Film festivals are instrumental in spreading the word about the latest indie sensation. In fact, many recent big festival award winners have gone to massive success at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars (Little Miss Sunshine, Precious, Fish Tank). This year has seen the Brits make their mark on several of the big name events: SXSW was one of the first with the likes of Four Lions, Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee and Harry Brown, TIFF screened 32 British films this year including early Oscar favourite The King’s Speech, Made in Dagenham and Submarine and Mike Leigh’s Another Year was in competition at Cannes.
This week’s indie news:
The BFI London Film Festival kicked off earlier this week with a screening of Never Let Me Go and will also screen such festival hits as Black Swan, Blue Valentine and Somewhere. I can’t make it to the festival myself but will be attending the Cornwall Film Festival 5th-7th November. I’m looking forward to seeing new Cornish shorts as well as the big international features which includes Red Hill, Restrepo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
You would be forgiven for thinking that in the wake of the abolishment of the UK Film Council, the future of British film is looking pretty bleak. Well, don’t start panicking yet as it has just been announced that Film4’s budget will increase by 50% next year. The production company was behind such hits as In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky and Slumdog Millionaire and helped launch Shane Meadows’ career.
In cinemas now – The Social Network, Paranormal Activity 2
Already tipped for Oscar success, David Fincher’s The Social Network opened this weekend to rave reviews, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw describing Jesse Eisenberg’s lead role as ‘perfect casting’. The Geek du Jour plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a film that traces the world’s most popular social networking site from concept to fame and fortune. Ol’ Trousersnake himself, Justin Timberlake, co-stars as Sean Parker and future Spidey Andrew Garfield plays Eduardo Saverin. At first glance, The Social Network seems a far cry from Fincher’s usual films (Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac) but rest assured, this could be his most popular and successful film to date and may even ensure that the guy has a little gold man on his desk this time next year. Film4’s Catherine Bray has gone so far as to label it as ‘one of this year’s few truly essential films.’ You won’t want to miss it.
Released next Friday is the sequel to the popular found-footage indie horror Paranormal Activity. Katie Featherston is back in the lead role but writer/director Oren Peli has been replaced by Michael R. Perry and Tod Williams. The fact that Peli is only back as producer doesn’t bode well for the film as I’m not a fan of sequels being tackled by new crew – it all seems very ‘straight to dvd’ (Cruel Intentions 2, The Skulls 2, Dirty Dancing 2, Grease 2...) to me. I’m going to be skipping this one.
Out on DVD Monday 18th October – Frozen, Amores Perros (BR)
Frozen sees three skiers stuck in a chairlift, fifty feet above ground, when a resort closes on a Sunday evening. Not due to open again until the following Friday, the trio have to make a decision – jump or freeze to death. But as the night draws in, the wolves come out to play. Quel predicament! Much like The Poseidon Adventure and Open Water, Frozen is a tense, claustrophobic fight for survival that features the kind of situation we fear could really happen. First we had Psycho and showers, then Jaws and the sea, followed by The Blair Witch Project and the woods. Now, thanks to Adam Green’s grizzly thriller, we can add skiing to the list of things to avoid. Lovely.
If you fancy re-visiting a modern great next week, look no further than the Blu-ray release of Amores Perros (aka Love’s A Bitch). Watching dogs tear shreds of flesh off each other isn’t most people’s cup of tea, but this film is an interesting and engaging character study. A semi- pre-cursor to the Oscar-winning Crash, Amores Perros follows three different narrative strands which literally collide at the scene of a car crash. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Gael García Bernal, this Oscar-nominated drama launched the careers of two of Mexico’s greatest exports with its tale of dog fighting, love and loss.
Hot new trailer: Blue Valentine
Festival favourite Blue Valentine stars Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Half Nelson) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Synecdoche, New York) as a married couple whose relationship is brought to the screen via flashbacks. I’m a huge fan of both Gosling and Williams and would watch them in pretty much anything. Blue Valentine sounds like my kind of romance – heart-breaking, honest and not remotely clichéd or formulaic. I couldn’t wait to see it since reading the first review from Sundance and seeing the early clip released. The trailer has confirmed my anticipation for the film and I hope it gets a wide release in the UK as I can’t wait for the DVD.
“Gosling and Williams, often shot in angled close-ups, give performances of such intimacy and intensity that, a times, it’s hard to breathe. The soundtrack makes especially good use of the bruised, wistful melodies of Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear. Blue Valentine has taken twelve years to bring to the screen: it’s been worth it.” - Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph
Actor or filmmaker of the week: Jesse Eisenberg
I have seriously had enough of all the comparisons made between Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera and this is the last time I’ll mention Cera’s name in this week’s column (well actually, that was the last time, but you know what I mean).
It seems strange that this year BAFTA nominated him for the Orange Rising Star Award, considering he has been acting in feature films for the last eight years. At the age of 27, Eisenberg has often been stuck in the part of awkward, dorky teenager, following supporting roles in such indies as Roger Dodger, The Village, The Squid and the Whale and Cursed. He progressed to awkward, dorky graduate in Adventureland and Zombieland and now David Fincher’s The Social Network marks his first more mature role, although he still plays a social outcast. The release of Holy Rollers could see Eisenberg ditch his geeky persona for good, as he plays a Jewish guy who winds up lured into becoming an Ecstasy dealer.
Sharp, witty scripts written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick (Zombieland) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) have allowed Eisenberg to demonstrate his comedic talents but if he’s not careful he could wind up becoming the next ‘funny sidekick’ as opposed to the ‘leading man’. He hasn’t sold out thus far and I hope he continues his success while still making interesting and unconventional films. His upcoming projects include voice work on the animation Rio and the comedy 30 Minutes or Less, both of which are due for release next year.
Indie great you might have missed: Wendy and Lucy
Following the end of teen TV sensation Dawson’s Creek, Michelle Williams has carved quite the film career for herself. Considering she started out with the terrible Halloween H2O, it’s surprising that in the next ten years she covered a plethora of genres, working with Oscar-winning directors and critically acclaimed actors. Wendy and Lucy sees Williams carry a feature film pretty much alone. With little dialogue, minimal locations and a narrative that has the potential to seriously bum out the viewer, the young actress manages to convey a glimmer of hope in a desperate situation. Virtually alone, with nothing but her faithful four-legged companion and a kindly security guard for company, Wendy is on a mission to get to the other side of the country to find what she hopes will be a lucrative summer job. The problem is, her car is falling apart, she has no place to stay and she can’t even afford a tin of dog food.
Williams is a truly gifted actress, managing to communicate so much with a single look in a film without much in the way of a script. It is thanks to her that the film managed to perform as well as it did, as there are few actresses I can think of who could manage to play a not particularly likeable character with such a quiet and subtle intensity.
If you’ve managed to get to any of the London Film Festival screenings, let me know what you thought of them in the comments section. Or alternatively, if you’ve seen any indies (British or otherwise) at festivals that haven’t been mentioned, give them a shout out below...
Emma Farley a.k.a. filmgeek