Another summer at the indie box office has come and gone. While only a few summer films left a lasting impression on me in 2011 (“Another Earth”, “The Future”, “The Tree of Life”), this past season was chock-full of memorable fare.
We saw potential awards-contenders in movies like “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “Moonrise Kingdom” and my personal favorite, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. Foreign fare like “Headhunters” and “Farewell My Queen” were full of surprises, and documentaries like “The Imposter” kept me reeling for weeks. Even less-impressive flicks like the recent “Killer Joe” would hardly be considered a waste of time and money, in my book.
With fall thrust upon us, October looks like a promising month for some unforgettable cinema, with a pretty diverse yet impressive list of independent films on its roster. While none of these movies are likely to be awards-contenders this winter (like “The Master”, now playing, or “Argo”, opening Oct. 12), they will more than hold Valley audiences over until the powerhouses begin arriving next month (“Silver Linings Playbook”! “Lincoln”! “The Sessions”! Do I really need to go on?).
In my first ever “not-to-miss” installment, here are the five independent films I recommend you check out this month.
The Paperboy: Although reviews have been mixed about this one, critics tend to agree that Nicole Kidman is dynamite as a provocative Southern belle who charms a fledgling Zac Efron in some of this year’s steamiest love scenes. Based on the 1995 novel by Pete Dexter, director Lee Daniels’ follow-up to 2008’s “Precious” follows a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) as he chases the sensational story of a vicious bayou dweller (John Cusack) that may have been framed for murder. Part pulp thriller, part soap opera, and countless doses of outrageous (including a buzzed-about erotic scene where Kidman urinates on Efron), consider this to be the estrogen-charged “Killer Joe” of the fall movie-going season. (October 19) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGAM1qf7ICA
Liberal Arts: Written and directed by “How I Met Your Mother”-star Josh Radnor, “Liberal Arts” is Radnor’s sophomore effort following last year’s “HappyThankYouMorePlease”. The film follows a newly single college admissions advisor who returns to his alma mater to speak at a former professor’s retirement dinner. Co-starring Allison Janney, Richard Jenkins and Elizabeth Olsen (of last year’s electrifying “Martha Marcy May Marlene”), this college dramedy was a hit at Sundance in January and has been receiving mostly favorable notices in limited release. Although it may have little new to say about life, love and higher education, it makes for a pleasant, breezy afternoon at the multiplex. And hey, any film starring the phenomenal and dazzling Lizzy Olsen is something you definitely don’t want to miss. (October 5) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cghoZjT4e8
Seven Psychopaths: Following 2008’s “In Bruges”, Colin Farrell and director Martin McDonagh team up once again for “Seven Psychopaths”, featuring an all-star cast including Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish and songwriter Tom Waits. This off-the-wall comedy thriller tells the story of a dog thief (Sam Rockwell) that steals a shih tzu from a violent gangster (Woody Harrelson), who will stop at nothing to get his precious pooch back. The film has been met with overwhelming acclaim from critics, who praise its quick dialogue, outlandish scenarios and terrific performances from all involved. Could this energetic, unconventional yarn nab some hardware this awards season? Likely not, but it will hopefully find greater box office returns than McDonagh’s underrated predecessor, “In Bruges”. (October 12) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOsd5d8IVoA
Smashed: Meth cook to raging alcoholic – it’s progress, right? “Breaking Bad”-star Aaron Paul portrays a married man whose world is shaken when his wife decides to sober up, forcing them to reevaluate their priorities, relationships and their own, booze-infused matrimony. Despite its U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize win at Sundance and its first-rate, hilarious cast including Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and Nick Offerman, I heard very little about this particular dramedy until recent weeks. Although they may not be the most telling indicators of a film’s quality, the movie’s stirring theatrical trailer and perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes have completely sold me on this one. (October 26) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHqKc0Fqa08
Wuthering Heights: This is hardly your mother’s adaptation of Emily Bronte’s timeless novel, originally published in 1847. Rarely have I found my jaw on the floor following a teaser trailer, but this new adaption of “Wuthering Heights” certainly did the trick. With a cast of largely unknown actors that are a far cry from your typical “white-washed” Hollywood cast, this version of “Wuthering Heights” was released in the UK last year, where it was met with mixed-to-positive reviews. Helmed by Academy Award-winning director Andrea Arnold, the film made a splash at Cannes and the Venice Film Festival, where it won a number of awards for its cinematography. Although it is arriving stateside with little to no buzz, one can certainly hope that American audiences embrace this reimagining of one of the most tragic love stories ever told. (October 19) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HjdVKA1AuQ