F.I.L.M of the Week (August 2, 2013)

2 08 2013

As soon as I tell you the plot of Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” my selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie), you’ll immediately jump to unfair conclusions about it. You’ll inevitably start to imagine what it must be like and decide it’s not your cup of tea. I know because I, too, judged it unfairly based on the story. But once you get past that, I promise you that it’s a fantastic and well-observed comedy that feels incredibly real.

“Humpday” is about two heterosexual male friends, one of which is married, considering making a gay porn video.

While I don’t want to say too much, don’t worry, this is NOT a pornographic movie. There’s no sex, not even artistically or obliquely done. There’s no nudity, either, because the film is not about the pornographic film industry (I’d recommend Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” if you want to see that, though). “Humpday” is a movie about relationships between people and the nature of intimacy.

Old friends Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) reunite after many years and find themselves locked into a dare to film an amateur scene for an adult film festival. Neither wants to be the one that backs down, so what ensues is a series of conversations between friends and lovers about what the basis of the ties that bind them to each other.

Shelton’s film takes an unconventional approach to get to these central questions of interpersonal connections, but the result is incredibly rewarding drama and insightful wisdom. “Humpday” is all brains and heart – no skin.

REVIEW: Higher Ground

4 10 2011

Anyone even willing to touch on the deep questions of religion that still loom large in life starts off a winner in my book.  The mere hint of discussing God on film sends people either hiding under a rock or complaining on the Internet, so it really takes someone with grace, eloquence, and poise to give their take in modern times.  Vera Farmiga, both acting on screen and directing behind the camera, lends a respectful voice to the conversation in “Higher Ground,” a movie about a woman truly wrestling with her faith.

As a first feature, it’s  impressive, yet there are some typical novice errors like uneven tone and inconsistent pacing that keep the film from being an impressive movie in its own right.  But Farmiga’s movie is still an effective in the sense that it asks – no, demands – its audience to ponder some incredibly deep questions.  She directs the film in such a way that it falls outside the normal pendulum of “religious” movies.  It definitely does not paint the best portrait of a Christian community, but it also doesn’t disparage them, either.  It doesn’t openly profess faith, but it doesn’t profess atheism.  Farmiga remains honest, neutral, and remarkably even-keeled so her movie can inspire conversation as opposed to complaints.

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