Celeste and Jesse Forever

discs paul williams

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Paul Williams: Still Alive Like many kids in the ’70s Stephen Kessler was a fan of singer/songwriter Paul Williams‘ particular brand of sad, melodic songs that gave equal time to love and loneliness. As an adult Kessler wondered what happened to his childhood idol, and being a film/commercial director he decided to investigate and make a documentary on the 5’2″ award-winning legend. The result is a fascinating look at a man and a talent who could never have attained such stardom in today’s physically-obsessed world, and for Williams it’s a chance to look back and publicly acknowledge his past demons. At least, that was Kessler’s plan, but he may have neglected to share the idea with the talent. Williams makes for an engaging subject, due both to his personality and his aversion to the whole process. Kessler’s own needs permeate the film, and while he threatens to take over as its focus he actually adds an interesting element to the story about fame. [Extras: Bonus concert footage]

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2012-overlookedmovies

The movies listed here aren’t necessarily the year’s best, but they’re still great movies that never found an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now. (Which reminds me… go see Jack Reacher!) But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 100 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault. I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid by default. These are only films that had a real chance of making a lot more money, so while I wish more people saw the LCD Soundsystem concert doc Shut Up and Play the Hits, I’m not surprised that it only made $510k. So here are 12 great movies that failed at the box office but deserved much better (and should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever)… and 6 terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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Culture Warrior

It’s nothing new to say that the term “independent filmmaking” has come to no longer reference the actual practice of making films outside the studio system, and alerts more directly to an aesthetic of hipness. That the cute-and-quirky consecutive multi-Oscar nominees Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were similarly marketed by Fox Searchlight as “independent films” despite the fact that the former was actually produced independently and the latter was funded by studio dollars, effectively put the nail in the coffin for actual independent filmmaking to have any meaningful visibility. Meanwhile, first-time directors who make their name at Sundance like Marc Webb, Doug Liman, and Seth Gordon quickly reveal themselves to be aspiring directors-for-hire rather than anti-Hollywood renegades. Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley, and Jim Jarmusch seem ever more like naïve, idealist relics each passing year. It’s clear what the blurring of the lines between independence and studio filmmaking has meant for the mainstream: as my friend and colleague Josh Coonrod pointed out last week, it renders “platform release” synonymous with “independent,” it means that movies featuring Bradley Cooper and Bruce Willis are the top competitors at the “Independent” Spirit Awards (see the John Cassavetes Award for actual independents), and it means that Quentin Tarantino is, for some reason, still considered an independent filmmaker. American independent filmmaking has lost its ideological reason for being. But when it comes to films that are actually independently financed – films for whom the moniker is less an appeal toward cultural capital and more an accurate […]

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This hasn’t been the most prolific of summers as far as blockbusters are concerned. The Avengers gave this season a promising start, but no action film came close to matching its scope and sheer love for fun. Last month was the most disappointing proof of that, with the very flawed Amazing Spider-Man and the messy finale we got with The Dark Knight Rises. However, there’s been a good run of independent releases so far – Killer Joe, Headhunters, Safety Not Guarnteed, Your Sister’s Sister, Take This Waltz, etc. —  and this August is no different, with plenty of small and greatly satisfying offerings to be discovered.

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Editor’s note: Celeste and Jesse Forever opens in limited release this Friday, but back in June, we saw the film at LAFF and positively loved it (so much that we’d marry it). This review was originally published on June 22, 2012. You’d be correct in mistaking Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) for a happy couple. All the signs are there – inside jokes, Celeste’s shiny “C & J Forever” pendant, dinners with friends, professions of love, even a special sign language – but, alas, you’d be wrong. Celeste and Jesse are not forever, in fact, they’re getting a divorce. The opening credits of Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste and Jesse Forever (penned by Jones and co-star Will McCormack) zip us through Celeste and Jesse’s relationship – from shy happiness in high school, to high stakes sexual chemistry in college, to blissful young marriage, to now (and now is exactly when things get messy). When we meet Celeste and Jesse, the pair are still acting as if they are romantically involved – and that’s the problem. Jesse has taken up residence in the couple’s backyard cottage (his studio), but other than that, everything else is status quo – the affection, the bond, the connection – and while the two of them seem content with the situation, it unquestionably needs to change. And fast.

