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Explore the world of original plots and unique storytelling with Sylvy, a film major and chronic indie fan. She will steer you toward the best that independent cinema has to offer at home and abroad, past and present.
Now go get the popcorn ready…

By Sylvana Fernandez

indie21A Love Song for Bobby Long

Director: Shainee Gabel
Release Year: 2005

This American film is probably one of the most-if not the most- underrated of the past few years. Despite a relatively high-profile cast (includingJohn Travolta and Scarlett Johansson) and a Golden Globe nomination, this low-budget flick gets an “Oh, I’ve never heard of it” nine out of 10 times I mention it. In the film, Pursy- short for Pursilane Hominy Will (Johansson) – moves back in Louisiana after being late to her estranged mother Lorraine’s funeral. Instead of arriving at an unoccupied house, she finds herself in the company of two of her mothers’ friends: Bobby Long (Travolta) and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), who refuse to move out and become her roommates. Beautifully shot in pre-Katrina New Orleans, A Love Song for Bobby Long takes on the mistakes and painful things that happen in life with a refreshing amount of reality: it is never cheesy, never overdone, always just right. Macht is entirely and heartbreakingly believable as a failed writer/alcoholic, Travolta’s past and present bring about questions of existentialism, and Johansson’s Pursy adds comic relief. All three characters will grow on you: you’ll feel for them, you’ll cringe for them, and you’ll never feel like this couldn’t actually happen. With narration that reads like a great book (definitely because it is adapted from a book, “Off Magazine Street”, from Ronald Everett Capps), literary references galore, and an amazing soundtrack (featuring Nada Surf, Grayson Capps and Los Lobos), this introspective, gorgeous film is a must see.

indie31Goodbye, Lenin!

Director: Wolfgang Becker
Release Year: 2003

Those of you who saw The Bourne Ultimatumcaught a glimpse of Daniel Brühl, one of the most promising (not to mention attractive) young actors in European cinema.Goodbye, Lenin! can give you a pretty good idea of why that’s the case: his talent is undeniable. Set in East Germany in the tense months before the collapse of the Berlin wall, Alex Kerner (Brühl) is a teacher and ardent supporter of socialism since his father left the family to “go west.” His mother, Christiane (Katrin Saß), has a heart attack when she sees her restless son at an anti-communism rally by accident. She falls into a coma and when she comes to again (without memories of the rally), the country she knew no longer exists. Concerned by the doctors warning against giving her any shocking news and wracked by guilt, Alex decides to recreate communist Germany in his own flat, adding posters of Che Guevara and taping “the news” with the help of his aspiring director co-worker. His plan quickly turns complicated and hilarity ensues as his sister Ariane begins working at a McDonalds, food with East German labels begin to become scarce, and Christiane’s former students begin to blackmail Alex to continue paying them to play along with his lie. Alex’s blossoming relationship with his mother’s nurse (Chulpan Khamatova) and a reunion with his lost father (revealing that his mother had told a white lie of her own) leads to a family trip that ultimately has a bittersweet ending, proving that anything done out of love, even if accomplished by the wrong means, can be forgiven.

indie41My Blueberry Nights

Director: Wong Kar Wai
Release Year: 2007

Hong-Kong director Wong Kar Wai is a master at creating stories out of unusual pairings of random strangers, and he does it again in My Blueberry Nights, his first American movie where singerNorah Jones makes her acting debut. Finding comfort in her friendship with Jeremy (Jude Law), the owner of a restaurant near her cheating exboyfriend’s apartment, Elizabeth (Jones) decides to embark on an almost year-long cross-country trip (on a bus!). During her stops in places like Nashville and Las Vegas, she sends Jeremy postcards, telling him the stories of the people she’s met along the way. These characters are the ones that really make the film worth watching. Seeing Arnie (David Strathairn) and Sue Lynne’s (Rachel Weisz) marriage finally fall apart or Leslie (Natalie Portman) deal with her gambling addiction and her relationship with her father serves as a reminder for Elizabeth (and us) that there’s always someone who has it worse. Jones performance isn’t amazing, but what Weisz and Portman accomplish with such small roles is mindblowing. The cyclical twist at the end (pay attention to the details!) and a soundtrack full of Cat Power and a new song by Jones make it the perfect movie for a pensive rainy day.

0 0 667 10 March, 2008 Columns, Entertainment, Films March 10, 2008

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