Review: Housesitters (2018)

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Chicago is home to a lot of film history. A number of big-budgeted films were shot in full or in part in the city. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s film program is where art house directors, like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, honed their craft. But the type of  Chicago film history that is most overlooked is the output of regional filmmakers making low-budget, independent films like H.G. Lewis or Joe Swanberg. Jason Coffmann’s feature debut, Housesitters (2018), belongs to this latter category and is a mix between a stoner comedy and monster movie. If you are adventurous, and willing to look outside of major production locations like L.A. and New York, then you may have a great time with this comedy.

The plot revolves around two friends, Angie (Annie Watkins) and Izzy (Jamie Jirak) who sit around a lot doing drugs and talking about things of interest to young adults like relationships and sex. Izzy is a drug-dealer with an academic interest in old pornography movies. Angie is the more straight character, and the one to land a sweet job of house sitting a big house with unlimited access to a platinum credit card. She invites Izzy to the house to watch adult movies, take some drugs, and look around the house. Other people come and go as the movie progresses, including a puppet monster made by  Toledo-based director Dustin Wayde Mills, and the house may not be such a great place as it seems, but it is best to go into the film fresh without knowing too much about the film.

The director choose to shoot mostly in one location, which works for the movie. Performances are pretty strong throughout, which helps the film work as well as it does. Coffman has scripted a film that is funny more on the dialogue than the action, and luckily the interactions are stronger than moments of horror. There is not too much violence and sex is implied rather than shown. If it weren’t for some of the topics raised by the film, and the language, the film would be suitable for everyone. Where the film has issues is the conceit of the film being episodes of a show, and the inclusion of an odd and crudely animated coming attraction trailer, doesn’t quite work in the film’s favor, but does add to the charm. The film doesn’t use a distinct format as masterfully as the excellent WNUF Halloween Special (Chris LaMartina et al, 2013) does, but it never distracts from the momentum of the story.  The beginning of the movie didn’t grab me, but by the end I really enjoyed where the film went. If you can roll with it, you will enjoy your time as the film is an easy 63 minutes in length, and the ending makes up for flaws earlier in the film.

The charm of the acting and script make up for technical limitations (some effect shots look rough, and a few times the camera shakes as characters walk past it) and a weak opening act. The more movies you watch, the less patience you have for bad movies. Housesitters is not a bad picture; it is a first feature that shows promise. If you have seen low-budget comedies by Steve Rudzinski or others on Amazon, then you can imagine what this film feels like. I hope people who don’t normally watch Midwestern regional movies take a chance on the film when it makes it way to a festival or streaming platform. Jason Coffman has offered a solid first feature. I look forward to what he can do in the future.

You can learn more about Jason Coffman and his movie by checking out some of the following links. Follow him on Medium or Letterboxd to hear his ideas about movies, watch some of his videos at Vimeo, like the film page on Facebook, or purchase a copy of his film review book at Amazon. If you are thinking about making a movie yourself, you can read his rules on the making on Housesitters here.

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Robert Riley-Mercado is a co-founder of Big B and Mo’ Money. Some of his favorite directors are Fritz Lang, Joseph W. Sarno, Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, Sion Sono, Erich von Stroheim, D. W. Griffith, Kathryn Bigelow, Lav Diaz, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Paul Morrissey, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  You may find him watching movies at university cinemas throughout the Midwest.

90th Academy Awards: Big B’s Predictions

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Best Picture
Honorable Mention: All Best Picture nominees, especially Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This is an impressive list of films. (To see my ranking of all nine Best Picture nominees, click here.)
Should have been nominated: Logan  
Best Actress
Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Actor
Will win: Gary OldmanDarkest Hour
Should win: Daniel Day-LewisPhantom Thread
Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Honorable Mention: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Best Supporting Actor
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Director
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Best Animated Feature Film
Coco  
Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Best Costume Design
Phantom Thread
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Darkest Hour
Best Film Editing
Dunkirk
Honorable MentionThe Shape of Water
Honorable MentionBaby Driver
Best Original Score
Honorable Mention: Phantom Thread
Best Original Song
“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman
Best Sound Editing
Blade Runner 2049
Best Sound Mixing
Will winDunkirk
Should winBaby Driver
Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Best Screenplay – Original
Get Out
Honorable MentionThe Shape of Water
Should have been nominatedCoco
Should have been nominatedThe Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Best Screenplay – Adapted
Call Me By Your Name
Honorable MentionLogan
Best Documentary
Faces Places
~Big B

Top Movies of 2017: Jeremiah’s Picks

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This is my top seven movies of 2017. I’ve decided to do a top seven because this is the number of movies that were a step above everything else I saw this year. This is an opinion piece of what I enjoyed the most out of the year, so take from it what you will. But I think each one of these films is worth looking at and you should too. So, here are my favorite movies of 2017.

