main Vaquiero who’s a pro at his job, and Mascaro observes Iremar and his coworkers as they deal with their daily existence both at work and within their surrounding environment.

Beyond his personal connection, Mascaro’s interest in making a film about the Vaquejada rodeo had to do with the link between the film’s subject matter and location. “When I started thinking about Vaquejadas as an environment to translate into a movie, I had the opportunity to meet a cattle rancher that also worked part-time in the textile industry,” Mascaro recalls, a piece of information he eventually used as the basis for Iremar’s character. The textile industry’s success in the region is one thing Mascaro cites as evidence of significant changes happening in his country. “Vaquejadas work as the scenery for a lot of the transformations that Brazil has been having for the last ten years, a lot of social and economic transformations.” And while the film is never explicit in laying out the political and economic changes going on in the background, it dominates what goes on in a film Mascaro describes as being about “a body in a transformational environment.”

That idea of transformation also applies to transforming preconceptions about gender norms. “The movie is very interested in the concept of a body,” Mascaro says. “It’s not fixed to a specific gender.” Neon Bull repeatedly finds ways to subvert the sorts of expectations one might make when watching a film about such an aggressive and masculine setting. Iremar is a strong, hulking presence when working as a Vaquiero but in his downtime, he pursues his dream of becoming a fashion designer, sewing clothes in a nearby textile factory. And partway through the film, Mascaro brings in a new character named Junior (Vinicius de Oliveira), whose slim body and long hair stand out when compared to the muscular rodeo workers around him.

Mascaro believes that, in order to break stereotypes involving masculinity and gender roles, the camera’s placement needs to be taken into account. “One of the central issues for me in regards to moviemaking is the relationship between the distance of the camera to the object being filmed. If the camera is too close, it might reinforce too much of a stereotype. If it’s far away, it might break the stereotype. You empower much more if you’re far away, with a full frame of the body. So I tried to translate this into a dance or choreography of the body into this transformational environment.”

The film does largely unfold through long, uninterrupted takes filmed with the camera at a distance, a choice that also gives Neon Bull a naturalistic, almost documentary-like appearance. Mascaro, who has a background in documentary filmmaking, and cinematographer Diego Garcia (who also worked as DoP on Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour) use their style to help normalize some of the film’s more surreal or provocative moments, whether they’re aesthetic (the neon-drenched rodeo sequences) or explicit (a graphic sex scene between Iremar and a pregnant woman). This is a deliberate choice on Mascaro’s part, explaining that “even surrealism is within the context of a spectacle, a show, and that’s how it becomes naturalism.”

The other big contributor to the film’s natural mood comes from the cast, an ensemble made up of professional and non-professional actors. “We worked with Fatima Toledo, who did actor preparation for City of God as well, to break barriers between formal actors and non-actors and bring them to a common level so there’s no tension.” A lack of tension seems important for a film shoot like this, given the lengthy and well-choreographed sequences throughout. Mascaro says there was “a lot of work involved,” especially with sequences like Iremar urinating in front of the camera, a shot that took eight hours to complete in order to achieve the correct camera movement, along with Cazarré being required to piss on cue. But the biggest challenge was a scene where Cazarré had to masturbate a horse, a situation that Mascaro laughs about today. “[Cazarré] said ‘No way, you’re pushing the limits, I’m not gonna do this unless you do it first.’ So I did.”

This interview was conducted in September 2015 during the Toronto International Film Festival. Special thanks to translator Daniel Galvao.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Borealis]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=41004 2016-04-06T16:32:10Z 2016-04-06T14:00:19Z A man uses a father/daughter road trip to flee his debts and his demons in this uneven but effective drama.]]>

A collision at the intersection of tragedy and addiction can leave countless emotional fragments strewn across life’s road. Decisions already handicapped by the perpetual specter of compulsive demons become further clouded by the blinding pain of raw emotion brought on by an unthinkable happening. Eventually, the consequences of the initial collision produce decisions that create consequences of their own, until life becomes nothing more than a spiraling series of missteps taken in an attempt to correct each previous misstep. Borealis, a comedy-sprinkled drama from writer Jonas Chernick and director Sean Garrity, looks at the victim of one such collision, a man whose years-long addiction and years-old tragedy have put him in a position to make a series of increasingly poor choices that not only threaten his safety, but the safety of his 15-year-old daughter.

That man is Jonah (screenwriter Chernick), his addiction is gambling, and the tragedy that befell him was the death of his wife and mother to their only child, Aurora (Joey King). After years of emotionally-charged bad decisions, Jonah finds himself in deep debt to Tubby (Kevin Pollak). The bad news about Tubby is he works for a loan shark. The worse news is that Tubby and Jonah go back to when they were kids, so Tubby finds a soft spot when Jonah wants to borrow money to place a bet. One cry of “all-in” later Jonah is $100,000 in the red.

