12 items from 2015
A healthy body does not always make for a healthy spirit in Andrew Bujalski’s “Results,” a wry relationship comedy about a team of personal trainers, their clients, and their shared desire for progress in and out of the gym. The fifth feature for the Austin-based Bujalski, and his first made with professional actors, “Results” is less of a departure for the writer-director than it might initially seem, as he once again homes in on a group of socially awkward characters taking baby steps towards maturity and (maybe) happiness. Acquired by Magnolia Pictures before its Sundance premiere, this delightfully low-key affair won’t pump major box-office iron, but will easily be seen by more people than Bujalski’s first four features combined, which is a very good result indeed.
A movie about personal trainers is one of the last things anyone would have expected from Bujalski, whose proto-Memblecore early films »
- Scott Foundas
Though "Zipper" is only the second narrative feature from writer-director Mora Stephens, she's arriving at Sundance with some clout. Her first movie, "Conventioneers," was awarded the John Cassavetes Award from Film Independent, which recognizes the team behind an exemplary piece of filmmaking that is made for less than $500,000. "Zipper" is a stylish, provocative political thriller focused on an exposed politician's interior life. Featured at Sundance for the first time, Stephens hopes her film will ignite a serious dialogue about contemporary political culture. What's your film about in 140 characters or less? “Zipper” is a political thriller about a hot-shot federal prosecutor (played by Patrick Wilson) on the cusp of a bright political future. But what was meant to be a one-time experience with a high-end escort instead turns into a growing addiction. His moral compass unraveling, his new demon threatens to destroy his life, family and career. »
- David Canfield
Boulevard Ballads: Baker’s Enigmatic Journey into Hollywood’s Facade
For those familiar with the cinematic offerings of Sean Baker, it will come as no surprise that his latest feature, Tangerine, focuses on a group of people defined, in part, by a specific locale, but are generally invisible as cinematic subjects. Hardly banal or niche, his work avoids labels by refusing to adhere to them, rather focusing on the “regular people” (as those in this current title are also described) within the frame. Crackling with an infectious, garrulous energy, he deposits us in the captivating hands of two black, transsexual hookers that journey back and forth from Sweetzer to Vermont Avenue along Santa Monica Boulevard over the period of one sun-soaked Los Angeles day. On paper, these labels sound crippling, but Baker is hardly a steward of melodrama, and transcends any and all assumptions with this title that recalls the »
- Nicholas Bell
Rarely has a performer striven so concertedly to shed any trace of his/her comedy roots as Sarah Silverman does over the course of “I Smile Back,” an addiction drama in which the acerbic comedienne gives the kind of warts-and-all, let-it-all-hang-out (body parts, fluids, etc.) turn that awards’ consultants dreams are made of. But Silverman’s performance is more than an attention-getting stunt, and it’s her hellish rendering of a New Jersey housewife under the influence of drugs, alcohol and mental illness that elevates director Adam Salky’s sophomore feature above the suburban-nightmare movie-of-the-week it otherwise often resembles. Even with the buzz sure to ignite around its Sundance premiere, “Smile” will prove a tough sell commercially, where more sensitive types will blanch at the film’s Olympian gauntlet of self-abuse, reckless endangerment and public humiliation.
Playing addicts of one kind or another has been a tried-and-true recipe for funnymen »
- Scott Foundas
Not everyone found much to laugh about in director Rick Alverson’s 2012 Sundance competition entry “The Comedy,” an extravagantly rude, confrontational and surprisingly poignant study of a dissolute New York slacker waiting to inherit his dying father’s fortune. And not everyone will be entertained by Alverson’s new “Entertainment,” an even darker, weirder odyssey through a soulless American nowhere, with perhaps the world’s most abrasively unfunny insult comic as our guide. But take it or leave it, Alverson’s fourth feature is singular stuff, and it reconfirms the director as one of the truly bold voices in the all-too-homogenous U.S. indie film scene. General audiences will keep a safe distance, but “Entertainment” should have no trouble finding a fervent cult to call its own.
- Scott Foundas
The sudden loss of one parent and the looming death of another set the stage for “James White,” a stripped-bare family drama that marks the feature directing debut of indie producer Josh Mond. Familiar in its general trajectory, but unusually raw and ragged in its emotional architecture, Mond’s fraught portrait of a mother and son in crisis sports a pair of knockout performances by Cynthia Nixon and “Girls” alumnus Christopher Abbott, and a vivid feel for wayward New York youths cocooned by upper-middle-class privilege, but little in the way of redemptive creature comforts. Audiences seeking spiritual uplift are strongly advised to look elsewhere.
