Indie, Low Budget, and Utterly Mind-Bending

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can read my article on my personal top 5 indie, low budget and utterly mind-bending films (as the homonymous title dictates). I hope you enjoy it.

Indie, Low Budget, and Utterly Mind-Bending

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Found Footage: Chronicles of Horror, Realism, and Case Studies

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the origins, the decades of contestation, the development and expansion, the impact, and the current status of the found footage horror subgenre. I hope you enjoy the ride.

http://theworldofapu.com/found-footage-chronicles-of-horror-realism-and-case-studies/

City of God (2002): Crime / Drama

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Through the eyes of a young, aspiring photographer, the “favelas” of Rio unfold stories of drugs, guns, kingpins, and gang wars where always the innocent paying the price.

4 Oscars nominations, 66 wins, another 38 nominations, top-rated movies #21 (IMDb, 2019). If it wasn’t for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – which was nominated for 11 Oscars and won them all – it would have definitely won the “Best Editing” category. Fair enough. One of the best-edited films of the 21st century, City of God, tells the city’s true crime stories during the ’60s and the ’70s, in Fernando Meirelles’ brutally realistic documented way. Fear, insecurity, and despair spread throughout the streets of the slum overshadowing the beauty of people who have nothing to do with the gangs’ territorial issues.

Masterfully and non-linearly narrated, City of God delves into the poverty-stricken society of all Rio’s undesirables, digs deep into the characters’ soul and chronicles the rise and perseverance of violence.

Feature debut for the amazing Alice Braga.

Exam (2009): Mystery / Thriller

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Eight chosen contenders competing for the same position are locked in a highly respectable company’s exam room for the final test which is nothing like they have seen or experienced before.

A one-location, British psychological thriller that delves into the human psyche, and infiltrates man’s darkest thoughts. A prime example of a low-budget thriller that keeps the viewer wondering from the opening scene to the end credits what is the meaning of this test, what the question is, who truly everyone is, why were they chosen, and what is the company getting out of it.

Mysterious, entertaining, and claustrophobic, “Exam’s” storytelling relies on actual character study experiments and utilises Hitchcockian approaches that go back as far as “Lifeboat” (1944). Low budget / high standards! Hats off to cast and crew.

I say no more. Lights and phones off, and pay attention to the details. Enjoy!

The Wrestler (2008): Drama / Sport

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An aging professional wrestler, with an unsuitable for him part-time job, is forced to quit wrestling, forget his past glory, and find a way to cope in a world outside the ring.

You know why reviews can be harsh sometimes? Because of films like this one. Shot with a micro-budget of $6,000,000, “The Wrestler” is almost a perfect film. So when you watch unbearable films having cost ten times more, it can be infuriating. With Darren Aronofsky believing in and fighting for Mickey Rourke, and both of them believing in and dedicating themselves to the project like their life depends on it, The Wrestler could only be a masterpiece.

In a form of a docudrama, Aronofsky “cuts loose” Mickey Rourke letting him write and improvise his character and Rourke, in his mid-fifties, shines like never before (Oscar nomination / Golden Globe win). Both of them debunk the myths of WWF, and old wrestlers either “break down and cry” or characterise it as a “dark misinterpretation”. Be it as it may, it certainly gives a perspective and sheds some light on the professional wrestling world’s backstage.

Then, Evan Rachel Wood proves once more she possesses the Midas Touch of acting, turning all her performances into gold. And last but definitely not least, the always magnificent actress Marisa Tomei, in her mid-forties, puts women half her age to shame. Their short appearance in the film creates the perfect subtext that leads the story to the direction it was inevitably meant to be led.

The Wrestler is about a man facing the consequences of doing what he always thought he was destined to do and kept on doing despite everyone else’s disapproval or discouragement. External influences that come out of envy, kindness, hate, or pure love. But sheer will to succeed and remain at the top and blind dedication blur the lines and don’t leave time to distinguish which is which. And I guess if you only possess them both you ignore the influences and aim at your destiny regardless of the consequences.

