George Washington (2000) - News Poster

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Shotgun Stories

Shotgun Stories
Liberation Entertainment/International Film Circuit

Jeff Nichols' contemporary Southern Gothic tale indicates the influence of producer David Gordon Green (George Washington, Snow Angels) in its elegiac pacing and lyrical shots of depressed landscapes. But for all its formal elegance, this tale of a modern-day Hatfields and McCoys-style feud is far less interesting in terms of its narrative and characterizations. Shotgun Stories, recently nominated for a John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award, is currently playing an exclusive engagement at New York City's IFC Center.

Michael Shannon, who's previously excelled in such films as "Bug" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," again displays his compelling screen presence as Son, one of three brothers barely managing to survive in the bleak environs of rural Southeast Arkansas. He and his comparably named siblings -- Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs) -- were long ago abandoned by their alcoholic father to be raised by their embittered mother (Natalie Canerday).

The father moved on to a new life, finding religion, becoming sober and subsequently raising another family consisting of four brothers who enjoy demonstrably greater means. When the father dies and Son and his brothers crash the funeral to convey their disrespects, it sets off a blood feud that ultimately becomes violent.

The writer-director's attempt at a Greek-type mythos feels more than a little strained, and only in the film's quieter, subtler moments -- as when Son strips off his shirt to reveal unexplained shotgun pellet wounds all over his back -- does it achieve the effects for which it's reaching. Although it boasts excellent, fully lived-in performances and a genuine sense of atmosphere thanks in large part to Adam Stone's poetic cinematography and the haunting musical score by Ben Nichols and his band Lucero, Shotgun Stories never manages to be fully convincing.

David Gordon Green on "Snow Angels"

  • IFC
By Aaron Hillis

Writer-producer-director David Gordon Green became an instant indie darling when his debut feature, "George Washington," snagged four Spirit Award nominations and the New York Film Critics Circle's award for Best First Film in 2000. An impressionistic drama set in the South (as are many of Green's films), "George Washington" was primarily crewed by Green's fellow North Carolina School of the Arts classmates and alumni, including "Great World of Sound" director Craig Zobel and others who continue to collaborate on each other's projects. In fact, cinematographer Tim Orr and composer David Wingo followed Green through his next three films . "All the Real Girls," "Undertow" and his latest, the 2007 Sundance entry, "Snow Angels." Adapted by Green from Stewart O'Nan's novel, the film is a poignant small-town drama about relationships young and old, some beginning and others breaking, with a top-notch ensemble that includes Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Griffin Dunne and Amy Sedaris.
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WIP turns Green with 2 projects

WIP turns Green with 2 projects
NEW YORK -- David Gordon Green is in final negotiations to write and direct a screen adaptation of John Grisham's nonfiction book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town for Warner Independent Pictures and George Clooney and Grant Heslov's production company Smoke House.

In a separate development, WIP also has nabbed worldwide rights, excluding Spain, Mexico, Latin America and a few smaller territories, to Green's dark domestic drama Snow Angels, starring Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. Snow premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

Grisham's Innocent Man, which was published in October by Doubleday, tells the true story of Ron Williamson, a man wrongly convicted of murder who spent more than 10 years on death row in Oklahoma. WIP and Smoke House bought rights to the book in December.

The Grisham deal solidifies Green's move from small indie features -- the critically acclaimed George Washington, All the Real Girls and Undertow -- to working with name talent.

Snow is an adaptation of Stewart O'Nan's 1993 novel.

IFP Mart adds meetings, partners

IFP Mart adds meetings, partners
NEW YORK -- The 28th annual IFP Market announced a lineup of 186 new projects, with an 11% increase in film industry dealmaking meetings from last year and two new partners added to its No Borders International co-production market. Among the notable No Borders projects are Faye Dunaway's feature directorial debut Master Class, her long-gestating adaptation of playwright Terrence McNally's Tony-winning portrait of Maria Callas. Other notable projects still in development set to be discussed between filmmakers, financiers and buyers in more than 1,700 meetings include the Southern-themed Busted Down on Bourbon Street from director David Gordon Green (George Washington).

