Mumblewatch: five mumblecore gems to look forward to in 2012

Friday March 30th 2012

Mumbletalent: Joe Swanberg, Kent Osborne

By far the purest (and therefore the most potentially irritating) application of the mumblecore ethos on this list, Uncle Kent sees Joe Swanberg — probably the genre’s most tireless practitioner — on typically meandering form. Spongebob Squarepants writer Kent Osborne stars as himself (sort of) in this presumably improvised ode to loneliness, longing and short-lived social networking sites. Swanberg directed seven feature films last year — one of which was only available in a limited edition ‘subscription service’ — and few seem destined for UK distribution, which makes it all the more remarkable that Uncle Kent is available to stream on Netflix. And at 72 minutes, it’s hardly a big ask.

Mumbletalent: Lena Dunham

I first stumbled upon Tiny Furniture when searching for a ‘Surprise Film’ for Teenage Wasteland back in January. It wasn’t quite right for various reasons (for one thing, it’s not a teen film) but that by no means diminishes the worth of this endearingly frank indie dramedy, which — in the two years since it won big at SXSW — has secured an HBO series, a role in the next Judd Apatow movie and a place in the ultra-exclusive Criterion Collection for its writer-director-star Lena Dunham. While not mumblecore in the strictest sense (Dunham claims the film had a ‘tight script’), Tiny Furniture has far too many sardonic, listless white people to be excluded from the genre entirely. It arrives in a small handful of UK cinemas TODAY.

Mumbletalent: Ti West, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence, Kate Lyn Sheil

While I successfully managed to avoid most of the interesting stuff at the Berlin Film Festival, I did catch a market screening of V/H/S, the new found-footage anthology horror movie from a host of mumblecore stalwarts including Ti West, Adam Wingard and Joe Swanberg (who also stars). Obviously anything that can be described as both ‘anthology’ AND ‘found-footage’ is destined to be a bit of a mixed bag, but you’d be surprised how often V/H/S stumbles into something truly ingenious as it tears its way through genre conventions, stock characters and countless dramatic tonal shifts. Highlights include an unholy mindfuck of a haunted house short from YouTube collective Radio Silence, and Joe Swanberg’s The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger, shot entirely through the medium of Skype. Momentum picked up UK distribution last month so an appearance at Frightfest in August seems likely.

Mumbletalent: Tim Heidecker, Kate Lyn Sheil, James Murphy, Eric Wareheim

Roundly dismissed by the privileged hipster crowd it sought to satirise when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year, Rick Alverson’s The Comedy is more about the mumblecore movement than a part of it. Starring Tim Heidecker (of ‘and Eric’ fame), its a relentlessly cruel, mean-spirited anti-comedy (comparisons to von Trier’s The Idiots seem apt) starkly at odds with the innocuous tone of so much Sundance fare. The mass walkouts reported there might go some way to explaining its lack of UK distribution, not to mention its absence at next month’s inaugural Sundance London festival. But hey, at least we get that new Julie Delpy movie.

Mumbletalent: The Duplass Brothers, Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon

The commercial titans of the genre are back this May with their first movie since 2010’s Cyrus — the film that saw mumblecore adopted into the mainstream comedy landscape like never before. Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Paramount recently removed the comma from the film’s title, but I’m not budging) treads similar ground to Cyrus but with slightly diminished returns, despite solid performances from A-list leads Segel and Helms. Still, it’s probably the only film on this list likely to make it beyond the M25, so you have to give them points for effort.