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iCMFF: English-Language Independents Thread
Topic Started: Nov 20 2017, 01:49:11 AM (592 Views)
outdoorcats
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Welcome to the 2017 iCheckMovies Film Festival!

This is the first annual festival to be held here on the iCM Forum, and the third of its kind which originally started on the IMDb message boards (you know, back when those existed).

For the full program guide and a brief explanation of what the festival is, look no further than here.
For the unofficial challenge thread, look no further than here.

Please rate the films the films you've seen on a scale from 1-10 to help contribute to this year's Audience Award. This is not connected to the Unofficial Challenge and therefore it does not matter when you saw the films in question.

Other sections:

Main Slate
International (I and II)
Animation
LGBT
Arthouse
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Just Before Dawn
Shorts Programs

This is the thread where we rate and discuss the films in the English-Language Independents section:

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By the Sea dir. Angelina Jolie. 2015, 122 min. Posted Image
Starring Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud
Jolie channels Antonioni in this dreamy, intoxicating portrait of a marriage in stalemate, in which she and real-life husband Brad Pitt play a vacationing couple in 1970s France who find their curiosity aroused by the arrival of a younger, happier couple at their hotel.

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Cruel and Unusual dir. Merlin Dervisevic. 2014, 95 min. Posted Image
Starring David Richmond-Peck and Bernadette Saquibal.
Falsely accused of killing his wife, a man finds himself in a strange purgatory where he’s forced to re-live the murder over and over in this independent genre mind-bender. The less you know going into this highly original film, the better.

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Heaven Knows What dir. Benny and Josh Safdie. 2014, 97 min. Posted Image
Starring Arielle Holmes and Caleb Landry Jones.
Arielle Holmes stars in a story inspired by her own experiences in this harrowing film chronicling the lives of heroin addicts in New York City. When Ilya, who she believes to be the love of her life, asks her to slit her wrists to prove her love for him, Harley does so without hesitation--which is only the first episode in this very intense slice of desperate lives.

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Madame Bovary dir. Sophie Barthes. 2014, 118 min. Posted Image
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Ezra Miller, Rhys Ifans, Logan-Marshall Green, and Paul Giamatti.
The first major direct Madame Bovary adaptation directed by a woman, Barthes treats the protagonist of Flaubert’s classic novel with a more sympathetic eye than we've yet seen, framing her painterly compositions in the style of the greatest period films.

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Man from Reno dir. Dave Boyle. 2014, 111 min. Posted Image
Starring Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, and Kazuki Kitamura.
A Japanese author vacationing in San Francisco, a local town sheriff who accidentally hits a mysterious figure in the fog, and an abandoned suitcase collide in this unique mystery/noir anchored by sharp direction and excellent performances from Fujitani and well-heeled character actor Serna.

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Zoom dir. Pedro Morelli. 2015, 96 min. Posted Image
Starring Allison Pill, Tyler Labine and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Emma works at a sex doll factory and in her spare time is writing a comic book. Edward is a famous movie director, working on his latest movie. Michelle is a model and is writing a novel. The three are connected: Edward and his world are found in the pages of Emma's comic book, Michelle's story is Edward's movie and Emma's story is Michelle's book. This mixed-media meta-comedy blurs the line between artist and creation even as the stories get wildly out-of-hand.

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Edited by outdoorcats, Nov 20 2017, 02:15:16 AM.
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te18
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Heaven Knows What (2014) 5/10
Unassuming portrayal of the day-to-day of a heroin addict sporadically interrupted by flashes of violence that work awkwardly against the otherwise deadpan tone of the film. Its best asset is the performance of Arielle Holmes (herself a recovering addict) in the leading role. It's a shame I couldn't care about her or the other largely irritating characters. Also, I thought
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which seems like a pretty clear indication that these kind of minimalistic, chronically bleak movies about irredeemable characters aren't quite for me. :lol:
Edited by te18, Nov 21 2017, 09:13:56 PM.
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3eyes
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I watched about half of Zoom before deciding it wasn't for me. Just watched Madame Bovary - soap opera was about what I was up to tonight.