Undertow

Undertow
TORONTO -- In his first two films, George Washington and All the Real Girls, David Gordon Green emerged as a Southern filmmaker who could ably portray the natural rhythms of life and language of the rural South without resorting to cliches. In his third film, Undertow, those cliches, rather startlingly, are everywhere. In trying to make what he characterizes as "a balls-to-the-wall, get-him-by-the-gut-and-slit-his-throat kind of movie," Green loosens his grip on character. This time he populates his film with sorry white-trash characters possessing room temperature IQs even in the most minor roles.

Undertow is the kind of mistake a young and adventurous director will make. It should not deter him from making many more films that will enjoy acclaim for their subtlety and sensibilities. Even so, Green's rep as a key indie filmmaker might bring this UA release a modest success in adult specialty venues.

Talented English actor Jamie Bell conquers the Southern accent to play Chris, the malcontent son of farmer and taxidermist John (Dermot Mulroney). After his mom died, his dad moved with him and his brother deep into the woods to escape memories. Chris knows there must be more to life than farm chores but is unable to prove it by his current existence. So he spends his free time getting into trouble.

Wanting to attract the attention of a neighbor girl, he throws a huge rock through her window and winds up being chased by an enraged father and dog. Running in his bare feet, he leaps off a rooftop and impales a foot on a nail sticking out of a board. Yet, by God, he continues to run with that board stuck to his foot.

His younger brother, Tim (Devon Alan), is no brighter. He tries to eat things such as paint and mud, perhaps in the belief this will somehow help his ulcer. His idea of a good project is "organizing my books by the way they smell."

Then Dad's prodigal brother Deel (Josh Lucas) turns up. Just out of the pen and casting sly glances at everyone, you know this guy means trouble the minute he strolls onscreen. Only John can't see it. He offers Deel room and board to "help out" with the two boys. The minute Deel asks about their father's gold Mexican coins, you know what shape that trouble will take.

Once Deel has located the coins and killed his brother, the two boys are on the run from their homicidal uncle. Logic might dictate that Chris Call the police, but he dismisses this by mumbling, The cops'll think I did it. Why? you wonder. Who has the prison record here?

The chase is more a random ramble through the woods, where the boys encounter a well-intentioned black couple, who gives them food for work. Then, making their way to a small seaport, they fall in with a bunch of runaway kids about their age. Here Chris develops a crush on the pretty, abused Violet (Shiri Appleby), but before he can act on his impulses his uncle shows up, apparently willing to kill the two boys in broad daylight in front of whoever is willing to witness the murder.

The naturalistic style of the film is completely at odds with the hokey melodrama. The actors do an acceptable job at those long pauses and dialogue deliveries under the breath, but you can't help noticing the effort to play "rural Southern." Green, working from a script he wrote with Joe Conway, might have had the makings of a decent family drama here had the demands of a "balls-to-the-wall" thriller not diverted his attention.

UNDERTOW

MGM

United Artists and ContentFilm presenta Sunflower production

Credits:

Director: David Gordon Green

Screenwriters: Joe Conway, David Gordon Green

Story by: Lingard Jervey

Producers: Lisa Muskat, Terrence Malick, Edward R. Pressman

Executive producers: John Schmidt, Alessandro Camon

Director of photography: Tim Orr

Production designer: Richard A. Wright

Music: Philip Glass

Additional music: Michael Linnen, David Wingo

Costume designer: Jill Newell

Editors: Zene Baker, Steven Gonzoles

Cast:

Chris: Jamie Bell

Deel: John Lucas

Tim: Devon Alan

John: Dermot Mulroney

Violet: Shiri Appleby

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 107 minutes

Cowboy Pictures saddles up after six-year drive

NEW YORK -- After six years, indie distributor Cowboy Pictures will ride into the sunset, according to the company's president, John Vanco. Vanco will announce his plans in the coming weeks. Cowboy was founded in 1997, under the moniker Cowboy Booking, by Vanco and Noah Cowan. Cowan exited his co-president post last year. The unit released more than 40 films theatrically, including the documentaries The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition and the Oscar-nominated Promises and the rock docus I Am Trying to Break Your Heart and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The company also rolled out David Gordon Green's George Washington, James Toback's Harvard Man and Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar.

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