Sound of My Voice

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Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij left a positive impression on me a few years ago at South by Southwest. Not only with Sound of My Voice, their first full-length feature film together, but also in person during the brief time I spent sitting down with them. That is a movie that raises quite a few questions, and it was obvious they had every possible answer to these questions in mind. Both on screen and off, the two filmmakers displayed between them a clear confidence and shared interests. With their second collaboration, “the eco-terrorist” thriller The East, the two came to town for a press day near their old stomping ground, Georgetown University. Marling and Batmanglij met for the first time there, and it was fitting interviewing them close to the campus after having discussed their college and city experience a few years ago in Austin. Despite having found a nice little home with Fox Searchlight and having more money to work with now, the duo remain the same, sharing a similar interest in certain themes and the type of stories they want to tell.

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Sound of My Voice A filmmaking couple infiltrate a cult in search of the truth regarding its enigmatic leader Maggie (Brit Marling), but the longer they stay the more one of them comes to believe her claims. The situation grows more dangerous when Maggie makes a spectacular claim and asks one of them to kidnap a specific young girl. Marling co-wrote the film with director Zal Batmanglij, and they’ve created a thought provoking, suspenseful and often surprising indie that feels bigger than it is by virtue of the ideas at play. Marling also delivers a spectacularly charismatic performance that just may have viewers lining up for a sip of her Kool-Aid.

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Rian Johnson’s new film, Looper, is a pretty awesome time travel flick, one with as many elements that are clever and original as there are purposefully derivative and influenced. It’s the kind of smart and stylish sci-fi cinema we expect every once in a while on the festival circuit, like Sound of My Voice (which hits DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday), rather than from a major Hollywood studio. Looper does fit the indie model, though, since Sony/Tristar picked it up for distribution only after it was done shooting, yet as Brian’s review of the film attests, we can still consider it a good sign for mainstream movies of this genre, and we can hope that Hollywood will see Johnson as the sort of directorial talent they need. But is it the best science fiction film since The Matrix? That’s a question posed in a headline from Time magazine yesterday, though its respective post doesn’t address such a discussion let alone attempt to answer the inquiry. Well, if we exclude superhero movies, animated features (Pixar, Miyazaki and The Iron Giant among them) and the Star Trek reboot, Looper is currently one of only two original studio films of its order to be battling for the status of best reviewed since the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking modern classic. The other is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.

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Depending on who you ask 2012 is either on target to be a great year for movies or an underwhelming one. It’s worth noting though that anyone who answers with the latter is a complete and utter tool. There have already been several fantastic movies in theaters over the past six and a half months including The Grey, The Avengers, The Raid: Redemption, 21 Jump Street, The Cabin In the Woods, Moonrise Kingdom and more. In addition to being fantastic entertainment though, most of those movies also had studio support to increase awareness and help make them big hits. As for The Raid and Cabin, well, you can’t say the internet didn’t do its damnedest to get the word out on just how awesome they are. Not our fault if American moviegoers didn’t listen… But a third group of great movies exists this year too. Ones that had little to no push from studios or distributors, a minimal presence on movie blogs and a near negligible presence at the box-office. The year’s only half over, but we wanted to share our choices for the best movies you’ve most likely missed this year…so far.

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Warning: The following article spoils plot points for last week’s episode of Mad Men, the film Sound of My Voice, this week’s episode of Community, perhaps a bit of Game of Thrones and potentially everything else. If you aren’t completely caught up on the world of entertainment, you probably shouldn’t read it. Oh, and LOST. It spoils all of LOST. “Twitter is the new water cooler, folks — If you come to get a drink, you’re gonna hear people talking about last night’s TV.” That’s an interesting sentiment to read in the Twitter feed of Damon Lindelof, who was an integral piece behind one of television’s most secretive, conspiratorial experiences of the modern era. Yet the executive producer of LOST has a point: if you are on Twitter on any given night — or in movie time, any given weekend — people are going to be talking about the things that have just happened. And Twitter being what it is — an uncontrollable stream of unfiltered, ever-hazardous culture-obsessed id looking for a good time — it’s likely that if you’re not current, you are going to find some spoilers. This is the world we live in.

