Rockie’s Vulcan Staff Picks #8 with Guest Contributor Emily Sears
Emily Sears is my Fantastic Fest buddy who's done a lot of amazing work, including writing for Birth.Movies.Death. She is a massive film nut and some of my greatest Fantastic Fest memories are linked with her and her equally rad husband, Ryan Sears. We saw Bad Black (best film ever) and Toni Erdmann back-to-back together, securing our spot in movie Valhalla. Here she is with her amazing picks and here's hoping you come and rent them at Vulcan Video!
For those familiar with Adrian Lyne’s filmography, this directorial debut might come across as rather tame. Set in 1979, Foxes follows four teenage girls growing up too fast in Southern California. While they spend their time pretending to be adults by experimenting with sex and drugs, their loyalty to one another through every misstep is the highlight. Jodie Foster plays Jeanie, the reluctant leader tasked with the full-time job of keeping her friends safe and out of trouble. Cherie Currie, former lead singer of The Runaways, gives a magnetic performance as Annie, whose self-destructive actions make life especially difficult for her devoted friends. With a supporting cast that includes Randy Quaid, Lois Smith, Scott Baio, and Sally Kellerman, Foxes is not an unfamiliar story, but the special connection between these four girls does leave a memorable mark. Warning: Donna Summer’s “On the Radio” will be stuck in your head for days after watching.
For anyone who lived through the rise of grunge in the ‘90s, Cameron Crowe’s Singles will feel like coming home. If they don’t happen to see themselves in these characters fumbling through life and love, they’re sure to spot their likeness in the flannel-clad crowd of the local club. There among the smoke and guitar driven sounds of the band—likely made up of one or more of their closest friends—that everyone is sure will be the next big thing. And if not there, perhaps hints of their life will echo in the patrons at the coffee shop. Just passing through on their way to work, wondering if that cute guy or girl they met last week will ever call. For anyone who didn’t live through the ‘90s, this movie gives you the chance. Just make sure to turn up the volume, because the music is, and was, what it’s really all about.
Lucky McKee’s underrated horror May is a fascinating character study of a morbid, isolated woman desperate for companionship. May is the epitome of socially awkward. Try as she might to connect with people she has difficulty keeping friends due to her bizarre and unsettling nature. Initially intrigued by her strange ways, people generally begin distancing themselves from her once she’s comfortable enough to open up to them. Angela Bettis delivers a captivating and sympathetic performance as a woman driven to drastic measures in order to make and keep a true friend.
The Dreamers (2003)
Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers celebrates the art and love of cinema. Set in Paris during the student riots of '68, sheltered twins Isabelle (Eva Green in her debut role) and Theo (Louis Garrel) welcome American student Matthew (Michael Pitt) into their circle of obsessive love. The film-obsessed threesome spends their days sequestered in the lavish home of the twins while their parents are away. To pass the time, they reenact their favorite scenes, test each other’s knowledge, and argue incessantly about all things film. Fun leads to games and jealousy as Matthew's feelings for Isabelle threaten the unwavering bond between brother and sister. There’s a lot of beauty to speak of in The Dreamers, beginning with the backdrop of Paris, but the unprecedented love it exhibits for the art of cinema is what truly resonates. The characters’ unabashed obsession with film is never denigrated but celebrated as a powerful and important influence that helps shape their lives and empower them to fight for their beliefs.
Take This Waltz (2012)
Can reality ever live up to the fantasy? In Take This Waltz writer/director Sarah Polley confronts this question through Margot (Michelle Williams), a happily married woman daunted by her attraction to new neighbor, Daniel (Luke Kirby). Devoted to her husband (Seth Rogen), Margot attempts to deny her feelings and avoids Daniel for as long as she can. Proving more and more difficult, the distance only intensifies her longing for him forcing her to choose between the comfortable life she’s built with her husband and the prospect of something new and exciting with Daniel. Take This Waltz is a brutally honest and bittersweet look at the complexities of love and the evolution of long-term relationships.
Rewind This! (2013)
A wonderful documentary about the history and importance of VHS. This film nails how crucial the video boom truly was. As a video store clerk, this film hit me like an atom bomb. While I loved and felt the significance of VHS having lived through that era, this doc is very surgical in its delivery, educating me further on its legacy. Sprinkled with interviews of very well-known artists that range from actors, directors, and pornographers, this is an essential slice of film school not to be passed over.
All About Eve (1950)
A backstage look into the world of theater that is applicable to cinema as well. An overzealous actress (Anne Baxter) poses as a meek and mousy fan with a heart of gold, seeking the attention of her favorite theater star (Bette Davis). Nothing could be further from the truth however as she plots to usurp her when the time is right. Loaded with commentary about the brutality of acting and the backstabbing it takes to get ahead, the film makes you wonder how many of your favorites stepped on throats to get where they are. This is the true meaning of quintessential cinema.
Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton: This is Stones Throw Records (2013)
Stones Throw is an amazing label; one that treasures artists, allowing them to run amok with their creations. What started as a hip-hop label quickly morphed into something much more radically diverse than anyone could possibly imagine. Featuring testimonials from well established artists, this documentary stresses the label's legacy and history in the music world. This would pair nicely with Muscle Shoals, The Wrecking Crew or Standing in the Shadows of Motown in terms of stellar music docs.
Writer-director Riley Stearns made a perfect tiny film about cult insanity and gets amazing performances from his two leads, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. Leland plays Ansel and he has been hired by a desperate couple to save Claire (Winstead) and her corrupted mind from a cult. A pitch black comedy at its core, Faults has punch that allows its actors to shine and gives us a better third act than most mega blockbusters. It doesn't hurt that the film has an incredible cameo from A.J. Bowen as well. Also, seek out Split Image if this hits all the right notes for you.
Side by Side (2012)
Another doc?! Well, yes! Crucial stuff as it pertains to the very thing this website and this post is about. Cinema! Film and digital are the only way to make movies in this day and age, and Side by Side gives us a fair comparison of both. Narrated by Keanu Reeves and directed by Christopher Kenneally, this film is another rapid fire film school for those that need the facts and no filler. Complete with interviews that are jam-packed with info and debates over which format is better (both are great, in my opinion), Side by Side is unbiased in its approach and told as casually as any conversation you may have had in a coffee house with a great friend.