by Greg Akers
Check back in this space Saturday and Sunday for Flyer recommendations for those days' events.
The Onion Innovation Conversation (Mike McAvoy, 60 min.), 4:15 p.m., Indie Talks at Playhouse on the Square, free.
Mike McAvoy, the president of the family of multimedia platforms that include The Onion, arguably the funniest thing on the internet daily, and The Onion A.V. Club, arguably the best film/music/TV/other entertainment site on the internet, discusses content marketing. — Greg Akers
August: Osage County (John Wells 130 min.), 6:15 p.m., Playhouse on the Square
I'll risk the hyperbole. In its original dramatic form, Tracy Letts' August: Osage County stands up alongside the works of playwrights like Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, and Arthur Miller. It is one of the greatest American family tragedies ever written, with a little something guaranteed to offend everybody: marital infidelity, incest, child molestation, Eric Clapton records, fibs, lies, falsehoods, etc. In spite of the unsavory ingredients, this dish comes together like apple pie — crusty, sweet at the center, and full of spice.
Set in Oklahoma during a blazing hot summer just before and after the drowning suicide of the Weston family patriarch, Letts' drama plays out like a middle-class King Lear but with a stronger focus on the female characters and the legacies of dysfunctional relationships. The story gets darker and darker at every turn, but Letts' breezy dialogue and his ability to find screwball humor and unforced slapstick in crisis and ensuing chaos is what makes him such an exciting voice for the theater and film.
The much-buzzed film adaptation was helmed by producer/director John Wells, with Letts adapting his own script. It features an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, and the aforementioned Shepard. — Chris Davis
Forget about all that Gimme Shelter-era death-of-the-60s-at-Altamont-man stuff for a while and take a look at this long-unseen documentary, which shows the youthful, well-dressed Stones of December’s Children and Out of Our Heads sending young men and women into mindless rampages simply by standing on stage and playing a few originals and covering a bunch of classic rhythm and blues numbers. The high-quality concert footage is historically important, and Mick Jagger’s meditations on a celebrity culture he would eventually rule for decades are smart and revealing. The late-night jam sessions are also a plus; these guys really knew their stuff. They had no idea what was down the road apiece. — Addison Engelking
The scope and scale of the film is impressive, and the numerous points of view it includes enrich one’s understanding of the major moral, social, and economic issues involved. Some of its vignettes are bleakly spooky — the sight of Filipino men trying to sell their kidneys on the black market is, among other things, a distressing real-world riff on Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go.
Several very good fiction films could spring from this thoughtful, compact work. Here’s hoping that writer-director and body-horror maestro David Cronenberg (who, incredibly, narrates Tales From The Organ Trade) found some inspiration here for a new project. — Addison Engelking
As Bruce and his three daughters prepare for their loved one's funeral, they are simultaneously alienated by their internal grief and united by their shared memories of their beloved wife and mother.
This feature from filmmakers Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck is a quiet exploration of familial loss that displays the heartache of mourning while it’s business as usual in the world around you.
The movie is produced by Paper Moon Films, a Memphis-based company run by Ryan Watt and Nick Case, with previous credits including Pilgrim Son, Open Five, and The Romance of Loneliness. Forty Years from Yesterday was made in King City, California, the hometown of Machoian. — Hannah Anderson
The role of Scott is expertly played by Sam Eidson, who, with his protruding brow, is both menacing and pathetic in the role. Zero Charisma is funny, while forcing the viewer into a bit of introspection in regard to real nerds versus hipsters who adopt nerdism in the name of cool.
It should be the noted that Zero Charisma has a slight Memphis connection. The film is distributed by Nerdist Industries, led by Memphis-born Chris Hardwick. — Susan Ellis
She pushes away everyone trying to help her, including a coworker at a supermarket in Brooklyn and her recovering drug addict and alcoholic mother, May (Dana Eskelson). Her only-slightly-unraveled sister Jordan (Molly Plunk) is reluctantly reeled into her problems at the insistence of her girlfriend, contributing to the chaotic web of poor decisions that quickly deteriorates the situation.
See You Next Tuesday, and Mona in particular, is an impressive train wreck you can’t look away from. The deep-seeded psychological pain conveyed by this (well-cast) emotionally-torn family is palpable, disconcerting enough to make you seriously wonder what Mona’s mental diagnosis could be. — Alexandra Pusateri
I’ve been delighted by Ricky Jay’s suggestive, ursine presence in movies and TV shows like Boogie Nights, The Prestige, Redbelt and HBO’s Deadwood for as long as I can remember, but he’s only been in the movies since 1987; he’s been hanging around magicians and shuffling cards for up to seven hours a day since he was a little kid.
Jay’s deep, unwavering love for his craft and his equally strong affection for his legendary teachers Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller are readily apparent throughout. In addition, his combination of humility and the kind of theatrical modesty that allows him to blow your mind by piercing the skin of a watermelon with the ace of hearts will send you scurrying to YouTube for more. I recommend the one subtitled “Amazing Card Trick/Manipulation.”
This thoughtful, informative tribute to a singular entertainer is one of my favorite films of the year. — Addison Engelking
Superluminal Go! (Wesley Byram, 5 min.)
A delightfully low-budget sci-fi video, mixing old school models with computer effects, of a song by Monkeycrime (which, if it wasn't a great band name already, would be a great band name). — Greg Akers
John's Farm (Melissa Anderson Sweazy, 11 min.)
