Archive for September, 2012

Indie Roundup: ‘Detropia’

Detropia” is an impressionistic portrait of a great American city’s ignoble decay and collapse. Detroit was the fastest-growing city in the world in 1930. With its huge manufacturing capacity and its plentiful jobs with union-protected wages, the Motor City was the birthplace of the mighty American middle class. Yet anyone who’s watched “Roger & Me” or has simply been paying attention to the news knows that the past three decades have been tough. The Big Three have steadily been exporting jobs to Mexico and China. The population of Detroit has fallen from 1.85 million in 1950 to a shade over 700,000 in 2010. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s movie is chock-full of statistics, but their documentary is not a fiery indictment à la Michael Moore. Instead, the film is a dreamlike elegy to the international power that this city once was and the veritable ghost town that it has become. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Detropia’’

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Indie Roundup: ‘Head Games’

Banging your head is common in sports. The skull is basically used as a missile in football. Heading the ball is a key move in soccer. And what would hockey be without checking and the odd fistfight? Yet as New York Times journalist Alan Schwarz deadpans in Steve James’s latest documentary, “Head Games,” “It’s been known for a long time that banging your head over and over and over again can be a bad thing.” That bad thing is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). At one point in the movie, Ann McKee, a researcher for the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy who spends much of her day slicing through brains with a bread knife, shows a slide of an affected brain from a deceased NFL player. Instead of a healthy creamy white on the inside, the organ is brown and spotted, as if it had been used as an ashtray. The afflicted are prone to memory loss, violent behavior, and depression. And there’s growing evidence that the disease might not affect just aging pugilists but possibly teenage or even younger athletes. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Head Games’’

Michael Shannon Talks About ‘The Iceman,’ the Oscars, and Just a Bit About General Zod

Michael Shannon stars in the upcoming gangster saga “The Iceman,” which premiered this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film recounts the rise and swift fall of Richard Kuklinski, a Mob enforcer who by some counts murdered more than 100 people. As the body count rises, Kuklinski manages to buy himself a piece of the American dream: a nice house in the suburbs, daughters in private school, and a collection of snazzy suits.

Anyone familiar with his work in “Take Shelter” or, more recently, “Premium Rush” knows that Shannon is intense. On the screen, there seems to be a deep, untapped reservoir of rage beneath his seemingly calm exterior. Every eye twitch and grimace hints at possible eruption. And when that fury does bubble to the screen, like during the climax of “Take Shelter,” it is positively electric. Continue reading ‘Michael Shannon Talks About ‘The Iceman,’ the Oscars, and Just a Bit About General Zod’

Indie Roundup TIFF: The Wachowski’s ambitious epic ‘Cloud Atlas’ plus ‘The Iceman,’ ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Barbara’

The Toronto International Film Festival always gives me a stomachache. Though I’ve watched so many movies a day that my brain feels like it’s dribbling out my ear, it’s never enough. There are so many that I missed, like Miguel Gomes’s “Tabu,” Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Penance,” James Ponsoldt’s “Smashed,” Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” Anyway, here’s my latest, and last, dispatch from TIFF 2012: Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup TIFF: The Wachowski’s ambitious epic ‘Cloud Atlas’ plus ‘The Iceman,’ ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Barbara’’

Indie Roundup TIFF: Bill Murray depicts a swinging FDR in ‘Hyde Park’ Plus DePalma’s ‘Passion’ and Doc ‘Room 237’

Toronto International Film Festival, Day-Three Screenings:

From a probable future Oscar nominee to a definite future Razzie nominee, here are highlights from day three at TIFF.

Hyde Park on the Hudson” — This biopic has, at first blush, all the hallmarks of a prestige Oscar movie. It stars a beloved veteran actor — Bill Murray — playing an even more beloved American legend — FDR. It’s set on Roosevelt’s estate in upstate New York, giving the film shades of “Downton Abbey”. And it features the same stuttering monarch from Best Picture winner “The King’s Speech.” Yet beneath all that decorousness and good taste, there’s something very perverse about the movie. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup TIFF: Bill Murray depicts a swinging FDR in ‘Hyde Park’ Plus DePalma’s ‘Passion’ and Doc ‘Room 237’’

Indie Roundup TIFF: ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ & ‘Berberian Sound Studio’

The talk of the fest continues to be “The Master,” especially after P. T. Anderson’s epic won a trio of awards at Venice yesterday. And while I’ve heard some very divergent reactions to the movie, everyone is saying that Joaquin Phoenix’s strikingly physical performance is astonishing. He’s all but a shoo-in, along with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman, for an Oscar nomination come January. I’m looking forward to catching it tomorrow during its second press screening.

Another movie that’s been getting a lot of buzz is “Seven Psychopaths,” Martin McDonagh’s follow up to “In Bruge” (2008). I went to the midnight premiere on Friday, and while the crowd wasn’t quite whipped up to level of a K-Stew sighting, they very stoked. The line to get in extended the length of a very long block. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup TIFF: ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ & ‘Berberian Sound Studio’’

Indie Roundup TIFF: ‘Looper’ director reveals film’s surprising influence plus ‘Thale’ and ‘No’

Toronto International Film Festival, Day-One Screenings:

Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller Looper launched this year’s Toronto film festival and it was a great choice. The movie has the singularity of vision and the integrity of an indie or art house movie but it’s on an epic scale with Hollywood actors; exactly the sort of movies that Toronto loves to showcase. It’s also just about impossible to talk about without spoiling it. So if you’re remotely concerned about learning too much about this flick, do yourself a favor and skip down to “Thale.” Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup TIFF: ‘Looper’ director reveals film’s surprising influence plus ‘Thale’ and ‘No’’


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