What is an Indie? The idea of just what constitutes an Independent movie has morphed quite a bit and continues to do so. There was a time when Lionsgate was considered a true Indie distributor and production company, and some might argue it still is, even with one of the top grossing movies of all time to their credit. The Weinstein Company is also an Indie company, and they have released some very big films like The Imitation Game, The Artist and The King’s Speech.
Generally a movie is considered independent if it is made outside the “studio system”. All the major studios now have boutique production and distribution companies for art house films, however, making it more confusing. For example, Sony has Sony Pictures Classics, Universal owns Focus Features, and Fox owns Fox Searchlight. I’d call that cheating if it weren’t for the fact that a huge number of independent and foreign films get distribution through these companies.
Adding to the mix are mini-major studios like Relativity Media, and distribution companies like Open Road Films and Magnolia Pictures. For the purposes of Cinema Siren, and moving forward, we see Indies as any films that don’t get created and built from the beginning by a major studio, and has to trust, hope and promote themselves at festivals and vie for US and International distribution from one of the above mentioned, or from a host of other companies.
For that reason, many of the films below don’t have release dates yet. It’s only January, and the Sundance Film Festival, the first place some of these will be seen in public and be offered for sale, hasn’t even happened. You should find fascinating the fact that so many A-list stars are on this list of movies waiting for distributors, but a huge percentage of Oscar winners come from the Indie movie world, which often offers much more expansive, risky and diverse storytelling opportunities for all film artists involved.
Here is just the tip of the list of films that will vie for distribution and audience favor this year. All these films were made outside the major studio system, and enter into the year with hope and expectations they will find a place in film history.
Which films, I wonder, might find Oscars at the end of their journey?
- Match (Cast: Matthew Lillard, Carla Gugino, Patrick Stewart) Writer/Director Stephen Belber; a Seattle couple (Lillard and Gugino) interview former dancer (Stewart) but things turn acidic when the true reasons for the interview begin to surface.
- CS note: Who doesn’t want to see Patrick Stewart highlighted in a smaller film where he can let his every nuance and flamboyance as an actor loose? Release date Jan. 14
- I Am Michael (Cast: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts) Real life gay activist Michael Glatze renounced his homosexuality and became a Christian pastor.
- CS Note: This is the perfect time for a film about this hot-button topic. We haven’t seen enough of Zachary Quinto, so we as fans will have an opportunity to see him flex his acting muscles here. Release date Jan. 24
- The Voices (Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick) Director: Marjane Satrapi; Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is a regular guy who starts falling for a co-worker, and goes home to tell his dogs, as well as weigh the pros and cons with them of becoming a killer.
- CS Note: This movie’s release date has been moved multiple times, which doesn’t bode well for its quality. However, Ryan Reynolds has shown better discernment post-RIPD and wants to show his fan base he is worthy of them. Release date Feb. 6
- The Last Five Years (Cast: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan) Writer/Director: Richard LaGravenese; based on a famous musical by Jason Robert Brown, two people fall in love and sing about it, but one sings from the end of the relationship, the other from the beginning.
- CS Note: LaGravenese is a huge fan of the original musical, so this is a labor of love. Kendrick has the opportunity here to show she can carry a film with essentially two people singing. Release date Feb. 13
- The Gunman (Cast: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem) Director: Pierre Morel
This testosterone-laden collection of method actors come together in a film about a spy who has to clear his name before his old organization gets to him.
- CS Note: Really, this is a gift to women all over the world. Acting, even though they are some of the best in the business, is secondary to just the idea of these three men sharing a screen we can watch. Release Date: March 20
- Love and Mercy (Cast: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti) Director: Bill Pohlad; the life of oddball Beach Boy Brian Wilson, from his early days to his breakdown to his interactions with controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
- CS Note: Paul Dano and John Cusack share duties playing the reclusive musician, and it is a film those who know Brian Wilson’s genius will flock to. Hopefully it will keep those less in-the-know captivated. Release date June 5
- Criminal (Cast: Alice Eve, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Michael Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones) Director: Ariel Vromen; the memories and skills of a dead CIA agent are transferred to a volatile and dangerous convict.
- CS Note: This is quite a cast. One hopes if Reynolds signed on to another film relating to ghosts and the afterlife, the script is higher quality and worthy of our attention. Release date August 21
- Triple Nine (Cast: Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson) Director: John Hillcoat; corrupt police officers are blackmailed into doing a seemingly impossible heist, and have to plot the murder of a police officer to bring about the 999 code, distracting the rest of the cops while they finish their heist.
