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Indie Movie Takeover

Yes summer blockbusters are still at the top of their game with The Avengers grossing the $600 mil mark while Men in Black 3, Snow White & the Huntsman, and Prometheus continue their great success and knock down new releases left and right.  However as these films rack in the cash at major multiplexes, it is the small indies of this summer that are making the truly remarkable news.

Last summer we saw Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris show up at the box office week after week.  Strong word-of-mouth and terrific reviews kept the crowds pouring in which led to Allen’s best box office performance and multiple Academy Award nominations, including his first win since Hannah and Her Sisters in 1987.  The news wowed independent movie lovers everywhere, but I must say that this summer really takes the cake and will have moviegoers talking for many years to come.

You may wonder how small, subtle movies can compete with Batman, Spiderman, and basically every other superhero out there, and I will tell you it is because there is simply an excess of superheroes.  Nolan’s Batman series is unbelievably good and The Avengers definitely surpassed my expectations, but I (and I know I am not alone is this statement) need time away from the big, loud, and expensive films that dominate the summer.  There are many markets that these summer movies ignore, including the elderly, couples, and above all else, women!  Women are typically left as a love interest or good friend.  It is very rare that a woman headlines a summer movie, or any blockbuster for that matter.  But do not fret, this summer’s indies have come to the rescue!

Moonrise Kingdom

You’d be a fool if you didn’t think I’d talk about Moonrise Kingdom.  Not only did I first write about it back in January, it’s success thus far is hard to ignore.  Wes Anderson, the quirkiest of quirky directors, returns to live-action for the first time since 2007.  Over his short career he has gained a huge following, for good reason, and the moment this project was announced people began buzzing.  The film premiered at Cannes back in May and between the combination of dedicated fans and interested cinephiles, the film has skyrocketed.  Over the Memorial Day weekend the film broke a record by having the best per-theatre-average by taking in $167,371 at each theatre leading to a $669,486 gross for the weekend.  This may seem unremarkable but the film only premiered in four theaters.  Could it be this summer’s Midnight in Paris?  Both films have widely popular/eclectic directors, high profile casts, and stories unlike any other.  I predict that it will match, and most likely surpass, the success of Allen’s ode to the City of Love.

Keep your eye on this one because it sure won’t be the last time you hear of it.

2 Days in New York

Here’s a film for all of you that want to see interracial couples portrayed on the silver screen.  This is a follow up to Julie Delpy’s widely successful 2 Days in Paris.  Delpy, once again, is the star of the film as well as being the writer and director.  Not too many have seen this film so it is hard to judge how it will fare, but if it has half the success of 2 Days in Paris, Delpy and Chris Rock can sleep soundly.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

This film seems it can do no wrong.  Already it has taken two film festivals by storm (Cannes and Sundance) and now it is a critic darling with a 94 on MetaCritic and a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Benh Zeitlin is making his directorial debut with this one and it seems that he couldn’t have asked for a better reception for his first feature length film. There’s no telling how far this one could go but if enough people get behind it we could see young Quvenzhané Wallis, the break out star, nominated and maybe even a Best Picture nod.  Only time will tell!

Little side-note: It is great to see the victims of Hurricane Katrina getting some film recognition.

Safety Not Guaranteed

The second film on this list that has premiered for the general public, and like Moonrise Kingdom, Safety Not Guaranteed is finding unpredictable success.  Premiering on June 10th, the film rounded out the weekend with just under $100,000, but just two weeks later it has crossed the $1 million marker and continues to expand to new theaters.  Unlike Moonrise Kingdom, this indie lacks a beloved director and any major star power.  Colin Trevorrow is a first time director and Audrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Jake M. Johnson (New Girl) are more familiar with TV fans.  Yet none of this seems to be stopping the film.  Here’s to much more success and please come to Pittsburgh soon so I can enjoy you as well!

The Queen of Versailles

Maybe scripted movies aren’t your style, well if so, I got the documentary pick of the summer.  Another Sundance breakout that kept people talking and has earned itself a summer release this July.  Lauren Greenfield’s documentary follows the billionaire Siegel family as they build a mansion just before the major economic crisis that continues to plague the US.  Some people just do not know when to give up their dream and face reality.

Ruby Sparks

Back in 2006 Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, a directing duo, brought their project of five years to Sundance.  At the film’s premiere audiences were thrilled and gave it a standing ovation as Fox Searchlight bought the film on the spot for $10.5 million.  This little film was called Little Miss Sunshine, ever heard of it?  Well as you can imagine, any indie film fan has to be ecstatic at the news that these two are getting back in the directors chair again.  Paul Dano (an indie superstar) stars again, but this time as a writer who encounters romance in a particularly peculiar manner.  The story seems to offer just as many, if not more, quirky antics from this dynamic duo.  A limited release is set for July 25th, but let’s hope we can see it expand to beyond NYC and LA.

Little side-note: Can they repeat the Cinderella story of Little Miss Sunshine and connect with audiences and critics alike?

Check out your local listings and catch a lesser known film.  Your Sister’s Sister, To Rome With Love, and The Intouchables are just some of the indie films, in addition to Moonrise Kingdom and Safety Not Guaranteed, that are out now.  I promise it will be worth it!  Happy Moviegoing!

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