What makes this film watchable is Dore Mann. I'm not sure if this is who he really is as a person or if he's acting. It's hard to tell because he's so fucking believable as Keith a disjointed and pathologically insecure door to door salesman who struggles with being who he is. Nobody likes him. He even doesn't like himself.
The way some people treat him because of how he is is very unsettling. Sometimes you can't blame some of these people and the way they treat him, but other times it's unfair. I guess what else could you expect from someone who is very volatile. Keith could explode. Just like Travis Bickle.
This film doesn't exactly have a plot. It's more about Keith and the other people who inhabit "Frownland". It will test your patience, may even piss you off. Either way it's still a very sobering experience and I loved how it was directed. The musical score has an 80's slasher movie quality that when it plays in a scene where Keith is just walking made me feel creeped out.
This isn't a horror movie. Not really a drama. Boarders along dark comedy territory, just a tad. If anything it belongs in that undefined category. Kind of like the way Eraserhead is.
[color=#000000][b]Snow Angels [/b][i]Warner Independent [/i]March 7, 2008[/color]
[color=#000000]Over the past few months, I've really taken a shine to David Gordon Green's work. This is surprising considering, before March 7th, he'd only released three movies--one that was great ("George Washington"), one that frustrating but well-done ("All the Real Girls"), and one that wasn't great ("Undertow"). I was mostly going by the fantastic trailers for this, as well as his work as a producer on the amazingly underrated "Great World of Sound." Let me tell you, "Snow Angels" is right up there and surpasses "George Washington." Despite the flashier cast, the dialogue is as naturalistic as "ATRG," and the scenes feel authentic--which makes the plot of the film all the more chilling. Though Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale certainly deserve the accolades that are coming to them for their work in this film, for me, the standout in the cast was Jeanetta Arnette, who played Michael Angarano's long-suffering mother. A veteran actress who's most famous work was six seasons of "Head of the Class," her performance was the highlight of the most underwritten thread of the film. For some really effective drama (and a bit of comedy thrown in for good measure), check this shit out.[/color]
[color=#000000][b]Frownland [/b][i]Frownland, Inc. [/i]March 7, 2008[/color]
[color=#000000]The film that won the 2007 Gotham Award for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" never did find a distributor...which these days is most definitely a good thing. Movies like "Little Miss Sunshine" find distributors. "Inland Empire" won't. So, director Ronald Bronstein decided to screen the film for a week at the IFC Center, in all its unforgiving glory. And let me tell you, I haven't seen a more promising debut in a long time. Just when I was beginning to get disillusioned with the mumblecore scene and their similar storylines featuring pretty indie-folk, here comes a movie that embraces what's good in DIY-filmmaking while also pissing over their predilection for the Soy Chai Latte crowd. (Anyone still following me?) It's an unflinching portrait of a babbling, self-aware "New York troll," portrayed incredibly by non-professional actor Dore Mann. In fact, he and Bronstein were at the screening I attended and I was shocked to see how normal this guy was in real life. I thought they just peeled some psycho off the street. The film itself is quite haunting, in a John Cassavetes meets David Lynch sort of way, but it's not for everyone. ...Actually, if it's not for you, you're a pussy. Go watch "Four Eyed Monsters" instead.[/color]
[color=#000000][b]Shotgun Stories [/b][i]International Film Circuit [/i]March 26, 2008[/color]
[color=#000000]Further proof that everything David Gordon Green touches (with the exception of "Undertow") is gold, "Shotgun Stories" is the second film he's produced but not directed. This one's directed with equal amounts fire and restraint by newcomer Jeff Nichols, and--boy howdy--does it pack a wallop. Most of the film rests on the shoulders of character actor Michael Shannon, who's been gaining more attention these days from high-profile roles in "Bug" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," (watch for him in Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" this December, in a role that has the pedigree to grant him a Best Supporting Actor nod). He speaks in terse little grunts and his mouth barely moves. He's the kind of actor that is destined to star in a Cormac McCarthy adaptation. And he's absolutely amazing here as the eldest Hayes brother, a clearheaded man blinded by revenge. "Shotgun Stories" is, without a doubt, an incredibly made thriller. Incredibly shot, acted, scored...everything. If you enjoyed any of DGG's work, or "No Country for Old Men," seek this one out.[/color]
I liked it for how different it was and for how oddly involving it is, but I would probably never watch it again purely to save myself from that gross feeling I got while watching.
This is my first foray into mumblecore, and despite my hatred for this adjective, this film can be described by one word: awkward.
That, and uncomfortable. It's like a neurotic Taxi Driver.
It's about this guy who can't get through one sentence without stuttering into oblivion, or apologizing into a puddle.
It claims to be made in 2007, but it looks at least 100 years older than that, which is pretty cool.
The director defies normal filmmaking conventions, such as eyelines, headroom, commonly accepted frame compositions, and things being in focus.
These "rule-breakings" are for one of three possible reasons:
1. He knew these rules and broke them intentionally, to spite those who actually criticize movies based upon these conventions.
2. He knew these rules and broke them for an aesthetic purpose: to reflect the schizophrenic nature of the characters, and their behaviors which defy normal conventions.
3. He simply does not know normal filmmaking conventions.
One could make a strong case for all three of these reasons, and I believe that if it was for reason #1, then this guy is smug. If it was reason #2, then this guy is a genius. If it's #3, then it's heartwarming.
Anyway, the narrative frequently gets distracted from its stuttering main character to focus on at least three other supporting characters who do nothing but go about their daily lives. These tangents offer nothing to the main story, but I think they're necessary in order to distract us from the sheer discomfort we get from watching the main guy stutter himself into a stupor.
I suppose I wasn't really ready for this type of ultra-independent filmmaking, but that's okay. I also wouldn't want to sit through this again, simply for how uncomfortable it was to watch.
Seriously, this is almost more uncomfortable than Irreversible. And the only things that happen in this movie are conversations.