Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, Natalie Canerday, Barlow Jacobs, Jr. Michael Abbott
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Shotgun Stories tracks a blood feud between two sets of half brothers in the cotton fielded back roads of Southeast Arkansas. This auspicious directorial debut by Jeff Nichols features a strong lead performance by Michael ... more »
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An excellent southern film that should be on Blu...
Steve Kuehl | Ben Lomond, CA | 06/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First-time director Jeff Nichols managed to create this amazing minimalist film on a shoestring budget. I was impressed with how so much was told but at times hardly anything was happening. A worthy independent with a big-budget production feel to it.
The cast was all recruited from nearby regions, including Michael Shannon, who gave a stellar performance as the lead brother. He is one of those actors where so much is said just by their minimal facial expressions. There are only a couple of familiar faces in the cast, otherwise this was an independent film all the way, but you would not know with the excellent acting by everyone.
The film takes place (and is filmed) in Arkansas, including areas in and around Keo, England and Little Rock. My HD comment goes to the massive amounts of landscapes and topography that are shown throughout the film. The widescreen ratio beautifully displayed rural Arkansas farms, sunsets, and small town decay; the best I have see in a southern movie in years. I would love to see this artwork in Blu.
The story is about three brothers living a simple existence, two work at a fish farm while the third moonlights as part-time teacher. Their bland livers are scattered with normal wants, including one who wants to get married, another wants to maintain a relationship with his son while dealing with his gambling and familial separations, and the last brother just ekes out a living from his van while coaching middle school kids in basketball. Their lives are shattered with violence when their estranged father dies and they decide to attend his funeral. A feud erupts between the dad's newer family and theirs as they all try to cope with their spite and hatred of each other.
The story develops slowly but it reflects the pace of life there so eloquently. The script and scenes seemed so accurate of that lifestyle, including a sequence where the main characters run an extension cord into their home's backyard, connect it to an residential AC unit and set it on a picnic bench to keep cool while drinking beer. In another scene the van brother runs a hot-wired cord from his vehicle's motor to a blender so he can make drinks. Lots of these local subtleties that make for a worthwhile film that deserves to be seen. The soundtrack has some great cuts of local bands and is scored with a beautiful sounding instrument that is described in the commentary.
The DVD has a brief photo mantage, a director's commentary, and a music only track of the film. SPOILER: The artwork on the front of the DVD should be ignored as it contradicts the whole sequence of the film (the dog being in that shotgun scene).
This will be on my recommendation list, but judging from the theatrical release spread (2 screens) and no advertising budget, I am afraid it will get overlooked."
Excellent drama, highly recommended.
ICUUCME | Santa Cruz Mountains | 07/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a surprisingly good independent film.
As if hyper-transported into the rural southeast and placed smack dab into the porch of the Hayes brothers; Son, Kid, and Boy. Thusly named by an abusive alcoholic father who abandons them at an early age and finds Jesus. Juxtaposed, a hateful mother bred three hateful men. Each of which provide the audience with a unique and destitute existence in some ways cocoon by an oldest brother Son. There is a strange brew of co-dependence between them.
The crux of the film involves the after effects of a conflict between half brothers (the aforementioned Hayes brothers and a latter set of Hayes brothers established after the father manages to marry again).
Uninvited, Son, Kid, and Boy arrive in everyday attire contrasting the row of white shirts and ties adorned by another four Hayes brothers. Son, presumably the oldest Hayes brother, ask to speak. Widow Hayes grants permission amidst obvious tensions between both sets of brothers.... As if given a hatchet for scalping, Son lets out 30+ years or so of demons and then spits on his father's casket... This event provides the seed for the Hayes and Hayes feud which for all practical purposes was part of a prophecy...
Make no mistake the feeling of a documentary in England Arkansas. Here is time to examine the surroundings, and perhaps time to reflect on familiar footpaths that some viewers experienced in their own life. The landscape and setting are so "as a matter of fact" and real. Just the right amounts of music, surroundings, and quietness to capture the monotone and depressing attributes of a southern small town without distracting from the story line or personal interactions. It's very different and refreshing to see this type of work in contrast to mainstream and block-buster films. In some ways it was reminiscent of "Ulee's Gold" but much better at examining the granulose existence of multiple characters.
Admittedly, "Shotgun Stories" is a film for people that like drama. The characters are superb. Gritty, and clearly depressing at times, but not to the point of spiraling the viewer into an abyss of nausea. It is in fact, captivating even at a slow to moderate pace. Although I feel the title is entirely appropriate, it may mislead a few into thinking Sam Peckinpah is directing. Modern film is so often consistent with revenge which tends to include graphic scenes either in bulk, or in the climax. "Shotgun Stories" plays out all the intensity necessary without anatomical explosion for a hand clinching climax. In today's tense, this is an exceptional film achievement.
New hope for American Independent film
Flickhead | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Indie Wire has been all abuzz with recent comments by former Miramax president Mark Gill that the "Sky is falling" on the American Indie film scene. "Shotgun Stories" offers evidence to the contrary. It's a real film, with real human emotion, with believable characters, story and setting. Nothing rings false. That is so monumentally rare in global cinema that it makes me proud that the film is American. And this is no flag-waiver fare. As a matter of fact it is politically opinionless. The concerns of a small inter-familial war can most definitely be symbolic of certain recent larger conflicts, but only on a universal level, in that all violence escalates from a certain point, and that start when viewed in hindsight is usually petty, but the damage unrepairable.
The camera work is marvelous, the cast led by Michael Shannon is impeccable, and film is quietly moving. It's a true throwback to the maverick 1970s. The DVD even has the Lucero score on an isolated track, which I've let run in the background a few times while tending to household chores. I didn't get to catch this in theaters, and I really wish I had. Thank god for DVD."
Shotguns Speak Louder Than Words.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 05/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When it comes to making a point, shotguns speak a language louder than words. I saw this indie film at my neighborhood theater yesterday. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories (2007) tells the story of a blood feud that erupts between two sets of half-brothers following the death of their father in rural Arkansas. Although his co-workers speculate about the scars on his back, Son Hayes (Michael Shannon) never discusses them. He is an angry man of few words. His brothers, Boy (Douglas Ligon) and Kid Hayes (Barlow Jacobs), don't mention those scars, either. Their father, a violent drunk, abandoned them to be raised by a "hateful" mother (Natalie Canerday), before finding Jesus and then changing his ways, fathering four new sons with a nice Christian lady. As an adult, gloomy Son lives in a rundown house, drives a beat-up pickup, and works in a fish hatchery. His wife has left him. His brother Kid sleeps in a tent in his backyard, and Boy lives out of an old Econoline van. (It's better than paying rent, Boy says. It's like early retirement.) They socialize with a long-haired loner named "Shampoo." Son sparks a violent feud between the half brothers after spitting on his father's coffin at his funeral. Set in shabby, small-town America, Shotgun Stories is a tragic narrative with biblical echoes of Cain and Abel, and a powerful film debut by Nichols. His film will appeal to anyone who likes Westerns in the tradition of Sam Peckinpah's films (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia; The Wild Bunch). Michael Shannon's intensity has the kick of a shotgun.