Guest post by Luke Sanders
Luke Sanders is on the board of the Indy Film Fest, and likes coffee, travel, startups, running, microbrews, biking, farm-to-table restaurants, and all those other things you're supposed to like if you're in your twenties and live in a city.
My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls.
Through this monologue we are introduced to the titular Don Jon, our main character played and written by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his directorial debut.
DON JON's exterior is all muscle car, hair gel, and bench-press. It looks like an ode to Jersey Shore nightclubs. Beneath the gleam is a complex movie about the way men and women misunderstand each other. A note of caution to Gordon-Levitt fans, this film is not 500 Days of Summer--this is a film that intends (and often succeeds) in making its audience uncomfortable.
This is due to the last one of Jon's obsessions: porn. In fact the framing of the film makes more sense under its original working title, DON JON'S ADDICTION. The nickname "Don" is given to our protagonist by his ability to pick up girls--but to Jon, no "real girl" compares to the girls waiting for him under the lid of his laptop.
If our hero--even acted with the full bore of Mr. Gordon-Levitt's charisma--doesn't seem very sympathetic that's because he isn't. He exemplifies all that's wrong with the male objectification of the female.
The first part of the film is spent exposing the way men objectify women, but the second half speaks to the way that perhaps women aren't innocent of unreasonable expectations either. Scarlett Johansson seems an obvious choice for the love interest, as she effortlessly embodies the I'm-out-of-your-league female. The interplay between Gordon-Levitt and Johansson--expressed through chewing gum and nasal Jersey accents--exposes the ways we all bring our own baggage and bias into relationships.
But it is not all porn and AXE body spray, there is some redemption for Jon; redemption that elevates DON JON from a character study on addiction to an oddly sweet ode to romance.
Join us on Saturday, July 27 for this Closing Night screening and after party at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Purchase your tickets here.
Guest post by Erin O'Rourke
You might have guessed by her name that Erin is Irish. She bleeds Irish green, Butler blue and Cardinals red. A Downtown resident and arts supporter Erin is always out and about exploring the Circle City.
It’s such a cliché to want to call LAD: A YORKSHIRE STORY a coming of age tale, but that’s honestly what it is. Tom is a young man growing up in Yorkshire Dales, North England, and loses his father to a heart attack. Life changes dramatically for him, his mom and brother. You can see the family struggle- how can they get past this? Tom’s acting out leads to his subsequent community service time done with Al, the National Park Ranger who helps him overcome his feelings of sadness and anger.
The movie is technically about how the relationship between Al and Tom helps Tom grow up, but my favorite interactions were between Tom and his mom. His mom is a wonderful character, standing up for her family, and figuring out how to support them without his dad. The scenes with the two of them in it seem to come from such a place of love that you can’t help but enjoy when they were onscreen together.
The countryside scenes are breathtaking, and the mini love story that develops between Tom and Al’s granddaughter was amusing. The film's relationships felt real, and that made me want these characters to succeed as they strive to overcome these hurdles, and figure out how to move forward.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for LAD.
Guest post by Kelly Millspaugh
Addicted to coffee and discovering new music. I prefer cold weather and speak sarcasm fluently.
Summer movie season is notoriously filled with action movies, superheroes, and buddy comedies. Lost for Words is a refreshing break from seeing everything go boom. This is a love story between Michael, an ex-Marine, and Anna, a ballerina. Michael and Anna are both new to Hong Kong and both still getting over their past relationships. Michael is an American and Anna is Chinese and their cultural differences make the relationship a little more complicated than your average boy meets girl story. They both have thrown themselves into their work and leave little time for anything else.
The audience is treated to beautiful shots of Hong Kong as Michael and Anna fall for each other and explore the city over the course of the film. You get the sense that these are two people who are at times skeptical of love and commitment, but aren’t we all? Love and relationships are always a risk. It may seem easier to hide from it, or to choose to leave, but in the end you will be left wondering what may have been and that is more haunting than the chance of a temporary heartbreak after giving love a chance. This film comes down to the ultimate question: Does love conquer all? Can love endure cultural differences, language barriers, and most importantly uncertainty? Michael and Anna face many challenges and whether or not to give love a chance is completely based on the choices they make. Love is more than something you feel, it is something you do…or don’t do.
I would recommend Lost for Words to anyone who wants to see a film without fast cars and where no cities are destroyed by aliens. I would also recommend it to anyone who has the capacity to love. I think that pretty much covers all of you so take a chance on a little love story this summer.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for LOST FOR WORDS.
