Tag Archives: Independent Cinema

The Independents need to Fly by Kent Hill

Well I’ve been working on this one for a while now. A collection, a tribute to the wondrous array of talents out there doing exactly what they want to do. Godard famously once said: “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.” That may have been the case for him, but I like my movies with a few more ingredients. Werewolves, giant snakes, sharks – it’s all part of my complete breakfast so, I endeavored to get in contact with those few, those happy few, this band of indie auteurs who don’t need permission or studio backing to do what they love to do – which is make movies.

Perhaps it is fortuitous regarding the timing of the release of this piece that all of the films here mentioned are now out there and available for your enjoyment. Mr. Bonk’s ‘Jaws Indoors’ sharksploitation offering, House Shark, Mr. Braxtan’s urban anaconda comedic actioner, Snake Outta Compton, Mr. Sheets Werewolf O’ glorious Werewolf killing by night picture, Bonehill Road and finally, Mr. Dean brings us his second installment of justice wreaking havoc by the full moon with his part man, part wolf, all cop, Another WolfCop.

We need these independents now more than ever ladies and gentlemen. Hollywood at large has become a cookie-cutter industry were everything is either a remake, a sequel or an adaptation. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something boring. It is and has degenerated into a vicious cycle that sees the movie business in the safest place it has been in decades. And why? Because dear reader, there is no gambling on a property that doesn’t already carry a built-in audience. No risk versus reward. It’s the same old shit – just in a different box.

So thank God for the Independents. Robert Rodriguez once said, “Don’t give me any money, don’t give me any people, but give me freedom, and I’ll give you a movie that looks gigantic.” Hollywood has long forgotten that the size of the budget does not equal the size of a film’s success. It is the films that defy convention, that resist formula, that are at play in the fields of freedom and creativity and not those designed and dictated via a committee in some corporate office that are still exciting audiences.

The studios may have the guns, but we got the numbers. We have the power now to embrace these magnificent artists. Together we can bring them in from the fringes and with all the social media tools at our command, we can use our influence to elevate these men and their glorious pictures to ever greater heights, instead of perpetuating the norm which sees us elevating fools into rich heroes.

Yes dear reader, today is the day. The day on which we can declare in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night – we will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on, we’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate, The Independent’s Day.

RON BONK

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(DUE TO A BAD CONNECTION, SOME OF MY INTERVIEW WITH RON WAS LOST - BUT PLENTY REMAINS - I TRUST YOU'LL STILL ENJOY)

Ron Bonk is a producer and writer, known for Clay (2007), Night of Something Strange (2016) Strawberry Estates (2001) and She Kills 2016. He was born in Cicero N.Y. and attended Cicero, North Syracuse H.S. Then he graduated from M.V.C.C. , and Utica College. He is the president of S.R.S. Cinema L.L.C. in Central New York.

HANK BRAXTAN

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Hank was born and raised in Grand Junction, Colorado; this would be his greatest accomplishment until dropping out of film school at age 26. Even from a very early age, Hank showed a genuine interest in being entertained. In 1998, he put his lack of ambition on hold and joined the US Army as an Intelligence Analyst. After his discharge for honorable behavior in 2004, Hank attended film school for a short while, and made a bunch of nonsense about Ghostbusters fighting Freddy Krueger and other copyrighted materials. In the days before YouTube, that was kind of a big deal.

Hank has since gone on to work in the same town as many famous filmmakers. He currently has several projects in several stages of development, etc.

TODD SHEETS

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Todd Sheets is a writer and director, known for Bonehill Road (2017), Dreaming Purple Neon (2016) and Grindsploitation (2016).

LOWELL DEAN

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Lowell Dean was born on January 17, 1979. He is a director and writer, known for WolfCop (2014), Another WolfCop (2017) and 13 Eerie (2013).

 

 

 

 

 

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Knights be Damned: An Interview with Silvio Simac by Kent Hill

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Knights of the Damned is a film of a type you don’t see much of any more. When I was a kid there were fantasy films by the country mile – with titles including Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, Sword of the Valiant, Hawk the Slayer, The Archer, Zu Warriors, Knight of the Dragon.

But then, like the Western before them, they dried up and have henceforth become sporadic and fleeting. Knights of the Damned marks a return which sees the fantasy genre clash with the zombie phenomena in a film which sees a band of returning nights having to fight their way back to the castle of their sovereign lord through dragons, sirens and dark alchemy which has caused the dead to rise and stalk the living.

