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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

DVD: Smashed, This Must Be The Place, Hipsters

There’s this thing called state-dependent recall: you fall in love drunk in a bar, you better be prepared to stay drunk to stay in love. That tavern truism sings through James Ponsoldt’s Smashed, a light-on-its-feet drama of a star-crossed Los Angeles couple next door, happily married yet boozily adrift, until one day she realizes she’s crossed a line. Tactile and breezy and specific and funny nonjudgmental, it’s a small-budget film with the largest of hearts. Part of that is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate, a exuberant partier and schoolteacher of small children, twentysomething, dressed in an Angelino uniform of long dresses and bare legs and flip-flops in eternal, infernal California climatic temperance. (In a moment of clarity, she describes smashed Kate: “I would piss my pants and would still be cute.”)

“We say a lot of times that it’s a love story and a coming-of-age story, it’s a portrait of a marriage seen through the eyes and experience through the eyes of the wife,” Ponsoldt told me in October at the time of the film’s theatrical release. “They’re closer to 30 than they are to 20 but they’re emotionally stunted because of the drinking. For a long time, their emotional growth stopped.” Drinking can do that to people, I say. “Drinking can do that to people! Or drugs!  Or whatever. As they say, your emotional growth stops when your addiction begins.” Both of these characters have the capacity to be a Peter Pan of all trades, I joke. Ponsoldt laughs. “Those are the best people, right? They’re the most lovely and the most charming and they’re great at parties and they break your hearts. Certainly entertaining.” [More here.] Sony, $31; Blu-ray, $35, VOD March 12.

This Must Be The Place

Robert Smith, Nazi Hunter? The idea is so outlandish it could almost work. (Could.) Reveiewing Dead Man Down last week, Manohla Dargis specified what you can only hope from such a logline: “You hope (pray) you’ll soon be watching either a diverting art-film intervention, like Werner Herzog’s remake of Bad Lieutenant, or joy riding with one of those rarest of screen delights: the demented howler.” With This Must Be The Place, not quite. Apparently trimmed by a few minutes from its European release, writer-director Paolo Sorrentino’s picturesque picaresque of an American road movie (by way of Ireland) doesn’t hit the high outsider mark of Wim Wenders and Robby Müller’s Paris, Texas (despite the talismanic apparition of Harry Dean Stanton) but has a fair share of archly beautiful images, not all of which fall prey to the exaggerations of the wide-angle lens. While a concert performance by David Byrne is an eccentric highlight, the calm of Penn’s “Cheyenne” may be the movie’s strangest asset. The score by Byrne and Will Oldham is superb. The trailer below gives a fair taste of the strange script’s visual ambition. TWC/Starz/Anchor Bay, $25; Blu-ray, $30; VOD March 12.


Not your street corner Midwestern bearded ironists, Valeriy Todorovskiy’s Hipsters have dash, panache and more. A boisterous, candied eyeful of fantasticated Soviet-era 1955 youth culture that bears a keen likeness to Grease, it’s a charming widescreen musical in a culture that resists musicals. Winner for best film, production design, costumes and sound in Russia’s equivalent of the Oscar, Todorovskiy describes his energetic gem as a time-bending artifact: “I combined the hipster movement of the 50s with the Russian rocker rebels of the late 80s.” And its placement dead in the center of Khrushchev’s USSR would have its own punk power even without the bursts of toe-to-toe political argument. The mix of both sets and locations is sweet, especially in the fantastically straightforward final number that dances its way through the streets of contemporary Moscow with crowds of fashionable modern youth. With Anton Shagin, Oksana Akinshina (Lilya 4-Ever).

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch