As summer movie season grinds on, one dumbed-down big-budget summer bomb following the next, it’s tempting to give up on cinema altogether (at least until fall — and the “prestige pictures” — arrive). But there are options. Go see an indie! Watch something new and good! Or better yet, catch up on some indie movie history. In the spirit of our year-by-year suggestions for must-read books and must-own albums, we’ve assembled a rundown of the essential American independent films from the past 25 years — by no means a definitive list, but a starting… Read More
This time of year, we often find ourselves thinking about the origins of our favorite writers — how they found themselves on the writing path, what they read, how they learned. And we’ve been surprised to realize how many successful and even legendary writers dropped out of school and ended up teaching themselves. Here are ten who went on to achieve great success with independent… Read More
You wouldn’t think that the cold-blooded murder of a defenseless old woman would make for big laughs, but that’s just one of the surprises found in Bernie, Richard Linklater’s wickedly enjoyable Texas comedy, out today on DVD and Blu-ray. And it’s all true — or, as the opening title card notes, “What you’re fixin’ to see is a true story.”
As the old saw goes, truth is stranger than fiction, and in ruminating about the pleasures of Bernie, we discovered that several of our favorite comedies were, in fact, based on real events. After the jump, a few thoughts on that film, and nine others based on (varying degrees of) true stories. … Read More
Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic J. Edgar is out on DVD today, following a fall theatrical run notable mostly for its lack of awards consideration; the film, and particularly Leonardo DiCaprio’s leading role in it, had been the object of much presumptive Oscar buzz (hitting, as it does, multiple circles in the Oscar Venn diagram: slightly villainous, based on a real person, wide range of aging, secretly gay). But the film underwhelmed, for one very simple reason: we’re just getting tired of biopics.
The biographical film portrait has been a venerable institution since the early days of cinema; Georges Méliès made a Joan of Arc biopic clear back in 1900. And while there have been scores of great ones, the tropes of the form (the birth-to-death chronology, the trials and triumphs, the romantic struggles, etc.) are so firmly established that the only biographical films that really make an impression any more, it seems, are those that buck the trends and experiment, or at least futz with the form a bit. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten great biopics that made an impression, and float some theories as to why. … Read More
We adore Helen Mirren. We loved her both in her youth, when she co-starred in envelope-pushing fare like O Lucky Man! and Caligula, and more recently, in roles as no fewer than two Queen Elizabeths and the co-founder of Nevada’s first legal brothel. Her north-of-60 bikini body is a sight to behold, and she didn’t look bad in a New York magazine bathtub spread, either. But even with such stiff competition, by far our favorite photo of Mirren was taken last night at Comic-Con. Brace yourselves, geeks: She’s a Harvey Pekar fan! “As you know, he was a great artist and a great innovator,” she told Reuters. “A guy who turned me on to the fact that graphic art can be personal. I wanted to salute him today.” For that, and everything else she’s done for us over the years, we think Mirren deserves a salute of her own. … Read More
As fans of both his work and the wonderful movie based on it, American Splendor, we were deeply saddened to hear of Harvey Pekar’s death. The writer who chronicled his life and struggles in a series of cult-favorite comics-turned-graphic novels was found dead in his home by his wife at 1 a.m. today. He was 70 years old.
Many (fans and detractors alike) will remember Pekar as a curmudgeon who wasn’t afraid to complain about the many things he hated — and they’re not wrong. But in the spirit of commemoration (and, okay, contrarianism), we’d like to celebrate this underground hero by enjoying some of the things he did like. Our top 10 Pekar picks are after the jump. … Read More
Indie-music cult figure and recent art-world discovery Daniel Johnston is a complex outsider artist, haunted by lost loves and fears of Satan.
Often described as a genius, Johnston has a manic-depressive history that has landed him spots on MTV and college radio, in gallery exhibitions and the Whitney Biennial, yet most repeatedly in mental institutions. The artist was the subject of a 2006 documentary, and more recently, a Rizzoli monograph and an offbeat new iPhone app. … Read More
American Splendor creator Harvey Pekar just launched The Pekar Project on SMITH. The first ongoing webcomic series in his 30 year career, it will feature 20 completed stories and be illustrated by artists Tara Seibel, Joseph Remnant, Rick Parker, and Sean Pryor. (We told you about one of SMITH’s previous comics, Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge earlier this month; it is now being published as a print book.) Check out some images from The Pekar Project after the jump.… Read More