It is an exciting throwback to those fantasy films I know and love, as well as being something fresh and a little bit different. So, thrilled I was to speak with the star of show, Silvio Simac. And, thrilled was I to learn that KOTD is the first installment in an epic trilogy. Silvio is no doubt a future action movie notable and comes to the Damned with a CV of great roles in a vast array of high-concept cinema.

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So, for all you fantasy lovers out there that secretly yearn for a return to the heady days of high adventure – I won’t spoil it for you – check out Knights of the Damned now, and press play to listen to a fun interview with one of the knights most bold from days of old, whose mighty sword slashes the heads of those undead . . .

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(Courtesy of Kung-Fu Kingdom.com)

Silvio Simac is a Croatian-born British martial artist and actor who has enjoyed a long and varied three decade career with some outstanding achievements. These include being (multi-time) British, European and World Taekwondo champion. Aside from TKD, Silvio holds black belts in Choi Kwang Do, kickboxing, karate and combat self-defence. Having starred in numerous movies with such action superstars as Jet Li, Scott Adkins, Kane Kosugi and Jason Statham he also regularly attends martial arts and health-oriented seminars and conferences alongside such friends as Benny The Jet, Cynthia Rothrock, Michael Jai White, Don Wilson, Shannon Lee and many more! Silvio is widely respected by his peers for being a fount of martial arts knowledge and experience on training techniques, nutrition and philosophy; he remains a hardcore student of life, happily sharing and communicating what he’s learned with ease, covering those details that can be so easily overlooked by other teachers in this day and age.

REED MORANO’S MEADOWLAND — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Credit must be given to director Reed Morano with her feature film debut Meadowland – she’s taken incredibly dark and troubling material and turned it into an inherently compelling, extremely raw, and often times painful cinematic experience, one that’s wholly engrossing, but that will test the strength of most viewers. Given that the film is essentially a study of hopeless denial and deeply repressed anger during the aftermath of a child’s disappearance, this demanding (and draining) piece of work isn’t going to be for everyone. But for those of us interested in thought provoking, intensely modulated dramas that ask questions about ourselves as individuals, then this will be the perfect antidote to whatever CGI laden blockbuster is currently littering moving screens. Morano, an accomplished cinematographer on such films as The Skeleton Twins, Frozen River, and Kill Your Darlings, gets in close to her characters with her intimate cinematography, which is almost all hand-held, yet shot in 2.35:1 widescreen with an emphasis on off-kilter angles, extreme close-ups, and side of the head framing that evokes the introspective beats of a Michael Mann film.

Centering on a husband and wife (an excellent Luke Wilson playing a NYC cop and a never better Olivia Wilde as an inner city teacher) exactly one year after their son was abducted at a gas station, the film sticks very close to its two central performers, allowing peripheral characters to shake up the proceedings; the estimable supporting cast includes a recently busy Kevin Corrigan (funny and effective in this year’s romantic dramedy Results), Giovanni Ribisi (love seeing him!), John Leguizamo (always solid and edgy), Elisabeth Moss (quick but effective), and Juno Temple (always spunky and sexy). But the film belongs to Wilde and Wilson, who both cut all-too-convincing portraits of parents pushed to their emotional edge, with Wilde going especially deep all throughout this nervy, focused story of loss and potential acceptance. The final moments, from a directorial standpoint, are very bold, as it’s clear that Morano wants the audience to think for themselves and realistically accept the facts that have been presented for us.

There’s nothing “easy” about Meadowland, and in that sense, this film will likely challenge those who are looking for simple, digestible storytelling, which this is anything but. Meadowland aims to explore the awkward moments between friends and family members after a traumatic incident; nobody knows quite what to say, what the boundaries are in any given situation, or how the directly affected individuals are truly feeling inside. The thoughtful script by Chris Rossi might rely on some familiar storytelling tropes (support groups, personally-inflicted pain, children with learning disabilities) but it all feels organic to the environment and sadly, all too believable, considering that these are real struggles that people face every day. Not a film for the overly sensitive or for those who need their art spelled out for them, Morano has crafted a hard-hitting piece of cinema that has emotional resonance as well as arresting visual style. Available on Itunes and screening in limited release in theaters.

