Examine two of the films listed in this module. One must be a foreign film from the M6 Foreign Films Selections (18 films) and the other an independent film from the M6 New Independent Cinema Selections (20 films). You will find many options if you scroll down each page, or you could select movies that you have cleared with the instructor in advance. Write a short (1000 words) essay focused on the following question: What are the characteristics of independent film with particular regard to performance beyond the basic definition? In other words, how do your films EXPAND the basic definition? The presentation and readings will help you understand the basic definition. You must do more than merely show how each of your movies meet the basic criteria as an independent film. The movies in this section are easily identified as meeting the basic definition, but you need to go further in your analysis for your essay. Please avoid extensively summarizing the plot at the expense of analyzing the actor’s performance.
New Independent Cinema
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
“This Is Spinal Tap” shines a light on the self-contained universe of a metal band
struggling to get back on the charts, including everything from its complicated history of
ups and downs, gold albums, name changes and undersold concert dates, along with
the full host of requisite groupies, promoters, hangers-on and historians, sessions,
release events and those special behind-the-scenes moments that keep it all real.
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
When the town of Blaine, Mo., approaches its sesquicentennial, there’s only one way to
celebrate: with a musical revue called “Red, White and Blaine.” Hoping the show will be
his ticket back to Broadway, impresario Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) rounds up a
cast of enthusiastic but untalented locals (Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara)
to perform his masterwork. But, when Corky reveals that theater agent Mort Guffman
will attend the opening, things really kick into high gear.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
A group of thieves assemble to pull of the perfect diamond heist. It turns into a bloody
ambush when one of the men turns out to be a police informer. As the group begins to
question each other’s guilt, the heightening tensions threaten to explode the situation
before the police step in.
Eighth Grade (2018)
Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence
as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far
disastrous eighth-grade year
High school dropout Maria Coughlin (Adrienne Shelly) is having a rough time of it on
Long Island. Her father recently died of a heart attack, her boyfriend has left her and
she’s pregnant. To make matters even worse, her mother has now kicked her out of the
house. But when electronics genius Matthew Slaughter (Martin Donovan) comes into
her life, things start to brighten up for Maria. Sure, he’s unemployed and a little
unhinged, but together they just might have a chance
Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me (1992)
A burglar (Max Parrish) on the run courts a porn star’s innocent sister (Adrienne Shelly)
in a trailer park full of oddballs
Jenna (Keri Russell) works in a diner in a small Southern town and is a genius at
creating luscious desserts, but her marriage to an overbearing lout (Jeremy Sisto)
makes happiness impossible. When she discovers she is pregnant, she makes plans to
skip town before her condition is obvious. However, she begins an affair with the new
town doctor (Nathan Fillion), who is the only one who knows her secret.
Lost in Translation (2003)
A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a conflicted newlywed,
Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey
commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers
in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright
Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond
that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful
Struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his engaged friend,
Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a trip to wine country for a last single-guy bonding
experience. While Miles wants to relax and enjoy the wine, Jack is in search of a fling
before his wedding. Soon Jack is sleeping with Stephanie (Sandra Oh), while her friend
Maya (Virginia Madsen) connects with Miles. When Miles lets slip that Jack is getting
married, both women are furious, sending the trip into disarray.
An accident connects four groups of people on three different continents: two young
Moroccan goatherds, a vacationing American couple (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett), a deaf
Japanese teen and her father, and a Mexican nanny who takes her young charges
across a border without parental permission.
Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious
Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s
risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just
a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing
Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up.
Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend, daughter and ex-wife.
The joys and pitfalls of growing up are seen through the eyes of a child named Mason
(Ellar Coltrane), his parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke) and his sister (Lorelei
Linklater). Vignettes, filmed with the same cast over the course of 12 years, capture
family meals, road trips, birthday parties, graduations and other important milestones.
Songs from Coldplay, Arcade Fire and other artists capture the time period. Directed by
Blue Jasmine (2013)
After her marriage to a wealthy businessman (Alec Baldwin) collapses, New York
socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) flees to San Francisco and the modest apartment of
her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Although she’s in a fragile emotional state and lacks
job skills, Jasmine still manages to voice her disapproval of Ginger’s boyfriend, Chili
(Bobby Cannavale). Jasmine begrudgingly takes a job in a dentist’s office, while Ginger
begins dating a man (Louis C.K.) who’s a step up from Chili.
American Hustle (2013)
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) dabbles in forgery and loan-sharking, but when he falls
for fellow grifter Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), things change in a big way. Caught redhanded by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), Irv and Sydney are forced to
work under cover as part of DiMaso’s sting operation to nail a New Jersey mayor
(Jeremy Renner). Meanwhile, Irv’s jealous wife (Jennifer Lawrence) may be the one to
bring everyone’s world crashing down. Based on the 1970s Abscam case.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After losing his job and wife, and spending time in a mental institution, Pat Solatano
(Bradley Cooper) winds up living with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver). He
wants to rebuild his life and reunite with his wife, but his parents would be happy if he
just shared their obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. Things get complicated when
Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him reconnect with his wife, if
he will do something very important for her in exchange.
