SideKickBack Radio

Tag Archive: film festival

Episode 40: Keep Your Eyes Open with Jessica Howell

My guest on this weeks episode is the lovely actress, writer, producer Jessica Howell. She’s been a part of such great projects as Eleanora: The Forgotten Princess, the phenomenal stage production of Re-Animator: The Musical and Showtime’s Masters of Sex. Her latest short film, Susie Sunshine, will be premiering at the LA International Women’s Film Festival on March 25th. We chat about running a successful Indiegogo campaign, the quality of life in Los Angeles vs. New York, and how we have both always been old people.

Grab your tickets to Susie Sunshine at LAWIFF here!

Episode 39: See You at the Maccabi Games with Jessie Kahnweiler

This week’s episode of SideKickBack Radio features Jessie Kahnweiler, creator, writer, director and star of The Skinny. Her well-crafted, dark-comedy web series premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it’ll take you places you might not expect.  Jessie and I chat about why listening is better than trying to change people, why being rejected as oneself is more important than being accepted as someone else, and man bun executives.

Check out The Skinny at Refinery29 here!

Episode 38: Band of Robbers with Adam Nee

In the triumphant return of SideKickBack Radio, I sit down with half of the writer/director/editor team behind the superb and fascinating film known as Band of Robbers. Adam Nee…oh and he also stars in it too…and I chat about the odd yet ballsy process of financing this independent film, the nuggets of wisdom he would tell his younger self, and the food groups of model.

Rounding out the cast of Band of Robbers  is Kyle Gallner, Melissa Benoist, Hannibal Buress, Matthew Gray Gubler, Stephen Lang and Eric Christian Olsen.  This modern retelling of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn should not be missed! Available on VOD now 🙂

Highway to Havasu Trailer

Today is a very special day…so special that I decided to cancel my trip to the Sundance Film Festival so as to better serve this gem of a film that myself and countless others (mainly Jeff Janke and Amber Goetz) have poured thousands and thousands of pounds of heart, soul and radass humor into.  Not only do we release our trailer today, but it has been announced that we were awarded Best Comedy at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and it will screen February 18th at 10:45pm at LA Live. I can’t wait for you all to experience the film when the time comes and if you can’t make the festival, don’t you worry, it’ll come out somehow in a theater near you or direct to your streaming devices. But for now, thank you for your support friends new and old, family, podcast listeners, total strangers, hearing me go on and on about the innumerable stories and experiences that this film has brought into my life…and this is only the beginning. Please enjoy:

Mind Blown: 99 Homes

For those who know me, I am not a fan of New Year’s Eve.  A night usually filled with grand plans later supplanted by disappointment (I knew I was not alone!), I decided to take it easy and watch a New Year’s Eve movie or two with one of my roommates.  After Bridge of Spies, a solid film starring one of my favorite actors, we still had a few hours to kill before midnight and I was running out of options in my collection of SAG screeners.  Despite its not so festive nature, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes was sitting there intriguing as hell and featuring one of my other favorite actors, Michael Shannon (especially after his little surprise turn in The Night Before, the Gatsby moment being one of the top comedy movies moment in recent memory). Grim looking vibe aside, we went for it agreeing that if we weren’t feeling it we would turn it off. But this film is just too damn provocative.

It follows blue-collar, single-father handyman Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) who loses his house to foreclosure and attempts to get it back by making a deal with the possibly sociopathic real estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon), an accomplice in the eviction that took Nash’s family home. Nash’s end of the deal? He only has to evict people from their own family homes.

Despite some moments of a-little-too-forced improvisation and “just because emotion” shouting, the film buzzes with a gut-wrenching authenticity, especially evident in the expected montage of Nash having his first run-ins with his prey.  Casting Directors Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick did an incredible job in finding hauntingly real-seeming actors and combined with Bahrani’s scintillating direction, their woes pack so much gravitas onto this film.  The feeling it gives reminds me of what beachgoers feel after Jaws.  Owning a home today seems absolutely terrifying, especially for this generation, and as the fallout of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis settles, stories like 99 Homes and The Big Short have emerged, making it clear that there are far more dangerous sharks than great whites.  Without giving too much away (but still, just in case, slight spoiler alert) the ending is rather vague and doesn’t give much of an explanation as to where the hell we should go from here. There is one thing though…

“Don’t get emotional about real estate.”

