Sweetwater was a good revenge style western starring Ed Harris and January Jones. Written and directed by twin brothers Noah and Logan Miller the film has a contemporary feel to it despite its 1800s old west setting. Harris plays a lawman who relieves the towns incompetent sheriff, while January Jones is an angry recently widowed wife out to bring justice to the men who killed her husband.
The plot is fast paced and the cinematography is eye-popping as the crew clearly shot in location in various parts of the Southwest. The film is quite mainstream and would probably place 2/10 on the scale of independence. The villain is played quite well by Jason Isaacs. He punishes people by calling upon the wrath of god and seems to be running the early makings of a cult somewhere in southern Utah (I doubt this was a reference to Mormonism, but the location and time period did seem to fit).
The directors made the interesting comment that they make films purely with the intent to entertain their audience. They do not start with a philosophy or theme that they wish to imbed in the film and in turn impart to the public, but if one if gleaned from viewing they would be happy to hear their audience was engaged. From the look, feel, and tone of the film everything felt quite mainstream and the film very well might make a good deal of money upon a wider release. Developing the Ed Harris slightly more may have made for a more intriguing set up. As it stands his character goes from happily dancing to killing without mercy at the drop of a hat. Much of the character is told through Harris’s physicality and a story or two about his past could have aided what was for the most part a terrific performance.
The main mythology that the film challenged was that of the Christian religion. The villain did all of his murdering and harm in the name of God, which made the character both frightful and believable for his time period. Much of the violence around the world is declared in the name of God and the film shows how easily divine power can be abused and corrupted to bend to the needs of a single man. Both January Jones and Ed Harris seem to be less obsessed with a higher power and more driven by personal morals and social codes.
The Crash Reel is a documentary on the life of professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce. Directed by Lucy Walker, the film follows Pearce through home video and footage from his days as a child through his professional snowboarding career up to his horrific accident in Park City, Utah where he endured a traumatic brain injury. The main focus of the documentary displays the obstacles and trials the Pearce family endures during Kevin’s recovery. After regaining consciousness the basic motor abilities Pearce’s mind still told him that he wanted to snowboard at a competitive level despite the fact that even a minor concussion could drastically harm him for the rest of his life or even kill him. Many of the most powerful scenes in the film involve Kevin receiving advice and moral guidance from his parents who are horrified at the thought of him riding again.
The film dives into the mythology of the barbarianism aspect in sports. A hypothesis is set forward that without major crashes in extreme sports and major collisions in sports like football and hockey drive the large numbers in the viewing public. It questions why the general public is enthralled with such sports and in particular their sadistic aspects. The film then focuses on the drive of these athletes and their mindset that anything they imagine can be achieved. Whether these athletes would have the drive and obsession to push their sport to its limits if the public were not so drawn to the aspect of crashing is indeed a tough question to answer. Perhaps the more alarming subject is the little amount of medical insurance such athletes receive while preparing for events and competition. With injuries being an almost certainty in the sport of snowboarding medical insurance should be a necessity while it appears at the moment to be a luxury.
The film would probably only place a 4.5/10 on the independent scale because of its mainstream appeal and interviews with well-known snowboarders. The fact that it challenges the dangers of snowboarding and ultimately resolves that the sport itself is in fact too dangerous and needs to be better regulated is where it draws most of its independent nature. The director was careful to present the snowboarders and their lifestyle as accurately as possible and then demonstrate the incredible impact and stress the Pearce family endures after the injury. It is not until Kevin is confronted by his own brother who was stricken with downs syndrome that Kevin had to accept that his brain had changed and he would not be able to snowboard at the level he used to enjoy.