Jonah’s day gets worse. Not long after playing the biggest losing hand of his life, his daughter’s eye doctor tells him that her eyesight, which has already been riddled with disease, has grown so bad that she will be completely blind in weeks. Unable to break the devastating medical news to the daughter he already has a fractured relationship with, and unable to meet the demands of Tubby and his hired muscle Brick (Clé Bennett), Jonah drags his reluctant little girl on a road trip to see the Northern Lights—partly to give her a fleeting glimpse of something he considers to be indescribably beautiful, and partly to avoid the financially painful inevitability.

For a 95-minute drama with only three primary players and three supporting players, Borealis attempts to do a lot. This is a blessing for the film. It provides a wide open space for its considerable talent to put on display a litany of emotions and memories, plus it affords opportunities for the story to avoid cliché. But the film’s “don’t just swing for the fences, swing for the parking lot” approach is inevitably its curse, as the supersaturation of backstories, plot lines, ideas, and character motivations become more than the filmmakers can handle.

The core of the story is wonderful. This father and daughter—a fractured pair as a result of mom’s passing, yet also individually broken by addiction and disease—are thrust into a unique circumstance. They are being chased as a result of one’s flaw while simultaneously chasing the clock as a result of the other’s flaw. This alone is fertile ground for emotional exploration, and adding an interesting circumstance to the mother’s death makes it even more compelling.

But that circumstance—or rather, the ripple effect from it—is never examined below surface-level. Clearly Jonah (and most likely Aurora) has been affected by this loss, and surely the loss has influenced the survivors’ behavior and contributed to the distance between them, but it is only presented to either generate pity or take a shortcut to an emotional goal; it’s never presented as a real catalyst for dysfunctional behavior.

Everything else in the film suffers from this same problem. It isn’t a case of superficiality so much as it’s a case of underdevelopment. Things like Jonah’s gambling and Aurora’s vision loss—real meaty topics—are only heavy character traits and high-level cause-and-effect cases. Other things like the childhood relationship between Tubby and Jonah, and the adult relationship between Jonah and his current flame Kyla (Emily Hampshire), are presented like early concept musings, not fully developed relationships. What remains after all of these missed chances is another road picture, a film about getting from Point A to Point Z, with stops at B through Y along the way.

It’s frustrating because these ideas are terrific as individual notions and as a creative collective. They’re also perfectly enjoyable presented as they are, but they are ultimately unsatisfying.

There are, though, some very satisfying parts of this film, led by great performances. Chernick shines as the father with all the wrong answers and the weight of the world—a world he helped create, both as a father and a gambler—on his shoulders. King is marvelous as the teen who is too angry with her father to help mend their relationship and too proud to let her deteriorating eye condition stop her from doing what she wants. And Pollak delivers the goods as the hard-ass with the soft spot.

The humor sprinkled throughout is genuinely funny, even if it doesn’t quite fit. Instead of providing a respite from the drama, the humor actually undercuts it. It’s an example of one more thing the filmmakers attempt to stuff into a picture that is already jammed with so much concept. Still, funny is funny.

There’s a lot to admire about Borealis, but the film sags under the weight of its own ambition, loading up on many solid concepts but never developing any of them thoroughly enough to do the film a greater good. Still, Borealis is very much worth seeking out, particularly for the performances by Chernick, King, and Pollak.

This review was originally published on October 7, 2015 as part of our coverage of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Michael Nazarewycz http://scribehardonfilm.wordpress.com/ <![CDATA[Here Come the Videofreex]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44609 2016-04-04T17:21:49Z 2016-04-05T13:05:30Z History is made behind the camera in this detached documentary about the world's first citizen journalists.]]>

I’m hard-pressed to think of the last time something of historical significance happened and there wasn’t a camera around to record the event. I don’t mean a news camera; I mean the kind of camera anyone might have in their pocket at any given moment. The advent of video technology on mobile phones has created a culture where anything that happens can be recorded at a moment’s notice and distributed globally via social media. It’s not hard to recall the days when personal video cameras weren’t as readily available, or when they were the stuff of home movies, weddings, corporate training videos, and sex tapes. It wasn’t too long before that, though, video cameras weren’t even an option for personal use. Here Come the Videofreex, a documentary from co-directors Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin, looks at the genesis of video cameras for personal use, and how two early owners of video equipment started something of a media revolution.

The film opens with a harrowing scene: a present-day team of gloved experts pores over boxes of videotapes that have fallen victim to mold. In some cases, spooled tape is sticking to itself, creating a sense of urgency that must be restrained for the safety of the tape. This brief scene is followed by title cards that offer all the prologue the documentary needs:

In 1968, Sony introduced the CV-2400 PortaPak, the first portable video camera. For the first time, it was possible to record picture and sound and play it back right away.

