The Mixed Tape


Winter’s Bone by Andy Motz
August 3, 2010, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Film, Reviews | Tags:

Lifeless trees, dry grass, and gray skies.  Dreary houses on hills with confined cluttered interiors.  Children’s toys strewn over yards and trampolines without covers. A rusty rocking horse covered icicles that are slowly melting.  A young girl, on the search for her missing father through a barren landscape. This is Winters Bone. A film from writer/director Debra Gratnick that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this past year and for good reason.

Taking place in the Ozark Mountains, Winters Bones tells the tale of 17 year of Ree.  Ree takes care of her mentally ill mother, her younger sister, and her little brother. One day however she gets a visit from the Sheriff who comes bearing bad news. Her drug-dealing father is missing and if he doesn’t show up for court Ree loses the house and the property. Her and her family will be rendered homeless.  Therefore Ree sets out on a journey to find her father.

The ads describe Winters Bone as an intense crime saga, yet that is misleading.  It is a crime story albeit an unconventional one.  It never picks up speed, our heroine is often left hopeless, and the climax turns our heroine into more of a puppet than someone with power. Yet throughout all this Ree never looses her strength even in moments of emotional drainage.

The film may seem frustrating in this aspect yet these are the same emotions Ree feels. Both the audience and Ree desperately want clues to come together, we want people to open up, and we want Ree to save the day.   We feel this way because Jennifer Lawrence’s performance convinces us this is a real girl we can root for.

In the end Winters Bone is a great film for its striking imagery and its vision of a decaying America. Where buildings, cars, and drug labs are tattered. Where human beings are physically and emotionally run down. Where there are rules that one does not dare mess with. It’s a poetic crime story of a desperate young woman on a bleak journey and one of the best films of the summer.

-Andy Motz



The White Ribbon by Andy Motz
March 19, 2010, 12:27 am
Filed under: Film, Reviews, Thoughts | Tags: , , ,

The final moments were near. I could feel the film coming to a close, yet I was still on the edge of my seat. What I had seen and what I hadn’t seen left me disturbed and unsettled. Then, there it was, the last shot of The White Ribbon, so powerful, meaningful, and stunning. After two and a half hours I had become immersed in Haneke’s world, his characters, and the layers he reveals along the way. Simply put, The White Ribbon is a masterpiece.

The story of a small German village in 1913 and the strange disturbing events that happen to its citizens may not sound like a film that covers the themes of sin, secrets, innocence, fascism, religion, evil, sexism, and apathy, but it is. It is a story of about festering evil. It is a story about purity amidst evil. Yet with  all of it is cleverly portrayed, none of it preachy. The film actually raises a lot more questions than it gives answers to. Therein lies the brilliance and beauty of the film. It is such a breath of fresh air, and it is a full on movie experience that will pull you in and shock you.

The film is in black and white, giving it more power.  Haneke lets his continuous shots linger just enough to build tension and terror, but not to the point of tedium. An important aspect of The White Ribbon is what we see and what is implied. At times we only see the aftermath of the crimes, at others we see it happening on camera. There is a shot of a boy walking into a room, he shuts the door, and the camera lingers outside the door. We the audience knows what is going to happen, but it is never shown, leaving us to our imagination. This film constantly makes you think about what is going on in the story and on the screen.

I cannot recommend this challenging film enough. It will create a lot of discussion and people will come away with different opinions than your own. So much to talk about and discuss. So much to analyze and ponder. The White Ribbon is a film I could write about for pages, but the best thing to do is to experience it for yourself.



Sundance 2010 Day Five by Nolan Wilson Goff

This a few days late, and that’s because getting back to LA has been a whirlwind (including a lovely 12 hour drive). The last day of Sundance was fantastic. It started slow, but came to a wonderful finish as we got to see the Grand Jury Prize Dramatic Winner of Saturday night, just minuted after it was announced. Check out the reviews. A Best of Sundance list will be here soon.

