Following up on her acclaimed debut, Clockwatchers, Jill Sprecher spins this intricate ensemble film about life's big questions. Set in New York City, the film focuses on five different characters with radically different perspectives on life. Gene (Alan Arkin) manages a large insurance company and is a compulsive pessimist, constantly bursting the bubbles of his more cheery colleagues. Walker (John Turturro), who holds a similarly bleak view of the world, decides that he cannot stand another day in his dull life as a physics professor and thus promptly dumps his wife, Patricia (Amy Irving). Troy (Matthew McConaughey) is an up-and-coming lawyer whose career is derailed after a hit-and-run accident. And Beatrice (Clea DuVall) is a modest cleaning woman hoping for a miracle.
Darren Aronofsky scripted and made his directorial debut with this experimental feature with mathematical plot threads hinting at science-fictional elements. In NYC's Chinatown, recluse math genius Max (Sean Gullette) believes "everything can be understood in terms of numbers," and he looks for a pattern in the system as he suffers headaches, plays Go with former teacher Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis), and fools around with an advanced computer system he's built in his apartment. Both a Wall Street company and a Hasidic sect take an interest in his work, but he's distracted by blackout attacks, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions. Filmed in 16mm black-and-white, the Kafkaesque film features music by Clint Mansell (of the UK's Pop Will Eat Itself band).
Arnold Schwarzenegger gained his first real notoriety outside body-building circles with this documentary about a group of men training for the Mr. Olympia contest. Arnold had already won the title six times before, and was training for his seventh victory before retiring to fully pursue his acting career (which began to catch fire with his likable turn in Stay Hungry, released the same year) when this was shot. Here he displays an easy charm and wicked sense of humor as he plays mind games with his competitors and explains how getting pumped up for competition always reminded him of sex (which might explain why he seems so cheerful). And what is Arnold smoking in his dressing room after the contest? Future Arnold Schwarzenegger Lou Ferrigno is also on hand, and his fierce determination as he goes through a brutal weight lifting regimen shouting "Arnold! Arnold!" speaks both to his own desire to win and how strong a presence Schwarzenegger was in body-building at the time. You don't have to be a body building fan to enjoy Pumping Iron, though Arnold is the one contestant who shows obvious star quality.
After the success of his 1975 documentary on male bodybuilders, featuring the subsequently famous Arnold Schwarzenegger and Louis Ferrigno, director George Butler created this follow-up on a bevy of distaff weight lifters as they prepare for a final muscle showdown at the 1983 Caesars Palace World Championship. Interspersed with rock music are interviews with the contestants focusing on social pressures to stop bodybuilding because "it is not feminine," but also giving some details about their personal lives as well. Although their own training regimen is not discussed, nor their future plans, the contestants come across as unique, involved women and by the time they are pitted against each other on stage, most viewers will have one or two that they are cheering on to win.
Spike Lee's breakthrough independent feature, shot in fifteen days on a budget of $175,000, ushered in the American independent film movement of the 1980s. It was also a groundbreaking film for African-American filmmakers and a welcome change in the representation of blacks in American cinema, depicting men and women of color not as pimps and whores, but as intelligent, upscale urbanites. Lee's slight tale, which carries much psychological and historical baggage, concerns Nola Darling (Tracy Camila Johns), a young, self-assured Brooklyn woman who juggles three boyfriends -- the polite and well-meaning Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), the self-obsessed male model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell), and the comical bicycle messenger Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee). Nola doesn't want to commit to any of her boyfriends, cherishing her personal freedom. But as their relationships with Nola grow, each man wants her for himself.
Inspired by actual events, writer/director Craig Zobel's sophomore feature Compliance examines the complex hierarchy of authority through the experiences of a teenage fast-food restaurant clerk who falls victim to a twisted practical joke. Becky (Dreama Walker) is doing her best to get through another tough shift when a man claiming to be a police officer calls to speak with her stressed-out manager Sandra (Ann Dowd). According to the man on the phone, Becky has just stolen money from a customer, and likely still has the cash on her person. When Becky denies any wrongdoing, the man on the phone insists that Sandra detain the frightened girl in the back room of the restaurant, an action that sets into motion a shocking sequence of events.