Maybe my favorite of all hometowner films — features or shorts — this year. John's Farm is a gorgeous piece, with Sweazy and DP Ryan Earl Parker concocting something that looks spectacular and with a script that's worthy of it.
Billie Worley stars (and is terrific) as a father dropping his son off at a mysterious play-date in the woods. On the way, he's warned by an upset woman (Savannah Bearden), "You need to protect your son." While the dad watches his son (Leo Spunt) cross a bridge to go off and do god-knows-what activity, he is warned by the proprietors (John Locke and Caleb Sweazy) that he cannot follow across the bridge, or else there will be consequences. So the dad is forced to wait with other parents, wondering what is happening to his kid while out of sight. It's maddening.
John's Farm gets right at the heart of what it feels like to be apprehensive about your child's well-being. It absolutely nails the parental sense of protection, overprotection, and being left behind. All in 11 minutes. The ending is brilliant. — Greg Akers
Inner Child (Christopher Raines, 15 min.)
This comedy filmed at the Memphis restaurant Circa stars Matt Bowling and Meaghin Burke as a pair on a blind date. The high-concept film playfully jumps from the grown ups having a terrible date to kid versions of themselves, their inner children, who comment on the action. It's a celver way to get at the emotional innerspace and monologue of characters, something that film struggles with without resorting to narration. Child actors Connor Hutto and Haley Parker co-star.) — Greg Akers
Part of Your Heart (Matteo Servente, 9 min.)
Drew Smith stars as a grieving son following the death of his mother. He goes to her house to start to go through her possessions and figure out what to do with it all. He expects to find the house empty, but there is in fact a squatter there, a strange man named Valentino (well played by Rev Neil Down, of the music group Deering and Down). Valentino didn't know the mom — "Was this her house?" he asks the son — but feels completely at home, even using the good dishes. Part of Your Heart is a mild, tender film more about the confusion of losing a loved one than about confrontation. — Greg Akers
Toast (Bryan Artiles, 13 min.)
An unemployed sad sack in a bathrobe named Don (the sad sack, not the bathrobe) eats toast and tries to get a call through to check on his unemployment benefits, because he doesn't have anything else to do. His wife, Dawn, brings home the bacon and is generally annoyed by her husband. Delila is a religious solicitor who wants to save some souls but gets sidetracked when she sees the Blessed Virgin in Don's toast.
The film is a hoot and thematically gets in some great observations about long-married couples. With Pat Prentiss as Don, Sissy Denkova as Dawn, and Lisa Sanchez-Sullivan as Delila — all of them very good. — Greg Akers
The Missing Trail (Clint Till, 4 min.)
Made during a 48-hour filmmaking competition in Birmingham, Clint Till's film is about a hunter (Chris Patrick) who is injured while trying to make a kill and becomes delirious. There's a little gore, and there's a great POV shot of a handful of water, worthy of Breaking Bad. — Greg Akers
This film, directed, co-written, and starring Christian Walker, is one that many will find highly objectionable. Or, at the very least, highly memorable. The film opens when Colin (Walker) is dumped by Jennifer (Victoria Skye Cleveland). To try to have a good time, Jennifer goes to a frat party. There's keg stands and dancing, which is fun, but then she's given ecstasy and gang raped by the frat brothers, which is not.
When Colin hears what happened to his ex, he trains and exercises, gets liquored up for courage, and goes on a slasher-flick spree to punish the rapists. We've seen rape revenge films before, but how many ex-boyfriend revenge/hero plots?
If you're one who covers their eyes when there's something gory on-screen, here are the scenes you will need to do so: the ones with a drill, a clever twist on the curb-stomp, a blowtorch and hot wire, and a self-emasculation. Oh, and penises done up like a string of fish. Not for the faint of heart. — Greg Akers
Poor Man's Process (Morgan Jon Fox, 27 min.)
The Short Film program ends with this one, a making-of/retrospective doc about Craig Brewer's indie debut, The Poor & Hungry. Brewer, stars Eric Tate, Lindsey Roberts, and Lake Latimer, master technician Seth Hagee, and the P&H Cafe itself are at the fore in the documentary. It's a great look at a film many Memphians have not seen because it's been out of circulation for years.
Among the highlights are scenes from an aborted color version of the film, the origin of the film's premise, reminiscences by Brewer on his father's role in the film's existence, and the scene that made Roberts cry.
The Poor & Hungry was shot through every season twice, filmed around everyone's schedule. Poor Man's Process also includes interviews with Wanda Wilson, John Singleton, Stephanie Allain, the Commercial Appeal's John Beifuss, and the Memphis Flyer's Chris Davis. Brewer will be in attendance at Indie Memphis to sell copies of the new DVD/Blu-Ray release of The Poor & Hungry. — Greg Akers
Songs in the Key of Death (Edward Valibus Phillips, 12 min.), 11:45 p.m., Studio on the Square
Screening prior to the midnight showing of Tommy Wiseau's infamous bad movie The Room, Songs in the Key of Death is an excellent mockumentary written by G.B. Shannon and Edward Valibus Phillips and directed by Phillips. It takes place after a zombie apocalypse (The Dark Resurrection of the Undead) has occurred. The one bright spot about zombies: they have perfect pitch!
Festival all-star Billie Worley stars as FJ Ackerman, an entrepreneur who tunes pianos with zombie vocalizations and rents the monsters out for parties. The film is organized as a fake CBS New Sunday Morning-type piece, with the Flyer's Chris Davis as a Charles Kuralt stand-in. The whole thing is exceptionally fun. — Greg Akers
For the full program, go to Indie Memphis' Friday schedule here.