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Posts Tagged ‘indie films’

vanishing point

Vanishing Point: I dig neither speed nor metal. The combination of both on a desolate highway gets me as excited as a rabid wolverine at a veggie salad bar. This is why I used to sneer at anyone who asked me watch Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point. Imagine…a film about a half-maverick half-psychotic driver called Kowalski who is set to deliver a 1970 Dodge Challenger drives from Colorado to San Francisco with a tagline that says “it’s the maximum trip at maximum speed”. Hell, I thought I’d be laughing during the course of film, thinking about when some shitty Kenny Loggins song is going to disrupt an even shittier chase sequence.

Vanishing Point is probably the only film about cars that I have ever liked (apart from Rajasekar’s Patti Sollai Thattathe which kinda ruled). Finally I have something intelligible to utter other than ‘oh wow’ or ‘uhhh I see’ whenever my friends or colleagues start babbling about Choppers, Porsches and that questionably invigorating vrooooom sound that one of those BMW cars make. Instead of pretending to give a shit, now I can try my best to look cool and say, “go watch Vanishing Point fuckers.” Having said that, avoid the 1997 remake with Viggo Mortensen like you would the monkey plague, it makes Torque seem watchable.

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The sound production and cinematography were two of the biggest reasons (along with the storyline or rather the lack of one) as to why the original seemed vastly superior. The sound reminded me of those old Seventies rock albums on audiotapes… frantic, crafty and a little murky, but attractively so. The soundtrack  itself is all kinds of awesome; little surprise it is that Quentin Tarantino hails this film as one of his inspirations. On the visual front, cinematographer John Alonzo has had his way with the vast landscape of the highway and the sweltering sun up in the sky; no real surprise that over the next few decades, he would continue to inspire beauty in visually-stunning films such as Chinatown and Grass Harp. The detour that the driver takes into the sandy desert is beautifully done, with the tyre marks forming mysterious patterns that make a whole of sense when seen in retrospect. I’m also really glad that the Kowalski character (aptly played by Barry Newman) wasn’t prone to theatrics; no overtly heroic deeds, no moral dilemma and mercifully, no ‘ooh naked lady on the bike, must woo and screw” and “dam rattlesnake, must kill you with my fingernails” scenes.

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Blind radio jockey Super Soul (Cleavon Little), free-spirited chopper rider Angel (Timothy Scott) and the Prospector (Dean Jagger) play the kind, decidedly crazy souls who come to Kowalski’s aid. Despite the redundancy of their collective liberal state of mind, they really do fit in with the grander scheme of things – Kowalski’s journey. Let me pull the curtains down on this one with a comment by some bloke called Tom Darwin from IMDB…“stop wondering why Kowalski, on his quest for speed, is always being overtaken and passed by other vehicles; just put your brain on neutral, put your popcorn where it’s handy, and buckle up.”

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Lymelife: Indie films make me feel all fuzzy and warm. No matter how emotionally overblown or fantastically silly they are, most of them are perfect precursors for lazy Sunday siestas. The commonalities between them range from the lucidity in which the frames move from one to another and gratuitously ambitious soundtracks chockfull of bisexual alt-country guitarists to anticlimactic and most often abrupt endings and random A-list guest appearances. Some of them become so full of themselves that they actually end up making that uneasy transformation into big-screen blockbusters; even so, they still remain cutely apologetic of such popularity. Case in point, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno to a lesser extent. Derick Martini’s Lymelife is one of the least interesting indie films I have seen over the past few years, but that probably has more to the do with the quality of similar films. While it doesn’t even begin to sniff the greatness that is the list of indie gems such as Station Agent, Mean Creek, Thumbsucker, Igy Goes Down and many others, Lymelife still gets a minor thumbs up on the weight of few its actors.

Cynthia Nixon doesn’t count because she is a regular on that terrible sitcom. Oh yes people, there are certain things artists do that just cannot be forgiven. She could crap Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony Movement on cue, but I’d still hold that ‘Sex In The City’ card against her. Alec Baldwin is convincing as the assholish husband, but in the later parts of the film when he has to be more of a husband than an asshole, it seems a little less believable.

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The cake, if I had any, would undoubtedly go to Kieran Culkin who plays Jimmy Bartlett, a kid desperately seeking a young lassie by the name of Adrianna (Emma Roberts) and solace from his dysfunctional family. Timothy Hutton has a neat role too; he plays the Lyme-diseased Charlie Bragg who suffers just as many migraines as bouts of nagging from his wife. Most of all, I dug the ending and its lack of melodrama. Sort of like the Requiem For A Dream climax, but without the drug-infested gloom permeating the piteous decay of humanity.

The Big Nothing: Almost everyone reading this by now probably knows at least three of Ross’ girlfriends. They’d never admit it because lord knows – it is seriously uncool for an intellectual to confess to having seen at least one million out the eleventy billion episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Who in their insidiously pretentious mind in fact would? For someone who can probably hold his own in a trivia about the sitcom, I can safely say that Ross was one of the few characters I could watch without feeling the urge to stick a café mocha up my superfluous ass. I even liked that Run Fat Boy Run movie that had David Schimmer directing Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria! I like this one better and it has Mr Pegg in it too, but funnier, darker and more in tune with what made him completely awesome in Shaun Of The Dead.

