I Tonya

8 Recent Indie Movies That Made Their Mark on Filmmaking

Although it’s usually the big-budget films raking in the cash and getting all the commercial attention, film’s greatest strength as a source of entertainment for its variety. When the market is saturated with enough A-list actors and adrenaline-fueled blockbuster rides, many look to independent films for fresh faces, stories with creative risks, and more. The following movies recently striking a chord are just the latest icing on the cake that is the current indie film industry:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

You know you’re dealing with a good documentary when it not only sits at the top 15 highest grossing non-fiction films of all time but also beat four Disneynature documentaries despite a smaller theatrical run. Using a tone both elegant and tender, director Morgan Neville helps capture minister Fred Rogers’ magical ascent in television while embodying what children’s programming should be about.

Hereditary

As Ari Aster’s first feature, this supernatural horror film does more than give viewers a scare. Toni Collette’s character creates a memorable look at the grieving process as she struggles to cope with several deaths in the family. Critically acclaimed and standing as American independent entertainment company A24’s highest-grossing film worldwide, Hereditary sets a high bar for horror films looking to provide tension and terror through means other than your average shock tactics.

Get Out

Jordan Peele put on the director’s hat for the first time with this indie horror film that earned its spot among the ten most profitable movies of 2017. Viewers praised the film’s excellent mix of humor and its creative visual style. Perhaps most importantly, Get Out does what horror films do best: provide an entertaining story that touches on real world issues — in this case, racism.

The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s drama film tells the story of a restless mother and her young daughter as they do whatever it takes to avoid homelessness. Strong performances and a powerful, sensitive look at poverty in today’s America earned this movie a number of notable nominations, including a spot on the National Board of Review’s and American Film Institute’s Top 10 Films of the Year lists. (One of The Florida Project’s producers is Darren Dean, a NYFA producing school instructor.)

A Quiet Place

Grossing $332 million worldwide after being made with a budget of around $20 million, this sci-fi horror film has been the talk among scary flick fans in 2018. Writer/director John Krasinski’s reliance on visual storytelling paid off as his use of silence and excellent sound design, along with strong performances help drive its eerie atmosphere. Notable figures such as Stephen King and Nick Allen specifically praised the expressive silence that allowed viewers to feel terror not through words but mostly from the expressions of the characters alone.

I, Tonya

Craig Gillespie’s biographical film recounts the story of Tonya Harding, the American Olympic figure skater connected with the brutal attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan one day before the Ladies Singles competition the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The film earned numerous nominations, including a win for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, and was praised for its great execution of humor and tragedy thanks to its strong, emotional performances.

Mudbound

Directed by Dee Rees, this American period drama follows two World War II veterans — one black, one white — as they battle against racism and PTSD in their post-war life. Widely praised for its strong cast, Mudbound earned many nominations, including four at the 90th Academy Awards, and led to Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman ever nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar.

The Big Sick

One of the top grossing indie films of 2017, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy based on the actual romantic beginnings of writers and interethnic couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. Audiences and critics both enjoyed the film’s original spin on a true love story that succeeded despite illness, cultural differences, and more. Director Michael Showalter’s film turned a $5 million budget into a $56 million box office worldwide, while also earning several dozen awards and nominations.

Our 90th Academy Award Predictions: Best Picture, Best Director, and More!

The greatest award show of the year is just around the corner! With the list of Oscar nominees already garnering predictions and buzz, fans will be crossing their fingers until March 4 in hopes of seeing their top picks take home a shiny golden statuette. We’ve joined in on the fun by coming up with our own predictions on who will win this coming Academy Awards 2018.

