The Independent Spirit Award Nominees

As always, my 2 cents are in green. Great variety of films, many of them are on my list to see.

BEST FEATURE
50/50
Beginners
Drive
Take Shelter
The Artist Producer:
The Descendants

Glad to see 50/50 and Drive in there. Both two of my favorite movies of the year so far. Take Shelter is playing here, hopefully I can catch that soon.

BEST DIRECTOR
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Mike Mills - Beginners
Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Nicolas Winding - Refn Drive


BEST SCREENPLAY
Joseph Cedar - Footnote
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Tom McCarthy - Win Win
Mike Mills - Beginners
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - The Descendants

For some reason I thought Win Win would've qualified last year, It feels like that movie came out a long time ago. Haven't seen any of these films, but would like to.

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Another Earth 
In The Family
Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection
Seeing Martha Marcy May Marlene tomorrow! Very excited.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Another Earth
Margin Call
Terri
Cedar Rapids
50/50
Again, love that 50/50 is in here. Same with Cedar Rapids, though that movie feels like it came out so long ago as well. Terri is currently in my Netflix queue.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

Bellflower
Circumstance
Hello Lonesome

Pariah
The Dynamiter Writer
I have heard wonderful things about Pariah, I hope to check it out.

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Lauren Ambrose - Think of Me
Rachael Harris - Natural Selection
Alepero Oduye - Pariah
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Good for Elizabeth Olsen, already out acting her sisters. Michelle Williams will probably take this home, I've heard wonderful things about My Week with Marilyn.


BEST MALE LEAD

Demi├ín Bichir - A Better Life
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Ryan Gosling - Drive
Woody Harrelson - Rampart
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
I'm bummed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't nominated for 50/50, but Ryan Gosling for Drive makes me happy.


BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter
Anjelica Huston - 50/50

Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana - Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
How many movies has Jessica Chastain been in there year?


BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Albert Brooks - Drive
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
John C. Reilly - Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll Midnight in Paris
I love John Ce. Reilly, that's all I have to say about that.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Joel Hodge - Bellflower
Benjamin Kasulke - The Off Hours
Darius Khondji - Midnight in Paris
Guillaume Schiffman - The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron - The Dynamiter


BEST DOCUMENTARY

The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were Here

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

A Separation
(Iran) Director: Asghar Farhadi
Melancholia
(Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany) Director: Lars von Trier
Shame
(UK) Director: Steve McQueen
The Kid With a Bike
(Belgium/France/Italy) Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Tyrannosaur
(UK) Director: Paddy Considine
Lars Von Trier shouldn't be encouraged. I'd love to see Shame though, but because of it's harsh rating I'll more than likely have to wait for the DVD.

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Chad Burris - Mosquita y Mari
Sophia Lin - Take Shelter
Josh Mond Martha Marcy May Marlene


SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Simon Arthur - Silver Tongues
Mark Jackson - Without
Nicholas Ozeki - Mamitas


TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD

Heather Courtney - Where Soldiers Come From
Danfung Dennis - Hell and Back Again
Alma Har’el - Bombay Beach


ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD

Margin Call
Ensemble Cast: Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci

DVD Review: Last Night

To cheat or not to cheat.

That is the question pondered in Last Night. A posh, NYC married couple Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) are apart for one night. The night before, Joanna accuses Michael of having an affair with a beautiful co-worker, Laura. (Eva Mendes) Now they are away together at a conference. Meanwhile, Joanna encounters a past fling, Alex (Gulliaume Canet) and has dinner with him while her husband is away.

I liked how the film was shot from a character's point of view, drinking in the others. Other than the nifty camera work and upscale New York settings, not much else happens in Last Night. We know what our character's are about to do, yet we don't get to see the results of their actions. I will say that it was nice to see Knightley in something other than a period piece, and Canet was was completely charming. I'll be looking for more films staring this Frenchman.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "You can be happy, but still tempted." - Michael (Sam Worthington)

RE Post: Indie Gems: The Vicious Kind

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, happy Thursday to my international ones! Due to the fact that I'm out of town for work, I didn't get the time to post a new Indie Gem this week. (Or much else for that matter) so instead, I am re-posting my favorite Thanksgiving themed Indie. I reviewed The Vicious Kind back in March of 2010, Loved it. Hope you do it.

http://ramblingfilm.blogspot.com/2010/03/dvd-review-vicious-kind.html

DVD Review: Wasted

Pretend like nothing is wrong.

