Film Review: Prospect

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The universe is vast and mysterious. But the fact remains that even if humans manage to dwell beyond the confines of Earth, we will still be humans. We’ll likely always be slaves to some sort of currency and thrive on a class divide, even in a far-flung future galaxy. Writer/director team Zeek Earl and Christopher Caldwell work off of this concept in their debut feature space western, Prospect. The alien world they’ve miraculously created on a shoestring budget is rife with implications of an expansive human-populated universe that is inaccessible to their financially-strapped protagonist.

Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is a teenager living with her widower father, Damon (Jay Duplass), on a space freighter. They are prospectors in orbit around a green moon rich with precious gems called aurelacs. Extracting them from their fleshy spermatozoidal sacs is a risky and complicated process. But Damon is uniquely skilled and also desperate to make ends meet, which is why he decides to risk their lives for the chance at one big score that would cure their financial ills for good. Of course, they aren’t the only ones after the motherlode. Damon’s get-rich-quick scheme soon turns into a fight for survival for him and his daughter…

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Seattle International Film Festival 2018 Wrap-Up

ef87bb37d9eeb0f90349e88ae209cf63562e9e06The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival ran from May 17th to June 10th. That’s 25 solid days of movie madness. It kicked off with the premiere of Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop, starring Emily Mortimer as a widow who uses her “bibliophilia” to open the hearts and minds of the conservative residents of a small English town.

SIFF’s juicy centerpiece was a movie that will undoubtedly take America by storm in the coming months: Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You. Riley was on hand to introduce his surreal social justice comedy to a sold-out crowd.

Gus Van Sant closed out the fest with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. The latest offering from the veteran indie director stars Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, a celebrated Portland cartoonist who struggles with substance abuse and being confined to a wheelchair.

Melanie Lynskey spent an afternoon talking to fans about her impressive career and promoting Megan Griffiths’ latest outing, Sadie. Lynskey stars as a working-class single mother who underestimates her angry teenage daughter (Sophia Mitri Schloss).

HIGHLIGHTS:
People often ask me for recommendations from the festival, and I’ll have 1 or 2 titles to tout. But there were so many standouts this year, that my answer is, “How much time to do you have?” I try to focus on female-centric films and this year’s lineup made it easy…

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Film Review: Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town

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It’s worth noting that first-time film director Christian Papierniak has a background in video games because that’s a bit how Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town plays out. When Izzy (Mackenzie Davis, Halt and Catch Fire) learns her ex-boyfriend plans to marry her former best friend, she decides it is her destiny to crash their engagement party. The problem is that Izzy’s car is as broke as she is. In L.A., no wheels mean that 5 hours might not be enough time to get from point A to point B. Izzy does her level best to squeeze favors out of people who don’t support her cause and are have clearly grown tired of her shit. But she’s in a race against time to get to Los Feliz before Roger is officially off the market (never mind the fact that an engagement party is not as binding as an actual wedding).

Papierniak’s protagonist is the manic pixie girl minus the dream. Izzy is a twenty-something lost soul convinced that getting back together with her ex is the answer to her ennui. Davis imbues what could have been a one-note character (the “hot mess”) with depth and occasionally invites empathy despite her myriad poor decisions. Izzy could be a precursor to Gillian Jacobs’ character on the Netflix series, Love. Once upon a time, Izzy was a big deal in the local indie rock scene, but now she’s relegated to the service industry. When she wakes up in bed with an (albeit very charming) stranger, she retains no memory of how she got there or how she soiled her work uniform with wine (and possibly blood). None of that matters anyway, because young Izzy is driven by Providence. In fact, it is a postcard from the Road Island capital hanging in her hook-up’s bathroom which convinces her that it’s her destiny to reconcile with her ex on the eve of his engagement to someone else. You see, the party is on Providence Road…

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Film Review: The Long Dumb Road

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The Long Dumb Road resembles an update of Albert Brooks’ 1985 masterpiece, Lost in America. Only instead of yuppies attempting to emulate Easy Rider, we follow a 19-year-old boy who wants to experience “the real America” before matriculating to college and manhood. Director Hannah Fidell, heretofore known for dramatic fare like A Teacher and 6 Years, joins forces with Carson Mell (Another Evil) to breathe new life into the odd couple road trip comedy.

Fresh off his sheltered suburban Austin upbringing, Nathan (Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel) documents his trip on a 35 mm Pentax camera, operating as if his photos of dive bar patrons, abandoned buildings, and strip malls are groundbreaking works. But when his mini-van won’t start, his trip changes course both figuratively and literally. His car trouble serendipitously leads to Richard (Jason Matzoukas, The League, The House), a mechanic who has just tendered his middle-fingered resignation from his employers. Richard is upbeat and friendly, albeit rough around the edges. Nathan admits that he’d hoped to meet interesting people on his trip and as Richard puts it, “I’m interesting as fuck!” So, Nathan agrees to give Richard a ride in exchange for his services…

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Film Review: Blindspotting

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Carlos López Estrada tackles such a staggering number of themes in his feature debut, Blindspotting, that it almost feels like too much for one film. Then again, that may be part of the point. The truth of the matter is that gentrification, police shootings, racial profiling, cultural appropriation, and post-incarceration trappings don’t take turns affecting people on a daily basis. If we can’t handle it for 93 minutes, imagine how it feels to the people who can’t get away from it. Despite an implausible ending that dramatically shifts the film’s tone, Blindspotting is a candid, and occasionally humorous, look at the systematic oppression of the disenfranchised residents of Oakland, CA.

Stars, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal spent nine years writing the script, a story set in their native city. Diggs (Hamilton, Blackish) plays Collin, an African American ex-con with only three days left on his probation, so long as he can stay out of trouble. But trouble seems to find Collin wherever he goes. Much of the credit goes to his ever-present and volatile best friend, Miles (Casal), who is white. Miles and Collin are a walking sociology study. They grew up on the same side of the tracks, and both were involved in the violent incident that sent Collin to jail for a year. But the police didn’t give Miles a second glance when they came to arrest Collin…

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Film Review: That Summer

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Göran Olsson assembled this prequel to the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens using long-lost footage that director Albert Maysles recently uncovered in a studio archive. Since the 4 reels alone weren’t enough to warrant a feature, Olsson added another layer by interviewing photographer Peter Beard about his involvement in That Summer that spawned a cult phenomenon. Uninitiated audiences may struggle to grasp the significance of the found footage. However, Big and Little Edies’ pre-existing fans will relish this early look at the eccentric recluses who lived in squalor despite their familial connection to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Not many documentaries earn a sequel, let alone instigate a franchise. But that’s what happened with Albert and David Maysles breakout hit. Grey Gardens warranted a sequel, a musical, a play, and a 2009 TV movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. It was more than a precursor to Hoarders. It was a commentary on faded glory, high society, public image, and autonomy. But the much-beloved film happened almost by accident. Lee Bouvier Radziwell initially hired The Maysles and her then-boyfriend Peter Beard, to explore what became of the Bouvier sisters’ childhood summer stomping grounds. When the crew accompanied Radziwell to her relatives’ estate, they stumbled upon an unexpected and irresistible opportunity to capture the larger-than-life former socialites who were languishing in squalor…

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