Now Playing: ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’

Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' (Amplify)

Rinko Kikuchi goes to the Great White North in ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ (Amplify)

Do you like Fargo? Chances are, even if so, you don’t know it as well as the titular anti-heroine of the Zellner brothers’ chilly odyssey of quirk, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. It might be one of the first great films of 2015.

kumiko-posterKumiko, the Treasure Hunter is playing now here and there. My review is at PopMatters:

She’s alone and obsessive, and her particular object of obsession is the Coen brothers’ film Fargo. Sitting night after night in her dingy apartment with only her adorable rabbit Bunzo for company, she pores over a worn-out VHS tape with Talmudic fervency, keeping a notebook full of scribbled clues that only make sense to her. Because of Fargo‘s famous opening epigraph—“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987”—she takes it as a faithful transcribing of reality. That’s why she keeps re-watching the scene where Carl (Steve Buscemi) buries the suitcase of cash by a fence in a snowy field. In Kumiko’s mind, she just needs to get to Minnesota…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Today’s Prompts

The thing with writer’s block is that there’s no way to get around it but by writing. That’s where the prompt can come in handy.

At Poets & Writers, they have a handy resource that churns up a steady stream of prompts to get you going on that project, regardless of what it is, from creative nonfiction (always a tricky category) to fiction.

Here’s a few:

This week, take a straightforward scene you’ve been working on and insert an awkward mistake made either by a major or minor character.

Do you have a time period you routinely set your stories in? This week, choose a story you’re struggling with and reimagine it in a different decade or century.

This week, write about a time when you were out of your element, immersed in a community or culture that you felt was very different from your own. Observe your own behavior as an anthropologist would.

You might want to toss the results away when you’re done. But at least you’ll be writing.

New in Theaters: ‘While We’re Young’

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in 'While We're Young' (A24)

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts contemplate their oldness in ‘While We’re Young’ (A24)

Noah Baumbach continues his filmic project with Ben Stiller on the agitations of middle age and disappointment in While We’re Young, playing now in limited release.

My review is at Film Racket:

Age is wasted on the old, especially when they want to be young again. When Noah Baumbach’s hit-and-miss comedy of urbane humiliation catches up with Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts), they are stuck dead in middle age nowhere without a road map. A long-married couple doubting their comfortable but deadened relationship, they emphatically reassure themselves of their contentment. They don’t need kids to be happy, they tell each other, saying they are free to jet off to Europe at a moment’s notice. Well, probably not that soon. Maybe a month…

Here’s the trailer:

Department of Weekend Reading: March 27, 2015

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New in Theaters: ‘The Salt of the Earth’

One of Sebastio Salgado's iconic photographs in 'The Salt of the Earth' (Sony Pictures Classics)

One of Sebastio Salgado’s iconic photographs in ‘The Salt of the Earth’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

Given a brief Academy Awards run late last year, Wim Wenders’ magisterial documentary about photographer Sebastio Salgado is finally getting a proper theatrical release this week.

My review is at Film Journal International:

“A photographer,” Wim Wenders intones at the start of his elegantly respectful documentary on Sebastião Salgado, “is literally somebody painting with light.” This definition sounds grand, to be sure. But the act of creation that Wenders captures here doesn’t quite seem to resemble painting. Salgado’s work is in some ways the definition of high-concept photography. His rich, lusciously layered, black-and-white shots of teeming gold mine workers, refugees streaming across a desert, or a line of penguins flinging themselves off a glacier are so elegantly composed as to almost defy reality…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘White God’

 

'White God': The dogs are coming (Magnolia Pictures)

‘White God': The dogs are coming (Magnolia Pictures)

Ever year the Cannes Film Festival awards the Un Certain Regard prize to a standout film. For 2014, that film was Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo’s White God, which is not about race or religion, but rather about what happens when people push dogs a little too far. Yes, it’s a metaphor.

White God is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. That hasn’t always proven correct with some performers, who could look forcefully into a camera and still reveal nothing about themselves or the character they are inhabiting. The same problem presents itself in Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, only this time the eyes in question aren’t those of human actors, but canine ones. Eyes are important in this film because the story has so little to offer; about all that’s left to engage with are the dogs who spend a good amount of time peering soulfully out of the screen. And that’s before they rise up against their human oppressors…

The trailer is here:

Writer’s Desk: Finding Time

writing1“Where do you find the time?” That may be one of the questions writers hear the most. It’s heard just about as often as “Where do you get your ideas?” and is possibly as hard to answer.

The most likely response is, “I have no idea.” Every writer tries to carve off little pieces of time here and there. But none of us live in a vacuum. Family, work, joy—There are lives to be led, after all. Because of the time crunch difficulty, advice can help.

Here’s some time management ideas that Fast Company gathered from people who took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo):

As a single working mom of two, [Toni Morrison] carved out a few minutes to write before bed. She cranked out The Bluest Eye in that time.

I absolutely refused to go to sleep until I’d written 500 words. This was a ridiculously small goal for each night but I found that this was my own personal ‘hump.’ If I could get to 500 I could usually get to at least 1,500

When you have a big goal, you may need to turn down opportunities or invitations, or let go of a few responsibilities. Sometimes people feel guilty about this, but people who care about you will likely support you, especially if there’s an end in sight.

It’s not always about inspiration. Sometimes it can be about what you’re willing to give up. How important is writing to you in the end? If you’re not sure about how to answer that question, you may have your answer.