Mond, who previously directed several short films, is best known as the longtime producing partner of directors Antonio Campos (“Afterschool”) and Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”), whose New York-based Borderline Films collective has carved out a certain niche of dark, provocative psychological dramas strongly influenced »
- Scott Foundas
Directed by John Cassavetes
Written by John Cassavetes
“Woman is a symptom of Man” — Jacques Lacan
A Woman Under the Influence (1974) tells the story of a marriage in crisis. Mabel (Gena Rowlands) is suffering from an unnamed psychological condition that is threatening to tear her family apart. Her husband, Nick (Peter Faulk), desperately tries to keep everything together but he is being stretched beyond his own sanity. The children are passive in the beginning until the finale where they become extremely defensive of their mother, pushing their father away, becoming angelic, innocent buffers to Nick’s violent attempts to break her spell.
Cassavetes depicts marriage in A Woman Under the Influence as a battle where two competing definitions of reality constantly clash. Nick is stuck in an ideal memory of his wife when she was happy, most likely before they had children but Cassavetes »
- Cody Lang
By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter
Gena Rowlands will be honored tonight by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which will present her with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its awards dinner at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles. The actress, now 84, made 10 films with her late husband, actor/director John Cassavetes — including two films for which she received best actress Oscar nominations, A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980). She most recently starred in last month’s indie dramedy Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, and had her handprints and footprints cemented in front of the Tcl Chinese Theatre on Dec. 5. She spoke with THR about her love for Bette Davis, how she first met her husband, and her first impressions of Woman Under the Influence.
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- Anjelica Oswald
Angelina Jolie added a dose of star power to the 40th annual Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. awards, which honored achievements in independent and world cinema.
Jolie, whose appearance had been whispered about but not announced in advance, was on hand Saturday night at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City to present career achievement honors to acting legend Gena Rowlands. The pair co-starred in 1998’s “Playing by Heart” and 2004’s “Taking Lives.”
Jolie followed an effusive and heartfelt speech from Lafca member Chuck Wilson, who proclaimed Rowlands the equivalent of Marlon Brando for her impact onscreen acting. Wilson then called on Jolie to introduce Rowlands, and the actress and “Unbroken” director delivered some very personal remarks, noting that she had studied Rowlands’ work when she was starting out in the biz.
She also nodded to Rowlands’ famed collaborations with her late husband, filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes, observing, “Every artist »
- Geoff Berkshire
We are huge fans of the Masters of Cinema series here at TwitchFilm, and their commitment to bringing masterpieces of world cinema to modern audiences in sparkling new editions. At one time viewed as simply "Criterion for the UK", MoC really came into its own in 2014, championing some fantastic examples of silent cinema, both from Germany and the Us, continuing their dedication to European masters like Federico Fellini, while also bringing us cult gems from the likes of Sam Fuller, John Cassavetes and Hal Ashby. The label secured first-run rights to Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess and wherever possible continues to release titles in dual-format Blu-ray/DVD packages, of which I'm a huge fan.What follows is my personal selection of the 10 best releases from Masters of...
[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
Los Angeles — It was pencils down at 5pm Pst Thursday afternoon as balloting for the nominations stage of the 87th annual Academy Awards drew to a close. This weekend, then — until the competition takes hold once again Sunday night at the Golden Globe Awards — provides a beat to breathe. But not too much. It's still the circuit. And this year's toasted talents were out in force Saturday at events like the morning's Film Independent Spirit Awards brunch in West Hollywood and the annual BAFTA Tea gathering down the street in the afternoon. At the brunch — a notable 30th anniversary celebration for the Spirits — it was a nice mix. That event has gotten bigger and bigger just in the last couple of years. It used to be a modest check-in at the door. Now the street is teeming with paparazzi and lookie loos. Team "Boyhood" was still in stride after Wednesday's soiree, »
- Kristopher Tapley
How would you program this year's newest, most interesting films into double features with movies of the past you saw in 2014?
Looking back over the year at what films moved and impressed us, it is clear that watching old films is a crucial part of making new films meaningful. Thus, the annual tradition of our end of year poll, which calls upon our writers to pick both a new and an old film: they were challenged to choose a new film they saw in 2014—in theatres or at a festival—and creatively pair it with an old film they also saw in 2014 to create a unique double feature.
All the contributors were given the option to write some text explaining their 2014 fantasy double feature. What's more, each writer was given the option to list more pairings, with or without explanation, as further imaginative film programming we'd be lucky to catch »
12 items from 2015
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