Tag Archives: indie movies

A Ghost Story: Has David Lowery Made a Post-Actor Movie?

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

David Lowery’s A Ghost Story reunites him with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, who starred in his Malickian lyrical-outlaw potboiler Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. It’s not surprising that Lowery would want to re-up with Mara and Affleck, who since their work for him have gone on to an Oscar nomination (Mara, for Carol) and an Oscar win (Affleck, for last year’s Manchester by the Sea). But part of what makes A Ghost Story so beguiling, and so much more interesting than Saints, is the way Lowery uses these talented actors: For long stretches, he doesn’t. In the contemporary summer movie season, where special effects and branding are often sold over movie stars, Lowery has made a movie more boldly post-actor than any recent blockbuster.

It starts out intimate, but familiar: A couple, unnamed by each other but called M (Mara) and C (Affleck) by the credits, nuzzles and sulks in a small house they’ve rented. Eventually, we realize that M wants to leave, while C, a musician, would prefer to stay. And then, after minutes on end of hushed semi-confrontation (and a few eerie noises), C dies in a car accident, right in front of their home. There are hints that Ghost Story will become a long-take study in grieving, like the way Lowery’s camera lingers on M, alone with C’s body in the morgue for a few minutes. The camera fixes on her as she fixes on the body, tucks the sheet over her husband’s lifeless head, then suddenly rushes out. The camera stays. And after a little while longer, C’s body, still sheet-covered, rises up.

It’s not literally his body. This wandering figure, with eye-holes cut in the sheet to make it resemble a hastily assembled Halloween costume, is C’s ghost, invisible to the world around him. As he walks around the hospital where his body remains, he’s presented with what looks like the opportunity to cross over into some kind of afterlife. He hesitates. And then he’s back at the house, watching his widow.
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Anna Kendrick gets jilted by Table 19

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Is Anna Kendrick America’s Sweetheart? Sub-question: If she isn’t, does America deserve a sweetheart at all? We may not have one; Hollywood studios have written off romantic comedies, traditionally a chief incubator of big-screen sweethearts, as, I guess, not profitable enough, despite their relatively low budgets and relatively high rate of financial success (how did producers not look at The Ugly Truth’s box office and think, OK, literally any of these could make money?). But Kendrick has the chops – the instant likability, the comic prowess, the willingness to look ridiculous and sound either sincere or snarky about it, depending on the scene – despite never having actually starred in a rom-com.

She’s come close: Last summer’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is more of a Step Brothers knockoff than a vehicle for the Julia Robertses of today, but she is the romantic lead in it, as well as enormously winning and funny. The Last Five Years is all about a relationship, but it’s not especially comedic and, actually, not very romantic, either. Drinking Buddies is a pretty great rom-com, but Kendrick is in second position for most of it (Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde are at the center). Kendrick is good in all of these movies, and they’re all more enjoyable than, say, The Proposal, so maybe it’s not a problem that she’s come into her own as a star at a time when this particular genre is on the wane. Kendrick has kept to her indie roots even following the enormous success of the Pitch Perfect series, remaining open to tiny budgets and/or costarring with Sam Rockwell. But this can make watching her in an indie rom-com substitute like this week’s Table 19 a frustrating experience. If you’re going to make a bad movie set at a wedding – and Table 19 is both of those things – why not at least go with enjoyably hokey, rather than self-consciously quirky?

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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Best Movies of 2016

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

After we voted on our definitive list of the 20 best movies of 2016, naturally we had to get together and talk about it. So Marisa, Sara, Jesse, and Nathaniel assembled on a winter evening to go over everything from The Neon Demon to La La Land; from the movies all four of us listed to the handful that got on the list with the support of just one; from the movies we loved to the movies we really fucking loved. Just like last year, it’s a wide-ranging yet quickly paced conversation that takes you through a year in film way better than any old Oscars ever could!

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The Top 20 Best Movies of 2016

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

If the Oscars can wait so long to unveil their best-of-the-year picks, why not us? After all, ours are demonstrably superior to the Academy’s: More eclectic, less predictable, sometimes more weird (often, also, more musical). 2016 wasn’t good for a lot, but it was, as it turned out, a good year for movies. So our core film group — Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, and Sara — went ahead and picked not 10, not 15, but 20. There was room; there could have been room for even more. We’ll be back with a podcast where we discuss our choices. For now, enjoy our tributes to the movies that moved us most in 2016.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Indie Movies of Summer 2016

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Everyone thinks of summer as blockbuster season for movies, but the truth is, May, June, July, and August always see the release of a ton of indie movies, often of high quality. For the second year in a row, Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together in Brooklyn to talk about the smaller-scale fare they watched over the past few months, blazing through hot take after hot take on over a dozen recent releases. If you’re sick of Suicide Squads, pets with secret lives, and Jason Bournes, go ahead and find out what we thought of The Lobster, Cafe Society, A Bigger Splash, The Neon Demon, Hell or High Water, and more indie movies you can add to your Netflix queue (or in some cases, still catch in a theater near you) as fall approaches.

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WIENER-DOG inspires the bold question: Does Todd Solondz hate us?

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Twenty years on, and I’m still having trouble getting a bead on Todd Solondz. Wiener-Dog is not exactly a twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Welcome to the Dollhouse to accompany this weekend’s twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. Yet briefly, it totally is. One quarter of the movie’s dog-connected anthology follows Dawn Wiener, the awkward twelve-year-old played by Heather Matarazzo in Dollhouse, as a thirtysomething woman played by Greta Gerwig.

