"How to Attack a Film Festival (or a preview of Independent Film Festival Boston 2010)" is the title of Jay Seaver's guide at Hollywood Bitchslap. Not Coming to a Theater Near You has a brief intro to the section it'll be filling between today and April 28 with reviews from the festival, while the Boston Phoenix has already posted umpteen capsules.
Peter Keough on The Freebie: "In her feature debut, [Katie] Aselton shows a knack for capturing small talk and the nuances of relationships... Her choice of a skewed chronology does not work so well, but her performance and [Dax] Shepherd's — sadly more appealing when they're miserable than when they're besotted — reveal lifetimes of intimacy, trust, betrayal, and reconciliation."
IFC.com's Alison Willmore caught The Freebie at Sundance: "I'm just a little weary of the conservative core that lurks beneath the scruffy surface of a lot of recent R-rated comedies and indie dramedies — behind the requisite unrelenting candor, dick jokes and druggy grandparents, plenty of them come down to espousing the same old values of family, community, fidelity. There's nothing new on that front in The Freebie, in which the couple in question do not, of course, find the answer to their problems is a one-night dip into open marriage. I was rooting for that." Interviews with Aselton: indieWIRE and Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times).
"You will never, ever, ever complain about your family again after watching the first 15 minutes of Family Affair," Chris Faraone assures us. "Chico David Colvard's autobiographical documentary is loaded with repulsive bombshells — his physically and sexually abusive military father regularly raped his three sisters, sometimes at gunpoint, and on occasion all together at once." More from Pamela Cohn (Hammer to Nail, which should be back online shortly), Brandon Harris (Filmmaker) and indieWIRE.
CF on Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child: "[T]hough the superficial buzz that hung over him — from his first headline show in 1981 to his spoiled and depressed heroin-abusing Armani-suit days — is adequately documented here, it's the deep reach into his eclectic artistic repertoire that makes Tamra Davis's captivating portrait glow." Interviews with Davis: Lorraine Cwelich (Wall Street Journal) and indieWIRE.
Alicia Potter on Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: "Rivers remains a complex and sympathetic figure throughout, her semi-iconic status cemented in the groundbreaking gynecological punch lines of her 60s rise, the suicide of her husband, and a humility at odds with her filthy-mouthed-old-diva shtick." Karina Longworth in January for the Voice: "Amazingly, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work might be best understood as one of a piece with [directors Ricki] Stern and [Annie] Sundberg's activist work. If the entertainment industry ain't exactly Darfur, it still hasn't been an easy road for Rivers, whose boundary-breaking comic creativity will likely be listed low in her obituary, to make room for discussion of her obsession with reinvention. Stern and Sundberg sympathize with the star's plight, and provide an excellent platform for her gut-busting politically incorrect comedy to speak for itself." And AJ Schnack's rounded up more reviews.
PK on Secrets of the Tribe: "The tribe of the title, as José Padilha's deft and outrageous documentary makes clear, are not the Stone Age Yanomami people of the Amazon — a gold mine of material exploited by researchers for the past five decades — but the anthropologists themselves. And their secrets are indeed disturbing." Daniel Fienberg at Hitfix: "Padilha has an easy time proving that the men who spent time among the Yanomami succumbed to all manner of destructive and self-destructive lunacy." More from John DeFore (Hollywood Reporter) and John Lopez (Vanity Fair).
PK on On the Other Side of Life: "It's a long way from sheep in Montana to troubled teens in a Cape Town slum, but what links this debut documentary from Stefanie Brockhaus and Andy Wolff with the masterful Sweetgrass is a faith in cinema's ability to reflect reality — not to mention a respect for the intelligence of the audience."
PK on Life 2.0: "Not so much a documentary of an Internet phenomenon as a deconstruction of 21st-century culture, Jason Spingarn-Koff's unsettling film explores the online game Second Life, in which players create avatars to live in a virtual world." Nathan Rabin at the AV Club: "The documentary is ultimately a very human look at the way our virtual and real lives intersect and overlap and the hazards of letting our cyber-selves corrupt and distort our sense of self."
