another movie you should probably see

Donnie Darko
was one of those movies I’d heard about from people
I respect, but never got around to actually watching until about five
weeks ago.

About fifteen years ago, I watched a special about MST3K, which included an interview with Joel Hodgson. Joel said, "When we write our jokes, we don’t ask ourselves, ‘will anyone get this?’ we say to ourselves, ‘the right people will get this.’" That stuck with me, because I interpreted Joel’s words as advice to go for the smart humor, or the obscure-but-rewarding-reference, rather than dumbing everything down so nobody feels left out.

So what does that have to do with Donnie Darko? I felt like the filmmakers didn’t worry about making a blockbuster that would please everyone in the audience, and instead gave us a challenging, complex, dark and unique film, just like Joel and his gang weren’t afraid to give us comedy that we didn’t always get, but rewarded our intelligence when we did.

A couple of nights ago, I watched a movie which was recommended to me because I liked Donnie Darko so much, and I think a lot of WWdN readers would also like it. The film is called Primer.

It’s the story of two friends who successfully build a time machine, what they do with it, and how they deal with the consequences. It was made for $7000, and won the Grad Jury and Alfred P. Sloan prizes at Sundance last year.

If you’ve seen Primer, please don’t discuss specifics in comments (you know what I mean) because it could really trash the movie for everyone else.

23 thoughts on “another movie you should probably see”

  1. I love independent films, I started watching them a few years ago, and now I can’t get enough. I even love those really short 2 min films. There are reallly a lot of talented people in this world, whether they are ever given credit for it or not! Thanks for the recommendation Wil. Always looking for something not in the mainstream.

  2. I own Donnie Darko and love it, I rented Primer a little while ago and thought it was awesome, it is a little harder to follow than Donnie Darko, but I agree it is an awesome movie, I watched it with my wife and stepkids and they all got bored and wandered off halfway through (they all loved Donnie Darko) so I guess this does kinda highlight that this story is a little more complex.

  3. Saw it, loved it. Yes it totally reminded me of Donnie Darko and Memento. You didn’t always know precisely what was going on, but somehow that didn’t take away from its awesomeness. Plus it was shot really well for $7000 (even if the audio seemed kind of sketchy at times).

  4. oh god yes. i saw this almost completely cold at the 2005 boston scifi movie marathon and when it ended i wanted to see it again to see if the plot held together.

  5. Amazing film. I think it’s brilliant the way the director writes the dialogue and sets up all the shots to make it appear that we’re just eavesdropping in on the action. It’s as if we’re standing right near the actors and they’re just talking. The mood and tone of the film is rather unique in that regard even if the dialogue can be far too expository at times.

  6. Yes Yes Yes Yes. Primer is absolutely outstanding. The commentary on the DVD is also worth a listen, although they spend more time talking technical than they do plot/development.
    I can’t recommend Primer enough.

  7. Welcome to the club, brother. I remember the first time I watched Primer: I was both confused (“Which guy is which? Did he just call him hero?”) and not confused (“I think I follow the explanation for how time travel works, but my brain hurts now”). Even as my mind was being blown, I knew I was seeing something special. Even after a while since I last saw it, I just can’t stop going ’round in my head thinking about the box.

  8. Primer and Donnie Darko are indeed great movies. If you liked those, you should definitely check out American Astronaut – great music and great humor.

  9. I watched Primer this summer when I worked at Blockbuster Video. It became one of my “reccomended films” for the coming months.
    (Other reccomended films included Saved! and Dig.)

  10. Oh, man, is this a sore spot for me. Damn, Wil, I can’t believe you got sucked into the Darko Dimension. 😉
    I know you didn’t reveal plot details for obvious reasons. But I’m constantly amazed by those who sing Donnie‘s praises yet can’t tell me what the movie is about or what it means.
    Worse: they credit the film for its ambiguity. Some even say that the enigma of Donnie Darko is precisely why they are fans, “you’re not supposed to get it!”
    At first, I thought this was some kind of cinematic snobbery but after speaking to more people, I’ve come to realize that the enigmatic pretentiousness of Donnie Darko has actually created a type of cinematic peer pressure.
    This is not to say that everyone doesn’t “get it” or that there’s nothing “to get.” But if there is, I didn’t, uh, “get it.”
    I was intrigued by the movie–swooned by it. I found it funny and dramatic and scary. I ate my popcorn slowly, mechanically, my eyes wide and glued to the screen. But that only lasted so long. Soon, I became annoyed. By the movie’s end, I was lost. And angry.
    I think I’m a fairly intelligent person, but I didn’t get it (dammit!). Nor do I think every story needs to MEAN SOMETHING or HAVE A POINT. But Donnie Darko was lost on me. Is that my fault? The filmmakers?
    You draw a fair enough analogy, Wil, between jokes and movies. But like a scene or piece of dialogue, sometimes when it doesn’t quite work, it gets re-written–ofttimes for the better.
    With that in mind, I just added Donnie Darko – The Director’s Cut to my Netflix. And I cannot wait!
    Incidentally, Primer was fantastic.

  11. A few nights ago I was flipping through my digital cable channels at 3 am and stumbled across a film I had never heard of that had an interesting premise. I figured I would give it 5 minutes to see if it hooked me before I went to bed. Two hours later I finished watching Primer. The next day I was still thinking about it. And that is the best compliment I can give any film.

  12. Sorry, but Primer blew chunks. It was nothing like Donnie Darko. It was a confusing mess of a homemade film project. Can’t believe it got so much attention.

  13. I didn’t get why they needed to go in the box. Couldn’t they have make a motorized vehicle with a timer? Then they could have played with causality. That would have been fun.
    “Hey! We this weeble wobble just popped out of the machine. Now we have two. What happens if we don’t put it back in? Or what if we put the ‘new’ one in.”
    “Great… we’ve invented a machine that creates weeble wobbles.”

  14. Oh, excellent. I love both those movies and I see the connection that would have people recommend one to you after the other (and it’s not a simple plot-level one).
    My hope is that Alex above will enjoy DD the director’s cut more than he did the original. I don’t think the film MEANS SOMETHING thematic he didn’t get, necessarily. But the DC connects a few things left to the imagination. I like it *less* because it removes some of the ambiguity, but it sounds like Alex may like it more for that.
    I think anyone criticizing Primer for looking like a homemade film may not realize how little $7000 is in movie-making terms! Yes, it could effectively be remade on a bigger budget. It’s still imaginative and impressive for what it is.

  15. I watched the movie and then read a thread on that explained it.
    There are a lot of things you miss, once you have watched it, read the thread on imdb that explains it and watch it again, it is very clever how they did everything.

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