HEy folks, Harry here... now Massawyrm (sometimes round these parts he has many different aliaseseseses) has assembled a brand spanking new top ten of the INDIE INDIE hits of 2001. These are the films that Nobody Nowhere but Here has seen. Also, he has a couple of new Indie treats to discover below his list. COuld it be that Massawyrm is wanting to look at your film which no one has given you the time of day on before? Yes yes, tis twue... so twue, sew hear ewe go (forgive me I couldn't think how to misspell go correctly)...
Hola all. Everyone’s favorite Chain-smoking, Dr. pepper swilling, Indie schilling, seemingly gone AWOL underground film critic here with the glorious return of Massawyrm’s Indie Indie. Yes, that’s right folks. Though it may have seemed like I was asleep at the wheel, I was here all along; watching what few tapes have come my way and praying for a diamond in the rough. Well, it’s the start of a new year and with the first installment of this years column, I’d like to look back on the best of last years Indie Indie, while at the same time bring you three brand new indies for you to chew on and hopefully get to devour in the future.
First of all, lets address old business. I love independent film. I love all film, but there’s just something about the independent arena that gets my blood pumping. I compiled a personal list of my top ten favorites of last years distributed films and found exactly half of them to be independents. Memento, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Baise Moi, Donnie Darko and The Devil’s Backbone. All tremendous films. All independent. All heads and shoulders above most everything else out on screens in 2001. But what of the great undiscovered indies of the past that I had the pleasure of viewing? Well, as a recap I’d like to present my Top Ten Best Undiscovered Indies of 2001. “But Massawyrm, you’ve only reviewed about 40 undistributed independents in your column. Isn’t a top ten a little slanted?” The answer to that question is a resounding NO.
You see, although it may seem that I pop my head up every now and again to review some independent films you’ve never heard of, understand that I watch a lot of indies. I mean A LOT of indies. Since I first took on this column, I’ve received somewhere over 300 films. And I’ve watched them all. The good, the bad and the down right Fubugly. There was a great moment when Dmann (one of the Coaxial contributors) came into my screening room while staying here in town for a festival and got a sudden look of awe on his face. It was a weird “My God it’s full of stars!” expression when he gazed on the chaos that spilled forth in the form of vast piles of magnetic tape and plastic. Oh yes. I have seen a lot of film this year and when I say these are the ten very best of what I’ve seen, know that there is sufficient tape to back that up.
So without further ado I bring you Massawyrm’s Top Ten Very Best of 2001. (please note, if you made a great indie last year and it’s not on the list, you most likely didn’t send it to me.)
1) Clowns. Josh Shelov’s dark comic masterpiece about a clown who’s run away to the military to hide from his overwhelming fear of not being funny. Now I simply LOVE this film. I love it. Every moment for me is pure joy. I’ve watched my rough cut screener 8 times and I will continue to watch it over and over again. I’ve shared it with a few of my friends and met with mixed reactions. Rav had to watch it again the same night. Harry didn’t care for it. Understandable. It’s not for everyone and Harry and I disagree so often it’s become a running joke between us. Oh we have our moments of total agreement, those films where our every insight matches the others. But this is not the case here. I just can’t get enough of this film. Hell, after I’m done writing up this report I’m bound to watch it again. I just can’t stop myself. It’s compulsive. You can read my full review with my initial reactions here Juggle here
2) 5 Lines. This film touched me very deeply and haunts me still. It’s the story of five lives intersecting at the same moment and I simply can’t tell you more than that without spoiling it for you. A total pleasure to watch, this film cuts deep with it’s social observations and great characters. Clowns and 5 Lines were both from my first column and both fought viciously for the top spot on my list. Clowns is rewatchable over and over again, 5 Lines however is hard to take as it’s an emotional joyride through the lives of tortured souls. It’s rough and moving, and films like that you simply can’t watch over and over without first preparing yourself. But believe me, the ride is worth it. Find the review in the same place here Reach inside here
3) America So Beautiful. Never have I viewed a film so poignant, daring and timely out of sheer luck as to when it came my way. This film came at just the right time for me and anyone who got the chance to see this on the festival circuit. It’s the story of several Iranian’s (or Persian’s as they stress) here in America in 1979 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Because of the actions of extremists from their homeland they find persecution here in the states (complete with a rousing verse of “God Bless America” as a sign of protest to these foreigners.) This film beautifully illustrates the plight of Middle Easterners trying to make it here in America. A very well made film, it surprises me that no one (to my knowledge) has picked this up. A great film, read about it here touch me here
4) Come Together. A beautiful, starkly real film about a man struggling with his obsessions for the girl who left him. This film’s images leave lasting impressions and the performances are sheer perfection. Read more about this film here Swallow this , oddly enough in the same place as “America So beautiful”.
