‘The Music Never Stopped’
J.K. Simmons had never been Oscar-nominated before “Whiplash,” though that’s partly due to a shortage of meaty film roles. He deserved a lot more attention, at least, for this 2011 drama, in which he plays a nicer character, at least relatively speaking. Adapted from Oliver Sacks’ essay “The Last Hippie,” it puts Simmons into the role of a cranky, old school distant dad in the early 1970s who slowly softens after his estranged hippie son (Lou Taylor Pucci) suffers a brain tumor and can only communicate when listening to his favorite music. That means far, far too much Grateful Dead, but it also means watching Simmons’ peerless work, which tears heart strings through precise underplaying.
‘The Heart Machine’
The Internet is destroying humanity, we’re constantly assured by doomsday prophets on the Internet, and “The Heart Machine” gets in on that. It follows a young Brooklynite (John Gallagher Jr.) who strongly suspects his Berlin-based Internet girlfriend (Kate Lyn Sheil) actually lives in Manhattan. His clumsy, increasingly creepy investigation methods, however, aren’t any more humane than her subterfuge, and director Zachary Wigon films him in chilly long takes that suck all air out of the room. Even if you think it’s peddling hysteria, you have to respect its style.