– Nolan

Winter’s Bone review by Nolan

On Saturday night I anxiously awaited the announcement of who won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize. I had tickets to see a screening of the winner, but had no clue who had won. When the winner was released I was so excited that it was Winter’s Bone. I had heard great things all week. Let me tell you: It did not disappoint. Winter’s Bone plays much like a gangster film, instead trading the big city landscape for the impoverished areas of the Ozarks. The performances were all astounding and incredible (the best of the week), and the story featured a strong female protagonist with her eyes set on providing for her young sister and brother. The closing moments of the film solidify this film as a fantastic independent film, and one of the best Sendance 2010 had to offer. Hopefully this film will appear in theaters late summer.

(Score: 9/10)

Lourdes review by Trevor

I was hesitant about this film, at first. Turns out I was right. This foreign film about healing was not my cup of tea. The editor held on a shots for far too long. With very little dialogue the movie drags and drags on. I can’t hate it completely because as I write this 4 days after, I am still trying to figure out what the director is saying about healing and how we deal with it.

(Score: 5/10)

Jack Goes Boating review by Trevor

The directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman presents a story about a relationship, a simple seemingly boring relationship. But it thrives off supporting actors who are in a relationship that is ending, as Philip’s character and Amy Ryan’s character’s relationship is beginning. The way the scenes are set up you can tell it was based off of a play. At the end off the movie you feel disappointed but you have a smile on your face.

(Score: 7/10)

Skateland review by Nolan

I had high hopes for this flick. With a Texas director, directing a story set in 1980s Texas, what’s not to like? This was the most disappointed film of the week for me. Poor performances and poor direction were too much for this film to overcome, despite the wonderful production design. Right now, I’m writing a short film set in a 1970s roller rink (drastically different than this one). Let’s hope my film stands far above the level of Skateland.

(Score: 4/10)

Cyrus review by Trevor

Probably the biggest movie coming into Sundance. A hilarious comedy follows Jonah Hill’s character Cyrus who has a very close relationship with his mother played by Marisa Tomei. Enter John C Reilly. Thus an awkward love triangle beginsfor Marisa’s affection. The all star cast works seamlessly together thanks to the Duplass brothers’ direction, which left room for improvisation. Visually speaking, There were too many zooms, taking me out of the moment, but overall it was a great  hilarious movie.

(Score: 8/10)



Sundance 2010 Day Four by Nolan Wilson Goff

Sundance is winding down, but the last weekend has been full of cool experiences. I have yet to see a bad film, and the week remains strong. America Fererra sat two rows in front of me during Blue Valentine. Before the screening started, I looked over as Adrian Grenier (star of Entourage) walked right past. Seems like the big names are starting to come back in for awards weekend. Looking forward to my last day at the ‘dance.

– Nolan

Blue Valentine (directed by Derek Cianfrance) review by Nolan

This is the story of a couple falling out of love. Cianfrance directed this low budget film flawlessly. This is the best narrative film at Sundance, thanks to the heartbreaking story and the incredible performances of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film broke my heart apart. Cianfrance used contrasts (one of my favorite storytelling devices) to show the condition of the couples’ romance (or lack of). The story is contrasted with a parallel story that tells of how they first fell in love. The contrast between past and present were photographed in film and digital, respectively, and the production design features a wonderful color pallete that compares to the two different times. The soundtrack (courtesy of indie band Grizzly Bear) is both stirring and haunting. See this movie. But here is a warning: you may walk away as heartbroken as the characters within the story.

(Score: 9/10)

Four Lions review by Trevor

A dark dark comedy about 4 jihad terrorists in London as they begin to set plans for a bombing. You are laughing throughout but then you realize how depressing it is. These four characters act like they have a reason to be doing what they do but I didn’t see any motivation. The subject is very edgy and hard to laugh at sometimes, but in the end if you take it lightheartedly you get a few laughs and a very intriguing story

(Score: 6.5/10)

Sympathy for Delicious (directed by Mark Ruffalo) review by Nolan

Mark Ruffalo’s directorial debut is a great first effort. Featuring a stellar cast of big Hollywood names (Orlando Bloom, anyone?), the film is about a paralyzed DJ who gets the power to heal everyone but himself. Ruffalo says that the story is about “a man getting what he needs, not what he wants.” What a theme, right? Well, it is definitely visible in the film, but the story falls just short of fully investigating the theme.  Writer Christopher Thornton does an adequate job with his pen, and excels in his perfomance of the lead character, Delicious. I’m looking forward to seeing this film again. Could be better after a second viewing.

