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Curtis' Carnival Werewolf Birthday

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March is gone and so is Winter

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SXSW '10

'Twas a great year at SXSW. The best part being fun times with friends that I hardly ever get to hang out with.

Janet Pierson and crew really outdid themselves with everything this year and the programming was particularly great. At the top of my list is Dogtooth a simple yet exploding film about three late-teens trapped away from society by a controlling patriarch. I caught it several months ago at Cucalorus Film Fest but was eager to watch again. I'm quite captivated by it; from it's extremely dry humor, to it's subtle ode to cinephilia, to it's handling of both macro and micro themes of sex, violence, family and society. Plus, I can't stop saying "Bruce!"

Here's a trailer with subtitles (NSFW):

Here's a better trailer sans subtitles (also NSFW).

Some of my other top favorites were:
Winter's Bone - There's all sorts of elements I love about a film in this Southern Gothic Noir: a regional setting, a lead character who won't take no for an answer, and a slowly unfolding mystery told with as much emphasis on the character as the narrative. It's also full of wonderful performances especially Jennifer Lawrence in the lead and John Hawkes as her uncle.

Lovers of Hate - Granted that some of my very good friends made this film I do think I can be objective enough to say that this is a great film that has an amazing script and performances lead by a very assured director in Bryan Poyser.

Enter the Void - A technical feat and mesmerizing story. One could easily argue that it's kind of boring but there is something about it that pulls you in and doesn't let go. The opening title sequence alone got an ovation at the screening I was in.

Marwencol - Outstanding documentary that combines superb filmmaking with an eminently compelling subject.

Audrey The Trainwreck - Again, lots of friends involved with this project but I can say that's it's a wonderful gem of an indie that has one of the best endings of a film and one of the greatest rants on film. Not to mention Frank Ross' almost anthropological perspective on Suburban life and love and Lowery's quietly observing camera.

The Happy Poet - One look at the tag line and you might find yourself saying "Uh oh." But this film is a real winner. I hate to use the word charming but dammit that's exactly what it is. It's also really funny. Of course on a personal level I can identify with trying to bring something tasty and healthful to the world even when everybody doesn't seem to get it.

NY Export: Opus Jazz - This film is just plain beautiful. Beautiful photography of beautiful people doing beautiful dance moves. I want to watch it again and again. Seriously, just take a look at the trailer:

And more favorites:
Saturday Night
American: The Bill Hicks Story
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
The Red Chapel
Cold Weather

I was remiss in my short film watching this year but I did catch a few that I really loved. Delmer Builds A Machine and a selection of 5-Second Films like this one:

Or this one:

Or this one!

Ones I really wanted to see but missed:
Tiny Furniture
Bear Nation
Red White & Blue
Citizen Architect
Reel Injun
Trash Humpers
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This Cloudy Friday I Miss Being On The Beach With Amy

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Coffee, Cats, Fashion, Cake

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For the next week I will be almost entirely offline. I'll be at an undisclosed island in the Caribbean that only has a population of about 400 in a house on the beach that's basically in the middle of nowhere.

The occasion is two-fold; it's Amy's birthday and our seven year anniversary next week. We've known each other the same amount of years we've been married.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I really won the lottery with that special lady. I love her.
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Happy February

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The Maid

A little over a month ago I got an email from the distributor of The Maid (http://www.themaidmovie.com/) asking if I minded posting something about their upcoming screening at The Modern, Jan. 28-30th.

Not only do I not mind but I also have to commend them on the outreach effort. Enlisting the help of local filmmakers to get the word out is a pretty ingenious idea to add to the play book and just another fine example of how web networking makes us a big filmmaking community.

I'll have to remember this when St. Nick starts rolling out.
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Merrily, Merrily - Full Film Now Available Online

After much internal deliberation (and procrastination) about the best way to get Merrily, Merrily out into the world I've decided to release it myself through Vimeo.

I really loved making this film. I loved taking it to festivals and discussing it with audience members. At almost every festival someone stopped me on the street or at a party and wanted to dig deeper into the film. One time it happened while crossing the street. I had to suggest moving to the sidewalk.

I hope you all enjoy it. If you see fit please pass it on.

Merrily, Merrily from James M. Johnston on Vimeo.

Merrily, Merrily (2008)


17 min.

Official Selection of Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival, Austin Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Tallahassee Film Festival, Naperville Independent Film Festival


After a serious revelation from her father Merrilee's reality begins to fracture and she realizes that her family life is more unstable than she had always believed. Not your typical teen angst film, "Merrily, Merrily" explores the lines of perception, self-awareness and being a character in your own life.

(Tech: Shot on Panasonic HVX-200a. Edited with Final Cut 5 on a MacBook Pro.)