The story moves to 1969, when David Cort and Parry Teasdale, strangers who both acquired video cameras, met by chance at Woodstock, where both were more interested in filming everything going on except the music. A friendship was forged, a partnership began, and a name was coined. Before long, the duo would recruit eight others, land a gig with CBS, lose that gig with CBS, and go on to record seminal moments and legendary figures in US history.

Here Come the Videofreex, presented chronologically for the most part, is really a tale of two histories. The first history is that of the group itself. In addition to Cort and Teasdale, members included Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, Bart Friedman, Davidson Gigliotti, Chuck Kennedy, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Carol Vontobel, and Ann Woodward. Each person had their own specialty, from editing to accounting, and each was treated as an equal member (that said, like any team, this one had its all-stars and its role-players, and those designations are implied here).

The second history is what the group recorded. Moments of modern US history where the Videofreex were present include discussions with Abbie Hoffman during the Trial of the Chicago Eight, an interview with soon-to-be-slain Black Panther Fred Hampton, a Women’s Strike for Equality, Anti-War Protests, and the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. This treasure-trove of footage is not just history in the making, it’s history in the raw. In today’s media, between our cameras-are-everywhere existence and the slick packaging we are used to being fed from news outlets and websites, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to organically witness history because we’re so busy consuming what we’re being fed. This film is a great reminder of that feeling. The footage, presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, is slick in its native, almost sterile, black-and-white images. It’s also very effective that the present-day interviews with the talking-head surviving members of the Videofreex, while in color, are also in presented in 4:3.

But what the film is flush with in terms of footage, it lacks in engaging narrative. While there is plenty of history to be had, it all has a museum piece feel to it, as if the film isn’t really teaching anything, but rather putting everything on display to be admired. It’s history being shown, not history being shared. The filmmakers also seem to be so enamored by the footage they have, they think any footage is good footage. Nealon and Raskin use many clips that are nothing more than the Videofreex recording themselves and/or each other. It’s cute at first, but soon that footage takes on the feel of any other home videos found in most households in the 1980s.

As their tale winds to a close, the Videofreex again find themselves ahead of the new media curve. Fed up with New York and their inability to distribute their content, they move to a large farmhouse in the Catskills. It’s there that they curry favor with the suspicious locals by creating what will eventually be known as Cable Access Television. They even fancy themselves pirates of the airwaves, and while technically they are, it’s not as sexy as it sounds. The locals eat it up, but to watch the locals create and record cable access programming tests the patience more than actually watching cable access programming.

Here Come the Videofreex succeeds in telling a tale of how a two-person partnership became a ten-person collective, and how their efforts simultaneously made history and made them historians. The film also shows how anyone rolling video today, whether by camera or cameraphone, stands on the shoulders of that collective. It’s an important documentary about an important point in the timeline of American media and technology, even though its presentation struggles to connect with the viewer.

Here Come the Videofreex opens April 6th at The Royal Cinema in Toronto, Ontario.

Ananda Dillon http://instagram.com/aimwrite <![CDATA[Demolition]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=43471 2016-04-03T21:52:03Z 2016-04-04T13:05:07Z A case study in indulgent and privileged grieving.]]>

Jean-Marc Vallée enjoys playing heartstrings. He’s drawn to more irreverent forms of playing them but his end goals are clear, and what worked so well in Dallas Buyers Club and Wild—using broken and imperfect people to explore physical and emotional journeys—breaks down Demolition. The flawed protagonist in this case-study in grief is Davis Mitchell, whose emotional intelligence is so low it borders on sociopathic, proven by the (literally) destructive way he chooses to deal with the sudden death of his wife. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mitchell as well as can be expected for such an irrational character, and Vallée’s introspective style pushes things as far as it can in building real feelings toward the story. It’s Bryan Sipe’s screenplay (his first major feature) that appears to be at fault, shoving as many emotionally explosive elements as possible into one script and only hinting at the sort of saving grace that would allow audiences to forgive the sentimental melodrama capping off the film.

Davis Mitchell is reminiscent of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman in more ways than just his emotional numbness. Clean-shaven, well-groomed, and career-driven, the house he and his young wife Julia (Heather Lind) share is all glass and metal—antiseptic like he is. During an argument while driving one day he and his wife are hit by a truck and Julia dies at the hospital while Davis escapes without a scratch. Shortly after receiving the news of her death, Davis attempts to buy some M&Ms from a vending machine and, when the package sticks in the machine, he takes down the vending machine company’s info.

