A year after his brother's death, Jack continues to struggle emotionally. This leads to his best friend, Iris, forcing Jack to go to her family cabin on an island in the Pacific Northwest so Jack can clear his mind and seek peace in solitude. On arrival at the cabin, Jack finds that he is not alone, as Iris' sister Hannah, emotionally distraught after the end of a seven year relationship, has also come to the cabin as a place of solace. A drunken night ensues where bad decisions are made between the two with things only getting more awkward when Iris' shows up unexpectedly at the cabin the next morning. Simply put, Your Sister's Sister is just strong storytelling, looking at the lives of these emotionally damaged souls. Lynn Shelton's screenplay is really the strongest aspect of the film, showing a great understanding of these characters feelings, intentions and limitations. Some films in this vein try to say too much, touching on broad themes which consequently feel empty by the end but Your Sister's Sister knows its purpose and limitations, giving the viewer a very funny, dramatic and emotional experience. The film touches on how problems and confrontations are bound to happen whether you love someone or not, and how it's exactly that love which will end up shining through leading to solutions of these problems. The cast is universally strong with Mark Duplass being his charismatic self, supplying most of the comedic moments. Rosemarie DeWitt would have to be the standout of this entire cast, bringing a truly well-rounded character, who shows strength, fragility, etc. Your Sister's Sister isn't anything particularly profound, but Lynn Shelton screenplay really delivers on creating character whose relationships and feelings are more interesting than most other indies in recent memory.
The story of a young woman who arrives in New York City preparing to commit a terrorist attack on times square. This film tells this woman's story in a very gracious, minimalistic style, perfectly capturing this somber story in a realistic light. We follow this young woman as she prepares to be a suicide bomber for one of the terrorist groups. From meeting her initial contacts at the airport, to the final act where she is walking around times square carrying out her mission, this film is incredibly detailed in it's narrative approach. It's fascinating to see all the meticulous details which go into planning such a heinous act, which can be quite terrifying to watch at certain points. At times the film almost feels like a documentary, making almost the entire film tense from start to finish. The climax of this film is particularly thrilling, which is when the realism of the film begins to have a particularly strong emotional impact. This film is definitely not for everyone given its slow paced approach but for patient viewers, who are more interested in a poignant humanistic experience than a political opinion piece, this is a phenomenal film.
Xavier Dolan's second feature is a beautiful film about young love and the search for one's soul-mate. Heartbeats tells the story of two friends, Marie and Francis, both who are searching for this type of connection. Marie is clearly someone who exerts a lot of energy and though into her appearance, wearing vintage clothing and makeup, reminiscent of an Audrey Hepburn. She is an intellectual type, making sure everyone knows it. Francis on the other hand is 5/6 gay (on the Kinsey scale) who maintains himself as well, like a Quasi-James Dean. A young man befriends them both, but when they start to both fall for him, things get fun. Xavier Dolan's aesthetic is rather fresh, using a lot of handheld, and slow motion at the right times, to bring us visually into the characters emotions and feelings. He chooses to have 3 or 4 scenes intercut throughout the main story of a few young individuals talking about their experiences with love. These character have no connection with Francis or Marie other than that they take part in the same struggle which everyone does. The insertion of these scenes is hardly necessary but it affectingly grounds the film adding a more cinema verite, faux documentary style to go with this stylistic story. The script is a very honest look into this search and while it is never depressing, it is real and genuine in it's depiction. I actually much prefer the alternate title Love, Imagined, as it speaks more to the plight of the stories protagonists.
Jeff, a 30 year old who still lives at home with his mother, is somewhat of a dreamer, unsure of where he fits into the grand scheme of things. While running an errand to buy some glue, Jeff sees things which he attributes as "signs of the universe" sending him on an unexpected adventure where he crosses paths which his brother, Pat, who he rarely sees. Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the latest film by the Duplass brothers is definitely one of their stronger efforts to date, though for me, that isn't saying much. The film is essentially about the nature of our universe and how one needs to both except what you can and cannot control, as well as embracing what really matters. Jeff the "everything happens for a reason" protagonist and his brother, Pat, the narcissist, serve a purpose but this is a film that's message is sincere but not very profound and really kinda childish in its optimism.. I appreciate this "Everything happens for a reason" worldview but isn't that just too easy? What about all the problems that Linda still has with her husband, Pat? Oh, it's ok cause "He want's to love her again", Are we supposed to simply say, OK, well it will definitely work out then. I've just seen this type of thing done far better in other films, but given that fact, this is a well paced story that is sweet, gentle and easily digestible. The Duplass inability to form any type of aesthetic above the abilities of a 5-year old is very present with quick zooms and camera movements that are both horribly unmotivated, distracting and quite frankly nauseating. All the negatives aside, I am a sucker for Jason Segel, who really brings a perfect combination of fragility and faith to his role. Really, he is by far the most interesting and redeeming quality of this film, as Judy Greer isn't given much in her role as Pat's wife and Susan Sarandon's sub-plot is rather unneccesary and even borderline laughable, never feeling part of the central story arch. The whole experience is warm and gentle much like our protagonist but because of this, most of the drama falls flat when it comes to eliciting emotion from the viewer.