(Score: 6/10)

happythankyoumoreplease (directed by Josh Radnor) review by Trevor

First time Writer/Director Josh Radnor also stars as Sam in this romantic comedy with a lot more heart that your typical crappy rom-com. With a well rounded cast Josh brings together a compelling story that centers around Sam and a foster boy who he finds on the subway. The boy played by newcomer Michael Algieri was fantastic as the catalyst for change in Sam’s life.

(Score 6.5/10)

Night Catches Us (directed by Tanya Hamilton) review by Nolan

Night Catches Us is a good movie. Great? No. I wanted alot more. The performances are all above average, but the story lacks tension. When one of their family members joins the Black Panthers in 1976, a family is forced to deal with the consequences. I wanted to witness more about the Black Panthers. Instead, we get a story about a family on the outside looking in. By the time the influence of the Black Panthers begins to take effect, the story is nearing the final act. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) once again delivers a top-notch performance. High marks to the production design team, and cinematographer. One last note: Jimmy Fallon’s late night band The Roots provided a perfectly fitting score.

(Score: 6/10)

More reviews coming late today!

Next Up For Us:

  • Lourdes
  • Jack Goes Boating
  • Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Winner
  • Cyrus
  • Skateland


Sundance 2010 Day Three by Nolan Wilson Goff

Yesterday was the best day of films so far. Saw an incredible documentary and some great narratives. Not only did we see some great films, but we got to experience a midnight screening. If you havn’t heard of the Sundance midnight screenings, they are dedicated to fun genre films (thrillers, horror, and comedy) and feature dynamite crwod reactions and involvement. It was the single best movie going experience I’ve ever been a part of. Right now, I’m literally 10 yards from Mark Ruffalo, whose directorial debut premiered this week. I’ve heard his film, Sympathy for Delicious, is fantastic. Looking forward to another great day in Park City.

– Nolan

Hesher (directed by Stephen Susser) review by Nolan


Critics have been mixed on Susser’s directorial debut. Some don’t see much of a story. Well I did. Susser crafted an unforgettable character and Joseph Gordon Levitt gives a fantastic performance as the title character. It’s rare for a director to be able to craft a story around a child protagonist. The angst of Devin Brochu’s performance as the main character carries the film, and he plays a lifelike junior high student struggling to deal with the loss of his mother.  Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson play supporting players, and both provide good performances. The film is an examination of grief, and how humans hide it. Grief stands as the elephant in the room in the film, and the thematic density of the film relies on the character of Hesher. Without giving anything away, the emotional core of the film is rooted in Hesher. See this film. It’s a fun ride, but in the end, it will hit you like car.

(Score: 8/10)

It’s A Wonderful Afterlife review by Trevor

A comedy in London  following an Indian mother who takes her obsession with her daughters marriage into the world of serial murder. A rather enjoyable movie, it would have been easy to forget except for a hilarious death scene that catches you off guard. It would be very hard to bring this to an american audience who doesn’t understand the culture and the humor in that culture.

(Score: 7/10)

Gasland (directed by Josh Fox) review by Nolan

This was a stirring documentary about the hazardous practices in which natural gas companies go about removing the gas from the earth. Hydraulic fracturing is contaminating the nation’s underground water sources. The effects of the chemicals used in this process and the natural gas are a serious hazard to humans, animals, and the environment. This is the best documentary I have ever seen, because of Josh Fox’s wonderful revealing story.  The narration is infused with humor, as Fox presents indisputable evidence of the fracking’s disastrous effect on America. He even holds a lighter up to a water faucet, and after several moments, flames erupted. Fox presents many more examples, and displays the bipartisan nature of the issue. This is unflinching, unrelenting, and unbiased storytelling. The best film I’ve seen at Sundance.