5) Bad Actors. A wonderful Dogme 95 film by young filmmaker Shaun Monson about 8 actors taking a low rent acting class from a drunken has-been. This film is genuinely funny and a real treat. Find my rantings about Dogme 95 as well as my full review here eat this
6) Feedback. A glorious film for it’s paltry budget of $37,000, this 35mm sci-fi thriller delivers the goods and showcases the brilliant hand of up and coming director Teo Konuralp. This film is just cool. I was happy to hear that this film won best sceenwriting accolades at the Slamdunk film festival in Park City. Congrats guys. Here's to hoping more people get to see this ingeniuos little film. Read my review here CLICK HERE
7) Attack of the Bat Monsters. A great take of 50’s indie genre filmmaking. Funny as hell while heavy on the insight into what made these films we so love or loathe. Read my full review here CLICK HERE
8) Twelve. Another indie sci-fi thriller, I was privileged not just to view the screener but I also was able to attend the world premier here in Austin. This first person account of a man trying to find out who and what he is after a memory lapse is a wonderful little jaunt into low budget sci-fi. With great performances, particularly by Lauren Fox (who’s starring in one of this year’s Sundance picks “Noon Blue Apples”) this film shines as one of the most riveting and creative indies to come my way. Read more here CLICK HERE
9) Black Days. A cool as all hell gritty noir comedy. Yes. A Gritty Noir Comedy. One of the few indies Harry and I see eye to eye on. This is beautifully shot and is laiden with clever-as-all-hell writing that brilliantly parodies the noir of yesteryear. Check out my full report here click here
10) And last, but certainly not least, one of my Best of the Bad picks, Lethal Force. This rock-em-sock-em action comedy has been racking up acclaim in indie and b-movie fests all over the place. Not a week goes by that these boys don’t drop me a line to let me know what’s up with this fun action film send up. A real treat for silly comedy fans, this film delivers with some pretty decent action. Definitely worth the trip to your local fest where this is playing, check out my full report here click here
So there you have it, my deep-fried faves of the past year. Hope some of you have been able to catch these at fests around the globe. If not, keep your eye out for ‘em. And if you’re attached to one of these films, let me know how their doing and what’s up with ‘em. I can’t wait to hear the progress on these under appreciated gems.
“But Massawyrm, I’ve read all these stories! When can we hear about some new stuff?” Well, folks. Right about….now.
Now I haven’t written this column up in a while, and the main reason for that is that I simply have not gotten the volume of tapes that I have in the past, and what I did get I wasn’t so thrilled about. I try to share with you folks the very best of what I find. Going out to festivals and seeking out hard to find films is not what many of you consider to be a good time unless it really pays off, so I set the bar fairly high when it comes to what I talk about. Know that when you read my column I’m never just okay with a film. I myself REALLY enjoyed it and feel I should share that joy with you, my readers. What’s come in as of late has not been what I’ve felt I can in good conscience share with you folks. Well, that is until just recently.
You see, this past week brought a batch of e-mails and tapes that reinvigorated me by introducing me to some pretty kick ass films. So here’s what I found.
First and foremost I received a film (just today) that really got me excited. I’d received an e-mail about this film from it’s Writer/director/star and when I read about the premise of the film I got very excited and begged for him to send it immediately. When the package arrived I tore it open right then and there, dropped what I was doing and sat down to watch it. You see, one of the things my column has been sorely lacking, something that I’ve been very conscious of, is indie films made by and starring African Americans. I have simply received no (read zilch, zero, nada) black films whatsoever. None. Not a one. Not that they’ve come in and I have not liked them, I simply have not received them. As a purveyor of info on indies, I try to draw from every genre, style and voice I can get my hands on. But if it’s not sent I can’t shill it. Well, one finally came my way and bless my lucky stars if it wasn’t one of the finest films I’ve received since I started this column.
The film is called “X-Patriots” and is about two black artists, one actor and one writer, who are best friends working together on a one man show while living in Den Haag (In The Netherlands.) X-Patriots delves into issues of Race, love and social interaction in a new and profound way. The two artists, Manny and Dexter are displaced from where they each grew up, New York City, and find themselves in a place where although they are resoundingly different from everyone else around them, they do not meet the racism that they met in the states. Now they are forced to deal with their own prejudices, fetishes and self-images while trying to make a life for themselves in a foreign land.
