Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick…

October 28, 2009

In 2002, Roger Ebert referred to Annie Hall as “just about everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie.” Being that the film first hit theaters in 1977 and, to this day, continues to possess a cult following, it’s pretty safe to say that Ebert was onto something. Annie Hall, which can technically be considered an independent film as Allen was unwilling to relinquish any artistic control over the film in order to secure funding, has continued to appealed to audiences over the decades despite the fact that the film strays from typical Classical Hollywood conventions. Allen repeatedly breaks the 4th wall, talking directly into the camera and thus at the audience, in a steam of conscious manner. Therefore, the film is heavily driven by dialogue, as opposed to action, highlighting Allen’s tendencies to go off on what seem to be random, though are actually deliberate, tangents. While Allen strays from classical conventions in terms of plot and dialogue, he also strays from classical camera conventions. For example, in Classical Hollywood cinema, it’s common to start a scene with an establishing shot, moving to a medium shot, followed by a close up and then back out to a medium shot. Allen, on the contrary, often uses extremely long establishing shots, keeping the camera angle wide even after the characters have entered the frame. Additionally, Allen opts for several long-standing continuity shots in order to place focus on the dialogue as opposed to what is happening, visually, around the characters. It is also important to note that Allen uses a slew of other creative outlets that differ from conventional Hollywood cinema, such as; using subtitles to convey inner monologue, cutting into shots of animation, duplicating Annie in the same scene in order to convey a separation between her mind and body, and breaking reality (think random strangers responding to Alvy on the street/Marshall McLuhan just happening to be on hand in the movie theater to debunk a character’s thoughts on his writings). By abandoning conventional Hollywood cinema standards, Allen was able to reach out to a wide fan base on not only an entertaining level, but also an emotional level, leaving behind, what many would consider to be, his masterpiece.

I am trying to break your heart…

October 28, 2009

1. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco, 2002

2. Directed by: Sam Jones – Produced by:Peter Abraham, Sam Jones and Gary Hustwit – Distributed by: Plexifilm

3. I viewed this film at home, after my roommate ordered it from Netflix.

4. Target Audience: This film is a documentary about the indie rock band Wilco’s journey in making and distributing their fourth studio album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Therefore, the target audience would be those who are not only interested in Wilco, the band, but also how the music industry works.

5. This black-and-white documentary by Sam Jones, a first time filmmaker and award winning photographer, was distributed on DVD by Plexifilm, an independent DVD label that produces original films, releases films theatrically, and produces, distributes and markets DVDs. The film never saw release in theaters, but was submitted to, and selected as part of, the Official Selections of the Los Angeles, London and Stockholm International Film Festivals, in 2002. Additionally, the film is considered independent due to the subject matter of the film… being that it’s a documentary about an, at the time, independent rock band.

6. Film Description: The film provides a unique insight into the politics of the music industry… more specifically, how bands relate to their record labels, by chronicling the process of Wilco recording their 4th studio album, an album that critics have hailed as their landmark, their masterpiece, their ticket to fame. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Wilco… while nearing completion of the album, tension arose between the band and their record label, Reprise, a division of the Warner Music Group. Wilco’s prior albums hadn’t brought in the amount of money that Reprise wanted to see and thus Wilco was dropped from the label. With a completed album and no contractual obligations to Reprise, Wilco made the album available to download on their website. Interest peaked, hard, and Wilco’s profile began to rise, catching the eye of Nonesuch Records, again a division of Warner Music Group (meaning the band was essentially paid, twice, by Warner for this album). This film also explores the, at the time, growing tension amongst the band mates, most noticeably between front man Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett (Bennett was fired from the band upon the completion of the album due to “artistic differences”).  Additionally, the film gets up close and personal with Tweedy, capturing, on film, his chronic migraines and the debilitation they cause him.

7. Technical Considerations: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart is more than just a documentary on Wilco’s 4th album, but rather it manages to show a quiet sort of intimacy amongst the band’s members. Sam Jones achieves this, not only by using black-and-white film, but also by taking a Cinema-vérité stance. The band is observed, more so than questioned, letting the audience see into who they really are as opposed to who they present themselves to be.

