As we begin the fall months, the seemingly endless summer of loud, empty films, sequels, and remakes begins to fade and movies of substance gain appear on the horizon. Is it safe to go back into a movie theater again? I hope so.
The New Hollywood basically avoids any film of real substance for the first 9 months of the year and then floods us with more thoughtful and heartfelt films in the last 3 months of the year. Academy Award nominations are the primary goal here but the unintended consequence of this decision is that huge segments of the film going audience get out of the habit of going to movies in those first 9 months, making it even harder to lure them back in for the last 3 months.
That being said, there are always a few exceptions that slip through the system and 2010 is no exception.
One of my favorite 2010 films is CITY ISLAND, which appeared and disappeared without a trace earlier this year. Even with recognizable faces such as Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies, adult audiences stayed home, my wife Lauren and I included. We didn’t catch up to the film until it appeared on pay-per-view. (Ms. Margulies is also the star THE GOOD WIFE on CBS, which I consider to be the best-written network television drama in many, many years.)
CITY ISLAND is one of those great indie films that are so endangered nowadays because it’s based on character and the lies families sometimes tell to each other. Not exactly a high concept for the teenage crowd, is it?
Still, for those of us in Acts 2 and 3 of life, the film is absolutely delightful, funny, and poignant. As family members, we sometimes get so locked up in our own heads that we tell what we consider to be a “little, white lie” to avoid the intimacy and vulnerability of telling the truth. Of course, lies beget more lies and all of a sudden we’re pretending to be someone that we’re not, causing us to wonder how we can extricate ourselves from the spiral we have locked ourselves into. CITY ISLAND reminds us that our lies hurt everyone around us and we should simply just be who we are.
Unless we find a way to make films like CITY ISLAND more accessible and successful, independent theatrical movies themselves are going to slide closer and closer to extinction.