One of the buzz films at this year’s SXSW festival, writer-director Sean Baker’s Starlet explores the unusual friendship between a 21-year-old actress (Dree Hemingway) and an 85-year-old woman (Besedka Johnson) when their lives cross paths in California’s San Fernando Valley. Featuring breakout performances — especially from Hemingway, the daughter of actress Mariel and great-granddaughter of writer Ernest — the movie is getting early praise from critics ahead of its release in New York and Los Angeles this week. We caught up with director Sean Baker recently, who shared with us an interesting list of his five favorite films.
Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrera, 1992; 77% Tomatometer)
This is torture. It was very difficult to leave off so many of my favorites from this list but I decided to go with my favorites that don’t get as much attention as others so that hopefully it leads to people seeking them out. So these aren’t in order — love them all equally. Abel Ferrara’s masterpiece Bad Lieutenant. I love NYC films and this truly captured the city’s vibe of the early ’90s. I could watch Harvey Keitel screaming, crying and smoking crack all day. Besides his amazing performance and Ferrara’s vibrant realism, Zoë Lund wrote one of the tightest screenplays ever written. We only got one film from her as she tragically passed away in 1999. Thank you Zoë… this is an important film.
Chang-dong Lee’s Oasis. Very little exposure in the States, however it was released on DVD and you can find it. An extremely daring film that made me cry about a “forbidden” love affair. I consider Chang-dong Lee to be one of the most important living directors. All of his films
are worth checking out.
Lars von Trier’s The Idiots aka Idioterne. This was the 2nd Dogma 95 film and didn’t get nearly the attention or acclaim as The Celebration. But I feel this is the quintessential Dogma film… combines scathing social commentary, laugh-out-loud, daring comedy and ultimately an extremely emotional and cathartic ending. This is von Trier’s masterpiece.
I love all of Mike Leigh’s films but this is the one that had a big impact on me. Like all of films above, it beautifully combines comedy and drama. It was also a stylistic departure for Leigh, who still held on to the British social-realism vibe but delivered it in a very
cinematic and calculated way. Also should be seen for Katrin
Cartlidge who had a very bright but tragically short career.
Robert Zemeckis’ Used Cars. One of the most underrated and under-appreciated films of all time and my favorite comedy. Kurt Russell is genius in this film and I wish he would return to comedies because his delivery and timing are to die for. Excellent supporting cast including the wonderful Jack Warden who plays two characters — dueling brothers. And kudos to Zemeckis and [co-writer] Bob Gale for writing a biting, social satirical and very un-PC script. “Jesus Palomino!”
Starlet plays the AFI fest in Los Angeles and opens in LA and New York this week.