One of the first films I saw at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival was Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, the debut feature from comedians and Adult Swim mainstays Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The movie impressively adapts the duo's absurd, frenetic style — a recognizable extension of their TV efforts Tom Goes to the Mayor and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. Simply put, Billion Dollar Movie's fury of jokes kill.
Days later, I saw Tim Heidecker's second Sundance appearance: The Comedy. The premise ("An aging hipster in Brooklyn, he spends his days in aimless recreation with like-minded friends in games of comic irreverence and mock sincerity") made the film sound like a darker twist on the same formula. I could not have been more wrong.
The first trailer for director Rick Alverson's meditative, frightening examination of youth culture has debuted, and it's immediately apparent that Heidecker is embarking into new territory. His comedic tactics are there, but gone is the playful exterior that turns oddities into jokes. Heidecker's character Swanson is relentless in his commitment to making light of every situation. Back at Sundance, I compared the unhinged mentality to Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. I stand by the comparison. The trailer only hints at Heidecker's subversive nature and Alverson's unflinching approach to showcasing it.
The Comedy, which costars Wareheim, Kate Lyn Sheil, and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, is one of the year's best. Whether you're a Tim & Eric fan or not, make sure to track it down when it hits VOD on October 24 and in theaters November 9. Watch the trailer in HD at Apple.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Tribeca Films]
Sundance 2012: Controversial 'The Comedy' Is Comedian Tim Heidecker's 'Taxi Driver'
Watch the Teaser for 'Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Murphy admits he'll be using Howard as a mentor as he shoots a planned short film for the Apollo 13 director's Canon photography contest.
The thrilled singer and DJ tells RollingStone.com, "Now I'll be able to call Ron Howard, which is super weird. This is the beauty of having been in a band that did well enough, I guess. You have access to something as crazy as this."
Jamie Foxx and Eva Longoria will also be jumping behind the camera to make their directorial debuts as part of the Howard-inspired short film festival, sponsored by Canon U.S.A.
The short films will be inspired by a photograph selected from a collection taken by Canon camera users in the past year.
Howard launched the Canon venture last year (11) by inviting photographers of all levels to submit their most imaginative photographs. He selected eight from almost 100,000 and teamed up with his actress daughter Bryce Dallas Howard to create the award-winning short film When You Find Me.
Earlier today, Adam Yauch, member of the highly influential Beastie Boys, passed from a lengthy fight with cancer. The Beastie Boys group was undefinable, mixing elements of every kind of genre under the sun into their innovative albums. Amazingly, music wasn't Yauch's only contribution to the spectrum of pop culture. With a passion for cinema that pushed the same boundaries as his own creations, Yauch formed Oscilloscope Laboratories — now one of the most important distributors in the film landscape.
Yauch built a home for movies that no studio would dare touch, and even boutique distributors would stray away from. They weren't overly marketable, they were just great films. That became the driving force behind Oscilloscope: when they put a movie out, you know you had to watch it. It wasn't a stamp of approval, perfectly nurtured Oscar-bait. Love'em or hate'em, the movies Yauch harbored at Oscilloscope were courageous, dangerous and bold.
The first film out of the Oscilloscope's gate was one of Yauch's own: Gunnin' For That #1 Spot, a compelling tale of high school basketball players. More documentaries followed, including the heartbreaking Dear Zachary and A Film Unfinished, a found footage Holocaust doc that the MPAA famously slapped with an R rating due to disturbing imagery. While the rating would eventually stick after resubmission, Yauch was vocal in his distaste for the move. "This is too important of a historical document to ban from classrooms. While there’s no doubt that Holocaust atrocities are displayed, if teachers feel their students are ready to understand what happened, it’s essential that young people are giving the opportunity to see this film. Why deny them the chance to learn about this critical part of our human history? I understand that the MPAA wants to protect children’s eyes from things that are too overwhelming, but they’ve really gone too far this time. It’s bullshit."
