Indie Outlook: Second Anniversary

Jane Adams in Joe Swanberg’s “All the Light in the Sky.” Courtesy of Swanberry.

Jane Adams in Joe Swanberg’s “All the Light in the Sky.” Courtesy of Swanberry.

Today marks the second anniversary of Indie Outlook, my labor of love devoted to covering the independent, overlooked and under-appreciated gems of cinema. As I did last year, I’ve compiled highlights from my interviews with the extraordinarily talented actors, writers and directors who spoke with me over the past twelve months. Each conversation was a privilege, a thrill and an utter joy. Click on the interviewee’s name, and you will be directed to the full article…

“It’s just suggestion and trickery. That’s what movies are all about, when it all comes down to it. It’s magic in close-up.”—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, director of “Ellie Lumme”

“The most satisfying moments in that film are the ones that I hadn’t dreamt up. We were literally watching those moments unfold as the audience would, because we weren’t around to shoot them. Some were completely outside of the scope that we had established, which was part of the plan. The most important thing that I learned from making it is that sometimes the best directing is not directing, and staying the hell out of the way to let the people you’ve hired do their work.”—Eduardo Sánchez, director of “The Blair Witch Project”

Heather Donahue in Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s “The Blair Witch Project.” Courtesy of Haxan Films.

Heather Donahue in Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s “The Blair Witch Project.” Courtesy of Haxan Films.

“I’m always interested in unlikely connections between things that at the surface seem very different. When you’re in school, there’s always this idea that sports exist on one side and art and art-making exist on this complete other side, and that they can never mingle… It’s funny how people discover cinema because of injuries or illness. Scorsese had asthma, Joe Dante—who I just wrote a book about—had polio when he was a kid, and Linklater had a heart rhythm problem. They all wound up cinephiles. It’s fun, though, to think about sports and art as an obsession. Every artist or filmmaker knows that to really make something, you have to be obsessive.”—Gabe Klinger, director of “Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater”

“The medicine man makes incisions in your flesh and places sticks in them. You’re hung from a tree and break the incision on your own volition. It takes a plug of your skin out the size of a quarter. In this last scenario, I was hung from two piercings in my back, and I prayed with that pain. I decided that I wasn’t going to do this just for the film or just to tell a good story, but because it had a deeper significance for me. I feel a connection to the indigenous mind and natural religion, and feel that there’s a lot of value there that’s been lost in modern society.”—Salvatore Consalvi, director of “Sidney Has No Horses”

“When I was writing the film, I figured that we would need some sort of explanation, and I was picking through all the ideas: a machine, a curse, an atmospheric anomaly. There are all sorts of Hollywood-type tropes that could’ve been used, but when I was picking through them, I realized how stupid and arbitrary it all was. I asked why we even needed one at all, and that [absence] really appealed to me. In a way, it totally reinforces our experience of waking up every morning and going through the same routines.”—Danny Rubin, writer of “Groundhog Day”

Bill Murray in Harold Ramis’s “Groundhog Day.” Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Bill Murray in Harold Ramis’s “Groundhog Day.” Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

“I wanted to become something different than what I was. Oscar Wilde says that ‘acting is so much more real than life,’ and it’s the truth. You don’t always want to be trapped as ‘you’ in this society where people act so disrespectful. You come back home and see kids mouthing off to their parents, you see people throw trash on the ground or who aren’t looking after themselves. To a normal civilian, it’s probably okay, but to military guys, they’re just pounding their heads against the wall, asking, ‘Why?’ That transition is very difficult for any military person to go through. For me, acting has served as a sort of remedy.”—Lucas Thompson, Marine Corps veteran and star of “InSpectres”

“My character is the guy who’s going to take over for dad, in the sense that I’m going to spend my time sitting on the couch smoking cigarettes and watching television. That comfy chair and TV are just around the corner, and if I’m not working towards a goal, that’s where I’m going to end up. But maybe that’s what I ultimately want. Everything that I do during the day enables me to sit and watch TV with a clear conscience.”—Casey Puccini, star/director of “Children Without Parents”

