So what’s up with this whole “Alternative Weekend” thing? Well, let me be honest: despite my love for Waka Flocka Flame raps and baggy jeans that lay below my butt crack, I’m actually a hipster at heart. I love good films, but I’m a sucker for coming-of-age films, British crime flicks, and a good ol’ fashioned comedy. Unfortunately, since everyone on God’s green earth has seen the only good movie in theatres right now (The Hunger Games), this upcoming weekend is chock-full of unimpressive crap like Wrath of the Titans and Mirror, Mirror; or, as we like to call it, That Other Snow White Movie Starring Designated Babe By Society Standards, Lily Collins.
Anyway, the point being, with all those movies not worth a penny, we’ve decided to launch a monthly column to help you movie lovers avoid blowing your money on bad filmmaking and, instead, scoured Redbox, Netflix and Torrentz for alternative treats. This first installment contains my Top 5 Coming-of-Age Indie Classics That You Need To Watch Right Now. We’ve got Ryan Gosling, Robert Downey Jr, Shia LaBoof, Chann-ning Tay-tum, Jessie Eiseberg, Mike Fassbender, and Zooey Deschanel to throw at you.
You ready, bro?
All The Real Girls
Before there was (500) Days of Summer, there was David Gordon Green’s Southern melodrama. Starring Paul Schneider and Zooey Deschanel, this film has become one of my favorite movies of all time. Everyone in this film is now a star somewhere, but at the time of this film everyone was a nobody. Here’s IMDB’s deliciously descriptive synopsis:
Small-town love story of a young man with a reputation for womanizing and his best friend’s sister.
Ok, yes, it IS based in small-town Alabama; but that just adds to the richness of the story. All The Real Girls is the tale of the repercussions Paul Schneider’s womanizer suffers through after disobeying his best friend’s wishes and dating his sister.
It’s really an emotional journey, because Schneider’s character begins to realize the college-educated Zooey is much more of a person than he is, forcing Schneider to set about making something of himself; and, for the first time, begins contemplating life outside of his small town where he’s treated as a king.
I’d seen Schneider in The Assassination of Jesse James… and the first two seasons of Parks & Rec, but in All the Real Girls, Schneider’s leading man potential is on full display. Schneider is contagiously likeable, even though he plays the town’s womanizer. We should despise Schneider for wanting to sleep with his best friend’s sister, especially when we know of Schneider’s past flings; yet, somehow, half-way through the film we not only are rooting for Schneider but also begin to sympathize with him a little bit.
All The Real Girls is a masterpiece, but it is a bit sad that the man who wrote and directed this piece has veered off-course completely. David Gordon Green went from producing, writing, and directing two of the best indies in the last decade (George Washington, All The Real Girls) to directing low-brow comedies like Pineapple Express (great!), Your Highness (meh), and The Sitter (unforgivable). It’s really a sad story, actually.
The Education of Charlie Banks
Jessie Eisenberg plays weird oddballs like nobody’s business. Well, here he is again, playing a weird oddball in college who has finally put his past behind him. But wait, what’s this? His past shows up at the door and begins to assimilate into his college life? Horrors!
College student Charlie Banks has to face old problems when the bully he had an unpleasant encounter with back in high school shows up on his campus.
When they say unpleasant encounter, they really mean “Charlie Banks snitched on him and he went to jail”. The bully, played by Jason Ritter, shows up at Charlie’s dorm room and begins to fantasize about living the college life. Charlie, of course, is unsure if the bully knows it was he who snitched on him or if the bully really just wanted to visit with Charlie’s roommates. Over time, the bully begins to pursue the same girl, the same friends, and the same lifestyle as Charlie.
This film is an interesting work blending stalkers, mind games, and college kids together. It’s actually less on the suspense and more on the “How long is Charlie going to keep his mouth shut?” side. Highly recommended for all Eisenberg fans and Limp Bizkit fans….why? Because Fred Durst wrote and directed this little piece. Yes, that Fred Durst.
*Can I just say I really wish Durst would hang up the backwards cap for the director’s chair? This is honestly one of the most promising film debuts in a long time.
