GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here, and welcome back to Declare Your Independents, our series highlighting the latest developments in the world of independent film!
The Best Films of 2014 (So Far)
And, The Most Underrated Films Of 2014, So Far
2015 Oscar Preview: Expect Reese to Rise Again and Angelina to Crash the Directing Category
Writers Can Do Anything
Life Itself and 6 Other Biographical Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now
Scott and I encourage any of you who go to see an independent movie to post your reactions to the film in these posts. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever. If there’s a film you want to recommend, do it. Use your words to inspire readers to transport themselves into a local cinema.
INDIE SPOTLIGHT: MOVIES TO SEE IN THEATERS THIS WEEK
OPENING FRIDAY (7/18)
Writer/director Mike Cahill’s drama I Origins centers on medical student Ian Gray (Michael Pitt). Ian specializes in the evolution of the human eye. One day he attends a party where he meets a masked woman whose eyes transfix him, and soon the two fall in love. Years later, Ian makes a startling discovery in the lab, forcing him on a trek across the globe in order to uncover profound truths about mankind. I Origins screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Watch Sundance’s Q&A with director Mike Cahill and the film’s cast here.
Wish I Was Here
Following his celebrated debut feature, Garden State, Zach Braff delivers a new postcard from the edge of existential crisis, this time playing a thirtysomething family man wrestling with a few minor hindrances—like his disapproving father, an elusive God, and yes, adult responsibility. Aidan Bloom is a pot-smoking actor whose last job, a dandruff commercial, was longer ago than he cares to admit. Pursuing his thespian dream has landed him and his wife in tough financial straits, so when his grumpy father can no longer pay for the kids to attend Jewish Yeshiva, Aidan opts for homeschooling. To the chagrin of his hyperdisciplined, religious daughter and the delight of his less-than-studious son, Aidan takes matters into his own imaginative hands, rather than sticking to the boring old traditional curriculum.
Watch a DP/30 interview with director Zach Braff here.
And So It Goes
A self-centered real-estate agent (Michael Douglas) gets the surprise of his life when his estranged son appears on his doorstep with the granddaughter he’s never known, and leaves the young girl in his care. Rob Reiner co-produced and directed this comedy-drama co-starring Diane Keaton, Frankie Valli, and Scott Shepherd.
A Five Star Life
Single and middle-aged, beautiful Irene (Margarita Buy) is wholly devoted to her job as an inspector of luxury hotels. Constantly on the road, she indulges in expensive pleasures at impeccable resorts, but always incognito and alone, soon escaping to the next exotic destination with her checklist and laptop in tow. When her best friend and ex Andrea (Stefano Accorsi), who has always been a source of emotional support, suddenly becomes unavailable, Irene is thrown into a deep existential crisis. “Luxury is a form of deceit,” she is told by a fellow traveller in the fog of a steam room, and thus begins Irene’s quest to bring more meaning into her life.
Eminently inventive Michel Gondry finds inspiration from French novelist Boris Vian’s cult novel to provide the foundation for this visionary and romantic love story starring Audrey Tautou (Amélie, Coco Before Chanel) and Romain Duris. Set in a charmingly surreal Paris, Duris plays wealthy bachelor Colin, whose hobbies include developing his pianocktail (a cocktail-making piano) and devouring otherworldly dishes prepared by his trusty chef Nicolas (Omar Sy, The Untouchables). When Colin learns that his best friend Chick, a fellow acolyte of the philosopher Jean-Sol Partre, has a new American girlfriend, our lonely hero attends a friend’s party in hopes of falling in love himself. He soon meets Chloé (Audrey Tautou) and, before they know it, they’re dancing to Duke Ellington and plunging headfirst into a romance that Gondry rapturously depicts as only he can. Their whirlwind courtship is tested when an unusual illness plagues Chloe; a flower begins to grow in her lungs. To save her, Colin discovers the only cure is to surround Chloe with a never-ending supply of fresh flowers.
