Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sundance Review: A.C.O.D.

1 in 2 marriages ends in divorce.
This one was particularly ugly.

And thus begins one of the first movies that tackles divorce in such a comedic style.

At first glance, one might think a title like A.C.O.D. stands as an acronym for a new kind of hyperactive disease suffered by middle school kids. You'd be almost right. A.C.O.D. stands for "Adult Child of Divorce". If a young children watch their parents go through a messy divorce--how does that affect them as adults? Will they marry? Avoid commitment? 

A.C.O.D. stars Adam Scott as Carter--the son who holds the family together. Carter has had to be the go-between for his divorced parents (played geniusly by Richard Jenkins and the marvelous (and camera shy) Catherine O'Hara) ever since they decided to get a divorce on his 9th birthday. Years later, Carter must try to bring his parents together to celebrate the marriage of his younger brother Trey (played by Clark Duke--who has words of wisdom for young people in the video below).


The reconciling of his parents brings an onslaught of issues to deal with from childhood events, to his current love life with his girlfriend, to his attraction to Jessica Alba (can't be helped, I suppose). This film stars Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, and the marvelous Catherine O'Hara in one of the most poignant and truthful stories I've seen about family dysfunction. I would definitely take the time to watch the Q & A section in the video I, it's the only time you'll see Catherine O'Hara (who was very camera shy on the red carpet). I'll leave you with this little message from Amy Poehler (yes, that's me asking the unglamorous and poorly worded question, but who cares!)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sundance Review: The East

Clever. Captivating. Innovative. Perfectly Paced. Brit Marling has breathed new life into film with this fresh idea.

This film was satisfying.

How often can you say that?

I first discovered Brit Marling in Another Earth. She was quiet, stunning, and a persuasive actor. Little did I know she had not only starred in the film, she had also co-written it. A flawless beauty, she was tired of being offered parts as "the dumb cheerleader".  So, she started writing two screenplays of her own. She would work on one in the morning and one in the evening.

One of these was The East. It is an utterly and  completely refreshing idea for a film. A woman (Marling) goes undercover to find and expose an American "terrorist" group of young people led by a seeming fanatic (played marvelously by Alexander Skarsgard). It truly is a band of misfits, Ellen Page being the feistiest of them all.

However, what is defined as "terrorism" is questionable at best--and it puts me, as a member of the audience, in a peculiar situation.  What do you do when you find yourself agreeing and siding with the "terrorists" (gulp)? These people have respect for the land and the seas. They want people to protect their fellow man from the big, bad corporations. They target large oil companies who have trashed the oceans. They target large drug companies who sell drugs with side effects that kill people. They, in fact, do what a lot of young environmentalists wish, in a way, that they could do. But, their actions are dangerous and they are illegal....and enthralling as hell.

You'll definitely be surprised and intrigued. This is one movie that is not figure-out-able in the first five minutes. It doesn't follow a typical Hollywood movie plot line. It isn't simplistic and stupid. It's sophisticated, smart, fast paced, and the best movie I have seen at Sundance this far.

(movies and pictures will be added to this post tonight when I get home!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sundance Review: Stoker

As a photographer--this film was visually one of the most stunning sequence of composed shots I've ever seen compiled into a single movie. As a human being with a mother and many uncles, this film made me utterly creeped out. So, it was a win-win.

Stoker stars Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska (I finally know how to spell her name!), and the utterly delightful Matthew Goode. Perhaps the biggest reveleation, however, came in the form of director Park Chan-wook. Many will know him from Oldboy, but will have never even heard of him before. He makes his English directorial debut here at Park City this year. Armed with a translator, he was delightfully charismatic, charming, humorous, and low-key. I loved him.

Maybe it is because I like to explore the complexity of human emotion in my photography work, maybe it is because I like to push boundaries with what people feel comfortable with in their communication, maybe it is because--as a writer and creator--I spend much of my alone time thinking about why humans do what they do and how they do it. Maybe it is all of these things, that made this film so intensely interesting.

Or, maybe it was all the blood. It was shocking, but also not so shocking since I just saw Django Unchained last week. There was a lot of lovely blood spraying all over very pure flowers in this film, and I guess I'm ok with that. I never thought I'd be ok with blood in a movie, but when it's just so lovely and artistic, it sorta gets to me. In a good way. 

At the opening of the film, India (Wasikowska) has just lost her father (Dermot Mulroney) on the day she turned 18. Her mother, Evie (Kidman) is distant, and often cruel, to her daughter. On the day of the funeral, Evie introduces India to an uncle she didn't know she had, Charlie (Matthew Goode). Then everything just gets bizarre. Evie and Charlie have feelings for each other. Charlie and India have feelings for each other. There is a lot of staring. There is a lot of emotion. There is a lot of anger and violence, especially on the part of India. And there is a lot of dysfunction. If you want to feel better about your own dysfunctional family, come and spend time with this one.

