Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (email@example.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.
big fan patton oswalt
Street date: 1/12
Price/Format: $26.99 DVD
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Patton Oswalt plays a crazed New York Giants fan in Big Fan. In the film Oswalt plays a guy who approaches his longtime hero, Giants linebacker Quantrell Bishop, at a strip club, and has his life flipped upside-down in the process.
The film, which co-stars Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport and Marcia Jean Kurtz, and was written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
Being a “big fan” of Oswalt’s, I can’t wait to see him “tackle” this role (sorry). Oswalt is already one of the best comedians alive. It’s nice to see him land a role in something more demanding of his talents than “King of Queens” (Ratatouille aside).
Street date: 1/12
Price/Format: $24.99 DVD
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If you’ve seen the Spirit Award Nominations, you’ve seen that Amreeka is nominated for a bunch of them. I have yet to see it, but its pedigree speaks highly of it (2009 Sundance premiere, accolades at festivals from Cannes on). The story concerns a Palestinian single mother and her teenage son who immigrate to the United States, to a small town in Illinois, and the struggles they face with their new surroundings. Here’s what The New York Times has to say:
“Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka stands alongside The Visitor and Maria Full of Grace as one of the most accomplished recent films about a non-European immigrant coming to the United States.”
Special features include deleted Scenes, bloopers, a making-of featurette and a short film by director Dabis.
Michelle Monaghan’s performance in Trucker as Diane Ford, a boyish lout of a woman who bears little resemblance to the glamorous Monaghan of Made of Honor and Mission: Impossible III, should change the way people see this fine actress. The Tribeca Film Festival selection has been picking up wins at other festivals, and Monaghan’s performance has generated Oscar buzz from the likes of Roger Ebert.
“It’s incredibly gratifying,” Monaghan says of the attention. “I love this movie so much. I loved it from the first time that I read it.”
Monterey Media is releasing Trucker on DVD Jan. 5 at $26.95. The DVD includes a special feature on Monaghan preparing for her role, a process that involved learning how to drive a big rig.
“I went to truck driving school,” Monaghan explains. “It was just really an opportunity for me to be able to portray the character as honestly as it had been written. It’s her livelihood. I just knew it would inform me immensely.”
Director/writer James Mottern picked Monaghan to be in the film after seeing her in another drama involving women in stereotypically male roles — North Country, starring Charlize Theron as a miner who wins a sexual harassment case. Monaghan says that although the character demands a lot of the actress — from running across the street in her underwear to beat up some boys that mess with her son, to being involved in unflattering sexual situations — the research she did into the trucking industry was her biggest challenge.
“I had a lot of fun doing it. It was very scary and really challenging but incredibly fulfilling at the end of the day,” she says. “I can’t imagine having played that character without having the knowledge of driving a truck or trucking culture.”
She says the research erased many misconceptions she, and likely others, have had about truckers, such as that people become truck drivers out of lack of anything else to do.
“People are truck drivers because they choose to be truck drivers,” she explains. “The majority of them are very much free sprits. They love the open road.
“I spent a lot of time with female truckers. They’re fierce women, they’re feminine. There are a lot of sacrifices and a lot of risks that namely female truckers take when they’re on the road.”
Monaghan’s tomboy manners in the film can’t all be attributed to good research.
“There’s something to be said for putting on a pair of boots that make you walk a certain way and brings out a certain physicality in you,” she says.
Trucker co-stars Nathan Fillion, Benjamin Bratt and Joey Lauren Adams. The next projects Monaghan is attached to are Somewhere, the next film from director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), and Due Date, from Todd Phillips (The Hangover).
The 2010 Spirit Award Nominations (to be announced March 5, 2010) as well as the winners of the Gotham Independent Film Awards have been announced, some of which are available on DVD.
Also, go Precious!
