If you haven't noticed, Oscilloscope is putting out some great fiction and documentary features, including the subject of my last post, Meek's Cutoff.  Oscilloscope also put out Reichardt's last film, one of the best of 2009, Wendy and Lucy.

Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy
Here are 3 recommendations from the Oscilliscope catalogue that are worth checking out:

1)  Howl (2010) - Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct this unique and important look at the obscenity trial surrounding Allen Ginsberg's iconic beat poem.  The film creates an interesting tension between being faithfully tied to the language of the trial, using only the language as it was transcribed, and taking interpretive flights of fancy in some impressive animated sequences that are set to readings of the poem.  The trial itself, although maybe not the most historically important battle over censorship, contains some powerful declarations around  free speech issues and obscenity issues that seem just as important for us today as they were then.  The real sadness of Howl may be the way in which it reminds us that we once lived in a time when poetry mattered.  Franco may be in every third movie these days, but I think that this may be one of his great, overlooked performances.  Howl also features an impressive and well used supporting cast, including David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, and Mary-Louise Parker.

James Franco in Howl

2)  William S. Burroughs:  A Man Within (2010) - From one beat era icon to another, this doc from first time director Yory Leyser takes a fairly successful stab at the hand-gun obsessed, queer, junky mugwanp king himself, William S. Burroughs.  Although I hope this documentary isn't the final filmic word on Burroughs, it does give Burroughs fans something to chew on for now, and does a particularly good job of exploring the unique nature of his queer identity.  You can get a sense of the set of talking heads that appear in the film here-- which includes David Cronenberg, Peter Weller, and Iggy Pop--as well as some of the well used archival footage and audio.  A must-see for those who, like myself, believe Burroughs was not only the greatest writer of the Beat generation, but with Naked Lunch perhaps penned the greatest and most spellbinding of American novels, period.

William S. Burroughs and friend
3)  Dark Days (2000) - Mark Singer's documentary about subterranean homeless lives in New York is one of the best examples of documentary film as effective social action.  Not only did Singer make one of the most revealing and important documentaries of our time, truly showing the viewer an aspect of society that would otherwise be hidden from them, but he did it using the underground inhabitants as his film crew.  Ultimately, the film was used as a way to secure low rent housing for the filmmakers and subjects.  Dark Days is one the great triumphs of documentary film history, and worth catching up with through Oscilloscope.  The film also features an original score by DJ Shadow.

Dark Days
Also, there a couple of pictures in theatres now or coming soon from Oscilloscope that could potentially be some of the best "under the radar" finds of the year:   Lynne Ramsey's first feature since 2002's Morvern Callarthe psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, and Evan Glodell's debut post-apocalyptic love story, Bellflower.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Oscilloscope Laboratories was founded by the Beastie Boy's Adam Yauch (MCA) in 2002, and first released Yauch's democratic experiment in concert docs, Awesome, I Fuckin' Shot That!

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