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…
Director: Sean Penn Release Year: 2007
Into The Wild was easily one of my favorite movies of 2007, though it’s definitely not for everyone. Lengthy and philosophical, it reads like a book (probably Thoreau’s Walden), even down to the sequence titles that are given chapter headings.
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory graduate who donated his $24,000 in savings to charity, left his wealthy family behind and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness, the film moves in a not-quite-chronological order through Chris’s past, the beginning of his journey and his present. Despite not having a lot of dialogue to work with (except in scenes with a revolving cast of characters he meets on his way North), Emile Hirsch‘s performance is impressive; his portrayal of the introverted McCandless is multifaceted and dynamic, asking viewers to wonder why someone so loveable, educated and resourceful would retreat so far from society.
Set against gorgeous scenery – deserts, oceans, canyons and mountains – Carine McCandless’ (Jena Malone) narration, and Eddie Vedder‘s (of Pearl Jam fame) fantastic original score, Into The Wild is haunting in the lessons and emotions it leaves behind.
Director: Gilliam Armstrong Release Year: 2002
The UK/Australia/Germany co-production Charlotte Grayisn’t very different, plot-wise, from your typical Hollywood WWII story. What makes it stand out is the focus it puts on the characters, not as heroes but as vulnerable human beings.
The film begins with Charlotte’s (Cate Blanchett) impending separation from her Royal Air Force boyfriend. Though she’s Scottish, she studied in Paris and is recruited for the French Resistance as a courier. After quickly finding out how dangerous her job is and hearing news of her boyfriend’s death, she starts losing her sense of purpose and instead grows close to two Jewish boys whose parents have been taken to camps.
Taking care of the kids also leads to an attachment with the family that found them: the Levade’s.
With more emphasis on feelings and morality than explosions, a sweeping score and cinematography that makes some scenes look like paintings, Charlotte Gray presents an interesting new angle to a tired subject.
Director: Jonathan Demme Release Year: 2008
Rachel Getting Married might sound familiar to anyone who kept up with the 2009 Academy Awards buzz, since Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Kym. Hathaway didn’t go home with a statuette, but if she had, it would have been well-deserved.
The irony of the film begins with its title: though there is a Rachel in the movie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and she does get married, the story really revolves around Kym, whose release from her latest rehab stint falls on the weekend of her older sister’s wedding. Trouble ensues immediately when Kym notices her mother’s apathy and discovers Rachel’s decision to make her best friend Emma the maid of honor.
Filmed in a way that feels almost homemovie-like in its authenticity, Rachel Getting Married builds up in tension (and cringe-worthiness) as past grudges and a family tragedy are revealed. The ending isn’t crowd-pleasing but in a sense it seems like a fitting and thought-provoking conclusion to such a tumultuous story.
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By Sylvana Fernandez