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…
The Bicycle Thief
Director: Vittorio De Sica
The Bicycle Thief is hailed as the gem of the Italian Neorealist movement by film scholars and it’s loved as a classic masterpiece by everyone else.
The black-and-white film succeeds with a simplicity that makes its story compelling even today: Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is thrilled when the government offers him a municipal job that will allow him to feed his family. It requires a bicycle and so his wife Maria (Lianella Carell) sells part of her dowry so that they can buy one for him. On his first day putting up posters in Rome, the bicycle is stolen and with it, Antonio’s’ hope of providing a better life for his wife and kids. The rest of the film chronicles Antonio’s desperate attempts at finding the thief, a quest that almost robs him of his humanity. He’s assisted by his 7-year-old son Bruno (Enzo Staiola), who works at a gas station and steals the show in almost every scene with his maturity, wit and sense of humor.
The 93 minutes of this bittersweet film unfold quickly, but their effect is profound and the fact that De Sica accomplished this with an all-amateur cast is a testament to his talent as a director.
Director: Steve Pink
Accepted, as a movie, is a lot like it’s lead character Bartleby “B.” Gaines (Justin Long) in his first few minutes of screen time: underappreciated and not as well known as it should be.
When B. doesn’t get into any of the colleges he applied to, the slacker enlists the help of his Harmon College-bound best friend Sherman Schrader (Jonah Hill) for his biggest parental-trouble-avoidance scheme yet: getting “accepted” into a university he makes up—the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Schrader creates a legitimate looking-website and a couple of B.’s other college-reject friends help him lease and remodel an old mental hospital to fool their parents into not disowning them in the Fall. Everything is going well until 300 other rejects show up at S.H.I.T’s door, claiming the website accepted them and ready to start college life.
Suddenly B. is inspired to create a real college, with the help of Schrader’s uncle, a shamed ex-scholar whose disillusionment with the US’s educational system makes for some colorful lectures. When South Harmon’s success starts interfering with the building plans of prestigious Harmon College and the social life of their BKE fraternity, campus leaders team up to shut it down, leading B. and his band of misfits into a battle for their right to alternative learning.
Equal parts funny and sweet with a great soundtrack and some now-famous actors (like Gossip Girl’sBlake Lively and The Twilight Saga’s Kellan Lutz) playing bit roles, Accepted is an entertaining watch whether you’re matriculated in higher education or not.
Director: Christine Jeffs
A lot of indie films these days stop at quirky—being unconventional is just about as far as most independent’s bother to go. Sunshine Cleaning is definitely quirky, but beyond that and with the help of two solid lead performances it’s also filled with genuine emotion and a message that’s meaningful and title-appropriate.
Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) is a single mother who relives her glory days as a cheerleader by keeping her relationship with her high school sweetheart—former quarterback and now-married cop Mac (Steve Zahn). When her young son gets kicked out of school for anti-social behavior, she wants to put him in private school but can’t afford to with her job as a maid. Mac uses his connections to help her get a job in an odd niche industry that pays well: crime scene clean-up/biohazard removal. Without a clue about what she’s doing, she starts her own business with her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt), a decision that forces the radically different siblings to confront—and clean up, in a sense—the mess left behind years ago by the suicide of their own mother.
Sunshine Cleaning offers a slightly twisted, fresh story with some comedic moments (keep an eye out for the cringe worthy mattress removal scene!), but it’s also a cathartic experience of sorts…a cinematic reminder that sometimes all we need to become better is the kindness of strangers and the unexpected support of the flawed people we love.
By Sylvana Fernandez
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