Happy Turkey Time, y’all! Hope your day is full of family and fun. We’ve got a great battle episode to kick off the season, and it features some holiday gems you probably haven’t seen in awhile. Which film reigns supreme as the best Thanksgiving flick? Check out the episode and hear for yourself!
We always dig on the Spirit Awards around here, it’s sort of our bread and butter of award shows. I just can’t believe it’s that time already; ya know, award season.
These nominees are fun to look through, it makes me happy to see things I’ve loved throughout the year getting some hat tips (Bone Tomahawk, It Follows, Beasts of No Nation, Love & Mercy, etc.), it makes me realize all of things I need to catch up on (Girlhood, Anomalisa, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, etc.) and gets me excited for the things to look forward to (Carol).
Here’s the list of the best 2015 had to offer in independent studio cinema…
Beasts of No Nation
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk
Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend
Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea
Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine
Instantly recognizable as a Terrence Malick film, Knight of Cups has the same low-and-wide photography, the philosophical voice-overs, the general human malaise peppered with joy, that has been his signature directorial style since his coming out of hiatus with 1999s The Thin Red Line. Christian Bale plays a rich asshole in California who is reflecting on whether rich asshole was a good of life-goal. Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman co-star, and he extended cast is across the board exceptional: Imogen Poots, Kevin Corrigan, Brian Dennehy, Jason Clarke, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shea Whigham, Ryan O’Neal, Ben Kingsley, Michael Wincott, Nick Offerman, Wes Bentley, (and Antonio Banderas is apparently on hand in the trailer to reflect women as fruit flavours.)
Whether or not the subject matter is appealing to you, the West coast vistas, and insides of mansions and nightclubs make this one of the top visual looking films of the year.
Director: Phillip Baribeau
Starring: Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, Thomas Glover, Ben Thamer
Running Time: 106 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
As regular readers (if I have any) will know, I’ve been developing a great love of Westerns over the last few years. I’m interested in everything cowboy related at the moment and being a big documentary fan too I was chomping at the bit (pun intended) when I heard Dogwoof were releasing Unbranded, a film that looked to combine those interests.
OK, so it isn’t about cowboys as such and doesn’t examine the traditional ‘Wild West’ period, but Phillip Baribeau’s documentary certainly has the spirit of the American frontier embedded in its soul.
Unbranded charts the expedition of four young men (led by Ben Masters) who set out to prove the worth of American wild horses (a.k.a. mustangs) by taking thirteen of them on a long and treacherous journey from Mexico to Canada. Covering a whopping 3,000 miles, their path takes them over rugged and perilous terrain, testing the abilities of and relationships between the men and their animals.
The film also looks at the issues caused by the mustang population in the US. The free-roaming horses and burros of the United States are managed and protected by the government, but, partly because of their protection, their numbers are growing rapidly and they are damaging the environment around them. This has caused a passionate debate from different sides of the argument as to what should be done. The film presents these in amongst the trials and tribulations of Masters and his team.
Such a weird time in movie world. While there’s all manner of great content on the boob tube, the theaters are kind of vague and scary at the moment. Mostly everything is getting strange release locations/dates, is tough to gauge quality, we’ve never heard of it or it simply just looks mediocre. Which is why we were so happy to gamble on one and get it right with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. For Kurt, this is end of the year award fodder; and Andrew’s not fair behind on the agreement train. Since Fincher’s Zodiac get thrown around a bit in the discussion, we use the only Watch List title this week, Se7en, as a bit of an excuse to talk even more about Spotlight. And that just about does it – sorrynotsorry for the brevity this week.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
Director: Philip Ridley
Screenplay: Philip Ridley
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Cooper
Running Time: 96 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
Releases like these are what make me sad to see the ‘convenience food’ streaming model taking over the home entertainment market. If you’ve already glanced at my fairly low rating for this film, please ignore it for a second, because although I wasn’t a big fan of The Reflecting Skin, the story of its new re-release makes me very happy.
The film was originally released in 1990 and had a decent run on the festival circuit, premiering at Cannes. However, it struggled to find distribution, particularly on home video and vanished without a trace. 25 years later and interest in the film online has eventually prompted it to be properly remastered ready to be screened at a couple of festivals and get released here in the UK in a well compiled special edition steelbook Blu-Ray. Maybe I’m just being a grumpy old man who can’t give up his VHS and DVD collection, but I get the feeling that the ‘everything I want, whenever I want’ form of home entertainment these days means less care is going to be made to resurrect lost gems or treat classics with the respect they deserve. Some have predicted that the Blu-Ray format might live on purely through boutique labels releasing cult classics like these and special editions of old favourites. One can only hope, but I do worry about the future of film preservation.
Anyway, (possibly unfounded) rant aside. What did I think about Philip Ridley’s The Reflecting Skin now that it’s finally been brought into our homes, looking and sounding like it originally intended? Well, I was torn and frustrated to be honest.
What’s with all these Part Is, Part IIs, 13-part Netflix series, and the rest? Well, we already know the answer: money. But the case of the extended cut of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies provides a study in knowing when your movie is too long, just right, or in some cases, not long enough.
Apologies in advance – this episode is noisy, even for us. We’ll try to pick a better spot next time (although to be fair, the pizza was terrific).
Director: Jirí Menzel
Screenplay: Bohumil Hrabal, Jirí Menzel
Based on a Novel by: Bohumil Hrabal
Starring: Václav Neckár, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodský
Running Time: 93 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
I‘m rather late to the party in checking out the films of the Czech New Wave, with my introduction being Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball only last month. I liked that film quite a lot as my 4.5 rating will attest, so I was delighted to hear that Arrow were following that release up with Jirí Menzel’s Oscar winning Closely Observed Trains (a.k.a. Closely Watched Trains or, in it’s native country, Ostře sledované vlaky), one of the most well loved films of the movement.
Closely Observed Trains is set on a small rural train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Young Miloš Hrma (Václav Neckár), our main protagonist, has just become a station guard and is fixed on living up to his family reputation of being a lazy shirker. In his words, the job will allow him to “do nothing except stand around on the platform with a signal disc while they (the people) spend their lives working themselves to the bone”. His colleagues seem to embody this description with Hubicka (Josef Somr) spending his time seducing anything in a skirt, particularly the more than forthcoming telegraphist Zdenka (Jitka Zelenohorská). Their stationmaster Max (Vladimír Valenta) takes his job more seriously, yearning to be promoted to station inspector, but in actuality spends most of his time tending to his pigeons and jealously damning Hubicka’s actions.