Newsletter: Indie Focus: Amy Schumer, ‘Trainwreck,’ Outfest and our new podcast

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen, and welcome to your weekly field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Last week we were so happy to have staged an event with the L.A.-set film “Tangerine.” In a first for our screening series, a scene in the movie showed a cab rolling down the stretch of Sunset Boulevard in front of the very theater where we were watching the movie.

Actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, left, filmmaker Sean Baker and actress Mya Taylor of the film "Tangerine" at Donut Time in Los Angeles on June 25, 2015. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In another first, we recorded that night’s post-show Q&A with actress Mya Taylor and co-writer/co-producer Chris Bergoch for the inaugural episode of an Indie Focus podcast.

We hope to record and post here more Q&As in the future. Upcoming events include this week’s screening of “The End of the Tour” with director James Ponsoldt and writer Donald Margulies. We’ll also soon be screening “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.”

Check here for more info:

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.


The recent cultural ascension of Amy Schumer seems to be reaching a crescendo with the release of “Trainwreck,” the movie she wrote and stars in. Directed by Judd Apatow, the film is a contemporary romantic comedy that finds the intersection between sweet and funny, a bit bawdy without losing a sense of deeply felt emotion. With supporting roles from Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton and LeBron James (you read that correctly), the film takes the familiar and makes it fresh.

Amy Kaufman discovered that Schumer’s secret weapon may well be her sister, Kim Caramele, who works as her road manager and writing partner and provides general emotional support.

Not only do sisters Amy Schumer, right, and Kim live six blocks from each other on New York's Upper West Side, but they also work together. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

“They're really enjoying this moment, and I think it's because they have each other to share it with,” said Apatow of the sisters’ dynamic.

Amy K. previously sat down with Schumer and Apatow during the South by Southwest film festival, where she also attended the film’s work-in-progress first public showing.

And Rebecca Keegan spoke to Hader, who takes on his first romantic leading role in the film.


This year’s Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival arrives on a wave of positive feelings following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage and the rise in visibility and acceptance for the transgender community. The festival is already in motion, having started July 9, with plenty still to come before the closing night screening of Francois Ozon’s “The New Girlfriend” starring Romain Duris.

Tre’vell Anderson recently spoke to Outfest’s director of programming Lucy Mukerjee-Brown about what she called “the new frontier of transgender films.”

Among the films screening in the festival are Sebastian Silva’s unsettling “Nasty Baby,” starring Kristen Wiig and which I wrote about when it had its premiere at Sundance this year. Also showing is “Jenny’s Wedding,” starring Katherine Heigl and Alexis Bledel, and “Addicted to Fresno,” starring Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne. Showing as well is the documentary “Best of Enemies,” which examines the televised debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in 1968.

Actress Kristen Wiig and writer, director, co-star Sebastian Silva in a moment from "Nasty Baby." (Sundance Film Festival)

Screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on July 16 will be “54: The Director’s Cut,” a revamped version of Mark Christopher’s 1998 ode to disco-era decadence and longing.

UCLA’s Black Independents Series

On July 18, the UCLA Film and Television Archive will kick off the series “Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986,” which will run through Aug. 23. Drawn from a larger program that first played at the Film Society of Lincoln Center earlier this year, the series is the first major one to pull together work from this transformational time on the New York film scene and mixes together fiction films and documentaries to give a full portrait of time and place.

Among those films screening will be the 1982 film “Losing Ground,” directed by Kathleen Collins and starring Julie Dash; “Joe’s Bed-Sty Barbershop: We Cut Heads” and “She’s Gotta Have It,” two earlier efforts by Spike Lee; Bill Gunn’s 1973 horror film “Ganja & Hess”; William Greaves’ “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One”; and Jessie Maples' 1981 film “I Will.”

'A Poem Is a Naked Person'

Documentary filmmaker Les Blank, who died in 2013, was an affectionate chronicler of eccentrics and flaky Americana. Though best known for “Burden of Dreams,” his 1982 portrait of Werner Herzog at work in the Amazon jungle making “Fitzcaraldo,” Blank’s first feature is only now getting a proper theatrical release. First shown in 1974, “A Poem Is a Naked Person” sets the stage for much of what was to come in Blank’s work. It's a warm portrait of musician Leon Russell that also captures a feeling for rural Oklahoma.

In his recent review of the film, Robert Abele stated that “its oddball colors and willful wanderings betray a sweet, savory, uncompromising air that showcases Russell's uniquely fused brand of American harmony with rascally ebullience.” 

The new release of the film was brokered by Harrod Blank, the filmmaker’s son, who got Russell to at long last sign off on the movie. Asked why the film was kept out of circulation for so many years, Russell recently said, “I really can’t remember.” 

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