Big Nothing

In Jean Baptiste Andrea‘s The Big Nothing, Schwimmer plays Charlie, a former professor who gets fired on his first day at a call center. Enter Gus (Simon Pegg), a scam artist who almost isn’t clever enough to count as one and former pageant queen Josie (Alice Eve) who convince Charlie to join them in a seemingly “snag-free plan to make some cash” involving Internet porn and men of cloth.

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Of course things go wrong; with hearts, promises, arms, words and skulls broken all at once. The climax did take more turns than I had cared for, but the final frame in which…well, you’ll see…works wonderfully well. Schwimmer and Pegg are funny as hell, especially the first time their characters meet. Something about Gus is so perversely pathetic that you want to slap really hard before telling him that things might be ok after all. Charlie is just one of those characters you end up feeling sorry for; then months after watching the film, one fine day you’d wake up finally understanding why you probably shouldn’t have.

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1992lessonsofdarkness021Lessons Of Darkness: About four summers ago, a bunch of us sat in front of the television and stared at Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out Of Balance) for a good couple of hours. With its visually stunning cinematography and grandiose depiction of nature, we could do little else but chase rainbow-coloured rabbits down the silver screen holes. Despite the oohs and aaahs it drew from our lips, (in retrospect, perhaps) I did find Reggio’s anti-globalization propaganda way too distracting. Sort of like the Bible; pretty decent content, but an almost piss poor commitment towards objectivity.

Documentary filmmakers should not establish a firm opinion on a subject before taking off the lens caps, I think. Few things can claim to be as beautiful as an artist’s disregard for morality towards his subject matter. I know that it’s almost wrong that there is so beauty in nonchalance, but Werner Herzog’s Lessons Of Darkness is perfect example as to why the fact remains so. He discovers rare beauty in the aftermath of the Gulf War. It’s quite clear from the start that Herzog has distanced from the humanity of the situation. He does not contemplate on George Bush, hungry Middle-Eastern kids and decapitated birds floating around in a pool of oil. Instead he turns on the night vision to watch bombs fly hither and thither like ghostly snowflakes gone mad. He precariously observes the ashes that fall like rain near the petroleum fields of Kuwait. In essence, Herzog does what he does best. He observes reality from a distance and then dismisses it from every diminutive perspective while taking notes of how beautiful it all could have turned out to be. And for the sake of our humanity, he chooses to make art, not peace. Watch Trailer

Sin Nombre: Despite Roger Ebert’s recent magnanimity in giving away three-star ratings as though they were oily French fries at a backyard barbecue, a four-star rating from him still demands a certain amount of inquisitiveness. Recently he wrote this about debutant Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre….” I want to say something about the look and feel of the film…Fukunaga’s direction expresses a desire that seems growing in many young directors, to return to classical composition and editing. Those norms establishmo-sinnombre20_p_0499702720 a strong foundation for storytelling; there’s no queasy-cam for Fukunaga” After watching the film, I can say that Ebert sure as hell does not whore out four-star ratings. The film, as he so aptly describes in his review, tells a story. Not the best one you’re going to hear all year, but still the rusty kaleidoscope through which the director communicates the story’s nuances makes it a very special one. This one’s about illegal immigration and the consequences it stems from and eventually releases onto society. The film revolves Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a hopeful immigrant who “crosses paths” with Casper (Edgar Flores), a reckless gunslinger for “terrifying real-life gang named Mara Salvatrucha”. Right the brutal storytelling of gang lives and train rides to Adriano Goldman’s picturesque shots of El Norte and Marcelo Zarvos’ original score, this is a fantastic film; one which works remarkably well because of the director’s attention to detail. Footprints’ Shane Carruth Award for Directorial Maturity on Debut for the class of 2009? Sure, why not. Watch Trailer

deadsnowDead Snow: It’s no secret that I nurture an odd sort of love for gory splatter films. Not slasher or horror films, mind you. I really don’t give a shit about what a bunch of teenyboppers did last summer. I’m talking about movies in which a dude’s kidney is likely to crawl out of his ass and go to work on his kids with a switchblade. Or those wonderful tales of deranged hillbillies frothing at the mouth and forcing you to watch them make fucking soup out of your best friend’s limbs. Haven’t seen that one either? Well, daaaam.

See, here’s the thing about gore films. They can be really, really entertaining (even those untouched by the genius of George Romero) and if you ask me, they come at you with a two-pronged pleasure pang (yeah that’s right). One makes you commend the directors’ genuine efforts at drawing chuckle or two with bloodstained caricatures and whatnot. The other pokes you right in the head and reminds you that sometimes unbearably stupid shit is hilarious. Norwegian indie-horror flick Dead Snow has that bit of the cathartic stupidity that made Malanowski’s Curse Of The Cannibal Confederates watchable during a very drunk post-graduation party. But this one has a lot more going for it too. Yes. Now watch me feverishly defend a film about skiers getting dismembered by Nazi Zombies from an aesthetical point of view since. Screw that. Dead Snow…blood on ice and twice as nice. Watch Trailer

bad_reaction1The Haunting in Connecticut: If you want to see a suburban horror film, go watch Exorcism of Emily Rose. Watch Sideways if you desire a whiff of the freshness that Virginia Madsen brings to Hollywood as an actress. Now if you feel the urge to stomp on the necks of kittens and crush their spines, watch Haunting In Connecticut. Horrible, horrible movie. Don’t Watch Trailer

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