Manny has been in Den Haag a year and is happily married to a white national. Dexter has issues with Manny’s choice in life partner’s while dealing with his own love life, his new attraction to a women of mixed heritage, both black and white. Meanwhile, Manny’s happy marriage is jeopardized by his risking infidelity with his employer.
This film is both touching and brutally honest backed by some powerful performances and beautiful cinematography. Shot on 16mm, but looking clear, crisp and gorgeous, X-Patriots captures the foreign landscape without making it the focal point of the film. There’s just enough of the country to give you the flavor without cramming it down your throat in every shot like it was saying “Look at these production values! We’re in Europe!” Shot for a measly $98,000, this film puts every cent on the screen and makes it more than just watch-able, it makes it well worth your time.
The writing in this film is wonderful, chock full of clever, funny wit that is the hallmark of a great independent film. There are some genius moments in this that really drive this films message home. And while it is moralistic, it never gets overly so. The material is handled both gently, but with a cautious hand that never over sells the message. It’s meant to be digested, contemplated and internalized. It deals with issues of race while not placing blame. Ultimately it illustrates that race relations are not a global issue, but a personal one; something that everyone has to address themselves.
Unfortunately a film with this message is a tough sell. Far too often much weaker films get the limelight because they bring the concepts of racial strife to the screen in much more visceral terms, with violence, hatred and persecution being the forefront of the film, even though there may be a more positive message underneath. Don’t get me wrong, this film is in no way PC in it’s approach, it’s just that the material is handled much better here without the need to find a bad guy to vent the frustrations of the problem upon. Like Bamboozled before it, this film shows that racism exists within every race and that it comes in many different forms, both negative and seemingly positive. I simply cannot stress enough how important this films message is and how much I think it needs to be seen by a wide audience.
Darien Sills-Evans, the films Writer/Director really delivers with his first feature. This is one that really needs festival play and distribution. Such a good film shouldn’t perish in the wasteland of limbo that befalls so many indies. And personally I really want to see what Darien does next. This is a talented filmmaker to watch, folks. Keep your eyes peeled for this.
535 Washington Avenue ste #1
Brooklyn, NY. 11238
THE LAST RACE
Now, downshifting a bit (If you’ll pardon the pun) we come to a very fun little short titled “The Last Race”. This is a 22 minute film about underground street racing that is every bit as exciting and nihilistic as “The Fast and the Furious”, without big budget movie costs.
While it is not perfect (the acting is a bit stiff at times), this film serves as a perfect example of a great short. It runs its full length without seeming like it was a moment too short nor a moment too long. It is for every second entertaining and once it gets started it is exhilarating. This short tightens your gut during the race sequences as you legitimately care about the outcome. The character development is just enough to not get in the way of what this film is really about: the races. It skips along at a frenetic pace, giving you the set up then letting you revel in the glory of the streets.
Shot on Super 35mm, the cinematography and editing are top notch, absolutely the stuff the Hollywood action filmmakers are made of. The cars are absolutely beautiful, yet very realistic, and seeing them in action is something I wish I’d experienced on the big screen rather than on my television. Fueled by a blistering electronic soundtrack this film charges full burst to its perfect conclusion. Director Alex Ranarivelo has made himself a lean, well put together action vignette that is a delight for the senses.
This film played this past week in Park City at Nodance (one of the many Sundance alternatives.) Word is they picked up an award for Best actor, the Lead, who was quite good, especially during the films climax. If you dig on well made action this is a short well worth checking out.
Well, friends, that about wraps it up for me this week. If you’re sitting there reading this, wondering to yourself “How do I get my work of genius to Massawyrm” well wonder no more. All you need do is take your brilliant masterpiece fit for mass consumption that has been somehow overlooked by the big boys or is just now ready to get some buzz and send it on VHS, DVD or VCD to me at
3408 Red River
Austin, TX. 78705
Please, for the love of God, do not send a link to your film to be downloaded and viewed online. I live in a 1000 square foot area of Austin that cannot get DSL (no matter how much I whine, bitch and beg) so I have to rely on what these crappy phone lines will allow me (33.3bps at best). So I just don’t have the time to D/L them. Sorry. And remember kids. Sending me cigarettes will not get your film reviewed. But it does bump you to the head of the line. Heh heh.
Till next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.