Each month Oklahoma Magazine highlights exciting Oklahoma film events and gives some guidance on films out on home video and those currently playing in theaters.
June in Oklahoma means one thing for cinephiles: the deadCenter Film Festival, which happens this year in Oklahoma City from June 8-12. In the 30 or so years since the Sundance Film Festival began, festivals have blossomed all over the U.S., thriving as a way to make film going an event and not just an item on the schedule. In some ways it almost seems like the market is oversaturated, and festivals have had to either specialize (like Missouri’s True/False festival, which has become the premier festival for documentary films in the U.S.) or go above and beyond to make themselves stand out in one way or another.
deadCenter has opted for the latter route, and part of what makes the festival pop is just how much fun it is. A party atmosphere seems to pervade much of it; there are multiple events that focus on socialization (with plenty of food and drink). Even the screenings themselves have a bouncy energy that speaks to the festival’s relaxed feel. That should not imply, though, that the films come second, and deadCenter has a tasty lineup well worth checking out. There are main event films, like the New Zealand comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but also a solid slate of short films that come packaged in themed groups. These include a whole array of shorts by Oklahoma filmmakers – just one more way deadCenter manages to feel like a distinctly Oklahoman festival.
The setup of Jeremy Saulnier’s taut new indie action film Green Room sells itself: a down-on-its-luck punk band takes a gig at a neo-Nazi compound, but when things go awry they have to battle their way out, pitted against a whole host of angry skinheads led by Patrick Stewart. That should be enough to tell you if the film is for you (and, fair warning, it has quite a bit of gore), but the film extends beyond its genre trappings to explore the ways in which group dynamics can be both beneficial and very harmful. Stewart is a delight (no surprise there), but leads Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots bring a nice chemistry to the screen as well – not to mention Alia Shawkat’s nice turn as the responsible band member. Saulnier ratchets the tension up slowly until things reach the bursting point and explode in offbeat ways.
By far the standout of June’s DVD releases, Charlie Kaufmann’s latest film Anomalisa provides a different sort of animated film experience (you’ll want to watch when the kids are in bed). A decidedly grown-up film that deals with themes like clinical depression, social conformity and the difficulty of love in the modern age, Anomalisa provides plenty of food for thought. Aside from its thematic richness, the film offers a bounty of visual delights – it’s stop-motion animated, with each figure crafted lovingly for maximum emotive detail. Add in a surprising sound mix and Kaufmann’s usual clever dialog, and you have a mature, delightful film.