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PTS Presents Cinematographer’s Corner with ALWIN KUCHLER

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Barclays’ Commercial: Behind the ScenesShot on Pearl Street and Hanover

Podcasting Them Softly is excited to present a chat with cinematographer Alwin Kuchler, who has the highly anticipated new film Steve Jobs, from director Danny Boyle, hitting screens this weekend! Kuchler also worked with Boyle on their underrated science fiction thriller Sunshine, as well as having multiple collaborations under his belt with filmmakers as diverse as Michael Winterbottom (Code 46, The Claim), Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher), and Kevin Macdonald (the documentaries Marley and One Day in September). He also shot the incredible action thriller Hanna for director Joe Wright, and worked on PTS favorite Solitary Man, from filmmakers Brian Koppleman and David Levien, which stars Michael Douglas in one of his career defining roles. Kuchler‘s work has spanned various genres and he always brings an extremely stylish eye to all of his efforts. We hope you enjoy our latest addition to the PTS Cinematographer’s Corner!

RAMIN BAHRANI’S GOODBYE SOLO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo is a quietly powerful film with two absolutely astonishing performances from its leads. Bahrani, who also directed the excellent Chop Shop, Man Push Cart, and the underrated At Any Price, currently has a new film out in limited release called 99 Homes, which centers on the financial crisis and home mortgage disaster of 2008. He’s interested in social commentary and human-scaled dramas which can thematically speak to anyone, a naturalist filmmaker with a style similar to Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves), utilizing a deliberately slow pace, simple but effective camera set ups, limited artificial musical score, a noticeable lack of showy lighting techniques, all in an effort to achieve slow-burn and honest to the core dramatics. Goodbye Solo is about a North Carolina cab driver named Solo (the amazing Souleymane Sy Savane), a Senegalese immigrant, whose girlfriend is about to have a baby. One day, an old, sad looking man named William (Red West, incredible) gets in his cab and makes him an ominous offer: In one week, for $1000 cash, Solo will drive William to the highest point at a nearby mountain range, drop him off, and never look back. What develops over that week is an unlikely but exceptionally moving friendship between the two vastly different men. Bahrani’s emotionally taxing screenplay gives West and Savane some powerful scenes to play off of each other, with a finale that is perfectly understated but deeply felt. I was taken back by the honest and natural performances of both West and Savane, and probably because I wasn’t familiar with them before seeing the film, I was able to become invested in a way that might not have occurred had more baggage-laden talent been given the two roles. West is a guy who has been doing bit parts in movies for years (his personal story is fascinating…do a google search…) and he’s got one of those made-for-the-cinema faces that dispenses with back-story without the necessity for words. It’s a face that’s seen too much throughout the years, and because of West’s grizzled look and feel, he brings a level of intensity to William that remains present throughout the entire picture. Savane is the perfect antidote to West’s hardness; Solo could give Happy-Go-Lucky’s Poppy Montgomery a run for her money in the eternally optimistic sweepstakes. Always trying to help, always thinking with his heart (when sometimes he should be thinking more with his head), Solo is determined not to let William do himself in, even if it means sacrificing things that he holds dear. Bahrani was hailed by the late Roger Ebert as “America’s next great filmmaker” and it’s not hard to see why. He’s been making important, under the radar work for years now, and it’s time that he gets the full-on attention he deserves. If you’re not familiar with his work, I urge you to get acquainted. Goodbye Solo is a great film, one that will make you think long after you’ve finished watching.

ALEX ROSS PERRY’S QUEEN OF EARTH — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I recently had two viewings of Queen of Earth on successive nights and the film has stuck with me ever since. This one won’t be for everyone. It’s challenging, it’s uncompromising, and it features a riveting lead performance from the stunningly talented actress Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) that will leave you emotionally drained by the end of the 90 minute run time. Up and coming filmmaker Alex Ross Perry (last year’s bitterly funny Listen Up Philip, which also starred Moss) could do a lot worse than be wholly inspired by Robert Altman’s one of a kind masterpiece 3 Women, and even if Queen of Earth isn’t on that level (NOTHING could ever be…) I’d rather see a young talent emulating Altman as opposed to half-dozen other filmmakers I won’t mention. This is the sort of film that isn’t really “about” anything tangible, but rather, it’s an intensely internalized piece of storytelling that holds at its center the chance for an actress to go to some genuinely pained places as an artist. And it’s unquestionably one of the most unique films I’ve seen all year, a bold piece of work that feels crafted by a smart group of collaborators who knew exactly the story they wanted to tell.

