On this episode, Phil Newsome, producer of Albanian Gangster and Every Time I Die, talks about producing and distributing indie films.
A Film Review by EJ Argenio, No Rest for the Weekend
Aye Sir, through the thick fog and high tides, The Lighthouse shines with darkness as awards season sails in.
Traveling through a heavy storm, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) approach the coast of a lighthouse deep into the ocean as they embark on four weeks of employment maintaining the structure. Wake, a veteran of the sea, is working for the first time with Winslow, who most recently worked chopping timber in the forests near Canada. Winslow is a young man looking for his place in life and became intrigued by this opportunity because of the money he could earn. “The further you are into the ocean, the more money you make,” Winslow tells Wake. However, Winslow quickly realizes he might be in for more than he bargained for with his day to day duties including tasks from shoveling coal to emptying buckets of bodily waste. Wake, constantly barking orders at Winslow, makes his purpose on the remote island very clear. His job is to maintain the light from dark until morning. This is much to the chagrin of Winslow, who makes it known from the film’s start that he is eager to be up atop the lighthouse. It takes time for Winslow to adjust, and as their four weeks of service comes to an end, an ungodly storm barges through preventing their relief of duty. With the weather not calming, the two lighthouse keepers are stranded in solitude with no end in sight.
Willem Dafoe gives a masterful performance as the grizzled seaman who is all too familiar with the uncomfortable conditions surrounding him. The delivery of every word of dialogue hits its mark. Part ship captain, part pirate, there is an authenticity that has you feeling as though this was his real profession. However, it is Robert Pattinson who gives a career-defining performance as his portrayal of Winslow slowly turns from disgruntled employee into madman. Moving forward, Pattinson has made it difficult for audiences to remember him as the pale-skinned vampire Edward in Twilight. Ephraim Winslow is now his most iconic role.
Director Roger Eggers (The Witch) does a remarkable job bringing out the best in both actors in this chilling tale of isolation & madness. He channels the directorial stylings of Hitchcock and DePalma in this black and white story of solitude. The cinematography of Jarin Blaschke compliments Eggers’ direction through his use of light and shade. Through close-ups of Wake and Winslow during peak moments in the film, it’s difficult for audiences not to feel as though they are the ones stranded. One can tell that he fed off the performances of Dafoe and Pattinson and felt a responsibility to visualize the very darkness that grew within each character.
In addition, praise must be given to Max Eggers, who wrote the film with director Roger Eggers.. Despite having only two characters and one primary location, the storyline becomes more intriguing through the hour and forty-nine minute runtime. Never does a dull moment occur. Credit must also be given to their inspiration. The end credits note dialogue was taken from the works of Herman Melville and the journals of former lighthouse keepers.
The score by Mark Korven perfectly marries music with the natural sounds of wind and sea. With every beat, the tone of the film is further enforced. The score in addition to the powerful acting and directing cements The Lighthouse as an instant classic.
Had you asked me a month ago, I would have assumed that Joker would be the hands down favorite to rack up many of the awards this season. Now, I’m not so sure. It will be interesting to see how Dafoe and Pattinson will be marketed to the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They both give lead performances, but will the producers want them to go head to head? In my opinion, one thing is certain, should they put them in separate categories, whoever is considered the supporting actor, likely wins. Also expect nominations for directing, writing, cinematography, and best picture, which is exactly what this film is right now … as I see it. Other potential nominations include costume design, editing, and sound mixing.
The Lighthouse is a must see film. It is the type of cinema that will be shown in film schools for years to come. As the final scene fades to black, I could not help but say aloud, “wow”. The rest of the theater applauded in admiration recognizing the brilliance that is The Lighthouse.
On this episode actor/filmmaker Kate Forsatz talks about the making of her indie feature Thre3bound. We first met Kate at this year’s Soho International Film Festival.
Forty years ago in the summer of ’79, Alien, a revolutionary science-fiction/horror film made its way out into the world, bursting on the scene much like its titular character burst out of the chest of an unsuspecting John Hurt. Memory: The Origins of Alien explores the ideology and influences that gave birth to Alien as well as the film’s production and its meaning.
Documentaries about the origins of movies are nothing new. In fact, there are documentaries, video essays, reviews, books, etc. about Alien which have existed since its release. One need look no further than the various DVD and Blu Ray releases of Alien to find how it was made. This raises the central question to the making of this documentary: what is left to say about this film that hasn’t already been said? Memory explores the Greco-Roman myths and the Lovecraftian imagery that influenced the creators of Alien.
Alien is the brainchild of Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Geiger, and Ridley Scott; each one a visionary in his own right. This documentary explores their influences and how they were able to conceive what some consider a perfect horror film in space that spawned a franchise that has lasted until this day.
