Pick of the Week
Snow On Tha Bluff (Screen Media Films) — To call Damon Russell’s film a “mockumentary” would be inappropriate, though its filmmaking premise plays by those rules: as we open, a bunch of clueless privileged kids videotape themselves driving into The Bluff, a sketchy Atlanta neighborhood, to buy drugs; they let a dealer, Curtis Snow, into their car, only Snow jacks them, taking their video camera in the process. From there, Snow decides to document his daily life in order to show the world what it’s really like to live in the ‘hood. Snow’s performance is some seriously raw business, and Russell manages to orchestrate several action-packed set pieces that are wholly convincing, even as you tell yourself that this is all just a fabrication. Snow On The Bluff is a fresh example of invigorating socially conscious cinema. Available on DVD.
Attenberg (Strand Releasing) — The world would be a much less grating place if certain cinematic sub-genres were to be banned from the table immediately. Reading a description of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg, one might worry that she has committed the double-sin of embracing two of the more increasingly overused and deplorable ones: 1) the “stunted-to-the-point-of-retarded adult-child;” and 2) the “quirky art film for quirky art film’s sake.” But from the startlingly unbroken first shot of this film, in which one 20-something female friend teaches her innocent 20-something female friend how to tongue kiss, it’s readily apparent that we are in the hands of a filmmaker who is going to instead use two very important attributes to put those pitiful sub-genres in their place: 1) a unique personal vision; and 2) a sincere mission to say something genuinely heartfelt about living and dying in the real world. That Attenberg manages to retain a stylistically original, inventive, and daring flair in the midst of all this? Well, that’s just parsley on the hummus. Read the full HTN review. Available on DVD.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home (Paramount) — A look at the Duplass Brothers’ body of work finds both striking stylistic similarities across the films and storytelling that continues to grow with each project. In their new film Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the brothers’ signature techniques—a handheld camera that zooms in on the faces of their actors, a tightly circumscribed group of characters—remain, but their generosity has grown by leaps and bounds. Whereas a film like The Puffy Chair took great pleasure in the unresolved suffering of its protagonists, Jeff is interested in creating harmony in the universe and allowing its characters’ dreams to come true in unexpected, moving ways. Read the full HTN review. Available on DVD + UltraViolet, Blu-ray + UltraViolet, and at Amazon Instant.
My Reincarnation (Docurama) — Jennifer Fox’s film begins innocently enough, as it introduces a Tibetan/Italian family in which the patriarch, a Tibetan spiritual master, has a perhaps unexpectedly emotionally disengaged relationship with his son, who has in turn become resistant to his Buddhist teachings. But as the story develops—and by “develops” I mean it takes place over the course of two decades—by the time it reveals its wisp of a sideswipe ending, one understands that Fox herself has delivered her very own sneakily powerful Buddhist lesson. Fascinating stuff. Available on DVD.
Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians — Bryan Storkel’s compelling documentary opens a window onto a world that would seem like a farfetched bar yarn until you watch this film for yourself. Available on Blu-ray and DVD at the film’s official website.
New/Old to DVD/Blu-ray
Have Not Seen Yet But Really/Kinda/Sorta/Maybe Wanna
Wanderlust (Universal) — Available on DVD, 2-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet, and at Amazon Instant.