"The Myth of the American Sleepover"

8/22/2011

The coming of age story is a staple genre in film that seems to come and go with the times. The mid to late 1990’s had “American Pie” and other such imitators, along with a revival of the teen horror movie. “Myth of the America Sleepover” is an independent drama that won a Special Jury Award at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival for Best Ensemble cast. The cast is populated with mostly real teens and non actors, giving it a very real and authentic look.


Set in the early 1990’s in a middle class Midwestern town, this film looks like it could be an autobiographical account of director David Robert Mitchell’s formative years. The story meanders through the lives of several teens on the last days of summer vacation. Everybody is searching for something in one way or another. Looking for adventure, a girl seen in the grocery store and for new friends. Mitchell’s film is not exploitive of its characters and rarely resorts to cheap stereotypes. Although minorities are pretty much absent, we are given the usual token black person. This being said the authenticity of the film is quite impressive and similar to what I experienced myself.

This movie, unlike most, treats its characters like real people living real lives. The thoughts, anxieties and pressures are all there. This is a time before the internet and cell phones when everything was more personal and “real”. But no matter what generation you grew up in there are still basic fundamentals of growing up that are universal. “Myth of the American Sleepover” is available on demand from Comcast and as always check it out!




Before "The Kids were all Right" There Was "High Art"

8/15/2011

Before “The Kids are Alright” writer/ director Lisa Cholodenko made a name for herself with the highly acclaimed and award winning 1998 film “High Art” starring Radha Mitchell and Ally Sheedy.

Radha’s character of Syd is an assistant photo editor at a New York City photography magazine called Frame. She lives in a small apartment with her plain and boring boyfriend James. Something is missing in her life and she soon finds it by accident. When the bathroom ceiling starts leaking she visits the neighbors upstairs and finds Lucy (Sheedy) and company. Lucy’s apartment is filled with framed photos that catch Syd’s eye. Unknown to her at the time but Lucy was famous photographer who left the scene about 10 years ago. Syd wants to help bring Lucy back and Frame is willing to give her the cover of their next issue if she does.

Lucy has been involved in a long relationship with Greta, played by indie favorite Patricia Clarkson, a washed up drug addicted German actress who moved to the States to be with Lucy. Greta is like a lead balloon and is bringing Lucy down with her. Lucy also has self confessed “drug problem and a love issue, or is it the other way around?” Its only when she meets Syd does her artistic fire and passion return. Greta is crazy jealous of Syd as she starts consuming more and more of Lucy’s time. Lucy has also requested that Syd be her editor for the magazine piece, giving her a big promotion.

This film relies heavily on art world stereotypes and clich├ęs and is the only thing that holds it down. Frame Magazines chief editor is a guy with a pony tail and dark rimmed glasses, with his assistant being a cold dark haired French woman. Of course both of them are egocentric douches. The glamorization of drug use is also played up but it in one scene Lucy mocks this after Greta shoots up. This film is really about the love triangle that forms between Syd, Lucy, and Greta and how they use each other to get what they want. Love, trust, loyalty and devotion are the main themes of “High Art”

The film has a typical downer ending but is also hopeful. Like most movies “High Art” isn’t perfect but the brilliant performances really make it one to see. This was a break out role for Radha Mitchell as she has since starred in “Finding Neverland”, “Silent Hill”, “Pitch Black” and Woody Allen’s “Melinda and Melinda”. Ally Sheedy also won numerous Best Actress awards for her role. This movie is currently available through Netflix watch instantly, so check it out!


Get "Buried" with Ryan Reynolds

8/8/2011

*Contains Spoilers*

When it comes to minimalist filmmaking Rodrigo Cortes’ 2010 film “Buried” takes the concept to new levels, all while making a very intense and psychologically draining movie. Starring Ryan Reynolds and only Ryan Reynolds for 95 minutes, although there are voiceovers from several phone calls, this is essentially a one man show.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working over in Iraq and as the title states he has been taken hostage and buried in a wooden coffin. This concept has been done before, but not quite like this. We never leave Paul and his tight confines for the duration of the film. He has a Zippo lighter, a cell phone, and few other small objects. He deals with a number of people who are trying to help locate him as well as the kidnapper who demands five million dollars for his release. Since he is able to get a signal on his phone he is told he must not be buried very deep.

While we spend the entire movie with Paul, Director Cortes has deliberately added a few shots that completely take the viewer out of the story and breaks the illusion and claustrophobic environment. The camera pulls away from the coffin and just keep going until were well above the action. While this is an artistic choice from the director there are some problems that Paul gets into that will really test the movies limits of believability. He obviously has a limited supply of air and the lighter he uses continues to suck it away. In the movies most preposterous scene, he wakes up after taking some anti anxiety pills to find a snake slither out from inside his pants. He then douses the reptile in alcohol from a flask he has on him and lights it on fire. I’m sure this alone would kill him at least twice. But was this a hallucination? Near the end of the movie he imagines the coffin door opening and being bathed in sunlight.

Paul is in constant contact with Dan Brenner who deals with contactor kidnappings and is in charge of coordinating his rescue. Dan tries to keep his spirits up but they both know it is very doubtful he will be found. Paul is also in contact with the kidnapper who keeps making more demands. Although “Buried” has its problems it is really quite intense and maintains a strong sense of panic and terror throughout. Ryan Reynolds really gives the performance of his life “so far” in this movie. It reminded me a little bit of Tom Hanks in “Castaway” although without the extreme body transformation. “Buried” is a movie you fully experience once and that’s enough.


"The Fish Child" Starring Ines Efron from XXY

8/1/2011

“The Fish Child” or “El Nino Pez” is Argentinean director Lucia Puenzo follow up to the critical hit “XXY”. Puenzo once again casts Ines Efron to star in this story of a family in the rich upper class suburbs of Buenos Aries.

“The Fish Child” is more ambitious and sprawling in its story telling which also contributes too many of its faults. While “XXY” was a small character drama focused on the struggle of one persons search for identity “The Fish Child” reaches for a more broad almost soap opera like style. The story is told in a fractured non linear style making a first viewing somewhat of a challenge.

It is a modern day love story between two young women Lala (Efron), the daughter of a judge and, Ailin the family maid. They plan to run away together to Paraguay and live in a house on the shores of Lake Ypoa. The problem is they have no money. Lala’s father is about to retire and write a scathing memoir about the rampant corruption within the police force. But before he can do any of this he is murdered but by who? Lala and Ailin have their motives as do others.


The story is told from Lala’s point of view and mainly focuses on Ailin. She is accused and arrested for the murder and send to prison. The story flashes back and forth in time to give us a background on the characters, but when it comes to the third act the plot is just too bloated and over stuffed. We find out a bit more about Ailin’s past and an anticlimactic resolution to who killed Lala’s father. Needless to say they escape to Paraguay and live happily ever after or something like that. Obviously not the greatest movie but the acting of the two girls is pretty decent and will appeal to those who scour the foreign films section looking for something different.