 

 

Fortune and glory, kid… fortune and glory.

October 28, 2009

1. Død Snø (Dead Snow), 2009

2. Written by: Stig Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola – Directed by: Tommy Wirkola – Produced by: Herald Zwart – Distributed by: IFC Films

3. I saw the film, twice, in July of 2009 at the Music Box Theatre.

4. Target Audience: While the film is definitely a horror movie, focusing on zombies, and therefore rather gory, it’s also extremely comical. The film will appeal to teenagers and adults who appreciate American horror films (it references them frequently). It should be noted that this is a Norwegian film and thus involves subtitles.

5. Dead Snow is a Norwegian horror film that had its U.S. premier at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. After which, its U.S. distribution rights were bought by IFC Films, an American film distribution owned by Rainbow Media, specializing in independent films and documentaries. The film saw a limited release in the U.S. over the summer of 2009.

6. Film Description: It’s Easter vacation, and what better way to spend the break than skiing down the isolated hills just outside of Øksfjord, Norway, no? In Dead Snow, eight medical students embark on, what they believe will be, just another ski trip. However, soon after arriving, the group receives a visit from a questionable hiker who informs the group of how the Nazis occupied this territory during World War II, brutally raping and pillaging the locals until the locals revolted, driving the surviving Nazi soldiers deep into the hills. It was assumed that the soldiers merely froze to death, but the group quickly discovers the fallacy in this belief as they learn, first hand, that the horrors of Hitler live on, when they come face to face with a battalion of undead Nazi soldiers intent on devouring anyone unfortunate enough to wander into the remote mountains where they were once sent to die.

7.Technical Considerations: Technically, this movie was a masterpiece. From the soundtrack, which fits the film beautifully, enhancing the drama that’s unfolding in front of the viewer, to the costuming (you should see the Nazi zombies – The makeup! The uniforms!), to the various shot sequences used throughout the film (there are a lot of establishing shots used to place the audience into the snowy abyss right along side of the group. Additionally, when the action happens, the director makes sure that the shot is tight enough to give you the anticipation and anxiety that the character onscreen in experiencing)… it’s truly a beautifully crafted film.

I imagine you have no idea what to expect.

October 27, 2009

1. Teeth, 2007

2. Written by: Mitchell Lichtenstein – Directed by: Mitchell Lichtenstein – Produced by: Mitchell Lichtenstein and Joyce Pierpoline – Distributed by: Roadside Attractions

3. I first saw this film in 2007 at the Music Box Theatre, then again on DVD at home.

4. Target Audience: The film is definitely a dark comedy, mixed in with horror. However, it should be noted that the film’s premise is one for more mature audiences, as is the graphic visual nature of the film.

5. Teeth is a prime example of an independent film. It premiered on January 17th, 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival in the independent drama category. The film was made with a budget of $2 million and was distributed by Roadside Attractions, a U.S. film company that largely specializes in independent pictures (the film never saw a nationwide release). Furthermore, the movie was released on DVD through Dimension Extreme, a genre DVD label owned by the Weinstein Company, specializing in unrated horror films.

6. Film Description: The myth of vagina dentata is explored through a chaste teenage girl named Dawn in the bizarre experience that is Teeth. Dawn is a spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group called The Promise. However, when Tobey moves to town, Dawn becomes sexually tempted. What unfolds there after is an adventure through Dawn’s experience learning that she possesses, and coping with,  the ancient myth of vagina dentata – a toothed vagina. Only a hero can save Dawn, as he must conquer the vagina dentata in order to set Dawn’s sexuality free.

7. Technical Considerations: Visually, the film is pretty spot on. The somewhat subdued colors mixed with a nuclear power plant looming in the background of the town, creates an eerie feeling right off the bat… something seems a bit off in this small town. The film, in it’s nature, is graphic, and while it can be hard to watch at times, I felt that the director handled the content well… for example, he maintains establishing shots and medium shots while filming the more grotesque scenes so that you are definitely aware of what is going on, but you don’t feel as though you are being forced to look at these images.