Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.

As the psychic mind fuck known as 2016 winds down, that means two things: pretty soon you’ll be able to purchase half price 2017 calendars and Movie Awards Season is descending upon us.

First out of the gate is the Independent Spirit Awards nominations- which begs the question: what exactly is an “indie” film anyway?

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Back in the day it usually meant films that were cobbled together utilizing a combination of over-stretched credit cards, wangled family loans, and loose change found under seat cushions with a total budget not exceeding the breakfast catering cost on a single day of filming “Gladiator”.

Eventually the nomenclature expanded to become “micro budget” indie but then that too became a blurred bottom line of high to mid six figure budgets which still made things clear as mud…(how about “subterranean indie”?).

According to the Independent Spirit Awards, the official definition of an indie film has evolved into any film non-studio related with a budget not exceeding 20 million and leading the field in this year’s noms are “Manchester By The Sea”, “Jackie” and “Moonlight”.

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Recently I was able to view the critically-heralded American indie “Moonlight” by director Barry Jenkins and am very happy to report that the film really does deliver a transcendent experience.

Presented as a kind of cinematic triptych, the film chronicles the coming of age of Chiron, a Miami-based African American child, as he journeys through the inner city tropes of drug slingers, machismo attitudes and a dysfunctional home life towards young adulthood.

With cinematography that paints an almost-dream-like palette of sun and sea drenched Miami, the film pulls off its biggest coup by portraying the homosexual yearnings of Chiron as just the ordinary longings of a human being wanting nothing more than to connect in a loving and tangible way which makes the film almost revolutionary in its devastating simplicity and humanity.

It will be interesting to see how “Moonlight” fares when the Oscar nominations are announced in late January and what affect the new influx of diverse members recently invited into the Academy fold will have in the outcome.

In the meantime, “Moonlight”, with its mixture of artiness and heart, keeps riding its prodigious critical mass all the way towards the awards finish line.

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When I first saw the actual running time of Andrea Arnold’s latest Cannes Jury Prize winner “American Honey” – a whopping 165 minutes- I was ready to start pricing suit cushions believe you me. But this oddly affecting modern day updating of Oliver Twist featuring a cast of amateurs mixed with professional actors made up of young street hipsters as they cruise the highways and biways of Wal Mart parking lot America (aka Trump’s voter base) really works its magic as its dream-like images and kinetic energy and musical pulses create a ragged patchwork of humanity that sticks with you.

Kudos especially to its breakout star Sasha Lane and the impressive supporting work of Riley Keough (she of the Elvis’s granddaughter fame…) who can add an Indie Spirit nom to this year’s resume (she ain’t no hound dog that’s for sure…).

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time for me to go and apply for some credit cards…

Viva La Cinema!