Lita On Film

Posts Tagged ‘Buck’

Trivial Top Ten

In Film News, Film Reviews, Netflix Recommendations on December 27, 2011 at 12:05 am

As the year draws to a close, I feel the annual urge to post my own Trivial Top Ten–a list not exhaustive by any means, but more a private crib sheet of my personal favorites from the past 12 months.

My perpetual caveat: there are SO MANY films I haven’t yet seen, many of which would probably end up on a more professional, exhaustive list, so don’t hold that against me.  These are just the ten films I enjoyed the most/found the most interesting over the past year.  Notes as to how you can see each of them are included, as are links to my own reviews of each title, as applicable.  Enjoy!  🙂

  1. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE – Read my review here!  See the official site for screening locations.
  2. WEEKEND – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!
  3. SHE MONKEYS – Read my review here!  See the official site here…so far, no distribution in the USA, but keep your fingers crossed.  Whet your appetite with the trailer (here)!
  4. SHAME – Read my review here!  Visit the official site here to find where it’s playing near you!  Beware, its NC-17 rating has made it difficult to find outside of major cities and art houses.  You may have to make a pilgrimage for this one, but it’s worth it, I promise.
  5. INSIDIOUS – Read my review here!  Ok, I know it technically came out last year, but it made such an impression on me–and I was so late in finally seeing it–that I felt it was worth adding to this list.  Plus, genuinely good horror films are so few and far between these days that one practically has to reach back a year or two to be able to recommend anything good.  Available on NETFLIX streaming!
  6. LAST NIGHT – Another Tribeca premiere that still made it to this list about 9 months later.  A truly excellent romantic drama starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as a couple who married too young and are struggling with the consequences.  Great acting, tight direction and a fast pace keep the tension crackling in this sexy ensemble drama.  Available on NETFLIX streaming!
  7. DRIVE – Ok, I got to this one late as well, but it was so worth it.  Check out Kevin Bowen’s review over on Screen Comment for a full rundown, and the official site for screening locations near you.
  8. BUCK – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!
  9. ANGELS CREST – Read my review here!  See the official site for release dates and screening venues.
  10. TROLLHUNTER – Read my review here!  Now available on NETFLIX streaming!

What were your favorite (or least favorite) films of 2011?  What were some that should have been on my list?  Let me know!

Buck – P-town 2011

In Film Reviews on June 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm

“Buck” is the amazing portrait of a true-life horse whisperer: Buck Brannaman, a genuine cowboy who was horribly abused as a boy and gradually turned himself into a horse-training guru.  His first involvement in Hollywood was as a consultant to the film “The Horse Whisperer,” directed by Robert Redford in 1998.  His methods were quickly proven effective—he recounts waiting eight hours on set for something he got a horse to do in 15 minutes—and now people travel all over the country to attend his training clinics.


First-time director Cindy Meehl has crafted a pitch-perfect documentary about Buck: the story never lags or loses its emotional momentum, and is funny, touching, and inspirational in all the right ways.  We get plenty of Buck’s hard-luck backstory—his father beat him and his brother relentlessly after his mother died, and eventually the two were plucked away and placed in a loving foster home.  A trick rider from the age of three, Buck was around horses his whole life, and attributes his sixth-sense abilities to his intimate understanding of what it’s like to be truly afraid of another person.  His emotional honesty throughout the film is another revelation; who’d have thought a real-life cowboy would be so in touch with his feelings?

Though all the praise of Buck can get slightly repetitive at first, once the film shows us his techniques in action it’s hard not to be left speechless.  We watch him saddle and ride horses that have never been “broken in” before in just a few minutes.  He advises his students on everything from proper riding form to how to communicate with their horses non-verbally.  He really does seem to understand horse psychology, and there were audible gasps from the audience every few minutes as yet another miracle played out on screen.


The film’s climax comes when a woman with an unruly stallion shows up at one of Buck’s clinics and her horse attacks one of his assistants.  It’s a terrifying moment; we’re so used to seeing horses as utilities in the movies, like cars with legs, just waiting for the hero to hop on and race into the sunset.  It’s easy to forget that horses have a mind of their own, and the muscle to back it up when they don’t want to cooperate.  After the incident, Buck tells his students in no uncertain terms that in this case, “the human failed the animal.”  It’s a powerful lesson.

I’m delighted that Sundance Selects picked up the rights to “Buck” at the Sundance Festival earlier this year; everyone should see this film, no exceptions!  As Buck repeatedly emphasizes, his lessons don’t just apply to horses, but to all areas of life.  Maybe if everyone in this country had a good dose of Buck wisdom, we’d all be a little bit better off.


P-Town Festival Roundup

In Film News, Film Reviews on June 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Commercial Street, P-Town's main drag

Well, the 13th annual Provincetown International Film Festival was wonderful.  Though there were a few organizational hiccups (people got turned away from screenings because they ran out of seats, etc.), this festival is just as fun as a big-city event like Tribeca but with none of the corporate stuffiness or commercialized hype from sponsors.  Sure, we got HBO swag bags, but that was about it.  The general air was fun, happy, excited–everything you’d hope for.  And since this fest took place in glorious P-Town, as the locals call it, there was plenty of sun and sand (and restaurants, shops and drag shows) to enjoy between screenings.

At the Friday screening of "Weekend"

The five films I ended up seeing (I had planned to see eight, but time constraints and one overbooked screening conspired against me) turned out to be a great mixture and representative of the festival’s overall quality: “Higher Ground,” “Weekend,” “Happy, Happy,” “Buck,” and “On The Ice.”  (Reviews to follow!)  “Buck” ended up winning the HBO Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, and Vera Farmiga, director and star of “Higher Ground,” was honored with this year’s Excellence in Acting Award.  Other award recipients for 2011 were Darren Aronofsky (Filmmaker on the Edge Award) and Albert Maysles (Career Achievement Award).  Like the fest and P-Town itself, the honorees represent a diverse range of expertise and experience, all bringing their own unique brand of brilliance to their work.

The press lounge at Gabriel's Inn - great snacks!

As a whole, the festival was excellent.  The staff and volunteers were welcoming and accessible, and I really got the feeling that they were genuinely excited about and dedicated to making the fest as good as it possibly could be.  Other audience members I chatted with (not press, just regular civilians) all seemed in line with this tide of enthusiasm; they were all thrilled to have such a great cultural event taking place in their town, and relished the opportunity to see such great films right in their own backyards.

Postcard-perfect P-town

All in all, I declare P-Town 2011 a complete success.  Looking forward to coming back next year!