RocknRolla (2008): Action / Crime / Thriller

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A gang of lowlife crooks called the Wild Bunch, with the help of an accountant, steal money from a Russian developer that was meant for a London mob boss who has a drug addict, troubled stepson.

What could go wrong, right?! Storytelling like Guy Ritchie only knows how to deliver! RocknRolla makes it to my list of the top 3 Guy Ritchie films, followed by Snatch (2000) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). The editing controls the information exactly as it should have and enhances the humorous side of a British action/crime. Gerald Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, and Toby Kebbell work brilliantly together and clash with each other adding 100% A-list British quality acting.

In a different context now… What could go wrong, right?! People! People didn’t bother. I can only assume that one reason is “seen it all before”. But it isn’t. It is snappy, surrealistic, stylish, quirky, Cockney, and adds to the formula. Yet, what was meant to be a trilogy will never be. Our loss. Favourite scene: Robbing the Russians for the second time. Priceless!

Join me in filing a petition for the “Real RocknRolla”!!!

Unbreakable (2000): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A comic book gallery owner discovers that the lone survivor of a horrible accident has an amazing ability.

It is only befitting to review this one at this point in time and… you know which one is going to be next! Now that “Glass” (2019) has been heavily promoted as the third part of an otherwise stealthy trilogy, “Unbreakable” has been given a lot more gravitas.

When it was first released in 2000 some people loved it, some people laughed at it, some people were just left scratching their heads. I will avoid major spoilers about the ending just in case someone hasn’t watched it yet. As a standalone, there was really no closure. When it comes to ‘Mr. Glass’, justice was served. But what about David Dunn? He finally found his calling, and then what? Was that the end of the hero’s journey? To discover an ability and do nothing with it afterwards?

As part of a trilogy, the scope changes. It makes you now want to go back and watch it again, get to know the characters once more, and see how they can potentially be connected to the 24 personalities of Kevin Crumb in “Split” (2018) before you go to the cinema and watch “Glass” (2019). Remember the scene at the football stadium when David Dunn heads for the drug dealer? What if you suspected that the mother and child he brushes past and senses child abuse just before, is believed to be little Kevin with his mom? Hmm…

Anyway, “Unbreakable” is arguably M.Night Shyamalan’s most innovative and resourceful directing, Eduardo Serra’s darkest cinematography, and one of the best James Newton Howard’s score. It marks the fourth collaboration between Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson who are both irreplaceable. Memorable moments:

  • The hooded rain poncho obscuring Dunn’s face.
  • Long tracking shots and high and low camera angles to create the illusion we are in a graphic novel.
  • Repeatedly seeing Mr. Glass through or around glass to remind us of his connection with it but also his weakness.
  • Respectively, the raincoat David Dunn wears in most scenes to “protect” himself from the rain (water).
  • The graphic novel’s colour patterns; Dunn wears green and Glass purple.
  • Speaking of, the saturated colours over the muted colours at the station.

“Unbreakable” is not a superhero film, yet it follows the hero’s self-discovery path. And even though it is not a graphic novel adaptation, is most definitely made that way to “beam us up” to the narrative storytelling of the world of pictures.

Constantine (2005): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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Occult detective John Constantine teams up with a policewoman when her sister allegedly committed suicide, and all hell brakes loose.

Now, that’s how you adapt a graphic novel! Before Warner Bros and DC started getting those shockingly dreadful reviews, there was “Constantine”. Hardly a superhero, definitely an antihero, John Constantine exists in the DC Universe and kicks demonic and angelic ass in his own blunt, cynic, and supernatural way.

Behind the camera, Francis Lawrence and his team, write, edit, and direct an action/fantasy (although not horror really) with a lot of humour, amazing photography, and great visual effects that help the story advance. If there were any gimmicks, flaws, or holes you wouldn’t bother finding them and, even if you did, you would turn the blind eye as it is that enjoyable.

In front of the lens, Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare stand together and clash against each other throwing countless punchlines and keeping you entertained for two solid hours. Well, if you are too religious maybe not that entertained.

Anyway, I give my permission to Warner Bros to hire Francis Lawrence and his crew back to rebuild DCCU.