Close followers of Solondz’s work will not a discrepancy: We were told at the outset of his film Palindromes that Wiener gained a bunch of weight and killed herself. It was a non-grace note in a movie that wasn’t even about Dawn Wiener, but did have its main character (her cousin) played by eight different performers. Since that movie, he made one called Life During Wartime that is a direct sequel to the movie Happiness, except with every single character recast. In Dark Horse, Selma Blair quietly reprises a character she played in Storytelling who no longer looks or acts much like she did in the earlier film. The title of the Dawn-resurrecting Wiener-Dog is also the cruel nickname the character was given at school in Dollhouse, but here actually refers to an actual wiener-dog, who scampers through a series of owners, including Dawn Wiener.

So, again I ask: What the hell is going on with Todd Solondz? Does he think of his filmography as an ongoing, mutating art project, where recasting characters throws them into ever more fascinating contexts? Or do a lot of actors not want to work with him again? Does he compulsively revisit aspects of Dollhouse to tweak expectations about how his movies will compare to his still-biggest success? Or can he not leave well enough alone? And am I being a nerdy pedant for finding it kind of annoying, for not ginning up the interest to see Life During Wartime because I thought Happiness was great and had no desire to see a different rep company inhabit and sequelize those roles?
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Richard Linklater, Everybody Wants Some!!, and Sing Street

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

When did April change over from the cruelest month into the best movie month of the year?! Nathaniel, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse all saw Everybody Wants Some!! and Sing Street and wanted to talk about their common ground, as well as the careers of their respective directors: Richard Linklater and John Carney. Listen to our wide-ranging discussion and find out:

  • What we like best about Linklater
  • If any of us have seen The Newton Boys
  • What movies (besides Once) Sing Street brought to mind
  • Whether we could stomach hanging out with the baseball team from Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Our bizarre next assignment for John Carney

Spoiler Warning: We talk about the endings of both movies.

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We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Knight of Cups: Terrence Malick Does Hollywood

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

With Knight of Cups, this decade officially becomes the most prolific of writer-director Terrence Malick’s career. Granted, his third film of the 2010s just barely edges out his previous high-water mark of two, reached in the 1970s when he made both Badlands and Days of Heaven. But still: even if Malick’s already-shot next film doesn’t emerge for another few years (it and Cups were shot back-to-back in 2012, the same year their predecessor To the Wonder emerged at festivals after shooting almost two years earlier), it will presumably come out before 2020, and this decade will be the one where Malick increased his filmography by a full one hundred percent.

Watching Knight of Cups, I found myself thinking of Malick’s extended gap time. Not because this movie made me long for another extended sabbatical (and also: more on that later), but because after a movie out on the plains and another movie in the Texas suburbs (and also at the beginning of the universe) and another movie set during the settling (or resettling) of America, here is a Malick movie that takes place mostly in Los Angeles. Malick goes to Hollywood! There’s even a section in Las Vegas. Malick goes to Vegas, guys! And let me tell you: if ever there was a use for Las Vegas, it is Terrence Malick shooting it like he’s making some kind of nature documentary, which possibly he is, because possibly he always is.
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The Best Movies of 2015

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

2015 at the movies: There were no fewer than three excellent and satisfying part sevens. 70mm came back to multiplexes. The cast of Ex Machina was in everything, even Star Wars. Women talked about things other than men. The same guy made The Cobbler and Spotlight. There was a fourth movie about singing chipmunks.

It was a weird year, and not without its eclectic, sometimes unexpected pleasures. For our yearly poll, SportsAlcohol.com’s certified heavy moviegoers Nathaniel, Jesse, Marisa, and Sara voted with our ridiculous hearts and came up with fifteen of the year’s strongest achievements in cinema. We also talked about it in an upcoming podcast. But before you listen to us, read us waxing rhapsodic about some of the year’s best.

The 15 Best Movies of 2015

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Spotlight on the Social Issue Drama: David Gordon Green and Thomas McCarthy take their shots

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

When David Gordon Green broke away from his indie roots to make the mainstream stoner comedy Pineapple Express, followed by the idiosyncratic (and less financially successful) but still mainstream Your Highness and The Sitter, much was made of this unexpected career left turn. Green has since swung back into indie territory with a trio of lower-key dramas (Prince Avalanche; Joe; Manglehorn), albeit with bigger stars than anyone who appeared in All the Real Girls or Snow Angels, and his fluid, prolific toggling between genres makes clear both his talent and his personal stamp. Though not everyone recognized it, his loopy broad comedies are not so far removed from his loopy, less broad character studies or Malick-ish dreamscapes; the scrappy chase narrative of Undertow shares a certain kinship with Pineapple Express, and the aimlessness of Pacino’s Manglehorn and Jonah Hill’s feckless babysitter have a certain, subtle rhyme scheme.

It turns out, if you really want David Gordon Green to stretch, assign him to do a George Clooney/Grant Heslov/Participant Media social-issue drama. Producing partners Clooney and Heslov aren’t formally involved with Participant, but they have a taste for the kinds of high-minded material the company seeks out; though Participant has worked on plenty of films, some of their most notable have won Clooney an acting Oscar (Syriana), announced his seriousness as a writer/director (Good Night, and Good Luck), and supported Clooney’s frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!; Contagion). Now Participant has produced Our Brand Is Crisis, a fiction-film version of the same-named documentary, once earmarked for a Clooney directorial project. At some point, Clooney (who still produced with Heslov) passed the project to Green, having gained a star in Sandra Bullock, who signed on after screenwriter Peter Straughan (who also worked on the non-Participant but Participant-ish The Men Who Stare at Goats, co-starring Clooney) agreed to flip the protagonist’s gender to female.
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