Feel worn out by summer blockbusters yet? You’re not the only one – in a summer in which many $200+ million films seem to be bombing, it seems like audiences are looking for something that doesn’t involve zombies, aliens, explosions, or superheroes… maybe something with more story and less special effects
However, with so many independent releases out there it’s likely some great ones escaped your notice. So here is a list of five films I’ve seen in the first half of 2013 that I think are worth your time. Keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily the best indie films of 2013 – I haven’t seen them all – but here are five that I think should not be overlooked.
GIMME THE LOOT
Though it premiered back at SXSW 2012, Gimme the Loot didn’t receive its limited U.S. release until this past March. It was only released in ten theaters, which is a shame because it was one of the few movies I saw all year that had me grinning the whole way through. Gimme the Loot tells the story of Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington), two Bronx graffiti taggers who decide to get back at a rival Queens crew by tagging the famous Home Run Apple at the New York Mets’ home ballpark. Naturally such an operation will require money to pay off Citi Field security, so the two go on various misadventures in order to raise the cash. It’s such a simple premise, but this day-in-the-life story about two teenagers causing mischief is totally endearing. First-time feature writer/director Adam Leon cast two affable leads in what really is a fun movie on every level.
So you kill a guy by accident and circumstances make it that you’re bound to get connected with the murder, even though you live in Canada and bury the body under such deep snow nobody will find it until spring. Where do you go from there? Co-writer and director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais cast the usually great Thomas Haden Church in this black comedy about survival and guilt, with much of the film devoted to Church’s character losing his mind as he tries to live out the controversy in the frozen woods. Oscilloscope picked this up for distribution at Cannes, so keep an eye out for it whenever its release date is announced.
As a critic I often see films that I don’t expect to like simply because it’s my job. However, the pleasant unintended consequence of that is being blindsided by a film I never expected to be wonderful. Unfinished Song floored me when I saw it, which surprised me because a movie about a senior citizen choir is usually aimed for audiences at least twice my age. But Unfinished Song, directed by Paul Andrew Williams, stars Vanessa Redgrave as a singer dying of cancer and Terence Stamp as her cantankerous husband who wants nothing to do with her music. It was released in less than a hundred theaters in June and might still be kicking around some if you’re lucky. If your only knowledge of Stamp is his performance as General Zod in Superman II, be prepared to be surprised… and probably moved.
Matthew McConaughey, who starred in one of the worst films I ever had the displeasure of seeing in a theater (that would be The Wedding Planner… don’t ask), not only starred in one of my Top 10 films of 2012 (Killer Joe) but will probably repeat that with this year’s Mud. Mud centers on the title character, a runaway stranger who enlists two young boys to help him be reunited with his true love. But writer/director Jeff Nichols — who made 2011’s wonderful Take Shelter — takes that fairly basic plot and fleshes it out with themes regarding the nature of family, true love, trust, and morality. It also builds to a stunningly tense climax.
I’m not sure if I can say anything about Before Midnight that hasn’t been said already, but I guess I’ll have to give it a shot if it’s on this list, right? Simply put, Before Midnight was one of the most emotionally tumultuous experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. I know I’m not the only one – many have followed the love story between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. Like the previous sequel, Before Midnight picks up on these characters nine years later, and if you’ve become as emotionally invested in these characters as I have there’s little doubt that you will feel everything from overjoyed to devastated during the course of Before Midnight’s 109 minutes. Director Richard Linklater continues to prove he’s one of the most innovative storytellers in film, so don’t wait another nine years until Jesse and Celine return to get involved in their story (or will they?)
How about you? Were there any indie films you saw this year that you hope others won’t miss? Let us know what movies that should be on all of our radars in the comments!