The Spirit Award Nominations are as follows:
(500) Days of Summer (Fox, out Dec. 22, also on Blu-ray)
Amreeka (Virgil, out Jan. 12, also on Blu-ray)
The Last Station
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Sin Nombre (Universal, available now)
Best Female Lead
Maria Bello for Downloading Nancy (Strand, out Jan. 12)
Nisreen Faour for Amreeka
Helen Mirren for The Last Station
Gwyneth Paltrow for Two Lovers (Magnolia, available now, also on Blu-ray)
Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Best Male Lead
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Colin Firth for A Single Man
Joseph Gordon-Levitt for (500) Days of Summer (Fox, out Dec. 22, also on Blu-ray)
Souleymane Sy Savane for Goodbye Solo (Lionsgate, available now)
Adam Scott for The Vicious Kind (Image, out Feb. 23)
Best Supporting Female
Mo’Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Dina Korzun for Cold Souls
Samantha Morton for The Messenger
Natalie Press for 50 Dead Men Walking (Phase 4, Jan. 5, also on Blu-ray)
Mia Wasikowska for That Evening Sun
Best Supporting Male
Jemaine Clement for Gentlemen Broncos
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger
Christian McKay for Me and Orson Welles
Ray McKinnon for That Evening Sun
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for A Serious Man
Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Cary Fukunaga for Sin Nombre (Universal, available now)
James Gray for Two Lovers (Magnolia, available now, also on Blu-ray)
Michael Hoffman for The Last Station
(500) Days of Summer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber (Fox, out Dec. 22, also on Blu-ray)
Adventureland: Greg Mottola (Buena Vista, available now, also on Blu-ray)
The Messenger: Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman
The Last Station: Michael Hoffman
The Vicious Kind: Lee Toland Krieger (Image, out Feb. 23)
Best First Screenplay
Amreeka: Cherien Dabis (Virgil, out Jan. 12, also on Blu-ray)
Cold Souls: Sophie Barthes
Crazy Heart: Scott Cooper
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: Geoffrey Fletcher
A Single Man: Tom Ford
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Peter Zeitlinger
Cold Souls: Andrij Parekh
A Serious Man: Roger Deakins
Sin Nombre: Adriano Goldman (Universal, available now)
Treeless Mountain: Anne Misawa (Oscilloscope, available now)
Best First Feature
Easier with Practice
Paranormal Activity (Paramount, out Dec. 29, also on Blu-ray)
A Single Man
Best Foreign Film
Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick (Everlasting Moments)
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (MVD, available now)
Food, Inc. (Magnolia, available now, also on Blu-ray)
More Than a Game
Which Way Home
John Cassavetes Award
Humpday (Magnolia, available now)
The New Year Parade (Carnivalesque, available now)
Treeless Mountain (Oscilloscope, available now)
Truer Than Fiction Award
45365: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo: Jessica Oreck
El general: Natalia Almada
Someone to Watch Award
Kyle Patrick Alvarez for Easier with Practice
Asiel Norton for Redland
Tariq Tapa for Zero Bridge
Karin Chien for Santa Mesa, The Exploding Girl
Larry Fessenden for I Sell the Dead, The House of the Devil
Dia Sokol for Beeswax, Nights and Weekends
Robert Altman Award — Winner
A Serious Man
The Gotham Independent Film Awards winners are as follows:
Best Feature: The Hurt Locker (Summit, out Jan. 12, also on Blu-ray)
Best Documentary: Food Inc. (Magnolia, available now, also on Blu-ray)
Breakthrough Director Award: Robert Siegel, Big Fan
Breakthrough Actor Award: Catalina Saavedra, The Maid (Tartan, available now)
Best Ensemble Performance Award: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse and Evangeline Lilly in The Hurt Locker (Summit, out Jan. 12, also on Blu-ray)
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: You Won’t Miss Me
Peter Capaldi In the Loop
Director Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop (out Jan. 12 from MPI Home Video on DVD and Blu-ray) takes a couple of viewings to completely follow, but the story is this: Bumbling British government minister Simon Foster (a hilariously hapless Tom Hollander) sticks his pointy-toed foot in his mouth on the air and says he believes a war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.” That small comment from an underling in the realm of British politics sets off a poop storm both in the States and in the U.K., where his boss, the prime minister’s caustic director of communications Malcolm Tucker (awesomely played by Peter Capaldi), tries to sweep up the mess.
“There are lot of little incidents [that helped inspire the story],” Iannucci said. “Our foreign secretary went on the radio said an invasion of Iran was ‘inconceivable,’ but went back and said at the moment it was inconceivable. … I liked the fact that it was all grounded in real events.”
“In our country we have senior press advisors who are quite powerful,” Capaldi added of researching his character, who he’s played since the TV show “In the Thick of It,” upon which the film is partially based. “They’re quite powerful guys. There are some in particular who are involved in shenanigans behind the scenes.