The performers, attitudes, and music of late '70s, early '80s Los Angeles punk scene are documented in this film by director Penelope Spheeris. Not merely a compilation of concert footage, The Decline of Western Civilization compiles numerous viewpoints on the meanings of the punk movement, from journalists -- one of whom calls punk the folk music of the 1980s -- to club security guards, to the punks themselves. The center of the film, however, is the music, which is fast, loud, and abrasive and often played with purposeful ineptitude; the lyrics are intentionally controversial and shocking, often seeming to embrace violence, sexism, racism, and even Nazism, though usually in an ironic manner. The performances, by bands such as Black Flag, X, The Circle Jerks, and Fear, are mostly shot from within the audience, where the camera often becomes an unwitting participant in the crowd's slam dancing. Especially fascinating are the performances by The Germs, thanks to the antics of their violently self-destructive lead singer Darby Crash, who would later die of a drug overdose and gain a martyr status within the punk community. The film was followed several years later by a sequel focusing on the world of heavy metal.
This Iranian drama, scripted by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, was directed by his 17-year-old daughter, Samirah Makhmalbaf. His screenplay is based on factual news accounts of two 11-year-old girls who were locked away from the world by their parents until social workers stepped in. Shooting in video and on celluloid, the two Makhmalbafs managed to get the actual family members to portray themselves in this docudrama that follows the two girls, Zahre and Masume, returning home after their release from state custody. The film explores the motivations of the girls' father and their desire to play outside the gates of their home.
Director Andrew Bujalski transports viewers back to year 1980 with this comedy set at a provincial hotel that's simultaneously hosting a chess programmer's competition and a New Age therapy convention for couples. Shot on a vintage Sony video camera, Computer Chess explores the awkward chemistry that comes into play as these two disparate groups struggle to find a common ground.
A handful of disparate characters, both adults and children, find themselves navigating the tricky waters of intimacy in this award-winning independent comedy drama. Richard (John Hawkes) is a recent divorcé who is alternately exhilarated and terrified with his life and the world around him. While he believes great things are in store for him, he's also become so despondent about his wife's departure that he attempts to set his hand on fire. Richard meets Christine (Miranda July) at the shoe store where he works; Christine likes to paint a picture of herself as a stylish and confident video artist, but in truth she supports herself as a driver with a car service for the elderly, and she'd very much like to meet someone special. As Richard and Christine fumble their way into a relationship, Richard's two sons have issues of their own. Seven-year-old Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) has met someone in an Internet chat room who responds to his naïve and scatological perceptions of sex, while 14-year-old Peter (Miles Thompson) finds himself on the receiving end of unusual and unexpected attention from two girls in his class.
This downbeat drama by acclaimed Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne bears a thematic and formal resemblance to their previous works, Luc Dardenne and the Palme D'Or winner Luc Dardenne. Dardenne brothers' regular Olivier Gourmet is in every frame as the stern Olivier, a carpenter who teaches the craft to teenagers seeking a vocation. Olivier's drab routine is interrupted by the enrollment of a new student, Francis (Morgan Marinne), who becomes the object of the carpenter's inexplicable obsession. Speaking with his ex-wife, Magali (Isabella Soupart), about his new charge, Olivier reveals the reason for his fixation: Francis was the young street tough who murdered their child years ago. Now out of juvenile prison, Francis seeks to start anew, and eventually even asks the flummoxed Olivier to become his guardian. Olivier withholds his knowledge from the oblivious Francis, even as a tentative relationship between the two develops. The tense scenario leads to a climactic confrontation at a lumberyard, as the past finally catches up with teacher and student.