Archive for September, 2011

Indie Roundup: ‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’

Take Shelter,” which opens in select cities this week, is a slow burn of a psychological drama but it builds to an explosive, if ambiguous, climax. Curtis is a family man with a steady blue-collar job. While knocking back beers after work, one of his friends tells him he has a “good life.” And, indeed, by all outward appearances, he does seem to have a good middle-class life: a house, beautiful wife, Samantha, and young daughter who is deaf.

Yet Curtis is plagued by nightmares of apocalyptic storms and unseen intruders that unnerves him so much, it starts to subconsciously unravel that good life. He soon begins making one bad decision after another that makes perfect sense according to the logic of his nightly visions but seem completely irrational to those around him. One of those decisions is to take out a home loan to expand his house’s dank tornado shelter, though his banker tells him it is a bad idea. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’’

Indie Roundup: ‘Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,’ ‘Weekend’

There’s a scene in “Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” which opened earlier this month in New York and is just starting to make its way around the country, where Angela Davis, one of the most influential and articulate leaders to come out of the Black Power movement, is being interviewed by Swedish journalists. She was in prison awaiting a murder trial that, in hindsight, was based on pretty flimsy evidence, and her usual poise and reserve started to crack a bit. As she recounted the violence that she witnessed at the hands of whites during her upbringing in Alabama, she looks worn down and tired, her eyes edging with tears. This icon of the time — lauded by some, vilified by many others — suddenly seems very human.

Culled from a treasure trove of film shot by Swedish journalists who flocked to the U.S. to cover the movement, “Black Power” is a fascinating mosaic of interviews and footage. There’s footage of other African-American leaders at the time, like Black Panthers Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver in their trademark leather jackets and black berets. Stokeley Carmichael is seen both giving acerbic, witty speeches and having a drink with friends. On a larger level, the movie captures the energy, enthusiasm, and impatience of the movement in the mid-sixties that collapsed into confusion and disillusionment in the ’70s, due to assassinations, race riots, war, and the spread of drugs. For anyone remotely interested in history, this movie will prove to be mesmerizing.

Also opening this weekend is Andrew Haigh’s “Weekend.” The movie concerns two gay men, Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), in the English city of Nottingham, who meet in a club, hook up, and spend the weekend together talking about love, sex, and what it means to be gay, before Glen permanently decamps for Portland, Oregon. It sounds like the sort of movie destined to appeal to a small specialty audience. At one point, Glen seems to channel the frustrations of the director when he describes one of his upcoming gay-themed art projects.

“Gays will only come because they’re hoping to see some [male genitalia] and they’ll be disappointed, and straights won’t come because it’s about gay sex. They’ll come to see things about famine, rape, disease, whatever. But not gay sex, not that!”
“Weekend” is too well shot, acted, and written to just be written off as the gay “Before Sunrise.” It quietly builds to a surprising, poignant, and heartbreaking portrait of two people struggling to communicate that transcends its niche.

Indie Roundup: ‘Drive’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn Talks About Being a ‘Fetish Filmmaker’

“I am a fetish filmmaker,” said Nicolas Winding Refn, director of this week’s movie “Drive.” “I just make films based on what I like to see, on what arouses me, and not try to analyze them, because if I do, then I can destroy it.”

“Drive” certainly feels like a fetish movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. The whole movie is sleek, heightened, and charged with something akin to eroticism, from the inscrutable expression on Ryan Gosling’s face to the gleaming surfaces of his car; from the languorous tableaux of nocturnal Los Angeles to the shot of Albert Brook stabbing some hapless gangster in the eye with a fork.

Though Ryan Gosling’s stoic visage appears on the poster, the true star of this flick is Refn. The movie’s opening sequence shows Gosling’s character — he doesn’t have a name in the film aside from monikers like “driver” and “kid” — plays getaway driver for a pair of nameless thieves. The virtuosity that he displays evading the cops — hiding under a bridge here, bolting into a parking structure there — is matched by Refn’s virtuosity behind the camera. In an age when actions scenes have devolved into incoherent camerawork strung together by spastic editing over a blaring soundtrack, the economy Refn uses here is remarkable. “Drive” might just be the best-directed movie you’re going to see this year. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Drive’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn Talks About Being a ‘Fetish Filmmaker’’

‘Restless’ Lead Henry Hopper Is In No Hurry to Be a Star

Henry Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper, stars in Gus Van Sant’s latest movie, “Restless.” This is his first film, though you wouldn’t know it based on his performance. He has the intensity, wildness, and vulnerably that is reminiscent of, well, a pre-“Easy Rider” Dennis Hopper. He has that rare ability to connect with the camera.

Yet, despite his talent, pedigree (his mother is actress Katherine LaNasa), and movie-star good looks, the 21-year-old was initially reluctant to enter the family business.

“I resisted being an actor for some time,” Henry Hopper told a news conference at the Cannes Film Festival.
Continue reading ‘‘Restless’ Lead Henry Hopper Is In No Hurry to Be a Star’

‘Restless’ Director Gus Van Sant Talks About Death, Movies, and ‘Twilight’

Gus Van Sant has had a peculiar cinematic career. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, he made his name with a series of indie movies such as “Mala Noche,” “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho.” They were groundbreaking tales of hustlers and drug addicts on the gritty down-and-out of side of Portland Oregon, but told with a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

With the huge critical and commercial success of “Idaho,” Van Sant was soon wooed by Hollywood. His 1997 movie “Good Will Hunting” got him his first nomination for an Oscar. Instead of following up this success with something that would solidify his standing as an A-list director though, Van Sant made one of the most curious studio flicks in Hollywood history: a shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho.” The end product baffled audiences and was largely panned by critics. It felt more like an expensive art project. Continue reading ‘‘Restless’ Director Gus Van Sant Talks About Death, Movies, and ‘Twilight’’

9/11 and the 2001 Toronto Film Festival

What happened on 9/11, as they say, affected everyone. My 9/11 happened far from the smoke and rubble in Manhattan. Instead, I was at the Toronto Film Festival. On a normal year, the place transforms into a concentrated version of Hollywood press machine, with all its hype, hubris, and self-regard. That day, though, the wheels came off. Movies suddenly didn’t seem all that important. Continue reading ‘9/11 and the 2001 Toronto Film Festival’

Indie Roundup: ‘Gainsbourg’

It’s hard to find an equivalent to French singer/songwriter/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg in American society — he’s part Bob Dylan, part Dean Martin, and part Johnny Rotten. He managed to get a teen pop star to sing a double-entendre-laden song about lollipops; he got a pair of international movie stars to orgasmically moan for two versions of the song “Je t’aime… moi non plus”; and sang a duet with his daughter about incest. And yet when he died in 1991, President Francois Mitterrand described Gainsbourg as “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.” The French recall his passing of a heart attack in the same way Americans might recall Kurt Cobain’s or John Lennon’s; it was a moment of national mourning.

Twenty years later, Serge Gainsbourg seems to be going through something of a renaissance. He had a tribute show at the Hollywood Bowl last month, featuring the likes of Beck and Sean Lennon. A documentary called “Gainsbourg and His Girls” — which centers around Gainsbourg, who was more charismatic than handsome, and his numerous gorgeous lovers, including Brigitte Bardot — is making the rounds on the film festival circuit. And, now, Joann Sfar’s surreal biopic, “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” hits the silver screen in the States. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Gainsbourg’’

September 2011

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