When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought to myself “looks sorta like that TV show ‘Skins‘” (of which I mean the original British version…don’t even get me started on the American MTV bullshit remake) and I wasn’t entirely off base. This film is sex, drugs, and rock and roll – plain and simple; but it does so with heart and searing visual flair. It all made sense in the Q&A after the screening when writer/director Alexandra McGuinness explained that she had a background as a stylist and a large interest in fashion, because the way this film is photographed is a bit reminiscent of classic fashion photography. “Lotus Eaters” follows a group of young upper class brits living their life in that aimless cycle that we all at some point or another fell into in our teenage years. At the center is a blooming yet turbulent relationship between two of the main characters Alice and Charlie, the latter of which has a bit of a drug problem.
The movie spirals around their lives as if a fly on the wall taking you from one situation to the next, whether it be a wild party with vodka-baths, or buying ridiculous clothing accessories. The movie is lean at just 78min, and is pretty light on plot but heavy on character. It was the last act of the film that really just had me hooked. Once the wave finally crashes down on the never-ending party these lads live, it begins to take a more pensive route. One that ultimately ends up making this film a wild ride. Top that off with Alexandra’s seriously kick-ass taste in music (I’m talking best soundtrack of the year) and seemingly instinctual mastery of blending visuals with music and you end up with a fascinating gem of a feature debut.
I would just as quickly warn people to never watch this film almost as much as I would plead others to. Its glacial pacing, stream-of-consciousness structure, over two-hour runtime, and minimalistic story will probably have unsuspecting filmgoers instinctually reach in their pockets for a quick few rounds of Angry Birds as they pan it for being too artsy. I often wonder if films of this nature will slowly become extinct as our collective attention spans dwindle into the length of adorable-kitten videos on YouTube.
At any rate, this film propelled me into a rather pensive funk for the proceeding few days after seeing it. What ended up being so note-worthy was its unbelievably accurate depiction of how we remember our lives, and more specifically our childhood. Textures, smells, inconsequential moments, or snapshots of seeing the world when you were two feet tall. These moments bubble to the surface, often without too much context of what came before or after it, or even what age you were. ‘The Tree of Life’ plays out much in the same way. After the introduction of a 1950′s family grieving a loss, we are transported back in time…you know to the big bang. Upon witnessing the very formation of life itself, we eventually catch back up to what most would consider the main ‘plot line’ of this freeform existential journey. The film is visually astounding. I mean serious eye candy. Captured images of profound greatness. Do you get what I’m saying? Pop this one in after a nice bubble bath, or perhaps a few hours of meditation because this isn’t a film that’s gonna quiet a restless mind.
It’s not often phenomenal filmmakers have turn around time between films as quickly as Fincher. After releasing “The Social Network” in October 2010, he’s already back with his next project which slides snuggly in next to other Fincher classics like “Se7en“, “Fight Club“, “Zodiac“, and “Curious Case of Benjamin Button“. Yeah, this guy has certainly been busy making some of the greatest films of the last 10 years. It’s well known that ‘Dragon Tattoo’ is a remake of a 2009 Swedish film, leaving many to wonder just why the film is so necessary. While I more often than not join the rally of ‘leave great foreign films alone!’ (as I did when they remade the brilliant Swedish film “Let The Right One In“) I can’t help but make an exception if the film is helmed by a visionary director such as Fincher.
But enough about all that, this movie is badass. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, the damaged and strong anti-heroine, glues your eyes to the screen and demands your attention in one of the years best performances. As far as tone goes, this mystery thriller focuses much of its drama on the slow unraveling of the murder mystery at its core and refrains from loud set-piece-destroying action sequences. It’s very much akin to Fincher’s more recent work of “Zodiac” and “The Social Network” where he has been seriously flexing his ‘make long dialogue scenes way more gripping then any standard action scene would be’. To top it off, his frequent cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth paints stunning visuals into each frame with his uncanny eye for visual perfection. Trent Reznor’s score is yet again a perfect pairing to the visuals, and keeps the sense of menace and dread up even when really all we’re watching is our main characters flip through old news articles and investigating every corner of a photograph. That is what filmmaking is all about.
