It’s almost October, meaning that the movie awards season is just getting started. The New York Film Festival just began Friday showcasing the big-budgeted Oscar hopefuls like David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman. I can’t wait to see these movies, but I want to shed some light on a few independent films that deserve to be seen and make some well deserved profit and maybe even get some Oscars?
Back in the spring of 2014, the niece of acclaimed filmmaker Sophia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation), made her film debut. Her name is Gia Coppola and her film is Palo Alto. Based on the short stories by James Franco, the film follows the lives of a group of teenagers in Palo Alto, California. This is a beautiful, eerie, almost melancholy portrait of suburbia life. Emma Roberts and Nat Wolff are revelations here. I don’t want to give away their characters because I want you all to see this movie and experience the delight of finding out who these kids are. They play April and Fred just two of the teens crossing paths in Palo Alto. Visually striking, with excellent use of color as a metaphor for self-expression, nuanced performances, and a tone that turns this neighborhood into a haunting visit, makes Palo Alto one of the best movies of 2014. 9/10
Another small indie movie that just came out, was actually based off a craigslist listing about a man wanting to house a guest for free as long as they dressed up like a walrus. Kevin Smith and his team took this crazy, real life situation and turned it into Tusk. A24’s newest addition to their film slot, is one of the most bizarre, twisted, and hilarious horror films I’ve ever seen. I think what really stood out in this film was the outrageous humor it had. That’s probably thanks to Kevin Smith’s (Clerks, Chasing Amy) style of writing and directing. Tusk is all about telling a story. Our main character Wallace, played by Justin Long, and his bud, Teddy, played by Haley Joel Osment (where the hell has he been) host their own podcast show where they share outrageous videos/stories from around the world. I’m not going to give away the plot like I said before, but let’s just say Wallace makes a trip to Canada and meets the worst person he can meet, Michael Parks, who deserves some serious awards consideration for his work here as the manipulative, cunning, and disturbingly evil Howard Howe. What I really love about this movie, besides the fact that it is really funny and disgusting at the same time, is that there’s some distinct commentary on our culture today as a whole and our fascination with “telling a story.” Shows like Tosh.O and even Smith’s own podcast take part in the same kind of ritual that everyone in our society finds joy in. Hearing an interesting story whether it be funny, gross, or scary is used for entertainment. But the people that are telling these stories, are real people. No one is writing a script for these characters, they’re luring people in with their lives. The catchline on the movie poster for Tusk perfectly sets the theme for this movie, “Let me tell you a story…” 8/10
Finally, I just watched Gregg Araki’s White Bird in the Blizzard. Now for people who have seen Araki’s past work (The Doom Generation, Kaboom), either love or hate his films. I love his work. His style and themes fuse together to establish a world of wonder for his characters and the viewer, both visually and emotionally. White Bird in the Blizzard is a hypnotic and darkly funny film based on the novel by Laura Kasischke. It’s 1988 and we’re introduced to a 17 year old girl named Kat, played excellently by rising star Shailene Woodley, who comes home one day to find that her mother, Eve (an extraordinary Eva Green) has disappeared. Kat is beginning to discover herself sexually while trying to cope with the loss of her mother and her doormat of a father, Brock (Christopher Meloni in a career changing performance). This film shifts through past and present as Kat narrates the dynamics between her parents and how she discovered who they really are. There are so many twists and turns in this movie, you won’t expect anything that’s coming. It unfolds like a thriller almost because essentially that’s what it is, a mystery. I would even slightly compare this movie to Sam Mendes’s American Beauty. Everything comes together to a shocking ending that left my mouth wide open. This film is worth seeing for its explosive performances and Gregg Araki’s extremely unique vision of cinema. 8/10
If you want to see some great movies that are both entertaining and thought provoking, then see these films.
Palo Alto– On Demand/DVD
Tusk- In Theaters
White Bird in the Blizzard– On Demand/ Coming Soon to Theaters