"In 17 years of making films, I never knew jack shit about business," said Smith. "I'm a fat, masturbating stoner. That's why I got into the movie business. It seemed like the place where fat, masturbating stoners went. And if somebody had told me 17 years ago [when Clerks was released] I'd have to learn all this stuff about business, finance, amortization, and monetization . . . all this stupid, soul-killing uncreative, backwards-ass bullshit that I now have in my head that I've pushed out creative things to make way for, I'd have said, 'Fuck it. That's too much work, I'm gonna stay home and masturbate.' Too much fucking horseshit. I just wanna tell stories."
Then followed a mad ramble about his intention to self-distribute Red State through his Smodcast Pictures (don't ask). By 10 pm, the business people were all chortling, "Good luck!" By midnight, the press was dismissing it as a stunt rant. All true, but also brave, crazy, and wonderful theater, worthy of two seats on an airplane any day.
Meanwhile, actor-turned-first-time-director Paddy Considine was also angry, but perhaps less so after winning the Best Director Award for Tyrannosaur, a story that begins with Peter Mullan kicking his dog to death. Mullan and co-star Olivia Colman, who plays a Christian-gift-shop owner, won awards for their performances in this latest addition to the venerable tradition of British male working-class rage. But as in all the other Brit working-class-rage pictures before it, the root of the rage is never explored.
For an American version of such rage, I Melt with You, by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), takes a bath in middle-aged male venom as four 44-year-old college buddies — Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Christian McKay, and Rob Lowe — get together at their annual beach retreat to dive down the rat hole of booze, flesh, and drugs and rip one another to shreds as if it were Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in jock straps.
For an Irish take on pissed-off protagonists, there was Michael McDonagh's The Guard. A comedy of sorts, it stars Brendan Gleeson as a Connemara cop with a dry wit and a wet whistle who's forced to team up with FBI agent Don Cheadle. This shaggy-dog policier is set in Galway, where the phrase "shots ring out" in the script could have been read two ways. McDonagh puts both on screen.
Margin Call, by J.C. Chandor, trots out the beefcake-in-suits parade of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, and Demi Moore in a who-killed-the-economy story vaguely patterned after the Lehman Brothers implosion of 2008. Sure, the guys on screen are angry, but so are the poor losers in the audience, pissed off at the bad guys in the picture screwing us over.
In Take Shelter, director Jeff Nichols uses lantern-jawed actor Michael Shannon (of HBO's Boardwalk Empire) to pose faith versus pharmaceuticals. A suburban dad is angry, or maybe just mad, suspecting that Judgment Day is upon us, what with all the birds falling out of the sky. Jessica Chastain as Shannon's wife thinks he's just a treatable paranoid schizophrenic. There you have it: science versus religion waiting to duke it out while mankind hangs in the balance.