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2005 Foreign, Alternative and Independent Films


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#1 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 01 2005 - 04:15 PM

Welcome to 2005 edition of the Alternative, Foreign and Independent Films thread.

This thread will keep track of the independent and foreign films released throughout the year, which often go unnoticed and dwarfed by the more mainstream and big budgeted films.

This original post consists of two parts. The first half will list the films currently in release or about to be released.

The second half will be an index of the reviews posted in this thread.

Both the list and index will be updated periodically.

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Films Scheduled For May – June and those currently in circulation:

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FILMS INDEX: (Film Name, Name of Reviewer and link to review, Post #)

Updated: 5/6/05 thru Post #90


3-Iron

Eric Howell (#83)


Animation Show, The

Adam_S (#26)


Assisted Living

Steve Felix (#44)


Ballad of Jack and Rose, The

Steve Felix (#46)


Boys & Girl From County Clare, The

Dave Hackman (#58)


Bride and Prejudice

Jason Seaver (#19)


Clean

Haggai (#82)


Daybreak

Michael Reuben (#20)


Downfall

Ted Todorov (#23)
Edwin Pereyra (#49)
Dave Hackman (#52)


Eating Out

Lew Crippen (#86)


Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Lew Crippen (#85)


Eros

Eric Howell (#54)
Haggai (#59)
Jason Seaver (#63)
Brook K (#78)


Gunner Place

Adam_S (#45)


Head-On (Gegen die Wand)

Michael Reuben (#4)


Loggerheads

Dave Hackman (#77)


Look At Me

Lew Crippen (#89)


Lost Embrace

Michael Reuben (#31)


Me And You And Everyone We Know

Steve Felix (#41)



Melinda & Melinda

Jason Seaver (#63)


Millions

Dave Hackman (#60)
Edwin Pereyra (#73)
Adam_S (#84)


Murderball

Dave Hackman (#12)
Steve Felix (#88)


Nina's Tragedies

Pascal A (#8)


Nobody Knows

Dave Hackman (#80)


Off The Map

Dave Hackman (#50)


Oldboy

Adam S (#42)
David Lawson (#79)


Rory O’Shea Was Here

Dave Hackman (#14)


Steamboy

Adam S (#47)


Swimming Upstream

Michael Reuben (#10)


Syrian Bride, The

Haggai (#81)


Walk On Water

Haggai (#55)


Watermarks

Dave Hackman (#33)


Winter Solstice

Dave Hackman (#90)


~Edwin
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#2 of 123 Scott Weinberg

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Posted February 02 2005 - 11:13 AM

Here are some reviews from Sundance flicks:

After Innocence
The Aristocrats
Grizzly Man
MirrorMask
Pretty Persuasion
Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story
Twist of Faith
Zombie Honeymoon

Hope these films fit the mold of this thread. I didn't play in this sandbox last year. Posted Image

#3 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 03 2005 - 05:48 AM

The more, the merrier. Posted Image

Here are the top winners at the Sundance Film Festival and others films to keep an eye on in the coming months. From USA Today:

Quote:
Top Film: Hustle & Flow. Written and directed by Craig Brewer and starring Terrence Howard, the movie won the American Dramatic Audience Award for most popular film Saturday.

And its producer, John Singleton, got the deal of the festival, with $9 million from Paramount Pictures for the film and another $7 million to develop two more films.

Set in Memphis, the story of a pimp who decides to become a hip-hop star has echoes of Eminem's 8 Mile.

Other films that won awards at the festival that ended Sunday:

• The story of a Memphis music producer's restless Russian trophy wife, Forty Shades of Blue by director Ira Sachs, took the American Dramatic Grand Jury Prize.

• Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight, about the path to war in Iraq, won the grand jury prize for documentaries.

Murderball, a documentary about paralympic rugby, which is played by young men tooling around in Mad Max-style wheelchairs on basketball courts outfitted with goalposts, won the documentary Audience Award. The film is co-directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro and was brought to Sundance by ThinkFilm, which has made a name for itself with theatrically popular documentaries, such as Spellbound.