Guest post by Neil Wichlinski
THE K. EFFECT. STALIN’S EDITOR is a unique historical fiction focused on life in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world from the 1920’s through the mid-20th century. It’s a film with a format similar to Forrest Gump without the humor and innocence. Instead it follows the life of Maxime Stransky, a young filmer/actor who is sent on assignments from Joseph Stalin, playing a pivotal role in world events such as the 1929 stock market crash and Spanish Civil War.
The composition of this film is very unique, which is made up of clips from “home movies” collected by Stransky throughout his life combined with actual clips from historical events and images of the time period. This was my favorite component of the film. It was fascinating to see these old clips and get a feel for how things appeared during this era.
These clips combine with Stransky’s narrative to provide an experience of the culture and lifestyle of people living in Eastern Europe during this era. The fear, frustration, and hopeless resistance are transcended through this film as Stransky attempts to balance his family as well as the personal demands of a ruthless dictator. I think we often find ourselves wondering how people could go along with the plans of a leader such as Stalin or Hitler, and this story really puts you in the shoes of a man at their mercy with no other options or way out.
As a history buff, I adored this film. Although it wasn’t historically accurate, it provided a great amount social and cultural history which I don’t think could be captured if the people and events were true. So if you’re also a history buff, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
I would also consider THE K. EFFECT a film buff’s film. As I previously mentioned, the film’s composition is very unique and is something that must be seen to understand. Because the film is made up of thousands of short clips, you can’t help but appreciate the time taken putting them all together. Also, because the main character is a filmmaker, there is much discussion between Maxime and his friend Sergei about the purpose of film. To capture reality, or create it. As you watch THE K EFFECT you come to realize that the film itself does exactly this. It captures the reality of things as they happened in this era, but creates reality to portray a fantastic historical fiction that is a must see at this year’s festival.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for K. EFFECT.
Guest post by Elizabeth Friedland
Senior PR Manager living the ad agency life. Voracious consumer (and sometimes publisher) of the written word, culture, politics and music.
What does it mean to be a man or a woman? How do you define being gay or straight? These seemingly logical and straightforward questions are turned on their heads in MR. ANGEL, a documentary on the life of pornstar Buck Angel.
Buck Angel looks a little like Mr. Clean. He’s bald and beefy, has a demanding presence, a girlfriend that likes to wear provocative outfits, and is just about as quintessentially manly as you can get. Except for his vagina.
The documentary explores gender identity in the context of Buck’s personal story and his struggle to define himself, struggle with his demons, and find acceptance amongst friends, family and the porn industry. Though born a woman (a gorgeous woman with a successful modeling career in the early 90s), Buck felt he was a man trapped in the wrong body all along. While he underwent hormone therapy to make him appear more like a man (a deepened voice, body hair, and the ability to build muscle mass) and “top” surgery (the removal of his breasts), he stopped short of a full transformation. Citing the risks and complications of “bottom” surgery, Buck happily stuck with his lady parts.
This kind of story is increasingly common in today’s society, which is becoming far more understanding of gender identity tissues. But Buck’s tale pushes the boundaries of our understanding. With his pants on – even shirtless – he looks like the manliest dude ever; he’s a man. But when the pants come off (and fair warning, you see it for yourself in this film), he’s all woman. One hundred percent, biological, vagina having woman. But Buck has sex with men – so does that make him and his male partners straight? Or since he presents as man, are he and his partners actually gay? And what about his girlfriend, who is a biological and presenting woman? Is she a lesbian? Heterosexual? Something in-between? When it comes to defining sexuality and gender, what matters more – how you feel, how you look, or what you biology says you are? Perhaps more importantly, does it really matter?
Buck Angel, the film and the man, is guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve ever seen. While Buck’s anatomy will certainly shock viewers, the filmmakers don’t treat him like a freak show. The documentary respectfully dives into Buck’s story, handling the subject matter with courtesy, consideration, and genuine intent. This truly fascinating film will have you thinking about society’s labels long after the credits have rolled.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for MR. ANGEL.
Guest post by Chad Dickerson
How much should we share with a romantic encounter we’ve just met? Should we “omit the truth” for a few weeks? Should we abandon mystery and share everything about ourselves right away? What if you’re a guy with a penchant for antique dishes (aptly called a “disher”) or you’re a young woman living on the street making due robbing people with your gun-toting thug of a brother and his friend?