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Gird your loins, Los Angeles, the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival is coming, and this time, the fest is bringing strippers with them. Lots and lots of (cinematic) strippers. The festival has already announced four titles, which include the North American Premiere of Woody Allen‘s To Rome With Love as the festival’s Opening Night Film, along with Gala screenings for Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lorene Scafaria‘s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Ava DuVernay‘s Middle of Nowhere, but it’s high time LAFF unveiled their full slate. And what a slate! As announced today, the festival will close with the World Premiere of Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike and will also feature the World Premiere of Alex Kurtzman‘s People Like Us. Other titles announced today of note include Sundance favorites The Queen of Versailles, Teddy Bear, The House I Live In, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Robot and Frank, and Searching for Sugar Man. Additional titles that pop out include Emmett Malloy’s Big Easy Express, Alejandro Brugués‘ Juan of the Dead, Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, and Joshua Sanchez’s Four. LAFF also runs a variety of special programs, including Community and Retro Screenings, a crammed slate of short films, and their trademark “Eclectic Mix” of music videos. After the break, you can check out the full line-up for this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, along with synopses for all features and a full list of all shorts and music videos playing at the fest. LAFF runs from Thursday, June 14 to Sunday, June 24. Passes […]

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It’s often said that believing you will spend forever with the person you fall in love with in high school is a naïve notion and, while the opening montage of Celeste and Jesse Forever seems to prove that the opposite is true, once the film begins we realize that our leads, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), are actually separated and looking to get a divorce. The strange thing is, they still spend every second together and are only “separated” by their back yard, with Jesse now living in his studio out back rather than in the main house with Celeste. It is clear from the start that Celeste and Jesse are more than just a couple, they are each other’s best friends, complete with inside jokes and hand signals clearly established over years and years of knowing one another. There is a level of comfort and familiarity between the two that neither seems ready to let go of, which frames the central conflict of both their relationship and the film. Over dinner one night, two of their friends, Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) and his fiancé (Ari Graynor), call them out on the odd state of their relationship stating that they either need to end things for good or get back together. Neither Celeste or Jesse think their behavior is strange, but the fact that they still say, “I love you,” to each other and can’t seem start their days until acknowledging one another seems to support their friends’ […]

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As I touched on in my roundup of the must-see films set to screen during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, there are many titles to choose from, but in looking over the ten films I am most looking forward to seeing I realized my interest is centered around character driven narratives (both funny and dramatic) and documentaries with their roots in music (no surprise there.) Of course with a full week at the festival, I am aiming to take in as many movies as I can, but these were the ten that stayed at the top of my list as I revised (and revised) my schedule. From actors I have had my eye on to compelling stories that grabbed my attention, keep your browsers bookmarked to FSR as I review each of these films and discover whether I was right (or wrong) with my choices here.

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We’ve seen her on TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, she shows up in a lot of Internet videos at places like Funny or Die, and she even gets a handful of smallish film roles whenever she has time off from all that other stuff. But now Rashida Jones is set to get her own starring vehicle, and she also co-wrote the script. The film is called Celeste and Jesse Forever, it’s set to be directed by Lee Tolan Krieger, and it will star Jones and Andy Samberg in the male and female leads. Celeste and Jesse will tell the tale of a married couple who is trying to figure out how to get a divorce, but still remain friends afterward. I’ve had a crush on Rashida Jones that’s been growing exponentially over the last six months or so, and after this quote from the writer/actress making fun of casual sex comedies; my crush might have hit critical mass. Jones says, “Our movie is about two people who love each other a ton but they don’t know what to do with that love, and how do you let that person go. It’s very different from: ‘I like having sex with this person because I’m so modern but then, ooh, maybe I like them.’ I’m less interested in that story.” That sounds interesting to me, and God bless her for taking the piss out of the lame state of the modern romantic comedy.

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published: 04.17.2014
D+
published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.16.2014
B+
published: 04.16.2014
C-

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