This year, for the first time, Sundance awarded foreign films:

• The world dramatic jury prize went to Zézé Gamboa's The Hero, about postwar Angola.

• The world documentary jury prize went to Leonard Retel Helmrich's Shape of the Moon, a look at Christians and Muslims in Indonesia.

• The World Cinema Documentary Audience Award went to Canadian director Peter Raymont's Shake Hands With the Devil, about United Nations general Roméo Dallaire, who led the unsuccessful 1994 mission in Rwanda.

• The World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award went to director Susanne Bier's Brothers, about two grown brothers with a bad case of sibling rivalry.

Best actress went to Amy Adams in Junebug, about coping with a new family in the new South, and best actor went to Lou Pucci, who plays a savvy 17-year-old trying to separate from his parents (Vincent D'Onofrio and Tilda Swinton) and make it into New York University in Mike Mills' Thumbsucker.

~Edwin
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#4 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 04 2005 - 06:54 AM

Keeping a promise I made to Edwin, here's the first original review of this thread (links and reviews copied from elsewhere don't count Posted Image ):

Head-On (Gegen die Wand)

The film is set in Hamburg and Istanbul, and the characters speak German and Turkish. But what I was most reminded of while watching this film were the great character-driven dramas made by Hollywood mavericks in the 1970s, the ones with meandering plots and characters with messy lives (my favorite is Five Easy Pieces).

Head-On is about Cahit and Sibel, two Turkish immigrants living in Hamburg who, for different reasons, have both attempted suicide. After one of the more unusual screen meetings in recent memory, they enter into a sham marriage. The idea is Sibel's, because it's the only way she can escape her traditional Muslim family and taste the freedom she's desperate to explore. Cahit's reason for agreeing is harder to fathom, because he spends much of the film staggering through life in a stupor of alcohol and grief (he's recently been widowed).

It's no surprise when Sibel's adventures take bad turns or Cahit's indifference toward the marriage turns into something else. But lead actors Cahit Tomruk and Sibel Güner bring these characters to life with such forcefulness that even the expected turns are fascinating. The film has its own special rhythm. Punctuated by scenes of a Turkish band performing on a gorgeous river bank (calling it a "Greek chorus" would be appropriate, if ironic), it keeps moving forward but never feels like it's trying to reach a particular destination. You just keep watching these two flawed but expressive people as they run "head on" at life and, more often then not, slam into a wall, both literally and figuratively.

The love scenes are raw, and so are the scenes of violence; in many instances, there's not much difference between the two. By the end of the film, several years have passed, and both Cahit and Sibel are different people. But there's no pat resolution. Their stories could continue, and the film is open-ended. Some viewers may find that frustrating, but I'm not one of them.

The film reportedly generated controversy in Germany because of its depiction of the circumstances of Turkish immigrants, but that subtext was lost on me. Cahit and Sibel are specific characters in a particular time and place, but the film isn't an exposé or a social tract. It's about two damaged souls who alternately reach out to each other and push each other away. There are people like this everywhere, but it's rare to find two who are so interesting to watch.

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#5 of 123 Lew Crippen

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Posted February 05 2005 - 12:37 AM

Is Les Choristes listed by mistake, Edwin? It is showing in Dallas right now, but it has been on (at least here) for quite a while—long enough to get an Academy nom.
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#6 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 05 2005 - 01:25 AM

According to IMDb, its first U.S. release (outside of film festivals) was Dec. 22 in L.A. It didn't open in New York until mid-January.

It's always hard to know what to do with films that have limited openings late in one year but play most of their dates in the next. I mentioned Merchant of Venice and Assassination of Richard Nixon in the 2004 thread, but they played for all of three days of that year in just a few locations. They could just as easily be here.

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#7 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 05 2005 - 02:31 AM

Quote:
Keeping a promise I made to Edwin, here's the first original review of this thread...

