**Note: this is the second in a series where I explore Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” archive looking for great movies. Recently, Netflix added a “Watch Instantly” queue alongside the regular DVD queue. It’s pretty fantastic.
If the name Tony Kaye doesn’t ring a bell, don’t feel bad–his only notable film is the 1998 drama American History X , which he publicly denounced before its release, asking the DGA to credit him as “Humpty Dumpty” (I hope he’s kicking himself now, because AHX is a great movie).
It’s a shame, though, that Kaye’s not better known for his latest film Lake of Fire, an unflinching documentary look at America’s pro-life and pro-choice movements.
Shot in black and white (in itself, a strong metaphor considering the subject matter), Lake of Fire features interviews with liberal academics and conservative zealots in near equal measure, as well as intimate conversations with the doctors, nurses and women involved in the procedures.
At two-and-a-half hours, Lake of Fire is as probing as a documentary can be, exploring the moral uncertainties surrounding abortion, as well as the pro-life movement’s connections to fundamentalist zealotry and institutional misogyny. But the film’s real strength is its steadfast unwillingness to let the audience off the hook–even going so far as to include graphic footage of actual abortions being performed.
I’ve gotta tell you–I went in to this film thinking I had an unwavering opinion about the issue. But facing the uncomfortable reality of the procedure itself is soul-rending, and it seems to me that after watching Lake of Fire, any sane person will be deeply saddened and utterly conflicted.
* As of this writing, Lake of Fire is available for instant viewing on Netflix
I had no idea the Golden Trailer Awards existed, but they look pretty fun.
Scrolling through the list of nominees is a good time–though you’ll have to do your own searching on Youtube to find any actual videos, which is sort of frustrating.
Personally, I’m rooting for the Dark Knight trailer, partly because it’s badass, and partly because I’m a total nerd. On the other hand, the trailer that got me most interested in a movie this year was this one for Julia Loktev’s abstract thriller Day Night Day Night. I mean–wow.
If you have cable, you can catch the GTAs on Fox’s “MyNetworkTV” (whatever the hell that is) this Thursday May 8th. The judges include Jim Sheridan, Harris Goldberg and Austin’s own mega movie nerd Harry Knowles. And it’s hosted by Sinbad, which, in itself, is hilarious.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of trailers, watch this.
Though it’s been out for more than two months now (I’m a bit behind on my reading lately), there’s a great conversation between Werner Herzog and Errol Morris in the March/April issue of The Believer. And because The Believer is quite possibly the best magazine ever, you can read the full text online.
Near the beginning, Morris comments that Herzog’s films could be considered extended essays on “meaninglessness”–which is completely true, I think. But what’s great about Herzog is how he faces that meaninglessness: with wide-eyed wonder and genuine, unflappable excitement. He just seems like the most awesome human being ever, and I’m currently lining up some more Herzog interviews to read and watch (like this one, with a visibly intimidated Henry Rollins.)
It’s also well worth noting that Errol Morris’ Abu Ghraib doc Standard Operating Procedure is hitting theaters right about now. It’s not in Austin yet, but Morris was at a Houston Landmark Theatre tonight (I believe) for a special screening. Lucky.
UPDATE: Here’s a recent Slant Magazine interview with Morris. The interview is just okay, but in it Morris says something I really connected with:
“The criticism I would hear again and again and again would be that the attitude I had about the people in Vernon and Gates of Heaven was unconscionable. That puzzled me. I often thought, well, both movies are funny, and the fact that people find them funny embarrasses them. They don’t like laughing, they think it’s a guilty pleasure and hence would like to blame me for it. But I like [the] people in [my] movies. I absolutely love all those people, and have no desire to condescend to them.”
In the past, I’ve tried–albeit less elegantly–to say this about the average reaction to Todd Solondz’s films. And while Morris might not agree with my application of his idea, it’s just cool to hear someone say it so plainly.
