The Independent Frame Of Mind

Welcome to my first column. Let me begin with a little bit about myself: My name is Brennan, I’m a sophomore communications major, self-diagnosed pop culture addict, TV junkie, and entertainment maven. I’m also a big movie lover. I don’t like anything more than discussing movies with the people I love (well, maybe I like Nicki Minaj a little more – that’s not weird, right?). Just a few nights ago, I spent a solid hour talking with a few friends about what movies we’d seen over the summer, hashing out all the gritty details of what triumphed and what, well, sucked.

At the risk of being called a “movie snob” by my girlfriend yet again, I think it’s fair to say that I prefer indie movies over most anything mainstream, so I thought what better way to start my column than with an evaluation of some of the summer’s films that were a bit more “under the radar.”

One of the best parts of living in a city is the chance to escape to art-house movie theaters and soak up their rich offerings. This summer, I was fortunate to see the critically lavished Winter’s Bone on a scorching June afternoon. Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a teenage girl forced to take charge of her family when her drug-dealing father disappears. Her performance is raw and unnerving, the emotions on her face so perfectly palpable. The film, which is beautifully shot, depicts the wintery bleakness of an oh-so-rural town in Missouri, a truly unsettling character in and of itself. The supporting cast is brilliant, every member of the massive ensemble brings a terrifying spark to their respective characters. Especially noteworthy is the startlingly inspired performance by Dale Dickey, one that truly deserves the highest of praise. Her Merab is the most insidious villain on screen this year.

A revealing and surprisingly entertaining documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, delighted and surprised me in many ways. I went in with the notion that Rivers was a washed-up comic trying too desperately to remain in the public eye, but the film quickly shatters that notion. Rivers is showcased as the hardest working woman in showbiz. She is seen filing each of her jokes in a massive cabinet, and at 75 is still as sharp as a tack when it comes to remembering them all. The movie paints a more-sympathetic-than-not picture of the comedienne, showcasing her in the realest and most intimate moments. The film ends with her victory on The Celebrity Apprentice and subsequently with Rivers at the top of a career that has spanned decades.

I want to focus lastly on a semi-hybrid of “the summer blockbuster” and “the indie film.” In August, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World quietly arrived in theaters to critical acclaim, but audiences widely ignored it. It’s a little bit hard to describe the movie, but I can say that it is truly one for our generation. In today’s fast-paced world, Scott Pilgrim knows just how to keep the audience’s attention with quick spurts of witty dialogue and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fight scenes. Michael Cera finally escapes the rut of apathetic loser characters he is so well known for, and instead peppers his Pilgrim with sly wit and sincere bravado. There are some excellent but brief cameos: Brandon Routh as a clueless vegan, the delightful Anna Kendrick as Scott’s sister, Aubrey Plaza riffing on her Parks and Recreation April Ludgate, and Mae Whitman as the tough-as-nails Roxy Richter. It deserved a better reception than it was given.

Thanks for checking out my first column and hey, even if you didn’t like it, I’ve done my job. There were so many other fantastic independent films that popped up this summer (the unfortunately underappreciated Cyrus and the brilliant New York dramedy Please Give with the always wonderful Catherine Keener). Am I overlooking anything that blew your socks off? Let me know! I’m always game for a good movie.


About Brennan Carley 80 Articles
Brennan Carley served as the Arts & Review Editor for The Heights in 2012. He's currently an Assistant Editor for Spin.