The film opens with a narrator, welcoming the viewer to explore the horrors of an insane mind. These will be the only words spoken throughout the entire film. A young woman wakes up in a seedy motel room, apparently with no real recollection of how she got there. Subsequently, the rest of the film chronicles her night as she wanders the streets of Skid-Row, having encounters with various shady individuals, though she appears to be the most dangerous of all. Dementia is a wildly imaginative, haunting exercise in horror which seemed to break and manipulate nearly every typical horror convention used in narrative filmmaking at the time. The viewer is given a first class seat into the exploration of a mind which has been completely ravaged of morality. The film is very much from our demented heroine's point of view often blurring the lines between reality and imagination. Shot in a very Noir aesthetic, the film is full of expressionistic lighting, some elaborate cinematography and editing techniques that were more commonly found in experimental cinema at the time. Some of these techniques disorient and confuse the viewer, much like how the young woman is constantly unsure of where reality ends and her imagination begins. All aspects of the visual design are very impressive at helping to create this dire atmosphere while giving great perspective into the mind of this woman. The flashback sequence is my favorite section of the film, where we get to see where she comes from: her abusive father and not so good-natured mother whom he subsequently murders. These sequences take place in a cemetery where the furniture and actors look like they are in a stage play. We know this woman is disturbed, even witnessing some of her crimes, yet the film does show how she is bi-product of her turbulent past, though the film never excuses her simply because of the environment she came from. Dementia is essentially an experimental film that relies on a very basic structured narrative to beautifully give the viewer a detailed view of a warped mind.
Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl lives with her father in what she calls 'the bathtub", a small impoverished bayou community living on the other side of the New Orleans Levees. Hushpuppy is a beacon of childhood optimism in a struggling world which comes to be threatened by massive storm. Beasts of the Southern Wild is an original piece of filmmaking that is pseudo-coming of age story about perseverance against all odds. Young Hushpuppy routinely escapes to her extraordinary imagination, attempting to make sense of a world around her. Never breaking from it's point-of-view, this film gives a very in-depth look at this world exclusively through the eyes of young Hushpuppy. The relationship between Hushpuppy and her father, a tough-minded authoriative figure, is the high point of the film. At first the viewer questions this man's love and admiration for his daughter, only to become clear that he is very caring of his daughter, only hoping to provide her with thick-skin, ready for a world full of disappointment. The story unfolds naturally, and definitely has some interesting themes but I was really hoping for a much more poetic film that touches on bigger themes. For me the film seemed to rely far to heavily on Hushpuppy's voiceover, instead of actually achieving a poetic narrative about our humanity. Maybe I am being harsh cause I think there are other films that capture similar themes in a much stronger way, but for me Beasts of the Southern Wild is the type of film that is overpraised because of it's ideals and originality more so than its execution. I really liked the concept, was definitely emotional invested in the father-daughter relationship (at least towards the end), yet I don't think it was a deep as it could/should have been.
Alicia, David, and Craig are three 20-something aspiring artists who wander through art galleries and coffee shops as they sort out their angst and despair. Complications arise between the three of them when a love triangle develops, forcing the them into confrontation. From the onset, it is pretty clear that 'Three Bewildered People in the Night' is Gregg Araki's debut feature, sharing many similar themes of teenage angst, narcissism, homo-eroticism, and an intricate look at the relationship drama. The one thing that stands out about his debut effort is this tenderness which doesn't exist in Araki's later work, hidden behind the narcissism. These characters are caring individuals who clearly care about each other very much, yet they have these carnal desires which are pushing them both together and apart. We really get a great sense of each of these characters through the challenges they face, and while "whiney", one grows an attachment to the characters and their relationship dynamics. While the films of Araki's teenage apocalypse trilogy are stylistically aggressive, his debut reportedly made on a $5,000 budget, is a much slower, low-key effort with minimalistic lighting and visual techniques, though there are a few scenes where juxtaposition is used well. Capturing the emptyness and detachment these young, lost souls feel, adrift in the abyss of life is well rendered, clearly being a strength of Araki's unique voice from the very beginning.
