12 YEARS A SLAVE
ALL IS LOST
THE CRASH REEL
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
THE FIFTH SEASON
WE ARE THE BEST
Less films than last year indeed. And quite a few less on 35MM. Sign of the times I suppose.
As the year comes to a close everyone seems to be posting their top film lists for 2013. Personally, I’m still trying to catch up on a few films before the year ends. Last year I was resistant to making such a list, but it’s nice to have something to look back at. I realized though, lurking in the unposted drafts of this blog, I had a few films I had meant to mention from previous years. Of course all but one of these have yet to be released in the US so this is mostly for posterity sake, and so you know to seek them out when one day they become available.
SISTER is the story of a young boy stealing from the guests of a nearby ski resort to support himself and his sister. It is beautifully shot in the Swiss Alps and has fantastic performances from the young Kacey Mottet Klein and Léa Seydoux. It is a thoughtful meditation on growing up and the responsibility placed on a child when he still longs to be just a kid.
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD brings you into the world of a family living on the brink in the outskirts of Lisbon. The tension in household is already high for the family of four living in a cramped apartment but things fall apart when Márcia finds out about her daughters new boyfriend. This film does a great job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere by layering the dialog so the sound feels inescapable. You’re also able to peer into the lives of each character within the family without losing focus.
EAT SLEEP DIE follows Raša as she tries to find a new job after getting laid off from the food packing factory she works at in rural Sweden. She is determined to find work even though she must also take care of her ailing father. Nermina Lukač gives a compelling performance and shows the struggles of the young working class.
OUR CHILDREN is a dark drama about a woman’s decent into an all consuming depression. Based on a true story, the film gives a look into how things can go horribly wrong for a seemingly happy family. Émilie Dequenne portrays Murielle with nuance and subtlety, adeptly showing how madness can creep in and destroy a person. This is the one film in the list available on iTunes and on dvd.
I’ve been on the lookout for snowy movies, but not the cheerful or festive sort. All month I’ve been in the mood for bleak, cold films that really feel like winter. Here are a few of my top picks.
Do you have any favorite winter films?
I was sitting in Vegan Treats bakery, having just finished a tiny pumpkin cake, when a wave of elation washed over me. After weeks of planning and stressing and trying to handle a million details during one of the busiest times of the year, I had done what I had set out to do. I was filled with a combination of excitement, relief and just plain happiness mixed with a touch of disbelief. It started with disappointment.
The previous summer I directed my first real short film since college (where I essentially just made abstract art films anyway). It was challenging. Not just because I didn’t have money to spend on it or hardly any crew to make it happen, but because I was in charge of everything. I’m not one to shirk under the pressure of planning and organizing but, looking back, I did not have a lot of confidence in myself. I put so much of myself in to that little film that it was difficult for me to visualize how it would come together. There were aspects that were so clear and others that were murky and intangible. The story was ambiguous and I couldn’t seem to resolve elements based in reality with bits of fantasy.
Months after putting together an edit of the film, and subsequently taking a break from it, I returned to the footage and was supremely unhappy with it. There were elements of the film I wanted to make there but there were other parts that felt stiff. I wanted to move on, start another project and forget how things had gone wrong. Shawn would pester me about it though, reminding me of the parts I liked, questioning me on how it could be revived. I was stubborn. Finally though, a plan arose. We cut out everything that didn’t work, shot more footage and reassembled.
The end result was not the original story I set out to tell, and it is all the better for it. It’s still a tender little thing. It would have been so much easier move along and bury it with any past failures, to try again with something else. As much as I didn’t want to fix it, I now know that making something I’m actually content with gave me the confidence to keep creating with the knowledge that I’m fully capable of making something good. Once it was truly complete it cleared up my head to start thinking about the next thing without a cloud of doubt hovering over me. I will at some point share this film I’m speaking of, I’m just waiting for the right moment.