OK, I can’t argue it. We’ve all seen a quirky coming-of-age love story before, however ‘Submarine’ manages to rise above its own framework to offer a comedy with outstanding characters, emotional depth, and a so-british-it-hurts style humor for the 2011 generation. The film sinks its teeth deep into the visual medium its presented in with a fresh and lively style. Consistent across the writing, cinematography, directing, and editing the film hits its tone so perfectly on all ends it becomes hard to not be swept away in its heightened reality. 15-year-old Oliver Tate is wise beyond his years, and his hilarious introspective internal rants give us a great sense of the depth of his character. Character is something this film packs in by the tons. Each player in this tale has a perfect array of flaws, quirks, and oddities that make each scene a joy to watch as more layers are peeled back. A classic love story told in an unconventional way. Its odds and ends make this an addicting watch.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about this depraved dark comedy I found just so outrageously hilarious. In many ways, it’s the sum of its parts, but truly the comedy orbits the hysterically straight-faced performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the aimless stoner metal-head deadbeat Hesher. His unapologetically don’t-give-a-flying-fuck attitude accidentally finds its way into a grieving family of three mourning the loss of mama-bear. It’s dark tone is played for laughs on just about every turn of the story, and does so without shame. Despite its mostly bleak tone, Hesher keeps things energetic and entertaining with seriously fantastic performances, killer writing, and well-rounded characters. Hesher is filmmaking turned up to 11. In fear of over-complicating things, it’s easiest to say: this film fucking rocks.
Don’t call it a cult film. OK, you can if you want, but interestingly director Sean Durkin prefers that the misguided and reclusive group that begins molding Martha’s mind to do the ‘right’ thing unconditionally not be so attached to the classical definition of a ‘cult’. I think really what he’s getting at here is that “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a ‘cult’ film without the over the top cheesy elements involved. Don’t expect any sacrificial lambs, speaking in tongues, and velvet robes in this one. This is a group that could very well exist in our modern world, and is unnervingly easy to see how someone in a vulnerable state of mind (i.e. Martha) could find solace and a sense of community among her new-found brothers and sisters. This is crucial in understanding just what makes “MMMM” so powerful and truly chilling. Powerhouse performances from Elizabeth Olsen as Martha as well as John Hawkes as Patrick, the ‘cult’ leader, make this a serious knockout of a feature-length directorial debut. The film is firmly grounded in reality, while Martha struggles to understand her own. smoothly transitioning between her life since escaping the cult and the deep-rooted memories from when she was still a part of it make you as the audience sometimes question what is a dream, memory, or is really happening. The audience is constantly trying to make sense of the events and what it will mean for Martha’s transition to life in our normal society. You never really know more than Martha, down to this brilliant film’s final frame.
Miranda July is odd. If you haven’t seen her video blog, watched her interviews, listened to her audio-stories/spoken word albums, or seen her debut feature “Me and You and Everyone We Know” (which along with ‘The Future’ she wrote, directed, and starred in) then it may be a bit hard to judge whether “The Future” is going to be your thing or not, but suffice to say it’s another addition perfectly in line with her off-kilter humor mixed with child-like wonder. In other words it’s brilliant. Describing the plot of the film actually doesn’t do much good in enhancing your understanding of what this film is truly about. Sure it involves love, modern-day dilemmas of technology, existential mid-life thoughts, and a talking cat – but really this film is more about then that. Absorbing the film into your mind offers you a rather insightful tale of…well…life. despite its abstracted fun-house mirror presentation, this film at its core is a grounded and relatable human story. Miranda July has often been discredited to just being ‘weird for weird’s sake’ but in truth what makes ‘The Future’ just so inciting is wondering just how it is that Miranda July is going to present the next scene. Her unique penchant for storytelling makes her work less about trying to figure out WHAT will happen next, but more so HOW it will happen. Call it weird, but I call it transcendent.
‘A beautiful film about the end of the world’ is this films tagline, and there truly isn’t a better way to sum it up. When was the last time you saw a film about the end of the world that doesn’t show people rushing into stores to stock up on supplies, frantic newscasters warning people to stay inside, the Golden Gate Bridge being destroyed, impossible scientific experiments like lasers that can destroy asteroids without any debris entering earths atmosphere, or Bruce Willis. In Lars Von Trier’s (Antichrist, Dogville) latest film, he explores the real emotions of a handful of characters as they begin to come to terms with the fact that their lives, and the lives of all human beings on earth might soon be coming to an end. The uncertainty of the situation and the wide personalities of the four main characters here cast a relatable shadow in the audiences direction. Would you be the one to doubt it until the last minute? Accept it and enjoy your final moments? Panic and convince yourself there must be a way to stop it? Fantastic performances from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg blended with the unmistakable cinema-verite style of Lars Von Trier’s eye as well as his latest obsession with super-slo-mo imagery make this film remarkably powerful and existential.
It’s always refreshing when films are able to take you beyond the simple presentation of a story, and Life in a Day does just that while still remaining captivating and interesting. ‘Life in a Day’ essentially boils down to being a 95min video time capsule of what life was like for humans around the world on June 24th 2010. The result is both fascinating and deeply thought-provoking. Pieced together from thousands of clips that were submitted by people from around the world filming their day, this is a project unlike any other before it. By eliminating the arguably invasive film crew from this documentary, and handing the camera over to the subjects themselves (i.e. everyone on earth) we get undeniably candid and personal moments that would otherwise be stifled by a bunch of film dudes making sure the shot looks good on the other side of the room. When I say this film is beautiful, I’m not talking about the camerawork, lighting, or visual effects – I’m talking about the deep undercurrent of human feeling this film has sewn throughout its running time. In watching this film, you’re sure to find connections to your own life and raise some questions about how you’re living it. It’s an experience that will happen for those willing to open themselves up to it. This film rewards audience members who allow this film to absorb into their minds. It turns out it’s one of the most rewarding experiences that film has provided this year.
