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Apr 192013

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I just got home from opening night at the 2013 Nashville Film Festival, having watched MUD and FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY.

MUD is Jeff Nichol’s follow-up to his acclaimed TAKE SHELTER. MUD stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, a bunch of other weighty adult actors, and two child actors. Tye Sheridan, the poetry-whispering son-of-Pitt in TREE OF LIFE, plays Ellis, a hard-scrabble river rat. Jacob Lofland plays Neckbone, Ellis’ sidekick and the most realistic and entertaining performance in the whole picture. Too bad he’s only the sidekick.

The plot of MUD is basically THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE meets STAND BY ME. The two boys befriend a wanted man on an island on the Mississipi River in rural Arkansas and help him elude capture, in the process learning about life, love, and magic shirts. I would have sworn Nichols was a big city director trying make a “Southern” film because the characters came off as dimensionless Southern caricatures (except the aforementioned Lofland). But Nichols grew up in Little Rock, so search me. The plot feels forced at every turn with a few too many “What’s that, Lassie?! Timmy’s fallen in the well?!” moments. The denouement is so absurd I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. As we exited the theater, a friend said that it made sense if you looked at it in the scope of Greek Tragedy, but that feels like a bit of a just-so story.  And you know what? We have enough Greek Tragedy.  From the Greeks. Enough “modern retellings” of classical narratives, please.

Next up was FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY. I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy this documentary about the children’s book writer and illustrator of subversive erotica. The film follows his childhood  in Nazi-occupied France to the brights lights of 50s and 60s New York City, to banishment in Novia Scotia, and semi-retirement in Ireland. What’s remarkable about Tomi is that he was able to lead a triple life of children’s book author/illustrator, anti-war poster propagandist, and erotic artist for so long without one vocation threatening the others. Of course, his insular fan-bases finally did discover each other, and as a result, he wasn’t able to sell another children’s book for over two decades. Tomi coined the phase, “Expect the unexpected,” and his work was a principle inspiration for Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” Director Brad Bernstein’s pacing is just right, and I was never taken out of the film, save for the occasional slick-and-gimmicky animation of still-drawings and photos that for some reason is so popular in documentaries these days.

FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH plays again Friday at 4:00 PM. Don’t miss it.

<– NaFF Preview
–> NaFF Days 2 & 3

Apr 182013


Nashville may be internationally-known for music, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: Our film community is top notch. We have one of the best art house cinemas in the country, The Belcourt; a strong film and television industry that produces shows like ABC’s Nashville; and residents such as director Harmony Korine and actor Nicole Kidman. And then there’s the Nashville Film Festival, at first glance a nice little regional festival that caters to those who can’t make it to Sundance or Toronto. But a closer examination reveals a well-run, easy-to-get-around (one location) MAJOR festival with an expertly-curated set of international, U.S., and regional films.

The festival begins tonight. I have over 30 films on my docket, and over the next seven days, I’ll be writing daily updates about the fest. My first film is festival opener MUD, a coming-of-age story starring Matthew McConaughey by TAKE SHELTER’s Jeff Nichols that has been garnering surprisingly good reviews.

A film to take special note of is NASHVILLE 2012, which appears to be a very skillfully-made documentary about our fine city. What makes it a must-see is one of its stars: Theatre Intangible participant / musician-turned-wrestler Joseph “Jocephus Brody” Hudson. Check out the trailer below.



I scoured the schedule, watched all the trailers, and read every review I could find to chart out my docket.  Here are the films I recommend (my rationale for each in parentheses).