(Score: 10/10)

Holly Rollers review by Trevor


We follow Jesse Eisenberg as he falls away from Messianic Judaism. He is leaving his family and culture behind as he is tempted by money and ends up smuggling extasy into the country. A great and truly honest film that speaks truth to a world who values the sin our protagonist falls into. No matter what religion you follow  it is interesting to see the spiritual journey and how anybody can relate it to their own journey. Shot in 20 days. We witness the skill of new comer Director Kevin Asch in his debut film.

(Score: 7.5/10)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil review by Trevor


Never had more fun in a theater. This took your typical horror movie and kicked it in the balls and laughed at it. Our lovable protagonists (Dale) Tyler Labine and (Tucker) Alan Tudyk are mistaken for crazy psyco killers. Their relationship is perfect and they play off each other so well. This is a must see when you are looking a fun time with friends and laugh for an hour and a half straight. (9/10)

More reviews coming later today!

Up Next For Us:

  • Blue Valentine
  • Four Lions
  • Sympathy for Delicioous
  • happythankyoumoreplease
  • Night Catches Us
  • Lucky


Sundance 2010 Day Two by Nolan Wilson Goff
January 28, 2010, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Film, Reviews, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,

Great second day at the dance. We saw some good films, one that disappointed, but all three were enjoyable. Spotted Oscar nominated actress Melissa Leo at a screening of of one of her two films (The Dry Land, Welcome to the Rileys). Starting to grow quite fond of this place, and it will be difficult to leave Sunday. Seen 8 films in two days, so this is alot like paradise for me. Right now, sitting at a private Q&A for The Dry Land with cast/crew.

-Nolan

The Dry Land (directed by Ryan Piers Williams) review by Nolan

Ryan Piers Williams’ story of a soldier returning home from Iraq, is both gripping and visceral. James, the soldier, immediately begins suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and the film is his journey through this condition. The visceral story is reflected in the handheld cinematography which adequately shows west Texas and plunges us into the character’s world. The performances are decent, although Wilmer Valderamma supporting performance is well above average. The story is good, but too similar to the many war dramas released recently. Maybe I am just tired of war movies? The Hurt Locker, Brothers, and In the Valley of Elah all deal with relationships outside of war and the traumas brought on by experiences overseas. I do respect the filmmaker’s intention and think this a good movie that will bring light to much needed changes in how the military handles and cares for our soldiers. After all, they are fighting for US.

(Score: 7/10)

Buried (directed by Rodrigo Cortes) review by Trevor

Imagine you are in a box 6 feet in the ground, and no, your not dead. Yet. You are Ryan Reynolds a truck driver in Iraq help for ransom. We follow Paul and the camera never leaves him: the whole movie is inside the coffin. The cinematography  was riveting with such a complex set ups, some camera moves seemed impossible. The lighting was so realistic with 4 practical lights including a lighter, cell phone, glow stick, and a flashlight. The way these were used was very creative and very dramatic. Unfortunately the film as a whole is lacking.  Its novelty is also its downfall. We stay too long in the coffin and it would have worked better as a short film. It is a great thrill ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat (sometimes). But I wish I could have walked away with something. Instead, I left empty handed.

(Score: 6.5/10)

Douchebag (directed by Drake Doremus) review by Nolan

This poorly photographed film is without a doubt my favorite film at Sundance so far.  Many could describe it as  an ugly film, and that wouldn’t be far from the truth.  What is incredible about this film, is not technical, but rather in the narrative. The film is an entirely original story exploring the relationship of two brothers and how they tear down the wall that stands between them. The protagonist, Sam, is an interesting study in identity and what people choose to hide or reveal to one another.  The film features hilarious performances and dialogue, which kept the audience entertained throughout. Technically awfully, but beautifully written and acted, Douchebag is a must see if it finds a distributor.