PK on Saturday Night: "Actor James Franco's debut feature, a behind-the-scenes look at the December 6, 2008, episode of Saturday Night Live, is kind of like Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil with less music and more fart jokes."
CF on The Parking Lot Movie: "Everything you need to know can be learned in the Charlottesville Corner Parking Lot (CPL): the customer is always an asshole; chicks in Lilly Pulitzer are privileged dips; to make a compelling documentary, you don't need a big budget if you have a cast of grad students, poets, philosophers, and 'otherwise unemployable misfits' who engage in class warfare on a daily basis."
Shaula Clark on Dirty Pictures: "Étienne Sauret gives us an endearing portrait of Alexander 'Sasha' Shulgin, the man who first popularized MDMA [ecstasy]. A former Dow Chemical drug developer who went off the reservation long ago, Shulgin continues his homebrew experiments to this day."
"Bananas!* opens with a funeral and gets only grimmer from there, as it follows a 2007 lawsuit against Dole Food in which Nicaraguan workers allege that a Dow Chemical pesticide used by Dole made them sterile," writes Clark. Arifa Akbar for the Independent: "Bananas!*, which is billed as a court-case thriller in the same vein as Erin Brockovich, became a sensation around the world. It gained so much support, from the global film industry, campaigning journalists and the Swedish parliament, that Dole withdrew its case against the film's Swedish director, Fredrik Gertten. Now the film, which had its first UK screening at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in central London [Friday] night and will run until 25 April, is to be followed by another documentary, relaying Mr Gertten's hair-raising experiences and his defence of freedom of speech."
Also: Carly Carioli on Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, PK on Harmony and Me and Perrier's Bounty, Shaula Clark on Winter's Bone and Do It Again.
Updates, 4/24: "The opening film of this year's Independent Film Festival Boston, The Extra Man preceded the festival's second career award, this one in honor of Kevin Kline," writes Rumsey Taylor at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "His role in this film is somewhat eclipsed by his past work — his Shakespearean performances, A Fish Called Wanda, and, one of my favorites, Dave — but he's as essential to this film as Paul Giamatti was to American Splendor, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's earlier film which earned deserving recognition for Giamatti's performance as comic book writer Harvey Pekar. Both works have a nearly singular emphasis on character, but the difference is Harvey Pekar is a receiver of earnest sympathy. Kline's Henry, in contrast, is a spectacle — and a welcome one, for that matter."
From the Phoenix, Chris Faraone on Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam: "It's all innocent and entertaining enough, and songs like 'I Want To Fuck You During Ramadan' are certainly rebellious, but none of these characters is radical enough to hold that religion is a ridiculous hoax in the first place."
Brett Michel on Cairo Time, with Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig: "The sense of place in Ruba Nadda's low-key love story is so strong that it almost overwhelms the slow dance of these drifting souls and the tranquility of their tentative romance."
Peter Keough on Cracks: "In her debut feature, Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley) has conjured a lovely oddity combining elements of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Children's Hour, If..., The Belles of St Trinian's, and even a bit of Lord of the Flies." Also: Marwencol, I Am Love and Life During Wartime.
Meantime, how could I have overlooked Wesley Morris's overview of "this city's most vital movie event" in the Globe? He and Ty Burr have capsules of nearly two dozen features.
Victoria Large at Not Coming: "[V]ivid but impressionistic, Beijing Taxi doesn't seek to be the final word on the current state of the city. Rather, the film provides pointed glimpses at a place that many westerners (this reviewer included) have never visited and cannot claim to understand."
Updates, 4/30: Among the award-winners: Ben Wheatley's Down Terrace, Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, Laura Poitras's The Oath and Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol. Bryce Renninger has the full list at indieWIRE.
Meantime, at Not Coming: Rumsey Taylor on Mark and Jay Duplass's Cyrus and Linas Phillips's Bass Ackwards.
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