Jessie's upstate New York hometown seems haunted, like a dream set to the tinkling of a far-off wind chime, and seen through a sad prism. At least to her. She's the 18 year-old small town bad girl; she smokes and drinks and shoplifts and has sad, overly-religious parents, who don't like each other, or themselves anymore. So when a common sparrow visits Jessie's bedroom window one morning at dawn and informs her that she's pregnant and she's carrying the baby of God, it's hard to tell where reality ends and being young, female, and totally alone begins. Filmmaker Deborah Kampmeier formed Full Moon Productions to make films by, for and about women. Virgin stars Elisabeth Moss as Jessie, and features the music of Ani Di Franco and Lucinda Williams; it was executive produced by Robin Wright Penn, who also plays Jessie's mother. Nominated for two IFP Independent Spirit Awards, Virgin is a beautiful, polaroid snapshot-like story that is unafraid to show the sadness, beauty and mortal danger of being a young woman in America.
Director: Deborah Kampmeier
Producer: Sarah Schenck, Raye Dowell
Cinematographer: Ben Wolf
Editor: Jane Pia Abramowitz
Cast: Robin Wright Penn, Elisabeth Moss, Daphne Rubin Vega, Socorro Santiago
This was a pretty intense movie for a Sunday morning, but it was beautifully done. You knew from the beginning what the baby's origin was, but the telling of the story is what was important. The actors were all perfectly cast, and the dialogue was right on. Elisabeth Moss did keep reminding me of Drew Barrymore through the whole movie though.
Dirty Work follows three men who deal with our unpleasant business. Darrell Allen pumps sceptic tanks; his company's motto: "U Dump it, we Pump it." He knows he's a necessary part of people's lives, and always will be. "[Y]ou ain't gonna get no computer to run out here and dig this [sceptic tank] hole..." Russ Page is at a different stop on the cycle of life. He's a bull semen collector - you might really love meats and cheeses, but wait 'til you see what Russ does for a living! Finally there's Bernard Holston, an embalmer at a funeral home. He observes that people know the body deteriorates, but they don't want to know, "That's what they're paying thousands of dollars for." David Sampliner and Tim Nackashi's portrait of three invisible professions is both thought-provoking (So that's how they do that!) and touching. Far from being ashamed of their work, viewers will leave with a sense that each man felt a profound calling to his work. "I never wanted to be on no fire engine. I didn't wanna build buildings - I wanted to put bodies back together." Dirty Work premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
Director: David Sampliner, Tim Nackashi
Producer: David Sampliner, Tim Nackashi
Cinematographer: David Sampliner, Tim Nackashi
Editor: Tim Nackashi, David Sampliner
Music: Tim Nackashi
Featuring: Russ Page, Darrell Allen, Bernard Holston
My last doc of the festival. It can be summed up in one word. Ew! But that is for the subject matter rather than the film itself. I now know more about bull semen collection than I ever needed to! Also icky were the septic tank pumper and the embalmer. The septic tank pumper talked with such a strong accent (you know, one of those deep-south my-wife-is-my-cousin kinda accents) that the filmmakers had to subtitle him. And this guy totally loved his job of digging around in other people's poo, and didn't wear any protective type clothing. It's a disgusting job that has to be done, but you really don't need to enjoy it so much! At least the semen collector wore rubber gloves & such!
Buffalo Bill's Defunct
On a fading old photograph from the forties, taken out in the country, Bill and his wife are labeled as "Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane"; the young couple looks very happy. But in the present, Bill's wife is dead and the grass growing on Bill's Pacific Northwest farm seems like it will overtake everything. Bill is almost unable to care for himself, and has impulsively decided to tear down a wooden barn on his land. As the old structure gradually comes down, his extended family gathers together for one of the last times on their childhood farm. A happy, interesting group - Bill's family represents a range of ages and personalities - facing childhood, first love, marriage, child-rearing and death. As they are living and laughing, so has Bill done; as he is loving and dying, so will they do. Buffalo Bill's Defunct is the work of two masterful storytellers: Eliza Fox and Matt Wilkins. Improvisational, subtle, and documentary-like, Buffalo Bill's Defunct is sentimental while avoiding sentimentality, and nostalgic while remaining immediate. It will make you want to laugh because you're sad and cry because you're happy.