Not long after Shawn finished filming Ashes of a Cowboy I came across a historical event that I found so disturbing and bizarre that I knew immediately I wanted to make a film about it. I intended to file it away as an idea for later but one day, feeling inspired, I started writing. The script came together quickly and the momentum carried me forward to keep planning to film it. Since the story took place in the late 18th century, the whole thing became more complicated. Actually filming it seemed so distant and unreal but I just kept on moving forward as if it would happen.
Something compelled me to keep moving forward. I wanted to make this film and it was going to have be before winter came or it wouldn’t happen until sometime next year and the momentum I was gliding on would be lost. Then a moment came where things turned from possible to real. A historic location was booked and schedules coordinated. I had just under a month to piece everything together from costumes to props to casting and getting it all to a distant location all while working my full time regular job and hosting horror marathons and making Halloween costumes.
There were many times in that month where I thought maybe it wouldn’t work. Unlike before though, I trusted myself. I knew clearly what I wanted and also knew where to let go of that vision for the greater good of the project. Still when we arrived for the first day of shooting I had a list in the back of my head of all the things that could potentially go wrong. Yet somehow, almost magically, in so many instances where I had backup plans, things went even better than expected. A prop I needed that I wasn’t able to bring showed up the day before at a relative’s house. A room I didn’t know we would have access to had the exact lighting I needed for a shot. That’s not to say there weren’t difficulties. Shooting a film, even a short one, is always a battle against time and light and so many other things.
I had a lot of help from some very patient people, some of whom I enlisted through the internet and only met for the first time the day of shooting. Plus some some family that Shawn convinced to don period clothing and populate my historic village. It goes without saying that Shawn helped me tremendously, though I’m not sure he knew entirely what he was getting into until the last moment.
There will be a long way to go to finish the film. Editing is its own harrowing process. I wanted to record this feeling though, the one I felt back in the bakery, of pulling all the pieces together and actually making it happen.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been compelled to speak up about a contemporary movie (well, since Upstream Color). Usually the publicity machine works just fine without me chiming in. The Punk Singer had such a strong effect on me I feel I must say something. It’s not so much that The Punk Singer is a groundbreaking documentary but rather that it gives such an intimate look into the life of Kathleen Hanna; how she stood up as a leader in the riot grrrl movement and how she all but disappeared.
I saw the film just last weekend at a special screening at Cinefamily. We showed up two hours early to line up for the event, and scored a couch next to Hanna herself. I’ve been a huge fan of Le Tigre since high school and Bikini Kill retroactively. (A little known piece of trivia: my original blog was a misheard lyric from a Le Tigre song. This just made me realize I’ve been blogging for some time now.) Le Tigre was the fun and upbeat music that I could sing and dance to but also had real meaning. Bikini Kill was the rebellious girl version of some of the more hardcore stuff I was listening to. Yet, besides the songs themselves, I didn’t know much about the bands beyond the names of their members.
The Punk Singer let me travel back in time and see so many of the Bikini Kill shows I never could have seen, but more importantly, it showed me exactly who Kathleen Hanna is. Her words, without even trying, were an inspiration. She began writing because she felt like no one had listened to her. She joined a band to have her voice heard. She called the girls to the front so that there was a safe space. She told everyone what Riot Grrrl meant to her but asked also what it meant to everyone else.
The film also shows the pressure and strain that being in the spotlight put on her, from the media analyzing her looks and personal history to misogynist threats against her. Seeing the difficulty of everything just made me admire her more. It also details her reasons for leaving Le Tigre and going off the radar (until now, where she is on tour with her new band The Julie Ruin).
Mostly I just appreciated her candidness, in both the film and in the Q&A after the show. She’s honest and funny and intelligent all at once. If I sound a bit like a fan girl at the moment it’s because I am. There are so many great feminist women to look up to, but often they seem so far from who I am. It was wildly exciting to be in the presence of someone so outspoken who I could easily identify with.
The Punk Singer comes out in late November. You should probably go see it.