This film is impossibly twisted, unmistakably unsettling, and far beyond just ‘dark’. Often picking my ‘favorite’ films just comes down to the visceral feeling a film gives me. After all, a truly effective film is the kind of film that literally gives you chills, or overwhelming emotion that lingers hours, days, sometimes weeks upon seeing it. So it was a no-brainer for me to place “We Need to Talk About Kevin” firmly at the top after experiencing what can only be described as a ‘my skin is crawling’ moment during the closing credits. This film is NOT for everyone. For example: children, people interested in seeing movies to escape/feel good, or people who would not like to be aware of the irreversibly fucked-up scenario of raising a child that has serious psychological problems. So its audience is a little limited.
The deranged insanity of the demon-child in question ‘Kevin’ is actually played by three actors at different stages of his life. toddler, adolescent, and teen. While the adolescent Kevin does have the most screen time, it will undoubtedly be the teen Kevin (played by Ezra Miller) who will give you death-stares in your nightmares. In fact it’s not just his performance that stands out as exceptional, but his mother Eva (played by Tilda Swinton) as well. The complex emotions of Eva that drive the fractured narrative through its depraved story of the constant search for a normal life catapult this film into territory of universal fear and doubt of ones abilities as a human. It’s a rough ride for your psychological state, but this film is dementedly visceral and unmissable for anyone willing to stomach it.
It’s been a bit since I’ve updated about Nuclear Family – but the project continues to be my number one priority. Since the March 25th screening there have been a couple exciting things to have happened. Heres a nice quick-fire way to catch up:
April 23rd – Twitchfilm.com features an interview with me discussing the film (READ IT HERE)
After a lengthy discussion in a coffee shop in SF with film writer Michael Guillen, the interview was published to popular film site Twitchfilm.com
April 27th – Nuclear Family submitted to first film festival
it has since been submitted to a few other SF Bay Area prominent film fests. I won’t name names as to not jinx it.
May 24th – Nuclear Family now on IMDb (Check it out HERE)
Due to the submission process, Nuclear Family lands a page on IMDb!
June 1st – Brand new full-length trailer for Nuclear Family (Watch HERE or above)
A full length official trailer which reveals much more than the first ‘teaser trailer‘.
June 17th – A second FREE sneak peek screening of the film in SF (RSVP on Facebook HERE)
This will be the final screening of the film until it begins it’s festival run late this year.
So it’s once again the eve before a screening of “Nuclear Family”. I feel drastically different then I did before showing it the first time. For one, I’m not currently biting my nails with nerves about what people will think. Through the last couple months I’ve found a great deal of confidence with the film and personally cannot wait to show it a second (or third, or fourth…) time. This screening feels like another opportunity to let people see the film I’ve worked the hardest on and the one I feel most comfortable with. As I stated above, this is indeed the FINAL time I will be showing “Nuclear Family” publicly until it potentially makes it into the festival circuit this fall. There will be NO DVD RELEASE until sometime in 2012. This is simply because a DVD release disqualifies me from submitting to festivals. What all this means: If you wanna see “Nuclear Family” – this is gonna be your only for sure chance to see it until 2012.
FOR THOSE ATTENDING: make sure to show up early! I would suggest getting there around 6:30pm. The Viz is not large (seats about 150) and will fill up quick. At the previous screening it was full by 7pm – and this one is sure to be no different as there are more films and more people invited! Here is all the info you’ll need:
WHERE: Viz Cinema – 1746 Post St, SF (between Laguna and Webster) CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS
WHEN: Friday June 17th 7pm-11pm
“Nuclear Family” will show with 6 other great short films – one of which, “Catch The Clock” (written and directed by Jaena Sta. Ana), is a film that I’ve been editing the last couple months. The film shares many of the same tonal qualities and themes as “Nuclear Family” so make sure to stick and around and check it out!
See you tomorrow!
Last night marked the first time “Nuclear Family” has been shown to anyone beyond a small handful of classmates – and the support for the film is quite simply overwhelming and humbling. Before discussing the night, I just want to thank every person that was able to come out last night and fill the Viz Cinema in SF’s Japan Town to the brim. Seats went quick, and many people stood through the whole screening. You guys made the night what it was. As I’ve said before, YOU all are the reason I make films. It’s for nights like last night.
