Welcome to the year-end edition of Indie Insights, a Movies.com column in which we take a wide-angled view of what’s happening in the independent film community.
Issue #1: Year-End Thoughts
As a devoted fan of independent film who lives in a major U.S. city (Dallas, Texas) where movie theaters abound, it can sometimes be frustrating to read about films that premiere at festivals or play in limited engagements in New York and/or Los Angeles, and then take months to find their way out to the rest of the country and the world. In some cases, films have fallen between the cracks, distribution-wise, and remain difficult to see, even on home video.
To look on the positive side, however, any year that features a film as powerful as Take Shelter
(pictured above), or as poetic and mystifying as The Tree of Life
, or as humanely unsettling as A Separation
, or as emotionally devastating as Shame
, or as nerve-jangling as Carancho
, or as slick and thrilling as Drive
, can’t be all bad, and all of those movies received theatrical releases in 2011 (or will in 2012, in the case of A Separation
). If we have to wait until certain acclaimed films arrive on home video, or expend greater effort to track down foreign-language films that are increasingly shut out of the U.S. theatrical market, well, so be it.
It’s never been easy to support independent films and filmmakers, but the tools are becoming increasingly more affordable, both to make and to watch indies, and more and more indies are seeping into the mainstream. And that’s something to celebrate as the year draws to a close.
What's been happening at the indie box office?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
has gotten off to a good start, earning more than $879,000 in two weeks of limited release, according to Box Office Mojo
. Last weekend, the spy drama starring Gary Oldman averaged $28,549 per screen. While some American critics (including myself) have found the mysterious plot too confounding to follow, it seems that the majority of viewers have been impressed with the complexity of the characters and the refreshingly down to earth direction by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In
Roman Polanski’s comedy/drama Carnage
opened to decent numbers, averaging nearly $16,000 at five locations. That doesn’t bode well for its coming expansion, though the combined star power of Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet could draw increased interest, even without further awards recognition. Of note, the film has already made more than $9.7 million in foreign engagements.
Charlize Theron has been front and center in the advertising for Young Adult
, which expanded into nearly 1,000 theaters last week and has now grossed $3.8 million. In my last column, I predicted that the film, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, would either break out big -- or land with a resounding thud. Unfortunately, it seems to be the latter, with social media chatter suggesting that Theron’s character is a major turn-off.
New York and Los Angeles are deluged with limited releases of films contending for year-end awards consideration. Here are four key titles that are opening.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
(Opens New York and Los Angeles Dec. 25; expands nationwide Jan. 20.)
Young Thomas Horn dominates the screen as a nine-year-old boy dealing with the loss of his father (Tom Hanks) on 9/11. Stephen Daldry (The Reader
) directed and Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
) adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The film, which relies upon heavy-handed sentimentality, has sparked mixed reaction among critics. With Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, and Max Von Sydow.
(Opens New York Dec. 21.)
Glenn Close gives a quiet, contained performance as a woman in 19th Century Ireland who has long passed as a man for purposes of employment. She plans to open her own shop one day, but unexpectedly finds herself yearning for domestic bliss with young Mia Wasikowski, who is herself wishing for a relationship with young Aaron Johnson. With Janet McTeer, Brendan Gleeson, and Brenda Fricker.
The Flowers of War.
(Opens New York Dec. 21, Los Angeles Dec. 23.)
Christian Bale pretends to be a priest in Zhang Yimou’s historical drama, set in Nanking, China, as Japan invades in 1937. This is China’s official submission for Academy Award consideration as Best Foreign Language Film.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
. (Opens New York Dec. 23; expands in limited release Jan. 6.)
Angelina Jolie makes her debut as a writer and director with a drama set during the Bosnian War. Early reviews have generally been kind.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country will finally have a chance to see two highly-touted films.
(Expands to 170 theaters nationwide on Dec. 23.)
The nostalgic, silent, black-and-white film continues to pile up awards from critics groups, but how will it play in mainstream America?
My Week With Marilyn.
(Expands to 400 theaters nationwide on Dec. 23.)
Michelle Williams is a pleasure to watch, and the generally light, romantic touch may draw audiences who remain fascinated with the Marilyn Monroe legend.
Indie Insights will return on Wednesday, January 4. Enjoy an independent film (or two) this holiday season, won’t you?