Oscilloscope also nurtured independent narrative films, helping Kelly Reichardt become one of the biggest female names working today (both Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff were distributed by Yauch). And the studio wasn't just home to US filmmakers. Over the years since its creation in 2002, Oscilloscope has released films from France, Ireland, Israel, Argentina, Denmark, Chile, Sweden and Finland, everything from dramas to comedies to horror. Nothing was off limits as long as it met Oscilloscope's high bar of quality.
In recent years, Oscilloscope has expanded its presence as a major player, scooping up buzzy films from the globe's biggest festivals. Yauch's company found an Oscar nomination with Banksy's divisive documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. They took a small, twisted, DIY drama like 2011's Bellflower and carried it from the depths of Sundance to cult phenomenon with its own snazzy Blu-ray. They found a home in theaters for Lynne Ramsay's elegantly terrifying We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won Ramsay a BAFTA for Best Director and a Golden Globe nom for Tilda Swinton. And Oscilloscope has already picked up a handful of titles from this year's fests, including Sundance 2012 hits like the LCD Soundsystem doc Shut Up and Play the Hits, life crisis dramedy Hello I Must Be Going, Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights and the eco-awareness doc Chasing Ice.
Even with Yauch's passing, his legacy and impact in the film world will continue on. It's clear, Oscilloscope is too important not to.
Find Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow @Hollywood_com!
Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch Dies at 47
Every year, along with the light-hearted comedies, harrowing character dramas and revelatory documentaries, Sundance drops a few genre-bending nuclear bombs on its unknowing audiences. They're bold, occasionally crass, usually provocative and generally stand out as the controversial films of the festival. Is there anything wrong with the movie? Rarely. When expectations aren't met, the outcry overwhelms the final product, slapping it with a label, for better or worse (for a great explanation on why that might be, check out Badass Digest's "Fighting And Fainting At Sundance").
The Comedy is one of those "controversial" entries, premiering at this year's fest with walk outs and pointed reactions aplenty—but that's not a negative. Directed by Rick Alverson (New Jerusalem) and starring Tim Heidecker of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and his other Sundance entry Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, The Comedy the movie is an intense character portrait of Swanson (Heidecker), a sociopathic schlub who can't see past the joke in every situation life serves him. The setup paves the way for a work of art that's both simultaneously hilarious and disturbing, Heidecker using the same skills he's honed in his TV and live comedy work, but to a terrifying degree. Swanson is wired like Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, swapping violence for wisecracks. He's a guy whose intentions aren't malicious, but also can't see why what he's doing is morally incorrect and destructive.
Alverson shoots the movie simply and effectively, establishing a familiar aesthetic and tone that is quickly turned upside down. Swanson spends his days drifting through life, getting drunk with his buddies, sleeping on his boat, walking aimlessly around the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and injecting himself into the lives of others for his own amusement. With a loaded (and dying) father and no one to set him on a rightful path (try as his sister-in-law might), Swanson is free to galavant and joke as he pleases: he pretends to be a gardener for a rich couple; he slings racist comments at a bar in Harlem; he pressures a cabbie to let him drive his taxi. There's nothing Swanson won't riff on, a shenanigan he won't weasel his way into, and Alverson allows each one of these scenarios play out to uncomfortable lengths.
Heidecker delivers a brave performance, enhanced by his established sense of humor and thanks to his shocking commitment. In other words, he's a perfect fit for Alverson's demented story. The first scene—in which Swanson asks his dad's hospice caseworker if he's ever dealt anal injury—would lead you to believe that The Comedy might just be the mumblecore translation of a Tim and Eric sketch, but there's consequence to Swanson's comedy, every laugh (of which there are many) layered with a twinge of tragedy. But the judgment of others doesn't phase Swanson or his slacker buddies (including Heidecker cohort Eric Wareheim and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, whose presences toy with assumptions). Even in his more pensive moments, Heidecker shows us that his character perceives the world in an entirely different way than everyone else does.
The Comedy is an ambitious, purposefully off-putting film, a dissection of where we find comedy and how we react to it, and a lampoon of the indie style. Walking in to the movie expecting a big screen version of Adult Swim programming may have you walking out by the 15 minute mark. Walking into The Comedy with an open-mind and curiosity of human ugliness may have you thinking about the movie for days afterward.