I had to watch this movie for my Addiction Studies class in college, I never got to see the ending. So when it randomly came on TV the other day, I had to see where the story went.

This made for TV movie was loosely based off of the huge heroin bust in Plato, TX. Sam, (Summer Phoenix) Owen, (Aaron Paul) and Chris (Nick Stahl) are inseparable best friends who get caught up in the drug scene. Owen's a full blown addict, Sam has low self esteem, and Chris is the track star that no one suspects to be addicted.

The production value is incredibly low, but in a way it works for the tone of the film. The movie is a great example of people who are battling addiction. The subject matter (i.e swearing, sex) is kept light, unless it's talking about the drugs. Then they go all out. That's why I think it's a good film for younger teens to watch. It's a great learning tool.

A film lover's opinion? Besides the lesson it teaches I found Summer Phoenix a terrible lead, that's probably why she left the acting to her older brothers. Nick Stahl and Aaron Paul have proved themselves to be great actors today, so it was a little interesting to see how they started out. I don't think they quite received the direction they needed.

Recommended Yes: for teens or young adults that need a lesson on addiction. No for anyone that's just looking for a good movie. (Go See Trainspotting instead)

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I tried to pretend that Chris had just stayed up late or had a cold. But I knew."  - Sam (Summer Phoenix)

Review: Melancholia

The final straw for me.

The final straw for what, you may ask? For Lars Von Trier films. Kirsten Dunst has been one of my favorite actresses since I was a kid. She always had all the cool roles in my eyes. Even though a lot of her films were geared towards teens, she still had acting chops to go with them. See: Interview with a Vampire, The Devil's Arithmetic. So When She won the Best Actress prize at Cannes, I decided to put my dislike for Von Trier aside and check out her performance.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) has just gotten married to passive Michael (Alexander Skarsgard, a far cry from the brooding Eric Northman on True Blood that I'm used to.) Her sister Claire (Charolette Gainsbourgh) and her husband John (Keifer Sutherland) have thrown them a massive reception at their home. Justin and Claire's relationship is strained to say the least. Justine is battling severe depression, and Claire is trying to help her through it. Meanwhile, a planet named Melancholia has been hiding behind the sun (yep) and is now hurtling towards earth. John says it will be a "fly by." Claire grows more paranoid and panicky the closer the planet gets. Although it's never quite explained why these sister's both have different accents. One American, the other British.

At least Von Trier admitted he didn't look at the possibility of Melancholia scientifically. He wanted it for merely a metaphor. A back drop. His direction is still overly pretentious and he still goes out of his way to try to be too "arty." The slow motion opening sequence was so ridiculous I had to fast forward it. (Thanks, VOD, it looked better in sped up mode too.) The classical music score was too up front and didn't blend with the film at all, it just added to it's ego, so to speak.  The most beautiful moments were when the camera was just taking in the scene. Those subtle moments that Von Trier probably didn't intend to be the best parts. They were. When he's so up front with with his colors and music is when his direction is the worst. In my opinion, anyways.

The sad part about all of this? Dunst gives the best performance of her career. She's brilliant, and Gainsbourgh is right behind her. These two ladies were heartbreaking and really captured the essence of depression and paranoia, even though Dunst's character constantly walked the line between sad and downright annoying. It's a shame that two great performances have to be hampered down with pretentious directing.

Recommended: No/Yes. I want to recommend the film for Dunst's performance, but the directing style is not for me. Not for me at all.

Grade: C

Memorable Quote:

Indie Gems: Red State

"Stop being so middle class."

The usually comedic Kevin Smith brings us Red State, his indie thriller that got a lot of attention at this year's Sundance film festival. Both good, (the film itself) bad, (Some people thought he was selling out/full of himself.) and hilarious. (the westboro baptist church tried to picket it) Oh, I didn't capitalize the name of that church cult because it doesn't deserve it...moving on...