Another unique way Memory explores Alien is through its discussion about the themes of the film, themes that were perhaps unconsciously explored by its creators. Themes such as feminism, male rape, male pregnancy, and patriarchal guilt can all be seen in its imagery. It is a testament to the documentary that these themes aren’t usually referenced in other films about the Alien franchise.
Memory: The Origins of Alien comes from the mind of writer/director Alexandre O. Philippe, who uses stark lighting and dramatic angles to interview his subjects, mimicking the style of the film they’re discussing. It’s easy to see this was a labor of love for Philippe whose filmography is largely comprised of movies about movies including 2017’s 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene and 2014’s Doc of the Dead.
If you’re an a sci-fi fan, or a fan of movies in general, you’ll find something to love in Memory. It’s more than just the making of a movie. It’s a love letter to Alien and a gift to cinefiles.
On this episode host Jason Godbey talks about the NYWIFT Road to the Emmy’s Event, the Katra Film Series, the new documentary Don’t Be Nice. The week we ask the question: why aren’t you watching indie films?
Indie Film News is a supplemental show in addition to our regular weekly episodes to keep you updated on news and events going on in the indie film world today. These are audio exclusive episodes, so subscribe on your favorite podcast app for the latest Indie Film News episodes.
At the IFC Center in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York City, the new documentary Don’t Be Nice is currently playing in limited release. Don’t Be Nice is an unflinching look inside the Bowery Poetry Slam Team as they prepare for the National Poetry Slam competition.
The film takes place during the summer of 2016 beginning with a night at the Bowery Poetry Club and ending with the National Poetry Slam in Atlanta, GA. At the heart of this movie are five poets; Ashley August, Timothy DuWhite, Joel Francois, Sean MEGA Desvignes, and Noel Quińońes who are guided by their coaches, Jon Sands and Lauren Whitehead as they write and perform hard-hitting poems that will advance them to the next level of competition and hopefully win them national competition honors which will open opportunities for teaching, tours, and book deals for them.
We witness the poets struggle to improve with each rehearsal and with each revision. Their performances are powerful and moving and somehow unpretentious. Lauren Whitehead stands out as she continually pushes the young performers to dig deeper and make their poems personal and therefore more compelling. If you’re unfamiliar with slam poetry, Don’t Be Nice will open your mind and may leave you thinking “I didn’t know poetry could do all that.”
Director Max Powers and cinematographer Peter Eliot Buntaine take us inside the world of these artists and take us through their arduous and sometimes painful process. We see their breakdowns and breakthroughs as they experience deeply emotional moments. The poets talk about copeing with the death of loved ones, sexual and physical abuse, and the harsh realities of what it’s like to be a person of color in America today.
The writing sessions in the film can almost seem like therapy sessions which in the wrong hands would seem exploitative or like a cheap reality show, but somehow the filmmakers were able to capture these moments in a way that has us feeling as if we’re on this journey of discovery with the poets. We’re right their in the same room being moved by their stories and their work, not looking down at them or putting them in a box. It’s a fine line the film walks masterfully.
Following the screening there was a Q&A with producer Nikhil Melnechuk and editor David Lieberman. When I asked about the process of creating the film and how they were able to show these moments of emotion without devolving into manipulative exploitation, they explained that they conducted 10 test screenings with different audiences. After each screening, they made changes according to audience feedback. In some cases, this could prove to be a recipe for disaster due to the classic “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem and over-correcting, but it helped the film tremendously. They were able to continually improve cut by cut.
Another stand out moment is a performance of a poem by Ashley August staged in a Manhattan subway. Her poem is a satiric take on her own personal issues an anxieties. Her performance is impactful and at times hilarious. The scene could almost be considered a short film within the film as it illustrates how poetry can prove to be cinematic in the right hands.
Each performer is given a moment to shine as we see their work develop from the writers’ room to the stage. We see their courage, their audacity, and the love of their craft. This is a movie about making art for its own sake and the hope that art can make the world a better place. It’s a fantastic film and a must-see. Its title comes from the saying , “Don’t be nice. Be necessary,” and it is just that… necessary.
After a year on the festival circuit, Don’t Be Nice is now in limited release in New York City at the IFC Center until September 26th and opens in Los Angeles on September 27th. It will make its television premiere on October 11th 2019 on Fuse TV.
On this episode (linked above):
The Ozzie Areu/Endavo Media merger – The latest on the new indie feature Slapface directed by Jeremiah Kipp, The Ask for Jane VOD release starring Cait Cortelyou – IFP Week – Bushwick Film Festival and NYC Web Fest.
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