Weird and Wonderful: Independent Movies

Indie movies are quite often weird and wonderful. For me, the weirder, the more wonderful. I’m not sure exactly what makes a movie independent, but often it means it’s not glossy like a Hollywood movie. In my opinion what they lose in slick, they gain in reality and best of all: weird. Which makes no sense. A movie is weird because it’s realer? Like we’re not used to seeing real people in our flicks or something.

It’s not true that independent movies are inherently superior to blockbusters, even when it comes to depicting reality or taking risks with material or technique. First of all some blockbusters do play fast and loose with the “rules.” Look at the Alien movies. Main character was female. How odd is that? Well, not much I guess when you think about it. Alien is more horror than action and we loves to torture our female leads in the blood bath movies, don’t we? So not much groundbreaking there I suppose.

And while it’s true that independent often means experimental, some indies pretend to be experimental but are just crappy, grade B movies made by somebody who read an “Idiot’s Guide to Making Films,” armed themselves with a GL-2, and are now inflicting their bad lighting on the rest of us. But generally speaking, not being tied to a big budget means a story teller can experiment and fail. So they can come up with some really crazy stuff. I suggest you test drive “Gummo” to see what I mean. And if you have checked it out and are still walking around with a question mark over your head, mention the fact here and I’ll enlighten you. It took an overdose of Spaggettios while taking a bath in a tub of brown water but I finally figured it out.

Anyway, below is a good description of an independent from last year called Asylum Seekers.

Six introverted individuals, bored with their lives and trying to escape their daily routine, attempt to find a radical solution to their boredom by getting themselves admitted into a psychiatric hospital. Among these individuals are: Maud (Pepper Binkley), a bored trophy wife who feels trapped in a loveless marriage; Antoine (Daniel Irizarry), a sex-obsessed virgin; Alice (Stella Maeve), a woman whose only enjoyment comes from computers; Miranda (Camille O’Sullivan), a paranoid exhibitionist whose inhibitions make her dislike being the center of attention; Paul (Lee Wilkof), a fanatical right-wing conspiracy theorist; and Alan (Bill Dawes), an androgynous rapper.

Upon arriving to the asylum, the six individuals are informed that there is only room for one person in the hospital. Nurse Milly (Judith Hawking) informs the individuals that they will now have to compete for the only remaining spot in the asylum. The nurse proceeds to administer tests and contests and whomever she deems to be the craziest and most insane will be declared the winner and will be committed into the institution. The competition and everything in the institution is always watched over and supervised by an unseen character known only as “The Beard”.

Except for the line, “a paranoid exhibitionist whose inhibitions make her dislike being the center of attention,” this movie sounds painful in a slip-on-a-banana-peel-as-excuse-for-comedy way. But since I haven’t seen the film, I’ll reserve judgment. Especially since the poster is so badly designed, I get the feeling this movie is great. When I say the poster is badly designed, I mean the design department did not pass it by the marketing department. We don’t get any idea of who the buxom female foil or the token black person are. It’s not obvious what’s at stake for the main character, or even who the main young-white-guy is. Who came up with this? Dunno but I love him/her/it.

The thing that really makes me want to see it, though, is this luke-warm review:

Charles Tatum of eFilmCritic.com awarded Asylum Seekers three stars calling the film’s initial set-up as “promising” and declaring that “the possibilities are endless” after watching the opening part of the film. However, Tatum criticized the film for being too “bizarre” and “exhausting”, stating that his opinion that “the surrealism should have been toned down” and concluded by calling the film “even more insane than its characters”.[14] He also added that, although the film lacked “strong characterization”, the cast deserved praise for a “great job playing characters that are way way out there”. Tatum did commend the director for her use of widescreen, “creepy imagery” and compared her work to works of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. [14]

(Head back to the Widipedia entry if you really need to check out reference number [14].)

I’m on board with anything in the vein of Gilliam or Jeunet (Delicatessen) so I can’t wait to see this flick. Unfortunately this movie is not available on Netflix yet. I saved it to my huge list of other movies that are not-available-because- they’re-not-distributed-widely-enough. Maybe someday they’ll all be popular enough to be out for the rest of us who can’t make a trip to the Angelika.

Sue Lange
Sue Lange’s bookshelf at BVC

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Weird and Wonderful: Independent Movies — 5 Comments

  1. In the immortal words (and drawings) of Sandra Boynton: “If a being is not in step with its companions, perhaps it’s because it hears a different drummer. Or maybe it’s just a weirdo.”

  2. I suspect all that indie means is “not financed by Hollywood,” which gives you a large range of material. It’s kind of like the small press, except with more money. It still takes a lot more money to make a movie than to publish a book, though I believe Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi) for $7,000 (he now makes blockbusters).

    I’m sure a lot of what gets made is either by people who want to break into Hollywood or by those whose stuff is too terrible to interest many investors. But I’m burnt out on Hollywood movies, so it’s pretty much only the indies that entice me to leave the house. Come to think of it, I read more from the small press, too.

  3. $7000 is pretty cheap, except that he probably made it in Mexico so his dollars went a lot further.

    You sound like a weirdo, Nancy. Yay for you!