There’s an unnerving quality to much of the film, due largely in part to the ominous score by Keegan DeWitt and the measured, highly stylized cinematography by Sean Price Williams. The elliptical editing by Robert Greene only intensifies the unpredictability and vulnerability being demonstrated by Moss, and the sense of uncertainty being felt by Waterston. Perry’s film centers on Catherine (Moss), a psychologically fragile woman who is still suffering the traumatic effects of her father’s recent suicide, who reconnects with an old friend (Katherine Waterston, making good on her promise from Inherent Vice) at a cabin in the woods, trying to calm her life down. But that’s not going to happen. It’s pretty clear from the get-go that this isn’t going to happen. So you just watch as Moss presents the ultimate portrait of a person coming apart at the seams, unable to gather her thoughts coherently, and the way that Perry doles out implied backstory and various narrative clues demands that viewers actively engage with the film rather than passively experiencing it. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the filmmaking, for Moss, and for the overall ambition on display, but it’s a film that will likely leave many people feeling uncomfortable, if for no other reason than it literally feels like you’re a secret guest to a mental breakdown, which is something that many individuals just won’t want to deal with when deciding what movie to watch on a Friday night.

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DAVID ZELLNER’S KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Inspired by the urban legend surrounding the real life suicide of Tokyo office worker Takako Konishi (go to Google…), David Zellner’s bizarre, enigmatic, and totally masterful oddity Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is easily one of the most spellbinding films of the year, a motion picture almost impossible to classify, and the very definition of a film where the less you know about it the better off you’ll be when you see it. This was my first Zellner Brothers experience and it won’t be the last; I’m stocking up my Netflix queue with whatever I can get my hands on, and I’ve discovered some funny short films online (Sasquatch Birth Journal #2 is priceless!) which seem to indicate a general level of cinematic idiocy that I can really get behind. I love it when a movie takes me totally by surprise, and when a filmmaker confidently mixes a variety of tones with the express goal of creating something wholly unique and startling. That’s what this film is – wildly original, deeply stylish, mentally stirring, and at times, thematically troubling when it isn’t being irreverently funny. And it’s yet another small movie from this year that trounces the big-budget competition; I’m finding it harder and harder to come up with any solid reasons to see whatever piece of uninspired nonsense that the studio system is hurling my way.

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Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, which was co-written by David Zellner and his talented brother Nathan, stars the fascinating actress Rinko Kikuchi as a mentally ill Japanese office worker, “still” unmarried at 29 (much to the chagrin of her overbearing mother), who discovers a degraded VHS copy of Joel and Ethan Coen’s celebrated film Fargo. The narrative details, with much humor, painful sadness, and creepy unpredictability, how she misinterprets the film for real life, leading her on an asinine and quixotic quest to find the money that Steve Buscemi’s character had buried out in that snowy field near that wire fence before he got fed to the wood chipper. The film is all about Kumiko’s quest and the interesting people she meets along the way (a segment with a helpful cop played by David Zellner himself and some scenes with a widowed woman are particularly strong and affecting), and the way the Zellners have framed their story leaves little doubt in the viewer’s head that they’re dealing with a lead character who isn’t thinking clearly. And what’s more, the subtle ways that the filmmakers fill you in on this fact are awesome to notice and discover. The script is limited with its dialogue, as the Zellners prefer to tell their story with a focus on allowing their indelible images to propel to narrative forward, resulting in a work that feels dreamy and one that’s constantly challenging reality.

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The film has an amazing visual look, with the 2.35:1 widescreen cinematography by Sean Porter always putting something interesting in the frame, with Kumiko’s red hoodie cutting across the blown-out white expanses of the Minnesota winter landscape in extremely memorable fashion. Melba Jodorowsky’s fluid editing allows the film to move along at a brisk pace without ever feeling rushed, and the eclectic and offbeat musical score by The Octopus Project never leaves any doubt that you’re watching something willfully absurd yet sincerely heartfelt. The film is essentially about loneliness and isolation, and how one woman is committed to doing SOMETHING with her life, regardless if that something is rational or not. The Zellners have made an absurdist film to a certain degree, and yet, there’s emotional impact because of Kikuchi’s mesmerizing portrayal of a woman who has lost all sense of normalcy, desperate for this one thing to come to fruition. You never know where this movie is going, it’s impossible to guess how it will end, and I absolutely LOVED the final section, which will likely frustrate and annoy those who need everything spelled out for them in order to be satisfied with a movie. I’ve never seen anything that remotely comes close to resembling this bizarre and completely transfixing film, and it’s yet another indication of how there are some truly great movies out there to be seen if you’re willing to look a bit harder at all of the available selections.