Why the fuss about indie movies ?

My exploration of the indie spirit has led me today to indie movies, a genre born in the 1990s in the USA, now celebrated worldwide thanks to amazing festivals such as American Sundance Festival and Tribeca Film Festival or British Raindance Film Festival, the biggest one.

  • First of all, what is considered to be an independent movie ?

A movie is considered “independent” when “it is produced independently with a minimal shooting budget”, according to wise geek.com (what a brilliant website name, right ?). In other words, it was not born out of massive production studios such as Universal or Time Warner. That is for the form.

Concerning the content, “minimal shooting budget” means the scenario will mostly be about subjects that do not interest major studios, because of their tendency of being very introspective, about every-day life seen through a new, sometimes distorted perspective. Shortly said, dangerous investments for studios, as it is unlikely that a minor pregnant girl with a sharp sense of humor as Juno is can interest as many people as 3-D skull-headed Nicolas Cage fighting the demons on his flamed motorcycle does. What a shame.

  • How are independent movies made ?

If a lot of them are produced and/or distributed by independent entertainment companies, yet, most of them rely on subsidiaries of major film studios. Indeed, with the indie movie vague of the 1990s, major studios decided they wanted their piece of the cake and started to buy independent studios. For instance, Universal bought Focus Features, which produced Lost in Translation, Brokeback Mountain and The Pianist, among others.

  • Why are independent movies worthier to see than mainstream ones ?

That, dear readers, is mostly because independent movies often benefit from the best writers like Diablo Cody (Oscar of best scenario for Juno in 2008), which is perfect if like me, you would rather have a dense scenario and few action rather than failing to follow ten-minutes long fights or car crashes. And let’s face it, Avatar‘s scenario is nothing but a 2011 version of Pocahontas’ love story with John Smith (by the way, it is very beautifully told in The New World by Terrence Malick).

Then, independent movies are often the breakthrough for very talented actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer), Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides) or Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine). Indie movies being mostly focused on the narrative part, the actors can freely play their role, without hiding behind special effects or fuzzy action scenes.

Finally, indie movies often provide the best soundtracks. Juno’s is an instant classic, such as Little Miss Sunshine’s, who highlighted DeVotchKa’s brilliant How It Ends

  • Which indie movies should I see without any further wait ?

If I had to make a top-list of my favorite indie movies, that’s how it would be :

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry (2004)

It is more than a movie, it is an experience. An entanglement of present, past and future, which leads the spectator magically confused. It tells the story of a couple (Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey) who have each other erased from their memories and then wander through them, in an attempt to save their love.

A must-see movie, at the crossroads of Tim Burton and Terrence Mallick. Sentimental hearts, be aware!

2) Little Miss Sunshine by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (2008)

A modern fairy-tale about Olive (Abigail Breslin), a cute little girl who wants to compete for the national beauty competition called Little Miss Sunshine. Her twisted family (depressed gay uncle played by God Steve Carell, emo brother played by Paul Dano or overwhelmed mother interpreted by Toni Collette) reunites around her dream, driving throughout the USA with a yellow van.

A beautiful story about how important it is to reach for your dreams, but also to be aware of your surroundings.

3) Submarine, by Richard Ayoade (2010)

The struggle for a shy and introspective boy, Oliver Tate (Noah Taylor), to go out and have sex with the girl of this dreams, weird and fascinating Jordana (Paddy Considine), while his parents have to face his mother’s middle-age crisis.

An hilarious, tender movie about the sharp and complicated ages that can be teenage times. And how love can overcome the most bitter moments.

Plus, the soundtrack is made by Alex Turner, leader of Arctic Monkeys, which should be sufficient a reason to watch it for any decent people on planet Earth.

4) Juno by Jason Reitman (2007)

A fair, very funny movie about Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a sixteen-year old weirdo girl who gets pregnant from her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) and decides to leave the baby to a seemingly perfect suburban couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). Yet, not everything happens as she expected, which makes this movie original and give a touch of authenticity.

5) (500) Days of Summer by Marc Webb (2009)

Premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, (500) Days of Summer is the tale of the end of a love between deeply romantic Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Lewitt) and Summer Finns (Zooey Deschanel). Indeed, it begins with Summer suddenly breaking up, leaving Tom upset and confused. Flashbacks intertwined with present, he tries to understand why the love of his life decided to run away.

A touching, lovely movie about the complexities of love, and how blindness in a couple can lead to incomprehension. Sentimental hearts : be aware (bis).

Cover photo : Submarine, credit to Mars Distribution

Movie photos : allocine.fr

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