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Top Movies of 2017: Mo Money’s Picks

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Below are Mo Money’s top films of 2017 only including films that premiered anywhere in the world in the calendar year.

2017 was a great year for movies. The fact that a number of good films by directors I love (Sofia Coppola, Henrique Couto, Edgar Wright, etc.) didn’t make the list shows that there was abundance of good films. At the same time, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with critically acclaimed films and audience favorites like Get Out, Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi, Girls Trip, and others. I feel myself increasingly distant from mainstream tastes as I age. There remains numerous films released in 2017 that I would like to see, particularly On Body and Soul and Zama, but couldn’t due to diverse reasons so as always this list may change in the future.

1.) Faces Places

Agnès Varda’s latest film follows her and co-director JR, a young artist who makes murals out of photographs, as they travel to small towns throughout France. It is a great look into Varda’s career and friendships for those new to her oeuvre and those who have followed her work for years. The ending, after Jean-Luc Godard snubs their visit, is a great reminder on how wondrous and impactful cinema remains in 2017. Continue reading

Top Movies of 2017: Big B’s Picks

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These are Big B’s top ten films of 2017.

10) I Am Evidence – directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Trish Adlesic

I Am Evidence is a clear, poignant exploration of an issue that needs more attention: the epidemic of untested rape kits in American cities. Most importantly, I Am Evidence focuses on specific steps that cities can take to resolve this problem. This documentary tries hard to make itself unnecessary by aggressively targeting sensible solutions to the problems highlighted during the documentary’s opening moments. I Am Evidence is concerned with progress, not proceeds—but I hope it gets both.

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Justice League is the Movie We Need Right Now

This article contains spoilers.

We are defeated. On a good day, we can ignore that fact. But it is still true. The good team lost.

That is the spirit of Justice League‘s opening scenes. Norwegian singer and songwriter Sigrid sings a more earnest, mournful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” as audiences view a melancholic montage of troublesome images, beginning with Superman’s funeral and progressing through scenes of realistic social injustice. A white man harasses Muslim shopkeepers, and a homeless man sits quietly behind a small sign that reads “I tried.” Sigrid’s smooth voice bellows over haunting, repetitive piano riffs: “Everybody knows the fight was fixed / The poor stay poor, the rich get rich / That’s how it goes / Everybody knows.” This glossy, semi-grayscale, post-Superman world is bitter and scared. As a reporter notes, “The world remains in mourning . . .” Continue reading

The Gaming Community, the E3 Missing Person Fiasco, and Double-edged Social Media Groupthink

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Warning: Article contains links to pages that contain profanity and offensive content.

At 7:45 PM on June 15th, Twitch streamer and Twitter user Ashley “ashleeeeean” Leann posted this tweet:

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The Twitch mixer was a get-together on Wednesday, June 14th for Twitch streamers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a gathering of gamers and game developers in Los Angeles. Around 20 hours had passed since friends, family, and social media followers had heard from Twitch streamer and GEXCon host Tia “LauraLania” Zimmer, so ashleeeeean decided, as she described in a video on Twitter, to use “my platform and my following to be able to get the word out there.”

“I did not expect it to blow up as much as it did,” she added. Continue reading

Teacher Appreciation Week: A Quick Note for Teachers

roarLike a birthday spent at the dentist’s office, this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week exists amid a surge of legislative halitosis and biting commentary designed to undermine teachers, and I believe, fellow teachers, that it is our right—even our obligation—to reclaim Teacher Appreciation Week by brushing off this orange plaque with a bit of bristly, humility-trumping candor. Continue reading

Review: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons WhyIt’s fairly early in the year, but I think I’ve already found a show that will end up making my top shows when December comes. 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original show created by Brian Yorkey and starring Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette, and it’s a doozy that’s definitely not for everyone. There is a controversy around this show that I will discuss after my general evaluation in an afterword, but I really don’t want that to get in the way of the merits of the show itself. This is the story about teen suicide and bullying. It’s the story of a high school girl who, through a number of circumstances, decides to commit suicide. The twist to this comes when it’s revealed that she has recorded tapes naming twelve people responsible for her decision and sends them around through a mutual friend to these people, forcing them to hear her story. Continue reading