Posts Tagged ‘sundance


The Sessions (dir. Ben Lewin)

Synopsis:  A 38 year old paralyzed man who wishes to lose his virginity contacts his therapist and priest in order to help him find a sex surrogate.

Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H Macy

Release: October 26th

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, The Sessions was one of Sundance’s biggest hits (along with Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was talked about in one of my previous posts).  In particular, the film has been praised for its acting performances and emotional grip that it maintains with the audience throughout the film. I’ll keep this post short, since I don’t know much about this film myself . Regardless, heres what i think.

Based on a true story, Mark O’Brien was a poet and paralyzed polio survivor who had been confined to his iron lung for twenty years. At the age of 38, he finally confronted his priet and therapist, in order to hire a sex surrogate for himself ( he is  still a virgin due to his physical limitations). During O’Brien’s sessions, he wrote about his experiences in an article and he eventually wrote a book titled How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence.

In the film adaptation of O’Brien’s journey to lose his virginity, Ben Lewin serves as the director in this light-hearted comedy.  John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien,  William H. Macy plays his priest/therapist  and Helen Hunt plays the sex surrogate.

Now, some people might be wondering, who the hell is John Hawkes? Some may know of him but for then most part, he’s gone unnoticed for many viewers and critics- Until the past two years. In 2010, he played a meth addict in Winter’s Bone and in 2011, he played an antagonizing cult leader in Martha Mary May Marlene. Both performances were regarded as pyschologically dark and gritty, resulting in an Oscar nomination for his work in Winter’s Bone.

This is one of these films where you really have to appreciate the actor’s performance. I’ve always given a higher level of respect for actors who play mentally or physically impaired characters. Hawkes plays someone who is paralyzed from the neck down, which means he is physically limited when it comes to conveying actions and emotions. 

That being said, from an emotional perspective,  Hawke’s portrayal will  draw the audience in, as we catch an inside glimpse of what it is like to be a man who is able to shine through life, despite his limitations.  The only missing link is his ultimate desire to know what it is like to be with a woman. On that note, It’ll explore the way in which sex is with a doubt, part of humanity and can ultimately help us explore who we are. That doesn’t mean it’ll just be about having sex- It’ll also explore the intimate connection that can occur between human beings, no matter how different they are.

Concluding thought– Just because I mentioned Hawke’s peformance doesn’t mean I won’t be considering Helen Hunt and William H. Macy’s performances. Both are fine actors and I’m hoping to see some great chemistry between all of them in this film.

If your interested, here’s a link to John Hawke’s IMDB page.


Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Benh Zeitlin)

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Staring: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry

Synopsis: Hushpuppy is  six year old  girl whos father is unable to proect her due to a mytserious illness that he contracts. Soon after, temperatures rise and the polar ice caps melt, releasing an army or prehistoric creatures known as the aurochs. With the rising water and invasion of the aurochs,  Hushpuppy goes on a journey to find her long lost mother.

Coming right from Sundance, Beasts of the Southern Wild has been an out-of-leftfield hit that critics have been very receptive about due to its visually stunning cinematography, bizarre folk-like story, musical score, set designs and acclaimed performance by non-actor Quvenzhane Wallis.

The film starts off within a small bayou community called “The Bathtub”, an area which has been cut off from the rest of society and has resulted in a high level of poverty and neglect.  What is interesting about this setting is the inspiration behind it. Benh Zeitlin (..the director) was strongly influenced by Louisiana, which in some parts has become flooded and ravished.  In recent years, communities within Louisana who reside close to the marshland have become stubborn and unwilling to go inland and this was something that intrigued Zeitlin.

Okay, cool…but why go see it?

I think this will be an interesting watch due to the film’s unique atomosphere and environment. Personally, I’m a fan of films that expose urban decay. I think it’s gritty and shows a side of realism which exposes the truth of modern society (I.e, people living within the margins of society). This film won’t exactly be defined by a sense of realism, but will be unique nonetheless. The swamp-like environment, junkyard inspired locations and lack of technological advancements will help bring a fresh perspective to my idea of what urban decay is.  All of which is beautifully defined through the attention-to-detail cinematography provided throughout the film.

