Following on from last night’s post, here are some more reactions to the movies I saw at the recently wrapped Los Angeles Film Festival…
* “Cyrus” — This played early in the festival and was pretty much concurrent with it’s opening in theaters. I’ve already said in passing elsewhere that I enjoyed the film quite a bit despite some flaws and, by now, you’ve probably heard something about this oddball romantic comedy of gently Oedipal horrors. It first came up on my radar some time ago when I interviewed Mark Duplass, one half of the directing Duplass Brothers.
About the worst thing I can say about “Cyrus” is that, unlike the similarly improvised film Mark stars in, “Humpday,” which also involved a woman caught between two problematic men, the female role here is relatively under-developed. The fact that that movie was written and directed by a woman, Lynn Shelton, is, I’m sure, not entirely coincidental.
There’s also been something of a cinephile backlash to the Duplass’s camera work, among other issues, which may interest you wonks. You can read about that via Glenn Kenny, Bill Ryan (my further thoughts are in comments at his place) and Jim Emerson.
* “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” gets a little long in its last third, but otherwise this is an extraordinarily entertaining and thoughtful music documentary about the all-African-American band from South Central L.A. that blends traditional R&B, punk, ska, early metal and just about every other influence under the sun. The band first became popular locally in the early 1980s when musical segregation still held sway and black musicians playing rock was not a common thing. Fishbone found themselves outsiders in their own community, to some degree.
Directors Lev Anderson and Chris Meltzer do an absolutely A-1 job of describing the human drama of a band which never quite broke out nationally while also placing it in a historical and regional context that makes this one of the best documentaries about Los Angeles that I’ve seen in awhile. It tells a great story and gets my city right. The music is good, too.
* “The Tillman Story” is probably going to be one of the bigger documentaries this year. It certainly features a memorable and affecting lead character in the late football player, Pat Tilman, an intellectual who volunteered for battle and paid the ultimate price, a victim of a friendly fire incident that remains partially unexplained. In any case, the political jockeying among rightwing and non-rightwing film bloggers who haven’t even seen it is already happening.
Ironically, it really is not a political film in the same way that other muckraking documentaries tend to be. People who still believe in the perfection of the Bush Administration, all three of them, and perhaps, far-right Chrisitianists might object (the Tillman family are <shock> atheists and, despite tragedy and divorce, come across as entirely functional). Otherwise, sane people across the political spectrum should find the film compelling and memorable.
It’s about a fascinating character and the struggle of his equally interesting family to take control of his memory against government apparatchiks who wanted him to become a posthumous political asset. The Tillmans would have been just as irritated if his memory had been misused by liberal Democrats, I’m sure. Indeed, director Amir Bar-Lev is no Michael Moore or even an Alex Gibney, even if his film openly wonders whether some of the lies may have originated in the Bush White House. It’s not like the idea of presidents or their administration lying is particularly shocking or even all that damning by itself. (Every president of my lifetime has lied, including the current one. I’m pretty sure most of the other ones did too.) Bar-Lev’s other films include “Fighter,” a holocaust documentary, and “My Kid Could Paint That,” about a four year-old art prodigy. “Fahrenheit 9/11” this is not.
Still, people like John Nolte, who view everything through such a skewed and extreme political prism that a mostly apolitical site like Movieline becomes “hard left,” presumably because one of their writers took a preemptive potshot at him and because it’s not hard-right, will likely miss the point. The rest of us have a very good and moving film to see.
Believe it or not, there’s still more to come…