It's been over 60 years since I read the book, but I guess I'll never know if it's cinematographically possible to deal with le passage du fiacre without copping out.
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Lonewolf2003
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I've seen Man from Reno and Heaven Knows What Monday and yesterday. Both get the same rating from me: 7.2
I will try to write some more about them later.

(@outdoorcats; I will round off my ratings between brackets if that's necesary for the awards)
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Lonewolf2003
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Zoom: 7.0 - it's a fun enjoyable little movie with an unusual plot-in-plot-in-plot structure, especially with the combination of live-action and animated parts. But unfortunate the plot of the tree parts and most of all the characterizations don't live up to this imaginative set-up. The best part of it's when feelings of one artist influences the other plot part he/she is making.
By the end the movie has written itself in such a deadlock, that's no logical sensible way out of it. But by then I had enjoyed to movie enough to not be bothered by it too much. Allison Pill is always great.

As promised above:
Man from Reno - the mystery of the movie is intriguing and one that had me guessing what's going on the whole movie. It has competent directing. But like often with these elaborate plotted movies there's less space and time for decent characterizations, luckily Ayako Fujitani and Pepe Serna give it all and save what's there to safe.

Heaven Knows What - with Arielle Holmes starring as herself in this movie based on her own memoirs, realism and naturalism is what this movie has most going for it. While I get that the slice of life, not-going-anywhere plotting is the point of a movie about homeless addicts without any future, it did fail to really grab me at times. Although I did really love the ending.
Edited by Lonewolf2003, Nov 22 2017, 11:11:52 PM.
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Lonewolf2003
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Madame Bovary: 6.5 - I never read Flaubert's famous novel, so won't comment on how well it's adapted or not. But purely based on a movie (the way a movie should always be reviewed) it's an okay costume drama about a woman feeling trapped in her world. Mia at times seems a bit to aware she's playing an iconic literary figure, but overal carries the movie with ease. Mia doesn't always escape Ezra Miller was totally miscast in this.

By the Sea: 7.2 - this movie with world famous couple Brangelina starring as a troubled couple directed by Angelina Jolie, is clearly influenced by Antonioni movies and other 60 European arthouse movies. The movie is at it best when it just focuses on two tragic figures separately coping in their own way with a tragedy that drifted them apart. While it ain't Antonioni with his masterful display of ennui, the movie does give a good sense of feeling of loss, loneliness and overal apathy. The movie falters when it tries to explains these feelings and reason behind the estrangement. Basically, the first half is better than the second. Everything sure looks perfect in this movie; Jolie wearing fabulous hats, sunglasses and clothes, Pitt is the romantic dream image of a alcoholic writer, and who doesn't want to book a trip to Malta right after seeing this, especially if you get Niels Arestrup as amiable bartender.

Cruel & Unusual: 6.2 - last and unfortunate also least. It's an interesting promising premise: a guy having to relive his murdering of his wife over and over in purgatory. But unfortunate Dervisevic is more interested in the mystery of both the murder and "what this place is", than in the emotional arc and growth of his protagonist.
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jvv
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Cruel & Unusual - 6/10

Starts of dull and repetitive, but improves later on.

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Edited by jvv, Nov 27 2017, 11:47:27 PM.
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Man from Reno - 7/10

Lots of twists and turns in this mystery/thriller.
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te18
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Man from Reno (2015) 6/10
Mystery revolving around the unknown identify of a Japanese traveller connecting a famous author, a small-town sheriff and a whole host of supporting players with a vested interest in whatever the man was carrying before his disappearance -- and possible death. Switches nicely between its two central character studies (the author and the sheriff) as it builds toward a somewhat underwhelming conclusion. The movie has a solid style and quality performances despite a few shortcomings that undo a lot of the film's good work (they could have gone for any other ending besides the one they did and got a better result). It's nothing special, but enjoyable.
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Carmel1379
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te18
Nov 21 2017, 09:13:47 PM
Also, I thought
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Heaven Knows What spoilers
Edited by Carmel1379, Dec 6 2017, 08:33:40 PM.
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Carmel1379
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Madame Bovary (2014, Sophie Barthes) 6
Saw it almost 2 years ago. I obviously love Mia and the story of an immoral Madame desiring to surpass her boring environment with primarily promiscuity is a good one, but the film itself was a rather forgettable period piece drama.

