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Best 10 Indie Films of 2013

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After attending film festivals, and perusing Netflix during family TV time over this past year, we decided to write our own “Best 10 Indie Films of 2013.”  Other critics input, equations or “rules” was not a factor in how we went about rating our favorites, in fact, they’re not rated in any particular order.  This list of indie films and documentaries are what moved us in 2013.  A few of these films were not the best; however, we had lengthy discussions over them and they merit watching  for their thought provoking storytelling.  Some of the indie films were simply entertaining, other’s made me and my family want to strive to be better individuals, and a couple ripped our hearts out.  We hope you enjoy our compilation of the best 10 indie films of 2013.

Watch all ten or just one trailer.  Click on the playlist down arrow below (top left).

1)  Bridegroom

What It’s About:  Based on the story of Crone and Bridegroom’s relationship and the difficulties Crone faced after his partner’s death.  This film came about after Shane Bitney Crone released a video that went viral on YouTube titled “It Could Happen To You”, in which he spoke of the devastation he faced after the death of his longtime life partner, Tom Bridegroom, a year earlier.

Why We Like It:  After raising two gay sons in small town Montana it is very relevant to our family.  Crone was born in Kalispell, Montana and the story rings true to those who have “come out” in this state.  My son’s husband Mark called me from Portland and said, “You have to see this!  I sobbed the whole time.  This is an amazing story everyone must watch at least once.”    A few days later my son Michael called after watching it and told me how much it effected him. Michael then proceeded to say what a supportive mother I am and how much he loves me, “I just needed to tell you”,  he said.  I then HAD to watch it.  It is poignant and moving.  Things need to drastically change in this state and our country. NOW!  Like my sons and my son-in-law,  I cried too.  It could happen to one of my boys and it could happen to you.  Originally this aired on OWN, now you can get it on Netflix or Redbox.  Please see the Redbox update at the bottom of this post and support them.

2)  Blood Brother

What It’s About:  Rocky Braat, a young man from a fractured family and a troubled past, went traveling through India without a plan. Then he met a group of HIV positive children living in an orphanage — a meeting that changed everything for him. Steve Hoover, Rocky’s best friend,  decided to trace Rocky’s story, following him back to India. He witnessed Rocky and the kids endure disease, abject poverty, and death. But, strangest of all, in the midst of these troubles, he also saw their deep joy. And he came to understand why Rocky had given up everything he had to experience it. ‘Blood Brother’ is a story of friendship. It’s a story of a life, stripped down to its essence. Most of all, it is a story about love, enduring in the face of death.

Why We Like It: Read the last three sentences above.  Need I say more? I will.  I saw this at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February and I have never had a story make we want to work more fervently at being a better person.  I decided if it won my whole family was going with me on Friday night to see it.  It won.  I made my family go.  During the film, not a dry eye.  Not one of us had ever left a film with more understanding and hope for humanity than after watching Blood Brother.  

3)  Side Effects 

What It’s About: An American psychological thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh from a screenplay written by Scott Z. Burns. The film stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum.   The story follows a depressed young woman (Rooney Mara) and her husband (Channing Tatum). When she gets in a car accident, a psychiatrist (Jude Law) prescribes her an antidepressant that turns out to have unexpected side effects.

Why We Like It: This movie brings back Hitchcock thrills to modern day.  It’s twists and turns had me trying to figure it all out and I never really did.  At the end of the movie, when I finally surmised one of the myriad of twists right, I felt victorious!  Who doesn’t love a great thriller like that?  Fun, entertaining, Jude Law is still steamy, and you can see it on Netflix. 

4) Much Ado About Nothing

What It’s About: The Shakespearean play adapted for screen by Joss Whedon.  The plot of the film is largely unchanged from that of Shakespeare’s original play. Differences include the modern-day setting, the switching of Conrade’s gender, and expanding Ursula’s role by giving her a number of Margaret’s scenes.

Why We Like It:  My son Dustin is a huge Joss Whedon fan and loves that this film was made during Joss’s contractual vacation while making The Avengers.  Whedon was passionate about this story and always wanted to incorporate it with a modern-day setting.  He spent his own money, made a few phone calls to some friends and shot it in black and white within 12 days in his own home.  That’s some vacation!  Whedon also composed the score for the movie.  If you want an evening of cynical romance about love this one is for you to rent. 

5) Room 237

What It’s About:  A subjective documentary that explores the numerous theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining (1980). The film may be over 30 years old but it continues to inspire debate, speculation, and mystery. Five very different points of view are illuminated through voice over, film clips, animation and dramatic reenactments. Together they’ll draw the audience into a new maze, one with endless detours and dead ends, many ways in, but no way out.

