The Big Sick

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.

Fan Favorite Performances From Blockbuster Season

There’s no better time to be a movie fan. This year there were plenty of fantastic films released during the summer, which means a number of notable acting performances that will have us talking throughout this awards season.

In case you missed them, this is your call to catch up on recent stand-out blockbuster performances:

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”

These days there’s no shortage of movies based on our favorite comic book heroes. In fact, it’s now normal to have several superhero movies release during the summer. But if there’s one actress who many thought didn’t have what it takes to become the next DC Comics superstar, it’s Gal Gadot. Of course, the Israeli actress and model proved everyone wrong by impressing with her performance as one of the most iconic female superheroes we know.

While Chris Pine’s performance as Steve Trevor was praised, Gadot proved she was the perfect fit as Wonder Woman by making the heroine feel strong yet genuine and compassionate.

Fionn Whitehead & Harry Styles in “Dunkirk”

If there’s one thing the industry can agree on, it’s that Christopher Nolan knows how to make good movies. His latest, a World War II epic about the British military’s celebrated evacuation, already has more than $166 million in box office and nothing but positive reviews. One of the most remarkable things about “Dunkirk” is that it was the film acting debut for two of the main characters.

Although it was their first major acting gig, both Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles impressed with their roles as young Allied soldiers. Like many celebrities who reached stardom in another industry, there were low expectations for Styles. Instead, most reviewers praised his convincing performance.

Andy Serkis in “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Ever since his critically acclaimed role as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, Andy Serkis has become the top motion-capture actor on the planet. Working on big films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Serkis’ movies have grossed more than $8 billion dollars worldwide. Did we mention you’ll also see his work in the upcoming “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi?”

Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis once again blew audiences away with his performance as the leader of the apes.

Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

This summer was not good for fans of R-rated comedy. From “Trainwreck” and “Snatched” to “The House” and “Baywatch,” several movies that promised to keep us laughing during the hottest months of the year ended up underwhelming. Only “Girls Trip” delivered thanks to its many comical situations and well-chosen cast.

Despite working alongside renowned co-stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish managed to steal the show and keep viewers laughing throughout the film. Her role in the film is considered Haddish’s breakout role and one of the reasons the R-rated comedy has earned more than $100 million

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

There will always be skeptics when a new actor takes the role of a beloved superhero. Considering that the last film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” underperformed at the box office and received mixed reviews, there was even more pressure on Tom Holland to bring Peter Parker to life in yet another attempt at a Spider-Man film reboot.

Tom Holland received acclaim for his performance as the Webslinger in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is considered by many to be the best film in the franchise to date. Holland’s good looks and acting abilities also helped him win “Choice Summer Movie Actor” and get nominated for Choice Breakout Movie Star at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick”

It just wouldn’t be summer without a few romantic comedies thrown into the mix. On paper, “The Big Sick” sounds like the many other movies in this genre that you’ve already seen. There’s the nice guy falling in love with a girl he thinks is too good for her but goes for it anyway, resulting in a rollercoaster of emotions.

But what makes this movie unique, hilarious, and worth watching even if you hate romantic comedies is Kumail Nanjiani’s performance. His excellent chemistry with co-star Zoe Kazan and knack for melding humor with heartwarming moments is one of the reasons “The Big Sick” is seen as a revitalization of the genre.

Did Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon Revive the Rom-Com with “The Big Sick”?

There was a time not too long ago when romantic comedies dominated the box office. Films like “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Bridesmaids” were perfect for going on a date or watching with a group of friends. But then, the genre faded away.

In a time when rom-coms struggle to get anywhere near the list of top box office performers, “The Big Sick” arrives to remind us why the genre isn’t dead and buried. Here are a few reasons why a critically-acclaimed indie rom-com made with a budget of $5 million is now being seen as the savior of the genre.

Makes great use of the rom-com book of clichés.

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Film has been around long enough that it’s nearly impossible to avoid every idea used before. The same can be said about any film genre you’re talking about. Of course, it’s hard not to notice when a new rom-com is marketed as a “fresh, new love story” but instead ends up featuring the most common clichés in the industry.

In “The Big Sick,” we don’t see an impractical “thoughtful gesture” to win the girl’s heart. Nor is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity forfeited in the name of love. While Gordon and Nanjiani’s film does have a number of familiar tropes, they’re executed in a way that makes the story feel authentic and believable — perhaps because the story is, indeed, based on the writers’ real life romance … with each other.

For example, in the film, Kumail offers his love interest a bag of mementos, not an exaggerated musical number. And the gesture fails to win her back. As Showalter himself put it, “Tropes work beautifully when a writer knows why the audiences have such an affectation for them.” And sometimes, subverting a trope or showing a different outcome than expected can refresh the narrative.

Love unfolds via three relationships, not one.

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In most romantic comedies we see the lovebird’s relationship unfold via their interaction throughout the film. A large number of minutes are spent showing the audience how the couple meets, goes on a date or more, has a conflict, discovers their love toward each other, etc. Would you believe that in “The Big Sick,” the protagonist spends very little screen time with his love interest?

Instead, we see more of Kumail interacting with his and Emily’s parents than with Emily herself. The result is a special, heartwarming story where the guy pursues his love interest without actually being around her. As Kumail deals with his family’s restrictive traditions and wins the trust of Emily’s folks, viewers are convinced by his believable love toward Emily in a way not normally seen in romantic comedies.

The story is both hilarious and heartfelt.

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The goal of the average romantic comedy is to keep us laughing as the love story unfolds. Somewhere along the way a conflict emerges, causing viewers to feel just as sad and hopeless as the protagonist who just had their heart broken. The best rom-coms, however, offer plenty of funny lines and moments while also tugging the heart strings in a profound, genuine way.

“The Big Sick” does just that and more with its excellent writing and acting. The humor is there thanks to the main couple’s interaction as well as Kumail’s one-man shows. But what sets this film apart is the big shift when his love interest breaks things off and falls ill, creating tension when her parents enter the story. Kumail’s struggle against real issues in order to win Emily, no matter what his or her parents think, sets up a story that’s just as touching as it is funny.