With keen editing, Davis’ experience of the details of his wife’s death focuses more on everyone else’s emotions surrounding him, while he remains undisturbed. He escapes during the funeral reception to write a letter to the vending company, describing in awkward detail the circumstances surrounding his attempt to buy M&Ms. It feels distinctly unnatural, as nothing of Davis’ nature suggests he’d care much either way at having gotten the candy or not, but we’re meant to understand this is his way of emoting.

After returning to work as an investment banker soon after Julia’s death, Davis’ father-in-law Phil (Chris Cooper), who is also his boss, encourages him to take some time off and deconstruct his feelings. Davis decides to take him at his word, and though he doesn’t immediately take time off work, he does start taking apart almost anything that annoys him or causes him to wonder. This includes a bathroom stall, his refrigerator, an espresso machine, and his work computer. This behavior, of course, leads to some forced time off, and by this point the customer service representative of the vending machine company, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts), reaches out to Davis after becoming intrigued by his letters.

What follows is a hard to swallow friendship between the privileged Davis and Karen, a low-income single mother dating her boss and a marijuana—or cannabis, as she prefers to call it—user. While much of what happens on-screen is difficult to believe, such as Davis joining a construction crew to help destroy a house just for a reason to use a sledgehammer, his relationship with Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis) feels the most contrived. As if unable to pick a theme, the film slips into piling one high drama scenario onto the next, but through the filter of Davis’s inability to feel anything. If emotional appropriation is a thing, this movie embodies it.

How much more can a rich white man take from the world just to try and elicit some sense of grief for his perfectly awesome dead wife? As Davis bitches to the void through his letters to Karen (which continue, by the way, even after he knows she’s reading them, like some real-life Facebook status update), destroys millions of dollars of material possessions many people would be thrilled to own, and then forces his sorry self into the lives of poorer and more generous people than himself all while ignoring his own family’s attempts to show him love, it gets harder and harder to feel any empathy for Davis. It’s a case study in indulgent and privileged grieving.

Vallée is ever ambitious in exploring the nuances of the human condition and, as usual, he creates a film that looks and sounds beautiful. He’s an expert at incorporating music, even if Heart’s “Crazy On You” doesn’t fit here as smoothly as he might think. I find obvious fault with Gyllenhaal’s character but it’s not to do with his performance. If given the chance to express a more complicated range of emotion, it would have been easier to be endeared to Demolition. Watts is likable but her character is a washrag for Davis to wipe his face on. But the standout of the film is Judah Lewis, who is the only one capable of breaking hearts as a teenager trying to both find and be himself. Lewis’ character is the only one portraying emotions that make some sort of sense: teen angst, passion, and uncertainty. If only the film was about him.

Way Too Indie Staff http://waytooindie.com <![CDATA[Way Too Indiecast 60: Richard Linklater, Jeff Nichols, ‘Preacher’ Preview, Tribeca Controversy]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44722 2016-04-01T15:20:21Z 2016-04-01T15:20:21Z In one of the biggest, baddest episodes of the Way Too Indiecast yet, we welcome two of the best directors in the game as we hear from Richard Linklater about his '80s college hangout movie Everybody Wants Some!! and are joined by Jeff Nichols, whose sci-fi thriller Midnight Special hits theaters this weekend as well.]]>

In one of the biggest, baddest episodes of the Way Too Indiecast yet, we welcome two of the best directors in the game as we hear from Richard Linklater about his ’80s college hangout movie Everybody Wants Some!! and are joined by Jeff Nichols, whose sci-fi thriller Midnight Special hits theaters this weekend as well.

WTI’s very own Ananda Dillon chats with Bernard about what she saw of AMC’s new Preacher series at WonderCon this past weekend, and if that wasn’t enough, the Dastardly Dissenter himself, CJ Prince, chimes in to talk about the recent controversy surrounding the Tribeca Film Festival and share his Indie Pick of the Week. Whew! What are you waiting for? Dive into the deep end of this week’s pool of ooey gooey Indiecast goodness!

And if that last sentence grosses you out…um…just hit play and enjoy.


  • Indie Picks (5:18)
  • Richard Linklater (18:42)
  • Preacher Preview (32:17)
  • Tribeca Vaxxed Controversy (51:13)
  • Jeff Nichols (1:06:32)

Articles Referenced

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Aaron Pinkston http://letterboxd.com/pinkstonaa/ <![CDATA[Movies and TV to Stream This Weekend – April 1]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44698 2016-03-31T18:07:22Z 2016-04-01T13:09:25Z One of the all-time greatest films, Bicycle Thieves is on-demand this weekend, plus some other classic movies available on various streaming platforms.]]>

A few weeks back, the next big plan for day-and-date home streaming was announced: a service called The Screening Room, which would work with exhibitors and distributors to offer new theatrical releases in the comfort of your own home for a premium price of $50. There have been similar ideas and experiments in the past that ultimately fizzled out, but this one seems to have some steam—big figures in the film industry, such as Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, have gotten behind it. According to Deadline Hollywood, The Screening Room will have its first big moment at the upcoming CinemaCon, where it will present to exhibitors. One of the stranger aspects of The Screening Room is the presence of Sean Parker, the man behind Napster and an early investor in Facebook—he isn’t exactly a well-liked figure for many in the entertainment industries, so it might be extra difficult for him to convince the powers-that-be of mutual benefits. Certainly, a $50-per-movie streaming service isn’t ideal for everyone, but it seems to have the best chance of breaking a new aspect for streaming cinema at home.


Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)

Sunset Boulevard movie

Recently, film critic Matt Singer wrote a piece for ScreenCrush looking at the strange ways Netflix recommends movies and television when filling their streaming gaps. An interesting realization in his research was how few of the best films of all time are currently available—at the time, only 33 of the top 250 films on IMDb. Classic films are certainly in low supply at Netflix, which makes the release of fantastic film noir Sunset Boulevard quite notable. The film won three Oscars (nominated for 11 in total—it was a big year for All About Eve) and has lived on in the cinematic consciousness as one of the best films about Hollywood. Currently #52 on IMDb’s list, the inclusion of Sunset Boulevard to Netflix alone doesn’t solve the streaming services classic film problem, but it definitely adds a must-watch film for all film lovers. On this note, Netflix has also added Stanley Kubrick double-feature A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, two other top-250 films, so maybe the message was heard.

Other titles new to Netflix this week:
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Series, Season 6)
Archer (Series, Season 6)
The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2015)
Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000)
Bob’s Burgers (Series, Season 5)
Breathe (Mélanie Laurent, 2014)
Hard Labor (Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas, 2011)
Mediterranea (Jonas Carpignano, 2015)
Mountain Men (Cameron Labine, 2014)
The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)


No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)

No Home Movie 2015

The same week Chantal Akerman’s final film has its limited theatrical release you are able to stream it on Fandor. No Home Movie is a documentary involving conversations Akerman had with her mother just before the mother’s death. This is a big week to explore the under-appreciated filmmaker with I Don’t Belong Anywhere, a profile of her work, also being released. After Akerman’s own death in October 2015, many film fans discovered or revisited her best work, and now that circle can be closed with her final film. Given her active presence in No Home Movie and the themes of mortality it explores, the film is a particularly resonant one.

Other titles new to Fandor this week:
The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas (Elina Psikou, 2014)
Lady Snowblood (Toshiya Fujita, 1973)
Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst, 1929)
Sex and Broadcasting (Tim K. Smith, 2016)
We Go Way Back (Lynn Shelton, 2006)


The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, 2013)

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears movie

Filmmaking duo Cattet and Forzani’s follow up to the amazingly bizarre Italian Giallo throwback Amer shows that they are clearly all-in on their stylish influences. Though it is a bit more narratively focused, the plot of The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is not the drawing point—the film is a kaleidoscope of insert shorts, close-ups and double images, cut to harsh music and sound effects. It is certainly not for everyone (check out our full review, for instance), but the insane nature of the film showcases auteurs who are making films like no one else today. Anyone with an interest Italian horror flicks should check out The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears on MUBI until April 28.

Other titles new to MUBI this week:
GasLand (Josh Fox, 2010)
My Best Fiend (Werner Herzog, 1999)
The Perfume of the Lady in Black (Francesco Barilli, 1974)
Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands (Peter Mettler, 2009)
Prospero’s Books (Peter Greenaway, 1991)

iTunes & Video On-Demand

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio Da Sica, 1948)

Bicycle Thieves movie

One of the most interesting aspects of iTunes Movies is their partnership with the Criterion Collection. Sure, you have plenty of opportunity to stream their selections on a number of services (like Hulu and Fandor), but the more the merrier—iTunes also allows you to buy the films, so that’s an added benefit. This week, Criterion is releasing Bicycle Thieves, one of the all-time great films. A staple of the Italian Neorealism movement, it’s stark black-and-white cinematography, complicated moral themes, use of non-professional actors, and overall documentary style will keep it in the cinematic conversation as long as we’re seriously studying the art form. Finally released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray, you can also rent or buy Bicycle Thieves on-demand through iTunes.

Other titles new to VOD this week:
Exposed (Declan Dale, 2016)
Justice League vs. Teen Titans (Sam Liu, 2016)
The Messenger (Su Rynard, 2015)
Of Mind and Music (Richie Adams, 2016)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)

Bernard Boo <![CDATA[Jeff Nichols Talks ‘Midnight Special,’ Fear-Driven Filmmaking, Adam Driver’s Big Future]]> http://waytooindie.com/?p=44706 2016-03-31T20:44:34Z 2016-03-31T20:37:05Z Like his 2011 film Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special was born out of fear, specifically the fear of losing his son. “I think, really, we’re terrified of losing them, so we’re going to try to figure out who they are to try to help them. Help them become the ones who manifest their own destiny,” […]]]>

Like his 2011 film Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special was born out of fear, specifically the fear of losing his son.