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Co-writer and star of the stunning Sound of My Voice, Brit Marling has been poised to break out for over a year now. Marling is one of two emerging “it girl” female stars that lit up the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, sharing the honor with Elizabeth Olsen (who, like Marling, appeared in two films that year, Silent House and the infinitely better Martha Marcy May Marlene). Marling, of course, has a leg up on the apparent competition, as she has also co-written both of her starring vehicles with their respective directors. While her other Sundance film, Another Earth, was not met with as much acclaim as SOMV (either at the festival or in its own limited release), the two form compelling companion pieces, particularly with the knowledge that Marling wrote them at the same time – she’d write Another Earth in the morning with Mike Cahill, dedicating her evenings to SOMV and Zal Batmanglij. Both Sound of My Voice and Another Earth focus on people who are looking for something to alleviate them from the pain present in their daily lives, but while Another Earth relies on the introduction of an entirely new planet to drive its narrative, SOMV instead centers on the vast expanses that exist in single human beings. It is not just a better film than Another Earth, it is a film that is exceedingly accomplished, confounding, and consuming beyond just basic comparisons. Wrapped in a tidy 85-minute package, Batmanglij and Marling have created their own world, […]

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Few recent marketing campaigns have impressed me as profoundly as Fox Searchlight’s push for Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling‘s Sound of My Voice. The Sundance hit comes with a plotline that’s ready-made for some inventive viral work, as it centers on a mysterious cult in Los Angeles, its compelling leader (Marling), and a pair of documentary filmmakers who infiltrate the organization in order to film an expose (they, of course, find much more than they bargained for). The marketing team for Sound of My Voice have clearly had a great time “recruiting new cult members” for the film with weekly meetings in Los Angeles (hey, they even got me there), but they decided to take the show on the road, stopping at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival to lure in fresh members. The result? An amusing, confounding video that reveals a startling amount of information about the film. While moviegoers who have yet to see the film will surely be intrigued by the video, it is people who have already seen Sound of My Voice who will be most stirred by it. Why? Because a very unexpected member of the cult shows up as part of the recruitment team. While I would not call the video a true spoiler, if you’re looking forward to seeing Sound of My Voice and want to stay fresh, perhaps save this video for viewing after you watch this phenomenal film. Already seen SOMV? Prepare to have your interpretations rocked.

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Last month was eclectic. We got Disney‘s like-it-or-hate-it box-office bomb, a sweet and violent comedy following the goons of hockey, one ass-kicking and nonstop action picture, an 80s TV show adaptation that was better than it originally had any right to be, and a Tarsem kids’ film that defied most expectations based on that horror story of a trailer. A pretty strong March, and that’s not even counting The Hunger Games. Before we head into the unpredictable summer movie season, we got 30 days filled with a plenty of excellent and probably not-so-excellent releases coming out. Here are 8 1/2 movies worth seeing this month.

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It’s perhaps too spot-on that Los Angeles’ own Ukrainian Cultural Center also functions as a theater, with a big stage and grand Art Deco features nestled inside and outside of it. After all, I am here for some theatrics, but not the kind that take place on a stage or even on a screen – but the kind that require participation and collusion and even a healthy slice of delusion, even as they also beg for stories and plots and costumes. I am not here for a movie or a concert or a reading. I am here to join a cult.

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What is Movie News After Dark? After a whirlwind of SXSW action, it doesn’t even know anymore. Something about movie news. Interesting links, maybe. There may also be some fart jokes, but we’re trying to keep it classy. Hi, Mom! Also, tonight’s edition will prove how much this column’s author has been watching Cougar Town lately. Like Community‘s Abed Nadir, he would like to live in Cougar Town. We begin tonight with a picture of Katee Sackhoff in Riddick 3 (ooh, la la — for the Battlestar Galactica babe, not another Riddick sequel). She will apparently play the baddie in the Vin Diesel-led film, some sort of alien bounty hunter who is more than meets the eye. Random thought: When are Katee Sackoff and Busy Philipps (Cougar Town reference #1) going to get together and do a sexy twins buddy cop movie? Strong female leads, people. Come on, Hollywood!

