This is the one movie from the past three years that I’m still tweeting about. It’s rare these days that a film comes along and etches its mark in your mind quite the way Another Earth did to me. Stitched together using bubble gum and string (and green fabric and googly eyes—really), this super low-budget indie darling launched the careers of star and co-writer Brit Marling (Arbitrage, 2012) and writer/director Mike Cahill (I Origins, 2014). Believing that it would be near impossible for two unknowns to attract funding in order to make their film, Cahill and Marling took matters into their own hands. The two Georgetown alumni shot the film in Southern Connecticut with a tiny crew, ultimately earning it a place in Sundance’s 2011 official selection, where it won a Special Jury Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, which is awarded to a film that focuses on science or technology as a theme. It was distributed later that year by Fox Searchlight.
I’m usually a pretty good judge of movies before even watching them. I can often tell whether I think a movie is going to be good or bad based on the trailer, logline, filmmaker, cast, or any other factor. Of course, this is not unique to me. Many of us have this super power. But every now and then, my senses go awry and I find myself in disbelief. Here are a couple of recent examples:
Going In: I’m not much for sci-fi, and after having seen the trailer, I just had a feeling—this is not going to be a good movie. And that’s a shame, because Fox Searchlight is my favorite distributor—but hey, even Fox Searchlight is entitled to a not-so-great movie once in a while. (Has anyone seen The Tree of Life?) Another Earth looked sleepy, boring, quiet, and any other number of synonyms that describe bland.
Stepping Out: BEST. MOVIE. OF. THE. YEAR. (so far) I can’t believe how wrong I was with this one. Brit Marling. Remember that name. She wrote, produced, and stars in this micro-budget indie that was directed by Mike Cahill. Nearly everything about this film is perfect. The dynamic performances. The breathtaking cinematography. The mesmerizing music. And most especially, the complex characters in a simple, original story. It just goes to show you, a film’s budget is no barometer for how good a movie is. The writing is (among other things). You can go into space with a tight script. And this film is proof.
Going In: The true story of the man who was forced to act as Uday Hussein’s double. (That’s Saddam’s son, folks.) I was easily intrigued, quite simply because I hadn’t seen anything like this before. And speaking of something I haven’t seen before, (based on the trailer) it looked like Dominic Cooper was turning in a performance unlike any other he’s done. I’m sold.
Stepping Out: WTF! Sure, there is gory violence, but this film isn’t nearly as gritty as I thought it would be. Sure, Cooper’s performance is solid, but that’s pretty much all this Lee Tamahori-helmed film has going for it. It’s glitzy, golden visuals are clearly implied in the trailer and poster, but I was mostly going into this film with the overall concept in mind. Clearly, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. This film resembled more of a flashy music video than any film worth my time. (I was actually expecting something on par with The Hurt Locker, in style and substance.) Mind you, I didn’t hate it—and “not hating it” is the best compliment I can offer.
X-Men: First Class. Super 8. Green Lantern. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Captain America: The First Avenger. Cowboys and Aliens. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Conan the Barbarian.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the summer films that are on fewer people’s radars—the ones that won’t be #1 at the box office—yet, they’re primed to absorb some serious critical acclaim.
Last year, Limité launched its Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks as an alternate to all of the standard summer blockbusters. Many of those films went on to receive sparkling reviews and accolades, as well as Oscar nominations in several categories (including Best Picture, Best Documentary, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay, among others), so we kinda feel like we know what we’re talking about here.
We’re proud to present the second-annual summer film guide. Share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.
1. BEAUTIFUL BOY
by Daniel Quitério
Michael Sheen and Maria Bello play Bill and Kate, a married couple that learns its son committed a mass shooting at his university before taking his own life. The two struggle through the grief and confusion as the media spill into their lives. Beautiful Boy is the winner of the 2010 Toronto Film Festival International Critics’ Award.
This chilling film is reminiscent of last year’s Rabbit Hole with threads of 2005’s American Gun interwoven. Both Beautiful Boy and Rabbit Hole explore a couple’s relationship as it struggles over the death of a son. In Beautiful Boy, however, the stakes are higher, as that son is also responsible for taking the lives of several others, which is a subplot in the heavy-handed message film American Gun.
This film’s got “Oscar performances” written all over it for both Sheen and Bello, two highly underrated actors who have been aching for and deserving of that spotlight.
Director: Shawn Ku
Screenwriters: Michael Armbruster, Shawn Ku
Cast: Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Alan Tudyk, Moon Bloodgood, Kyle Gallner, Meat Loaf