Director: Matt Wilkins
Producer: Eliza Fox, Michael Seiwerath
Cinematographer: Erich Volkstorf
Editor: Andrew McAllister
Music: Jonathan Sampson
Cast: Earl V. Prebezac, Frances Hearn, Keith Fox
This one was well acted, and beautifully filmed. The story just didn't seem to go anywhere and I never really ended up caring about anyone or anything in it. I did miss the first 5 or 10 minutes, but I'm not sure that would have helped.
Nightingale In The Music Box
From the brilliant mind of Chicago playwright Hurt McDermott comes the superb script for Nightingale in a Music Box - a fast-clip, no-budget thriller to rival Memento and The Usual Suspects. Things start fast in Nightingale in a Music Box. Robin McAlister is a real estate agent living a normal life in Chicago with two kids and a husband who travels a lot for work. Or at least that's who she thinks she is. The strange vividness of her memories has led UN operatives to believe Robin may have been given a new, false identity using the top-secret memory altering technology patented by a company called New Garden Technologies. They fear she may actually be a "nightingale": someone whose memorization abilities are enhanced in order steal and convey top-secret scientific code in long form. But unknown to Robin, nightingales are dangerous, and disposable. For this reason a "music teacher" - an expert mental re-programmer - may have placed Robin into a seamless set of new memories called a "music box." If legendary microbe-technology agent Burke can't find out who Robin was, and what she knows, Robin may be trapped forever in a life not her own, where memory doesn't shift, or self-identity ever evolve. Nightingale in a Music Box recently dazzled audiences at the Slamdance Film Festival.
Director: Hurt McDermott
Producer: Leigh Jones, Todd Slotten
Cinematographer: Michael Dunne
Editor: Hurt McDermott
Music: Robert Fripp, Brian Eno
Cast: Kelley Hazen, Andrzej Krukowski, Catherine O’Connor
This was a movie that soooo needed to be a big budget film. The plot was really interesting, but it suffered by the limited budget. Most of the movie took place in just a couple offices. It felt restrained by the locations. It was so well written & such an unusual concept, but visually it was, well, boring.
On a hot day in Atlanta - capital of the South, home to CNN, Coca Cola and the world's busiest airport - a half-dozen lives are about to come together, and come apart. Roland is a drifter and a nobody; Agnes an actress on a hit TV show called "Southern Gothic"; Peter sings lead vocals in a band named Altruistic - and Jen is a runaway with a wayward heart. But despite money and cell phones, drugs and radio-play, sex and TV talk show appearances, no one in this non-linear mosaic of modern-American life is able to emotionally connect with anyone else. As each character recklessly struggles to find meaning in life, a delusional bible salesman (David Carradine) and a raving film director (Faye Dunaway) may be modern-day prophets, offering clarity in an increasingly confused world. Filmmaker Jacob Gentry sketched Last Goodbye from life in Atlanta, where he helped found POPfilms: a film collective devoted to fostering the community of local Atlanta actors, directors and musicians. With Last Goodbye, Gentry manifests the ingenious - or Machiavellian - spirit of low-budget filmmaking by casting - for the first time ever - exclusively the sons and daughters of Hollywood stars in all the major roles! Fresh from a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Last Goodbye is an incredibly emotional, cutting edge film about the collective inner and outer life of America at this moment.
Director: Jacob Gentry
Producer: Alex Motlagh, Cassandra Gava
Cinematographer: Thomas Bingham
Editor: Jacob Gentry
Music: Benjamin Lovett
Cast: Clementine Ford, Chris Rydell, Liam O'Neill, Sara Stanton, Faye Dunaway, David Carradine, Chad McNight, Maggie Blye
This movie was really good. As you go through the movie, the four seemingly unconnected characters become more entwined in each others lives. I knew that there were the kids of famous people in this movie, but since her last name is Ford, I had no idea that the lead actress is Cybil Sheppard's daughter until after. There were a few points in the movie where it was eerie how much she reminded me of Cybil Sheppard. The parts of the movie that show her tv show "Southern Gothic" had me laughing, because it was so obviously a parody of Buffy. There was even one part where the other characters totally made me think "Xander" and "Dawn" with their dialogue.
And those are the movies I saw. Tonight or tomorrow I'll write about the short films that were really good or made an impression.