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To say that I have been eagerly anticipating Zal Batmanglij‘s Sound of My Voice is the understatement of the year. I’ve been rabid about seeing this thing ever since it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival (where everyone loved it) and then followed that up with a run at last year’s SXSW Film Festival (where everyone loved it), and though I attended both festivals, I could never manage to fit the film in to my schedule. I even remember standing outside the Alamo, heartbroken and thunderstruck, after I missed a screening of the film by a mere five minutes. Batmanglij co-wrote the film with star Brit Marling, and while I’ve more than taken my lumps for hating Marling’s other Sundance 2011 film, Another Earth, I’ve been assured that I will love Sound of My Voice, so perhaps my indie cred isn’t dead just yet. That all said, the film stars Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius as a couple/documentary filmmaking team who attempt to break into a Marling-led cult for a project, only to find themselves pulled under her sway. The film will finally hit theaters this April, and marketing is just beginning to roll out. Snap on over to Apple to watch the film’s first two minutes, and if that intrigues you (hint: it will), mark your calendars for Thursday, when you can watch the first twelve minutes (comprising the first of ten “chapters” that make up the film) of Sound of My Voice at the film’s official site […]

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This year has given us films that have taken us to slightly darker places from living with sex addiction (Shame) to life within a cult (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sound of My Voice) to struggling with personal and sexual identity (The Beaver, Pariah), just to name a few. But even within these darker landscapes, these films have given us brilliant and captivating performances set against backgrounds and settings we may otherwise never experience. The music accompanying these various films help create their different tones and degrees of darkness from full soundtracks (as I looked into with Shame) to hardly any music at all in the stark and stripped down Sound of My Voice (I swear I’m starting a letter writing campaign to get this film released, like, yesterday). This week I wanted to call to attention a film that premiered back in January during the Sundance Film Festival and has stayed with me over the past twelve months – Pariah. The film tells the story of a young girl, Alike (Adepero Oduye), growing up in an environment that is repressing her true identity under the rule of strict mother Audrey (played with maddening intensity by Kim Wayans), passive father Arthur (Charles Parnell), apple of her mother’s eye sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse), and seemingly understanding best friend Laura (Pernell Walker). Alike wants to please her parents and fit in with her best friend, but it seems she has to deny who she truly is in order to do so.

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The casting news for Zal Batmanglij’s next film with co-writer and leading lady, Brit Marling, continues to be my latest obsession. We know that the pair’s film The East will focus on an eco-terrorism group that is infiltrated by a hired agent, and that plotline, paired with Batmanglij and Marling’s apparent interest in fringe groups and their draw (look no further than their Sundance hit Sound of My Voice for proof of this), is enough to get me outrageously excited for the indie thriller. But as the film rounds out its casting, my excitement level is verging on simply unmanageable. Marling is already in to star as the undercover agent, dispatched by a private security firm that works to protect large corporations from eco-terrorist groups like the titular the East. Marling will get more involved than she anticipated, however, as her character will end up falling for the leader of the group, to be played by Alexander Skarsgard. Ellen Page is also on tap to play a member of The East, one who also has a romantic past with Skarsgard. The production has now added Patricia Clarkson in the role of Marling’s corporate boss, along with Brit Toby Kebbell, who is in negotiations for a role as “a doctor who was treated with a tainted drug that caused him to have Parkinson’s-like symptoms.”

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Ellen Page is reportedly in “final talks” for a role in Zal Batmanglij’s The East. Batmanglij has written the script with the film’s star, indie up-and-comer Brit Marling, with the film marking the pair’s first collaboration after their Sundance hit, Sound of My Voice. The film has been billed as a sort of thriller, set in the world of hardcore eco-terrorist groups. We’ve known that Marling would play some sort of “agent” who infiltrates a group, called The East, which is led by Alexander Skarsgard, but today’s news on Page’s casting comes with some additional information on the film’s plot, which is now further explained as a “story [that] concerns a private contracting firm tasked with protecting big corporations from radical environmentalists and anti-business extremists that assigns its best and brightest agent to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist organization known only as ‘The East.’” Marling is the agent employee of said contracting firm, who “finds herself falling for the leader” of the group. As if that didn’t sound like trouble enough, “Page will play Izzy, a member of The East who used to be Skarsgard’s lover and is now jealous of the attention he pays Marling’s character.” Who wants to bet that it’s Page’s character who uncovers what Marling’s character is really up to and reveals it all in one snarling torrent?

