THE BEST SO FAR
Box Office (or Lack Thereof): $0.3 million
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Jess Weixler, who appears to be on the road to stardom, was a relative unknown when Teeth was released. Co-star John Hensley is a regular on TV's Nip/Tuck but is also far from household-name status.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Well, uh, see, the thing is…it’s about a girl whose vagina has teeth--there, we said it! But if it's awkward to merely articulate the premise, imagine how difficult it'd be for a big studio to try and market, even if A-listers were attached. Furthermore, imagine the coming-attractions voiceover dude trying to get through this one! [PAGEBREAK]
Be Kind Rewind (2/22/08)
Box Office (or Lack Thereof): $11.1M
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Only one of the biggest movie stars around, Jack Black! Co-stars Mos Def and Danny Glover are certainly no slouches in the fame game; the same can be said for Mia Farrow, although she’s chosen such weird, offbeat roles lately that some of the wattage has actually fallen off of her star.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: That loony Michel Gondry guy--how dare he be so artistic! He’s just too creative for the masses, thus eliminating most studio interest. Be Kind, however, was his most straightforward effort to date and almost didn’t qualify as an indie. [PAGEBREAK]
Funny Games (3/14/08)
Box Office (or Lack Thereof): $1.2M
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Yes, as a matter of fact! Naomi Watts, a veritable A-lister, has starred in such anti-indies as the Ring movies and King Kong. To her credit, however, she’s mixed her blockbusters in with low-budget fare like Mulholland Drive, 21 Grams and We Don't Live Here Anymore.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Violence, plain and simple. If a movie shows cartoonish blood spatter, Hollywood’s all for it; if there’s gore, show more! But Funny Games is genuinely sadistic in its purposefully gratuitous torture scenes that dare you to not walk out. If you stay, it’s your victory--but yeah, the Sumner Redstone set isn't usually too keen on movies that test audiences’ tolerance level. [PAGEBREAK]
The Visitor (4/11/08)
Box Office (or Lack Thereof): $7.1M
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Pretty much no stars, unless you count critics’ reviews. Veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under, et al.) played the lead, with the only other slightly recognizable thespian being another Richard: Richard Kind.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Even though The Visitor stands as one of 2008’s very best so far, it had two strikes against it as far as studios are concerned: no big names to put on the marquee and it’s a dramedy. If the movie had remedied one of those issues, it probably would’ve been snatched up for millions at one of the indie festivals; luckily the producers chose quality over quantity (of potential dollars). [PAGEBREAK]
The Foot Fist Way (5/30/08)
Box Office (or Lack Thereof): $0.1M (still tracking)
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Lead Danny McBride is on the verge of becoming Will Ferrell territory (he stars prominently in August’s Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder) and has already been welcome with open arms into the comedy troupe of Judd Apatow & Associates, but when Foot Fist was originally made, in 2006, he was a no-name.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Foot Fist is old (as noted above)--like really old. While rereleasing an on-the-shelf film is a cool novelty move for a smaller studio, that’s not how the larger studios roll--unless it’s a movie featuring Al Pacino. [PAGEBREAK]
THE BEST YET TO COME
American Teen (7/25/08)
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Utterly starless, as most documentaries are.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Nearly all docs not helmed by Michael Moore or featuring penguins are lumped into the same category by default: indiedom. But American Teen, about several different students at an Indiana high school (think The Hills, if it were real and set in Middle America), has the chance to be that rare breakout. And given its subject matter--and subjects--an even rarer phenomenon could occur: Teenagers might be interested! [PAGEBREAK]
The Duchess (9/19/08)
Big Star(s), Little Movie? You betcha! Keira Knightley, who seems oddly more keen on indie flicks, headlines a cast that includes Oscar magnet Ralph Fiennes.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Simply put, there’s not a huge appetite these days for romantic period epics, no matter who’s starring in them (see The Other Boleyn Girl, et al.). The Duchess, similar in grandeur to Knightley’s last movie Atonement, might earn rave reviews and even Oscar buzz this fall, but that doesn’t mean audiences will come out in Pirates of the Caribbean-type numbers. [PAGEBREAK]
Big Star(s), Little Movie? Eh, it depends upon how you view Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. They’re names are certainly recognizable, but probably not enough to open a movie during the beginning of Oscar season.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: Subject matter, and convolution thereof. Choke is based on a book by one of the best, most beloved authors of this generation, Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), but here’s what the story is about: a guy (Rockwell) who habitually fake-chokes on food at restaurants, where unwitting diners “save” him and then send him cash out of pity. Oh yeah, and looking for sex in sexual-addiction clinics. Just a wee bit too much depravity for studios’ liking--plus, a premise like that might cause audiences to think, which is a no-no. [PAGEBREAK]
Big Name(s), Little Movie? As documentaries go, Religulous is positively star-studded. Talk-show host/political fire starter Bill Maher is the doc’s star, while Borat director Larry Charles (also of Seinfeld, Entourage fame) is once again behind the camera.
Big-Studio Deal Breaker: As mentioned with American Teen, most documentaries are seen as toxic by studios, but Religulous has the added poison of venturing down the slippery slope that is religion. In fact, the title, a combination of the words “religion” and “ridiculous,” will be viewed by many as blasphemy--and that’s just the title! Still, Maher’s many proponents (and there are more than you think) will race to the theater for an extended dose of the noted atheist’s apathy towards religion, which could make Religulous a Bowling for Columbine-sized minor hit.