Indie Night Special

 

  • The Shape of Water 
    • Hawkins stars as Elisa, a mute woman in 1960s Baltimore who works as a janitor for a top-secret government laboratory. Her life is forever changed when an amphibian creature Doug Jones) is brought to the lab to be studied. Elisa shows him kindness, and what starts out as a close bond quickly blossoms into romance. Realizing the amphibian man’s fate in the hands of a ruthless colonel (Michael Shannon), she teams up with her two dear friends (Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins) to help her set him free. The Shape of Water is a standard love story with not-so-standard circumstances. It’s weird to see a woman fall in love with something not quite human, but you warm up to the idea eventually, mainly due to the fact that the main character’s emotions toward the creature do come off as legit. And that is due to Sally Hawkin’s performance. She is adorable as Elisa, and what I appreciate about her character is how her timidness doesn’t come off as weakness. While her disability is a struggle sometimes, her personality is still bubbly. Though she does have a sassy and mischievous streak. The rest of the cast does a great job as well, but Hawkins is by far the standout. Doug Jones does a great job at bringing the amphibian man to life, and I’m relieved to see his character made up with practical effects instead of CGI. Like I said, the story is pretty generic, and the reasoning behind why the government wants the creature is weak. But the romance, the most crucial element, is strong. And that’s good enough for me.
  • Downsizing
    • Alexander Payne wrote and directed this quirky story about a man named Paul (Matt Damon) who undergoes a shrinking procedure called Downsizing when the demands of everyday life are too much to handle. But when his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) bails at the last second, Paul is forced to navigate this strange new world alone and start his life over. This is a weird movie. Sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. It’s not as funny as the trailers hinted it would be, and the creativity in the way in which characters interact with the now gargantuan everyday objects isn’t too prominent. I understand this is supposed Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-esque premise is supposed to have more of a mature approach, but I definitely could have used more of an imaginative edge. Matt Damon does fine as an everyman whose arch is more of a three-sixty spin. Overall, the film is pretty dull. If you want to see it, go for it. But I don’t blame you if you don’t.
  • Ingrid Goes West
    • Ingrid (played perfectly by Aubrey Plaza) is a mentally unstable woman who, after the death of her mother and a stint in a mental hospital, becomes obsessed with an Instagram personality named Taylor (also played perfectly by Elizabeth Olsen). In a matter of no time, Ingrid gathers her hefty inheritance and moves to Los Angeles to find Taylor and be her best friend. I heard of this movie a long time ago and just recently stumbled upon it on Hulu. And thank god that I did because this movie is fan-freaking-tastic. It’s funny, it’s pleasantly dark, and although the situation gets more and more ridiculous, it manages to still stay in the realm of believability. The film manages to take its subject matter seriously while also having a cynical perspective on today’s digital culture. Both Plaza and Olsen are pitch perfect in their roles, with both playing different sides of the same card. Ingrid may be a stalker and a talented manipulator, and yet the degree to which she reinvenst herself makes her sympathetic because you see how desperate she is for companionship. Plaza’s portrayal of her emotional turmoil is never too manic or too underplayed. Taylor, however, is more polished. Olsen’s performance as every pretentious and narcissistic hipster personality who advertises her life more than theme park attractions is truly something to behold. Her role is the influencer, while Ingrid is the influenced. Though neither are one-hundred percent authentic. Also not to be overlooked are O’Shea Jackson Jr as Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed landlord, Billy Magnussen as Taylor’s colossally douche brother, and Wyatt Russell as Taylor’s artsy husband. There’s not much else I can say about this film. The acting is amazing, the story is very telling of today’s climate, and I can’t recommend it enough. I implore you to check it out when you get the chance.
  • Super Dark Times
    • You know what’s scary? Kids. You know what’s even scarier? Kids who kill other kids. Super Dark Times is an unsettling film about a group of boys whose friendship unravels when one of them accidentally kills an acquaintance. They try to cover it up, but the memory of the incident isn’t impossible to bury. The film marks the directorial debut of Mark Phillips, and he does an exceptional job here. The low-budget look of it coupled with the bleak, taut atmosphere creates a hauntingly realistic sense of horror. The imagery Phillips uses to convey trauma and fear and uncertainty are highly effective. And the actors, for the most part, do a good job at portraying those emotions as well. Their acting does feel a little weak at times. Overall, though they do feel like real kids. Super Dark Times is currently on Netflix. When you have the time, give it a chance. It’s not great by any means, but as the product of a first-time director, it’s impressive.

 

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