Travis, (Michael Angarano) Jared, (Kyle Gallner )and Billy Ray (Nicholas Braun) are high school boys that answer an online ad for group sex. The woman behind that ad: Sarah Cooper. (Melissa Leo) Sarah drugs them and brings them to her religious cult led by Abin Cooper. (Michael Parks) When the police follow up with an unrelated weapons charge, all hell breaks loose.

It's pretty obvious that the Five Points church is a direct jab at the westboro church, they even name drop them at one point.  The film is brutally honest when making it's points about religion and politics and how they don't mix.  This is a very different thing we're seeing from Smith. While the motives of the characters are pretty obvious Smith still takes his time to explain them. The film is full of some pretty impressive camera work, I must say. Quick shots and some great chase scenes.

The ending isn't going to work for everybody. I myself, was a bit disappointed, but I still appreciate the fact that it's different and honest and stuck so true to it's point. In a way I wanted the typical cookie cutter ending, but that's not what was given, and I'm glad. Red State stands on it's soap box and makes it's point. It's damn impressive point. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Well he was standing unnaturally close to me.." Joseph Keenan (John Goodman)

DVD Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

Can someone explain the hype around Woody Allen films?
I mostly stick to my own tastes in movies, but at the same time, I like to have a film recommended to me by a good friend or a blogger I read. This is where Woody Allen comes in. I've never liked a single Woody Allen film, there are a few that I would label "ok" at best. Yet, everyone I know is in love with the guy. So I've been trying to give his films a go, and I seem to come up disappointed every time. Maybe next year's film starring two of my favorites: Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg will do the trick?

This film is a study of couples, betrayal, (is there always cheating in an Allen film?) and life in general. Helena (Gemma Jones) is recently separated from her husband of 40 years, Alfie. (Anthony Hopkins) Alife now has a new squeeze, Charmaine, who he hopes to have a son with. (Lucy Punch) This doesn't really set well for his only child, Sally (Naomi Watts) who finds herself attracted to her boss, Greg (Antonio Bandarass) and growing frustrated with her husband, Roy, (Josh Brolin) who's taken up watching his beautiful neighbor, Dia (Freida Pinto) through their window. Did you get all that?

My main reason for giving his Allen film a try is the beautiful and talented Naomi Watts, but not even she could save this mess. The film drags it's feet as it jumps from plot to plot and is otherwise, I dare say, just plain boring. What a waste of a cast of capable actors. They were held back by the story. I did enjoy the narrator, however. I thought that added a nice touch.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I don't want to keep doing this if we have to use a contraceptive." - Sally (Naomi Watts)

DVD Review: Bridesmaids

Lady Hangover.
When Bridesmaids first came out, I avoided it. It didn't look like my type of film at all. Then to my surprise, tons of positive reviews came in. So when it became available on Netflix, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married. Her best friend, Annie (Kristen Wiig) is her maid of honor, and this causes some friction between her and Lillian's new friend/bridesmaid Helen. (Rose Byrne) As they plan a bachelorette party, Annie and Helen must learn to play nice.

I should've stuck with my initial instinct, because I didn't think Bridesmaids was funny at all. There were some great one-liners, but it mostly wasted the talent of Wiig, Rudoph, Byrne, and Melissa McCarthy. I enjoyed the raunchiness of the movie, but the rest of it fell flat on it's face.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: I'm sure she welcomes him home, beaver first. - Annie's Mom (Jill Clayburgh)

Indie Gems: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

How would it feel to be trapped in your own body?
This is just one of the questions you ask yourself after viewing the French film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) is the editor of Elle magazine. He suffers a stroke and ends up with "Locked-in Syndrome." The only part of his body that he has control over is his left eye. He developes a code with his therapist as a way to communicate, and while he struggles with being completely aware and trapped in his own body, he eventually accepts it.

