If you have been tuning into this space for the last week and wondering why I have posted exactly zero new updates, it’s because I’ve been gallivanting around Bermuda since the 12th. But I’m back in Boston, and with eight days to spare before Independent Film Festival Boston’s 2016 rumpus, I’d say it’s about time I made a couple of public service announcements about the fest before opening night kicks off this year’s shindig.
First: Tickets are on sale. Second: You should go buy some. You can click here to check into that. Third: That’s all I’ve got. Hey, I’m a critic, not a salesman. When you read my site, you pay for what you get. (You don’t actually pay at all because I’m generous that way.) I guess what I’m saying is, if you are in the Boston area or if you live within a reasonable proximity to Boston, and if you like movies, and if you like supporting local businesses and enterprises, and if you aren’t already planning on attending a screening or two at IFFBoston, and if you need some convincing, well, let me be the one to convince you. Like I said that one time, the 2016 line-up is pretty smashing. New England movie fans, trust me: You’ll be missing out if you don’t pop in.
So among the festival’s many and varied titles, some of which have already raked up some buzz on the national festival circuit, which ones should you make the effort to see? That’s sort of up to you, really, because c’mon, I’m not the boss of you. I can’t tell you what movies you ought to see. But what I can do is tell you what movies I’m planning on seeing, and maybe if they sound good to you, you’ll go see them too. What do you think of that? Does that work for you? Great! It totally works for me. (Note: None of these will be presented in order of preference or anything like that.)
The Hollars/The Intervention
I’m lumping both of these together because as the opening and closing night movies, respectively, there’s pretty much no way I can excuse myself from either of them; I’m there for both. Missing The Hollars would be like ignoring your out of town relatives the day they arrive for their annual week long visit. Missing The Intervention would be like ducking out of saying goodbye to them. (Such is how I view IFFBoston.) If I’m being honest, I’m slightly more excited for The Intervention if only because Clea DuVall’s directorial debut is more compelling as a concept than John Krasinski’s sophomore behind-the-camera effort, and also because DuVall has been in low-profile mode for what feels like the better part of the decade. (One look at her IMDB page shows that this isn’t really true, but even with all the credits she’s stacked up from Argo onward, she has still been inexplicably “absent” from the movies all the same.)
Neither film reads as particularly new or inventive on paper – they sound like fairly boilerplate indie festival flicks about family problems and friend problems. In The Hollars, a graphic novelist fallen on hard times, returns home from New York City to tend to his mother, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and deal with his crazywackyloony kin. In The Intervention, a group of pals head off for a weekend ramble together that turns out to really be a set-up for a marriage intervention. Straightforward stuff. It’s really the names involved with both films that give them merit, not just Krasinski and DuVall, but Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sharlto Copley, and Richard Jenkins (for The Hollars), and Colbie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, and Alia Shawkat (for The Intervention).
The Alchemist Cookbook
I never saw Joel Potrykus’ Buzzard, so I don’t really know what to expect from his latest in terms of craft. But it does have Ty Hickson, who I loved in the criminally underseen 2013 flick Gimme the Loot, and it does involve Satan and witchcraft, two things you know that I am all about in 2016. Here, a social outcast isolates himself in the woods of Michigan and tries to contact the Devil, or something like him, through alchemical enterprise. Sold.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter
I’ve been looking forward to Osgood Perkins’ little horror gem since it was called February. Color me out of the loop: I didn’t even know the film had gotten a name change. Whatever. Emma Roberts is solid stuff in horror fare, Kiernan Shipka is slowly turning into one of the best actresses of her generation, and Lucy Boynton might break out on the strength of her work in Sing Street. I’m in. Boynton and Shipka play two students at a prep school who are forced to stay in the dorm over winter break when their parents neglect to pick them up; Roberts plays a woman on the road to said prep school, where weird shit happens and Shipka slowly starts to lose her mind.
If you check my Twitter feed enough, you might have caught my micro review of Ben Wheatley’s latest, which I liked even if I can’t yet tell you why. That means I’ll be skipping this at IFFBoston, but if you like Wheatley’s work and if you like Tom Hiddleston, you’ll do well to check this out. Hiddleston plays a melancholy, heartbroken doctor who moves into a luxury high rise built to accommodate every need of its occupants, to the point of isolating them from the outside world; over time, shit gets real and society within the tower devolves into violence and mayhem. It’s quite good. I’m not sure yet if it’s great, or what, if anything, it is about, but it’s hard to ignore the sophistication of Wheatley’s ever-improving craft.
Kate Plays Christine
How could I not give this a look? News reporter Christine Chubbock shocked the world in 1974 by killing herself live on the air; now, in 2016, Robert Greene has teamed up with actress Kate Lyn Sheil to figuring out Christine as a person and peering into matters of mental health, all while exploring Sheil’s process as a performer. I’ve got little else to go on with this one, mostly by design, because it sounds like as unique a documentarian exercise as the films of Joshua Oppenheimer.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
It’s not a secret that I loved Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, one of my favorite films from 2015, so it should come as no surprise that I am thrilled to see his latest coming to IFFBoston. A city kid bounced from one foster family to the next winds up in the care of Sam Neil; the two of them wind up on the run from authorities together, and they bond on their adventure. (Maybe they’ll become a real family in the process or something. I don’t know. Odds seem good on that one.) Waititi knows how to please a crowd and he’s heartfelt as a filmmaker (see: Boy), so I’m expecting some real comic sweetness here.
Five Nights in Maine
The great David Oyelowo stars with the great Dianne Wiest in a movie that’s set in Maine and which sounds absolutely wrenching. (And if you’re into that whole “52FilmsByWomen” hashtag deal, it’s written and directed by Maris Curran, who hasn’t made a movie since making her first back in 2006.) That’s all I have to say.
Under the Shadow
Having just finished Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Days, I find myself much in the mood for other stories about the machinations of the jinn, and what do you know? That’s what Under the Shadow is, apparently, all about. This has been on my radar since Sundance, because of course I’m totally into the idea of domestically and politically minded horror, but the nice incidental value of reading Rushdie just before Babak Anvari’s well-received film comes to Boston is hypeable too.
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary about the fallen congressman from New York is one of those must-see joints, the sort of movie you can sense will wind up being prominent or important or noteworthy as the movie year progresses. It almost sounds like it’s as much a New York City movie as it is a movie about Anthony Weiner’s fall from grace following his sexting dalliances.
I gave Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang a place of high honor on my top ten list from last year. She isn’t the one in the director’s chair for Disorder, however: That would be her Mustang co-writer, Alice Winocour. Disorder, a movie about a shell-shocked Special Forces dude played by Matthias Schoenaerts who may or may not be imagining an impending threat to his clients (including Diane Kruger), is pretty much the last thing I would expect Winocour to work on in light of the kind of film Mustang happens to be, but I’m not sweating it. She can do what she wants.
Another Sundance hit, this time about a young girl with aspirations to join the local all-female dance crew and come into her own. Trouble is, she sucks at dancing, or that would be the trouble if the girls on the team weren’t all suffering from inexplicable seizures. The draw here appears to be the film’s lead, Royalty Hightower, who is not only reportedly great, but also has a fantastic name. The other draw appears to be the filmmaker, Anna Rose Holmer, making her feature debut after spending years working in the industry as a grip, a cinematographer, and a camera assistant.