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Indie Focus: Movies that excite, 'Aloha' buzz and 'The Canon'

 


 

Hello! I'm Mark Olsen, and welcome to this week’s Indie Focus newsletter.

Think of this as your field guide to a world of Only Good Movies, spotlighting what’s going on in the world of cinema both in Los Angeles and the world beyond.

I’m really excited for our Indie Focus Screening Series event on Wednesday with Mia Hansen-Løve's "Eden." We’ll present the movie – I’ve been following it since attending the world premiere back in September – and than have a Q&A with co-writer Sven Hansen-Løve, on whose life the film’s story is based, and lead actor Felix De Givry.

Then on June 15, we’re showing “The Overnight,” a satire of contemporary Los Angeles that was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. We'll have a big panel after the movie including director and screenwriter Patrick Brice, producer Naomi Scott and cast members Judith Godreche, Jason Schwartzman and Adam Scott.

Space is limited, but we like to think it’s worth the effort. You can keep up with our Indie Focus Screening Series here: events.latimes.com/indiefocus.  

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.

"HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT"

Filmmakers Ben Safdie, left, and Josh Safdie at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Jay L.Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Filmmakers such as Josh and Benny Safdie and work such as their new “Heaven Knows What” keep me excited about movies. The invention, surprise and adventure in the Safdies' films are thrilling and refresh my own enthusiasm about the possibilities of cinema.

“Heaven Knows What” is an intense portrait of doomed love, with an energy and sensibility all its own. The Safdies met Arielle Holmes when she was a drug addict living on the streets of New York City. They encouraged her to write a memoir and then they transformed that into a film script for her to star in as a fictionalized version of herself.

The movie is playing now in Los Angeles. I’ll be publishing a story on "Heaven Knows What" later this week.

“There’s so much pushing and pulling between our sensibilities, between the world, between the music, between the camera, between the sound, that everything just kind of collapses into a new thing,” said Benny Safdie of how they define the movie's blend of fiction and realism to themselves.

“'Heaven Knows What,’ that’s part of the title,” Josh Safdie added of the film’s unusual taxonomy.

"ALOHA"

Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone in a scene from Columbia Pictures' "Aloha." (Neal Preston / Sony Pictures Entertainment)

I reviewed the new Cameron Crowe movie “Aloha” last week. The movie arrived on such a wave of bad buzz, kept from journalists until just days before opening, that the media response was sort of predetermined.

I liked the movie more than a lot of folks seem to, which is to say I found it messy and imperfect but not without its charms and an overall emotional pull. I refuse to believe that a movie in which Emma Stone kicks off her shoes to dance with Bill Murray to a Hall & Oates song wouldn't have something going for it.

I also shot my first video review for the film. 

"YOUTH" and CANNES

Michael Caine stars in the movie "Youth." (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Film festivals can be really chaotic, as you find yourself running from screenings to interviews and back again. Steve Zeitchik’s dispatch from Cannes with the team behind the movie “Youth” really captures the heady whirlwind of such a moment. Simply corralling Italian writer-director Paolo Sorrentino alongside the film’s international stars, Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano, was task enough; getting them to say something coherent seemed an even further challenge.

Caine and Keitel swap stories about their time in the military – with Caine referred to as "Private Micklewhite." As Weitz and Fonda are soon whisked away, Weitz jokes, “The ladies have spoken.”

Kenneth Turan wrapped up the award winners, as well as his own time at the festival. Recalling the premiere of Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days” – a movie I personally cannot wait to see – our Mr. Turan noted, “Anyone with doubts about the irreplaceable nature of the theatrical experience would have had them swept away by that magical night.” 

A PODCAST: "THE CANON"

A podcast I have really gotten into is  “The Canon,” in which critics Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly and Devin Faraci of Birth.Movies.Death debate whether a given film should be included as art of The Canon, that mythic list of the greatest and most important movies. Sometimes they put movies head-to-head, and I think one of my all-time favorite episodes is the recent outing in which they pit “The Road Warrior” against “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

It’s a fascinating conversation, one that puts into play how we think about older movies versus newer ones and if it’s wise and/or possible to declare a movie super-important and lasting almost immediately after you’re done watching it.

P.S. “Fury Road” really is one of the most exciting films of the year, and if you haven’t done so yet, it demands to be seen in a theater. Get on it.


Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus.

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