By RICHARD VIRGILIO
Hours off a plane from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Michael Sodano and Nancy Sabino, owners of The ShowRoom art house cinema in Asbury Park sat down with me to talk about some of the best and most creative filmmaking of 2014.
Last year, they spot-on predicted “20 Feet from Stardom” would be one of the biggest indie hits. In 2012, they were all over “Searching for Sugar Man.” What’s in store for this year? Read on.
TBP: There are more and more film festivals every year, why go to Sundance?
Sabino: Sundance is the premier film festival in the US. This is the place to see the best – and sometimes not so great – movies first-hand before anyone else. We are right in the thick of what is being bought, sold and written about in independent films for 2014.
Sodano: Also, Sundance is timed to be immediately after the art house film convention we always go to which is also in Utah.
The 10 day trip – the convention and the film festival – makes us tuned-in to the films the world will be talking about in 2014. We see first-hand reactions from distributors, critics and other people in the business of independent film making. We track who purchased what film during the festival and then make it our job to keep on top of the distributors to make sure we get the films we want. It all helps us make Asbury Park a destination for the best in art house films.
Since The ShowRoom is not part of a chain, we are not told what we can have; we curate what we bring to the theater that our experience and gut tells us people want to see.
TBP: What films are you excited about?
Sabino: We saw 25 movies in less than four days. One out of three of them were really good.
Sodano: Our top picks this year were “Whiplash,” “Frank,” “Rudderless” and “Boyhood.”
“Rudderless” is William H. Macey’s directorial debut. It is a music story that takes you on a trip. Three quarters of the way through the movie there is a twist that you say “holy (beep), I never thought of it that way.” They expose a key element that turns the movie upside down. Great all-around.
You will be hearing about “Whiplash” very soon because it was bought by Sony before the festival.The actor known for his Farmer’s Insurance commercials plays a bastard of a music teacher. This is a David versus Goliath story and you will be hypnotized by the cast’s performances.
Sabino: After we saw “Boyhood” and the standing ovation from the audience we immediately said we wanted the film.It is an epic drama by Richard Linklater produced over the course of 12 years. He follows four characters. The boy character is a natural – mature beyond his years.You watch him grow up and it’s a fascinating story.
And “Frank” was a fanciful comedy starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal about a guy who’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric band.
Last year the big theme was sex and relationships. This year, transformation of characters was a theme I noticed but not huge. Also, good lead roles for women.
Sodano: Other films to watch are “Obvious Child” a romantic comedy about an unlikely couple, “Alive Inside” a documentary about Alzheimer’s patients brought back by music, “Last Days of Vietnam” is an absolutely compelling documentary with footage and interviews that you absolutely cannot believe.
“Love is Strange,” with an all-star cast including John Lithgow and Marisa Tomei will come to The Showroom. It’s about two gay guys who have been together for 39 years and are forced to move back in with their respective parents because of a financial crisis.
We were disappointed with “Song One” starring Anne Hathaway. We hate to rag on Anne but the movie was thin and predictable. You watch it and say, “eh.” One more we really, really didn’t like was “War Story” a drama about a war photographer. It is the perfect example of an actor who cannot act without speaking – and there was no background to relate to the characters. Ben Kingsley was on the screen for a few minutes and ate it up. His talents made everyone else’s lack of talent glaring.
We have been going to Sundance for four year now and it never disappoints. 2014 is another exciting year for independent film at The ShowRoom.
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