Indie Corner

INDIE CORNER: JULY 2008

By • Jul 15th, 2008 •

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I’ve been catching more Multiplex fare lately.   Very often, before the movie I want to see starts, I’ll poke my head in and catch niblets of neighboring movies.   I’m sorry, but poking my head into SEX AND THE CITY, which ogles the rich NYC lifestyles, and mocking anything working class, made me a) consider going commie, or b) obtain the warm feeling one gets poking their head into a wake. Then I peeked into a very expensive movie where Brad Pitt’s wife plays some loud dame with the telephone directory tattooed on her arm.    Then I poked my head into ZOHAN, which had some snarky-but-amusing college-boy humor.  The morale of this rant:  Hollywood is getting far too cold and charmless.  Thank heavens for the indies, even when the indies have problems! 

Las Vegas: Home of the Liberace Museum, Drive-Thru Wedding Chapels, and the Burlesque Queen Hall of Fame!   Ah, Vegas!   So how come none of these wonderfully eccentric places or anything like them wind up in a Vegas made movie called VEGASLAND?!  This indie thriller, while set in Vegas, chooses to shoot mostly in cramped cars, kitchens, back rooms, driveways, and messy hallways.  It could have been East Northport, Long Island.    It’s okay to go out there with no crew and film your actors at some cool location you can’t get a permit for.  VEGASLAND follows one wild night with Eddie G, a low-level Vegas gangster, as he becomes unwittingly linked to big time missing loot.  Eddie is beaten up and kidnapped by a homicidal hit-man/ex-cop named Decker.   Like COLLATERAL, Decker leads Eddie on a bloody corpse-riddled path to the money.  Most of VEGASLAND’s acting is weak, the COLLATERAL and PULP FICTION styled references (somebody is always making some pop-culture comment) drag the film down.  What saves it is the presence of Greg Opal as Decker.   Opel’s handsome but craggy face (picture a beach-boy version of Frank Vincent) relates a history of kindness turned to villainy due to years of dealing with hoodlums.  One moment you hate him so much you want him slowly micro-waved, the next moment you feel kind of sorry for the poor soul. 

From Peekskill, New York comes DEATH ON DEMAND.   In it, a struggling net entrepreneur decides to have cameras web-cast a séance held at a deserted haunted house where, decades ago, a man butchered his family, then himself.   Afterwards, the kids performing the séance go to various rooms rigged with cameras to have many variations of sex.    The ghost of the homicidal dad comes back, and…….. snooze!   You’re always a few steps ahead of film here.  You know exactly what is going to happen.  And, man, does this recently lensed teen slasher film makes you feel like you’re in the 1980’s.  The frat-house antics, constant nudity and characterless victims lopped off one-by-one bring me back to the Reagan-era where movies like this were on late night cable, double billed with a Sybil Danning offering.

Probably the best of the batch was Eric Lesier’s IMAGINATION.   We were happy to see an independent like this get wide screenings at New York’s Anthology Film Achieves in April and before that in Portland, Or and Olympia Washington.    Using mostly computer animation, clay-mation, time-lapse photography, and other surreal visual effects, the Lesier brothers (Eric directing, with Jeffrey being the co-writer) unfold a really twisted morality fable.  Clearly the Lesiers were influenced by the wild Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer.

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