Sure, the awards season culminates in the Academy Awards which are a few months off yet, but anticipation builds up early with festival and critics awards. With a year of big indie releases, including Somewhere, The Kids Are All Right, Blue Valentine and Winter’s Bone, hopes are high that these films can maintain their buzz.
This week’s indie news
The nominations for the 2010 Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced earlier this week. With Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Let Me In, Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right competing for Best Feature, could this hint at possible nods come Oscar time? Last year the number of films nominated for Best Picture was extended to ten instead of the usual five, so indies could start to receive the kind of coverage they deserve.
In cinemas now – Easy A
This week’s cinema releases are severely lacking in indies. Easy A is the only major release that can be moderately described as ‘independent’. Sure, film studies has taught me that an independent film is anything made outside of the major studios, but it has also been argued that an independent film is only truly independent in terms of all of the major areas: finance, distribution, exhibition and content. Easy A doesn’t sound particularly independent when you think of it in terms of just another high school flick, but then you could say the same about the likes of Napoleon Dynamite, Donnie Darko and Brick, all of which are, without a doubt, indie to the core.
Easy A stars Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland) as Olive, a clean-cut high school girl who uses the rumour mill to advance her social status. The TIFF reviews were full of praise for Stone, throwing around words like ‘irresistibly charming’, ‘cross-generational appeal’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘immensely appealing’. I was quick to dismiss this film but when it’s released in the South West I’ll definitely be checking it out.
“Arguably the best teen comedy since Clueless.” - Chris Hewitt, Empire MagazineOut on DVD Monday 25th October – The Game (BD), Beautiful Kate
Despite being a massive David Fincher fan, I have to admit that I haven’t gotten round to seeing The Game yet. From the look of it, it seems a bit Strange Days-meets-The Matrix with the whole game vs reality malarkey. Michael Douglas plays a wealthy businessman who receives a strange birthday gift from his wayward brother (Sean Penn) – the opportunity to take part in his own game, tailor made to fit his own fitness levels and experiences. However, things soon become rather tense as the game soon begins to take over his entire life.
“Regardless of how far one chooses to buy into The Game -- and the ending ambiguously suggests that it could go on and on -- there is no doubt as to Fincher's staggering expertise as a director and his almost clinical sense of precision.” - Todd McCarthy, Variety
Beautiful Kate marks the directorial debut of actress Rachel Ward and stars Rachel Griffiths (Muriel’s Wedding, Brothers and Sisters) in a tense family drama. Sally (Griffiths) asks her brother to return home to say goodbye to their dying father but once back at the family home Ned is haunted by memories of his twin sister.
“Beautifully acted and shot, this isn't comforting cinema but is bold and haunting, marking Ward out as a director of note.” - Laura Bushell - Little White LiesHot new trailer: Paul
Written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland), Paul is a sci-fi comedy about two British comic-book geeks who encounter an Alien on a road trip across America. The film is due for release in February 2011 and you can check out the production blog here.
Actor or filmmaker of the week: Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson may have the typical mother-of-a-teenager role in Easy A, but her career to date has been anything but typical. Having only really come into her career in the last decade or so, Clarkson has quickly overtaken Laura Linney as the go-to gal for interesting supporting actress roles.
Throughout the mid-1980s/early 1990s, she did a lot of TV work before making her way into mainstream features with the likes of Jumanji and Simply Irresistible. It was her supporting role in The Green Mile that made people sit up and take notice (the SAG nomination probably helped) and following The Pledge, she selected a variety of films that allowed her to make her mark on the indie film world: The Safety of Objects (2001), Welcome to Collinwood (2002), Far From Heaven (2003), All the Real Girls (2003). Her performance as Katie Holmes’ cancer-stricken mother in Pieces of April (2003) marked a major turning point in her career, earning her a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Clarkson then went on to make one of my favourite films, The Station Agent (2003), which won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Thomas McCarthy’s directorial debut is one of those rare films that manages to impress without being in your face and Patricia Clarkson’s revealing scene still packs a punch, even after watching it a dozen times.
In the last few years, Clarkson has dabbled in film and TV, appearing in Frasier and Six Feet Under, picking up two Emmys and another SAG nom for her role in George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. Recent films include Dogville (2003), All the King’s Men (2006), the fantastic Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Shutter Island (2010) and two films under the directorial influence of Woody Allen.
Up next is Friends With Benefits, which sees her team up again with Easy A director Will Gluck and co-star Emma Stone.
Indie great you might have missed: Lars and the Real Girl
Continuing the love for Patricia Clarkson, I have to do my bit here to try and get some more people to see Lars and the Real Girl. Whenever someone asks me what it’s about, I always hesitate as a short synopsis rarely sells it: a socially awkward guy cuts himself off from reality and falls in love with a sex doll. To be honest, the plot put me off at first and it took me a while to take it seriously. I can’t even remember why I decided to watch it for the first time; it must have had something to do with my love for The Goz (Ryan Gosling to all you latecomers).
The concept could so easily have become something else (gross-out comedy, anyone?) but Nancy Oliver’s script is sincere and subtley sweet and Craig Gillespie has directed performances from his cast that are compassionate and moving. Clarkson’s portrayal of Lars’ psychologist is endearingly charming and Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer boost the film’s comedic elements as Lars’ brother and sister-in-law.
“The film, however, is not concerned with psychological explanation and, though superficially realistic, it's a moral fable exploring kindness, understanding, love and the acceptance of human diversity.” - Philip French, The ObserverLars and the Real Girl was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy (although I wouldn’t really call it a comedy) and received a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild for The Goz and the Writers Guild of America.
Until next time...
Emma Farley a.k.a. filmgeek