And with that you are the first to make it on the index list. Posted Image

Lew, I wasn't sure how much longer Michael was going to keep the 2004 thread open. I may have put the film in question here by mistake. Unlike the official 200X film list thread where certain guidelines are followed to be able to list a film in a certain year, here, we do not have such constraints. So feel free to discuss the film here or in the 2004 indie thread.

As for the 2004 thread, I sure hope Michael keeps it open for a couple more months so others can still catch up with the DVD releases and post their comments before archiving the thread.

~Edwin
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#8 of 123 Pascal A

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Posted February 05 2005 - 03:08 AM

I recently caught Nina's Tragedies at the New York Jewish Film Festival, and it's being released by Wellspring in March to at least New York. It has a morbidly funny intertwined narrative that's incredibly well done. Highly recommended.
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#9 of 123 Scott Weinberg

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Posted February 05 2005 - 07:54 AM

For the sake of uniforimity (and my own sanity), I always cite a film using its first public (non-festival) screening. If it opens on 12/31/04 in one NYC theater, then it's a 2004 release.

Yeah, the "platform" technique is an annoying one used solely to sate the award-giving bodies, but hey, we gotta pick a method to decide what year a movie came out.

The Merchant of Venice and The Assassination of Richard Nixon most definitely ARE 2004 releases, but we're not the AMPAS, are we? Posted Image

P.S. to Mike: My reviews are original. Honest.

#10 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 05 2005 - 08:30 AM

Swimming Upstream

Released in Australia in 2003, this film is just now making it to the U.S. It's based on the autobiography of champion swimmer Tony Fingleton, but it's no more a sports movie than Million Dollar Baby is a boxing movie. The story is about family relationships, mostly very troubled ones, and how Fingleton found himself, not so much through competitive swimming but through the unexpected perspectives that his athletic pursuits allowed him to achieve on the people around him.

The Fingleton family had five children. The father, Harold, worked on the Brisbane docks, and the mother, Dora, was one of those wives for whom the term "long-suffering" is an understatement. They are played by Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis in performances that are detailed, always credible and quietly brilliant from beginning to end.

Harold is moody, hard-drinking and often unemployed. He once was a "football" player (and I assume that means soccer) and complains that he never got his shot. So when he discovers, almost by accident, that his sons Tony and John are natural swimmers, he starts training them in the best live-through-your-children tradition. The problem is that Harold doesn't like Tony, for reasons that are never explained and probably never can be. As Tony begins to succeed at competitions, Harold not only takes no pride, but he also starts looking for ways to sabotage his own son (his most nefarious trick is one I can't reveal without spoiling a plot point).

The film contains numerous scenes of swimming races, and they're interestingly shot, usually in split-screen. But the race is almost always secondary; the real drama is what's happening inside and between the Fingletons both in and out of the water. I can't think of another sports film that so effectively dramatizes the personal baggage that every competitor carries into the arena. As Paul says to another contestant who's trying to razz him, "You'll have to do better than that, mate. I've been psyched out by experts!"

The director is Russell Mulcahy, who's had an erratic career, but whose visual flair is evident throughout the film. Still, it's Rush and Davis who are the main attractions. Rush's Harold is never a monster, even when he does monstrous things, and Davis gets a chance to show that she can play an ordinary person with the same conviction and realism that she brings to the gallery of extreme personalities she's most famous for. The scene where she wades through a sea of men in an effort to extract her husband from a bar is a miniature masterpiece.

Like many films based on a real events, Swimming Upstream doesn't have a neat resolution, but I found it satisfying. Tony makes an unexpected choice, and the film doesn't dwell on it. It tells you briefly how his choice played out and leaves the rest for the viewer to reflect on.

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#11 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 05 2005 - 08:34 AM

Quote:
but we're not the AMPAS, are we?

Nope. It's Edwin's sandbox. As far as I'm concerned, the rules are what he says they are.

Quote:
My reviews are original. Honest.

