Indie Gems: The Music Never Stopped

Author's Note: I'm going on vacation and may not have internet access. I hope you enjoy this Indie Gem, and I'll be back in early Sept! :)

Do you remember the first time you heard this song?
Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) has been estranged from his parents, Henry and Helen (J.K Simmons and Cara Seymour) for over 20 years. One day they learn he has fallen ill. He has a brain tumor that essentially prevents him from having any short term memories. Music has always played a huge part in Gabriel's life. His dad brought him up on it, he played it, and it's one of his musical shows that is the catalyst for him leaving home. They start to use music as therapy to help Gabriel remember more. It brings Henry and Gabriel closer together and helps mend their difficult relationship.
It's nice to see J.K Simmons front and center. He constantly steals scenes with his smaller parts in films, so it's nice to see him take the lead here. He was absolutely perfect. Lou Taylor Pucci continues his streak of great performances in independent films. He's one actor I'm surprised hasn't done more mainstream work. Maybe he's not looking for it. The bond between Henry and Gabriel is really something else. As the music plays, Henry softens up, and a smile illuminates Gabriel's face. They share plenty of tender moments, and needless to say. I completely cried like a baby during one point in this film.
Grade: A
Memorable Quote: "Time flies when you don't have a brain." - Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci)

In Defense of Anna Paquin:

Andrew over at Encore's World of Film and TV is hosting a very extensive "Essential Performances of the 90s show down." Go over to his site and vote on your favorite performances.
Andrew has asked other bloggers to offer their defense on some of the performances in future polls. On Sunday, August 26th, and poll will go up between Anna Paquin in the Piano and Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility. Both performances are great, but I'm going to promote Anna here.

Not many young actors can deliver a powerhouse performance like then 11 year old Paquin did in The Piano. Especially on their first film. Flora, in my opinion was the most complicated character in the film. She is angry, she lies. (possibly as a way of coping.) She's drawn into some serious situations that she may or may not fully understand. Paquin really nailed this difficult character, and it's no surprise she's had lots of success since then. Not to mention her Oscar acceptance speech was the cutest thing ever.

Review: Ruby Sparks

She's real.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a novelist who had success at a young age. He's still young, mind you, in his late 20's now. However, he's been suffering from writer's block. After having a dream about a mystery girl, he gets the inspiration to write about her. She is Ruby Sparks. (Zoe Kazan, also the film's writer) She's his dream girl and their relationship is perfect on paper. Suddenly, Ruby shows up in Calvin's apartment. After she begins interacting with the people around him, including his brother Harry (Chris Messina) Calvin realizes that he's not going crazy. But can he resist not writing about her again?

There's a part in the film where Calvin says something along the lines of "I'm not going to try to explain this." and "I don't know how this happened." The film takes that same approach. Who knows how Ruby appears out of thin air? It doesn't matter. What matters is their story. Kazan and Dano have great chemistry together. (no wonder they've been together in real life for awhile.) I appreciate Kazan's vision, it's hard for me to like romantic comedies, but she made me like this one. I just really enjoyed her point of view. I expected myself to make a lot of comparisons to Stranger Than Fiction, but Ruby Sparks has a totally different feel. Even if the ending was predictable, it was still a breath of fresh air that is greatly needed in this often generic genre.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "I like her little legs." - Calvin (Paul Dano)

Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Poetry in motion.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a whimsical tale about a six year old girl named Hushpuppy, (Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives with her daddy in 'The Bathtub.' A small island that's off the Louisiana bayous. As Hushpuppy puts it; the world is ending. Her father is getting sick, her home is being flooded, the animals are acting strange, than disappear. The polar ice caps melt and release ancient beasts called Aurochs. Hushpuppy and her friends and family must find a way to survive.

This is the first time I've ever watched a film, and thought it needed less dialogue and more music. The score in this film is beyond fantastic, I just wanted it to continue playing the entire time. Wallis, despite her young age really carries this film on her little shoulders. The last time a child this young did this well in a film was Dakota Fanning in I Am Sam. I see a bright future for Wallis is she chooses to keep acting. Another thing I found quite fascinating was the cinematography. I would've be surprised to see this around Oscar season.

