Saw this last night. One of the most original, well-told tales, I have ever seen. Highly recommended. Now playing at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a 2012 American fantasy drama film directed by Benh Zeitlin and written by Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar from Alibar’s one-act play Juicy and Delicious. After playing at film festivals, it was released on June 27, 2012, in New York and Los Angeles.
Carl Franklin made his directorial bow with the story of three LA drug dealers who, after committing a rather messy murder, hide out in a rural Arkansas town. Assuming that the local “rubes” will offer them little interference, the criminals have not reckoned with sheriff “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton). Despite the arrogance of the LAPD agents sent to Arkansas to collar the crooks, it is down-home Dixon who puts the final bloody showdown into motion (the fact that the thieves have been falling out throughout the film doesn’t hurt things either). Carl Franklin knows where he’s going in every frenetic frame of One False Move, and his movie was one of the most acclaimed independent releases of 1991.
Sling Blade marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton, who also authored the script (expanding George Hickenlooper’s acclaimed short Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade) and stars in the picture. Thornton plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who spent most of his life in a mental institution. When Karl was a boy, he was severely mistreated by his abusive father (Robert Duvall). At age 12, Karl found his mother having intercourse with a man who tormented him endlessly; he snapped, flew into a homicidal rage, and killed both individuals by decapitating them. Years later, as a middle-aged man, Karl is deemed harmless to society and released from the mental institution where he resides. Karl says he has learned his lesson and adds, “I reckon I got no reason to kill no one.” He returns to the town of his boyhood, where he’s befriended by Frank (Lucas Black), the son of a widowed mother who sees the eccentric but open-hearted Karl as a kindred spirit. Karl also gets a job at a fix-it shop and resides in the backroom, until Frank’s mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), takes a liking to Karl and lets him stay with them. However, Karl also meets Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), Linda’s boyfriend, a sadistically cruel, narrow-minded drunk who tosses casual abuse at Frank, treats Linda like dirt, and mocks Karl endlessly. The late John Ritter co-stars as Linda’s friend Vaughan, a mild-mannered homosexual who works at the neighborhood dollar store. Musicians Col. Bruce Hampton and Vic Chesnutt are among Doyle’s party guests.
Based on Scott B. Smith‘s bone-chilling 1993 novel, A Simple Plan is a bit of a departure for horror film director Sam Raimi. Instead of flying eyeballs and dancing corpses, A Simple Plan is a taut crime thriller in the vein of Joel Coen‘s Academy Award-winning Fargo. Set during the white winters of Minnesota, this story tells the eerie tale of Hank and Jacob Mitchell (played by Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) who, along with a buddy, find a downed single-engine plane buried in the snowy woods. Inside it is a decaying pilot and a bag carrying four million dollars in one-hundred-dollar bills. The men decide to hide the money until spring when the snow is melted and the plane is found. If no one notices the missing money at that time, they will split it and live a wealthy new life. A simple plan, right? Wrong. Much like Humphrey Bogart‘s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, things can only get worse, as distrust and greed creep into the minds of the principals. They find it difficult to decide which one gets to hold the money — and even more impossible to keep from dipping into the stash until spring. And so on. It also becomes increasingly tough to keep a secret of this magnitude. And if all this doesn’t get moviegoers’ brains working, it seems there are suspicious characters in town who just may be able to link them to the plane, forcing the more dangerous and bloody question of what to do with those people and how to cover their tracks.
A dedicated young German boy pulls off an elaborate scheme to keep his mother in good health in this comedy drama from director Wolfgang Becker. Suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma after seeing her son arrested during a protest, Alex’s (Daniel Brühl) socialist mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), remains comatose through the fall of the Berlin wall and the German Democratic Republic. Knowing that the slightest shock could prove fatal upon his mother’s awakening, Alex strives to keep the fall of the GDR a secret for as long as possible. Keeping their apartment firmly rooted in the past, Alex’s scheme works for a while, but it’s not long before his mother is feeling better and ready to get up and around again.
Arthouse favorite Olivier Assayas followed up his critical darling L’Heure d’Été (2008) with this wildly different chronicle — a biopic of the ultra-left-wing Venezuelan terrorist-cum-mercenary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, popularly known as “Carlos the Jackal.” As co-written by Assayas and scenarist Dan Franck, the account spans the years 1973-1994 — or the period that witnessed Sanchez at his most violent and relentless. Narrative touchstones include the 1974 bomb attack at the Publicis Drugstore on Paris’ Left Bank and the 1975 abduction of 11 OPEC officials from Vienna, as well as a torrent of assassinations that Carlos and his cronies planned but didn’t carry out. As produced by Daniel Leconte, this telling of Sanchez’s life stars Edgar Ramirez as the terrorist, as well as Alexander Scheer, Aljoscha Stadelmann, and Julia Hummer; it was predominantly shot in Germany, France, and Lebanon.
David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s story, re-teams the director with Brad Pitt, who takes on the title role. What makes Button such a curious case is that when he is born in New Orleans just after World War I, he is already in his eighties, and proceeds to live his life aging in reverse. This sweeping film follows the character’s unusual life into the 21st century as he experiences joy and sadness, loves lost and found, and the meaning of timelessness. Cate Blanchett co-stars along withTilda Swinton, Elias Koteas, and Julia Ormond.