Maybe I should have said "indigenous". Posted Image

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#12 of 123 Dave Hackman

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Posted February 05 2005 - 02:07 PM

Murderball

Quadriplegics with competitive fever do more then stare into space and dream of being a sports star some actually participate in an aggressive team game of wheelchair rugby called Murderball. They don’t just use ordinary chairs; their road warrior chairs built up with armor plating to protect against direct kamikaze onslaughts and the continuing rubbing of chairs during the heat of battle.

This Documentary focuses on how each player is no different then you and I and how the Canadian team attempts to defeat the seemingly invincible USA team with a little help from Joe Soares a former USA quad rugby star.

Joe just happens to be from Tampa and was present for the screening along with his son and wife and all were well received.

This is the first I’ve heard of this sport and am happy to have been introduced through such a wonderful film.

This movie is worth seeing because it entertains and educates.

#13 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 05 2005 - 05:39 PM

Quote:
Maybe I should have said "indigenous". Posted Image

As always, it is preferable that the reviews are actually posted in this thread even if they are brief rather than linked somewhere else. Actually, that would be the incentive to be included in the main index above.

I'd rather have the index point to a review in this thread rather than to a post in this thread referring to another link on another site for the actual review. Posted Image

~Edwin
DVD Unwind: Paradise Now (Coming) • King Kong - - • KeaneThe Squid And The WhaleA History Of ViolenceHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireThe Best Of Youth (Italy) • Good Night And Good LuckHowl's Moving CastleWalk The Line - - • ZathuraNorth Country

#14 of 123 Dave Hackman

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Posted February 06 2005 - 01:47 PM

Rory O’Shea Was Here

Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson) has cerebral palsy, and is hardly able to move and his speech is nearly impossible to understand and resembles the sounds that Chewbacca makes in the Star Wars saga. Rory O’shea (James McAvoy) is a new resident at Dublin’s Carrigmore home for the disabled where Michael lives and he has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which allows him only small movements of his head and his two fingers. These two form a friendship that takes both of them from total dependence to independence.

The star is James McAvoy as Rory and he and his mouth just dominate nearly every scene. Steven is just as good but a little less do to his more passive nature. Both play off each other unbelievably and I can’t imagine it being acted any better.

This film looked freaking clear as a bell and I know my projector is going to pail in comparison to this theater projection. The sound is loud and that’s the way I like it so I was happy.

I guess you could be put off by the voice of Michael since so many comedians seem to talk like this in their act but it isn’t gimmicky and becomes a non-issue once you focus on what he is trying to convey.

I developed an attachment to both characters and this is what made it so special for me.

A+

#15 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 13 2005 - 11:22 AM

What, nobody has seen Inside Deep Throat yet? Or are you guys just shy to post your comments? Posted Image

~Edwin
DVD Unwind: Paradise Now (Coming) • King Kong - - • KeaneThe Squid And The WhaleA History Of ViolenceHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireThe Best Of Youth (Italy) • Good Night And Good LuckHowl's Moving CastleWalk The Line - - • ZathuraNorth Country

#16 of 123 Scott Weinberg

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Posted February 13 2005 - 11:39 AM

I've seen it. I found the premise a little hard to swallow.

#17 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 13 2005 - 11:51 AM

Not too shy, just too busy. It's a great documentary, thought-provoking and also quite funny in unexpected ways.

I'm just surprised you didn't ask about Bride and Prejudice, which, I'm sorry to say, isn't very good.

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#18 of 123 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted February 13 2005 - 01:33 PM

Quote:
I've seen it. I found the premise a little hard to swallow.

Don't hold back on those reviews now. Spit it out!

Quote:
I'm just surprised you didn't ask about Bride and Prejudice...

Well, after seeing some early critical reviews, well, you know...

