LITTLE ROCK Is That Rare Indie That Consistently Defies Expectations

Truly Free Indie Film lovers get a rare treat this weekend; that is IF they are in NYC. I got to screen MIke Ott's LITTLE ROCK for my HopeForFilm series at Goldcrest earlier this year, and am pleased to see that it opens today at Cinema Village. Mike will be there in person on Friday and Saturday. Don't let his modesty mislead you: this kind of thing is not easy to achieve -- as natural as he makes it look.

When we screened it at Goldcrest, I wrote the following:

I have something I would like you to consider: How do films defy expectations? They have to create such expectations first, right? And then still surprise you but also ideally make everything feel inevitable and part of the underlying concept. It is no easy task and so few films are able to do it these days. But we have one for you that does.

Mike Ott's LITTLE ROCK was all of that -- right up and through its end. I suspected things to come that didn't and was given consistent pleasures that I didn't even know were on the menu. Road trips seem to have become uncommon ground for indie films for some reason, but Ott's trip was all about taking me to somewhere unknown and doing it in a very quiet way. We are brought into the world, almost becoming one of the characters in the process, so personable is the filmmaking approach.

Winner of the Gotham Award for Best Film NOT Coming To A Theater Near You and the John Cassavettes Indie Spirit Award, the film has has had no shortage of acclaim. Ott's tale follows a brother and sister from Japan to Little Rock; we are never quite sure where they are heading or what they are looking for, but getting lost has always been part of the journey--and maybe all of the plan. Perhaps it's improv'd, perhaps scripted, it all seems real with a deep connection to place. Cast with locals, unfamiliar faces, and non-professionals, Ott's actors, like all other aspects of the film, feel entirely authentic, forever beckoning you into their circle.

It may not seem like a lot goes on in Little Rock, but Ott and his characters walked away with some part me, leaving me glad for the giving and happy for having been able to dwell there for each and every minute.

Please see it this weekend. These are rare films. We must vote for the culture we want with our dollars.

Go See Azazel Jacobs' "Terri" -- Opening Today

I have a film series in NYC. Courtesy of Nick Quested and Goldcrest, about once a month, I show a film I feel people need to support. I send emails to about 700 people to fill the 60 seat theater. It's free, although now I ask regulars to buy wine for the afterwards schmooze. The filmmakers have to be present and after the screening I do a Q&A with them. To keep it homey, I write a letter emphasizing why I want them to see it. We screened Azazel's film earlier this month, and this is that letter I sent. You should check it out this weekend. It opens today. Vote with your dollars for the kind of films you want.Hey Film Fans,

There are too many good movies not to spend your downtime watching them.  So... please see Azazel Jacobs' follow up to his sublime "Momma's Man", TERRI, starring John C. Reilly and introducing the incredible Jacob Wysocki.  Trust me yet again on this.

When I encounter a movie that has a good heart, it reminds me how incredibly rare that is. When filmmakers deliver such finely rendered characters that I want to find those characters and spend more time with them, I recognize what a difficult art form movie making is. When that very same filmmaker places those very same characters in a world that is truthful and complex, brave and confusing, revealing and moving, I know they are an artist. When that filmmaker has done it several times in a row, we need to celebrate them. It is too rare an achievement.

When it comes to American Independent Film, I may be more jaded than most, but when I hear a truly indie filmmaker has taken a step up, expanded his vision, and cast well known actors in their latest work, well... I get worried. When their latest is about a quirky character in high school, I grow even more concerned. With TERRI all those knee-jerk reactions of mine were thankfully completely unwarranted. Whew.

Azazel may place us initially in the familiar worlds of lovable outcasts and high school, but his characters are far from stand-ins for past renderings. His filmmaking takes us away from filmmaking conceits and reveals the complex layers of both young life and old, how deeply entwined and complementary they are. He delivers us characters we want to stay with as they help us reconcile our own lives. We are all fucked up in some way and we all make mistakes -- and that is a good thing. When TERRI ended I was smiling for all the awkward and difficult moments that have filled my life, laughing both with and at myself, wondering why that can't this be what "feel good" movies really are about: the acceptance of the difficulty of what is to be a human being on this earth. With TERRI, it definitely is, and thankfully so.