“I do have this fascination with coded, self-authored culture that’s connected to the fictional anthropology of the objects in my installation. People are speaking in a weird, coded way and are ritualistically or habitually behaving in a way that might not make immediate sense, and I drop [the viewer] into their world and ask them to try decoding it and deal with all the possibilities and ambiguities, as well as the discomfort of not having it totally clarified. For me, it’s an experiential realism.”—Melika Bass, director of “Shoals”

“Sometimes the more crowd-pleasing a movie is, the less I enjoy it just because everything is given to me. It’s weird, but there are some movies that I literally find too satisfying. I felt that one hundred percent about the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale. It was a huge disappointment to me because it was designed to please everyone. There’s nothing left for me to work through or fill in. Great art reveals its information and its mysteries over time.”—Stephen Cone, director of “Black Box”

Elaine Ivy Harris, Nick Vidal, Jaclyn Hennell, Stephen Cone, Dennis Grimes, Alex Weisman, Josephine Decker and Maggie Suma on the set of Cone’s “Black Box.” Courtesy of Cone Arts.

Elaine Ivy Harris, Nick Vidal, Jaclyn Hennell, Stephen Cone, Dennis Grimes, Alex Weisman, Josephine Decker and Maggie Suma on the set of Cone’s “Black Box.” Courtesy of Cone Arts.

“We make a comparison between this actress who’s middle aged and the sun, which is a middle-aged star as well. We have the environmental movement tied in with this idea that by not utilizing these talented actors who’ve gained so much insight and wisdom in their career, we’re wasting valuable natural resources. I hope the movie gets people thinking about how we can learn from these people by utilizing the skill sets that they’ve spent their entire lives developing.”—Joe Swanberg, director of “All the Light in the Sky”

“As your body starts to degrade and death becomes more tangible, you begin to cling to things to keep you alive—whether that be marriage, a political position, a job, religion, whatever. We are both fascinated and terrified by the way people submit to these ideas or beliefs. Żuławski is the master of destabilizing the audience. It is hard to watch any of his films in one sitting, and they ruin you for days. I like the idea of a film working relentlessly for a tone—like the bizarre, theatrical mania he pulls out of his actors or the movements of Żuławski’s camera or how his films are cut—these are things that I am pulling influence from for my film.”—Robert Hillyer Barnett, director of “Tears of God”

“I am, of course, very fond of old outmoded equipment and often whine about the steamroller of technical “progress” leaving quality behind…but analog sound mixes are one relic that I don’t harbor nostalgia for. I am happy to crow like George Lucas on this one and just say that a digital sound mix is better. It allows you much, much more flexibility—which can go a long way when you’re working from imperfect sources—and, at least as movies are concerned, does not sacrifice ‘warmth’ or anything else ethereal so far as I can tell.”—Andrew Bujalski, director of “Funny Ha Ha”

Andrew Bujalski and Kate Dollenmayer star in Bujalski’s “Funny Ha Ha.” Courtesy of Andrew Bujalski.

Andrew Bujalski and Kate Dollenmayer star in Bujalski’s “Funny Ha Ha.” Courtesy of Andrew Bujalski.

“Sometimes when people hear ‘improv,’ they think of bloopers in a Judd Apatow comedy. I believe screenplays are only supposed to be used as a blueprint or a jumping off point for a film. I don’t think they should be directly translated from screenplay to movie. Otherwise, what’s the point of making it? You might as well just write the screenplay, frame it and move on.”—Jack C. Newell, director of “Open Tables”

“The film is very controversial and many organizations are hesitant to show it, but for that very reason it needs to be seen. I hate the fact that our American news media concentrates on irrelevant minor talking points. As a nation, we also have a short attention span. I hope by humanizing immigration and presenting it in an informative and entertaining way, perhaps we can have serious discussions about immigration reform. I, for one, was not very knowledgeable at all about immigration policy until making this film. And now that has become my main point of advocacy.”—Robert D. Lemon, director of “Transfusión”

“I wouldn’t have brought the Nostalgia Critic back unless I knew that I could do more with him. I like the idea that this character can actually go into some legitimate analysis instead of just being the one-dimensional jerk that he started off being in the beginning. He actually has grown, and in my opinion, the reason he does the editorials is because of the effect that the Plot Hole had on him in ‘Demo Reel.’ I’ve never told that to anyone, but that was always my mindset. Because he went through the horrible experience of remaking old movies and seeing how tough it is, he might actually be a little more sympathetic to filmmakers and be attuned to the good in certain things.”—Doug Walker, a.k.a. The Nostalgia Critic of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com

Doug Walker returns as The Nostalgia Critic. Courtesy of Channel Awesome.

