The past year could’ve very easily been the last of my site, Indie Outlook. I founded it the day after Independence Day in 2012 as a way to provide a platform for cinematic storytellers whose work deserves to be seen. Though I’ve never made a dollar from this site, the doors that it has opened for me have proven to be utterly life changing. As the COVID-19 pandemic upended everyone’s plans last year, I found myself becoming less and less fixated on covering the latest movie releases. Certain projects that had been placed on the back burner suddenly began moving forward in exciting directions, and they continue to take up the majority of my time.
Therefore, the nine interview subjects I took time to speak with this year—both for Indie Outlook and my fiancée Rebecca Martin’s site, Cinema Femme—were people whom I believed in so deeply, I couldn’t fathom missing the opportunity to celebrate their work. Thank you to the following wonderful women I had the privilege of interviewing over the past twelve months. The conversations are excerpted below, and when you click on each name, you’ll be directed to the full article…
“David and Mark created a piece of art that used the passage of time as a character, and in ‘The Return,’ David opened it all up and then he made it cosmic. He truly did. You could talk about it for hours and hours and not begin to encompass what it all meant. It’s too huge. There are so many ways to interpret every image. I think Part 8, the episode involving the atomic bomb, is the most incredible thing that I have ever seen on film, from start to finish.”—Wendy Robie, star of “Twin Peaks”
“I wanted to convey how Maggie’s perspective isn’t reliable, which is something that Lynch does so well. You can’t really trust her, and when you see her passed out in the car, you realize that a lot of what we’ve been seeing isn’t necessarily what’s actually happening. How I see things now versus how I saw them at a young age really fascinates me. Once that shiny, beautiful filter lifts, you notice how experiences you idealized often weren’t the best situations.”—Jacqueline Xerri, director of “Monkey Bars”
“I’ve always been interested in keeping film history alive, and the more that I’ve been working on this channel, the more I’ve noticed that the stories that have remained present in our popular consciousness are not the ones that are particularly empowering for women. So I’ve tried to reframe the moments that are more scandalous to not only make them more realistic and less reality show-esque, but also to give the women behind those stories the credit that they’ve often failed to get in a lot of ways.”—Izzy, creator of Be Kind Rewind
“There’s nothing wrong with TV being careful and correct in its messaging to kids. That’s very important. But what I love about ‘Sesame Street’ in 1969 and in the early 70s is it just happened to exist before these standards of correctness had been set for children’s programming. They slipped in under the radar and threw something completely experimental against the wall before they were told not to. Telling the story of this little band of rebels that set out to change the world is what interested me.”—Marilyn Agrelo, director of “Street Gang: How We Got to ’Sesame Street”
“We’re often used to seeing a lot of extroverted, over-the-top characters in cinema, and I’m really attracted to European films that aren’t afraid of utilizing silence or honing in on things that we tend to miss. Just being an observer into a situation is sometimes more interesting to me than being a super-active protagonist, although that is kind of unorthodox, in a way.”—Jaclyn Bethany, director/star of “The Rehearsal”
“I believe that in acting, it is so important to be a vessel. I went to a British museum a few years ago where there was a huge white moon jar. When I saw it, I thought, ‘This is the definition of acting for me.’ Actors are like jars, in a way. You’ve got so much inside but you have to stay open so that it can all flow through easily. It’s all about being present and in the moment. During my training, when I overthought or overworked something, it didn’t work. But the moment that you just let it go and you trust yourself, then you are free and your performance becomes human-like.”—Weronika Maria Szalas, director/star of “Curiouser and Curiouser”
“I feel like there is a box that people check off when someone has dementia, and it doesn’t take into account this vast range of what that condition means. Maybe you need help with certain things, but that doesn’t mean that your entire life needs to be put in the hands of someone else, especially if that person has ulterior motives or is a stranger appointed by a court who’s never even met you.”—Laura Checkoway, director of “Edith+Eddie”
“Anybody my age who’s watching this film will feel at home, but there is also something here for everybody. This is a film that will teach parents about their children, that will teach siblings about their family members, that will teach anybody about their peers. It’s a film that teaches you a lot about the people around you, and that’s really special.”—Sofia Popol, star of “Monkey Bars”
“My favorite thing in documentary filmmaking is when I notice a particular aspect about someone before they’ve discovered it. It’s incredible when that sort of moment is captured on film, so I’ve always looked for that in my documentaries, and now I look for it in my fiction work as well. If you have an actor like Oscar who is very good at his job, you can make that happen again. These subtleties that reveal so much about a person always come from movement. You don’t see them when people are talking because they are aware of what they’re doing in that moment. When you have them engaged in a physical activity, they are busy doing something else, and then other things start to come out more.”—Elvira Lind, director of “The Letter Room”
In addition to these interviews, I also published conversations from the archive with esteemed filmmakers Gregg Araki (“Kaboom”), Gaspar Noé (“Enter the Void”) and Todd Solondz (“Dark Horse”), as well as “The Last Exorcism” star Patrick Fabian. I honored the late Cloris Leachman by sharing my review of her brilliant, oft-overlooked performance in the 1987 adaptation of “Hansel and Gretel,” and unearthed my coverage of Lily Tomlin’s uproarious one-woman show she performed in 2011 at Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts.
Steve McQueen’s masterful “Small Axe” movie anthology was aired as a television miniseries on Amazon Prime, yet still dominated my list ranking the Top 20 Films of 2020 (click here for part one, and here for part two), as well as my annual choices for what I wished to see nominated at the Academy Awards. Even though it’s technically a TV show, like David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return” or Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad,” it is still cinematic storytelling of the highest order. As Lynch would say, “It’s like Certs breath mints—‘two in one.’”
Stay tuned for Part II of this anniversary retrospective, which will compile my interviews and reviews published over the past twelve months at RogerEbert.com.