Mike Mills

In THUMBSUCKER, Keanu Reeves is (finally) in on the joke

In THUMBSUCKER, Keanu Reeves is (finally) in on the joke

Piecing apart the broader coming-of-age themes in Mike Mills’ THUMBSUCKER may not be a fruitful exercise. I’m not saying the film isn’t worth discussion or parsing; not at all. There’s just a more diplomatic (read: cute) way of celebrating the director’s feature-length debut. Like this: Keanu Reeves plays a New Age orthodontist who, for a change, is in on the joke. Doesn’t that already sound more intriguing?

In THUMBSUCKER, Keanu Reeves is (finally) in on the joke

In THUMBSUCKER, Keanu Reeves is (finally) in on the joke

Piecing apart the broader coming-of-age themes in Mike Mills’ THUMBSUCKER may not be a fruitful exercise. I’m not saying the film isn’t worth discussion or parsing; not at all. There’s just a more diplomatic (read: cute) way of celebrating the director’s feature-length debut. Like this: Keanu Reeves plays a New Age orthodontist who, for a change, is in on the joke. Doesn’t that already sound more intriguing?

Top 10 film rebels fighting for independents

Top 10 film rebels fighting for independents

Making movies costs lots and lots of money. Dependency is the name of the game in the studio system and the clichĂ© of the executive producer coming to set and scaring everybody straight is surely based on actual events. ‘Indies’ used to be the alternative to that system, but that movement is now so big, such an institution in its own right, that ‘Independent’ may no longer be the most accurate nomenclature. ‘Indie’ is one of the haziest terms in the film industry; in the era of Steven Soderbergh’s watershed indie hit SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE, things were more cut and dry, you were either in or outside of the studio system.

Miranda July's "It Chooses You"

Miranda July's "It Chooses You"

Even though Miranda July’s new nonfiction book It Chooses You isn’t inextricable from her latest film, THE FUTURE, the two could easily be called companion pieces in that having some knowledge of one only adds to your experience of the other. And it makes sense that July, who’s a writer, performance artist and filmmaker wouldn’t just make a film when she makes a film – she creates a whole world that manifests itself in the various mediums in which she works. There’s performance art in the film, there’s pieces of the book in the film and there’s the story of making the film in the book. That’s what this book really is, the story of how July finished her film, an unexpected and arduous task that took her on a journey all over Southern California.

When she was close to finishing the screenplay for THE FUTURE, July was hit by a major case of writer’s block. As any writer knows, sitting at your computer and Googling stuff related to your work instead of actually writing it is a completely normal and acceptable form of procrastination. But ravenously reading the Pennysaver and calling the people who placed the ads not to buy what they were selling but to interview them about their lives, their hopes and dreams, is another form of distraction altogether. But to July it wasn’t a distraction, at least not entirely; It was a vision quest.

In It Chooses You, July weaves her interviews with the Pennysaver people into her own personal narrative about her struggle to finish writing her film in a voice that’s so honest and humble, so yearning and without pretense that I think even her detractors would get sucked into the power of her story. From the outside what she’s doing is such a small and seemingly trivial thing, but from the inside of it, it’s absolutely everything. It becomes grand in scale and importance. Everything hinges on July’s ability to not only make it through the Pennysaver obstacle course she’s set up for herself, but to make sense of it at the end…

Mike Mills' BEGINNERS

Mike Mills' BEGINNERS

BEGINNERS is a fitting and exciting followup to Mike Mills’ feature debut THUMBSUCKER (2005), the story of Justin, a teenage boy struggling to make sense of the relationship between his mother and father, between his parents and himself and between himself and that confounding group, the other sex. Though it’s well known by now that BEGINNERS is largely autobiographical of the time in 2003 when Mills’ own mother died and his father revealed that he was gay, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) could very well be the grown up version of frustrated young Justin, if all his angsty teenage fire had died out by the time he was 38, that is.

"Drawings from the Film BEGINNERS"

"Drawings from the Film BEGINNERS"

Mike Mills, veteran music video director who turned feature film director in 2005 with THUMBSUCKER says he’s “a graphic designer as much as [he is] a filmmaker.” His latest project, BEGINNERS, may be, first and foremost, a film, but as someone who works across multiple mediums it’s accompanied by “a lot of stuff,” like copious amounts of scribbling, note-taking, journaling and drawing.