IN RETURN is a love story about Thompson, a love-sick guy who works the return desk at a women’s boutique, and Lola, a pretty and sensitive girl who likes to keep talk about herself to a minimum. Unknowing to Thompson, Lola spares him a mugging by her brother and his friend late at night while Thompson makes personal confessions about his love life to Toronto’s CN Tower. The next day, after speaking to his older female co-worker who acts as his psychologist, Thompson sets out to find Lola again and spark a romance. As the story moves along, Thompson must deal with his lavender-wearing dopey boss and womanizing flat mate who makes half-attempts to convince him to keep emotions at bay.
The City of Toronto also joins in the supporting cast, which is a nice change from the typical “every city” that is usually portrayed in movies filmed in Canadian towns, as if the filmmaker is trying to get the audience to forget he or she doesn’t have the budget for New York. The city’s notable CT Tower plays an important role as Lola helps Thompson conquer his fear of heights and discard the need for adult diapers. And while they don’t fall from the tower they do fall for each other, but once all mystery is gone they must decide if they truly want to accept and love each other.
This film reminds us that all of us have been returned by someone. We all have our unique “imperfections” that some will find simply unique, perhaps like those jeans that fit so well on some but simply should not be worn by others. We, like those jeans, are always “in return” until someone decides to forget the return policy and love us for all that we are.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for IN RETURN.
Guest post by Joe Ball
Proud Hoosier. Consumer of movies, music, art, smart jokes, tacos & bourbon.
Ping. Beep. Squawk. Clap. Hum.
Think of all of the noises and sounds we encounter every day. Which of those do we choose to focus on and which are just distractions? Which prevent you from being present in the moment? We are surrounded by sound. As I watched this film on my computer, I could hear the clang of dinner being prepared, the swash of the washing machine, and the hum of the dryer in the adjacent rooms. Even now as I write this blog, I can hear my Spotify playlist, the office’s A/C unit, someone’s radio, and two separate conversations in the hallway. Hold on, my phone just buzzed to alert me of a text…Ok, where were we? Oh right; is all of this noise necessary?
Ding. Honk. Bark. Knock. Swish.
EUPHONIA (2012 – ornana films) can be classified as an experimental film; one that dials up the sound mix of everything seen on the screen. The film follows a boy as he documents his suburban high school life and all of its marvelous sounds through a portable sound recorder. Living through this new tool, the landscape opens and he feels more in tune within his surroundings. Every sound is lush and hypnotic. Everyone has a story to tell. Random pieces of junk can be turned into a drum set. Tires squeak. Birds chirp. Girls giggle.
However, as he navigates through his daily routine, the recording of life’s sounds becomes an obsession. The tool used as an aide is now becoming a hindrance, and he can’t tune the noise out. His focus is distorted and he can no longer engage with those around him. What is he missing by hearing but not listening? What was the pretty girl in English class saying as she recited Shakespeare?
Crunch. Tap. Boom. Ting. Click. Snap.
I admit, each year during the middle part of the Oscars, I tend to ignore the technical awards given to sound effects and editing. However, EUPHONIA does a fantastic job of making you pay attention to those aspects of the film. If you’re a movie buff who geeks out on production and sound editing, an audiophile, or just a card-carrying member of the Michael Winslow Fan Club, you will no doubt love EUPHONIA. If you’re attending the Indy Film Fest and looking for something different, consider viewing and listening to this film. Leave your distractions at the door, and you’ll be rewarded.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for EUPHONIA.
Guest post by Chad Dickerson
BLOOD BROTHER is sponsored by Eskenazi Health
Simply put, BLOOD BROTHER is a touching and honest film about a young American from Pittsburgh who travels to India and finds his family, a family that consists of a group of children living together with HIV, and decides to dedicate his life to caring for them and giving them the love and respect we all deserve.
The film opens with a scene of two men lifting a girl from the pavement, naked except the blanket that covers her, hurriedly attempting to transport her by motorcycle to a hospital, only to realize along the way that she has become lifeless. Such is the life of Rocky, a young man who has decided to dedicate his life to children living with HIV. As you watch, you see the reality of HIV and the value that Rocky brings to the lives of these children.
A beautifully shot and well-made film, BLOOD BROTHER lays bare the story of Rocky, who grew up with his own fragmented family and stumbles upon a purpose for his life, a purpose so strong and certain that everyone who watches must envy him in some way, even if they can’t imagine living with the hardships that come with it. And it’s the contradiction of hardship and joy this life brings that makes the film interesting.