“It was difficult for me to gain an imaginative idea of how they act. But the script clearly told us that this guy is viperous, toxic and extremely driven. I hung around the houses of Parliament to get a sense of that world.”
The character wasn’t based on anyone in particular, but the characterization was helped by purportedly Machiavellian “masters of the dark arts,” as Capaldi puts it, in British politics, such as Alastair Campbell, Director of Communications and Strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“People in power have always had spin doctors, advisors, people who’ve done dirty work fort them,” Capaldi said. “There’s a long lineage of people who do the roughing up for the bosses.”
If Oscar pays attention, Capaldi could (and perhaps should) have a supporting actor nomination on his plate (he already actually has an Oscar, though, for writing and directing the 1993 short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life).
“Something as remarkable as In the Loop doesn’t come along too often, so it’s wonderful to be challenged in that way,” said Capaldi, who can be seen on DVDs of such shows as “Torchwood.” “I guess I’d become a fairly reliable actor you’d get to come in to be a doctor or psychiatrist or inspector who comes in and says ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got some bad news.’ There’s been nothing quite as incendiary in my career as Malcolm.”
Director Iannucci said the DVD has plenty of extra footage because his original cut was more than four hours long (as it stands, and as the director prefers it, the film is 106 minutes).
“We do lots of improvising with the script,” Iannucci said. “But I had in my head as a fast comedy, and I thought it had to be no more than 1 hour and 40 minutes long. I spent about a month getting it down to that. I had to take out some of my favorite scenes. They were all scenes that sort of held up the action. At the time, I thought, thank God for DVD extras.”
Those extras also include interviews with the cast (which includes James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy and My Girl’s Anna Chlumsky).
The 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards will be streamed live Monday Nov. 30 at 8:00 pm EST / 5:00am PST. The show will feature such stars as Alec Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn, the Coen Brothers, Willem Dafoe, Natalie Portman, Chris Rock, Ryan Reynolds, Meryl Streep and Kristen Wiig. The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) partnered with Ustream.com for the event. Check it out at .
Viewers also can watch and interact with the show on their smart phones via Ustream’s iPhone app or the Ustream Android Viewer. Both are free and are available at the iTunes App Store and Android Market, respectively.
Besides being the best actress of her generation, Naomi Watts apparently is the best-earning one for studios as well, according to Forbes (read our story here). You may have seen her in huge-earning fare such as King Kong and The Ring and its sequel, and while those films are good and fine, there’s a reason people like me will see a film just because she’s in it. Here’s a list of five films you should see her in now:
1. Mulholland Dr. (on DVD from Universal): I may be borderline obsessed with this film (I know I’m not the only one), but the reason this mindbender works so well is the utter flip in persona Watts pulls off effortlessly, moving from aw-shucks eager to unspeakably mad and hateful. I put it near the top of the best performances of the past 10 years — yet Oscar snubbed her, as it did David Lynch’s masterpiece for best film (at least they threw him a bone with a best director nom). Uh, Universal, can we get this on Blu-ray please?
2. 21 Grams (on DVD from Universal): Oscar wised up in 2004 and nominated Watts for her performance as a grieving mother in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s multinarrative film. Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (who also wrote Babel and Amores Perros) directed a film recently released on DVD, called The Burning Plain, with Charlize Theron.
3. Eastern Promises (on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal): David Cronenberg’s most recent film didn’t really get the attention it deserved. All the better reason to check it out on DVD.
4. We Don’t Live Here Anymore (on DVD from Warner): An actors showcase for Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern and Peter Krause.
5. I Heart Huckabees (on DVD from Fox): I’m not sure why some revile this star-studded comedy, but hopefully we can at least agree that Watts is awesome as the manic Dawn Campbell, the model of the Huckabees big-box retailer facing an existential crisis. The DVD includes a special feature on composer Jon Brion’s (Magnolia) early involvement with scoring the film.
Magnolia Home Entertainment in January is releasing one great film I have seen and two that I need to.
The Burning Plain
Street date: 1/12
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD, $29.98 BD
Reserve for purchase (DVD or Blu-ray)
Charlize Theron and Kim Bassinger star in the latest from Guillermo Arriaga (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros). Theron stars as a restaurant hostess with a secret sex life; Bassinger is a desperate housewife; and Jennifer Lawrence stars as a young woman who falls in love with a man her father hates. In typical Arriaga fashion, the stories intertwine, and, I’m guessing, in typical Arriaga fashion, you won’t want to miss it.
