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October Movies At Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

It is not Halloween without a dose of horror. Check out which spooky films made the list this year at Saigon's alternative movie-viewing venues. If zombies, ghosts and paranormal activity are not your cup of tea, there are also some new indie and arthouse international titles coming to you this month in the city.

October 7 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl(USA, 2015)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was this year's darling at the Sundance Film Festival, bringing home both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.

Anyone who says that they had a great time during their teenage years is either lying, in denial or oblivious to their surroundings. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon presents a story that is both excruciatingly real and weirdly funny.

Greg, played by Thomas Mann, has decided that his safest bet to get out of high school – and also college – unscathed is by not building any deep or meaningful relationships with anyone, including his long-time 'coworker' Earl, with whom he films amateurish remakes of classic art films. Greg’s plan might just work, until his mother forces him to hang out with Rachel, one of his estranged schoolmates, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Gomez-Rejon’s clever direction allows moments of hilarity through quirky animations and surreal dialogue, especially with the kid’s parents, but he never sugar coats the underlying theme of the film: the enduring impact that human relationships – negative ones included – have on us, even after death.

October 8 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Selma (USA, 2014)

In Selma, David Oyelowo has the onerous task of portraying the Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights activist Martin Luther King. The compelling and awe-inspiring performance of the British actor is the leading force of the film, which re-enacts King’s struggles during his campaign for civil rights in the United States.

The peaceful protests depicted in the movie include the renowned march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, in which the police brutally attacked unarmed demonstrators. This event shocked and compelled the nation to support their cause and would ultimately lead to a new era of racial discourse. Director Ava DuVernay was not allowed to use King’s speeches in her film due to copyright reasons, but instead she interweaves the private and public lives of the leader to highlight a moment in American history when the public was in strong opposition to government policies.

October 14 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Mia Madre (Italy/France, 2015)

It has been 14 years since Nanni Moretti’s award-winning The Son’s Room. Now, after a couple of films on power and politics – The Caiman and We Have a Pope – the Italian auteur returns to the intimacy of common people’s lives.

The semi-autobiographical Mia Madre revolves around the life of acclaimed director Margherita (Margherita Buy) and her struggles in accepting the looming death of her mother. The story sees her plodding around her film set, confused about what to do. Her increasing frustration and impotence toward her mother’s health become evident through her interactions with the annoying movie star Barry (played brilliantly by John Turturro).

The dichotomy between the fictitious fabrication of filmmaking and the gloomy real world allows sardonic comedy to coexist next to the harsh dialogue within the hospital walls. Moretti elegantly knits together dream sequences with realism from which the absurdity, comedy and sadness of the human condition inexorably surge.

October 15 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Inherent Vice (USA, 2014)

Paul Thomas Anderson belongs to that rare group of acclaimed directors, such as Terrence Malick and Spike Jones, that have reached widespread success and notoriety despite having made only a handful of films. Anderson has only seven feature films under his belt and each is top-notch in their own right: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, Hard Eight and now Inherent Vice.

Based on the eponymous novel by National Book Award-winning author Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice follows stoner private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) who investigates the disappearance of his former girlfriend and her new lover. Like many of his previous films, Anderson brings to set a terrific group of supporting actors (Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and a magnetic Katherine Waterston) to unravel the mysterious plot of his anachronistic noir/comedy film.

October 21 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Goodnight Mommy (Austria, 2014)

Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s debut feature film Goodnight Mommy is a psychological horror movie that simultaneously gives a modern sheen to classic horror tales and pays homage to the pioneers of the genre. After opening with old footage of a mother and kids dressed in traditional Austrian costumes, singing the soothing 'Brahms’ Lullaby', the film suddenly takes us to an unidentified contemporary Austrian countryside where two angelic identical twins are seen happily playing around their isolated, sleek, post-modern house, which seems to have come from an episode of Grand Designs. The idyll is abruptly interrupted when their mother returns after a surgery that forces her to wear gauze around her face. Due to her erratic behaviour and cruelty towards her children, the twins soon become convinced that the person that has returned home is not their mother but an impostor, and they decide to uncover the truth.

Cinephiles and hardcore horror fans will see the twist coming from miles away, but it does not matter because Goodnight Mommy is all about psychological terror with each thrill, delivered like a sharp stab, comimg from what we see through semi-opened doors, window shutters and blurred lights.

October 22 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Shaun of the Dead (UK/USA, 2004)

Today, Simon Pegg is widely known as the IT expert alongside Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible saga and as Scotty in the Star Trek reboots, but it was the gory, humorous and slapstick horror Shaun of the Dead that catapulted him and his long-time friend Nick Frost from British television (Spaced) to Hollywood.

Pegg is Shaun, an average 20-something guy living an idle, uneventful life with two dysfunctional flatmates. Shaun is determined to turn his life around but his attempts to sort out the relationships with his mother, stepfather and girlfriend do not work out as planned. After a night of drinking at his local pub, he wakes up to an apocalyptic world taken over by zombies. Borrowing and reinventing plot-points and dialogue from other cult horror films (particularly those of George A. Romero and Sam Raimi) Shaun is both a brilliantly funny and downright scary film. Unlike other spoofs that often run out of steam after the first few gags, Edgar Wright’s film is cleverly written and strikes a perfect balance between comedy and horror.

October 28 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Evil Dead (USA, 2013)

The remake of the 1981 cult-hit The Evil Dead by Sam Raimi, Evil Dead is the first feature film by Fede Alvarez (and produced by Bruce Campbell). The premise of the story is the same: a group of five friends retreats to a quiet and remote cabin in the woods during their holiday, where they stumble across the Book of the Dead. The book contains horrific illustrations and warns that none of the writings in the book should be read aloud. Of course, such admonitions are ignored by Eric, resulting in the release of an evil spirit. Alvarez does not hide his tribute to Raimi’s film, recreating similar shots and scenes, but unlike the low-budget original, it benefits from a higher production value and emphasizes the gory, bloody aspect of the story.

October 29 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Fargo (USA, 1996)

The Big Lebowski may now have a cult following, Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink have awed critics and No Country for Old Man took home an Oscar for Best Film, but for many, Fargo still remains the Cohen brothers’ original masterpiece.

A dark comedy presented as a true crime story (the Cohens cheekily admitted to lying about the truthfulness of the events), this film narrates the investigation of a kidnapping by a heavily pregnant police chief (Frances McDormand). Facing financial problems with his company, car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two scoundrels (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to stage the kidnapping of his wife, so that he can repay his debt from the ransom held by her wealthy father. Just like a good, old-fashioned comedy of errors, the plan soon goes awry for everyone involved.

Often, dark comedies are so focused on being clever or quirky that they forget to be relatable and funny. Fargo escapes this, thanks predominantly to McDormand, whose jolly Minnesota accent and positive attitude towards life give way to some of the funniest and warmest moments in the film.

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