This is an honest portrait of a young American in India. At times I expected the film to be sappy or for Rocky to come across as arrogant and self-righteous (why haven’t I given up my a/c and tv to help poor, HIV-infected children?!), but that never happened. While I believed that Rocky really felt at home with these children half way around the world from where he grew up, he is able to admit the difficulty and suffering he has endured without portraying himself as a victim. And at some point, I wanted to feel sad that he needed to be in a place so far away to find a family. However, I also realize that some of us live our whole lives with our relatives and never have the true “family” that Rocky has found.
Rocky never puts it upon someone else to do what he has decided to do. He simply lives the life that works for him, which is what makes this story so inspiring. And I hope that I can some day have such a tremendously wonderful impact on one person that Rocky has had on so many.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for BLOOD BROTHER.
Guest post by Kelly Millspaugh
Addicted to coffee and discovering new music. I prefer cold weather and speak sarcasm fluently.
It’s 5pm and you walk out of your office completely beat. Where do you go? Happy Hour of course, but do you want just any drink or do you want something a little more special?
“You are 100 different things to 100 different people” one of the bartenders, featured in the documentary HEY BARTENDER asserts as he discusses his career. On any given night in any given city a bartender could be acting as a life coach, grief counselor, or mediator. These individuals are all of those things, but they are also artists and craftsmen.
In the past 10 years, the cocktail has had a resurgence in popularity and as a result cocktail lounges and speakeasy like bars have been popping up all over the country. Bartenders are educated, driven, and passionate about creating unique drinks and experiences for their customers. HEY BARTENDER gives you a brief glimpse into the world of craft cocktails and the men and women who create them. Having visited The Libertine here in Indy it is easy for me to see how this culture is growing. These bars are usually a little smaller and cozier than your loud sports bar with big screen TVs and neon lights. The thing that is inviting about these establishments is the intimate and romantic vibe of having a cocktail made just for you. Watching the complicated and intricate process that is used to create your drink is a lot more enticing than someone simply popping the top off a beer and sliding it across the bar.
It may be easy for some people to dismiss bartending as a culinary art but after watching this documentary I am definitely a believer. These individuals deserve to be taken seriously for what they are doing and the craft they have mastered. So sit back and relax with your cocktail and enjoy learning more about what goes on behind the bar.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for HEY BARTENDER.
Guest post by Melanie Woods
Communications/marketing professional, adjunct Communications professor, NFL junkie - GO COLTS, art collector, and proud Indy resident.
The average moviegoer isn’t likely familiar with the name Richard Williams – “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” fans aside – but they’ve undoubtedly experienced his impact on the filmmaking industry. Lauded as one of the greatest animators of all time, Williams’ intensity and passion for his craft is inspiring. But it also might be what prevented him from completing a film 30 years in the making that was supposed to be his masterpiece.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION follows the ups and downs of Williams’ journey to produce a full-length animated feature film that promised to be like nothing anyone had seen before. Williams refuses to speak about the film himself so the documentary relies on old footage of him discussing his work and interviews with various animators who drew for him over the years.
If you enjoy the process and the mastery behind animation and filmmaking, you will really enjoy this documentary. It’s incredible to see snippets of shorts from the 1950s that were groundbreaking back then but still magical and captivating to watch today. And you also get a sense of just how much work goes into every single second of every single frame. For example, one animator spent three months on a single scene that involved a deck of cards. Williams took one look at it, didn’t like the work and made the animator start over again.
Williams was not an easy person to work with but he brought out the best in his animators by pushing them to pay attention to detail and to attempt things no one else had done. To this day, he lives and breathes the craft and works hard to be unique and non-traditional. Early on, Williams was terrified of selling out and going too commercial, but he had to take on more mainstream work to fund the art he really wanted to make.
This all sets the stage for his ultimate passion project and the focus of the documentary: “The Thief and the Cobbler.” The film ran into financial issues early on and was pushed to the side but never forgotten by Williams. It also became somewhat of an urban legend among animators wondering if the film would ever be finished. But those who saw the initial scenes and artwork felt that it needed to be finished, that the work he was doing on this film would reinvent animation.
It wasn’t until the 90s that the film caught a break and seemed like it might actually be completed. Building off the success of “Who Killed Roger Rabbit,” Warner Brothers put some serious cash behind the film and promised to help promote it in theatres. It seemed like a lucky break but in the end it would be Warner Brothers who finally laid the project to rest. They pulled the plug on Williams and his crew but went on to complete the film, adding in a love story, musical numbers and other elements Williams despised about the typical Hollywood animated films of that time.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION is the untold story of the greatest animated film never made. And it’s one you won’t want to miss if you are at all interested in the creative process, the art of animation or the filmmaking industry in general.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for PERSISTENCE OF VISION.