What's so impressive about Tom Konkle's homage to 1940's film noir is that he not only writes, directs, and stars with the confidence of a modern-day auteur, but he also manages to pull off an incredibly difficult genre and aesthetic using modern day visual effects on a micro-budget.
The best FX and digital environments, however, can never substitute for a good story. Trouble Is My Business has all the story beats fans of noir crime dramas would hope for but it's really the passion and talent that Konkle possesses in conveying that story that really shines. And appealing to fans of the genre with style and humor is only one measure of that type of storytelling prowess.
The mark of a great director — and what's on display here from Jesse Arnold's and P.J. Gaynard's cinematography to Thomas Chase's and Hayden Clement's score — is Konkle's ability to assemble and lead an excellent team of like-minded artists with true vision and panache.
With echoes of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Dana Ziyasheva has created a wholly unique piece of dystopian science fiction in the spirit of Fellini and Gondry. Especially at a time when indie filmmakers need to take bold risks into the avante-garde and experimental amidst a sea of studio-generated franchise films, Ziyasheva and team emerge with a movie primed for cult following.
With striking allegory to our current political climate, pandemic, and our obsession with technology and social media, the film is both social commentary as well as a surreal coming-of-age story.
Susannah Lowber's production design and Megan Spatz's costume design, especially, create a tactile (albeit psychedelic-inspired) landscape that compliment the impressive, low-fi visual effects.
Ziyasheva's unique, international voice is a refreshing reminder that indie filmmaking is alive, well, and unconventionally thought-provoking.
A wild, sexy fever dream of a movie musical, Vampire Burt's Serenade is a bloody, good romp filled with plenty of fetish and camp. Kevin Scott Richardson leads a terrific cast fully committed to a dark, twisted, and very funny alternate reality bathed in sex, drugs, and violence reminiscent of the best of cult B-Horror flicks.
While the homages to Lynch and Raimi abound, it's the Rocky Horror meets Bob Fosse musical numbers that elicit the most laugh-out-loud moments, providing genuinely clever songs by composer Paul Goldowitz. Low-fi effects, gore, and a killer ending make this short, horror-comedy-indie perfect viewing for these existential times.
The Stand Up Doll is an extraordinary piece of documentary filmmaking not only because it celebrates the indefatigable life of Risa Ingelfeld, a centenarian whose life philosophy becomes an absolute ideal to which one aspires by the film's end, but also because it features the honest, human, and artfully empathetic storytelling of filmmaker, Evelyne Tollman Werzowa.
In many ways, Risa's journey and Evelyne's portrait of her are in parallel. Happiness, we learn, is a choice (at first) but is truly found in its committed practice. Risa's life is a practice in seeing hardships as gifts as she finds strength in overcoming the worst of history's tragedies and devastating personal tragedies, as well.
Telling Risa's story over fifteen years, Evelyne has a long-term practice of her own as she seeks to truly understand and capture the humanity of her friend and the potential for joy that each of us have inside. It's not surprising that both women have sought out roles in life that teach, entertain, and give generously to others.
Ultimately, love and friendship transcend tragedy and nowhere else in the film is that more poignant than in the relationship between these two amazing women.
Director and cinematographer Jeremy Guy captures such a specific, cultural subset of India so intimately and personally that the filmmaking, itself, is as inspiring as Kaikasha's story. A beautifully directed and photographed doc about the fundamental human right to follow one's own path and life purpose.