The National Film Board of Ivanlandia screened some movies on DVD recently. They were “indie” movies—often highly recommended—and boy, were they disappointing! First:
Sunshine Cleaning (2008) Directed by Christine Jeffs Written by Megan Holley Starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Clifton Collins, Jr., Mary Lynn Rajskub, Steve Zahn and Alan Arkin
This is a massive case of false advertising: If you’re going to make an indie movie about people who have the job of cleaning up crime scenes, then either make a really sick comedy, something truly dark and bleak—but funny— or go gonzo-gore quasi-documentary style.
Although Sunshine Cleaningstarted off well, it quickly devolved into a sappy rough-draft script mash-up of possibly every indie movie trope and clichéthat’s come down the pike. Parent’s suicide? Check. Excessively quirky characters? Laboriously sensitive music score? Details that are cool but don’t necessarily add anything? Check, and double check! Even the choice of occupation (crime scene clean-up) is a symptom of Indie-itis: it’s just a cosmetic accessory to the sisters’ journey of… whatever.
The worst of all the indie movie clichés Sunshine Cleaningabuses? The late reveal of information: the audience doesn’t find out until the movie is almost half over, long after the sisters have started their crime scene clean-up biz, that their mother was a SUICIDE and that the sisters were the ones who discovered her body! WTF?!? This has got to be the most egregious case of back-story rationing ever: Oy!
Sunshine Cleaning’s adherence to the Indie Checklist is laid on so thick, it’s almost a parody of the genre— but it’s neither funny or entertaining or heartwarming. If anything the flick is meandering and formulaic.
The only thing that impressed me about Sunshine Cleaning was that it was the first movie with a one-armed character where I actually thought the actor playing that part was one-armed himself. There were none of the telltale signs, like the arm under the shirt, oddly shaped clothes, awkward way of standing, etc. And honestly, Clifton Collins Jr.’s one-armed character was, by the end of the movie, the only one I cared about.
Netflix reviewer J-Cadillac said it best: “If you've watched more than three indie American films from the mid-90s, you've already seen this twice.”
Another disappointing Indie flick:
Sugar (2009) Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck Starring: Algenis Pérez Soto
A good baseball moviewith an excellent quasi-documentary style gets sidetracked/derailed by a couple factors: a pointless “let’s mock Middle American Christian Baseball Fans” segment, and Sugar’s giving up.
The movie Sugardidn’t have to have a happy ending, but what immigrant kid who’s gone through all of this would just chuck it away? This flick is too self-pitying to be recommended.
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That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.