Primer

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth’s sophomore effort Upstream Color, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday, is easily one of the most interesting and unique films of 2013. This story of modern alienation from the director of Primer has been met with competing interpretations, lavish praise, genuine confusion, and (most importantly) a great deal of discussion. I spoke with Carruth about the film, and here’s what he had to say about Thoreau’s “Walden,” the difficult relationship between mathematics and filmmaking, and picking up pebbles in search of pigs.

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On Demand: Jack Reacher

Back after a week of self-reflection, our patented, custom-built supercomputer known as the Video On Demand Power Ranker is back in action. This week it’s all crime thrillers, time-lapsing epics and stories about people with a screw (or seven) loose. And a movie about your uncle’s favorite band, The Eagles.

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Upstream Color

Warning: Though Shane Carruth has referred to his film as “un-spoilable,” this post discusses the ending of Upstream Color at length. It’s been a little over two weeks since I watched Shane Carruth’s ambitious sophomore feature, Upstream Color, and there are still specific images, moments, sounds and feelings that continue to resonate through my mind. Whether it be the sight of a worm moving through the crevices of a human body, the briefly glimpsed drama of an anonymous couple who made a habit out of creating distance and never reconciled before it was too late, or a man’s poetic gesture of quitting his drone job by watching business papers slowly float down several stories in a hermetically sealed, ultra-modern office-tropolis, Upstream Color is as sleek and expertly polished as it is sneakily affecting. A swimmer recites Thoreau’s “Walden” as she gathers pebbles in an indoor pool. A seemingly benevolent farmer herds and feeds a mundane gathering of pigs in a film in which no quotidian imagery is simply that. Blue and white permeate nature as if color itself was a literal material force of its own. Upstream Color is remarkable in its ability to merge the poetic with the concrete, routinely invoking abstract ideas with specific material symbols. The result is one of the most purely cinematic, well-crafted, and earnestly hopeful films released in the first half of 2013. It displays as much faith in audience intelligence as it does in the idea that a sincerely optimistic message will speak […]

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Margin Call

At the first critical dramatic pivot moment of J.C. Chandor’s solid Margin Call, Zachary Quinto’s Eric stares at his computer screen, carefully removing his earbuds, as the camera slowly cranes downward. The technique demonstrates that Eric has encountered urgent, potentially catastrophic information about the investment bank he is near-anonymously employed at. We never see what Eric sees; instead, the camera – and the audience – occupy the space of the computer itself, as if the information Eric sees should be projected directly on our imaginations. This technique is common amongst recent critically-acclaimed films that use information, math, data, code and the like as major elements in their plots; the information itself, implicitly meaningless and insignificant on its own to mass audiences who likely don’t possess the expertise of characters (or, for that matter, the filmmakers) is only made fleetingly available, if seen at all. Instead, traditional dramatic techniques illustrate the dramatic affect of the information. Films like Margin Call, Moneyball, and The Social Network balance reliable, empathetic experts (i.e., endearing nerds) with naïve everypersons or conventional narrative devices in order to demonstrate the importance of information, largely without exhibiting information itself. This is an interesting yet surprisingly conservative approach to information-grounded films released in the middle of the ostensible Information Age. Rather than paint a democratized landscape of data, these films posit that information is privileged almost exclusively to the intelligent and the young, and then these films contort themselves to speak to audiences outside specialized fields of expertise.

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Upstream Color

Upstream Color isn’t for everyone, a fact that writer/director/star/composer/producer/co-financer/editor/whatever-other-production-job-is-out-there Shane Carruth is quite aware of and wants people to know. To go about doing so, Carruth is handling the marketing himself, making it more a part of the story, rather than a selling tool. The Primer director went to great lengths to make Upstream Color, as shown by the extensive amount of credits he has on the movie. That behind-the-scenes ambition shows onscreen, something Rob Hunter and most critics agree with. The movie has a normal three act structure, but what Carruth does with that old formula is to tell the usual connective tissue and key moments through music, cinematography, and silence, instead of blaring exposition. Carruth spoke to us about his lyrical style, Upstream Color‘s narrative, and why there’s no Chaos Theory speech from Jeff Goldblum in the movie:

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Shane Carruth

It took far too much time for Shane Carruth to make his followup to Primer. The near-decade wait for his second feature didn’t come from laziness, since Carruth spent time working on an expensive project that next took off, and which I foolishly didn’t ask about. Fortunately, Carruth wanted to talk about where he’ll go after Upstream Color, a movie that lives up to the hype. While speaking with Shane Carruth at Southwest by Southwest, he gave us an insight into his mindset for his third movie.

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Upstream Color Teaser Trailer

If you were that expecting the first teaser trailer for Shane Carruth‘s newest film to answer any questions you may have about the filmmaker’s first project since he gave the world Primer, well, you might want to go back and watch Primer again, just to remind yourself what you’re dealing with here. Carruth’s latest film, Upstream Color, will premiere at Sundance in January, and while the project certainly didn’t need to put out such a stunning, unsettling, foreboding, intriguing, and just flat out well-made first teaser trailer to get cinephiles on board with the new film, we’re not complaining that such a teaser trailer exists. After the break, get a look at what Carruth has cooked up for us this time and, don’t worry, you don’t need to avert your eyes.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a thing that happens every night, bub. And it will deliver unto you the best of the entertainment-related things that happened today. Also, there will be mustaches. We begin tonight’s late late edition of News After Dark with an epic mustache. No, not this column’s author’s epic mustache. It’s an image of what Burt Reynolds looks like in his cameo on Archer, one of the better shows about animated spies to hit cable television since… okay, I ran that into the ground. It’s really good. Burt Reynolds makes it even better.

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Since we all have a million dollars, our minds are almost always tuned to the day dream of what kind of movie we’d make with all that loose cash just lying around (since banks do nothing but lose things). Would it be a romantic horror film? Would it be a silent action film? Would we blow of all of it on lighting and forget the other elements of production design? Probably. Fortunately, we’ve all had a few filmmakers tread before us in using their million bucks with efficiency and artistry. In a world where Michael Bay needs 200 suitcases full of $1m, these directors made it happen with only one of those suitcases (or no suitcases at all), and they created a lasting legacy despite their lack of foldin’ money. If they can do it, why not us? Here are 8 great films made for under a million dollars that we can all learn from. (And if you enter our contest sponsored by Doritos, you might actually win that $1m you need for all those lights.)

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that is very sad this evening. Yesterday it was very exciting about the possibilities of asking out Siri, but today sadness has overwhelmed. What’s a near-sentient nightly news column to do? Well, lets do the news, as they said in the old days. As you likely know by now, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. and the innovator of a generation, has passed away at age 56. It’s always tough to quantify how one person has impacted society, but in this particular case, it’s hard to imagine what things would have been like without Steve. Film School Rejects, like many a website, was originally designed on a Mac. He laid groundwork for much of the technology we use today. He truly changed lives. For more, I’d encourage you to read Cole’s excellent piece on Steve Jobs’ Movie Legacy: Pixar and the Technology that Freed Indie Filmmakers. Rest in Peace, Mr. Jobs. You’ve done well. Here’s to the craziest one of all… And now, on with our regularly scheduled news programming…

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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