During the festival, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green's company Rough House Pictures came on board to "present" The Comedy, which means we'll hopefully see this one with a distributor in the near future.
I've been told that, before weighing in on the new documentary concert film Shut Up and Play the Hits, I should acknowledge that my relationship with LCD Soundsystem is not one of fandom, but casual familiarity. My limited knowledge consis of an awareness of their existence, recognition of a few of their popular tunes and a recollection of the atomic bomb dropped by the electronic punk band on its devout back in February 2011. Seemingly out of nowhere, LCD Soundsystem lead man James Murphy announced that the group's run would be coming to a close in April, with one last show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While the definitive ending felt spontaneous, the actual event was anything but, with a final playlist of epic proportions, a show of elaborate of theatrics, cameos drawing from LCD's history and a camera crew documenting the entire process, before and after the concert. I may not be an LCD Soundsystem fan, but thanks to Shut Up and Play the Hits, I can say with confidence that Murphy's critically acclaimed music group went out with a grandiose (and fitting) bang.
Instead of sticking to a string of musical numbers, Play the Hits toys with non-linear storytelling, cross-cutting LCD Soundsystem's performance footage with a pre-show interview between Murphy and Chuck Klosterman and moments from the morning after. Klosterman's Q&A is layered over the film to create introspective narration, but the questions never pierce Murphy's reserved exterior. The post-show footage is equally meandering and uninteresting, with long stretches of Murphy shaving, walking his dog and meeting his former band members for a nice sit down meal. In the wake of LCD Soundsystem, Murphy is a retired man and the movie captures exactly what he'll spend his time doing—but it's not that interesting. Shut up and play the hits, indeed.
As one might guess, it's the explosive last hurrah of Murphy and his band that sparks, each song capturing every ounce of passion, ingenuity and rhythm left in LCD Soundsystem. With a full band, a male choir, special guests like Reggie Watts and Arcade Fire, a screaming, headbanging crowd and a helping of LCD Soundsystem's finest, the concert footage is electric and concert, occasionally repetitive due to limited camera positions, but ignited by Murphy's goal to put on one hell of a show.
A man retiring at the peak of his career is a fascinating topic for a documentary, but Shut Up and Play the Hits isn't that movie. The film is about a singular experience, the gravity of having an actual end point. When the doc strays off path to dig into Murphy's complicated choice, it looses steam. But at least in the movie, unlike LCD Soundsystem's actual career, you know there's always another song coming.
The One Tree Hill star has been campaigning to raise funds for the victims of the BP mess since a rig ruptured in April (10).
She has been travelling back and forth to Louisiana since the summer (10) to keep tabs on the clean-up progress, but she fears the problems in the Gulf are fast being forgotten about because they are no longer in the headlines.
She says, "It's not good. People want to say that things are better and that things have cleared up, but it's not true. We've stayed in contact with local officials, with local fisherman, a whole bunch of people down there. Things are not getting better..."
So Bush has taken it upon herself to generate funds for the cause, releasing compilation album Gasoline Rainbows with her boyfriend and TV co-star Austin Nichols.
And she's already seeing the cash roll in for charity from online sales of the disc, which includes songs by Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem and Phoenix.
She adds, "We made this album to raise money and it's doing well."
The Oscar-nominated actress appears in the band's promo for new single Pow Pow and although she admits she is a "pretty lame dancer" she had a lot of "fun" making her music video debut.
She tells MTV.com, "I didn't have their new album, but this song is really cool, too... I can hear it every time we do a take, in my head. I'm kind of grooving. I can't help but groove to this song.
"It sort of came out of nowhere. (Director) David (Ayer) came up with this idea and asked me to do it. I've never done anything like this at all, so I was really excited about it. It's been really fun."
And Kendrick admits she turned to classic Hollywood for inspiration for her star turn, adding, "He (Ayer) told me to watch Sunset Boulevard. He used that as a reference as (to) what's going on underneath this girl."