Sundance 2012 Review: Indie Game: The Movie

Indie Game

To quote the Transformers, something that definitely helped craft my childhood, as well as that of the programmers in the film, Indie Game: The Movie is definitely more than meets the eye. At first look this is a glimpse into the world of independent programmers that most people don’t even know exists. But as you watch you begin to realize that the overall themes stretch far further than this simple premise. This is a story about any kind of entrepreneurial person that decides to follow their creative dreams and dedicate their life to following their passion. And as someone that fits that bill, this movie spoke to me on a very personal level. It’s perfect that Sundance, a showcase of independent filmmaking and proving ground for this kind of human being, chose it for its premiere.

Everything about this movie epitomizes independent. From the subjects in the film trying desperately to complete something extraordinary all by themselves, outside the “system”… to the filmmakers themselves, who used the crowd sourcing site Kickstarter as a way to actually get this movie made. Watching it from both points of view, you get a kind of postmodern look at true independence on two different levels. It’s the kind of thing that validates anyone who has gone through these trenches.

The movie itself follows a number of different independent programmers, but really hones in on three personal stories. One is the story of two, some might call them, “outcasts” who are trying to get their game Super Meat Boy released through the massive Microsoft XBox Marketplace. Another is the story of someone who literally puts his personal life stories into the game he’s making, and gets annoyed when people don’t see the deeper meaning he’s trying to portray. And the third is the gut-wrenching journey of a man who was throned a superstar with a bonafide hit on his hands far before the game was even finished. Now over four years later, he still hasn’t finished nor released it, due to his obsessive qualities and life changing trials. All three stories have more heart and soul than most Hollywood movies. We feel their trials. We experience every bump in the road. We are literally dragged through the mire time and time and time again. But we see these guys push through it all, and in the end, that’s what is so uplifting about this film. It shows people at their absolute most depressed and beaten down, but continue to courageously push through because it’s their passion. It’s seriously emotional stuff and one that I honestly feel most people could relate to in their own lives.

Indie Game: The Movie may not get as many older viewers because they could care less about gaming, but I’m here to spread the word. This movie at its core isn’t about gaming at all. It’s about struggle, following your dreams no matter how difficult, and staying true to yourself through it all. It’s really a powerful movie that comes out of what, at first, you think is a benign subject. But trust me, as you finish the film you realize there is nothing benign about these games at all. These games are essentially these people’s hearts poured out onto a screen. Truly fascinating and gripping. I highly recommend this film.

Sundance 2012 Review: Room 237

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I love horror movies. You all pretty much know that already or else you wouldn’t even be on this blog. And many of you know that one of my all time favorite movies from any genre is The Shining. To me there’s almost nothing bettter than Kubrick’s masterpiece. But lately right now I’m obsessed with documentaries. I’m watching them constantly. While most recent studio movies are leaving me feeling blah, documentaries are filling that void with riveting and interesting ideas. So imagine how excited I was when I read about Room 237, a documentary about The Shining!! It’s like I’ve died and gone to my own personal heaven.

Knowing where I’m coming from, it’s almost preconceived that I was going to love this movie, and SHOCKER I did, insanely. Room 237 is all about Kubrick and his masterpiece, but not in a typical way. It’s a deep study about the meanings, metaphors, parables, and even conspiracy theories that Kubrick uses and/or hides in his film. Talking to different voices ranging from scholars, professors, and just obsessors, Kubrick’s masterpiece is picked apart more fiercely than road kill by coyotes. And it’s an absolute fascinating journey.

Using the fair use copyright law, the entire film is shown in pieces and picked apart showcasing these many theories in detailed ways that honestly make you watch every single piece of the puzzle differently. Everything from the usage of a specific kind of canned baking powder in the background of certain shots to how the dissolves actually were made to dissolve in a certain way to cause an overlapping image that says something else, no stone is left unturned. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Now, even though I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was presented, like one theorist’s “connection” to Kubrick’s involvement in faking the moon landing and his apparent “admission” in using certain images in the Shining (I’m serious), that’s not the point here. You’re not supposed to agree with everything that’s being said. It’s merely all here as a showcase to reveal that Kubrick, a man with a 200 IQ level had a purpose for everything. It’s meant to show that while no one may fully understand his work, one thing everyone can agree on, he was making more than simple movies. He was making art. And art never has one simple explanation.

If you’re a Shining or Kubrick fan at all, it is an absolute requirement to watch this movie.

Sundance 2012 Review: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

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This is a difficult movie to review because it’s one I’d much rather have people experience instead of read about. I’ll admit to something right up front… I had no idea who Ai Weiwei (pronounced eye way-way) was before I saw this movie. Don’t judge. I just didn’t. But boy oh boy do I know who he is now, and I couldn’t be more impressed with this man’s courage against such an oppressive juggernaut as the Chinese government. He is an important man that more people in the world need to know about.

To put it succinctly, Ai Weiwei is an artist. His art is on display around the world and has been named the most important artist in the world by some publications. But to simply call him an artist is like calling Mozart just some guy who plays music. Ai Weiwei is so much more. It’s better to call him an activist. He’s an activist against one of the most oppressive governments in the world. He just uses his art as a way to get his opinions and judgements out to the world in an area where these opinions are usually silenced.

Many people might know about Weiwei as the guy who designed the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, only to later decry the entire Olympic games for the government’s treatment of their people in order to put on a facade for the world. He speaks his mind and people need to hear what he has to say.

Whether its his crusades to show the government’s cover up of how many schoolchildren were killed in the devastating 2008 earthquakes (because of their shoddy, cheap construction in order to save money); or speaking up and providing a voice for government imprisoned fellow artists; or simply Tweeting about his journeys in trying to get justice for a life threatening head injury inflicted by police on an illegal raid; Weiwei is a fearless crusader trying to bring worldwide notice to the acts of an entire nation that uses secrecy as its ultimate weapon.

Normally a documentarian needs to find an “angle” to provide the throughline of the story. With Never Sorry, she didn’t need to because Weiwei himself provided that. All she had to do was continue to let the camera roll and let him decide the course. Many ups and downs, his journey has it all. It’s an extremely powerful film that makes you want to take action. I suggest everyone does by following Weiwei on Twitter @aiww and the film @awwNeverSorry.

The more you learn the story, the more you find yourself with no other choice but to act.

A link to the trailer is below. I highly suggest you watch it.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/qTmwTt_VmFg?rel=0&wmode=transparent