Posts Tagged '2011'

Indie Roundup: ‘Shame’

There’s a scene right near the beginning of Steve McQueen’s brilliant “Shame” where the film’s protagonist is in a subway car opposite a pretty redheaded lass in a short skirt. He leers at her with the cool appraisal of a jungle predator. She shifts, blushes, and steals glances back at him, looking as flustered and aroused as he seems impassive. It’s a scene of almost unbearable sexual tension, and McQueen masterfully lets it go on and on.

“Shame” made waves earlier this year for getting slapped with an NC-17 rating. The rating supposedly spells box office death, but this movie, which is rightfully getting Oscar buzz, might put that long-held assumption to the test. Sure, there is plenty of skin in “Shame” — it is a movie about a sex addict, after all. Yet McQueen manages to create scenes of a different sort of nakedness — emotional, spiritual — that are beautiful, unnerving, and hypnotic. McQueen was a gallery artist before stepping behind the camera, and it shows. Every shot in the movie has a beauty that recalls a painting more than a movie still. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Shame’’

‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ Director Sean Durkin Talks About Cults and Elizabeth Olsen

Martha Marcy May Marlene” is the breakout indie flick of the year, winning top prizes at Sundance and garnering near universal acclaim from critics. The film is a taut psychological thriller about Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman who at the beginning of the movie escapes a back-to-the-earth-style cult and moves in with her older, upper-class sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and her new husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy). The transition is not easy. Cutting deftly between her time in the cult and her time at her sister’s lake-front house in Connecticut, first-time director Sean Durkin ratchets up the tension in the movie as Martha spirals down into paranoia and delusion. If you’re a fan of early Polanski movies or last year’s “Black Swan,” you’ll probably enjoy this.

I had the opportunity to talk with Durkin about the movie, cults, and working with Olsen. Continue reading ‘‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ Director Sean Durkin Talks About Cults and Elizabeth Olsen’

Indie Roundup: ‘Melancholia’

Last year, Lars Von Trier hyped his latest movie, “Melancholia,” as the first of his movies with an unhappy ending. This is from a guy who ended his Palme d’Or-winning movie, “Dancer in the Dark,” with his lead actress dangling from the end of a rope.

Von Trier has a real gift for inciting controversy, as his cringe-inducing spiel at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where he compared himself to a Nazi, proves. His movies are no less divisive. You might love his movies or hate them — I’ve gone back and forth — but Von Trier’s works are never boring. I’d much rather see a flick that infuriates me, as “Dancer in the Dark” did, than something as tasteful and tepid as, say, “J. Edgar.” (And by the way, when did Clint Eastwood go from being a Hollywood badass to making the cinematic equivalent of Pottery Barn furniture?) Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Melancholia’’

Indie Roundup: ‘The Catechism Cataclysm’

The Catechism Cataclysm” opens with a meandering shaggy-dog tale about an old woman with a gun. The story is being relayed by Father William Smoortser (Steve Little), who can’t seem to draw any kind of religious relevance or meaning from the tale, leaving his parishioners baffled.

Smoortser is an unlikely priest. He’s an emotionally stunted man-child who seems more interested in heavy metal than in the Good Book. In fact, he claims that he got ordained because he really dug Judas Priest. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘The Catechism Cataclysm’’

Jason Biggs Talks About Marriage, Pies and ‘American Reunion’

Jason Biggs went down in cinematic history as the guy who defiled a dessert in the first “American Pie.” He was, of course, playing the hapless and ever-randy Jim Levenstein, a high school student who, along with his friends, vowed to lose his virginity before high school graduation. The movie was a massive hit that spawned two sequels along with a quartet of straight-to-DVD spinoffs. It also redefined the level of raunch acceptable in a comedy. It’s hard to imagine the “Harold and Kumar” movies or “Bridesmaids” without “American Pie.”

For the movie’s third official sequel, “American Reunion,” Jim, Michelle, Finch, Oz, Stifler and the gang are getting back together for, you guessed it, a high school reunion.

I recently spoke with Biggs over the phone. He confessed that I was one of the first journalists he’s talked with about the movie, and his responses had the free, conversational air of someone who hasn’t talked about a subject ad nauseam. Continue reading ‘Jason Biggs Talks About Marriage, Pies and ‘American Reunion’’

Indie Roundup: ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’

Martha Marcy May Marlene” opened last week in select cities, but I think talking about it on Halloween weekend is much more appropriate. Though there’s no shortage of horror flicks this season offering plenty of thrills and gore, there are few movies more quietly unnerving coming out this year than this film.

The movie opens on Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) escaping from an overpopulated farmhouse in the Catskills and disappearing in the woods. We later learn that the place is home to a back-to-land, Manson-style cult run by a charismatic leader named Patrick (John Hawkes). Later in the film we see that he starts calling her Marcy May, and with a song and a health drink spiked with a Micky, he manages to win her heart. Of course, that’s the way he wins over all the dozen or so women in the cult. Martha is so wounded and eager to be a part of something, she soon finds a place in the cult. That is, until she gets pulled deeper and deeper into Patrick’s crimes.

Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’’

Indie Roundup: ‘Margin Call’

The new movie “Margin Call,” which opens in select cities today, centers on a 24-hour period in a Lehman Brothers-like firm that finds itself on the wrong side of some very bad investments. First time writer-director J. C. Chandor could have made an overblown movie a la Oliver Stone, with clear good guys and villains squaring off in dramatic monologues against the backdrop of Hamptons mansions and private jets. Instead, Chandor, who is the son of a Wall Street stockbroker, offers a much quieter, and, one surmises, realistic, take. The film takes place in the sterile halls and boardrooms of a Manhattan office building. The conversations are tense and hushed. No one is an overt villain, with one exception: Everyone approaches the crisis, which could be ruinous to millions, with a completely amoral logic.
Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Margin Call’’

Indie Roundup: ‘The Skin I Live In’

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is one of the few directors out there — like Fellini, Kubrick, and Ozu — whose films you can identify from a single still. He populates his movies with bright colors and a heavy dose of kitsch. And they’re always gorgeous. His stories are often deliciously over-the-top melodramas involving sex, desire, revenge, family betrayals, and gender confusion. It’s a combination that has made him hugely popular abroad. Almodovar is the most successful non-English language director in the world.

His latest movie, “The Skin I Live In,” which opens in selected cities this week, has all the trademarks of an Almodovar film but is all together a darker, chillier work. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘The Skin I Live In’’

Indie Roundup: ‘Blackthorn’

As everyone who’s watched director George Roy Hill’s 1969 movie masterpiece knows, Butch Cassidy, along with his partner in crime the Sundance Kid, died in a hail of bullets in Bolivia. This week sees the release of Mateo Gil’s film “Blackthorn,” in which Cassidy didn’t die in a blaze of glory but grew old and grizzled while raising horses in the Andes under the assumed name of James Blackthorn. Sam Shepard plays the aging gunslinger who loses his horse — along with his saddlebags stuffed with life savings that was going to take him back to America — when he’s shot at by Eduardo, a Spaniard on the run. Instead of killing him, Butch takes Eduardo under his wing. In turn, Eduardo, who doesn’t know Butch’s true identity, lures him with the prospect of a fortune pilfered from a rich mine owner. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Blackthorn’’

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’’

June 2023

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