_Julio, wakes up in a apartment after a heavy night of partying, pleasantly surprised to discover it's the home to a beautiful one-night stand he can't remember, Julia. Already quite awkward, things take a turn for the strange when they discover a giant spaceship is hovering over the city, which appears to be deserted. Things become more complicated with the addition of her boyfriend who comes looking for Julia, and an incredibly eccentric neighbor, who obsesses with Julia too. From the title alone, one would think 'Extraterrestrial' is a science fiction film about an alien life form making contact with earth. The fact is, anyone going into this film expecting a science fiction film is bound to be disappointed, as this film is much more a truly original relationship dramedy. The film's pace is rather tepid, yet never boring, slowly revealing more details of Julia's relationships with the various men, who as fate would have it, she is stuck with at the end of the world. As things progress, Julia begins to have feelings for Julio, as the two deal with possibly telling the boyfriend, oh and also the possible the end of the world. The film wisely uses some of the genre tropes, particularly paranoia of aliens being among us, to make this a fun, charming little character drama. The film doesn't really have much tension, much more settling into a quirky, oddball tone that works more than it doesnt. Going in, I honestly was expecting something more profound from such an interesting concept, but this is a nice piece of filmmaking that uses the alien invasion genre to inject new life into the somewhat tired relationship dramedy that is poetic and charming.
A cautionary tale about a young woman who was brought up by her father and mother in a strict catholic family. When she has an affair with her college professor, Theresa Dunn (Diane Keaton) becomes a sexual free-spirit, wishing to escape her oppressive family home and move to the city. What begins as rather innocent sexual exploration turns ugly as she becomes a slave to her own urges, spiraling quickly out of control. "Looking for Mr. Goodbar' is so sure in its conviction, that with the way the film ends, it almost comes off as laughable propaganda in it's overbearing nature. That being said, what envelopes the conclusion is a truthful, though maybe heavy-handed film, about a woman's fall from grace. Richard Brooks uses lots of great hallucinations, religious subtext and juxtaposition to create a harrowing portrait of this woman-letting the viewer really see things from her perspective. Through these hallucinations we see her wants and desires, her guilt, and her depravity. One of my favorite sequences is when Theresa learns of her father's illness: A nightmare hallucination using religious symbolism to express her guilt for her promiscuous lifestyle. While these sequences are at times a little much, they are nevertheless very effective. The film works more than it doesn't because Theresa is a character you do root for. Early on, we see that she is a good-natured person who is a very dedicated, and loving schoolteacher. These anecdotes only help to make the story more tragic as we see her late night sexual escapes and drug use begin to take over life, damaging her career. The transformation never feels forced to simply service the story, but it all feels character motivated. Diane Keaton does a great job at really capturing this good-natured individual who quite frankly has no idea the depths in which she has fallen. The film could definitely be shorter and I do think the ending is a little over-the-top, but kinda I honestly enjoyed this quite a bit regardless.
Tobi, a young adopted woman, is sexually abused by her stepfather. She feels isolated and alone in small seaside town, until one night where she meets a young boy, who is lost and on the run because his entire family is murdered. Tobi and the boy venture to the "Island of the Pirates", in the hopes of escaping from their problems. Any plot synopsis doesn't do Raoul Ruiz's City of Pirates much justice as this is an experience, where plot is secondary to emotion, atmosphere and spirituality. This is one of the most visually intoxicating films I have ever seen. Taking full advantage of a wide variety of color filters and surrealism, this film is a beautiful blend of image & color. It's a macabre type of spiritual journey through a woman's tortured soul, who is tormented by her past mistakes. The film is both dreamlike and nightmarish, perfectly transcending the two to create a sensual tale of civilization, life & death. The film is very uneven and it could have been more focused towards what it exactly it was trying to achieve, but I'm hard pressed to hurt the film for this. In the end I wasn't entirely sure what Ruiz was trying to say, but for my money, that only makes it better. Different viewers may take away completely different things, but it's definitely not for the novice viewer. This is experimental cinema, bursting through the seams with surrealism, leaving narrative by the wayside.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.