The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Baltimore’s Center Stage theater company commissioned a group of playwrights and artists to create short one-act pieces answering just one question: “Who are you, America?”
Some of the provocative, lyrical and darkly funny answers can be found in “My America,” indie icon Hal Hartley’s swiftly moving omnibus of 20 three-to-four-minute pieces. Written by such luminaries as Danny Hoch, Lynn Rosen and Neil LaBute — as well as several relative unknowns — “My America” presents a gathering welter of impressions that, cumulatively, aptly capture the country’s mood in the late 21st century, whether by way of a young father ambushed by a sudden fit of patriotism at Camden Yards or a young black woman navigating the thorny issues of race, class, resentment and snap assumptions while reporting a hit-and-run driver. TO READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW CLICK HERE -- A.H.
JASON NASH IS MARRIED
One might wonder just how smoothly a series of digital shorts created for Comedy Central’s Web site would survive the translation to a feature-length film, but “Jason Nash Is Married” works amazingly well, incorporating humor about three-way sex and other intentionally uncomfortable matters with sober reflection on modern relationships. Both sweet and smart, the Hollywood-set comedy is one part romantic farce and one part industry satire, but it feels surprisingly cohesive, given its origins as snack-size humor.
Its success is mostly due to Jason Nash, the actor-comedian who plays a fictionalized version of himself, and who wrote, directed and executive-produced the film. Reportedly shot for a mere $12,000 and held together by Nash’s navel-gazing narration — which is presented as a rueful podcast looking back on his failed seven-year marriage — the film follows its titular hero as he struggles to balance his search for gainful employment with the needs of his wife (Busy Phillips).
Early in the film, the chronically unemployed Nash makes an offhand comment to a dim-witted producer named Tidal (T.J. Miller), saying that he’s hoping to work on a project with “David Fincher, maybe.” Unfortunately, Nash’s words are misunderstood as a pitch for a television series called “Adventure Baby.” Nash soon finds himself in the unenviable — though not entirely preposterous — predicament of having to create something out of nothing. The Hollywood culture of short attention spans, deception and naked desperation is ripe for Nash’s comic picking. If the film’s show-biz plot line feels, at times, a little insider-y, it’s still broad enough for a general audience to appreciate.
Our hero’s marital woes — a form of mild Peter Pan syndrome compounded by his wife’s success as a TV producer — are also relatable. Nash and Phillips are talented actors, and their characters’ emotions, which swing between affection for each other and disappointment, feel painfully real.
So, too, does the supporting cast, which includes such staples of the Los Angeles comedy scene as Rob Corddry, David Koechner, Patton Oswalt, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Andy Richter and Casey Wilson. There’s an insanity to the world that the fictional Nash and his wife live in, but its denizens — who don’t speak in jokes as much as surreal truisms — keep the story grounded. “I love hanging up on someone right after I tell them something,” the producer Tidal says. “It gives it more gravitas.”
That’s kind of true of “Jason Nash Is Married,” too. The humor is deliciously rude, but also, in a way, quite serious. -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains obscenity, drug use and sexual humor. 85 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant, iTunes, Sony Entertainment Network, Verizon Flex View, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu and Xbox.
With so much talk about the dearth of female filmmakers working today, it’s heartening to see a movie not just made by a woman, but also about women. And give bonus points to “Redemption Trail,” in which writer-director Britta Sjogren puts a feminine (and contemporary) twist on the Western.
That’s not to say that Anna (Lily Rabe) and Tess (LisaGay Hamilton) are stereotypically “feminine.” Anna, an Oakland obstetrician, is a mother and wife with high expectations who would never be considered the warm and fuzzy type. But she’s a teddy bear compared to Tess, the genre’s traditional loner-vigilante. The ex-con daughter of a Black Panther lives in isolation, looking after a Northern California vineyard for a New York businessman. She spends her days tending to the land, riding her horse and shooing away (and shooting at) drug cartel members encroaching on her boss’s land.
The two women meet after Anna, who has just suffered a horrible tragedy, tries to kill herself near the vineyard. Tess, who knows something about misfortune, takes her in.
The movie’s great asset is its stars. Rabe makes Anna’s heartbreak painfully raw, and Hamilton’s performance is nuanced, playing Tess as a woman with anger always simmering just below her stoic exterior. The men, too, are well-cast, including Hamish Linklater as Anna’s husband and Jake Weber as John, Tess’s boss and love interest. For an additional twist on typical gender dynamics, it’s John — a single father — who wants to take his relationship with Tess to the next level, while she balks at the prospect.
Sjogren’s dialogue demonstrates that she’s a writer with an observant ear. It sounds real and efficiently gives us a sense of the characters. The visuals aren’t always so fulfilling, however. The moments of action, including one accident and a late-night shootout, happen out of view. Maybe that’s a smart choice for a low-budget movie without the means for special effects, but it also makes for an ineffectual climax. And there’s a stubborn reliance on quick cutting, making large stretches of the movie feel like one big montage.
But when it comes to character development and a solid story, Sjogren excels, and that alone makes “Redemption Trail” worth seeing. -- S.M.
Unrated. Contains sexual situations and nudity. 92 minutes. Available via iTunes, iN DEMAND cable and Vubiquity.
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