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The Punk Singer (2013)
Great Rock Doc!
One of the best rock documentaries I've seen. Well made, you really get a sense of Kathleen Hanna, everything she stands for and all she's been through. It's not a glossy profile full of butt-kissing. You get the good and the bad.
It's also a fascinating look at the riot grrl movement. Despite knowing the music, I was hardly aware of many of the details. It's about a lot more than just punk rock.
This is excellent filmmaking, about a riveting subject, that made me pulling out my old Bikini Kill cds.
In a nutshell, it rocks!
Broken Side of Time (2013)
A dark beautiful road trip. (and I had nothing to do with the film)
First off, for people who seem to think every good indie film review is written by someone associated with the film, I have NOTHING to to with the film, the filmmakers, the cast, any of them. I read these silly comments here all the time, and wonder why people can't just understand we all have different tastes. I think big action movies suck. But I don't write reviews claiming that every good review was written by someone involved with the production. It's just ridiculous.
That said, Broken Side of Time is a beautiful film about a woman's journey to rediscover herself, to start over, when she realizes the job she loves now belongs to 18-year-olds and she can't and won't compete.
The opening half hour is a brilliant piece of acting my Lynn Mancinelli. There is virtually no dialog during this section. Instead, we see and feel the internal pain she's going through to come to the realization that she MUST move on with her life. Anyone who's ever been in a situation where they know they must make a decision they don't want to make will understand. It's like knowing you need to break up with someone. We see how hard the decision is for her.
The zippo lighter scene kills me. First off, it appears to be the only light used in the scene. It's stark, it's heartbreaking, it's how humans actually behave in real life. And for the record, it's about 30 seconds, not fifteen minutes. But for people with ADD, well...y'know.
Once she gets in the car and begins the road trip home, at about the 32 minute mark, the film changes tone. We see her come to accept her decision, and even turn from a very depressed creature, into the stunning model she once was. And as she slowly gives up the vices in her life, we see her smile for the first time. We see her begin to enjoy life.
Everything about this film is beautiful. From the performances, to the music to the way it was shot. It felt real to me. I've been there. Every woman I know has as well.
Broken Side of Time is what an indie film SHOULD be. Allow yourself to get lost in her journey. You won't be disappointed.
And if you're looking for a comparison, it's very much like a French film. Think Blue Is The Warmest Color. Or the American indie film Starlet. That's the vibe. If your attention span is that of a 4-year-old, this is not the film for you.
Author of my favorite book makes a film about my favorite band
I'll say this right off the bat, I think "The 2nd Greatest Story Ever Told", the first novel by Gorman Bechard, is probably the best book I've ever read. It's about God sending his 18 year old daughter to save us. Of course, she's a Mats fan.
So, it's 20 years later, and Mr. Bechard delivers us a documentary on who I believe to be the greatest rock band ever, The Replacements. And, as he said at the Tampa premiere (and if you read the novel, you'll believe him), he might not believe in God, but he does believe in the Mats. AND IT SHOWS! And while everyone else will recount here how it's great to hear all the stories and such (I do love Robert, the guy from the farm, and Bil MacLeslie is a hot older guy I could listen to for days!), I want to talk instead about the filmmaking.
It's a music documentary, people...WITHOUT ANY MUSIC! As the bumper-sticker for the film says, "Kinda brilliant. Kinda dumb".
In this case its 110% BRILLIANT! Mr. Bechard makes it work. That's filmmaking! In fact, aside from recommending this movie to Mats fan and indie rock fans, I strongly urge fans of independent cinema to see this film. Forget it being a music doc, forget it being about the Mats, it's plain and simple a great movie. It's about passion, it's about how art changes your life, it's about how a band becomes a part of your family, how their music is forever etched on your soul. PASSION! It will also teach you things about success and insecurity, and about how a small band from the Midwest changed the face and sound of rock music forever. (Really, I thought knew a lot about The Mats until seeing this film. They story about how "Tim" was named is hysterical!) Put aside any misgivings you might have about there being no music (really, it's not missed), and give two hours to a great filmmaker who will take you to a place you've never been before. It's brave. It's beautiful. It's unique and funny.
To paraphrase someone in the movie talking about their song "Hayday", I love this movie. I love this movie. I. Love. This. Movie.
Friends (with Benefits) (2009)
After many years of wonderful but exceedingly depressing films (You Are Alone) and novels (Good Neighbors, Unwound, 9th Square), filmmaker Gorman Bechard returns to his comedy roots (Psychos in Love, and his wonderful first two novels, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told and Balls) with Friends With Benefits, a movie that is billed as a romantic comedy, but is so so so much more.
I was lucky enough to get a screener of this film to coincide with the world premiere at STIFF last week. Though I couldn't make it to Seattle, I nonetheless watched the movie on Friday evening, as if I were there.
