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The Rumpus, and directed a movie, About Cherry, that opened from IFC recently.) He was describing a conversation he had over dinner about memoir writing:I liked something that Stephen Elliott wrote in his "Daily Rumpus" newsletter the other day. (Elliott is the author of books including The Adderall Diaries, founded
Then we got into this whole other discussion about how there is no bad topic for a memoir or personal essay. Some topics are more challenging than others, because they've been done so many times. If the protagonist is a college professor, or a writer, you start at a disadvantage. If s/he's having an affair with a student, you're still further in the hole. Same thing with memoirs about stripping and drug addiction. But none of that matters if it's well done. Stoner, for example, a novel about an English professor, is easily one of the best books I've ever read.
I've been watching a lot of movies in the last few weeks, screening for our Filmmaker-sponsored "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" Gotham Award, so Elliott's comments particularly resonated with me. It's true: movies stand out in different ways. The first is because they're simply great. The second (and third and fourth) is because they do something different, or are directed to an audience that doesn't have enough movies, or because they show you a world you haven't seen before. Sometimes they do the latter while also telling you a traditional story, but they do it really well and that's what makes the movie connect to a big audience. But sometimes they tell a traditional story in a world you haven't been before but the traditional story isn't done that well and it weighs the movie down. It turns something that should be fresh into something cliched.
Where I'd extrapolate a bit from Elliott's remarks has to do with genre. Genre can be like comfort food. You've seen (or read) a certain kind of thriller or horror tale or mystery before, and you're happy to see (or read) another. You actually like the familiarity of the story as long as the narrative voice or lead character feels fresh. I think it's easier to like well-constructed genre films because there's an essential durability to their classic storylines. But personal dramas -- the teenage coming-of-age tale, the twenty-something post-adult story, or the classic immigrant leaving home saga -- can be a bit more fragile. Their smaller-scale narrative comforts can tip into dull overfamiliarity very quickly. And that's when, as Elliott says, they have be either really great or directed at an audience that really needs these stories.
It's all some kind of strange alchemy, I guess.
On a somewhat related note, I tweeted the other day that of my final five or six films to watch for the BFNP Award, all were under 80 minutes. "Is 75 the new 90?" I asked. I got several interesting responses, including one from a filmmaker who wrote about the difficulty he has in writing traditional second-acts, speaking of a natural narrative compression that results. Are there no second acts in American independent film? Is 75 the new 90? What do you think? You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow me on Twitter at @filmmakermag.
See you next week.
NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 22ND ANNUAL GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS Twenty-six films were announced today as nominees for IFP's 22nd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. Cited for Best Feature were Richard Linklater's Bernie, Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere, and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Best Documentary feature nominees are Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's Detropia, David France's How to Survive a Plague, Matthew Akers' Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Rodney Ascher's Room 237, and Peter Nicks' The Waiting Room.
In the "breakthrough" categories, directors Zal Batmanglij (Sound of My Voice), Brian Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (Francine), Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin (Now, Forager), Antonia Mendez Esparza (Aqui y Alla), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) were singled out for Breakthrough Director, while actors Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere), Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On), Melanie Lynskey (Hello, I Must Be Going), and Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) have been put forth for Breakthrough Actor.
The year's Best Ensemble Performance nominees are the casts from Bernie, Moonrise Kingdom, Safety Not Guaranteed, Silver Linings Playbook, and Your Sister's Sister. Singled out as the best undistributed films which will vie for the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Award are the Zellner Brothers' Kid-Thing, Terence Nance's An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag, Amy Seimetz's Sun Don't Shine, and Franks V. Ross' Tiger Tail in Blue.
In addition, the 3rd Annual Gotham Independent Film Audience Award will be voted on again by the independent film community. Voting begins today for the Audience Award. For a complete list of nominees go here. The Gotham Awards ceremony will be held November 26th at Cipriani Wall Street; tickets and table info available here.
Nicole Kidman, Hollywood's Unlikely Rebel
Nominations Announced for the 22nd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards
HOLY MOTORS Leos Carax's Holy Motors follows Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a mysterious figure who embarks on a surreal journey accompanied by his blonde haired driver Celine. Oscar assumes numerous roles as he plunges further into a seemingly directionless abyss. Described as confounding and highly imaginative, Holy Motors is not only considered to be the best film of Carax's career but also one of the greatest cinematic achievements of recent years. It also stars Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes and Michel Piccoli. THE SESSIONS In Ben Lewin's The Sessions, Mark (John Hawkes) a 38-year old man paralyzed due to polio and confined to an iron lung makes one wish: to finally lose his virginity. With the help of his priest (William H. Macy), Mark hires a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to realize his goal. Based on a true story, The Sessions was a festival hit receiving the audience award and special jury prize for ensemble acting at this year's Sundance. NOBODY WALKS In Ry Russo-Young's Nobody Walks, Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a New York-based artist goes to Los Angeles to work on her new film. She stays with a family whose complacent California life is shaken upon her arrival. Co-written by Russo-Young with Lena Dunham (HBO's Girls), the film premiered earlier this year at Sundance where her previous film You Won't Miss Me also debuted. Nobody Walks also stars John Krasinski and Rosemarie Dewitt. This week in the blog, Scott Macaulay reports from the film-centric hackathon Hacking Film, Martha Early interviews The Flat director Arnon Goldfinger (pictured left), and Terry Green discusses crowdfunding.
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NICOLE KIDMAN, HOLLYWOOD'S UNLIKELY REBEL By R. Kurt Osenlund
While other A-List actresses have chased the kind of star vehicles that kill on opening weekend, Nicole Kidman has been quietly becoming Hollywood's most unlikely rebel--a statuesque leading lady with a snowballing penchant for bold auteur partnerships. It's hard to pinpoint when, exactly, the gal from Days of Thunder began her metamorphosis into the daring muse currently drawing viewers to The Paperboy (above), but many would likely cite Gus Van Sant's To Die For as the pivotal work in Kidman's filmography. The sheer unlikeability of the delusional, cradle-robbing viper Suzanne Stone screams of Tinseltown-bombshell repellant, but Kidman executed the role with brio and darkly comic conviction, declaring that she was more than your average risk-taker. Of course, To Die For was followed by some uncertain moves (namely Batman Forever and The Peacemaker), which slightly muddled a career that remains considerably hard to define. But when tracking Kidman's projects from 1995 on, a refreshingly experimental variety leaps out, punctuated by increasingly offbeat, benchmark choices.
Geneva Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: October 19
Regular Deadline: November 19
Late Deadline: December 14
WAB Deadline: January 4
Festival Dates: March 28 - 30
Beverly Hills Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: October 22
Regular Deadline: January 1
Late Deadline: February 1
WAB Deadline: February 15
Festival Dates: April 24 - 28
Palm Springs International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: October 19
Festival Dates: January 3 - 14