Doug Walker returns as The Nostalgia Critic. Courtesy of Channel Awesome.

“We went a bit too far with certain jokes in ‘I Love You This Much,’ and that was a big learning experience for us. The reactions it got depended on the people I showed it to. My friends thought it was hilarious, but other people were offended by it. People like Sarah Silverman can get away with the same stuff that’s looked down on in a tiny short by a director who doesn’t yet have an established career.”—Nathan Adloff, star/director of “Cock N’ Bull”

“At first my father was like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that.’ Then I started talking him through these little moments with his character [William]. I had part of him in my mind when I wrote this role, not because [the character] has dementia or because he’s old—it’s because he’s really sexy, dad! [laughs]—no, it’s because he has this gentleness and innocence and a pure golly gee willikers attitude that my father also possesses, as well as a secrecy and humanity. As I talked, he got tears in his eyes. When he answered a question that I asked [his character], I said, ‘That’s William. Will you play him?’ He said, ‘Yeah, can I have a sore?’ I said, ‘Where do you want it?’ and he said, ‘On my face.’”—Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch and director of “A Fall From Grace”

“You have people come into your life, you try to do this very ambitious, idealistic and wonderful thing with them, and sometimes you fall short, but you’re still doing it together, and then you get on the phone with someone like you who saw it and had a response to it. That’s the good thing about making movies. I don’t need anything more than the ability to pay my mortgage and get my children to college. That’s all I need in life.”—Keir Politz, co-director of “Detonator”

A still from Krishna Shenoi’s tribute to Roger Ebert.

A still from Krishna Shenoi’s tribute to Roger Ebert.

My professional life was altered considerably this past February when I was hired as Assistant Editor at Ebert Publishing, and the experience has only reinvigorated my mission to provide the best possible content for Indie Outlook. Several of my articles over the past year drew parallels between films that would seem unrelated at first glance. I contrasted the synthetic heroines of “Her” and “Under the Skin”; the doomed romance of “Titanic” and “Blue Is the Warmest Color”; the hilarious ineptitude of “The Room” and “The Happening”; and the cathartic beauty of “Short Term 12” and “Monsieur Lazhar.” The director of “Short Term 12,” Destin Cretton, wrote me a heartfelt response: “I love reading reviews like this that teach me things and introduce me to new ideas. I haven’t seen ‘Monsieur,’ but it honestly looks like my kind of film.”

I greatly enjoyed exploring how “12 Years a Slave,” “Glory” and “Lincoln” could function as an unofficial epic dubbed “The Freedom Trilogy,” a topic I just might write my thesis on someday. Perhaps the most difficult article for me to write was “Deconstructing Woody Allen,” which I wrote largely in response to those who suggested that the director’s scandal-laden personal life somehow invalidated his enduring contributions to cinema. Emmanuel Lubezki’s Oscar-worthy career achievements were the subject of a retrospective essay prior to him winning his long-belated Academy Award for “Gravity.” And after I was generously granted a pass to this year’s Ebertfest, I couldn’t resist providing readers with a detailed day-by-day tour through all the festivities.

Of course, I remain a sucker for top ten lists, and the more impassioned they are, the better. That’s especially true of my carefully selected choices for Top 8 Muppet Movies, Top Ten Biblical Films, Top Ten Most Underrated Hitchcock Movies and the article that is unquestionably my most popular to date, Top 11 Nostalgia Critic Reviews. Still, nothing excites me more than discovering an indie treasure like “La Camioneta” or “Little Hope Was Arson” or “Hide Your Smiling Faces” that deserves to find its audience. That’s why I remain committed to championing artistry that transcends all budgetary limitations and cuts right to the heart in ways mainstream studios wouldn’t ever dream or dare. There’s still no place I’d rather be than on the lookout.

Me (Matt Fagerholm) with Roger at Ebertfest 2014.

Me (Matt Fagerholm) with Roger at Ebertfest 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s