Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At the Movies – December 2011 – Part 1: Independent Films

Art-House Dramas:

Shame (Steve McQueen) – Drama – Dec 2
Summary: The film is about Brandon, a successful New Yorker, who carefully cultivates his private life allowing him to indulge his sexual addition, but that is thrown into disarray when his sister arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay. Filmmakers: Writer-director Steven McQueen is one of the most exciting talents to emerge in the last few years with his debut, the brilliant Hunger. Shame is his second feature. He is working with a wonderful group featuring composer Harry Escott (The Road to Guantanamo), cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (who shot Hunger) and production designer Judy Becker (Garden State). Cast: It stars Michael Fassbender, co-stars Carey Mulligan and has supporting work from Hannah Ware and James Badge Dale. Expectations: As an admirer of Hunger, I am very much looking forward to this, plus the cast with Fassbender and Mulligan is very good. McQueen has such an unflinching aesthetic that this is going to be graphic and intense (also evident by its NC-17 rating). It might be a little too much on the fringe and arty to be a major awards winner (for things like the Oscars of Globes), but should secure a few Independent Spirit Award nods. Trailer: Here. Review.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay) – Drama – Dec 9 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about a mother who thinks there is something off, evil even about her son. Filmmakers: Writer-director Lynne Ramsay became a name to know in the U.K. with her first feature Ratcatcher, however her third feature We Need to Talk About Kevin is what will make her a sought-after talent in America. She is working with a brilliant crew, including: executive producer Steven Soderbergh, composer Jonny Greenwood (a member of Radiohead who has done some fantastic scores, like his work on There Will Be Blood), great cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement), and production designer Judy Baker (The Fighter). Cast: The film stars Tilda Swinton and co-stars John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller. Expectations: The film is a frontrunner for nominations at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards but should also garner some Oscar nods as well – most likely for Best Actress Tilda Swinton. It has played very well for critics and looks like a great character drama that is also terrifying in its buildup. Ezra Miller is also looking to be a breakout actor and this is likely to be the film that does it. Trailer: Here.

In the Land of Blood and Honey (Angelina Jolie) – War Romance – Dec 23 [LA/NYC]
Summary: The film is about two lovers, on opposite sides of the Serbian-Bosnian war, which re-encounter each other, try to recapture their relationship from before the war but find that their motives have changed. Filmmakers: It seems like it was only a matter of time before Angelina Jolie directed a film, but this is her second (but first feature) as she directed the documentary A Place in Time. She is working with a good crew, including composer Gabriel Yared (The Talented Mr. Ripley), cinematographer Dean Semlet (Danced with Wolves) and production designer Jon Hutman (The Tourist). Cast: She has unknown leads (at least in the States) with Zana Marjanovic and Goran Kostic, and support from Rade Serbeszija (who has shown up in many Hollywood films, as the go-to Baltic actor). Expectations: The trailer looks good, but this month has so many fantastic films coming out that this will probably be forgotten in the mix. Even among these four indie films it is by far the least anticipated and buzzed about. However, fans of war films and romances in trying times should probably give this a rent. Trailer: Here.

Art-House Comedies:

Young Adult (Jason Reitman) – Dramedy – Dec 9 [limited]
Summary: The film is about Mavis Gary, the most popular girl from her high school class. Now divorced, she returns to her small town in Minnesota to rekindle a romance with her high school boyfriend who is married with kids. Filmmakers: The film sees the reunion of director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who made Juno together. Reitman is also working with frequent collaborator cinematographer Eric Steelberg (Juno and Up in the Air) and production designer Kevin Thompson (The Adjustment Bureau). Cast: Charlize Theron stars with support from Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, J.K. Simmons, and Patton Oswalt. Expectations: There is Oscar buzz around the performances of Theron and Oswalt as well as Cody’s script, but probably all three can hope for nominations at best. The film looks to be a funny character piece about Theron’s ‘mean girl’ who comes back to find she is maybe not as big a deal as she thought she was. Theron won an Oscar for Monster (likely due to her physical transformation), but would like to reestablish herself as a top leading lady (and she is a producer on the film). Trailer: Here. Review.

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