Most of our 6 Degrees followers know of the many problems I’ve written about regarding the current superhero and comic-book genre and Hollywood’s love of remakes. For the most part, we’ve been able to write about films that are interesting and innovative, with both the documentary and indie film format being two of the most recommended as we see each new film season begin and cycle through the predictable rounds. One bright spot has always been the animated films for children which often use unique and creative ways to communicate and really work to stimulate the imagination of young kids. But even the awards and upcoming film lists have begun to lose their value as we see less original work recognized, and more formulaic and rehashed material used.
CGI hasn’t helped as we see many big ticket spectacles relying heavily on Computer generated images to tell the story. So we have come to the new summer film lineup. I am recommending less than five films I see in the latest Hollywood lineup. They are: Shaft, Aladdin, Once Upon a Time in America, The Lion King and The Secret Lives of Pets 2.
This is remarkable and a first, as I think back on the years where we have listed an average of fifteen to twenty films. The documentary titles are unique, and have also been a bright spot in the movie listings, with recent films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Amazing Grace both showcasing the lives of great departed American icons from our recent past. Even with the blip on the radar of documentary work and innovative kids films, there is really not enough to warrant a Summer Film Newsletter list.
However, there is some good news on the Indie Film front. The releases of Independent films with unique plots and A-list actors has grown in past years. This summer, there are the following:
The Dead Don’t Die: Directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Chloe Sevigny, Bill Murray and others. The plot: 3 small town police officers join forces with a morgue expert (Tilda Swinton) to combat a zombie attack.
Wild Rose: A musical drama about a young Scottish single mother who is released from prison and dreams of going to Nashville and becoming a country singer. Julie Walters stars as her disapproving mother.
Them That Follow: Set in Appalachia, the story is about a pastor’s daughter in a love triangle with a young man who is skeptical of the snake-handling church and its beliefs and the boy who is part of the congregation and is the chosen suitor her father is pushing on her.
Ophelia tells the story in Hamlet of the ill-fated girlfriend and of Hamlet’s mother Gertrude from a feminist’s point of view.
In classic Indie fashion, here’s an intriguing ‘What if” for a plot. What if the Beatles had never been discovered and no one but you knew about their music? The film from director Danny Boyle, Yesterday, imagines a young musician waking up after an accident to find the world has never heard of the Beatles music. He sets himself the task of bringing the legendary band’s music to an uninitiated world.
Another musical entry is Blinded by the Light, a musical drama from Sundance that is a joyous celebration of the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Finally, there is Official Secrets, starring Keira Knightley as a whistleblower who leaks information to the press about illegal activities from the US leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ralph Fiennes also starts in this film which debuted at Sundance.
There are other intriguing plots this summer in the Indie category, but none of the films previewed for major release, in my opinion, has either an original plot or a unique spin. That is a sad commentary on the state of Hollywood and the type of films that are green-lighted these days.