Oh, also, this was written by the ever intense Wentworth Miller who starred in Prison Break. I've always liked him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sundance Review: Kill Your Darlings

This is a cheesy video I made because I want my magazine to get lots of subscription and YouTube love, so watch it please!

When Michael C. Hall walked into the Eccles Center for his Sundance Premiere of Kill Your Darlings, he was dressed in monochromatic gray sweater and pants, and had a very unassuming nature. He also had a ready smile and talked a lot about his love of the Beatnik icons like Jack Kerouac (played beautifully by ravishing (and tall!) Jack Huston from Boardwalk Empire). He talked about the depths the film goes to in an eloquence that was unexpected. Not only is Hall refeshingly kind, succinct, and interesting--we also give him thumbs up for being well read and eloquent. During one moment, he said, honestly, that it's the one and only time in his life where he looked at the director and said, "Don't be an idiot, hire me."

The director, John Krokidas, is not an idiot. Thank God. Not only did he cast Michael C. Hall, he also rounded up such talent as Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, newbie Elizabeth Olsen, and Daniel Radcliffe. When Radcliffe took to the stage for the Q & A, a member of the audience asked him, "Why are you drawn to such bizarre roles?" Radcliffe did a sweet little smile and looked like he was about 12. He was good natured and cracked a little joke about how parts he thinks are interesting, everyone else thinks are crazy-weird and that he's a weirdo for taking them. Truth be told, this movie is a far cry from Harry Potter days (thank God, again) and Daniel has a gay love scene in the film. I overheard one girl, a LDS woman from Utah, say as she left the screening, "I feel really guilty because that guy love scene totally turned me on."  I'd say that's pretty good praise when you're in Utah.

Set in 1944, the movie draws real figures from history like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs together in an intriguing murder mystery. As Ginsberg (Radcliffe) ventures off to Columbia, he's pulled into a world of education, city life, new explorations in sexuality, and a bit of obsession. His obsession centers around a young man named Lucien Carr (played by Dane DeHaan). Carr soon commits an unexpected, but well documented murder that draws Gingsberg in even deeper into a world that unfolds before the audience in a true mastery of story telling. As is true for most Beat stories, the women don't have much to do.

The film started with a poem that one of the producers wrote on a stickie note and handed to his friend. He told his friend he wanted to write this play. His friend said, "Nope, you're gonna write a screenplay and I'm going to direct it." And they did. I like people who's dreams start on stickie notes and end up on the big screen at Sundance.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Taking My Dissatisfaction Out To Dinner

Last night Lena Dunham, a mere 26 years old, won Golden Globes for best actress and best television comedy for her creation, GIRLS. She has received a lot of criticism and praise for what she’s done. The criticism comes mostly from people who probably want to be where she is and are not. Like those film friends we all have who sit around and critique everything wrong with a movie, but don’t go out and make movies themselves—even though they are always proclaiming their desire to do so---(ooh, laying the slap down on a Monday morning!)

I sat in my fuzzy socks and stretchy pants sipping tea last night and watched Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Waltz (bravo!), and Claire Danes (again!) win these little statues of validation. I admit. I was envious. I just sat there.

Sat and thought about my writing career which doesn’t really exist. Sat and thought about my photography business (which is still so tiny).  Sat and thought about my role in helping women in this world. Sat and thought about all the big dreams I have and how so many of them are in the process of coming true—but how there is always a sense of dissatisfaction in areas where people would be shocked to know you are dissatisfied.

While many people try to avoid feeling the dissatisfaction—or drown them out temporarily in chocolate and alcohol (and yes, I’ve definitely done both), I’ve grown to savor those tiny dagger-like feelings that creep into my psyche ever morning and every night. I’ve learned to temper them, feel them, thrive from them, and make changes based on them. Dissatisfaction, in a sense, has driven my life since I was 7.

Some people might think it sounds awful.  Some people might raise eyebrows at me and inwardly feel bad that I embrace such feelings. But the artists out there, those artists, they raise a glass in camaraderie with me.

Do you know what's already happened this year? A million Beethovens were born. A million Oprahs. A million Einsteins. A million Florence Nightingales. A million Martin Luther Kings. And a million Madame Curies, to name just a few. Each as capable of moving mountains, touching lives, and leaving the world far better than they found it.

But which ones will have the courage to do whatever little they can each day, with what little they've got, from where they are, before their baby steps turn into giant leaps for the legions who will follow them?

I truly believe it’s the ones who feel a little dissatisfied every day--and that dissatisfaction drives them to ultimate creation.