The new year is well underway, and the summer blockbuster season is still months in the future. That means it is time for serious film fans to get ready for the volley of interesting and often prestigious independent releases that often accompany the cooler months of the year. The next few months look to be particularly fertile for the indie film world. These are some of the more promising independent films scheduled to be released in the near future.
With massively acclaimed, prestige pictures like "21 Grams", "Babel" and "Amores Perros" on his resume, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu has developed a reputation for intense works that deal with heavy, often gloomy subject matter. However, the upcoming "Birdman" sees the celebrated filmmaker tackling a genre uncharacteristic for his body of work thus far: comedy. The plot of "Birdman" seems to promise hefty doses of both levity and pathos. The story involves a successful Hollywood actor who tries to tackle the world of theatre by endeavoring to put on a serious Broadway play. Of course, his attempts are not without difficulties. "Birdman" might be an independent feature, but it boasts a cast as star-studded as any mainstream Hollywood smash: Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and more.
"Grace of Monaco"
Grace Kelly does not exactly exemplify the gritty, underground sensibility often associated with independent film. In fact, the iconic actress was once an emblem of old-school Hollywood glamour. However, "Grace of Monaco" boasts the indie Weinstein Company as a distributor, and the target audience for this historical biopic is likely to trend towards the more serious cinephiles that dominate art house theaters. Aptly playing the title role is Nicole Kidman, who embodies the charm and aura of the Hollywood of yesteryear more than just about any other actress. "Grace of Monaco" director Olivier Dahan previously proved effective with "La Vie En Rose", his biopic of the similarly legendary Edith Piaf.
2013 saw the passing of one of the most well-known and well-loved film critics in cinematic history. Roger Ebert brought a unique combination of egalitarianism, populism, sharp intellect and even sharper wit to his criticism. Whether reviewing movies for television or for the "Chicago Sun-Times", Ebert presented his opinions in a way that was both engrossing and compelling, whether or not you agreed. As a figure that played such an important part in the story of cinema over the past few decades, it comes as no surprise that some very big names show up in the Ebert documentary "Life Itself". These include Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese. Ebert once referred to Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" as "one of the best and most powerful of all films." Through his appearance in "Life Itself", as well as his role as executive producer on the project, Scorsese demonstrates that the respect is mutual.
Starting with "Bottle Rocket" in 1996, auteur Wes Anderson has developed a style as distinct as any director in his generation. With every film Anderson manages to add new recruits to his base of devoted fans who eagerly await each of the director's new releases. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (watch trailer) looks like it may very well be the most Anderson-y Anderson movie yet. The story revolves around the titular European hotel during the 1920s, which promises the type of whimsical feel and aesthetic which audiences have come to expect from the director. Ralph Fiennes leads the characteristically strong cast, which also boasts Edward Norton, Jude Law, and Wes Anderson veterans Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman.
"Map to the Stars"
Director David Cronenberg's 2012 "Cosmopolis" was monumental for a number of reasons. It was the first time a filmmaker attempted to directly adapt a Don DeLillo novel for the screen, and it starred "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson in a fairly uncharacteristic role. Cronenberg is once again utilizing Pattinson as part of his stellar cast for "Map to the Stars," along with John Cusack, Carrie Fisher and Julianne Moore. According to the IMDb, "Map to the Stars" will be an examination of Hollywood culture and the ways in which it exemplifies culture at large. With Cronenberg in charge, the story is sure to have plenty of inventively dark elements. In short, "Map to the Stars" is sure to be fantastic.
While Hollywood is surely cooking up another profitable blockbuster season for 2014, this time of year is the independent film world's chance to shine. These five releases are among the most promising of a very promising year.