According to Oceanic Cable’s Primetime On Demand, May is Indie Film Month, which sounds silly to me because, in my opinion, every month should be indie film month. An independent “indie” film is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio and distributed by independent companies or subsidiaries of major studios. They’re usually, but not always characterized by smaller budgets and limited releases.
The biggest criticism about indie films is that they look like student films, the actors are often inexperienced and they just don’t compare to mainstream blockbusters, but none of this deters me. I can forgive subpar acting as long as there’s an intriguing concept behind it and a compelling plot progression. There’s such a raw quality, an organic feel to independent cinema that big blockbusters, filled with cookie-cutter romance or over-the-top action can’t quite capture. Here are a few indie films I’ve watched in the past month that aren’t perfect, but serve as a refreshing alternative to all the action movies filled with cheesy one-liners currently playing at the local movie theater.
Short Term 12
A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. (via IMDB)
I had a friend suggest I watch this film, saying it felt like something I would write. If you’ve seen Short Term 12 then you know why that is incredibly flattering. This film appeals to me most because I studied psychology in college and one of the first things we learn is how diverse influences operating in complex ways shape an individual’s development. In other words, there’s no nature vs. nurture, but nature and nurture. The film explores that in these complex, damaged kids at a treatment facility who’ve had the wrong kind of influences forced on them and the staff who help them cope while dealing with traumas of their own.
Brie Larson, who plays Grace, is a revelation. There are moments of silence, where the camera holds on her as she stares off, seemingly dead in the eyes, but somehow you just know there’s more there, that she’s lost in thought, mentally running from something. We spend a good part of the film waiting, wondering, anticipating. We both want and don’t want Grace to confirm what we suspect, confirm our worst fear for her. She makes us fear for a fictional character. She makes us care. And not only care about Grace, but the things and the people she cares about. It has its emotionally stressful, intensely dramatic moments, but frequent humorous moments, subdued sentimentality and pure beauty are there to balance it out. Short Term 12 is just a film that’s tremendous in its depth and filled with characters you can’t help but feel for and love.
I’d suggest you watch it ASAP. Drop everything you’re doing and stream it on Netflix: here
Tonight You’re Mine
Two feuding rock stars get handcuffed together for 24 hours at a music festival where they are both due to perform. (via IMDB.)
This movie had me at music festival. It’s a silly low-budget film, shot in only five days, that has some good moments, especially scenes involving music.
Honestly, I’m not even sure I liked the characters in this. Adam (Luke Treadaway) is a condescending rock star, the kind of guy you kind of love because of his catchy music and musician sensibility, but also kind of suspect is a complete jerk beneath the persona. Morello (Natalia Tena) is a strong female fronting an all-female electro pop band, but also comes off as abrasive and self-centered. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of either individually, but when they come together through music, everything changes. The connection they form through their shared love of music and sharing their music makes the transition from two people who hate each other to two people who have playful, fun moments along with more raw, intimate moments more believable.
Adam and Morello meet and initially hate each other. Just as they grow close, something happens and tears them apart. It isn’t the most original premise, but being set at a music festival is the hook and an effective one if you’re anything like me. I live for live music and did have the pleasure of going to Sasquatch once upon a college time. I’ve been sandwiched between sweaty drunk people at the foot of a stage, surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands. I love how this movie brought back so many of those memories and that nostalgia to the point of feeling like a pseudo-documentary. Tonight You’re Mine really succeeds in capturing the music festival experience, the love, the filth, the alcoholic haze and the feeling of living.
I’d suggest it for a lazy day where you’re too hungover to do more than cue up Netflix: here
Stuck in Love
An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teenaged children come to terms with the complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year. (via IMDB)
When reviewing movies in my head, on my own twisted rating scale, I’ll usually give an automatic star for using an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes song. Two stars if it’s “Home.” Well, this movie uses “Home” not once, but twice. I call foul play!
I initially sought out Stuck in Love out of curiosity about Josh Boone, who wrote and directed it. I was curious about him because he also directed the highly anticipated movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, the beloved young adult novel by John Green. I love the novel and after seeing Stuck in Love, I think it’s in good hands. I’m also excited about Nat Woolf’s involvement in The Fault in Our Stars after seeing him in Stuck in Love, playing Rusty Borgens, a shy, sensitive youth who aspires to be a novelist (like his father and sister) and stumbles through first love.
Other than the gorgeous seaside on location shooting and Kristen Bell’s small yet standout presence, the best thing about Stuck in Love is the Borgens’ dysfunctional dynamic. They all have their individual quirks that include stalking, promiscuity and odd Thanksgiving rituals. I enjoy the way they interact, how they’re the first to tear each other down, but the only ones at each other’s side when one is in need. The movie also has a great soundtrack. Did I mention “Home” already?
If you want to get acquainted with the director’s style before seeing The Fault in Our Stars or just like dysfunctional family dramas or find yourself unexplainably mesmerized by Lily Collin’s eyebrows, you can find it on Netflix: here
These are just a few of the indie films I’ve watched in the last month that’s been dubbed “Indie Film Month.” Because of their smaller budgets, the cast and crew often have to be more precise and clever in order to capture the film’s vision with much more limitations. I’ve seen so many indie films with more heart than blockbusters, that feel closer somehow. Independent Cinema has so much to offer than what can be covered in a single month. Every month should be indie film month and it is for me.