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Newsflash! “Beasts” director is NOT 23 years old! He’s 29!

Breaking Hollywood News! Benh Zeitlin who is being proclaimed the new Orson Welles for having directed the award-winning “Beasts of the Southern Wild” for doing this at age 23. Benh himself says, “No, no. I’m 29. I want to stop this rumor. I’m not a child!” But he certainly knows how to direct children, as he certainly has done with his 6-year-old star Qu’venzhane Wallis. He also co-wrote this with a woman, Lucy Alibar, who he has been collaborating with for many years. He also reveals that though he has never been to film school, he teaches film and video to school children. This explains, a bit, the authenticity of the female child, Hushpuppy’s perspective.

Camera & Editing ~ Cody Michaels

Elizabeth Olsen gets an ovation at NYFF for “Martha Marcy May Marlene”!

And who got her that rousing out-of-nowhere round of applause and enthusiastic cheers? Well, l’il ole me, of course.

It was during the Q & A during the Press Conference after the Press Screening of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” a title I am STILL struggling with. This was at the New York Film Festival, of course.

And I made a statement. I congratulated the beauteous 21-year-old actress who makes such a stunning screening debut that she’s just blown that category, Best Actress, wide open.

I told her that I wanted to congratulate her for giving what was surely one of the best performances of the year, by an actress, and the crowd went wild, roaring and clapping in agreement.

She was startled, the moderater was startled. The director Sean Durkin looked, well, in agreeance, pleased. And then I exclaimed “That’s the New York Film Critics speaking! This never happens! You got it, baby!”

And I was totally chagrined that I had called Elizabeth Olsen “baby” or “babe” in front of hundreds of people, well, press/people, but still…

And then I asked the director Sean Durkin “Who was Marlene?” and suddenly I felt all the air go out of his(and my tires).

He mumbled something like “It’s there.”

And I still don’t know what he meant.

The title is the biggest stumbling block this very good indie film has on its’ way to the Oscar. Will people (that is Academy members) be able to pronounce it? And if they can’t pronounce it, will they watch it? Will they even vote for a film whose title they can’t say?And is as confusing as the young heroine, whose names form the complicated title, becomes through her involvement with a strange cult in Upstate New York?

But the film is very, very good. A gripping thriller/psychological drama about this young girl’s entrapment by these Manson-esque modern-day hippies, led by the always-threatening John Hawkes. Hawkes received an Academy Award nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” Which was much more confusing than this film.

Another Indie to emerge out of Sundance. And it has the low-budget, Sundancy feel to it. And every year for the past several years, a Best Actress nominee has emerged out of Sundance. Last year it was Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”, then before her Gabourey Sidibe for “Precious” The list goes on and on and this year it could be Elizabeth Olsen.

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the famous Olsen Twins, is sublime in a very difficult, complex role and very very clear in her portrayal of a confused, lost young woman who falls in with the worst people she could possibly ever be associated with. Her struggles to make sense of what has happened and is still happening to her form the crux of this gripping, exciting movie.

With a deceased mother and an antipathetic grandmother(who we never see) Martha is on the run and gets picked up by this cult who live on a farm in a remote area of upstate New York. Hawkes, the ringleader, immediately changes her name to Marcy May. And then her programming and reprogramming and deprograming and inculcation into this cult begins. It’s eerie, accurate and frightening in its’ details. So simple and yet so scary.

The film shifts back and forth in time between present day Martha who has run away and sought refuge in the real world again with a barely tolerant older sister, Lucy(Sara Paulson) and her brother-in-law Hugh Dancy. Yes! There he is again! Twice in the same week! Giving yet another nuanced, excellent performance as a straight-arrow, British businessman who is losing his patience with his bizarre foundling of a sister-in-law.

And who’s Marlene in the end? I was told by many critics afterwards it was a name they, the cult, used when talking about all the cute, young girls, when they are dealing with outside people. I.E., the world. “Cousin Marlene” is what they are ALL called. Just to keep everything even more confusing.

Apart from that nearly unprounceable title “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of this year’s best films. And should have no problem getting Elizabeth Olsen and perhaps John Hawkes, too, back in the Oscar race this year. This is Elizabeth Olsen’s feature film debut and it’s stunning, stunning, stunning.

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