Watch a Q&A with director Michel Gondry here.
There’s No Place Like Utopia
Filmmaker Joel Gilbert journeys across America to find out what’s at the end of the Progressive rainbow — utopia or something far worse? From the ruins of Detroit to the slums of Chicago’s South Side, and from Denver’s illegal immigration invasion to Newark’s urban removal project, Gilbert pulls back the curtain. He confronts Progressives on his quest, and takes us deep into their political fantasy of paradise on earth. There’s No Place Like Utopia is a humorous and horrifying exploration of Progressivism, amnesty for illegals, race relations, Islam in America, political correctness, and Barack Obama himself, who promises to “remake the world as it should be.” But is utopia a real destination for America? Or, does the true path to happiness still remain faith, family, and hard work — back home in Kansas?
The story of a group of friends who reunite for their annual 4th of July weekend only to be confronted by Chad, a strange and beautiful nature photographer who begins to change their lives one by one.
An American in Hollywood
A talented young filmmaker from New York sets off to Los Angeles in pursuit of the Hollywood dream, only to discover through his relationship with a beautiful feisty young actress, that Hollywood is not all that it seems.
Video Games: The Movie
Video Games: The Movie, a feature length documentary, aims to educate and entertain audiences about how video games are made, marketed, and consumed by looking back at gaming history and culture through the eyes of game developers, publishers, and consumers. The film is not just another film about the games industry, but attempts something much more ambitious; the question of what it means to be a “gamer”, a game-maker, and where games are headed. Storytelling and the art of the video game medium are also explored in this first of it’s kind film about the video game industry and the global culture it has created.
Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory
Alive Inside is a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. This stirring documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. An uplifting cinematic exploration of music and the mind, Alive Inside‘s inspirational and emotional story left audiences humming, clapping and cheering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.
Watch the Sundance Institute’s interview with director Michael Rossato-Bennett here.
NOW IN THEATERS
Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years. Boyhood is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting.
Watch a 30-minute interview with director Richard Linklater here.
Feeling disenchanted with life after retirement, Mitch, a brassy former surgeon, convinces mild-mannered Colin, his ex-brother-in-law, to holiday with him in Iceland. The pair set off through Reykjavik ice bars, trendy spas, and adventurous restaurants in an attempt to reclaim their youth, but they quickly discover that you can’t escape yourself, no matter how far you travel.
Watch a Sundance Q&A with directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens here.
Hoop Dreams director Steve James creates a portrait of influential Chicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert. Officially an adaptation of Ebert’s bestselling memoir of the same name, the documentary uses Ebert’s valiant struggle with cancer as a structural device to examine his many career accomplishments. As a series of flashbacks take us through Ebert’s colorful life and times, James periodically returns to his subject’s traumatic last days in the hospital, where his wife Chaz and other loved ones prepare to say their last goodbyes. The result is a reverent meditation on the life and death of the writer whose passion for film was evident in every review he penned, but whose love of life taught his loyal readers to treasure every moment.
Watch an interview with the film’s director Steve James here.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
An ambitious young female singer moves to New York City in search of stardom, but finds only disappointment until falling for a struggling record-industry executive who helps her down the road to fame. Songwriting duo Gretta (Keira Knightley) and Dave (Adam Levine) had been dating since college when they decided to seek their fortune in NYC. When Dave is signed by a major label, temptation proves too powerful for him to resist and the couple call it quits. Crestfallen, Gretta fights to get back on her feet until one night, while performing in the East Village, she catches the attention of Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a once-respected music executive who’s since fallen on hard times. Enchanted by Gretta’s powerful voice and skillful songwriting, Dan convinces her to join him in a collaboration that will transform them both over the course of one unforgettable summer. Written and directed by John Carney (Once).
Watch a Q&A with writer/director John Carney here.
Many thanks to Wendy for today’s post. Remember to Declare Your Independents by going to a theater or use V.O.D. to watch an indie feature this weekend.