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Five Independent Films Worth Checking Out
Over the weekend, I had my first experience visiting the Angelika Film Center to see Robbie Pickering's film Natural Selection. Pickering, a NYU film graduate, talked about his experiences with filming the movie in over just 18 days and directing a traditionally comedic actress (the film's dazzling lead, Rachel Harris) in a much more serious role.
The film got a lot of buzz at SXSW last year, so I was excited when I found out it would be playing in New York. I would recommend going to see the film at the Angelika while it's still playing there. If you are looking for some other independent film suggestions, here's a list of films and theaters that I've personally enjoyed over the past few years.
Who doesn't want to be a hero? Well, diner cook Frank D'Arbo, played by The Office's Rainn Wilson, for one. He's too upset over losing his recovering addict wife, Sarah, (Liv Tyler) to the drug dealing Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After receiving possibly one of the most bizarre visions ever, Frank dons a maroon mask and costume and becomes the Crimson Bolt, a "hero" who everyone first sees as a violent psychopath (possibly due to his penchant for savagely attacking criminals with a wrench). After meeting the cussing comic book store clerk Libby, the pair resolve to partner up and get Frank's wife back. From the director of Slither.
- I saw this movie last year and attended a panel discussion with the director, James Gunn, and stars Liv Tyler and Kevin Bacon at the IFC Center at 323 Sixth Avenue and West Third Street. I also saw Human Centipede there.
Gregg Araki's experiments with hyperreality yet again in the story of Smith, a queer college student who lusts after his surfer roommate, Thor, and spends all of his free time with his snarky best friend, Stella. Plagued by odd dreams filled with people he doesn't recognize, Smith eventually meets and connects with London, a sexy British girl he forms an instantaneous bond with. But something sinister seems to be lurking in the background. Smith eventually starts to uncover the mystery behind a red-haired dead girl and the men chasing him who wear animal masks. Araki also directed The Living End, Smiley Face and Mysterious Skin, among others.
- I saw this movie at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Rose Cinema as part of the Sundance Film Festival U.S.A. Both the director, Gregg Araki, and star Thomas Dekker hosted a Q&A after the film.
Emma Caulfield is Oona, a single girl who is looking for "the one." Finding that person is a lot easier now; TiMER is actually a device you can get implanted in your wrist for a small monthly fee. The device counts down and reaches zero once you find your soul mate. Despite their 98 percent approval rating, Oona's timer hasn't started counting down; her future soul mate hasn't gotten his TiMER yet. Despondent, she eventually begins dating her doe-eyed grocery clerk, Mikey, a man much younger than herself. But when her TiMER finally starts its countdown and Mikey's not "the one," will Oona defy fate for love?
- This was the first (and so far only) movie I've seen as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. The director, Jac Schaeffer, along with the four lead actors, including Buffy's Emma Caulfield, hosted a discussion after the screening.
Trevor Wright plays Zach, a young artist with dreams of leaving his lower class San Pedro surroundings. With an irresponsible sister more interested in dating and partying that taking care of her son Cody, Zach is put in a position where he spends most of his time watching his nephew. But when his best friend's older brother, Shaun, moves back to San Pedro, the pair form a bond that eventually leads to something more. Zach is conflicted; he can't leave Cody, but he wants a chance to fulfill his dreams. This film proves to be much more than just a realistic depiction of a young man struggling with his sexuality; it's ultimately about the family you make for yourself.
- I saw this movie at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, MA, shortly before I moved to New York. I also saw Art School Confidential and Little Children at that theater. It's a Landmark Theater, and like the Sunshine Cinema at 143 East Houston Street in Manhattan.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan Frye, a teenager who discovers the body of his ex-girlfriend, face down in a storm drain. What follows is Brendan's quest to find out what happened, who killed Emily, and why. Influenced heavily by old hard-boiled detective stories (think Dashiell Hammett), the classic, noir-inspired dialogue in this film is counterbalanced by its suburban California setting. Aided only by a fellow student known as "The Brain," Brendan gets caught up in a tangled web of conspiracy, drugs, and deception.
- I saw this one at the Coolidge Corner Theater — possibly one of my favorite theaters I've ever been to, long before I moved to New York. I saw Juno there before it became a widespread success, and also went to screenings of the Buffy Musical.