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Monday, 4 February 2013

Indie Film Fails, a.k.a. Monday Movies

This is a rant, ok? If you're religiously opposed to rants, run away. Now.

Let me start by saying... indie films are the best. So much more refreshing and unusual than blockbusters and romcoms. Obviously. They surprise, sometimes shock, and always satisfy any film fanatic. Having said that, I have comprised a list (which I may or may not share in the future) with indie titles. My biggest source is Sundance, the annual film festival in Utah. I've already checked some of the titles, and even though I watched some pretty good tear and joy-jerkers, I was disappointed by a couple.

The first one was... wait for it... The Sessions, written and directed by Ben Lewin. 

It was critically acclaimed and recommended by the Sundance crows, I mean crowd. (I've a policy against correcting Freudian slips now, deal with it.) So I watched the trailer and I immediately knew: I was probably not going to like it. Even so, I soldiered through because I need to watch any movie that has so many awards in its bulgy belt. I love it when I'm pleasantly surprised after starting with doubt.

That wasn't one of those times, however. My gut was right. (It usually is.)

What did I not like about The Sessions? First of all, I didn't like the fact that Mark O'Brien (the one in the movie) seemed to be one of those lucky ones with a naturally high hedonic level of happiness. Basically, people are either naturally predisposed to being happy or unhappy, and while they can raise or lower their level throughout their lives, there is a base line. Given Mark's good-natured humor and unconvincing suffering, I can only think he's one of the happy ones. Yes, it's admirable that he can be so upbeat and socially-unimpeded in his difficult situation. But then... where's the struggle? In bed, I guess.

Now, I am not saying that people with polio can't learn to laugh again. I'm just saying I wasn't convinced by any of it. I wasn't convinced by his suffering and fears; I wasn't convinced by Hunt's feelings for him; and I wasn't convinced that the film brought anything new to the cinematic table, really. Except maybe the sweet moment at the end where he recaps the loves of his life. But that's all of it.

I mean, when did Hunt develop this love for him? In between awkward sex fails? And yes, the conversations with the priest were funny, but they rather reminded me of a beloved Hollywood tactic: sprinkle some random humor here and there, and you'll have the crowd laughing and loving it. But what about the moral of the story? You know, the message you remember long after watching the film. 

There was none. Not that I could see or deduce. Bottom line: it didn't move me.

Honestly, this makes me angry. Because I see the logic behind promoting it and throwing superlatives and awards at this movie. The logic is: it's a sensitive subject, so it's automatically "deep and meaningful". Nevermind that it's a string of life experience, which albeit unusual is mostly unconvincing.

The second "indie film fail" I was referring to in the blog title was Safety Not Guaranteed

This one, however, I genuinely liked. The idea is fucking awesome. This guy posts a weird ad in the paper, saying he can time travel and he needs a partner. So, naturally, a bunch of journalists are sent to investigate. Among which, an unusually gloomy girl. And Jake Johnson. 

While the message of the film is clear: Weirdos deserve love, too. And: There's more that meets the mind. ... the acting is slightly disappointing. There are occasional awkward glances and pauses. Not dramatic ones, mind, really awkward. As if the girl's forgotten her lines or is trying to win an Oscar or something. The redeeming part of the movie is the song. Quite a powerful song by Big Machine.

This makes me wonder if screenwriters don't think, "Hey, let's add a song in there. People love that in an indie film!" Which would make sense because people do love that. But to have an overall awesome feeling after the movie and learn something new from it, it has to be an overall great experience.

Take Once (2006) for example. It's truly one of the best indie films out there.

Once is about a street performer in Dublin and a Czech immigrant who meet on the street and become fast friends. It's such an intimate movie where nothing much happens... except everything. It's got raw talent and music to melt your heart. And it has what I value most in movies, and art: honesty.

And the music is awesome! Tons of original songs that could become most played on your ipod.

So if you haven't seen Once, do it. Try Safety Not Guaranteed, too. Skip The Sessions.

What did you think of those movies? What do you think I should watch next?