Man from Reno (2014, Dave Boyle) 4
The hotel door security peephole shots and tortoises were nice.

Cruel & Unusual (2014, Merlin Dervisevic) 6
I had something written on this, but I lost it, and can't be bothered to re-write anything substantial. So: The first level crime story I felt was too banal, each loop hardly contributed novelty. More complexity would've been desirable. Also more reasons for me to care for the protagonist (but maybe that wasn't the point, given where he's at in the end). Nice, how after a while, from what was essentially a surrealistic gimmick, they went on to address problems of suicide, mortality, and sacrifices one can make for other people who will go on leading better lives you could.

Heaven Knows What (2014, Benny & Josh Safdie) 7-

Zoom (2015, Pedro Morelli) 7
A factory - a workshop - is a better figure for what concerns sexuality and being, than the theatre. Production, manufacturing, copying, modeling. Breast enlargement is skin augmentation, a surgical process. Imagination too creates, making the subject transect planes of reality and varied intensities. But then the copies are copied, the copies themselves start making copies, their desires and problems start affecting the other realms and stories, interdependent realities are nested within each other, such that the whole process, with many breaks and flows, makes one lose track of who progenited what, and we’re lost in the ever-so tumultuous factory.

By the Sea (2015, Angelina Jolie Pitt) 7
The days pass, one after another. Seconds after the sunrise we get sunset, with the same behaviour unfolding in-between. Routine and detachment are conveyed, changes are sporadic, and are usually resolved to the same vapid, indifferent homeostasis. It might be weeks, months or years that they stay in the same lethargic French bay. The fisherman continues to drift, and failing to catch any prey.

The film does give a sense of dragging on (while remaining concise, with a high current of character-establishing information), for some reason time felt to move rather slowly as I watched it.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith ditch all the guns and go to 1970s France. Mr. with a writer’s block drinks all day long, while Mrs. either stays in her room or walks around the beaches, wistfully looking at the sea’s waves. Antonioni-esque interpersonal distances and silences are this film’s essence, Jolie’s hair seems to mimick Monica Vitti’s in Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’. A young happy promiscuous couple moves in next door and provides a stark contrast to the two Smiths, stimulating voyeuristic pleasure, fantasy and using the other for past-self re-envisioning, leading towards some sort of ambiguous reconnection and revitalisation.

I don’t follow the media’s account of the “Brangelina” relationship (“What qualities do you admire about Angelina Jolie?” / “Her husband.”), but it shows ‘By the Sea’ is a deeply personal film. The film must also be appreciated for Brad Pitt’s French.
Edited by Carmel1379, Dec 6 2017, 08:49:03 PM.
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beavis
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1. Heaven Knows What - 8
2. Zoom - 8
3. Madame Bovary -7.5
4. Cruel & Unusual - 7
5. Man From Reno - 7
6. By the Sea - 5.3

Bit of a mixed bag this section, but the term independent certainly goes up for a few of them. Original fantasy stuff like Zoom and Cruel & Unusual is something I really like. Even if the first one got a lot more creative than the other, which lacked some depth in the end. I was doubting if I should put Zoom first. Heaven Knows What I saw almost three years ago and I liked the convincing portrayal of the characters it had. Also the directors turned out to be talents with staying power. But the story was also fairly standard and didn't engage me as much as the meta-fictional playfulness of Zoom. Zoom however is not perfect either.

Then to the bottom of my list. By the Sea looks nice and it certainly had some potential. But it lacked substance for me and because of that, felt too much like an ego-project... Man from Reno has a neo-noir vibe that I like. It might be the only kind of vibe I like in the who-dunnit/crime genre, so that had me engaged. But it still has the flaw of all who-dunnit movies that it just feels too damn scripted. Situations and characters never become real. This movie did its best though to make some of them react somewhat like normal people would. The story felt a bit rushed towards the end... or I wasn't wowed enough by the twists and turns. In the end it was "just ok" for me sadly.
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Perception de Ambiguity
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Carmel1379
Dec 6 2017, 08:31:23 PM
By the Sea (2015, Angelina Jolie Pitt) 7
The days pass, one after another. Seconds after the sunrise we get sunset, with the same behaviour unfolding in-between. Routine and detachment are conveyed, changes are sporadic, and are usually resolved to the same vapid, indifferent homeostasis. It might be weeks, months or years that they stay in the same lethargic French bay. The fisherman continues to drift, and failing to catch any prey.