“I think, really, we’re terrified of losing them, so we’re going to try to figure out who they are to try to help them. Help them become the ones who manifest their own destiny,” the director told me during an interview I conducted a couple of weeks back. That fatherly fear is at the core of the film, though the story blossoms into something much bigger, touching on themes of friendship, homeland security, science, and religion, all in the mode of a sci-fi thriller.

Michael Shannon stars as a man escorting his supernaturally gifted son to a secret location, all while evading an armed religious sect and U.S. military forces. Aiding them on their journey is an old friend (Joel Edgerton) and the boy’s mother (Kirsten Dunst); a government scientist (Adam Driver), meanwhile, tries to understand the family’s plight as he tracks their location.

Terrifically thrilling and deeply affecting, Midnight Special is yet another showcase by one of this generation’s very best visual storytellers and opens in theaters this weekend.

Midnight Special

Some people consider your movies to be vague or overly ambiguous. That’s maybe the biggest criticism levied against you.
It’s funny how everybody wants to be polite. Obviously, I made the film with an open ending on purpose. It’s like, let’s talk about it! If you don’t like it…maybe, rather than just being entrenched in your position, if we talk about it, you might be illuminated on something. It was funny, I had a good conversation with a lady in Berlin about [the movie]. She had a very specific place where she thought I should end the movie. She was very specific about not liking the end of the movie, and I said, “That’s cool. Where would you end the movie?” She told me, and I thought, that would be a terrible ending! She was like, “Well, it’s right. That’s where you should have ended it.” I was like, I really don’t think you’re right! I didn’t convince her, but it was at least fun to have a conversation.

So you do enjoy those conversations.
I do, yeah.

I do, too. If I meet a filmmaker and I didn’t like their movie, maybe, and I get illuminated by their insight…I love that.
The reality is, making movies is really complex. It’s a strange algebra. There are so many variables that go into them. I would be shocked if you met a filmmaker who said, “My film’s perfect,” you know? I don’t know if I want to be friends with that person.

Tommy Wiseau.
[laughs] It goes beyond ego. I want these films to be conversation starters, so of course it makes sense that I would want to have conversations about them. As long as people don’t ask me too many specifics about things. It’s cool to see how people’s minds work on them and work on the problems I created. It’s cool to hear how people interpret things, sometimes random, sometimes spot-on, sometimes differently. It’s fun.

In some ways, this movie is like the Superman movie I always wanted in terms of tone and taste, do you know what I mean?
I do.

The existential crisis of Superman is something that’s seldom handled well.
That’s very interesting. I think Zack Snyder scratched the surface of it. I think someone—maybe it was JJ Abrams—was talking about [doing] a Superman film and he was like, “I just wonder how he didn’t kill anybody as a baby.” I know that there are other people who have takes on it. I never saw this character as a superhero—I just saw him as a boy. His illnesses I just thought of as being organic, even though they’re supernatural. The same thing happened with

The same thing happened with Take Shelter. To your comment, specifically—wanting to see a certain version of a kind of movie…This is going to sound ridiculous, but Take Shelter was kind of my zombie movie. Take Shelter was my take on all those cool feelings in a zombie film where people are preparing for a disaster or preparing for the zombie stuff. I just wanted to make a movie that lived in that part. Then you start to make it deeper and more meaningful and relate it to your life, but that was very much the case with Take Shelter and here [with Midnight Special] too. I really liked those movies of the ’80s and sci-fi movies from that period. I kind of wanted to live in that world for a little bit, which doesn’t negate, though, my approach to the story or how I broaden its veins into my own life. It doesn’t discount that feeling, that sense you get after having seen stuff like that. I felt that way with Mud, too. I had this notion of what a classic American film was. I couldn’t tell you one specifically, but I can tell you a combination of several. Cool Hand LukeThe Getaway…I kind of wanted it to feel like some of the things I felt during those movies.

Midnight Special applies to that. So many people try to make these one-to-one analogies with these films, especially with the endings and other things. Those are kind of lost on me. That’s not how I thought about them. I just thought about the essence of those films.

Hitchcock’s movies were driven by his personal fears. Would you say you’re the same?
Absolutely. One hundred percent. The interesting thing about Hitchcock is that he chose fear as a predominant format to work in, which makes sense because that’s best for directors.