~Edwin
DVD Unwind: Paradise Now (Coming) • King Kong - - • KeaneThe Squid And The WhaleA History Of ViolenceHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireThe Best Of Youth (Italy) • Good Night And Good LuckHowl's Moving CastleWalk The Line - - • ZathuraNorth Country

#19 of 123 Jason Seaver

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Posted February 14 2005 - 04:13 AM

I'm inclined to be a little more generous to Bride & Prejudice, if only because I saw it on the heels of a couple weeks' worth of darker, grimier movies. It's hobbled by a leading man who's like a poor man's Bill Pullman, along with a lot of moments where it can't decide whether it wants to be an Indian movie or parody them. It's also kind of odd that the film's male lead doesn't get a song at all.

Still, most of the comedy works, the visuals are lush and colorful, and I like the sense of the culture clashes going on. Outside of Martin Henderson, the movie is well-cast. I see Aishwarya Rai's next few pictures appear to be English-language, and I'm looking forward to seeing her in better material (annoyingly, her most recent Indian film only played Boston for two weekends just before B&P came out).

One comment on the movie's audience: There were about ten of us at the matinee show, and I thought that maybe the boutique house where I saw it wasn't the ideal place. It's a very multiplex-friendly movie, though peculiarly chaste for a US/UK romantic comedy (we're talking no kissing, here). I mention this because the one time I went to the local Bollywood theater back in '03, it was packed, despite it being a Tuesday night show for a 3-hour movie where even kids were being charged $9 for a seat in a crappy center-aisle theater. I suppose that's fitting - if someone wants Bombay Cinema in Boston, they can get the real thing easy enough, the same day a movie is released in India. Something designed for a "crossover audience", like Bride & Prejudice, on the other hand, doesn't appeal to either the Bollywood or traditional romantic comedy crowd.

It also makes me wonder if this is a unique-to-Indian-movies idea - could Japanese/Hong Kong/Korean/French/German/any country that produces a sufficient amount of movies do the same thing, bypassing the likes of Miramax and opening their movies in US cities where there's potential interest directly?
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#20 of 123 Michael Reuben

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Posted February 19 2005 - 06:38 AM

Daybreak

Daybreak isn't the original title, but I don't know enough Swedish to translate Om jag vänder mig om. The film was a 2003 release in its own country, but Newmarket is just now releasing it in the U.S.

Daybreak takes place in a single day and tells three stories involving four married couples. The stories aren't interlocking, except for one brief moment when characters from various plotlines brush up against each other. The overlap is thematic, because all of the couples are in crisis.

Each story could be a mini-drama, but writer-director Björn Runge intensifies their collective impact by cross-cutting among them. Just as you've reached the point where you're getting comfortable with the rhythm of one, he cuts abruptly to another. The technique is familiar from TV (where Runge has most of his credits), but it has a different effect here, probably because the characters are all new to us, and the connections (such as they are) among the stories only gradually emerge.

Since seeing the film, I've read reviews that give extensive plot details, which I think is a shame. These stories work better if you go in knowing as little as possible about the characters and their relationships. But in brief:

Rickard is a successful surgeon, married with two children. He comes home to his wife Agnes (Pernilla August, who was wasted as Anakin Skywalker's doomed mother but is magnificent here) after bad developments both at work and with his girlfriend, Sofie. Then he has to sit through what has to be one of the most uncomfortable dinner parties ever put on film.

Anita was abandoned for a younger woman after 26 years of marriage to Olof. After we get a good look at both her despiar and her straitened circumstances, we watch her set out to confront Olof. Ann Petrén bring such conviction to Anita that the resulting encounter is truly frightening.

Anders is a bricklayer who is so eager to find "under the table" work that he is never home, despite the pleas of his wife and daughter. Having promised to spend the day with them, he disappears upon getting a call for a special job at the home of Knut and Mona, who are willing to pay handsomely to have all of their windows and doors bricked up. As Knut's and Mona's story emerges (they, too, have a daughter, and she's the reason for their odd construction project), Anders is forced to think about his own family situation.

The film is shot mostly in close-up and usually handheld. If the cast weren't so uniformly good, it might drag, but it never does. By the end, each story has reached a sort of resolution, but I think you could debate for a very long time what happens to each of the characters after the credits roll. They may not be likeable, but they're vivid, often painfully so.

M.
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