Street date: 1/19
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD
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Kirby Dick’s searing documentary opens the closet holding allegedly gay and definitely anti-gay rights politicians such as Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) and retired Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.). Dick, the firebrand behind This Film is Not Yet Rated, another great doc that explored hypocrisy (in that film with the MPAA), interviews blogger Michael Rogers, who outs closeted politicians who vote against gay rights, as well as Rep. Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts Democrat who’s always good for dropping sardonic bits of wisdom into a stew of bull droppings. You might feel conflicted about both Dick’s and Rogers’ tactics with regard to the right to privacy (I sure do), but it’s hard to ignore the film’s point about why such hypocrisy shouldn’t be allowed to continue without exposure when the end result is so damaging to a group of people.
Street date: 1/19
Price/Format: $26.98 DVD
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Features interviews with various commentators on the socialist revolutionary, including actor Gael Garcia Bernal, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and artist Shepard Fairey.
Canadian film buffs, take note: Independent and foreign film distributor Film Movement is launching a DVD subscription service in Canada.
As it does in the United States, the distribution company will offer Canadian users membership to a sneak preview DVD-of-the-month club at its new Canadian Web site, . Users can purchase 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions to receive a new DVD each month as the film is opening in theaters, and months before they hit retail and rental.
All film movement DVDs contain a feature film as well as a short film by a different director.
“Over the last seven years, Film Movement has grown enormously as a company, consistently exploring new distribution channels and revenue streams,” said Film Movement’s president, Adley Gartenstein. “Opening our DVD subscription service to Canadian consumers is the next logical step for Film Movement as we continue to expand the reach of the company and our ability to share the best in art-house cinema with film lovers across North America.”
Two Girls and a Guy
Writer-director James Toback’s Two Girls and a Guy is one of the lost great movies of the 1990s. What might appear as a “Friends”-era sterile romantic comedy is actually as far removed from that as possible, full of nasty acts of duplicity and retribution and a faked suicide and an ‘NC-17’-worthy love scene (which really looks SO tame by today’s standards). But it’s still being very much of that era, exploring those “Sex in the ’90s” sexual mores like bisexuality and polyamorous relationships similarly explored in movies like Threesome while retaining the talkiness and headiness of films like Before Sunrise.
But likely the reason people will seek Two Girls and a Guy on Blu-ray Disc, recently released by Fox, is Robert Downey Jr.
“It was increasingly frustrating to me, given the absurd nature of the network of distribution and dissemination of movies today, that a movie that contained by far the best performance of an actor who is generally considered as good as any actor working today, to say nothing of the fact that the movie had all kind of acclaim over the years, that the film was largely unavailable,” Toback said of releasing the film on Blu-ray.
Toback approached 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn about releasing the film, and he was on board for releasing it on Blu-ray.
“I think anyone who’s seen Blu-ray will never again be able to look at DVD the same way again,” Toback said. “It is as big an improvement over DVD as HD television is over regular television and as big an advance as DVD was over VHS. We’re talking about an exponential leap in quality of sound, richness of color, precision of image … it’s impossible not to feel that there’s been a great discovery achieved.”
The Blu-ray Disc has a new conversation with Toback about the film in which he reveals the degree of improvisation he employed in the film, in particular with some of Downey’s more intense scenes. This is a chance to see Downey away from the respectable, post-addiction, Iron Man suit wearing (but still great) Downey of today and back when he was unhinged and ad libbing on set in weird, scary ways.
“It was very clear to me from the time he did that movie … that his skills are capable of full fruition and display in a movie only if you allow him to try what he wants to try and if you give him stuff that’s challenging and interesting,” Toback said. “When you give him stuff that excites him, he will be absolutely dazzling.
“Right now he’s in the franchise business, and that’s another racket and he’s carrying it off about as well as anyone’s carrying it off in the world. The Downey I worked with in Two Girls and a Guy is not the Downey that’s around today. He’s a different character.
“… I think he’s [now] doing what he wants to do and he’s getting extremely rich and extremely famous and … after being humiliated in an awful way in prison … I think he’s enjoying his success and his fame and his money and his marriage, and I say go with it.”