Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Film Yap: Free Films! - Indiepix Unlimited

I love movies, but I can’t afford all of the movies I want to see. It doesn’t help that some of them are in 3D even if they shouldn’t be! So it’s nice to find places on the internet where I can legally watch free films, especially when they’re really good.

This week I’m checking out the website Indiepix Unlimited. It’s a neat website that specializes in underseen independent films. Unfortunately this is another case where I haven’t seen any of the movies on the site so I had Richard Propes of The Independent Critic help me out. If you go on his site, you can get a one-month free trial to the site where you can watch these films.

Here is Richard recommending five films and then I’ll chime in with five more that I think look good as well.

Richard’s Picks

1. "The DeVilles" is a 56-minute documentary out of Denmark from director Nicole Nielsen Horyani about the not quite uncomplicated love story involving American burlesque stripper Teri Lee Geary (aka Kitten DeVille) and her punk rock singer husband, Shawn Geary. Teri looks like Marilyn Monroe, Shawn like The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and Horyani beautifully weaves together both a 1950's and 1980's vibe to capture a sweet, enduring love story that exudes a sense of timelessness.

2. "Candyman: The David Klein Story" is one of my favorite documentaries from the past year, an entertaining and poignant doc about the man who came up with the concept of the Jelly Belly jellybeans. Directed by Costa Botes, “Candyman” is a delightful and quirky indie doc that ran on the Documentary Channel in November 2010 and is now available on DVD with distrib Indiepix. Calling “Candyman” delightful and quirky feels, on a certain level, a bit unusual and even inappropriate. The story of Klein's decline from extraordinary showman and jellybean inventor to being fully excluded from the life of the Jelly Belly Company (Klein is not even acknowledged in the candy's documented history) is a sad, disheartening story that somehow never weighs down the film.

3. "Half a Bee" is another film reviewed by The Independent Critic not long after director Tim Busko finished the film. If you are a human being, a person who has experienced life and screwed it up only to find yourself back on track and starting to figure it all out, then you should definitely see this amazingly simple yet hypnotic 60-minute documentary about Eric Morder. Morder is a 30ish man, a small-town poet/musician whose music and musings are strikingly honest, real, simple, entertaining and beautifully presented by Busko's one-man wonder crew. These documentaries, and washed up/burned out musicians do deserve a documentary sub-genre all their own, can be remarkably pretentious and self-serving. 

Think “Wesley Willis' Joyrides”, a film that took a beloved and gifted man and reduced him to a cinematic cliche' by painting him as a sort of transcendent figure. The approach ruined the power of Willis's story and, along with it, the documentary that bared his name. Busko, on the other hand, simply turns on the camera and allows Morder to be Morder. Rather than creating anything resembling a dramatized situation or seemingly staged scene, what unfolds in “Half a Bee” feels like equal parts poetry, musical journey and a conversation with a beloved friend.

4. "Indestructible" won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Lake County Film Festival, and my not quite favorable enough review of the film led to my receiving one of my harsher letters from the sister of Ben Byer, the director and subject of the film. At the age of 31, Byer was an aspiring filmmaker who'd studied journalism at Indiana University and film theory at the University of Paris. He'd worked in Hollywood for a B-movie producer and had gathered several acting credits in Chicago at such highly regarded theatres as Steppenwolf Theatre. His first play, "Take It Deep," was successfully produced and it seemed that the 31-year-old Chicago native was on the verge of a successful career in writing and acting. 

Then, in 2002, Byer was diagnosed with ALS and, as is true for the vast majority of persons diagnosed with the disease, Byer was suddenly faced with a death sentence to be preceded by a practically guaranteed deterioration of his ability to walk, talk, care for himself and his young son, act or even write on his own. 

"Indestructible" began as a series of video diaries in which Byer, sometimes with heartbreaking vulnerability and other times with flippant bravado, begins living his life searching for hope, searching for answers and, perhaps most of all, just trying to live for as long as he possibly can. Despite being unable to escape the feeling that Byer has been afforded opportunities largely unavailable to the wider public living with ALS, one must approach "Indestructible" with a tremendous sense of gratitude and a deep appreciation for the honest portrayals, authentic dialogue and beautiful cinematography that blend together to tell the story of Ben Byer, a young filmmaker who has faced overwhelming adversity with courage, honesty, humor and, thankfully for all of us, the willingness to creatively pursue his dream of making the film he undoubtedly wishes he'd never had to make.

5. A recent acquisition of IndiePix that I haven't seen yet is "Samson & Delilah," an Australian film directed by Warwick Thornton about two young people who live in an isolated Aboriginal community in the Central Australian desert. When tragedy strikes, the two turn their backs on their home and embark on a journey of survival only to find that life outside the community can be incredibly cruel. Despite being hungry and rejected, the two fall in love and realize that love is the one thing that will never let them down. "Samson & Delilah" won multiple awards at film festivals around the world, and looks like an absolutely incredibly film that I can't wait to watch.

Austin’s Picks

1. “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers” – I do love a good title. This one has a premise to back up its attention grabbing title. It is about Zel who is a fortuneteller who has grown accustomed to all of the spirits who live with her in her old house. Once the souls become restless she is conflict about helping them move on or stick with her odd family. Unique comedy and it got into two of the best film festivals out there: Sundance and South by Southwest.

2. “A Broad Way” – This is a documentary about a observing the street of Broadway from all of its blocks for one hour. This is one of those fun ideas that could either provide surprising insight to the human condition or be an entertaining attempt to do so. It reminds me of a few episodes of “This American Life” which is a very solid source to draw inspiration from.

3. “Hell on Wheels” – Roller derby is awesome. It’s something about the unique sports that have the ability to be more exciting. Perhaps it’s the freshness of seeing a sport that isn’t constantly talked about or maybe it’s the hot women fighting each other around a racetrack. No one can really know for sure. This documentary covers the women from Austin, Texas who resurrected the sport into the fun phenomenon it is today.

4. “Messengers” – This seems to have all of the elements for a good thriller. Interested protagonist, creepy small town, secrets that probably could be explained earlier, and just a small taste of the supernatural. It stars Michel Hicks, who was the Walton Goggin’s unfortunate wife in “The Shieldand Frankie Faison who was Commissioner Burrell from “The Wire.” My loyalty to actors from incredible shows is enough to give this a view.

5. “Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Geek Tragedy” – It’s amazing how little hope for this movie, but I’m still going to watch it. After the success of “The King of Kong” a lot of documentaries popped up about nerdy competitions. Some were good, but not all. A rock, paper, scissors competition? I admit, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this once on ESPNWhatever and I may have laughed more than I was interested in who won, but I….I don’t know why I’m going to watch this, it’s going to happen.

There you go! The site has more features and a ton of short films that look like a lot of fun. Reminder, the best way to get your one-month free trial is to go to TheIndependentCritic.com and click on the banner on the left hand side.

Chime in on the comment section with more movies you’d recommend or think look interesting.

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