Carver repeats this as a sort of demi-mantra for Nash and his devilish nature is frequently slightly outweighed by Shannon’s inherent likability as a very smart actor; he fools you for a second or two into thinking these and some other great quotes he rattles off are sage words as to how to stay afloat in the fraudulent system that ruined the lives of millions (that system fascinatingly portrayed in the already mentioned The Big Short by the way…seriously check that one out too). As far as 99 Homes is concerned, many families became homeless by trying to hold onto unaffordable real estate because of emotional attachment. But of course these poor people were being completely and utterly dicked over.  And therein lies the conflict that holds you steady for the entirety of this movie, that those responsible for the crisis are kind of smart men and women who took advantage as a means to succeed and survive.  Sometimes they seem right, most of the time they are completely wrong but trying to survive financially in a society led by the morally f**ked up while maintaining a healthy/happy life is an increasingly immense balancing act, isn’t it?

Mind Blown: The Dirties

I’m not sure if this next installment is influenced by current events, perhaps its basic coincidence, but I guess that’s another way of saying it was simply meant to be. I recognize that when I watched The Dirties on Sunday night, the timing of seeing it was an important factor but perhaps that is the point.  Shot in a found-footage, documentary-like style (be prepared for some very shaky-cam) this festival darling follows two high school students making a home movie about taking down the bullies at their school, Quentin Tarantino style, guns a-blazin’.  As the film progresses, one of the young men takes the joke to uncomfortable heights.

I first heard about The Dirties during a Kevin Smith interview in which he also gave a shout-out to Blue is the Warmest Color. I mention this because while these two films are so different in so many ways, they have one very important thing in common that makes them fantastic: as Mr. Smith puts it, the feeling of watching a camera being dipped into real life. Two very different stories, two very different styles, one very overwhelming and sometimes physical response.

In The Dirties, writer/director/editor/producer Matt Johnson stars as Matt alongside his best friend Owen, played by Owen Williams; already reality has become a head-scratcher. The film opens with a purely accidental scene between Matt and two real life passerby kids asking about the movie that’s being filmed. There are scenes in which Matt sits down to edit the very movie we are watching.  There are the sudden moments of frighteningly real bullying, the kind that is psychological and paralyzing.  Going into watching the film, I knew there was a mixture of real people and actors partaking in the action and it is absolutely impossible to distinguish who or what is real or fake. Sometimes, catalyzing events happen that I felt like I missed because it wasn’t set up in a way that the camera could catch it perfectly, leaving me to wonder if it was staged or not.  There is a constant changing of mood and tone; one moment Matt is being his usual zany jokester self and the next he is reading Columbine by Dave Cullen; one of several incredibly brilliant and sobering ways Johnson reminds us of the anchor that holds this whole story in the real world.  The never-ending questioning and shifts lead me to feel perpetually unsettled by every person and everything they did, wondering if life is imitating art or vice versa.  Who is going to be the one that pushes this narrative over the edge?  I felt as though the story was going to betray me, that the harsh truths of bullies and school shooters would end up on my screen in a very unsettling way no matter how bad I wanted everyone to get along.  It was a unique feeling I don’t think a film has ever given me before.

The Dirties is a riveting, provocative and bold film made for very little by some very daring people and it brings to light just how bad we can be to each other at our most sensitive and volatile ages.  At a time when school shootings are the source of incredibly heart-breaking frustration, The Dirties offers a no-nonsense view on the matter that feels just too damn important.

 

Episode 31: The Power of Belief and the Desire to Belong with Justin Kelly

This week’s episode features Justin Kelly, the writer and director of I Am Michael (starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto). We chat about the years of work it takes to climb the film-world ladder, Michael Glatze’s reaction to a film about his life, and the oddities of airplane gasoline.

Justin’s upcoming projects include King Cobra (also starring James Franco, Christian Slater, and Molly Ringwald), Welcome the Stranger (starring Riley Keough and Abbey Lee) and JT Leroy (starring Kristen Stewart).

Stay up-to-date on all of Justin’s projects by following his IMDb page here!

Episode 9: The Sundance Episode

We’re back!!! Sam Tilson, Bianca Mihailov, Max Cutler and I had an amazing trip to the heart of independent cinema. Join us for a steak dinner with new friend Christina Leung as we recap our festival experience.

Get all the latest Sundance Institute news here!