The Oscars were announced a mere week ago and pundits are already making bets on whom to expect in the 2014 lineup. While it may seem premature, I can’t say I blame them – we have yet another killer batch of films in-store, one that will surely give 2013’s nominees a run for their money. “Fruitvale,” “August: Osage County,” “Wolf of Wall Street” and a couple dozen more are in the pipeline, all of which you’ll want to keep on your radar for fall if they weren’t there already.
But for now, let’s focus on the present. It’s March, it’s spring and it’s a promising month for arthouse cinema. We’ll be getting a couple of 2012 holdovers fresh off unfruitful Oscar-qualifying runs (“On The Road,” “Ginger and Rosa”), along with two Best Foreign Language film nominees (“No,” “War Witch”). My most highly anticipated film by a mile is “Spring Breakers,” which is technically an indie film but will be receiving a wide release on March 22. After unleashing a slew of outrageous red-band trailers and electrifying film fest audiences in Venice and Toronto, “Spring Breakers” is truly not to be missed.
If you’d prefer sticking to Scottsdale and Tempe’s specialty cinemas, though, here are my picks for the five indie films to check out this month.
5. Stoker: Having just opened in New York and Los Angeles, “Stoker” currently sits on a good, but not great score of 59 percent on Metacritic. A twisted love triangle between a teenage girl, her callous mother and enigmatic uncle, the film is a welcome return to form for actresses Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman, following turns in less-than-spectacular duds like “Albert Nobbs” and “The Paperboy,” respectively. “Stoker” also marks the English-language debut of Korean director Park Chan-wook, best known for his mesmerizing crime drama “Oldboy” in 2004. (March 15). Watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNpDG4WR_74
4. Ginger and Rosa: Starring Elle Fanning and relative newcomer Alice Englert, “Ginger and Rosa” is the coming-of-age tale of two teenage girls in 1960’s London torn apart by family turmoil and the looming Cuban Missile Crisis. The film features a star-making tour de force from Fanning – who has been likened to a young Tilda Swinton in early reviews – along with lovely supporting turns from “Mad Men”-bombshell Christina Hendricks and Oscar-nominee Annette Bening. Reviews have so far been mixed-to-positive, but an intelligent script and gripping performances seem reason enough to check this one out. (March 29). Watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47yoVmZeff0
3. War Witch: Shot entirely in the Congo and starring former street child Rachel Mwanza, “War Witch” is a recent Oscar nominee and winner of 10 Canadian Screen Awards. This French-language film follows a 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped from her village – forced into becoming a child soldier but finding solace in love and spirituality. Directed and written by Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen, “War Witch” made a splash at last year’s Berlin and Tribeca film festivals – both of which awarded Mwanza with Best Actress accolades. (March 22). Watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX5jXeXPTB4
2. Like Someone In Love: Garnering a perfect five stars from The New York Times, “Like Someone In Love” has had dozens of critics raving since its Cannes Film Festival debut last year. A French-Japanese drama from lauded Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, this Tokyo-set story follows a young student who pays for her studies working as a prostitute, all the while developing a complex relationship with a well-meaning, elderly widower. This overlooked gem is now available on video-on-demand, but is well worth experiencing on the big screen if you get the chance. (March 15). Watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pldnaSGSyY
1. No: Gael García Bernal made a splash in little-seen 2012 films “The Loneliest Planet” and “Casa de mi Padre,” but undoubtedly made his biggest impact with “No,” an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. A fictional narrative based on real-life events, the movie traces a young advertising exec in 1988 Chile as he leads an opposition against General Augusto Pinochet, urging citizens to vote “no” in the upcoming election. Director Pablo Larraín was unique in his decision to shoot with low definition Sony tape, which allowed the film to seamlessly blend in old 1980’s news footage that’s used throughout. (March 22). Watch trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGOcFPzx1H0