Besides Wallis, I felt like the other actors were over shadowed by the great technical aspects of the film. I didn't care for how Hushpuppy was treated by her father, and we didn't get to know her neighbors well enough for us to form a bond with them. On a personal level, the whole act of people refusing to leave their homes despite the disasters that approach kind of got on my nerves, but that's a whole other story.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "A million years from now, scientists are gonna know that there once was a little beast named Hushpuppy. And she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub." - Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis)

Indie Gems: Half Nelson

The movie that reminded everyone that Ryan Gosling is a serious actor.

I think a lot of viewer's first exposure to Gosling was in 2004's The Notebook. It certainly was for me. I had seen films he had small parts in before, but the first time I actually noticed him was The Notebook. Those who caught him in 2001's The Believer already knew he was good, but I didn't have a fully formed opinion yet. Then came 2006's Half Nelson, which Gosling received an Oscar nomination for.

Dan (Ryan Gosling) is an 8th grade history teacher at an inner city school in Brooklyn. He tries to inspire his students by going a bit off course with his teachings. In reality, Dan is a hard drug addict who doesn't think rehab will suit him. One of students, Drey (the wonderful Shareeka Epps) catches him smoking crack in the girls locker room. She's got issues of her own. Absent father, workaholic mother, brother who's recently been sent to prison on drug charges. They form a relationship that is rocky at times, but ultimately it's meant to help on another.

Ryan Gosling is phenomenal in this to say the least. Him and his co-star, Epps give great performances. When I was initially watching this in theaters, a few of my friends thought something inappropriate might happen between Dan and Drey. I never got that feeling, I thought their platonic relationship was beautiful in the end. They made it through. I appreciated the symbolic ending as well. Going through an addiction is a hard thing, and while we want everyone to succeed and over come them, sometimes we just don't know.

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "One thing doesn't make a man." - Dan (Ryan Gosling)

The Liebster Award

It's been awhile since I've been tagged in one of these! As far as I can see, I've only been tagged here we go!

The rules for this award are as follows:

  1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
  3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to
  4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
  5. Go to their page and tell them
  6. No tag backs.

Here's 11 things about me:
1) My favorite season is autumn.
2) I'm a proud mother.
3) Besides movies, I love watching baseball, soccer, and professional wrestling.
4) I cry easily in movies.
5) I love tattoos.
6) I can't sing, but I do it anyways (to my steering wheel)
7) I faked a nose bleed to get out of a boring lecture in college.
8) I work with teenagers and I think most of their tastes in movies are horrible.
9) I've been to 8 different countries.
10) I always text my dad after I see a movie to tell him what I thought of it and vise versa.
11) My first movie date with my now husband was to Kung Fu Hustle. We both hated it. 

What is the first film you remember watching? The Little Mermaid. I used to sing the songs all the time.

- If you could pick one film composer to score your life, who would it be? Hans Zimmer. Whenever a customer was rude to me. I'd want my response to be followed with a:BAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMM BAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMM...BAAAAAAAMMMMM BAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!

- On that note, how much of your music library contains film scores/soundtracks? Probably 1/4 of it. Currently, I have the following soundtracks (or bits of them) on my iPod: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Juno, Kick-Ass (hated the movie, loved the soundtrack) Life Aquatic, Ameile, The Lord of the Rings, various John Williams, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Thirteen, How To Train Your Dragon.

- Do you have a prized film poster on your wall? The walls of my first place were covered with them. Right now I have them all stored, but I do have a Spiderman 2 banner in my garage.

- Film (as in 35 mm etc.) or digital? Digital. From working as a projectionist, I get distracted by splices.

- Favourite foreign language film? Ohhh this is hard. I think Pan's Labyrinth. But Let The Right One In is close.

- Not including 'director' if you could have any type of role in creating a film, what would you like to do? Cinematographer. I'd love to have a hand in shooting the film.

- Desert Island Flicks - pick 5. Go! Crap. I don't even like desert island flicks. Castaway. The Blue Lagoon. Six Days and Seven Nights? (that was an island, right?) The Beach (I think that should count.) Lord of the Flies. That was hard to do without googling.

- If you could only choose to watch either dramas, or comedy films for the rest of your life (and this includes black comedies), which would you choose? I think I'd choose drama. I tend to like more dramas than comedies, and there are still plenty of funny parts in them. I have a very specific taste for comedy, my taste in drama is broader.

- Favourite animated feature (or short, if you like)? A Bugs Life. I freaking love that movie.