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Since busting on to the scene with her work in two of Sundance 2011’s biggest hits, Brit Marling’s next roles have been the source of constant speculation and chatter. But the multi-hyphenate’s skills go far beyond just acting, and one move was always for sure – she would be reteaming with Zal Batmanglij for another film, titled The East. With Marling serving as female lead and co-writer with director Batmanglij, the film was in need of strong male lead to play against Marling. They may have gotten that with Alexander Skarsgård, who is in talks to join the film. We don’t know much about the film (and I don’t expect that to change, considering that the little we do know seems so intriguing and not in need of any sort of big elaboration), but we do know that it will revolve “around a female agent who infiltrates an eco-terrorist group. The title of the movie refers to the group’s name.” Marling will play the agent, with Skarsgård in talks to take on the role of the group’s leader. The East will chronicle the type of fringe group not normally seen on cinema screens. It brings to mind the documentary If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, which opened this year. That film focused on true stories of some of the ELF’s members, a number of which are certainly interesting enough to go the big feature route. The East should play as an interesting counterpoint to Marling […]

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Another Earth isn’t a sci-fi film. It’s a drama. While this idea may disappoint some of you, the sci-fi backdrop for the film is purely there for symbolism. Blending the science-fiction element with the core drama, on a structural and tonal level, must not have been an easy task. As director and co-writer Mike Cahill discusses, it wasn’t. It’s difficult to really talk about Another Earth fully without going into spoiler territory, so the conversation I had with Cahill was a revealing one. Once you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know why the ending can’t go un-discussed. Another Earth asks a handful of questions, and the ending raises the biggest and most divisive one. So, of course, beware of Spoiler-y hints. Here’s what Mike Cahill had to say about end theories, finding a cohesive structure, and the similarities between the star and co-writer Brit Marling‘s other feature, Sound of My Voice:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s sights and sounds, vibe and verve, everything that you need to complete your April 20 high (or low depending on how your tax season went). It is movie news and thinky think pieces, infographics and golden posters. It is that for which you yearn: a window into the world of endless entertainment, man… At the behest of Peter Sciretta from /Film, who has been lobbying for this since Sundance, Fox Searchlight has picked up the red-hot indie drama Sound of My Voice. It’s the story of a couple who infiltrate a Southern California cult whose leader claims to be not of this world. As I mentioned on episode #82 of Reject Radio, it’s one hell of a film.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk SXSW with the Reject team and find out why Netflix is doing what they’re doing. Gigaom site editor Ryan Lawler joins us to help makes sense of why Netflix would get into the distribution game with House of Cards and what it might mean for the future. Joe Nicolosi (who made that video of the girl retelling Star Wars without seeing it and that Super Mario indie short film the kids are talking about), discusses the perils of the SXSW softball game, how he got the job making all the bumpers that play before the movies, his creative process, and the beauty of film festivals. Neil and Rob dust off the SXSW from their chaps to tell us about their favorite films and the movies that will coming to a theater near you. Plus, Kate Erbland from Gordon and The Whale and Scott Weinberg from Twitch Film go head-to-head in our movie news quiz, and we all end up talking about Cameron Crowe and the power of nostalgia. Loosen up your tie and stay a while.

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There are 130 films this year at Austin’s SXSW, and 60 of them being world premieres. When you scroll down the list of the films showing there, 99% of them you’ve never heard of before. Only a handful stick out that you actually know about or have eagerly (or mildly…) been anticipating. The films at the fest that currently are the most exciting for us are also the most high profile. That’s not to say there won’t be far superior little known flicks playing there – there most definitely will be – but the big ones showing are always the early attention grabbers. We’ll be running a bigger and more comprehensive list of SXSW must-sees closers to the fest, which is basically when we’ll have more info on the films there that aren’t being released by Universal or Summit. But as of right now, here are a few features that already got our excitement on high. As for those of you interested right now in knowing more about those 130 films, check out the full list here.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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