How so?
The feeling of fear is most directly linked to the toolbox that a director has to work with. This shot plus this shot equals this feeling. This music here, this framing here. I’m not going to give you much lead space in front of your eyes, and that’s going to freak people out. It’s different in comedy or drama…they’re not really genres. They’re these feelings. Fear most directly relates most to what a director does. I approach it a little differently. Definitely in Take Shelter, there are some scary moments, and they’re intended to be scary. I was getting to use that toolbox. I approach fear more from the standpoint of a writer. I use fear as a catalyst. Fear makes for a scary scene—“This is going to be a scary moment”—that’s what I’m talking about with Hitchcock. What I’m talking about as a writer…fear is a catalyst for a bigger idea. It’s a catalyst for the thought that you’re trying to convey to the audience, which for me is always an emotion—it’s not a story. It’s not plot. It’s not, “I’m going to tell you a story about what happened to a guy.” It’s, “I’m going to tell you a story about how a guy feels.”

Midnight Special

Fear is a great place to start from. Fear is what motivates us as humans to get out and gather the food and build the shelter. It’s like a foundational element of humanity. But fear is only a catalyst. For instance, this film is about the fear of losing my son. That brings up a lot of emotions and other things, but that’s not a thought in and of itself. I can’t just make a movie about a guy afraid of losing his son. What does he do with that? What’s he trying to do with that fear? I think that forced me to think about the actual nature of parenthood. What are we trying to do? We’re trying to, I think, define for ourselves who our children are, in the purest way we possibly can. Sometimes, our own point of view gets in the way and we project that onto our kids. But I think, really, we’re terrified of losing them, so we’re going to try to figure out who they are to try to help them. Help them become the ones who manifest their own destiny. We have no control over that destiny. We have no control over who they become. At best, we can try to help them realize who they are and help them become that.

That became a thought. Fear produced that thought, which became the backbone for this movie. In Take Shelter, I was afraid of the world falling apart. I was afraid of not being a good provider for my family, or an adult, or a good husband. I was afraid of all those things, and there was a bunch of anxiety that came from that. But that’s not what that movie’s about—that movie’s about communicating in marriage. That movie’s about the foundational principles of marriage, which I think is communication. That’s why I made the daughter deaf. I think, in order to get that, I needed to have fear. Shotgun Stories is about the fear of losing one of my brothers. But ultimately that’s not what the movie’s about. It’s about the fruitlessness of revenge, a revenge that was born out of that fear.

I think there’s a huge misunderstanding among moviegoers in this country. People are obsessed with plot. That’s how they critique movies—solely on the plot! From the stunning opening of this movie, it’s clear you’re not interested in exposition. This is cinema, that’s it. We’re dealing with emotions, images, and sound. I wish more people appreciated that. I think maybe they do, subconsciously.
Maybe they do, you know? It depends on what people want out of a film. At different times you want different things. A lot of people—and I’m this audience sometimes—want escapism. Look at the way people use score. Score, even more than expositional dialogue, is the way to telegraph a pass, like in basketball. You never telegraph a pass—you never want the defense to know where you’re looking, because they’ll know where you’re going to throw the ball and then they’ll steal it. You can telegraph so much by having two characters speak, and then you put this music underneath it. Everybody knows they’re supposed to be scared, or they’re supposed to be happy, or they’re supposed to be sad. When you remove score, which I mostly did in Shotgun Stories, it’s very offputting to people. All of a sudden, they’re having to judge a scene on its own merits, not on this feeling that you’re giving them. They actually have to start listening. That’s just an example of my broader approach: If you remove certain things, people have to listen.

Some people don’t want that experience when they go to the theater, and that’s okay. I’ll catch you the next time, or maybe I’ll catch you on a Sunday night, when you’ve got a little more free time. It’s my job, though, to try and understand the nature of how people receive stories. It’s natural to search for plot. That’s how our brains work. I don’t hold it against anybody, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to challenge them through a new type of organization of information. Because that’s all it is—you’re just organizing information in a certain way so that it lands at certain times. My movies have plot. I just don’t think it’s the going concern. I think writers are so concerned sometimes with just making things clear.

I know that studios are. They test these things to make sure that no stone is unturned and that people are getting what they want. But what people want isn’t always what they need. I’m fascinated by story dynamics. I’m fascinated by what works for an audience and what doesn’t, what keeps them engaged and what doesn’t. If you’re not working on the edge of all that, you’re never going to have a situation where someone says, “My nails were dug into the edge of my chair,” and one person writes, “This movie is boring as hell.” I have to be okay with both of those responses. I don’t think I could get either if I was just trying to walk down the middle of the road.

About the opening, again, which I love so much…
I think it’s the best opening I’ll ever do.

