As we mourn the tragic, too-soon (would it ever not have been?) loss of the multi-talented Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of the Beastie Boys, I think it’s important to remember what I hope to be his lasting legacy in the film world, Oscilloscope.  An independent film company with both production and distribution wings (amongst other areas), it has become in the last five years one of the most treasured imprints in American cinema.  In recent years, as major studios tighten their funding for their arthouse subsidiaries – championing mostly established names and (hopeful) crossover fare – it has come down to genuine independent companies like Oscilloscope to pick up the slack and give voice to unestablished or perhaps the more idiosyncratic works produced in the US and elsewhere.  This no small feat, considering the long list of short-lived and defunct independent companies the last two decades have witnessed.  Oscilloscope has become a haven for music (Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour) and political (the exquisite and important Burma V.J.) documentaries as well as a place for exciting talents like Kelly Reichardt.  None of it would have been possible without the love for the artform and the enthusiasm of Adam Yauch, a longtime cinema devotee who notably directed a number of the Beastie Boys videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower.  Jumping early on the Theatrical Release VOD model, as well as streaming services like Netflix, Oscilloscope has allowed for a much broader audience to find these intriguing works.  I haven’t seen all of their releases, but whether it’s good or bad, I know when I watch a film they’ve produced or distributed it will certainly be interesting.  Here is a list of six of those ‘interesting’ films – some are magnificent, others merely intriguing, but all are worth your time.

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My Winnipeg

March 19, 2009

mywinnipeg-2

“What if I film my way out of here?”

Any film that calls itself a  “docu-fantasia” is sure to have the eyes rolling like a slot machine.  The opening of the film doesn’t assuage the fears that this is going to be indulgent, ‘art-house’ (read: student film) sludge.  A blend of black and white photos, black and white footage of a man asleep on a train with rear-screen projection in the background, and the narration that continuously repeats the word “Winnipeg” over images old maps of the city’s four rivers (called the ‘Lap’) and a woman’s bare pelvic area (don’t want to be crude) had me slouching on the couch and audibly sighing.  What a joy and a surprise to discover how the film turned out!  It is never miles away from the opening, but it does give an excellent argument in favour of art-house self-indulgence.

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