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Indies Aplenty during H’wood’s Weekend Off

Hope Madden Hope Madden Indies Aplenty during H’wood’s Weekend OffPhoto via IMDb.
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Hollywood is taking a breather this weekend. No major studio releases. Not one. Some dreck, surely, but nothing big market. There are, however, some amazing indies you can find in theaters around town this weekend, and you should definitely take advantage. Here are some of the best choices.

Whose Streets?

Screening this weekend only at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Moving like a living, breathing monument to revolution, Whose Streets? captures a flashpoint in history with gripping vibrancy, as it bursts with an outrage both righteous and palpable.

Activists Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis share directing duties on their film debut, bringing precise, insightful storytelling instincts to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Together, they provide a new and sharp focus to the events surrounding the 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.

But what’s even more striking in this debut is how little these new directors care if they’re following anyone’s Filmmaking 101 checklist. This is an extremely raw, incendiary story with a fitting perspective to match.

As deeply as it cuts on a blunt, visceral level, Whose Streets? also benefits from a powerfully subtle context. It takes the pulse of communities that have railed against unequal policing for decades, only to find even more frustration when added video evidence failed to result in social justice.

To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., riots were “the language of the unheard.” Whose Streets? lays bare the rise of a movement powered by the unheard going quietly no longer.

Grade: A

Good Time

Regardless of the film’s title, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) does not appear to be having a Good Time.

Connie is trying to keep the system away from his mentally impaired brother Nick (Benny Safdie, who also co-writes and co-directs). He uses what means he has, none of which are legal.

Safdie, alongside his real brother and filmmaking partner Josh, once again explores an urban underbelly. The two have proven with films like their 2014 festival favorite Heaven Knows What that they can tell a deeply human story set on the fringe of society.

Pattinson delivers his strongest performance yet. Here he balances a seedy survival instinct with heart-wrenching loyalty and tenderness.

Benny Safdie impresses in front of the camera as well as behind. His understated performance shows no sign of artificiality, and his skill as a filmmaker has never shined more brightly.

His gift for pacing that matches the hustle – the constant shifting, shuffling and scheming needed for survival – keeps Good Time both exhilarating and exhausting.

The film showcases the kind of desperation that fueled many a New York indie of the Seventies, Midnight Cowboy among them. The urgency of a quick con that could lead to freedom but will undoubtedly end in tragedy seems the only kind of choice Connie ever makes.

It’s a grim film full of bruised people, but it never loses hope entirely.

Grade: A-

In This Corner of the World

The animated film In This Corner of the World contrasts one of the single most destructive acts of war—the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima—alongside a decade of daily life for the inhabitants of Hiroshima and the neighboring port city of Kure.

Suzu (Rena Nounen) is a free-spirited young girl with a talent for art that gets reflected in the film’s beautifully drawn seascapes and pre-war countryside. Suzu’s recollections, emotions and eventual tragedies are inextricably tied to the fantastical watercolors that make up the animated film’s palette.

The effect is beautiful—and unsettling. Writer-director Sunao Katabuchi centers a war movie around non-combatants. Loved ones die and faceless air raids bombard Kure. But Katabuchi grounds Japan’s participation in World War II around Suzu’s family and other townspeople, blending uneventful tedium, Suzu’s vibrant drawings and matter-of-fact catastrophe to convey a routinization of horror that’s far more emotionally devastating than most war movies.

This is war under the influence of Ozu—a quiet but singularly focused attention to the ordinary in extraordinary times.

Grade: B+

Also opening in Columbus:
68 Kill (NR)
Birth of the Dragon (PG-13)
Bushwick (R)
City of Ghosts (R)
Ingrid Goes West (R)
Leap (PG)
Lemon (R)
The Only Living Boy in New York (R)
The Untamed (R)

Reviews with help from George Wolf and Matt Weiner.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF, and listen to her podcasts FRIGHT CLUB and THE SCREENING ROOM.

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