You know it's a Bechard film right off the bat when some of the first words out of any character's mouth are "The Replacements, Husker Du, Archers of Loaf." That made me smile. It also assured me another rocking the free world soundtrack was approaching quickly. The StarSpangles kicked things off during the opening credits! Side note: the rights to the songs in this film would cost the average Hollywood studio a good quarter million dollars, and yet the budget here for the entire film was less than that. So it certainly says a lot about Bechard's film-making abilities that bands of this magnitude trust him with their music, and want to be a part of his films. That speaks volumes.
Friends is a simple enough story at heart. A boy and a girl, Owen and Chloe, friends since childhood, both now in med school, both too busy for romance, decide to become friends with benefits, and have no strings attached sex, to at least lessen their burden of horniness. Of course, they've been secretly in love with each other forever, and thus the problems begin.
And though they certainly do have their issues, it's nothing compared to their four friends, who at first warn them of the dangers of sleeping with your friends, until of course the temptation becomes unbearable.
I won't reveal what happened next, but will say that about the half-way point I thought, oh, no, I can't believe Bechard is going there. Such a cliché. Well, he did...but then within second, he went one step farther, the cliché was slaughtered, and all was well with the world. Friends With Benefits crosses the line, wonderfully and comically. I won't say which line, but trust me; you'll know it when you get to it.
I was trying to think of a good comparison to other movies, and I would have to say it contains the best raunchy humor of a Judd Aptow film combined with the sweetness of the best romantic comedies like The Wedding Singer, or The Sure Thing. It's a marvelous story (with amazing music) about love and lust and longing and sexual identity, and it so rings true to life because damn if me and everyone I know didn't experiment a little in college. It IS true to life. The acting is great. The cast is adorable. I want to go for a drink with Alison. I want to do dirty things to Owen. I don't know if the band in the film really play together, but they sure seem as if they do. The editing by Bechard and Ashley McGarry, also his writing and producing partner on the project, is fast and furious. Amazing use of split screens!!! The script is crisp, with dialog that real people would actually speak. The movie looks amazing.
OK, if I were to nitpick, the first 10 minutes are a little slow. But then, the first 10 minutes of most indie films are slow. Hell, most indie films are slow, period. And I'm not in love with one of the small supporting roles, but we're talking a few lines of dialog. It's not horrible, just not as great as the leads. Okay, I really thought Jessica Bohl in You Are Alone was the greatest unknown casting find of all time, but Bechard and McGarry somehow managed to find a half dozen unknowns as talented as Bohl. Don't know how, just hope it continues.
But really, once you get to Owen on his knees -- oh, damn, the dirty thoughts again -- suggesting that he and Chloe add some benefits to their friendship, well, the movie soars, it flies, and before you know it you're wiping a few tears from your eyes right before the end credits roll, then laughing again when an early joke finally receives its punch line AFTER the end credits.
Yes, I am a fan of Gorman Bechard. And though he really only seems to have a cult following, those that get his work truly "get it". The reviews of Alone or Psychos here on IMDb, or the reviews of his novels on Amazon prove that. One day the world will know what us few already do, Bechard knows how to tell a story, how to make you think, care, laugh, cry, how to turn you on. He's the best kept secret in the entertainment world. Friends With Benefits is just another great example of that. To paraphrase Chloe, it rocked!
Man on Wire (2008)
A valentine for the Twin Towers
This is the beautiful tribute the Twin Towers deserved. (And I don't mean the people who died within them on that horrible day, but the buildings themselves.)
It's a look at a more innocent time (we were actually more innocent in the early 70s...wow!).
It's a look at one man's impossible dream.
It's proof that we can do anything if we set our mind and heart and spirit to it.
It's a movie that will leave you covered in goosebumps, and believing in the impossible.
(I've lent this film to people who normally hate documentaries, and they've thanked me. Do yourself a favor, rent the DVD. No need to thank me.)
Psychos in Love (1987)
Psychos in Love is one of the most twisted comedies you will ever see. Way ahead of it's time, it's been ripped off by Hollywood (SCREAM!) and Madison Avenue Ad Agencies (the insurance industry's grape commercial...c'mon!), and I'm sure it's still being quote today by fans who first saw it two decades ago.
The new DVD is ridiculously cool! Extras abound. The two commentaries offer completely different takes on the film. Gorman's solo is like a great film class. The one with him and Carmine is funny and sweet. The making off made me laugh out loud. And the photo gallery is really amazing.
I love this movie. Along side The Evil Dead and Reanimator, probably my favorite in the horror genre of all time. Glad to finally see it get the DVD release it deserves.
A must have for any good DVD collection!
You Are Alone (2005)
Dark, candid & beautiful with powerful performances and an ending that will blow your mind!
You Are Alone is a beautiful, almost delicate film, smart directed, crisply written, with two complex and riveting performances, and a twist of an ending that no one will see coming, but will make you want to see the film a second time to go back and catch up on all the clues you misread.
