While we all love a good Avengers/superhero-type movie, and other big blockbusters or mainstream films, I think it’s important to be open to as much art as possible. We’re constantly bombarded with ads about the next big action movie, or teen romance film, that we hardly get to hear about smaller, independent films. These films aren’t made with a big budget, are from a somewhat small company, don’t have big name stars, or they just didn’t make a lot of money. I wanted to highlight some small films you should check out, and all of these are available on either Netflix or Hulu.
I, Tonya (Hulu):
This comedic look at one of the most infamous scandals in sports history, is done in a faux-documentary-style, making the film feel very personal and small-scale. It’s interwoven with reenactments of events and reenactments of interviews that these real-life subjects gave. Margot Robbie is terrific as Tonya Harding, a crass, bad-tempered figure skater, who tries to make it to the top, and the foolish people in her life that try and help her. It’s a super unique, original take on the sports genre, and it was nominated for a few Oscars.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Hulu):
The best way I can describe this movie is “live-action Up”, wherein an old man and young boy go off on an adventure. Taika Waititi, best known for Thor: Ragnarok, brings his quirky, dry sense of humor to this, oddly melodramatic, farce. While it still contains a lot of laughs, mostly from the banter between the two, it also makes sure that you aren’t irritated with either of them. The two butting heads don’t necessarily have opposing ideologies, but instead, have different outlooks on the world. One is more pessimistic, one is more optimistic, and I think anyone can latch on to one, and see themselves in their place. If you like oddball comedies, or adventure/road trip movies, you should check this out.
I don’t really like films like Mean Girls or Clueless, which draw a lot of comparisons to this movie. This film is a direct reaction to the John Hughes teen movies of the ’80s (like Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club): i.e., movies that have a likable lead character, a quirky love interest, and a happy ending. I don’t want to spoil this movie, but it’s pretty messed up (in the best possible way). With this movie coming out before the movies I mentioned in the first sentence while watching Heathers, you can see how much inspiration those movies drew from this. It stars Stranger Things’ Winona Ryder as Veronica, who becomes caught up with the popular girls at her school, a trio of girls called the “Heathers.” It’s about bullying, conformity, lust, and power, and does this all in a unique and bold way. It’s super funny, well-written, and includes a great ‘80’s soundtrack.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Netflix):
I know that, since it’s addition to Netflix, this film has gained a wider audience, but still...I wanna talk about it anyways. This film is, perhaps, my favorite movie, and I have a lot of reasons as to why. I think it’s one of the most expertly crafted films of all time. The wit, writing, and performances are all top-notch, but what’s probably the most commendable is the film making itself. The directing, pacing, editing, visual effects, and choreography of movement are done so masterfully, you believe that Edgar Wright, the director, and his team had this entire movie planned out, and knew how to get what they wanted. While not that many people saw this film in the theater, it is slowly growing a cult audience, with more and more people picking this movie up, and appreciating it, every day. The film is about a shy guy named Scott Pilgrim, who becomes infatuated with a girl by the name of Ramona Flowers. But, in order to be with her, Pilgrim must “defeat her seven evil exes.” The film is filled with a lot of cartoonish, video-game-like action, reminiscent of games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. It feels like a real-life video game but doesn’t go too overbearing with this tone. This movie is a perfect date movie, so if you and your partner are looking for something fun to watch together, I’d recommend this.
Documentaries, I believe, are the next big movie genre. Up until recently, documentaries have been dismissed as “movies for nerds”, mostly because there’s no story or action, but, instead, just information being piled onto the viewer. This genre has had sort of a renaissance recently, with things like HBO’s Leaving Neverland, to movies like Free Solo and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, too, even, YouTuber Shane Dawson’s collection of “docu-series.” Audiences are now more willing to watch real-life stories told, through the magic of movies. My favorite documentary I’ve ever seen would have to be 2016’s Tickled, which tells the messed up story of an underground, competitive tickling organization. The film starts off with a light and comedic tone, but eventually shifts, and doesn’t shy away from the heavy and dark substance that’s lying beneath the, seemingly, silly premise. This is one of the most shocking and disturbing pieces of film or investigative journalism you will ever see. If you like creepy and off-putting stories and don’t necessarily like horror, I would point you towards this film.