10 indie films to catch in 2009

I know, I know. Indie is kind of a dirty word. First of all, it’s rarely used in the correct context (I have even included one film in this list that is definitely NOT an independent film). Secondly, it draws connotations of arrogant, obtuse, ultra-cute or overly alienating material. And who wants to see that?

Now that’s out of the way, I’m going to use “indie” to describe films that celebrate unique vision and independent spirit. For example, films as phenomenally touching and one-of-a-kind like Paranoid Park, The Diving Bell and Butterfly and The Wrestler are rarely produced by major studios.

So think of this as your guide to the future indie classics of 2009. Each one is a must see. I highly recommend checking out each trailer, just to get a taste of something a little different to the norm.

And a shiny new penny if you can guess which one will be sold in the advertising material as “This year’s Juno!”

10 – A Complete History of My Sexual Failures

Self-confessed narcissist Chris Waitt directs and stars in this documentary about – well, the complete history of his sexual failures. He approaches all his ex-girlfriends, High Fidelity-style, to find out why they left him and figure out why he continues to remain unlucky in love. This scenario could be incredibly staged, or horrifically realistic. Either way, sounds like good watching to me. Check out the trailer here.

9 – The Class


Directed by Laurent Cantet and starring real-life teacher Francois Begaudeau, The Class picked up the Golden Palm at Cannes last year. Begaudeau stars as himself, as he deals with racially mixed students in a tough Parisian school. The French Dangerous Minds? Check the trailer out here.

8 – Baghead

Mumblecore cinema branches out into horror with Baghead. Written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, Baghead tells the story of four out-of-work actors who head to a cabin in the woods to write a screenplay. The plot of their screenplay: a group of friends are tormented by a villain with a bag over their head. Wouldn’t you know it; they’re soon tormented by a bagheaded villain of their own. Check the trailer out here.

7 – Paper Hearts


Real life couple Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi star as fictionalized versions of themselves in this film about two young actors in a relationship. We mentioned this film a few weeks ago, and it looks to be the hit of the Sundance Film Festival. Let’s face it – we’d see Michael Cera in anything. Oh, except the Arrested Development movie.

6 – Sunshine Cleaning


Amy Adams stars as Rose Lorkowski, a single mother struggling to pay tuition fees for her son. She starts a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service (which is an incredibly lucrative profession apparently), with her sister Norah (Emily Blunt). Also stars Alan Arkin and indie faves Steve Zahn and Mary Lynn Rajskub. I get a strong Little Miss Sunshine vibe from the trailer, although it might just be because Arkin seems to be playing the same character.

5 – 500 Days of Summer


Not exactly an indie film (it’s being funded by Fox Searchlight), but you wouldn’t know it from the cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a young man who falls in love with Summer (Zooey Deschanal), a woman who doesn’t believe in true love. Helmed by music video director Marc Webb, this could be the breakout hit Levitt and Deschanel need.

4 – Big Fan


Big Fan stars Patton Oswalt as Paul Augiero, a major New York Giants fan who struggles to deal with the consequences of being beaten up by his favourite player. The film is written and directed by The Wrestler scribe Robert D. Siegal. If he can bring the deft mix of comedy and sadness evident there, Big Fan could be a big winner. Debuts at Sundance this month.

3 – My Winnipeg

Director Guy Maddin‘s pseudo documentary about his home town Winnipeg and his strange family. Maddin sublet his old home, hired actors to play his family, and combined stock footage to make this highly acclaimed film, which picked up Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto Film Festival. I’m loving the expressionist influences here, and the whole concept feels like something a Charlie Kaufman character would do (in fact, I believe that is virtually the plot to Synecdoche, New York)! Check the trailer out here.

2 – In Search of a Midnight Kiss

In Search of a Midnight Kiss debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007, and has been slowly developing a fanbase since. The film follows Wilson on New Year’s Eve, a 29-year-old who is ready to see the back end of the worst year of his life. His friend Jacob convinces him to post a Craigslist personal ad to find a partner for the night. The search leads him to Vivian (future indie darling Sara Simmonds), who is determined to be with the right man at midnight. Names like Kevin Smith and Woody Allen are being thrown around like crazy (you can see the Manhattan influences big time). If it’s as good as they say, it might just be the film to put mumblecore on the map. Check the trailer out here.

1 – Let The Right One In

In a better world, Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In would be a massive hit and Twilight would be a forgotten piece of Hollywood trash. Sadly, the lesser of the two bloodsucking films has gone on to great financial success. Let the Right One In however is currently sweeping the awards circuit (including several Best Film, Best Director and Best Foreign Film prizes). The story is about a 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with the young female vampire next door. The trailer is phenomenal, and I personally cannot wait to see it. At the very least, to wash the taste of Twilight out of my mouth. Check the trailer out here.

What do you think about these 10 flicks? Any smaller films you’re looking forward to?

See also:
The 25 biggest and (hopefully) best films of 2009

2 Responses to “10 indie films to catch in 2009”

  1. Great list, I agree with most of them except Baghead, felt too staged for me and little bit sloppy. And I wasn’t much of a fan of In Search Of A Midnight Kiss for some reason the characters just irritated me. But definately agree with Let The Right One In. The book was amazing and the adaption great. It’s just haunting and beautiful but so freaking disturbing, probably best indie film of ’09. It’s regrettable films like this don’t have the advertising budgets of blockbusters, people just don’t know what they’re missing.

  2. Great list, totally agree. If you can rent only one indie movie from 2009, make it Let the Right One In.

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