- First film festival you ever attended (or wish you attend. I've only gone to my first this year). I've never attended one, but I wish I could go to the Sundance Film Festival.

I've had this sitting in my edited posts for awhile now, and since then literally every blog I follow has been tagged. Therefore, I'm not tagging anyone new. Everyone's already done it. I'll hurry up next time.

Comedy Ponderings.

One of the jokes I make quite often as a movie blogger is how my taste has greatly evolved. If you would've asked me who my favorite actor was at age 13, I would've told you Adam Sandler. His comedies were the best. Now I mostly joke about how all of his movies suck and how his humor hasn't changed in years. I don't hate Adam Sandler, I have a special place in my heart for Billy Madison and for movies like Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love.

Earlier this week I was telling someone how I will go see any movie with Will Ferrell in it. He's fucking hilarious, but he has made some pretty terrible movies. (Bewitched, Kicking and Screaming, Semi Pro) Will Ferrell has been one of my favorite comedic actors since about 2003, not to mention I think he's a fine dramatic actor too when the time calls for it. It just got me thinking, am I kind of a hypocrite for loving Ferrell and making fun of Sandler's recent films?

Is Will Ferrell just my teen/young adult phase as Adam Sandler was my tween phase? Jim Carrey would've been my child phase, I haven't enjoyed him in a full on comedy in ages, but I love him in I Love You, Phillip Morris, Eternal Sunshine, Man on the Moon, etc.

Maybe hypocrite isn't the right word. Maybe my taste in comedy is just evolving. With Carrey, he was all about slap stick, which is great for a ten year old. Sandler was a bit more PG13, he lit bags of shit on fire and acted like an ass hole. That works for fifteen year old. Ferrell is a bit raunchier, and is at his best when he's in an R rated comedy where he can drop as many F bombs as he likes. That works for someone my age.

In case you haven't noticed, I didn't see any new movies this week so I had to think of something else to post. Can anyone else relate?

Indie Gems: Red, White, and Blue

You know how they say some movies aren't for the squeamish?

Red, White and Blue is absolutely one of those movies. It shouldn't discourage you from seeing it though. This film is unlike any horror film I've seen in ages.

The film has three tragic leads, we spend the most time with Erica. (Linda Cardellini doppelganger Amanda Fuller) Erica has had a hard life, and she jumps into bed with nearly every man she meets. Except Nate, (Noah Tayler) he's also a wounded soul, drawn to Erica's cold nature. They eventually become good friends. Then there is Franki, (Jim Sturgess doppelganger Marc Senter) one of Erica's one night stands. His mother is ill, he's very unstable, and he learns something about himself and Erica that is going to ruin everything.

There is no good guy in this movie. Erica, Nate, and Franki all have major flaws. I stopped trying to see which one I could justify more. This isn't a "fun" movie to watch. You can't laugh like you would during a slasher flick when people run up the stairs instead of out the front door. There is nothing supernatural about it to make you jump. The film shows the downright ugly side of people. No morality, no humanity, no sympathy. That's what terrified me the most. There's people in the world like this. The film takes its time building up until the last 40-30 minutes when it gets downright brutal. I actually had my hand over my mouth during the last 10 minutes or so. The director deliberately cuts some scenes short so that the aftermath is left up to the viewer. While some details were sketchy, I thought it worked for the most part. The only thing that stops me from giving this movie an "A" is the acting/dialogue. Fuller and Taylor are good enough, Senter lacks a bit. As does the script at times, but in a movie like this, dialogue is pretty secondary to the point they are trying to make.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: (and possibly the most disturbing line in the film) "You have two choices: Would you like to live without your mommy and daddy? Or die with them." - Nate (Noah Taylor)

DVD Review: Marwencol

His world was stolen, so he made a world of his own.

I'm often interested by documentaries, but it's rare that I'm actually moved by one. I tend to look at docs as I would at something at work. Or for when I was in school, I'd look at it as my studies. As something new that I could learn. Marwencol felt different. This isn't a subject like a flawed school system or a case gone to trial. This was a look inside the world that Mark Hogancamp created.

Mark Hogancamp was beaten by 5 men outside of a bar one night. Beaten so badly that he was left in a coma and awoke with permanent brain damage. Unable to afford proper health care, he builds a model WWII era town in his back yard. He populates it with dolls based off of his friends, family, and acquaintances. This is therapy for him. It helps him regain his coordination, his concentration,  and it helps him vent his anger. He captures his world in pictures, and eventually is discovered. His photos are published, and now his therapy is being called "art."