What, an independent British flick made this list? Yup, that’s the power of Netflix. Fish Tank is actually one of the better coming-of-age films in, like, forever. Oh, and Mike Fassbender is in this thing and of course, he bosses it like only a Fassbender can. Say it with me now, …“Last Name Fassbender, First Name Michael”…
Everything changes for 15-year-old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.
Wow, pretty brief description there. Allow me to wax profound: Fish Tank is the story of a 15-year-old girl named Mia. All Mia wants to do is dance: she loves American hip-hop, and she loves to choreograph her own dances. The only thing is, Mia is shy and embarrassed to show her stuff. That is, until Mia’s single mom begins dating Connor (FASSBENDER!); Connor is able to do something that no one else can, and that is to get Mia to perform. Connor encourages her in her dreams and enables Mia to really believe that she can become whatever she wants. With a new lease on life, Mia begins to live fearlessly and, despite being her mother’s boyfriend, develops a jealous obsession over Conner. However, there’s something about Connor neither Mia nor her mother know.
Fish Tank is not a comedy, nor a romance. It’s simply the story of a girl afraid to chase her dreams and the man who givers her the courage to chase those dreams. It’s as simple a coming-of-age story as you’ll see, yet there’s something refreshing about Fish Tank. The backbone of the film, though, is the relationship between Fassbender’s Connor and Katie Jarvis’ Mia; anytime they are on screen together, you can’t look away. Connor and Mia are hilarious, charming, sullen, and absolutely mesmerizing in an every-day, British kind of way. Just check this clip out below.
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A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints
This film is actually an adaptation of Gutterboy frontman Dito Montiel’s autobiography. Montiel was born and raised in the ghettos of New York, at a time when alternative rock was beginning its meteoric rise. The book itself is a fascinating read, a true rags-to-riches story chronicling Montiel’s journey from the streets to Hollywood. But the real steal is the film.
The movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, N.Y., during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs or in prison, he comes to believe he has been saved from their fate by various so-called saints.
A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints is told in two parts: the first story takes place in the present, as Dito Montiel (played by Robert Downey, Jr) revisits his childhood home to visit his dying father; the second story takes place in the past, as a young Dito (played by Shia LaBoof) slowly realizes that he will never be able to make something of himself if he continues to be surround himself with his family and his friends. Both of these stories intersect, allowing us to realize this is no triumphant return home for the older Dito.
The performances in this film are top-notch, particulary RDJ’s; but the most surprising is Channing Tatum. In his first career film appearance, Tatum kills it as Dito’s friend Antonio. As Antonio, Tatum is nothing but pure rage and vengeance; forget everything you’ve seen Tatum in, because up to this point in his career he has not been able to capture the raw talent he puts on display as Antonio. I cannot understand how this film did not even get nominated for an Oscar: the screenplay is sizzling, the cinematography is killer, and the acting is a showcase of potential and power.
I should warn you, this is film is intense and a hard-R. Murder, drugs, and violent beat-downs happen at every turn; but trust me, if you can stomach that, you are in for one of the most powerfully moving films you’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, the first two times I watched this movie, I had to go take a walk and contemplate my life.
Which is crazy, because, you know, Channing Tatum is in this thing.
If you are currently on board the Ryan Gosling Bandwagon of Success, this is the film to watch. This film is a classic example of “writing genre, non-genre”
An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.
Gosling stars as said junior high school teacher; the drug habit? Smokin’ crack. Gosling’s character, Dan, is able to function in his day-to-day life until he begins to grow concerned about the relationship between one of his students and a local drug dealer.
This film gained a bit of buzz after Gosling’s Oscar nomination as Dan; but the real story is about the eventual clash between Dan and Anthony Mackie’s drug dealer after each man takes an interest in the same girl (Shareeka Epps). Seriously, how is Mackie still unappreciated? After watching Mackie in recent films like Notorious, The Hurt Locker, and most recently The Adjustment Bureau, I’m pretty sure he’s just one shot away from beginning the next Denzel, the next Will Smith, or at the very least the next Forest Whitaker.
Half-Nelson is a gripping drama concerning the dangers of addiction, the prevalence of drug-use in the innercities; but most importantly, Half-Nelson hammers home the fact that the biggest obstacle to accomplishing change is racism. The only thing that’s missing is Tupac’s Changes playing over the end credits.
Until next time, we remain faithfully yours.
Posted By: Darkside