Top Categories

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

This is one of those years where competition is so stiff that most of the nominated films can win and few would be surprised. But among the excellent choices, Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fantasy is likely to take away the main prize. It has nominations in more than a dozen different categories, was deemed a critical success, and is viewed by many as a major artistic achievement. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the the most diverse of the best pictures nominees in a time when diversity and gender equality in the industry are major focus points.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan

If there’s one category that has two clear potential winners, it’s Best Director. Greta Gerwig’s nomination serves as the first time in eight years (almost a decade!) that a female has been nominated in the category, and marks the first time that a female director has been nominated for her directing debut –– but Christopher Nolan is also likely emerge victorious. “Dunkirk,” one of the highest grossing films of 2017, is a testament to his directorial prowess. Nolan was able to make his historical war movie — a genre we’ve all seen before — feel raw and intense without the need for excess explosions and effects.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman

Here’s a category where we’d put money down on our choice and not break a sweat. Having won Best Actor at the Golden Globes and then again at the SAG Awards a few weeks later, it’s a safe bet to predict that Gary Oldman will win this award at the Oscars. His transformation into the great Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, which required wearing a fat suit and makeup that took hours to apply, is considered one of his most impressive performances to date. This win would serve as Gary Oldman’s first Academy Award.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand

Best Actress is as competitive as ever at the 2018 Academy Awards. There were many impressive performances throughout the year that all deserve recognition, but only one leading lady is going into the Oscars with momentum. Frances McDormand has already netted Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, making her the reasonable winner of this race. It would be a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable performance from a truly great actress.

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell

Both Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project, produced by NYFA Instructor Darren Dean), and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), are certainly among the favorites to take home this award.

At the top of the list, however, is Sam Rockwell for his large performance in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. This role has earned Rockwell widespread acclaim, not to mention a two SAG awards, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award nomination. His impressive acting abilities are on full display in the 2017 crime drama alongside other incredible talents like Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, who also received praise for their performances.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney

This is another extremely tight category where we can easily see the award go to more than one talented actress.

While Best Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige has made Oscar history this year as the first person ever to be nominated for an original song and acting in the same year, it seems likely that the decision for this category will come down to either Laurie Metcalf for her role in Lady Bird and Allison Janney for hers in I, Tonya, with the latter being our prediction.

Janney has already won a handful of awards for her memorable portrayal of this imperious mother — a performance that created more talk than the rest of the cast.

Other Categories:

Best Animated Feature: Coco

In a year where there aren’t many strong contenders in the animated feature category, it would be the surprise of the night not to see Disney Pixar take home the gold.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Mudbound

Dee Rees’ American period drama, based on Hillary Jordan’s novel and fueled by a fantastic screenplay, is a top contender for this category. While Rees’ exclusion from the Best Director category for Mudbound is already seen as the season’s most controversial snub, with the film receiving both Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Acting nominations, the multi-hyphenate filmmaker has absolutely broken barriers and made Oscar history as the first woman of color nominated in this category.

Best Original Screenplay: Lady Bird

This poignant coming-of-age tale has earned an impressive amount of awards and nominations in various categories, making it a likely winner in this one.

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

The gold statuette for this category could easily go to either Dunkirk or Mudbound — the latter making history by helping Rachel Morrison become the first woman ever nominated. At the end of the day, we’re predicting that the amazing cinematographic work that went into Villeneuve’s impactful sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049 will set it apart as the winner.

Best Costume Design: The Shape of Water

With a category as unpredictable as this one, we have to go with The Shape of Water, which was snubbed in the makeup and visual effects categories.

Best Film Editing: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a perfect example of Nolan’s ability to captivate audiences by showing the anxiety and horror of war across intertwined characters and events.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Darkest Hour

Like we mentioned before, the fact that Gary Oldman was able to deliver his stunning performance in a fat suit and after hours of makeup is enough to convince us.

Best Original Score: Phantom Thread

In arguably the toughest category to select a prediction, we’re placing our bets on Jonny Greenwood’s work for Phantom Thread. His moving musical score, which has already earned numerous nominations and awards elsewhere, did an admirable job of further heightening the acclaimed screenplay and direction of the film.

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Another close fight where any nominee can hear their name called up. At the end of the day, it’s The Shape of Water that impressed the most with a real-life twist to its fairy-tale world.