Here’s some photos to help visualize my description.

In terms of the storyline,  the director claims he wanted to make a populist film that would be relative and transferable to all types of audiences. It is intended to be a film which answers the question: “What is at the end of the road?”. On that note, the film has been described as being a combination of apocalyptic and folk-like. After numerous pre-screenings, critics have commented by saying that the film doesn’t fall short of being unique and inspirational.

After learning about the main character, Hushpuppy, it seems like there will be a unique character study being provided here. We’re seeing a young girl who’s been described as the last of her kind. She’s young and therefore, unknowledgable about the plagued world around her. After being thrown into a civilization which is at the end of its existence, she is naive- believing that the very nature around her will end up consuming her. However as the film progresses, she explores nature and eventually comes to terms with everything. To top it off, apparently Quvenzhane Wallis’ performance is nothing short of spectactular and has been gaining recognition by numerous critics..

So if your looking to see a film which is out of the ordinary and will enlighten you, this may be the pick for you.  I know I’m a little late with his up-coming film as it appears it is already being screened through some public theatres. If your in Toronto and your interested in seeing this film, it’s being screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I’ll probably be checking it out sometime this week.

On a sidenote..

  It comes to no surpise that this film has been described as having folk-like elements. The director’s parents were folklorists and his last two short films were also inspired by folk-like tales. On a sidenote, His 2005 short film titled Egg is an odd and disturbing retelling of Moby Dick. Here’s the link to it if your interested


Safety Not Guaranteed (dir. Colin Trevorrow)

Synopsis: A magazine employee and two interns head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Jake M. Johnson, Karon Soni

Release: June 8th

This next film is an independent, light-hearted comedy film that I think will stand out as one of the more interesting indie films to be released this summer.


I don’t have as much to say about this film as I did for other’s so I won’t bother categorizing.

Interestingly, Safety Not Guaranteed is inspired off a real life classified ad that was posted in 1997 in the magazine Backwoods Home so I’ll be intrigued to hear what the person who posted the original ad has to say about this film once is released.

I have a feeling this film is going to be good based on the reviews and accolades it has already received. The film premiered at the Sundance film festival and it received critical acclaim from viewers. It went on to win the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and was soon picked up by a distribution company.  So hopefully it’ll be worth watching!

I terms of storyline, Mark Duplass plays Kenneth, a man who puts the ad in the newspaper. Aubrey Plaza (From Parks and Recreations)  plays Darius, the magazine intern who ends up becoming close with Kenneth. Through the interactions between Kenneth and Darius, we’ll definitely see a dynamic relationship unfold. I also wonder if Kenneth will actually be capable of time traveling?  In real life, if someone had met an individual like Kenneth, they may think he was an odd person…but maybe he’s not odd at all, but actually someone who’s done something interesting with his life. Hmmmm….??

On the other hand, we’ll also see an interesting relationship develop between the magazine reporter, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and the other intern Arnau (Koran Soni). It seems like Arnau has been sheltering himself from all the opportunities in life. Jeff notices this and ends up taking Arnau on an adventure with the intent to broaden his experiences. Seems like it’ll serve as an interesting, comical subplot that’ll hopefully tie in with Kenneth and Darius attempt to time travel. It’s definitely not a recycled hollywood narrative so we can all look forward to seeing something fresh.

Here’s a clip from the film which show’s Jeff trying to motivate Arnau to be a real man and “do something stupid”

Aubrey Plaza’s character form Parks and Recreations seems to have some common traits with her character in this film so if you enjoy P and R you’ll probably like this as well. Plus, Mark Duplass is a talented and funny actor (…and successful writer/director).  He appears to be a hard-working man in Hollywood that has  slipped under the radar so everyone should check this film out to see Duplass’ talent (I’ll provide a link to his IMDB below so people can browse through and see some of the work he has done).


There is also the important question: “Well, does he actually know how to time travel and will they eventually time travel by the end of the movie?”….. Hmmm, we’ll have to find out…

Mark Duplass’ IMDB Page –

Aubrey Plaza’s IMDB Page –