- CS note: I am so fascinated by the blend of these actors in a caper film, I’m already all in. Release date Sept. 11
- Miles Ahead (Cast: Ewan McGregor, Don Cheadle) Director: Don Cheadle; Cheadle directs in an exploration of the jazz great’s life and struggles.
- CS Note: Cheadle directs, and it’s about Miles Davis. Where can I buy a ticket? Don’t screw this up, Don. Release date TBA
- Knight of Cups (Cast: Joe Mangeniello, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman) Writer/Director: Terrence Malick It’s Terrence Malick. Plot? Who knows… It’s got something to do with Hollywood and fame.
- CS note: Malick is amazing at getting funding for movies that are so expansive they almost become a different art form. An interesting cast and what looks like an actual plot may make this one of his best films. Judgement reserved. Release date TBA
- Macbeth (Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard) Director: Justin Kurzel; this bad guy in Scotland gets no help being good from his wife. They kill a lot of people to get ahead.
- CS note: On a personal note, with Fassbender I will have seen all four leads from X-Men play Macbeth, albeit the other three were onstage. Since McAvoy in Jaime Lloyd’s version was so brilliant, Fassbender is going to have to bring his A+ game. Release date TBA
- Hologram for the King (Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Skerrit) Director: Tom Tykwer; Tykwer adapts the screenplay of the Dave Eggers novel about a failed American businessman who goes to Saudi Arabia to sell an idea to a wealthy monarch.
- CS Note: These are some big names, so distribution shouldn’t be a problem. The question is, will this be an Oscar contender for Hanks, who used his power in Hollywood to get the film made? Release date TBA
- Dark Places (Cast: Cloe Grace Moretz, Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult) Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner; a woman who survived her whole family being brutally killed is forced into dealing with the events again by a secret society obsessed with unsolved crimes. This is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn.
- CS note: Now that Flynn’s Gone Girl proved such a blockbuster, there will be lots of interest in this follow-up, especially given a cast full of big names. Release date TBA
- Our Kind of Traitor (Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis) Director: Susannah White A couple in Britain get embroiled in a Russian man’s plan to defect, based on a political thriller by John le Carre.
- CS Note: Damian Lewis. Is that not enough? They’d better not kill him off. We are all still grumpy about that. Release date TBA
- Z for Zachariah (Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor) Director: Craig Zobel; three people find themselves in a love triangle after they appear to be the last survivors of a disaster that destroys civilization.
- CS note: I am poised to see how is this not a retooling of the film The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. In any case, Ejiofor is much beloved post-12 Years a Slave, Pine is much beloved for his hamming it up in Into the Woods, and Margo Robbie is still getting press about snagging the role of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. Release date TBA (Sundance)
- Trespass Against Us (Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Rory Kinnear) Director: Adam Smith; the desire of the son in a wild family of modern outlaws to separate himself and make a new life causes strife with his father and the rest of his family.
- CS Note: This is three great actors in one film, two of whom are eternally underrated. Gleeson is hot off his spectacular work in Calvary, and Kinnear is the talk of all those who have seen him in the great English show The Black Mirror. Release date TBA
- Suffragette (Cast: Meryl Streep, Cary Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter) Director: Sarah Gavron; powerhouse performers tell the story of the British woman’s movement for the vote in the late 19th century.
- CS Note: There are so many hands in this one, both in front of the screen and behind the lens, that are masters of their craft, it will either be great or crumble from the weight of all that greatness. We hope the former, as we support the success of women in all areas of film. Release date TBA
- Spotlight (Cast: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton) Co-writer/Director: Thomas McCarthy; the true story of the Boston Globe’s work at uncovering a massive scandal of child molestation within the local Catholic Archdiocese.
- CS Note: Post-Birdman Michael Keaton with Indie mainstay Ruffalo makes us curious to see a film that may be darker than most of us are ready for, but we appreciate them doing a movie about such an important subject. Release date TBA
- Equals (Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pierce) DIrector: Drake Doremus; a love story set in a future where emotions have been eradicated.
- CS Note: As exampled by Snowpiercer, sometimes great sci-fi films come in Indie packages. Kristen Stewart has shown lately she can act, (see Still Alice) and Hoult’s choices for film roles just become more and more interesting! Release date TBA
- High-Rise (Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss) Director: Ben Wheatley; based on a 1975 J.G. Ballard novel, a group of luxury apartment dwellers discover a complex hierarchy of haves and have mores, which slowly leads to violent fragment groups confronting each other.
- CS Note: Tom Hiddleston has shown he has very interesting taste in Indie films, and this movie is based on a great cult classic. They will have to keep fans of the novel happy, and based on what they are saying on the web, they are expecting the best. Release date TBA