I didn’t get to do all that much at SXSW this year (hence the lack of updates this past couple weeks), but I did find time to see a lot of good movies at the film fest.
The real standout for me was They Killed Sister Dorothy, the bizarre true story of a missionary nun murdered by ranchers deep in the heart of the Brazilian Rain Forest. It’s really good.
I saw a bunch more movies, and you can read about them in my SXSW recap for Austinist. Not nearly as many as I’d have liked, but what are you gonna do?
On the musical side, I didn’t get to see much either. Most disappointingly, I missed the new John Reis project Night Marchers on two consecutive days, and somehow missed J Mascis despite having arrived at the venue an hour before his set, AND having watched him be interviewed for MTV2 (pictured). How does that happen? But I did get to see Yo La Tengo at the Parish (probably Austin’s best-sounding venue), Aloha and Shearwater at Waterloo Park, and Thurston Moore at the French Legation Museum (which looks like it’d be a great place to have a wedding).
Oh yeah–and on Sunday, we saw J Mascis walking alone down sixth street, and Chris failed to invite him to lunch. Way to go, Chris.
I haven’t actually seen Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely yet–but I’m so intrigued by it that I wrote up a short preview post for Austinist. Korine is the guy who Directed Gummo and wrote KIDS (a movie I really, really like), and Mister Lonely looks completely strange and possibly brilliant.
And at first, it sounded vaguely reminiscent of Britney, Baby, One More Time, which I still haven’t seen, but just added to my Netflix queue (I had completely forgotten about it until Mister Lonely jolted my memory).
It’s been really hard to get caught up on SXSW coverage, but this week I’ll be posting a bunch more stuff. For now, check out my review of Barry Jenkins’ quiet, lovely, Medicine for Melancholy, which I saw over the weekend, and liked quite a lot. It’ll have its world premiere at the Alamo Ritz on Sunday March 9th as part of SXSW.
And besides the fact that it’s a good movie, Medicine has some absolutely gorgeous marketing materials, including these very cool t-shirts that aren’t quite right for me, but that I still love.
I recently interviewed SXSW Film Fest producer Matt Dentler about this year’s fest (which looks completely amazing, BTW). Matt’s a cool guy–you should also check out our conversation from last year, which contains a mini-bio at the beginning.
There are a lot of interesting movies premiering at SXSW this year, including Second Skin, a documentary look at the lives of seven MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) players. The trailer looks pretty great–though, admittedly, I’ve logged a lot of hours playing console games like Final Fantasy, so maybe it won’t be so interesting to someone who doesn’t care about video games.
In any event, I recently interviewed the film’s producer, Victor Piñeiro, for Austinist, and he’s a super cool guy. If all goes well, I’ll have a bunch more SXSW filmmaker interviews in the coming weeks.
UPDATE: The Second Skin guys arrived in Austin this week to do some promotion, and they’re posting video blogs of their SXSW experience on their youtube page.
I’m going to be on a plane for a good chunk of the day tomorrow, so I won’t be able to post a proper link right away–but I wanted to write a quick note about two good movies opening in Austin tomorrow.
The first is the horror/comedy The Signal, which I heard a lot of buzz about at SXSW last year. I recently caught it at the Fangoria Weekend, and it’s pretty great. Not perfect, but certainly a welcome change for the genre. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll dig it.
The second is the Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days; an absolutely devastating look at the harsh realities of life in communist Bucharest. The film follows two women as one tries to help the other obtain an illegal, late-term abortion–but it’s not primarily about abortion, I don’t think. In any event, it’s a tough watch, but it’s very, very good.
UPDATE: Here are the reviews.
The first annual Marfa Film Festival looks like a great excuse for a road trip. They haven’t announced the lineup yet–but does it really matter? A weekend of “wide-open plain, distant mountains… incomparably starry sky” and outdoor screenings? I’m sold.
Two Academy Award Best Picture nominees were recently shot in and around Marfa (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood), and the town of 2,000 has recently become something of a hip tourist destination. I can see why.