I know when you read the summary of this movie, you're probably thinking: "No way, that's too depressing." I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. The film is sad, it will make you cry, and it will make you feel so sorry for people that this sort of thing actually happens to. But it's the way this story is told that makes it special. Director Julian Schnbal chose to shoot a good portion of the fim from Jean-Do's point of view, and the cinematography is nothing short of beautiful. The music fits the film well and there's a dream sequence sampled from The 400 Blows that is absolutely stunning.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorabe Quote: "I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory." - Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric)

Review: In Time

When you know you'll be running, it's best to wear a dress and five inch heels.

In Time doesn't have the time to tell you how people ended up engineered with green clocks on their arms, how they stop aging at 25, or how time is now the currency. But it does have the time to tell you about Will Salas, (Justin Timberlake) a man from the ghetto who's given extra time by the mysterious Henry Hamilton. Will dares to cross time zones and fraternize with "rich" people like Sylvia. (Amanda Seyfriend, in a bad wig) Soon time keeper Leon (Cillian Murphy) is accusing Will of theft, and he and Sylvia are now on the run, and only have minutes to live.

In Time has an interesting concept, but it's littered with horrible dialogue, bad special effects, obvious stunt doubles, and bland acting. Timberlake and Seyfried have zero chemistry and their performances were completely emotionless. You can't put all the blame on the actors, the screen play doesn't give them much to work with. The gang subplot turns out to be completely pointless and while Cillian Murphy is creepy as the baddie, his character is disposed as quickly as he is introduced. This film has no heart. No soul, and no enjoyment. The funniest part of the movie to me? The fact that Sylvia runs all over the place in platform heels, and when given the opportunity to change, she chooses another dress and platform heels. Did they stop making running shoes in the future?

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "Unfuckingbelievable." - Will (Justin Timberlake)

DVD Review: What We Do Is Secret

It all started with a germ.

Shot almost documentary style, What We Do Is Secret is a biopic about The Germ's front man, Darby Crash. (Shane West) We start off with Darby and band mates Pat Smear, (Rick Gonzalez) Lorna Doom (Bijou Phillips) and their countless drummers in high school. They don't know how to play their instruments, they just decide to form a band and play a show first. The film follows them through their underground success in the Punk scene, and ends with Crash's overdose.

The first thing I noticed about this film was the horrible back drops. Parts of this film were obviously shot on a stage and the backgrounds looked horribly fake at times. The acting was hard to watch, when you read or watch interviews and footage of the Germs, you see that the characters in this film act nothing like them. You can tell a lot of effort was put into this film, some of the lines in the film were deep, then were muddled by the rest of the crappy screenplay. Shane West even sang for the Germs in real life when they went on a reunion tour, but the pay off just wasn't great. Worst of all, the film is forgettable. Unlike the Germs, who certainly left their mark in the punk rock world.

I honestly just feel bad for the movie. It tried so hard.

Recommended: No

Grade: D

Memorable Quote: "It's the Germ Burn. 40 years from now, you'll be getting groceries, and you'll see it on the cashier, and you'll know: They were part of it." - Darby Crash (Shane West)

Indie Gems: Bobby

He was going to change everything.
I know I'm probably in the minority over this film. When it first came out many critics hated it because it didn't focus enough on Robert F. Kennedy. After reading all those reviews, by the time I actually got around to seeing it I knew what not to expect.
 
 
Bobby is an ensemble drama about roughly 20 people who's lives are somewhat connected to the Ambassador Hotel. Some are staying there, others work there, we meet a slew of people and see what their lives are like on that fateful day in June.
 
 
The cast ranges from William H. Macy, Shia LaBeouf, Elijah Wood, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ashton Kutcher, Freddy Rodriguiz and Christian Slater. Not all are great actors, nor are all the story lines interesting, but they come together nicely. You could really feel the faith some of them at put into Kennedy, and how devastated everything was when he was murdered.
 
 
Recommended: Yes
 
 
Grade: B-
 
 
Memorable Quote: "Now that Dr. King is gone, nobody left but Bobby. Nobody." - Dwayne (Nick Cannon)

*Yes, I chose a quote coming from Nick Cannon's mouth. It's a rare moment of serenity from this guy.*