Why We Like It:  This documentary caused great debate in our household.  We debated everything: from questioning the possibility that Kubrick placed hints in The Shining about his “filming” of the Apollo moon landings to the placing of baking powder Calumet in regards to genocide of the Native Americans.  In regards to film angles, positioning and the use of props, we discussed watching films with a different lens of our own in order to find possible hidden meanings other directors may project.  Kurtis and Dustin discussed this one for at least two hours and again the next day! This was another Netflix find.

6) Love at a Certain Age

What It’s About:  Think dating is hard when you’re 20? Try 70, 80, or even 100. You’re old. You don’t see quite as well. Hair grows where it shouldn’t. You want to find someone to share your remaining days with but you’re running out of time.  Set in sunny Florida, Love at a Certain Age allows us a rare glimpse into senior homes, fraternities, bars and community centers. The stories in this film will affirm intimacy, sex, and true love are not exclusive to the young. And that life really does begin after 65.

Why We Like It: After the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival our writer, Ann Bodle-Nash, wrote about this film, “I’m home and seguing into routines. I keep thinking about certain films. That quirky Love at a Certain Age keeps calling me. Watch for this film! Beg for it! Cross your fingers that Gil will find some love and that Max will live forever! Florida seniors in the Sarasota area, watch out. You are about to be exposed. In a good way.”  Our hope is that after their  fall film festival lineup someone will pick up this film to distribute.  Let’s make some noise all for love after 65.  P.S. Max is still alive and just celebrated his 104th birthday.

7)  Blue Is The Warmest Color

What It’s About: Adèle Exarchopoulos is a young woman whose longings, ecstasies and losses are charted across a span of several years. Léa Seydoux (Midnight in Paris) is the older woman who excites her desire and becomes the love of her life. Acclaimed French filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche’s movie is, like the films of John Cassavetes, an epic of emotional transformation that pulses with gestures, embraces, furtive exchanges, and arias of joy and devastation. It is a profoundly moving hymn to both love and life.

Why We Like It:  Recently rated by Marlow Stearn on The Daily Beast  as the number one best sex scene of the year before Cameron Diaz and a Ferrari in The Counselor is not the only reason we like it.  Blue Is The Warmest Color, has not only collected the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in May, but France’s prestigious Prix Louis Delluc has gone to Blue Is The Warmest Color.  And they racked up nominations for the 2014 Golden Globe Awards.  You can purchase the film on Amazon and see it before it wins more awards.

8)  Mud

What It’s About:  A story of two young boys who discover a fugitive hiding out in their small town. When the boys learn that Mud (Matthew McConaughey) is evading bounty hunters to meet up with the love of his life, they make a pact to protect him.

Why We Like It:  My Son Michael felt it was a very interesting take on childhood.  A fun play between the two different households the boys were growing up in and how available one set of parents was to one young boy, verses the other.  It is a coming of age story that my daughter Jalynn loved.  The plot, like many coming of age films, started as a game at and then the situation changed to more dire consequences where the protagonists had to grow up.   It if this boy could help Mud and his girlfriend be happy then maybe even his parents marriage can be saved.  The young man puts a lot of pressure on a situation he can’t control.  Reese Witherspoon was incredible in her cameo and Matthew McConaughey didn’t make Michael crazy in this film.  Michael says, “Maybe it was because he was in his natural environment, dirty and begging on a beach.”

9)  Shepard & Dark

What It’s About:  Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark met in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and, despite leading very different lives, remained close friends ever since. Shepard became a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright with Buried Child and an Academy Award-nominated actor for his work in The Right Stuff, while Dark was a homebody who supported himself with odd jobs. Through the decades, they stayed bonded by family ties. Dark married an older woman named Scarlett and Shepard married her daughter. For years, the two couples lived together, until Shepard broke away for a relationship with Jessica Lange in 1983, leaving Johnny to help father his first son. Nevertheless, he and Dark continued writing to each other, amassing hundreds of letters. Director Treva Wurmfeld began filming the two friends in 2010 during a period of transition and reflection for Shepard. At the time, he had quietly ended his relationship with Lange and agreed to publish his correspondence with Dark. The task required them to meet and sift through years of their shared history, stirring memories both good and bad. Wurmfeld observes the two men over a period of 18 months and captures an indelible portrait of a complex male friendship rarely depicted on screen.

