Independent Film

Why Watch? Because there is beauty all around. This sentimental short film has a lot going for it. Namely, it plays off the last few frames with greatly judged skill and delivers a voice over that’s as melancholy as it is meaningful. It’s a movie that might take you to another world, another time, or remind you of your own experiences. That’s impressive filmmaking, and it comes wrapped in a pristine package here. Just try not to judge that wrapping before you get to the end. What does it cost? Just 4 minutes of your time. Check out Shooter for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because this is painstaking, stop motion genius. Some of the best shorts we’ve featured have been stop motion animation. Why? Because the art form (when done right) is captivating and playful. Perfect for the medium. This particular gem from Tomas Mankovsky is a shining example of those two traits. It was made with a camera aimed straight down at the floor, and the result is young man hurrying to get to an important appointment. Lighthearted meets blood, sweat and effort here. It’s nothing short of amazing. Plus, you can check out a ton of behind-the-scenes information on how it was made. What does it cost? Just 3 minutes of your time. Check out Sorry I’m Late for yourself:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we spend some time outside the studio system with Bellflower writer/director/star Evan Glodell who talks about love and flamethrowers. Plus, we have a long-form conversation about film production with Greatest Movie Ever Sold producer Keith Calder and indie horror writer/producer Simon Barrett. Double plus, our very own Jack Giroux goes head to head with The Film Stage’s Jordan Raup in a Movie News Pop Quiz that leaves everything else in the dust. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Why Watch? Because there are few things as powerful or unnatural. Things to look for in this stark short include an attention to camera angles, and the concept of objects (and their destruction) as a window into human tragedy. The less said the better, as the film does every ounce of the difficult work here, but this is a poetic example of where minimalism done right can tell a rich story without using words or character development. What does it cost? Just 3 minutes of your time. Check out (Dis) Assembly for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because we want to guess at the future. Samir Rehem was just hired to direct the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters.” It’s an adaptation that’s been a long time coming, and it might dishearten you to see that a smaller indie outfit have to take it on after the larger budgets passed on it. Or it just might excite you. I wanted to check out some of Rehem’s short film work to get an idea of his capabilities, and I was blown back through my office door. The man has skills, and this darkly playful story about a man consumed by finishing an overdue answer key in a post-industrial world shows off a keen storytelling sensibility alongside some strong acting and camera work. Plus, Rehem wrote this engaging story and edited the film himself. He may be working on Invisible Monsters, but this particular flick could definitely work as a feature, and it would be great to see it expanded. With this movie, Rehem has instantly become one of my new favorite up-and-coming directors. Think that’s hyperbole? Watch it and see. What does it cost? Just 20 minutes of your time. Check out The Answer Key for yourself:

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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Why Watch? Because the camera is a memorycatcher. It’s not easy to tell how this film was put together because the images don’t always follow in a distinguishable pattern – nor do they need to. This absolutely stunning short from Graham Burns seems to take found footage from a personal collection and edit it into a new narrative. The story focuses on a man returning from WWII only to find he’s still affected by what he’s seen and done. The structure is taken apart in hauntingly sweet segments that ultimately devolve into a projectionist’s flicker as Burns toys with the mechanisms of filmmaking and watching, exposing a part of the exposure we don’t usually get to see. All of it is backed by a thoughtful score by Radical Face that squeezes even more life out of every moment. What does it cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Check out The Train Home for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because you might just love splurt because of this one. HitRECord is such a brilliant project – one of the few that really understands crowdsourcing and the artistic merit found by people not on the payroll of the majors. HitRECord produced this short, and everyone involved deserves praise. It may be a hallmark of their ideals, but it’s also a serious reminder that movies are the art that combines all arts. With silent film era style (there’s even a Mélèis moon involved) and cut-out artwork setting the stage, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and co-star Lexy Hume navigate a live-action/animated dating world that seems written by a wine-happy George Orwell, and designed by the lovechild of Charlie Chaplin and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date With Destiny for yourself:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with independent film legend and Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman and then bad movie expert Eric D. Snider to try to figure out why we love stuff that’s so bad it’s good. Plus, Jeremy Smith from Aint It Cool and Germain Lussier from /film return to do battle in the Movie News Pop Quiz and discuss the brilliant or accidental viral marketing of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Let the swear words commence. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Why Watch? Because it’s never too early in the week to watch a sex robot fight back against her makers. Using the simplest special effects (both in-camera and CGI), this short is a flurry of images that do more to evoke a narrative than deliver one, but the story is as clear as a sex doll’s synthetic eye. It’s not exactly safe for work, but it’s not exactly not safe for work either. However, it does involve Zahia (the French escort that gained infamy by almost taking down the French National team) dancing sensually on command and exploring complex buttons in the buff. In case you were wondering, director Greg Williams used the Red Mysterium-X camera here, and the quality is absolutely incredible. Check out Bionic for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because when one genre turns into another, things get crazy. This short begins with two bloody-handed men playing a game of the highest stakes poker possible. The dialogue is soaked in whiskey, a little itchy, and it’s surrounded by dankness. Then, at the 1:05 mark, things change drastically and awesomely. This might not be for everyone (in fact, it’s guaranteed not to be), but even if it doesn’t light your fire, you have to admire the brass buttons on this thing. What Will It Cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Check out The Tell for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because all you need to make a movie is a camera and an imagination. Admittedly, there’s an amateurish aspect to this short, but that’s also part of its charm. The other part of its charm comes from a simple concept being given a serious, dedicated execution. There’s something Rubber-like about seeing a bouncing blue ball roll down the road all on its own while getting into trouble, but the music makes it something truly epic (that was clearly shot in and around the filmmaker’s neighborhood). Huge adventure. In your backyard. A great combination. The camera is wobbly, which can be distracting, but the potential is there. Someone buy Zac Grigg a nice camera rig, will you? What Will It Cost? Just 8 minutes of your time. Check out The Big Blue Ball’s Fabulous Adventure for yourself:

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Why Watch? Because finding love might be a matter of reaching out through the personal ads. Andrew Blubaugh creates a touching drama here of one man’s experience reaching out and touching someone through the ads. Honestly, it’s sometimes tough to tell whether this is a documentary or simply shot as one, but no matter what genre you want to shove it into, it’s good. Yes, it’s about a gay man trying to find love, but it goes far beyond simple sexuality and nails down 1) something we’re all deeply invested in and 2) the only reason anyone ever creates any piece of art. What Will It Cost? Just 7 minutes of your time. Check out Hello, Thanks for yourself:

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Early yesterday, the LA Times blog released quotes from Atlas Shrugged Part 1 writer/producer John Aglialoro which indicated that he was throwing in the towel on making Part 2 and Part 3. The reason, of course, was that the film just didn’t make its money back. Aglialoro spent a reported $10m of his own cash on the production, and a second week drop off hurt the independent flick considerably. The movie has currently only made $3.2m at the box office. It started with an impressive per screen average, but as with other films which zero in on an audience, everyone who wanted to see the movie saw it opening weekend. The numbers dropped, and an expansion was scrapped. Aglialoro very specifically blames critics and what he believes is a collective “fear of Ayn Rand” amongst them for the movie’s failings. So much for personal responsibility. However, it’s his ire and hatred of the critical response that has caused an about-face. Aglialoro now claims that, while he was once defeated, he now stands ready to proceed with making Atlas Shrugged Part 2 and Part 3. Like all misunderstood artists, he should.

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IndiePix is the latest site to get into the game of streaming movies with IndiePix Unlimited, but their site fills a much, much needed void. While Netflix’s indie section seems filled to the brim with sex dramedies, explorations of filmmakers’ sexuality, and narrative commentary on sex and sexual relationships – IndiePix goes far beyond that by directly celebrating the best of the best in the independent film world. Its success stems from the large selection and ease of use, but there are still flaws, and the site will need to grow (even beyond its 4,000+ available films) in order to truly become a household name. Let’s take a quick test drive:

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When it was announced that the newest film from eighteen-year-old director Emily Hagins, entitled My Sucky Teen Romance, was going to premiere at SxSW, I was ecstatic. Almost every member of our SXSW coverage team either lives or has previously lived in Austin and knows Emily personally. Hell, some of us even donated our time to assist in the movie’s completion. That made it slightly difficult to lend our voices to reviewing the film. So do we decline to review it? Do we expend no words on it at all? Yes…and no. There is a story here, and a damn good one at that, completely divorced from the film itself. Emily’s story. Hagins wrote her first feature-length film, Pathogen, at age 11.  The next year, she earned a grant from the Austin Film Society to produce Pathogen, effectively becoming the youngest recipient of that award. Her tireless dedication to making her first feature film, and the fact that she wasn’t even in high school yet, attracted the attention of a trio of documentary filmmakers who noticed Hagins’s casting call posted on a local website called Austinactors.net. They crafted their 2009 film Zombie Girl: The Movie around her efforts. Between 7th and 8th grade, when the biggest thing that happened to most of us was getting our first kiss at a skating party, she was hard at work on The Retelling, her second feature. And now, here at SXSW 2011, Hagins’s third film played to bright marquee lights and packed houses […]

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Criterion Files

John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959) is often cited as a watershed moment in American independent film, and Cassavetes himself rather conveniently historicized as our nation’s “first” independent filmmaker. Such historical designations are often used as a way to narrativize precedents to the 1980s and 1990s Sundance-emboldened independent film “movement” and draw historical equivalents to the practices of now and then. This tendency often positions Cassavetes’ undoubtedly important contributions in a way that simplistically juxtaposes his artistic efforts with that of, say, anybody from Jim Jarmusch to Quentin Taranatino, ignoring the essential differences in historical context and means of aesthetic expression between them while also conveniently evading the many other American “independent” filmmakers that came before Cassavates himself. While Cassavetes is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind filmmaker (excluding the many he has influenced), perhaps the biggest problem with this conventionally reductive veneration of Cassavetes is the notion that he acted alone, that he was an anomaly in an otherwise dominant system. John Cassavetes is undoubtedly one of America’s most important filmmakers, but seeing him as such an incongruity prevents us from understanding exactly why he was so important.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, champion foosball player Kevin Smith joins us for the most sobering, introspective interview the man has given all week. Jokes aside, no topic is out of bounds, so we ask the tough questions about Sundance theatrics, taking Red State out on his own, his animosity toward critics, and retiring from filmmaking (but not from storytelling). If you’re a Smith fan, you’re probably already clicking Play. If you’re one of the people that lost some respect for the man during the past year, his appearance here will do a lot to earn it back. No, we don’t find time to review Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, but we do dig in for 105 minutes on the state of distribution, the future of his own films, and how it ties in to his past. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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‪Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as ClairesKneeFan and THXForAllTheFish1138 in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the two finally manage to answer last week’s question while reveling in the continuation of Sundance and the totally old revolutionary model of distribution that Kevin Smith wants the world to take note of. But instead of wasting more internet words on Smith, the question is far simpler and far too high concept to attempt without some Sandlot references: Is the movie distribution system really broken?

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we avoid getting hit by a volcano. By. That. Much.

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