Foreign Films Selections
The King’s Speech (2010)
England’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must ascend the throne as King George VI, but he
has a speech impediment. Knowing that the country needs her husband to be able to
communicate effectively, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Lionel Logue
(Geoffrey Rush), an Australian actor and speech therapist, to help him overcome his
stammer. An extraordinary friendship develops between the two men, as Logue uses
unconventional means to teach the monarch how to speak with confidence.
My Left Foot (1989)
No one expects much from Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a boy with cerebral palsy
born into a working-class Irish family. Though Christy is a spastic quadriplegic and
essentially paralyzed, a miraculous event occurs when, at the age of 5, he
demonstrates control of his left foot by using chalk to scrawl a word on the floor. With
the help of his steely mother (Brenda Fricker) — and no shortage of grit and
determination — Christy overcomes his infirmity to become a painter, poet and author.
Written and directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, director of “Gravity” &
“Children of Men.” This film is in Spanish with English subtitles. It is also in black and
white. Focusing on the life of Cleo, a maid in Sofia’s household, who cleans and takes
care of the family while both of them struggle with their personal lives against the
context of social turmoil in Mexico in the 1970s. It has a rich cinematic texture that
bristles with emotional impact. The director clearly loves the medium of film as a way to
tell stories of real lives.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
Successful surgeon Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) leaves Prague for an operation, meets a
young photographer named Tereza (Juliette Binoche), and brings her back with him.
Tereza is surprised to learn that Tomas is already having an affair with the bohemian
Sabina (Lena Olin), but when the Soviet invasion occurs, all three flee to Switzerland.
Sabina begins an affair, Tom continues womanizing, and Tereza, disgusted, returns to
Czechoslovakia. Realizing his mistake, Tomas decides to chase after her.
Central Station (Central do Brasil) (1998)
Bitter former schoolteacher Dora (Fernanda Montenegro) supports herself by taking
dictation from illiterate people in Rio de Janeiro who want to write letters to their families
and then pocketing their money without ever mailing the envelopes. One day, Josue
(Vinicius De Oliveira), the 9-year-old son of one of her clients, is left alone when his
mother is killed in a bus accident. Reluctantly taking him in, Dora joins the boy on a road
trip to find his long-missing father.
City of God (2002)
In the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s, two young men choose
different paths. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is a budding photographer who
documents the increasing drug-related violence of his neighborhood. José “Zé”
Pequeno (Leandro Firmino da Hora) is an ambitious drug dealer who uses Rocket and
his photos as a way to increase his fame as a turf war erupts with his rival, “Knockout
Ned” (Seu Jorge). The film was shot on location in Rio’s poorest neighborhoods.
A rebellious Saudi girl (Waad Mohammed) enters a Koran recitation competition at her
school and hopes to win enough money to buy her own bicycle.
The Seven Samurai (1954)
A samurai answers a village’s request for protection after he falls on hard times. The
town needs protection from bandits, so the samurai gathers six others to help him teach
the people how to defend themselves, and the villagers provide the soldiers with food. A
giant battle occurs when 40 bandits attack the village.
Neerja is an Indian film directed by Ram Madhvani and written by Saiwyn Quadras and
Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh. This biographical thriller features Sonam Kapoor as the title
character, Neerja Bahnot, a model and purser for Pan Am on a flight hijacked in
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
The year is 1893 and India is under British occupation. In a small village, the tyrannical
Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne) has imposed an unprecedented land tax on its
citizens. Outraged, Bhuvan (Aamir Khan), a rebellious farmer, rallies the villagers to
publicly oppose the tax. Russell offers a novel way to settle the dispute: he challenges
Bhuvan and his men to a game of cricket, a sport completely foreign to India. If Bhuvan
and his men can defeat Russell’s team, the tax will be repealed.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
In 19th century Qing Dynasty China, a warrior (Chow Yun-Fat) gives his sword, Green
Destiny, to his lover (Michelle Yeoh) to deliver to safe keeping, but it is stolen, and the
chase is on to find it. The search leads to the House of Yu where the story takes on a
whole different level.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Young Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio) discovers the perfect escape from life in his
war-torn Sicilian village: the Cinema Paradiso movie house, where projectionist Alfredo
(Philippe Noiret) instills in the boy a deep love of films. When Salvatore grows up, falls
in love with a beautiful local girl (Agnese Nano) and takes over as the Paradiso’s
projectionist, Alfredo must convince Salvatore to leave his small town and pursue his
passion for filmmaking.
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