It's heart breaking what happened to Mark Hogancamp. The reason for the beating is strategically placed towards the end of the film. He keeps his sense of humor throughout, and the ending was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It's hard to describe why Marwencol feels so different than any documentary I've seen, perhaps you'll have to see it for yourself.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Look mom, you're tending bar!" - Mark Hogancamp

Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

Bring your own weapons.

When an ad in the paper seeking a partner for time travel comes to his attention. Magazine reporter Jeff, (Jake M. Johnson) and his two interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) seek out of man that posted the ad, Kenneth. (Mark Duplass) It's Darius who befriends Kenneth, and becomes his new partner in crime, but what's really behind all of this? Is he really building a time machine?

Aubrey Plaza's deadpan delivery is perfect for this film. She really owns her role and is fun to watch. The rest of the cast is great as well. The budding relationship between Darius and Kenneth is what drives the film, with Arnau and Jeff filling in the gaps with Jeff trying to score with an old girlfriend, and Arnau eventually just letting lose. One of the things I really liked was that they shot in Washington. I love it there. Sure it might be rainy and grey, but there's something beautiful about it. It's just a place I thoroughly enjoy, and it's nice to see it in a film.

Safety Not Guaranteed goes by fairly quickly, but it stays humorous and touching through out. There's plenty of surprises throughout.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You know those really tight leggings girls wear? Do you wear those?" - Arnau (Karan Soni)

Indie Gems: Lords of Dogtown

They came from nothing, to change everything.

Ahh Catherine Hardwicke before she ruined her career with Twilight. I miss when she directed movies like this and Thirteen.

Lords of Dogtown is a take on the now famous Z-Boys. Stacy Peralta, (John Robertson) Jay Adams, (Emile Hirsch)  and Tony Alva. (Victor Rasuk) Growing up in Santa Monica, CA they perfect their skate boarding on piers, empty pools, and where ever they can. Eventually they form a team, led by alcoholic Skip (Heath Ledger) and start competing professionally. Egos get in the way, and friendships are tested.

Lords of Dogtown is special to me because I used to love skateboarding. I never was the best, but I had friends that were good and I enjoy watching it all around. I was even fortunate enough to meet Stacy Peralta when I was a kid. The movie just feels real. You almost forget you're watching a production, you could just as easily be watching something your friend's shot on their own video cameras. Or you could even just be a bystander. The performances are fitting, some are better than others. (Ledger, Hirsch, Michael Angarano) This is what director Hardwicke used to be good at before she brought silly love stories to our screens. She shot teenagers the way they should be shot: Raw, impulsive, making bad decisions, and learning valuable lessons.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "A logo, screw the team! I have a logo!" - Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk)

Movies With Bad Reputations

While I was snooping on Twitter I noticed two people I follow were talking about the film The Brown Bunny. I immediately thought; "wasn't that the film where Chloe Sevigny actually blew some guy on screen?"

It is, in case you were wondering. That's a horrible way to remember a film, but it happens. Some movies just have bad reputations. This inspired me to throw together a quick list of movies that have bad reputations. (In my opinion, anyways)

**Possible Spoiler Alerts Will Follow**

The Brown Bunny
Reputation: As stated above, the movie where Chloe Sevigny actually blew some guy on screen.

Reputation: The movie that was so bizarre that director Terry Gilliam actually had to explain himself on a DVD extra before the film starts.

Reputation: A porno with a plot.

Reputation: The Dakota Fanning Rape movie. (Even though said scene is about 20 seconds long and filmed in pitch black.)

The Wicker Man
Reputation: A remake that cannot be taken seriously because Nicolas Cage is ridiculous.

Reputation: James Cameron's remake of Fern Gully. And Pocahontas. And Dances With Wolves.

Dead Man on Campus
Reputation: The "are you fucking kidding me" of college policies.

Reputation: The movie with so many plot holes it was released direct to DOWNLOAD instead of direct to video.

Oliver Twist (2005 version)
Reputation: You let your kids be in a Roman Polanski movie? ( I know many will disagree with this one, but I've heard this joke enough to make my list)

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)
Reputation: You think 3 people sewed ass to mouth is extreme? I raise you 9 more..

Reputation: Hipsters: The Movie.

What movies would you add here?