Looking back on yesterday makes it feel like it was weeks ago. The anticipation and nerves before the screening made the day go by at a snail’s pace. As 7pm approached – the seats of the Viz Cinema began filling up extremely quick. By the time the films began the theater was completely filled and people were beginning to stand in the isles waiting eagerly to see the 5 short films of the night. From my end of things – my heart was racing, and I was clenching my plastic water bottle with extreme force. Yeah, I was pretty nervous.
The screening went on with a great crowd who was receptive to each film.
Between One and Two by Matt Rome – A love story of a couple who meet over the course of a night in SF
My Sherri by Carlo Barot – a twisted love tale almost void of dialogue. truly a visual film.
Forever, ATM by Wilfred Galila- A quirky tale of a man who falls in love with an ATM machine and in the process learns how to feel again.
Keeping it Reel by Dana Shaw- Four legendary San Francisco filmmakers examine the art of filmmaking and debate digital technology’s affect on their craft.
After the other four fantastic short films, Nuclear Family began playing on the screen and I immediately felt the strange sense of nerves and excitement reach the boiling point. Watching the film on the big screen was an extremely exciting and overwhelming experience. The audience responded well to the film, and it was a fascinating experience to see how certain moments of the film played off the audience.
When the film finished up there was a Q&A session, which I was pretty nervous about, but after a few questions was able to calm down and give more in-depth answers to the questions. Got asked things like where the film was shot, how many days it took to shoot, techniques I used for working with actors, the process from script to finished product, and if the film was autobiographical. After the Q&A I was able to talk with people on an individual basis about the film, and received a great amount of feedback about the film.
Last night was one of the best nights of my life. This movie is the closest to my heart of all my films, and to finally be able to share it with others is what I’ve wanted even since beginning to chart out the characters back in Summer 2009. It was inspiring to see so many people there, and receive so much positive feedback about the film. It makes me eagerly await the opportunity to create my next film.
For those unable to make it last night, there will be future opportunities to see the film. Most likely the next one will be in Mid-June. Check back to this blog for all the updates along the way. Last night is simply the first step to getting this film to the eyes of as many people as possible.
IF YOU ATTENDED THE SCREENING and would like to rate the film from 1-5 stars and optionally write a short review of the film – I strongly encourage you to do so. Simply click HERE and let people know what you thought!
Nuclear Family is a film about the importance of music – so it was fittingly important what kind of music would be included in the film. When initially writing the film I envisioned music that would appropriately match the dream-like state that main character Marc Benheimer feels he is in. The problem was I simply couldn’t find an artist that fully matched up with this hope for the music.
It was only after beginning casting that I finally found that artist – or really the artist found me. At the time I was doing a weekly music blog that featured reviews of new albums – and NY minimalist / ambient / orchestral-drone composer Kyle Bobby Dunn sent me his album for review. I loaded it up in iTunes and saw this was a 2 hour double-album. Daunting. I slipped on my headphones, and about 2 hours later it became apparent this was the music for my film. I wrote the review (you can read it HERE) and later contacted him about the idea of me using his music in my upcoming film.
It’s with great excitement that I can tell you now that tracks from Kyle Bobby Dunn’s 2LP “A Young Persons Guide To…” and his EP “Rural Route No. 2” make up nearly the entire soundtrack of the film. Below you can listen to several tracks from his album. Almost all of these songs make an appearance in “Nuclear Family”:
While Kyle Bobby Dunn makes up almost the entire soundtrack of the film, I wanted a slightly different mood for the credits. Upon playing around with some songs I found the ideal candidate to match the mood of the ending.The film’s credits song is from one of my favorite local SF bands Honeycomb. Honeycomb is a fantastic orchestral-folk group that plays some truly incredible live shows around SF and beyond with a very distinct sound. Front-woman Emily Ritz has graciously allowed the song “Flesh and Bone Machine” to be used from their excellent self-titled debut EP. Here is a live in-studio version of the track:
I cannot be happier about this selection as both artists were my first choice. Music in film is something I focus a lot of thought into, as I am of the belief music can make or break the mood and emotion of a film. Some of my favorite cinematic moments have very much to do with the marriage of visuals and music in a unique and interesting way and I am always very cautious when approaching how music is used in my own films because of this. I am hoping the selections for “Nuclear Family” help elevate the film to a place where the audience can feel as Marc feels. Distant, Contemplative, and Layered.
Don’t forget to “like” the film on Facebook to continue to get all the updates on the film as we near the first screening on March 25th!
MGMT’s first album “Oracular Spectacular” is on a short list of amazing albums of near-perfection for me. Upon saying that, “Congratulations”, their follow-up, is an album that stands on its own in the MGMT catalogue (you can call it a catalogue after 2 albums…right?) and will disappoint some, and surprise everyone.