Why We Like It:  I can’t say I actually did like it.  What I was after the viewing? Enraged.  Shepard’s ego and constant existential crisis annoyed the hell out of me as well as Dark taking Shepard’s crap.  So, why is it on my best list?  The history is great and Shepard is a playwright whose work I admire.  The fact my fiance, Kurtis and I talked about this film for hours and hours on end and wanted to contact Dark proves it effected us. Along with that, director Treva Wurmfeld worked on feminist films and it shocks me that she directed something like this.  I want the real story.  Show us the arrogant playwright, who wants to tell us about his life but can’t face the reality of his horrid past. Egotistical playwright step down; let Dark and Wurmfeld do the real storytelling.

10)  Before Midnight

What It’s About:  In Before Midnight, we meet Celine and Jesse 9 years on. Almost 2 decades have passed since that first meeting on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early 40’s in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.

Why We Like It:  There is a great honesty to this film about love and long relationships.  There is an added bonus (if you don’t already know) it’s the last in a series of three films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  These films make a dark, stormy day a snuggle up and enjoy day.

UPDATE Posted on Facebook by Shane Bitney Crone on December 28th regarding Bridegroom:  “It has been brought to our attention that people have been petitioning against Redbox’s distribution of Bridegroom. Angry consumers have sent numerous emails and letters conveying disappointment in the company for carrying the film. Even some radio hosts and church groups have encouraged others to boycott the popular Redbox video rental kiosks completely, simply because they are against a love story about two men.

Redbox believes Bridegroom is a story that needs to be told and we are tremendously thankful for its support, despite the company’s recent decision to phase out documentaries. Through Redbox’s generosity, people all over the country, even in remote rural areas, are watching Bridegroom. Teenagers and adults alike have written to me, and to Redbox, saying that they’re grateful to have been able to see the film, even in their small towns–towns not unlike the one in which I grew up.

In addition to carrying Bridegroom, Redbox is doing something it’s never done before. Five percent of its proceeds will be donated to these invaluable human rights groups: Freedom to Marry, PFLAG, GLAAD, and GLSEN. Apparently this charitable act also has people up in arms, because they feel as if Bridegroom attempts to force people to change their views and beliefs while spreading a sinful, intolerable message.

While I believe these individuals are entitled to their opinions and beliefs, I find this whole ordeal absurd and disheartening. First of all, no one is being forced to rent or watch our documentary. The only thing we’ve ever asked is for people to give it a chance. Bridegroom was not made to create social discord or public controversy. It was a film made out of love and hope.

I made my YouTube video, “It Could Happen To You,” with the hope of reaching at least one person. I believed that if I could empathize with just one teenager, or save one LGBT couple from similar discrimination, that it would be of some value. I’ve received dozens of messages since Bridegroom was made available at Redbox, including from one 18 year old in Indiana who said that he was close to giving up before watching the documentary. He said it literally saved his life.

Please, I ask all of you to show the dissenters that it’s important for Bridegroom’s story to be told. This story is uniquely mine, but it sadly parallels tragedies that hundreds of thousands of other couples, gay and straight, have endured. Our stories deserve to be told without unwarranted repercussions and we cannot let narrow-mindedness or ignorance silence us. Support Redbox’s decision to carry Bridegroom by visiting your nearest kiosk and renting the documentary, as well as one of the other 200 available titles.

No person, or company, should be ostracized for supporting equality and love. You do not have to rent Bridegroom, or like Bridegroom, but you should not try to prevent others from watching and learning from it. These people who are attempting to stop the distribution of Bridegroom are doing much more harm than they know. By silencing our voices, they potentially stop others from finding hope. We all deserve hope.

Thank you Redbox for supporting Bridegroom. I am forever grateful to you for carrying the film and for donating to worthy causes, in spite of the opposition.”

Tap Tap Tap,

Shane

Bridegroom Doc

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Category: Indie It Art & Film, Indie It Film

About the Author: Leisa Greene’s passions include writing about music, theater, film, food, art, family and friends -- all of which are supported by the community of Missoula and an IV line of dark-roasted iced coffee. She is the English Department’s Administrative Associate of Graduate Admissions at her alma mater, University of Montana; the editor-in-chief of Indie It Press; and the author of a memoir manuscript currently titled EARLY OUT. Her other writing consists of short essays (Brother Townsend and A Jamboree Family), playwriting (The Beckett Syndrome) and screenwriting. “The only regret you will ever have is if you never write it. So, go write it Mom. “ – Dustin Nelson, my son

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