GoIndieNow Presents is an occasional column featuring the third Plotaholics, Joe Compton. In these columns, Joe will discuss the state of indie film and offer suggestions for worthwhile media to consume in that market. This iteration of GoIndieNow Presents is a three-part exploration of 2021’s indie film landscape.
Hey everybody! It’s the third Plotaholic here, Joe Compton, and it’s that time of year again when I get to discuss my favorite indie films of 2021.
This year has been interesting. I went back to the movie theater for the first time in nearly 2 years–the longest drought I have ever had since I started going at 6-years-old. Trust me when I tell you that’s a long fucking time I have been going to movies (yes, I am old).
While I did not see indie films (which something major movie theater chains need to fix in 2022), it was good to once again feel what I felt the first time I did go. There is nothing like it for me, and sometimes you have to miss it before you really understand how much you appreciate it.
In a weird way, this year became about reconnecting, understanding what loss is, and trying to fix it. I was thinking about how absolutely absurd the movies I loved were, but I’ve come to find it was that I missed something about watching movies, and these films brought me back to a time when I just went to the movies because I wanted the experience. As a critic of film, I pay attention to other critics. Reading, watching, and listening to my fellow critics and their year-end lists, I wondered why mine was a bit different. Why didn’t I care for the films they cared for? Was I broken as a critic? Was I not a critic anymore?
But, you know what? Who cares? I don’t care what you call me, or what you say about my choices. They are mine. They are just another opinion. Take them or leave them, but these movies all made me feel something, and that’s what this year’s list is all about.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (FILM)
ANATOMY OF WINGS (DOCUMENTARY)
This is a documentary that follows a group of Inner City girls as they take this unique school program that encourages them to document the formidable years of their daily lives and then try to piece together a narrative film with all the footage they put together.
Obviously, this is a film within a film, and you all know by now I am a sucker for that. I think this would be in my Top 10 this year for the mere fact that I hesitated to put it there because I want to reserve the right to put it into a future Top 10 list when it gets major distribution. So, I won’t go into much detail here as you will get a full review down the road when it does come out everywhere, but put this film in the back of your mind and keep it on your radar. There is a lot to absorb here, and because it stays true to its purpose, it really shows you how stories can sometimes construct themselves when you least expect them to. There is some really amazing stuff here.
STEALING CHAPLIN (COMEDY/CAPER)
Two very bad con artist brothers in Cal and Terry cook up a plot to get themselves out of trouble by Stealing the corpse of Charlie Chaplin and holding it for ransom.
I don’t know if I had more fun discovering a comedy duo or watching them stumble through a film that is as fun as it is absolutely ridiculous. These two guys (Simon Phillips and Doug Phillips, no relation) and their comedic timing and bumbling is reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy, Lewis and Martin, or maybe more recently Ferrell and Reilly. They make this movie very funny, as do the charming, underlying romance, a great turn by Al Sapienza (The Sopranos) as the mob-type hitman, and the fun quotes that appear from Charlie Chaplin himself. It all contributes to a very good time.
I am happy to say that these guys aren’t done. Yep, I have the exclusive skinny that there is another film with Cal and Terry in the works, piggybacking on this premise, too.
There you go! I am breaking news for this website as I am reviewing films. You’re welcome.
IN FRANCE MICHELLE IS A MAN’S NAME (Short)
The only 2 reasons it doesn’t make the full list. First, it’s a short film, and I’m still not sure if I should include shorts on the full list. The true reason that keeps it from the top ten list, though, is it technically made its debut in a couple of film festivals in 2020, though I saw it at 2021’s Slamdance Film Festival. While that is true of a lot of films that make the next year’s best of lists, for a short film there are rarely distribution avenues for them. So, when they debut at film festivals that is their first distribution, really.
However, I will say if it were to be slotted in this Top 10, it would be considered for #1 and for sure make the Top 3 of the year. Em Weinstein has produced the best constructed narrative I have seen in some time. It is gorgeously shot, it is well paced, and it is poignant. It is one of the best short films I have ever seen.
HONORABLE MENTION PERFORMANCES
ROSE BONINO (You Like to Draw?)
Rose Bonino’s supporting role as the younger Laurie Miller really stood out for me in this film. Her character, written very well by writer/director Todd Braley, has incredible growth and some of the best real moments in a film full of moments.
JULIETTE ALICE GOBIN and PAMELA JAYNE MORGAN (Goodbye Honey)
In Goodbye Honey, Gobin and Morgan had great chemistry, played their roles beautifully, and had a couple really great moments in this film that stayed with me.
NICHOLAS WOODS, writer/ director (Echoes of Violence)
In Echoes of Violence, Nicholas Woods has written a great script. I love Woods’s vision and passion. He is going to make some movies in the coming years that I really am looking forward to making future year-end lists. This movie has a great rhythm, a couple of really great shots, and the story itself is really solid.
I’ll be back later this week with my end-of-year list of 2021’s best indie films! Until then, check out GoIndieNow on YouTube and Twitch, and be sure to subscribe if you want to stay up-to-date on all things indie!