The story, about a highschool girl who drowns her depression and awkwardness by working a few hours a week as a $500 an hour "schoolgirl" escort, and the depressed next-door neighbor who discovers her secret and hires her for an afternoon call in a downtown New Haven hotel, features breathtaking performances from both Jessica Bohl, as the girl, and Richard Brundage, as her neighbor.
Bohl as Daphne gives a breakthrough performance on par with Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary. She so captures a teenager's angst of growing into her own skin, and when she talks about always being in control, you start to realize she's not in control at all, but in danger of going over the deep end, which I guess in a way she does.
Brundage as Buddy is depressed, angry, heartbroken, a shell of a man. But it isn't until the film's startling conclusion that you grasp a full comprehension of his pain.
After a very brief opening segment, which will hook most independent film lovers, and have the religious right running towards the exits, we are brought into the hotel room. At first you're not sure about these people, or the film-making style. Shaky, annoying...like the characters. Until you realize their back story, told in short flashbacks. They're confrontational at first for a reason, and so is the camera. But as they open up, as the story settles down, likewise, so does the camera. And, I don't know, 20 minutes in, give or take, you find yourself unable to take your eyes away from the screen.
Having just seen the world premiere screening at the Brooklyn Film Fest -- where the director asked the audience if anyone expected the ending and not one person answered yes I almost wish the film were already on video so I could watch it again. Because thinking back now on some of the conversations in the film, particularly a very candid dialog regarding fantasy and climax, I really thought things were going in a very different direction. But I realize now so much of their conversation meant something completely different than what I imagined. I need to see it again!!! But as dark and sexual as much of the talk is, blunt to say the least, I found myself laughing more than I might have expected at some of its candor, which definitely falls into the "things we think, but lack the nerve to say out loud" category. It's very blunt, especially when you realize so much of it has a completely different meaning. Some of it will make you uncomfortable, especially if you're watching You Are Alone with a partner. You'll definitely have something to talk about perhaps argue about afterwards. Perhaps it should come with a warning: You SHOULD be alone when watching! The music is amazing. I would have come home, and purchased the soundtrack at my favorite online music store if I could have. The film looks as good as anything shot on film. After the screening director Gorman Bechard was asked what sort of process he used to get the digital footage to look so good. His answer: none. They couldn't afford it.
I have to give Bechard credit. I am a big fan of his two shorts, The Pretty Girl and Objects in the Mirror, but even they could not have prepared me for the complexities and surprises of this film.
To everyone involved: bravo.
Natalie Portman rocks my world
Okay, I'm a girl, with a boyfriend, but I'd be the first to admit it, Natalie Portman rocks my world.
Especially in this film, which without her I'd probably rate a 2. Julia Roberts is icy cold as usual. Jude Law is nice on the eyes, but c'mon now. And while Clive Owen turns in a memorable performance, it's Natalie's show. Her one strip bar scene with Owen is something I've watched a dozen times.
While the dialog throughout is rather stagey...who really speaks like this? (No one.) And the "surprise" ending a huge let down, Natalie's Alice is real, confused, sexy, thrilling to watch.
She got robbed of the Oscar!
Haunting, disturbing, will leave you speechless.
I wasn't sure what to expect. Another film made of stills like THE PRETTY GIRL. But this one surpasses even that. With an ending that will have you staring at your computer screen in awe. Truly frightening, depressing, the photography is spectacular as always, great use of sound...a work of art.
The Pretty Girl (2002)
The Pretty Girl is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, and easily one of the greatest shorts of all time. Using the style of La Jetee, Bechard captures the heartbreak of being hated for something you cannot control. In this case, a girl is singled out for her beauty by the other women in town who are jealous of the effect she has on their men. The ending startles, and will stay with you forever. A masterpiece.
The Kiss (2003)
A bad Lifetime movie
I rewatched this film on DVD and am stunned as to WHAT HAPPENED?
I was lucky enough to have seen the director's cut of this film in an editing room during August of 2002. Not that it was ever a great film, but it was certainly watchable, with some fun moments. Eliza Dushku, especially, was charming and funny. Really...she stole the film.
But now the fun is gone, lost to these insipid Billy Zane scenes (which had barely existed) and these voice-overs from the book that make me want to gag. Everything is so melodramatic.
I know the star is the producer's wife, but even she was so much better in the original cut. This cut really does make it seem like a vanity project, a reel for Surel.
Why hire the director of The Pretty Girl for such a task?
Having heard the film was recut from scratch, and seeing the final results, I can only wonder: WHY? Did the producers want to make it unwatchable? If that was their goal, they succeeded.
And if they wanted to give us the sappiest collection of mis-matched tunes ever, ditto.
I so remember the Getup Kids song "Mass Pike" playing during the road trip (when Dushku and Surel are driving in the red Mustang)...how cool was that? So cool that the producer pulled it and every lick of the director's music.
And the opening...this brilliant montage of Paris with a Django-type tune in the background...also gone.
What's left...a lot of Zane and Surel...overacting.
There should be a law here like in France where the director controls the film! The Kiss could be exhibit #1.