The film does give a sense of dragging on (while remaining concise, with a high current of character-establishing information), for some reason time felt to move rather slowly as I watched it.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith ditch all the guns and go to 1970s France. Mr. with a writer’s block drinks all day long, while Mrs. either stays in her room or walks around the beaches, wistfully looking at the sea’s waves. Antonioni-esque interpersonal distances and silences are this film’s essence, Jolie’s hair seems to mimick Monica Vitti’s in Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’. A young happy promiscuous couple moves in next door and provides a stark contrast to the two Smiths, stimulating voyeuristic pleasure, fantasy and using the other for past-self re-envisioning, leading towards some sort of ambiguous reconnection and revitalisation.

I don’t follow the media’s account of the “Brangelina” relationship (“What qualities do you admire about Angelina Jolie?” / “Her husband.”), but it shows ‘By the Sea’ is a deeply personal film. The film must also be appreciated for Brad Pitt’s French.
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Carmel1379
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Perception de Ambiguity
Dec 6 2017, 08:51:20 PM
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Perception de Ambiguity
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Perception de Ambiguity
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By the Sea (Angelina Jolie Pitt, 2015) (2nd viewing)

In the visual language of kitschy commercial cinema 'By the Sea' tells a story/non-story of evasion, a perpetual hiding behind appearances (which, needless to say, deliberately reflects, comments on and plays with the media personas of Jolie/Pitt on some level), until an easy target with even more illusions arrives in the form of a newlywed young couple that provides escapism but eventually also provokes a little bit of self-reflection for the overall emotionally mature but trauma-struck couple.

Although artistically relatively derivative of European arthouse cinema of the 60's and 70's and especially of Antonioni this rewatch again made it feel like a very soulful film to me, being more than just its ostensible relationship drama, and instead hitting upon existential themes within a marital context, many of which were certainly touched upon, but remained unexplored by Antonioni himself to such an extent. And while of course it's very much a fictionalized and simplified account I felt it to be a pretty honest one that was more true to life than the couple cared to admit at the time to the mainstream media. Pitt soon after coming out as a long-time alcoholic to the media seems to support this feeling.


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Edited by Perception de Ambiguity, Dec 6 2017, 10:12:01 PM.
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te18
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Madame Bovary (2014) 5/10
Would be very drab indeed without Mia Wasikowska's performance.
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GruesomeTwosome
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My ratings from highest to lowest for the category (sorry I'm late!):

Heaven Knows What - 8.5
Cruel and Unusual - 8.0
Madame Bovary - 7.0
Zoom - 6.5
By the Sea - 6.5
Man from Reno - 5.0
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Carmel1379
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Heaven Knows What seems to be the majority's favourite, and I'm happy with it winning too.
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Lonewolf2003
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Carmel1379
Dec 13 2017, 01:32:38 AM
Heaven Knows What seems to be the majority's favourite, and I'm happy with it winning too.
Me too. Looking back it’s my #1 for this category too.
Which is also the top pick of my fellow jurors in this category, beavis and GruesomeTwosome, so think we can declare that the winner. Unless they object.
Edited by Lonewolf2003, Dec 13 2017, 02:15:19 PM.
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beavis
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no objections :)
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GruesomeTwosome
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Lonewolf2003
Dec 13 2017, 01:57:22 PM
Carmel1379
Dec 13 2017, 01:32:38 AM
Heaven Knows What seems to be the majority's favourite, and I'm happy with it winning too.
Me too. Looking back it’s my #1 for this category too.
Which is also the top pick of my fellow jurors in this category, beavis and GruesomeTwosome, so think we can declare that the winner. Unless they object.
No objection here, it was the clear favorite for me in this category. :)
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Lonewolf2003
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That’s settled then :thumbsup:
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