Summer 2013: The Indies That Can

After chronicling some of the major blockbusters over the past five days it is now time to shift the focus to a few lesser known films that will likely become some of the films you hear the best buzz about in the next few months. There is nothing wrong with the big, bombastic summer tentpoles that this season is designed to cater to, but there is always need for a break from things and these smaller, character-centric films will hopefully prove to be wonderful diversions if not anything else. Though, I have to be honest and say that one of the films on this list has been on my radar for a long time and most definitely would have made my personal top ten list for the summer if not within the top three. Besides that though there is definitely another film that is the third in a series (yes, even the indies have trilogies) that is dearly loved by many a cinephile audiences, but I have yet to see any of them so I am both anxious to catch up on the prior two films and as well as having a fresh perspective on the latest if it does in fact make its way to my neck of the woods any time within the next couple of months. The other three films on this list are the films that will truly test the purposes of this category as they are completely original pieces, but have a fair amount of star credibility and festival circuit experience under their belt that they could be ushered to the front of the line by critical response. Out of the five films on this list four of them have already screened at film festivals and all four of them rank above 86% on the tomatometer as of today and will likely only go higher as more critics screen them. For those of you looking for a diversion from the standard summer fare that big studios offer, this is the list where you need to start looking and though the final two lists will also contain several alternatives these are the ones your friends in cinema circles will likely be talking about most.

The Indies That Can

Clockwise from Top: The Spectacular Now, The Way, Way Back, Only God Forgives,
The Kings of Summer
, and Before Midnight.
To begin to describe my excitement for Only God Forgives is to try and comprehend what it must be like to fall in love with a pen pal you've never seen. I have only seen glimpses of the film in the few trailers that have been released as if catching glimpses of someones should through the limited words they are granted in the sparse letters. The growing affinity for that person, or in this case movie, that might grow from first knowing how good of a match you might make was like knowing that director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling were re-teaming after the huge critical success of their first, Drive. That film, my absolute favorite of 2011 and still that one I can always turn to when in doubts about having nothing good to watch. Enough with my strange fascination though and creepy obsession that I am delivering so far, but you might understand if you were to take a look at the trailers that have been released so far. They are filled with style, precise lighting, an engaging score, and Gosling doing his thing as a brother seeking revenge and asking a sword-wielding man if he "wants to fight?" Clearly the intrigue here is with the re-teaming of the makers who put together the biggest cult film of the past few years, but it also stands to serve as more reason as to why Gosling is one of the most engaging young actors around as he continues to choose roles that subvert what you might expect someone of his status to do. The same could be said for Refn after breaking out with Drive and having made other cult favorites such as Bronson the man could have easily attached himself to some big studio production as I'm sure he had offers, but instead has decided to return to what gave him that name without repeating himself. Only God Forgives will premiere at the Cannes film Festival and is expected to hit theaters on July 19th. I can't wait is an understatement.

While I feel I have a fairly good grasp on Only God Forgives and what it hopefully has to offer, the rest of this list comes as extremely vague to me. Two in particular as the first, Before Midnight, is capping off director Richard Linklater's trilogy of which I haven't seen the first two installments. Now I know, being a self-proclaimed lover of film, that I will likely be chastised for saying that as this series of films seems to be extremely loved by the cinematic community, but I can say that with my ever expanding pool of film knowledge and the yearning for that to continue to grow that I will certainly be catching up on these before seeing Before Midnight in what will hopefully be early summer. Still, based on the trailer and the appeal of stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy there is no reason I wouldn't want to see this film even if it wasn't linked with two other films that have built up the excitement and anticipation for this one. While Before Midnight focuses on what a relationship looks like two decades after its initial spark the other indie premiering this summer that I believe will make a big splash centers around young love and what it means to mature as high school comes to a close. The Spectacular Now is the second feature from director James Ponsoldt who made a big splash at Sundance last year with Smashed. While I certainly appreciated that film and understood what it was going for I am interested to see how Ponsoldt handles a subject not as decisive as alcoholism, but rather the tenderness of love and how, in a state of such fragility as it is in high school, it can affect the people who deal with it. The exceptional young cast includes Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Miles Teller (Footlosse), and Brie Larson (21 Jump Street) and despite their being no trailer yet I am anxious to see the film based on these credentials alone.

The final two films on the list seem destined for a summer release due to the atmosphere they possess and the title of one simply states outright it is a film of a certain season. Both of these films were also Sundance darlings this past year and have received overwhelmingly positive reviews that will only help them gain traction as they are rolled out to theaters across the states over the next few months. First up, The Kings of Summer, gives a trailer that indicates one of those coming of age tales with a memorable sense of character and authenticity. Like a modern Stand By Me a group of friends, two close and one random who will serve as great comic relief, declare their independence after their parents are smothering them during that time of year when they should feel the most free. In declaring this independence the boys decide to build their own house in the woods and live off the land. The trailer looks thrilling and a completely nostalgic trip back to the age of free summers and rewarding imagination while containing fine amount of comedy and drama complete with life lessons. While the trio of boys in the lead consists of newcomers (Moises Arias, Nick Robinson, and Gabriel Basso though you may recognize Arias from Nacho Libre and Basso from Super 8) they are supported by well known comedic actors such as Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and Megan Mullally that stand to make the film all the more intriguing.

Finally, we have The Way, Way Back which also features a good amount of well-known faces while centering around a youth who has trouble adapting to the people and world around him. Featuring Steve Carell in the odd bad guy role as the new boyfriend of Toni Colette who has a son, Duncan (Liam James), who grated is sufficiently awkward, but finds a place to fit in among his new co-workers at a water park that include everyone's favorite Sam Rockwell, Nat Faxon (who also serves as a writer and director), and Maya Rudolph as they help him build up the courage to talk to a crush, AnnaSophia Robb, as well as come into his own altogether. The trailer is engaging for the performances and how much fun everyone seems to be having here, yet it is rather off-putting to see Carell play the mean guy for a change. Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, and Amanda Peet also show up along the way to serve as more reason for Duncan to get away from the adults in his life and escape to the park that seems to serve as a kind of euphoria for everything that summer should be to a teenager rather than the forced fun of a vacation. The ensemble cast and the collaboration between Faxon and his co-writer and director Jim Rash (Community) all serve as factors that have me interested in the film and even moreso lend it a credibility that will help it to stand out in the rush of blockbusters that could easily overshadow any of these films. And while I am personally most excited for Only God Forgives any of these other four films could easily creep into one of those top spots on my end of the year list as they all seem to have that grand balance of comedy and drama that feels more true to life than any film easier to categorize.

Check back tomorrow for The Prestige Projects...        

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