(Score: 8/10)

Next Up For Us:

  • Gasland (documentary)
  • Hesher (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
  • It’s A Wonderful Afterlife
  • Tucker and Dale vs. Evil


Sundance 2010 Day One by Nolan Wilson Goff

What an experience thus far! Seen some great films so far, and the vibe of Sundance is like nothing else. Ran into a few celebrities during our strolls around Park City (Samuel L. Jackson, Diego Luna, Jonah Hill). This city is a beautiful place where high and low culture join together around the common bonds of filmmaking. Looking forward to a great week. Even ran into director Jay Duplass (director of Cyrus, starring John C. Reilly) in line for Daddy Longlegs. Really great guy who encouraged me to skip his film, and see the films I can’t see in theaters.

-Nolan

Animal Kingdom (directed by Daniel Michod) review by Trevor

We arrived at Sundance 7 hours before our check in time with our group so we decided to try and catch a film. We wait listed and got tickets for Animal Kingdom, a superb crime drama following a family in Melbourne Australia. We follow the moral decay of “J” who moves in with his criminal relatives, following the death of his mother. He is a blank canvas and this new family abuses that innocence. They had a fantastic cast and it was shot beautifully. Through J’s journey, we discover that animals lie on both sides of the law. It is also an interesting examination of truth, and how humans develop truths for themselves, which may be right or wrong. Only complaints would be that the film was too long and one characters story line entirely disappeared.

(Score: 8/10)

Daddy Longlegs (directed by the Sadfie Brothers) review by Nolan

Mixed reactions resulted from this film (a product of this year’s Cannes Film Festival). Some loved it, others didn’t. I happened to love it. It’s a humorous and tragic tale of a divorced father who gets two weeks a year to spend with his kids. The father excels at being a fun dad, but fails to be the kind of parent his kids need. This film examines a tragic hero who fails despite good intentions. The performances were all stellar, and the story structure (or lack of) brings freshness to a story based on the directors’ own experiences with their father. The story sparks from how they remembered feeling in these moments, rather than their opinion of their father now. See this film if you get a chance. It should be on Video On Demand.

(Score: 7.5/10)

Obseledia (directed by Diane Bell) reviewed by Trevor

Obseledia was our second film of Sundance, and I was excited for the visuals because I knew it was shot on the RED One. The story was intriguing: a man writing the encyclopedia of obsolete things on his typewriter (Obsolete+Encyclopedia=Obseledia). He believes love is obsolete and you think this is the driving force, but then it is abandoned for a global warming presentation , before returning to the love plot. I had a chance to talk to the fantastic cinematographer afterwards and asked “Why shoot on the RED when you’re making a movie about obsolete things?” (since the film world is in this debate of film vs. digital). Unfortunately the budget didn’t allow for it, but it was visually compelling none the less.

(Score: 6/10)

Cane Toads 3D (directed by Mark Lewis) review by Nolan

Wow. During this documentary, you laugh all the way through, and by the end realize, “Whoa. I actually learned something.” The sequel in the making for 25 years, this addition embraces 3D technology to astounding success. Although I am not a believer in 3D, I am now, for nature docs.  Masterfully directed, Toads is structured using interviews and reenactment that reach levels far above your standard recreations of events. The director asked each person to play a character of themselves (rather than just their normal self) to further the effect of the storyline, which resulted in hilarious moments from beginning to end. I would now consider myself a semi expert on Cane Toads, as the doc proved extremely educational, and presented both sides of the argument without bias. The film turned the toads into lifelike characters with real life emotions, using established eye lines and musical cues. I highly recommend this Australian documentary.

(Score: 8/10)

Up Next For Us:

  • The Dry Land (starring America Ferrera, Ryan O’Nan)
  • Buried (starring Ryan Reynolds)
  • Douchebag (directed by Drake Doremus)

Should be a great day tomorrow!