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Hammer to Nail review at Filmmaker. I couldn’t agree more. The film was one of my two favorites at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and as the months have gone by, no American independent picture has surpassed it for me in terms of storytelling and emotional impact.“Take Shelter is a modern American masterpiece,” writes Michael Tully in this week’s
The film is writer-director Jeff Nichols’ second. (His first was the Southern family-feud drama, Shotgun Stories.) You can clearly feel Nichols reaching for something bigger here. Indeed, the movie plays like an M. Night Shamalayan mindbender for much of its length. But, teaching a lesson that many Hollywood films could learn from, Nichols doesn’t let special effects overwhelm the movie. In fact, his third-act becomes more intimate, more focused on human relationships. His mediation on the end of the world becomes more a story about a family, but not in the sappy, easy way so many studio movies use the family to uncritically tie things up. There’s a line spoken by Jessica Chastain to Michael Shannon in the final minutes that will rip your heart out its toughness and its compassion.
I interviewed Nichols about Take Shelter, and you can read the piece in our Fall issue, which should be out in about three weeks. But here are a couple of things that struck me. First, in person, Nichols feels like the real deal. He’s what you’d call “good in the room.” Some people think that means being smooth and a charmer, but it actually means being open and engaging and the kind of person you want to follow and work with. Second, as we talked about the movie, I realized how much this tale of a construction worker haunted by apocalyptic dreams is a scaled-up version of the anxiety all independent filmmakers face. We talked about how Nichols’ well-received first film, Shotgun Stories, didn’t make him any money, and how at the end he was in a position that filmmakers always find themselves in after completing a film. There are people cheering you along, who believe you’ve already made, but you’re still figuring out how to pay your bills and wondering if you can afford to take off work and make that festival premiere. Nichols used these anxieties to build his film. “The economy is a little more interesting to me, and I spend more time fearing that,” he said. “But yeah, it all adds up to a general sense of dread. You gotta find a way to deal with it and be productive in spite of it.... [Being a film director] is a stressful state to constantly be living and working in. It’s exhilarating and exciting too, but it adds to that stress. And especially now that I'm in the WGA, my family's health insurance is tied to my success. That's horrifying, but I guess it’s like that for everybody. You have to perform. That's being a grown-up -- that's life. And being a grown-up is stressful.”
I don’t want to make Take Shelter seem too heavy because it’s gripping and entertaining in a real movie-movie way. (It reminded me, in fact, of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) I’m just saying that we can be inspired by Nichols by taking whatever negative stuff is swirling around in our heads and using it to fuel our creativity rather than distract from it.
Go see Take Shelter this weekend and see you next week.
See you next week.
ADDITIONAL CAREER TRIBUTES ANNOUNCED FOR 21ST ANNUAL GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS IFP's Independent Film Week wraps up today. By the end of the day, filmmakers from the 145 selected projects of the Actors Charlize Theron and Gary Oldman and director David Cronenberg will be presented with career tributes at the 21st Annual Gotham Awards on Monday, November 28th, joining the previously announced tribute to Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Since debuting in 2 Days in the Valley in 1996, Charlize Theron has appeared in 38 films, including North Country, In the Valley of Elah, The Cider House Rules, The Italian Job, The Road, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and Monster, for which she won the Academy Award®, Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress. Theron gives another buzzed about performance in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, opening in December. In more than 60 film appearances Gary Oldman has created a stunning array of iconic performances in such films as Sid and Nancy, Prick Up Your Ears, JFK, Dracula, True Romance, as well as the continuing characters of Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films. Oldman’s next performance on view will be as George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s film of John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. David Cronenberg’s reputation as an authentic auteur has been firmly established by his uniquely personal body of work which includes Rabid, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash,
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TAKE SHELTER By Michael Tully
When it comes to the movies in 2011, the end of the world seems to be on everybody’s mind. At the 49th New York Film Festival alone, at least three of the main slate selections are about the planet’s last days: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse, and Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day On Earth. It’s a shame, then, that the very best one of them all, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, wasn’t included in the NYFF program. Perhaps its September 30th release date precluded it from making the cut? Let’s just assume that’s the reason and move on. read more CONNECTED A new documentary from filmmaker and Webby Award founder Tiffany Shlain, Connected explores our modern day dependence on technology, specifically the ways in which our newfound inter-connectivity offers solutions for our gravest social, economic and ecological problems. The film is both a wide-reaching social commentary on emerging 21st century trends as well as a personal memoir about a tumultuous year in Shlain's life, which included the birth of a child and the death of her father. The documentary is ultimately most rewarding thanks to Shlain's strong personality, professional expertise and unique perspective. TAKE SHELTER A hit on this year's festival circuit, Take Shelter is the tense, meditative and beautifully shot sophomore feature from director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories). Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) gives a stirring performance as Curtis, a loving husband and father who is forced to question his own sanity after he begins having recurring dreams of an approaching apocalypse. As Curtis sets to work building a storm shelter in his backyard, his relationship with his wife (Jessica Chastain) strains under his dual concerns about both the approaching catastrophe and his mental health. TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL Starting with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and continuing through the ensuing decades, the ravenous inbred redneck has become an overused staple of the horror genre. At times, it's seemed like innocent teens couldn't hope to road trip through the South without being butchered by such a villain. Luckily, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, a new horror-comedy from first time director Eli Craig, uproots this tired trope with gleeful aplomb. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star as the titular duo, a pair of well-intentioned best friends living a secluded life down south. After a group of teens get stuck in Tucker and Dale's neck of the woods, the two friends are mistaken for hillbilly murderers, and what follows is a gory, witty and hilarious send-up of a sub-genre ripe for parody. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay on the trailer for the new HBO series Luck, from Michael Mann, David Milch and Dustin Hoffman (pictured left); Alix Lambert takes The Edit Center's course in feature film editing; and reports from Independent Film Week by filmmakers Tim Sutton, Laura Nix, and Ron Simons.
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A YEAR WITHOUT RENT PART 5 By Lucas McNelly
If you take a statistics class (or just take your fantasy baseball team really seriously), one of the first things you learn is that trends are largely a myth. When a team like the Red Sox starts the season 2-13, that’s probably nothing more than a few bad breaks strung together. Given enough time, they’ll right the ship. Unless their third starter is John Lackey. Then all bets are off. Our brains are wired to see patterns where none exist, to take statistical noise and turn it into something it isn’t (there’s a joke in there somewhere about movie critics, but I’ll leave it alone). read more SEPTEMBER
Crossroads Film Festival
Early Deadline: September 30
Festival Dates: April 13 - 15, 2012
Cleveland International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: September 30
WAB Deadline: December 7
Festival Dates: March 22 - April 1, 2012
Gen Art Film Festival
Early Deadline: September 30
WAB Deadline: February 18, 2012
Festival Dates: June 6 - 12, 2012