This week, Cineast offers previews of the new films Ouija, Low Down and St. Vincent.
Just in time for Halloween, a fright-fest based on something usually thought of as a joke—the Ouija board. In Ouija, one of a group of friends dies alone in her home, a large Victorian mansion, and there’s an antique Ouija board involved. For the record, the group of friends appears to range in age from 25 to 35, but they are all still in high school. Of course, they also appear to get along without parents—which shouldn’t be surprising, because they are adults, except that they’re in high school, so maybe they’re not meant to look so old…obviously, one is not supposed to think too hard about these things. The remaining friends decide to use the antique Ouija board to contact their dead friend—they conduct this séance at the dining room table in the Victorian house in which their friend died, naturally—and it turns out that—gulp!—the Ouija board is haunted. Or is it? This could be the goose-pimpler of the season.
What is it about musicians that causes a disproportionate number of them to descend into addiction? Even with the now well-publicized dangers of drugs, addiction seems to remain a professional hazard. Certainly a musician that gigs frequently at bars and nightclubs is going to have more access to the party scene then, say, a plumber, and such a player also might get started drinking to excess because it’s on the house. On top of that, being a musician is one of the few jobs you can have where you’re not necessarily expected to remain sober at work, or even show up sober. These are the kind of issues explored in the film Low Down, based on Amy Albany’s memoir about growing up with her father Joe Albany, a talented bebop pianist who was also a longtime heroin addict. The story focuses on the years 1974 to 1976, as Amy was approaching adulthood and starting to come to terms with the serious problem her father suffered with—and the tragedy of her father’s compromised career. With Elle Fanning, John Hawkes and Glenn Close.
It’s been a long time since Bill Murray broke out his classic comic persona—that trademark blend that includes good-natured misanthropy and bored unflappability, and that somehow seems to meld swagger and self-deprecation into a coherent character. Now, after many years tackling more serious roles that tended to attenuate his comic gifts, Murray returns to broader humor in St. Vincent, in which he plays Vincent, a slovenly and amoral older guy who befriends a bullied child and sets about teaching him how to stick up for himself. Also stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd. This film recently debuted to acclaim at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) and is now enjoying wide release.