Best Original Song: Remember Me from Coco

Plenty of excellent choices but only room for one winner — and our prediction is Coco’s memorable lullaby. A close runner up is “Mighty River” from Mudbound, a nomination that made history by making Mary J. Blige the  first woman of color nominated in both this category and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Sound Editing & Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

In a film with little dialogue and lots of acting, it was the excellent sound editing that helped keep us engrossed by what takes place in Nolan’s war drama.

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

We feel this year is when these visually groundbreaking films finally earn an award for their cutting-edge performance-capture work.

Best Foreign Language Film: In the Fade

Though not a lock, Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe wins might be enough to set this German film apart as winner.

Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places

Agnès Varda’s documentary about traveling portrait painters is expected to pull ahead and win the gold. Varda, a French woman who has been a filmmaker for more than 60 years, made Oscar history this year when she became the oldest-ever nominee, at the age of 89.

Best Animated Short: Lou

Pixar Animation Studios tackles schoolyard bullying in this inspiring animated short by the iconic Emeryville studio.

Best Live Action Short: The Eleven O’Clock

Our bold prediction is that Derin Seale’s humorous live action short will upset other clear winners on Oscars night.

Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)

For this close category we can’t help but side with Heroin(e), a doc that follows Huntington, West Virginia’s fire chief, a local judge, and an impassioned volunteer — all women — as they battle to save lives from opioid addiction in a town where the overdose rate is 10 times the national average. Our very own Kristen Nutile, a NYFA Documentary Filmmaking teacher, served as editor on the film.

Toronto International Film Festival Favorites for the Fall

A cool, crisp breeze is in the air. Leaves are turning colors and drifting down to the pavement. It must be fall, which means the kickoff of the fall film awards season, which in turn means the world will now focus on catching all the critically acclaimed, award winning, and audience favorite movies from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which ended this week. For the full list of winners, visit TIFF’s official website.

Here are a few key films from TIFF that you won’t want to miss this year.

“The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this Cold War-era fantasy thriller sets a tone akin to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sally Hawkins plays a government laboratory employee who accidentally discovers a creature in a forgotten water tank. Lonely and mute, she befriends the animal until her secret is uncovered.

Set for release in the United States in early December, “The Shape of Water” also premiered at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the Golden Lion for best picture.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This comedy-drama from Martin McDonagh features a knockout cast: Frances McDormand, Peter Dinklage, and Sam Rockwell. An excellent script paired with fantastic performances from the entire ensemble makes this a can’t-miss film for movie enthusiasts.

A local mother (McDormand) attempts to galvanize the local police into action by purchasing billboard space accusing the police department of a shoddy job serving justice. It’s the type of movie that swirls around in one’s head for days.

“The Disaster Artist”

Remember “The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film, considered one of the worst movies ever made? “The Disaster Artist” chronicles the making of the film as well as the friendship between Wiseau and actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco).Wiseau is, as always, a commanding presence who captures the subtleties of Wiseau’s character: an ambitious, ultimately lonely figure. It’s fun seeing the two brothers work off of each other, and makes for terrific entertainment.

“The Current War”

Every schoolchild knows that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, but did they know that it was a race to the finish line? The perpetually brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch plays Edison against Michael Shannon’s George Westinghouse as the two geniuses compete to harness electricity. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” fame, it also features snappy dialogue from writer Michael Mitnick. This is also an excellent film for anyone interested in American history and how electricity conquered the country.

“Thelma”

This Norwegian psychological horror film from Joachim Trier showcases an eerie performance by lead actress Eili Harboe. For the upcoming Academy Awards, it was selected as the Norwegian entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Harboe plays a student who moves to Oslo and falls in love with another girl; she then discovers that her crush has triggered certain inexplicable powers within her.

“I, Tonya”

This black comedy-drama centers around the life of figure skater Tonya Harding, who famously smashed her opponent Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecaps with a baseball bat in 1994. Nominated as runner-up for the People’s Choice award, this film features Margot Robbie as a young Tonya Harding.

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