Some people might consider it disorienting, but I think, for this story, you get exactly the amount of information you need.
What’s funny for me is, I think it’s so obvious. I’m wondering, like, will people just know that, once he picks the boy up into his arms in the hotel room, that obviously he’s not a kidnapper? Yes, they do, but since it hasn’t been so specifically told to them, they feel it, but they don’t know it yet. That’s a really great place to be. To me, it’s just so obvious. “That mystery’s solved.” But it’s not yet. It’s not totally solved. I have this line of Sam Shepard revealing, “The birth father, Roy Tomlin.” I wrote that scene specifically to be a surprise to the FBI, because they haven’t had the ranch under surveillance long enough to know that he was the birth father. The thing I’m wondering is, is it a surprise to the audience? That’s what I [mean] when I talk about narrative mechanics. I’m just so fascinated. When did you know? Here’s when I tell you, or here’s where I specifically don’t tell you.

Obviously, Joel Edgerton’s profession in the film—that was really specific. I remember giving [the script] to this young girl who was going to be a PA on our film. I gave her the script, and maybe she wasn’t the sharpest tack in the drawer, but she read it and just so clearly was like, “You have to tell us sooner that he’s a state trooper. We need to know that because I was really turned off when he did what he did at the end of the film. If I had known that, I’d have felt a lot better about his character a lot sooner.” She was so earnest in her argument. But it’s like, don’t you understand that you having all these emotions is part of the process? It’s part of the story. It just made me smile, and she probably thought I was a dickhead.

Joel gives you so much.
He’s a great actor.

In that scene in particular, he tells you what you need to know in how he behaves.
There you go! I thought it was pretty obvious. He walks over to the fallen state trooper and speaks in a way that no normal person would speak on the police radio. I was like, well, I’m just letting people know there. That’s what his character would do. A bad version of that writing would be [for him] to go over and say, “Hey, hey, there’s a police officer shot.” That wouldn’t be honest to him either. He wants that guy to get help. That’s why he goes and does it. He did not want to go shoot that guy. You could have Jeff Nichols the writer brain go, “If I have him speak that way, I’ll show my cards too soon.” But that’s as dishonest as having him explain that he’s a state trooper. Both of those things are dishonest. My fear for this movie…any shortcoming is when I might have been to purposefully ambiguous in a scene. I’ve read that critique, and I’ve gone back in and I’ve looked at it, and I don’t know. I’ve been able to reason out why they would behave that way. Point being, character behavior trumps all narrative desire.

I paint myself into corners all the time. It’s like, okay, I have this very strict rule about character behavior and dialogue, but I need this piece of information in the movie. It’s my job to craft a scene that allows that piece of information to come through, or we don’t get it. Then I deal with that consequence. It’s like an austerity to the writing you have to apply. You really have to stick to it. You really do.

Kirsten Dunst’s character is one of my favorite motherly characters in a while. You don’t see this stuff often. Without spoiling anything, the things she does, the way she reacts to things—it feels authentic, it feels real.
I think she’s the strongest character in the film. I think she’s able to do something the male characters can’t, specifically Michael Shannon’s. I’m not just saying this to gain the pro-women’s lib lobby. Watching my son be born and what my wife did and then what she did the year that followed…there’s no doubt in my mind that women are the stronger sex in terms of fortitude and emotions. I was very struck in high school when I read A Doll’s House by Ibsen. It’s about a mother that leaves her children. I came from a home where that would not be possible. But it is possible. That’s why the mother in Shotgun Stories hates her children. She blames them for her place in life. Their existence lowered her, in her mind. I was fascinated by the idea that there could be a mother character that would come to the conclusion first of what the inevitability of parenthood is. It made sense to me that a mother would be the one to understand the cycle of parenthood before the father, who has undeniably committed his entire life to the safety of his boy. It takes the mother to realize the cycle that they’re a part of.

I don’t think Michael’s character understands it fully or is willing to accept it fully until the boy gets out of the car. I think it’s important, but it’s also a big narrative risk. You’ve built this father-son story, the mother doesn’t come in for the first thirty minutes, and she’s tangential. Then you do this physical handoff where she’s the one who physically represents their position to their child at the end of the film. I had no idea if it would work, and for some people, I’m sure it doesn’t. I reason out, character-wise, why it would work out that way. Like I said, she’s the stronger of the two. I’m glad to hear you say you like her…because I like her.

That moment you mention where the boy gets out of the car broke my heart.
Good! That’s the one. David Fincher talks about how every movie should have an emotional punch in the gut. That was mine. I have one in each of my films. I’m glad you liked it.

Sevier (Adam Driver) is great, too.
Adam Driver is, in my opinion, going to be one of the most important actors of our generation, irrelevant of Star Wars. I think he’s that good. He’s that interesting. I want to make a detective movie with him really badly.

Why a detective movie?
Because I want to make a detective movie.

Because I’m a huge fan of Fletch. I just want to make a private eye movie.