A Band Called Death (Doc about legendary Black punk band, stellar reviews.)
A Letter to Momo (Anime by Hiroyuki Okiura, dir of Jin-Roh. 7 years in development.)
A River Changes Course (Cinema-verite doc about over-development in Cambodia from the cinematographer of Inside Job.)
After Tiller (doc about doctors who perform third-trimester abortions, great reviews.)
All the Light in the Sky (Mumblecore director Joe Swanberg’s new film, surprisingly positive reviews.)
Flicker (Swedish black comedy that’s been getting great reviews, filmmaker to watch.)
Grave of the Fireflies (Classic heartbreaking anime from Studio Ghibli.)
I Killed My Mother (Retrospective screening of Xavier Dolan’s breakthrough film.)
In the Fog (Epic World War 2 drama from Russia, some calling it a classic)
It Felt Like Love (Coming-of-age Brooklyn love story that’s been getting great reviews.)
Kick Off (Retrospective screening of classic Kurdish film about war and soccer in Iraq)
Laurence Anyways (New film by Xavier Dolan)
Mekong Hotel (New film by Thailand auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul. ‘Nuff said.)
Nairobi Half Life (Kenyan rise-through-the-ranks crime drama, positive reviews.)
Paradise Trilogy (Faith, Hope, Love) (Austrian trilogy, each about a woman on vacation searching for happiness.)
Persistence of Vision (epic documentary about Who Framed Roger Rabbit animator’s 25-year quest to complete his magnum opus)
Pieta (From Kim Ki-Duk, director of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring.  ‘Nuff said.)
Post Tenebras Lux (From Carlos Reygadas, direct of Silent Light. ‘Nuff said.)
Rhino Season (From Bahman Ghobadi, director of Turtles Can Fly. ‘Nuff said.)
Safety Last! (Retrospective screening of Harold Loyd’s silent comic masterpiece.)
Sightseers (UK comedy that’s been getting great reviews.)
Stories We Tell (documentray by actor Sarah Polley about her lineage, stellar reviews.)
The History of Future Folk (Intergalactic banjo comedy that was the hit of Fantastic Fest last year.)
The Kings of Summer (Coming-of-age comedy that was a hit at Sundance.)
This is Martin Bonner (won 2013 Best of NEXT Audience Award at Sundance.)
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (New film by legendary French director Alain Resnais. ‘Nuff said.)

–> NaFF Day 1

Apr 212011

I’m pleased to welcome a new contributor to Theatre Intangible. Tommy Stangroom plays drums in the genre-defying Nashville band SQUARE PEOPLE and recently started an experimental circuit-bent solo project called POSTTASTE. He has a scary knowledge of music and a spectacular record collection. For his first article (and TI’s first music review), Tommy reviews the new album from BOOGIE MONSTER. Here’s Tommy:

BOOGIE MONSTER is a two-piece band out of Vancouver, and they are noisy as hell and danceable too. Their new record “Zechimechi” is out now from Needs More R.A.M. When one thinks of noisy danceable two-piece bands one inevitably thinks of LIGHTNING BOLT, and I doubt these guys would deny heavy influence from the Brians of the Bolt. Being a wholly instrumental album, it doesn’t lack lyricism in both the drums and guitar, bombastic kick drum and floor tom tribal rhythms out in the forefront as much as the crunchy squealing guitar riffs.

The record starts out with tons of weird energy, “Majora” (SUN CITY GIRLS reference?  I don’t know maybe I just listen to SUN CITY GIRLS too much) starts with guitars and synths playing circus music and turns into a triumphant anthem that weirdos would eat up for days. Then it just goes right ahead and tumbles over itself right into yet another wild anthem that I could totally see a room of crusty kids throwing themselves into each other for because they just can’t help it. The album doesn’t let up either. It continues to pummel with “Bullfrog” and then totally melts and freaks out with the wonderfully titled “Transmissions Burst Through Sticky Lungs.” Even at their most free, they don’t seem to lose an inherent need for rhythm. This shit is unrelenting. “Kabutops” is like Boris speeding down the sewer on some teenage mutant ninja turtle like hovercraft.

Do yourself a favor and listen to their tracks on the Needs More R.A.M bandcamp page; and if you wanna listen to it over and over and over, give them 5 bucks and download the high quality FLAC copy. BOOGIE MONSTER may be playing a Nashville venue in June, so keep yr ears peeled!