Written By Roesha Godbolt

Hello again! Welcome to the 3rd edition of Indie Spotlight! With this edition we are going to be looking at films that specialize in thrilling us. Those films are: The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, Velvet Buzzsaw, and Braid. 

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Premiered: January 18th, 2019

Film editing by: Josh Ethier (We Are Still Here, Mayhem, and Leatherface)

Cinematography by: Jackson Hunt (Beyonce: Rocket, Heavyweight, and Jellywolf)

Stunts by: Dawson Towery (Cobra Kai, Queen of the South, and Doom Patrol)

Written and Directed by: Henry Dunham (The Awareness)

Starring: James Badge Dale, Brian Geraghty, and Patrick Fischler

Logline: After an attack at a funeral, a militiaman must find the shooter among his comrades before they’re all taken down by the police. 

What makes it a hit: Everything, and I do mean that. First off, Dunham’s script is edgy and suspenseful with smart dialogue. It’s something that James Badge Dale, of The Departed fame, sinks his teeth to. He leads each of his scenes, active in his pursuit for the truth that the audience will appreciate because the search for the culprit wraps you in so deep. Ethier’s editing on each shot lingers, focusing only on making the suspense last and drawing in as much attention from the audience as possible. 

The music, minimalized and pulsating as it is, fills the void that the cinematography plays with. Out of all the wonderful things about this film, the best would have to be the cinematography. Hands down, Jackson Hunt’s marginal use of lighting in this film is a character itself as it heightens the standoff’s tension and reflects off the center of the film’s story, and the mystery behind each character’s reason for their abandonment of societal law. Overall, the film should have gotten a wider release so it could have been truly appreciated as the ominous and witty noir that it is.

Velvet Buzzsaw

Premiered: February 1st, 2019

Cinematography by: Robert Elswit (8MM, There Will be Blood, and Nightcrawler)

Music by: Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders (Ben-Hur, Logan, and A Quiet Place)

Film Editing by: John Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Salt, and Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Casting by: Victoria Thomas (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, True Detective)

Animation by: Aaron McGriff (Avengers: Infinity War, Welcome to Marwen)

Written and directed by: Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Daveed Diggs, and John Malkovich

Logline: An art gallery owner, her assistant, an art critic, and several others learn that there are dire consequences when it comes to handling a dead man’s artworks. 

What makes it a hit: The deliciousness that is Jake Gyllenhaal still has his chaotic energy from Nightcrawler, but it’s repackaged in this cautionary tale along with the ensembled cast that takes turns bringing utter nuance and brilliance in Gilroy’s story, which isn’t hard, with all the spectacular metaphors and complexity about art. Mainly, it is creativity, but when disrespected, it’s destruction. 

McGriff’s early animated credits are adorably menacing and educational if you’re paying attention. As for the cinematography, it’s not as dark as Nightcrawler, but in a way, it is. Particularly with the murder scenes, and I believe the reason behind it was to showcase how artful it looks, being a film about… art. One scene in particular, involves a hand and lightbulb, the light engulfing its surroundings while the hand emerges similarly like a macabre version to The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel.

The music intensifies those moments, but where it works the most, is the scene when Jake’s character is critiquing a new piece of art and the voices of all the people that have been killed begin to call out to him, and he breaks down completely. The end of the film has an after-credit scene as well that may seem confusing to people, but it conceptualizes the theme of the film, which is that you can’t put a price on the human soul. 

Braid

Premiered: February 1st, 2019

Music by: Michael Gatt (Minions Paradise, Mower Minions, Blood Drive)

Cinematography by: Todd Banhazl (Play Nice, Between Us, and The Strange Ones)

Film Editing by: David Gutnik (Four, Nancy)

Production Design: Annie Simeone (Body, Hello Again, Villains

Written and Directed by: Mitzi Peirone (Chaosmos)

Starring: Madeline Brewer, Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay, and Scott Cohen

Logline: Two female friends must con their wealthy and deranged acquaintance of her fortune by playing her make-believe game of insanity and perversion. 

What makes it a hit: What makes this movie alluring is the way it takes off into its madness. We are quickly submerged into this kaleidoscope of female insanity, thanks to Gutnik’s editing. Each scene gets more bizarre and incoherent. The feeling is only heightened with Peirone’s camera direction with us roaming around pointlessly like the characters, but is it all pointless? Simeone’s production design is off the charts with the mansion set up that closely resembles an Alice in Wonderland acid trip. 

On with Banhazl’s cinematography, each scene is soaked in color that darkens with the violence. It seems like a collaborative move with Gutnik and the kaleidoscope theme with the lighting. 

Madeline Bower, of the recent Netflix hit, Cam, steps up her lunacy as the rich friend with as much money as she does problems, acting as a demented female version of Willy Wonka. Overall, there is fun to be had with the film, given the Lynchian like landscape, woven with Clockwork Orange’s ultra-violence, this film is a braid, indeed.

That’s A Wrap

That’s it for this spotlight. Have any recommendations yourself? Feel free to comment and let us know! And make sure to check out our own batch of indie films at reelsubmissions.com.

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